JUNE 21, 2009, VOL 59, NO 13

  • AN UNBORN BABY’S heart begins to beat at 18 days.
  • At 43 days, the baby’s brain coordinates movements.
  • All of his or her organs are functioning at eight weeks.
  • At nine weeks, he or she has permanent, individual fingerprints.
  • The baby’s sense of touch, including comfort and pain, begins at 10 weeks.
  • At 12 weeks, the baby can smile, suck his or her thumb, and make a fist.


Pope Benedict XVI listens during an audience with some 7,000 children from the Holy Childhood Association at the Vatican on May 30. The pope said that as a boy he never had dreamed of becoming pope. CNS photo


Pope Benedict XVI listens during an audience with some 7,000 children from the Holy Childhood Association at the Vatican on May 30. The pope said that as a boy he never had dreamed of becoming pope. CNS photo

VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI offered a rare glimpse into his private feelings, telling a group of children that as a boy he never dreamed of becoming pope and that he still sometimes worries he is not up to the job.

The pope answered questions and described growing up in a small German village during an audience May 30 at the Vatican with 7,000 children from the Holy Childhood Association, a group affiliated with the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

Photo by Kloudiia TaySINGAPORE – Pauline Sister Jocelyn Veritas Kwek explains the difference between a New American Bible and a Jerusalem Bible to a visitor at the Singapore Book Fair 2009 (photo).

The Daughters of St. Paul had a booth in the fair held at Suntec City Convention Centre from May 29 to Jun 7. This was the second time the Sisters participated in a secular book event. The first was a World Book Fair held in 1995 at World Trade Centre.

According to Sister Jocelyn, several Catholics were surprised to see them in the book fair, and they expressed their appreciation for the Daughters’ presence. The booth also attracted non-Catholics.

SINGAPORE – The Heartspace Open Studio @ St. Mary’s is holding an art exhibition titled “Drawn by grace” from Jun 26-28 at the University Cultural Centre foyer in conjunction with Paul The Musical which will be performed at the same location and dates.

WASHINGTON – One of the oldest and most read books in the world now has a new, high-tech look. And it weighs only five grams.

“God on the Go” is a USB flash drive containing the complete Bible in the New Revised Standard Version or the New Testament of the New American Bible. It is currently available only for PCs.

Inventor Mark Mastroianni said that the idea for “God on the Go” came to him in prayer when he was asking God how he could bring together his Catholic faith and his background in technology and product development.

A Tamil boy carries a bottle of water at the Manik Farm refugee camp on the outskirts of the northern Sri Lankan town of Vavuniya. The camp houses  people who had fled fighting between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels. CNS photo
The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) is assisting people displaced by the war in Sri Lanka, which ended recently. Venessa Lee speaks to some JRS members about the war and its victims

CARDINAL CLAUDIO HUMMES, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy said: “It must be a year that is both positive and forward-looking in which the Church says to her priests above all, but also to all the faithful and to wider society by means of the mass media, that she is proud of her priests, loves them, honours them, admires them and that she recognises with gratitude their pastoral work and the witness of their life.

“Truthfully priests are important not only for what they do but also for who they are.

“The overwhelming majority of priests are people of great personal integrity, dedicated to the sacred ministry; men of prayer and of pastoral charity, who invest their entire existence in the fulfilment of their vocation and mission, often through great personal sacrifice, but always with an authentic love towards Jesus Christ, the Church and the people, in solidarity with the poor and the suffering. It is for this reason that the Church is proud of her priests wherever they may be found.”

THIS ICON BY Marek Czarnecki of Seraphic Restorations in Meriden, Connecticut is “based on a 15th century Greek prototype; here Christ is shown in Latin Rite vestments with a gold pelican over His heart, the ancient symbol of self-sacrifice. The borders contain a winding grapevine and altar prepared for the celebration of the liturgy of the Mass; in the borders are smaller icons of Melchizedek and St. Jean-Baptiste Vianney”.

Incidentally, it is St. John Vianney whom Pope Benedict XVI, with the announcement of this special year, has declared the Universal Patron of Priests.

Czarnecki, who has given the USCCB the rights to use the icon of Christ the Great High Priest during the Year for Priests, explains: “I wrote the icon about seven years ago [for seminarians and priests] to be able to see Christ in themselves, and themselves in Christ. We often hear that the icon is called a window; in this case, it’s also meant to be a mirror.” The Good Shepherd reminds the priest that he is to “lay down his life for his sheep”.

“The eternal paradox of the priest: He has the contraries within himself. He reconciles, at the price of his life, fidelity to God and fidelity to man. He has the air of poverty and powerlessness. He does not have the political means, financial resources, or weapons, which others use to conquer the earth. His power is to be disarmed and ‘to be able to do all things in Him who gives him strength’.” – Pope Benedict XVI, quoting Cardinal Emmanuel Suhard (1874-1949), to cite the profile of the priest.

What to make of President Barack Obama? How to deal with him? The questions aren’t settled yet.

VATICAN CITY – The Vatican newspaper has again emphasised that when it comes to the Obama administration and pro-life issues, the Vatican and the U.S. bishops are in full agreement and that no compromise is possible on the right to life.

The newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, said it was a mistake to view its press coverage of Obama – which has been positive on many issues – as evidence that the Vatican is following a “different strategy” than the U.S. bishops in dealing with the new administration.

The comments came in the newspaper’s Jun 5 edition, in an article criticising the Obama administration’s restoration of federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research.
IN HONOUR OF Father Mariampillai T. Sarathjeevan, JRS Singapore is setting up The Sara Project.

Father Sarathjeevan, the JRS Coordinator for Kilinochchi, refused to abandon a group of people, including some orphaned children, during the last stages of the war in Sri Lanka. He stayed in a bunker with them, not eating for three days. After leaving the war zone, he suffered a fatal heart attack on May 18, the last day of the war.
SINGAPORE – The musical, “The Prodigal Son”, will be performed at Esplanade Recital Studio in July. The Singapore Order of Malta is producing the show “to help the needy and poor”. Funds raised will be donated to four listed charities – Assisi Hospice, aLife Limited, St. Joseph’s Home and Hospice, and to the Singapore Order of Malta for their works of mercy.


Anthony Choo (left) and his brother Paul at a Landings session.

 Anthony Choo and his brother Paul stayed away from the Church for 20 years. Things changed when Anthony’s wife had difficulty giving birth to their son Gaius; this and the desire to have Gaius baptised led Anthony and Paul back to the Church. Anthony shares his story here. Paul shares his below.

SINGAPORE – Fifty-four parishioners  from Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea and parish priest Father Edward Lim visited underprivileged children at a Catholic boarding home and a Muslim orphanage in Tanjong Pinang, Bintan in response to a call to Small Christian Communities (SCC) to do meaningful mission work.

The two homes had been identified by the SCC as needing financial and other assistance. Parishioners raised funds for them.

During the May 16 visit, the group also prayed at the Bintan parish of Christ the King and met Father Henri Jourdeain, a French missionary priest who came to the area 32 years ago and helped the Catholic community there grow from 800 then to 6,000 today.

SINGAPORE – St. Anthony of Padua is best known for being the saint to turn to when looking for lost items and has many followers in Singapore.

Janet Lim, secretary at CANA The Catholic Centre, shares a recent experience with the saint: “Just last week, I asked Tony (the affectionate way she calls him) to help look for old tapes of my niece singing when she was a little girl. Between my sister’s home and mine, we couldn’t find them. I had just thrown out a box full of old tapes then and I thought, ‘What if... [they were amongst those]?’ So, I asked Tony to please help and the very next day, my sister found the tapes!”

Patricia Koh too, has had similar experiences. One of them happened recently when she attended a church camp and the key to the kitchen was misplaced. 


Above, Father Khoo (left) has tea with parishioners Rosalind (centre) and Benny (right) at Circuit Road Food Centre. Accompanying them is Ginny, a dog that Father Khoo had since she was a puppy six years ago.

Father John Khoo, 69, devotes his days to building churches and parish communities, and still finds time to keep a pet dog, rear chickens and play badminton.

Our previous article on “AWARE and the Principle of Participation” has attracted several comments and queries. This article by Father David Garcia, a moral theologian, looks deeper into the issue of the separation of state and Church.

The AWARE saga has taught us a few lessons but also left some unanswered questions. Do religions have a role to play in the public realm? Is faith an exclusively private issue?

Hi Catechists, here’s a project for your catechism kids.

This Global Children’s Handkerchief Project is open to all children from three to 12 years old. To participate, all they have to do is to make a hand-print (palm and five fingers) with any colour paint on a handkerchief.

The project will symbolically represent children from various parts of the world in the SIGNIS World Congress 2009 with the theme: “Media for a Culture of Peace – Children’s Rights, Tomorrow’s Promise”. The hand-printed handkerchiefs will be displayed during the opening Mass, and will become an exhibit throughout the Congress.

SINGAPORE – May the Year for Priests deepen appreciation of the priesthood and may it bring about a deeper communion and friendship between priests and the communities entrusted to them, said Archbishop Nicholas Chia in a message to Catholics in the Singapore Archdiocese.

TheYear for Priests, declared by Pope Benedict XVI, will run from Jun 19, 2009 to Jun 19, 2010. In Singapore, the special year will commence with a Mass on Friday Jun 19 at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd and the blessing of  a specially commissioned statue of St. John Vianney.


When dioceses notified parishioners to keep a distance from each other at the kiss of peace because of the H1N1 virus, I began to wonder about the future of the kiss.

As word of a pandemic spread, it was as if all kissing was forbidden. Even the French took precautions to avoid the traditional cheek-to-cheek kiss.

And, too, the business world is now requiring employees and employers to attend sexual harassment sessions that counsel: better not to kiss, no matter the circumstances.

Are we entering an age in which any kind of kissing is suspect?

To answer this, let’s look at its many sides.

The “bacio della morte” is one kiss you definitely don’t want to receive because it indicates you are going to die at the hands of the mob.

In Scripture, the betrayal kiss of Judas reflects deceit and hypocrisy.

Kisses like these are demeaning and without value.

On the other hand, a proper kiss is heavenly. Take, for example, Pope John Paul II kissing the ground upon entering a country as a sign of respect and gratitude.

How often did our mother kiss a painful bump we received to acknowledge she also felt it and was trying to make it go away?

Then there is the life-changing kiss. “He kissed me and now I am someone else” by Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral.

British poet Robert Browning pictures a kiss as a sigh: “What of the soul was left, I wonder, when the kissing had to stop?”

Irish writer Samuel Beckett would point us to all the warm, loving kisses we received throughout life: “All those lips that had kissed me, those hearts that had loved me (it is with the heart one loves, is it not, or am I confusing it with something else?).”

The lingering power of a kiss is played in a heart-wrenching song in the movie “Casablanca”: “You must remember this, a kiss is still a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh; the fundamental things apply as time goes by.”

Most important of all, a kiss is imperative to our spiritual life.

Mary Magdalene washes the feet of Christ and then kisses them out of love for Christ.

No matter the present suspicions surrounding a kiss, it will always have a future because of its divine origins.  cns, By Father Eugene Hemrick