NOVEMBER 21, 2010, Vol 60, No 23
Left: Spain’s Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia watch Pope Benedict XVI arrive to celebrate Mass outside the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Right: People protest the pope’s visit on Nov 6. Below: The pope leads the Angelus prayer outside the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia after consecrating the church in Barcelona. CNS photo
BARCELONA – Pope Benedict XVI warned countries of the danger of no longer being at the loving service of their citizens as he urged the faithful to bring Christ’s message of hope to all people.
During a two-day journey to a once-staunchly Catholic Spain, the pope sought to bolster and renew people’s faith in God and convince an increasingly secular society that the Church wants dialogue, not confrontation. The pope’s Nov 6-7 visit, his 18th trip abroad, brought him first to one of Catholicism’s most popular and ancient pilgrimage sites, Santiago de Compostela, and then Barcelona, where he consecrated the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia.
During the Nov 7 Mass in which he blessed and anointed the altar of the church dedicated to the Holy Family of Nazareth, he said Christians must resist every attack on human life and promote the natural institution of the family. Under the government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who came to power in 2004, Spain has relaxed its divorce laws, eased restrictions on abortion, legalised same-sex marriage and allowed gay couples to adopt.
In his homily, the pope praised the technical, social and cultural progress made over the years. However, he said, a country must also advance morally.
A couple’s fertility window
While a man normally produces sperm all the time, a woman usually releases an egg from one of her ovaries only once during her menstrual cycle. Since the egg can survive up to one day, and a man’s sperm can survive up to five days in a woman’s genital tract after sexual intercourse (under maximal conditions), a couple can be considered fertile for only about five to six days per menstrual cycle.
The Malaysian bishop, who on Oct 24 turned 75, the age when bishops are obliged to request for retirement, has worked for human development in his years heading the diocese. He set up the Penang Office for Human Development and the Parish Human Development Committees, as well as strengthened Basic Ecclesial Communities.
In this interview with ucanews.com, he talks about his work in these areas as well as the role that Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) play in the religious, social and political lives of Catholics.
As 48-year-old Victor Segovia, one of the 33 Chilean miners trapped for 69 days half a mile deep in a goldmine, was reeled to the surface in a narrow capsule, the country’s president, Sebastian Piera, hugged him and said: “Welcome to life.” Ironic as it may seem, the trapped miners survived only because they had a full life – one of faith, sharing, discipline, structure, unity, and self-sacrificing leadership. We have much to learn from their experience.
As each of the miners emerged into the spotlights or bright sunlight of the Atacama Desert, people from all over the world were riveted to their televisions. Asked what was so interesting, a woman said it was seeing something that really worked.
SINGAPORE – Four musicians from different faith backgrounds are pooling their talents for an Advent concert of sacred songs to spread Christmas cheer while also raising funds for the Archdiocesan Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (ACMI).
Speaking to CatholicNews after a rehearsal, Teng Xiang Ting, a law undergraduate, and who helps train and conduct the National Junior College and CHIJ St Nicholas Girls’ School (SNGS) choirs, said that she is glad that she is able to lend her voice to something meaningful.
The declining percentage of Catholics who marry in the Church is sounding alarms worldwide.
In various Asian communities as well as in the US, Catholics are choosing not to receive the Sacrament of Matrimony for various reasons.
A study released in February 2008 by the Washington-based Center for Applied Research (CARA) in the Apostolate found that some 40 percent of younger married Catholics in the US had not married in the Church. It also said that marrying in the Church was not considered important by more than half of younger single Catholics who think they might marry one day. American Father Thomas Vandenberg recalled how one couple he knew “had no idea the Church had something to offer them that they couldn’t get from the local judge”.
When asked what the Catholic Church could do to improve its education of young people about human sexuality, Hogan offered these thoughts: “I think the Church should commit itself to help parents teach kids about sexuality in a way that is grounded in the goodness of the body and our God-given longings for relationships.
“We need to provide people with solid information and guidance about what to share with kids at different developmental stages. When we give explicit information too early it can provoke unhelpful anxiety. When we wait too long, their ways of thinking about sexuality are already firmly formed.” He continued, “People need to learn what to do with desires and avoid the extremes.
Rather than aiming for gratification or elimination, we need to teach strategies for transformation. We need to teach kids and youth how to increase awareness of sexual desires and how to pray with these holy longings.” Hogan argued that the Church needs to provide a comprehensive education in human sexuality as part of its schools and catechetical formation programmes.
One year ago, Pope Benedict XVI established a special structure for Anglicans who want to be in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church while preserving aspects of their Anglican spiritual and liturgical heritage. The move was seen as a means of reaching out to those unhappy with recent Anglican decisions on the ordination of women and the acceptance of homosexual behaviour in some areas.
Baghdad residents place national flags on the coffins of those who died during an attack on the Syrian Catholic cathedral. CNS photos
VATICAN CITY – The world’s Christian leaders expressed outrage after an attack on the Syrian Catholic cathedral in Baghdad left 58 people dead and 75 injured.
They also called on the international community and Iraqi officials to do more to protect Iraq’s Christian minority.
Syrian Catholic Archbishop Georges Casmoussa of Mosul, Iraq, who concelebrated the funeral of some of the victims on Nov 2, said the UN needed to step in to protect the Catholic community.
“For our community it is a true human and religious catastrophe,” he told Vatican Radio on Nov 2.
Villagers displaced by flooding in Pakistan pull a makeshift raft, with a woman sitting on top with her belongings, while they return to their flooded village near Dadu, in Pakistan’s Sindh province. CNS photo
BANGALORE – Church charities have joined the Pakistani government and other charity workers to fight growing health care problems that have gripped the victims of the worst flooding in Pakistan’s history. “The water has receded, but the flood victims are now faced with serious health problems,” said Eric Dayal, national coordinator for disaster management of Caritas Pakistan, the local arm of the international Catholic charitable network.
“We are sending our medical teams to remote areas where other agencies have not reached,” Dayal told Catholic News Service from his office in Lahore Nov 3.
MUMBAI – US President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, danced, played with students, signed autographs and answered questions when they visited two Catholic schools in Mumbai
First, two groups of students at Holy Name School presented their science projects on the theme, Caring for Creation, on Nov 7.
Later, the couple watched students’ dance performances as part of a celebration of the Hindu feast of Diwali (Deepavali), reported the Asian Church news agency UCA News. When the students invited Michelle Obama to join them, she matched their steps of a traditional fishermen folk dance. Soon the children asked the president to join them and he, too, obliged.
Injured victims of Indonesia’s earthquake and tsunami rest at Sikakap clinic in the Mentawai district, in west Sumatra, Indonesia. A tsunami and volcanic eruptions have killed hundreds and displaced tens of thousands. CNS photo
JAKARTA – A double dose of natural disasters have led Catholic agencies working in Indonesia to mount several efforts to provide emergency services to victims.
The disasters – a magnitude 7.7 undersea earthquake on Oct 25 that triggered a tsunami that swamped coastal villages in the remote Mentawai Islands off the west coast of Sumatra and the eruption of a volcano on Java beginning Oct 26 – claimed more than 400 lives and displaced tens of thousands of people.
However, she is thankful for the help she has received from the Church and other Catholic organisations.
Sitthisak Sukchai, a 56-yearold school bus driver, said the Church’s help in providing basic necessities has been valuable. “Despite heavy floods we join Sunday Mass to encourage each other,” he added.
in Orissa in 2008 identified her attackers in court on Nov 3.
She was deposed before the District and Sessions judge in Cuttack, Orissa state’s legal capital, for more than 90 minutes, reported the Asian Church news agency UCA News.
The Singapore chapter of the worldwide Choice programme was recently elected to head Choice Asia, a challenge that the local team finds exciting.
“We are most honoured. We are most happy to take on this role,” said Mr David Cheong, a member of the coordinating team. “We want to continue to galvanise the Choice Asian countries and plant the seeds in non-Choice countries.”
Mr Cheong, his wife Gillian, together with Felicia, a single adult, and Fr Adrian Yeo, form the Choice Asia coordinating team.
Singapore was elected to head the Church programme for young adults in Asia for the next three years, taking over the helm from Malaysia, during the 13th Choice Asian Conference, held Oct 7-10 in Singapore.
Plans are already in the pipeline, although more work still needs to be done on them, says the team.
Discalced Carmelites of East-Asia Oceania at prayer during their recent meeting.
An expansion of the mission in Asia and an interreligious exchange in spirituality – these are the plans the Discalced Carmelites of East-Asia Oceania have for the next three years.
Superior General Fr Saverio Cannistra voiced these issues in an interview with CatholicNews after the Carmelites East Asia-Oceania Provincials’ Meeting 2010. This was held Oct 25-29 at the Church of Sts Peter and Paul.
The Carmelite order as intended by its foundress, St Teresa of Avila, is to be both contemplative and missionary, he said.
The Singapore-Taiwan General Delegation has helped start a new community of friars in Thailand. There are also plans to expand the mission into Malaysia and Timor Leste, he said.
Chinese migrant workers from the Serangoon Gardens area together with others from the Church of Sts Peter and Paul attend a faith formation course at the Church of St Francis Xavier. Photos by Darren Boon
Language is no barrier when it comes to evangelisation, say Church of St Francis Xavier volunteers who are reaching out to migrants.
What started off as a “bread run” by some parishioners in 2008 to deliver bread to foreign workers in the Serangoon Gardens area has led to the organising of a faith formation course for Chinese migrant workers every second Sunday of the month.
The course, held in the evenings, started on Oct 10 this year.
Not having a superb mastery of Mandarin did not prevent volunteers like Ms Grace Ch’ng and Mrs Joanna Leong from reaching out to the workers and getting acquainted with them.
Mrs Leong told CatholicNews that one worker had asked her if the parish could organise activities for them. This set her thinking as evangelisation has always been the volunteers’ intention.
“I will increase efforts to evangelise,” said Fr Deng Xiaobo, one of the two new priests of Zhanjiang diocese, noting that the Church has “a big market” as Catholics account for only a small percentage of China’s 1.3 billion people.
“I vow to build a good image to attract more young men to explore their vocations,” he added. He believes that the quality of clergy has much to do with the number of priestly vocations in China.
In Beijing diocese, Bishop Joseph Li Shan ordained Frs Augustine Cao Wei and Peter Bai Guoliang, who have spent 10 years studying at the diocesan seminary and the Seoul archdiocesan major seminary.
Bishop Ignatius Wang, retired auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of San Francisco and a Beijing native, also laid his hands on the new priests’ heads.
Ten priests from Korea were among the 65 priests concelebrating the ordination Mass.
In northern China, three bishops concelebrated the ordination Mass for Frs Paul Sun Ruigang and Thomas Liang Weiguo of Taiyuan at the 100-year-old cathedral in Shanxi. • ucanews.com
Peter Lee Ka-kit, a bachelor son of billionaire Lee Shau-kee, fathered three baby boys using a commercial surrogate overseas in a case that became the talk of the town when the news was unveiled to newspapers on Oct 27.
“The news was released in such a controversial way that will gravely affect the children as they will face questions of ‘Who is your mommy?’ throughout their lives,” said Fr Dominic Chan Chi-ming, vicar general of Hong Kong diocese.
It is more than a moral issue, as the children could face discrimination, he said.
Various Church officials have expressed their disapproval of surrogacy, an arrangement where a woman agrees to become pregnant and deliver a child for a contracted party. The practice is prohibited in Hong Kong. However, Fr Chan also thinks the occasion provides an opportunity to discuss the main concern in surrogate motherhood debates.
“Should we have it to satisfy the grandfather or the desire of being a father, or should we think for the babies instead?” he said.
He added that there is always something that cannot be replaced simply by money, such as the love of parents.
Another vicar general, Fr Michael Yeung Ming-cheung, told media that the news “sends the wrong message to people that money is king”. • ucanews.com
Catholics, Protestants and Buddhists are taking the lead in providing free apps such as a GPS service for locating temples and churches or an application for studying religious scriptures.
Fr Bartholomew Choi Gi-hong, who created an iPod broadcast service for Chunchon diocese, told ucanews.com that religious groups can reach young people in cyberspace with “impressive digital content”.
Fr Choi, who is director of media in the diocese, stressed that religious authorities should recognise their faithful as “consumers of religious content in cyberspace”.
Early this year, Seoul archdiocese launched iPhone and Windows Mobile apps for Bible readings, hymns, information on saints, radio broadcast extracts and a Catholic address book.
In late October, the archdiocese started a mobile web service providing Bible information, daily missal readings, prayers and churches, as well as a GPS tracking service to find the nearest parish.
It is also working to develop a liturgy app for the iPad.
Meanwhile, Buddhist groups are offering a “temple stay” app introducing information on local temples and their programmes. A free app for studying Buddhist scriptures is also available.
Protestants are trying to facilitate interactive communication with their flocks with various applications for Christian music, Bible reflections, homily video clips and Church news.
Fr Choi said a report that “almost everyone will use a smart phone in two to three years” inspired him to launch iPod broadcasts in September. • ucanews.com
BANGKOK – Church workers have rushed humanitarian aid to thousands fleeing to Thailand from Myanmar to escape fighting between ethnic militia and the military.
“Myanmar people feel unsafe to live there,” said Suree Vinitchop, director of Santhawamaitri Suksa school run by St Paul de Chartres nuns in Mae Sot.
“The violence has also spilled over to the Thai side,” she said.
Fighting broke out on Nov 8 between Myanmar troops and rebels belonging to the Karen ethnic minority who seized key government offices in Myawaddy, on the Thai-Myanmar border.
The violence came just one day after the military dictatorship’s first elections in 20 years.
“Chinese youth love the Japanese animated comics,” Elder Fu Xianwei, chairperson of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee of the Protestant Church in China (TSPM) told a press conference in Tokyo on Nov 8.
“Our Church is discussing with the Japan Bible Society if we could publish the Manga Bible Series in China,” he said.
The Japan Bible Society has been publishing the Bible in comic-form since 2008. The last of the five-volume series will appear in December.
At the invitation of the National Christian Council of Japan, Elder Fu and four members of the government-sanctioned China Christian Council and TSPM visited the Protestant-run Rakuno Gakuen University, an aged home and a kindergarten in Hokkaido in the Nov 2-9 trip.
In the press conference, a reporter asked if the territorial disputes on Diaoyu Islands (called Senkakau in Japanese) had affected the two Churches.
“We did not feel so. The visit has been very smooth,” replied Elder Fu. • ucanews.com
market in Padang, Indonesia, last year. CNS file photo
Caritas Humanitarian Aid and Relief Initiatives, Singapore (CHARIS) is making its first
archdiocese-wide appeal for donations to its new Humanitarian Aid Fund, while preparing to send a team of volunteers to Padang, Indonesia, to build houses for earthquake victims.
Unlike the Disaster Aid Fund managed by the Archdiocesan Crisis Coordination Team (ACCT) which only provides funds for disaster aid, “the Humanitarian Aid Fund is broader based because it covers all humanitarian situations”, including adverse circumstances arising from poverty, civil strife and war, said CHARIS executive director Stephen Phoon.
The new fund will have sub-accounts for disasters in general and also for specific disasters. “Monies left from the Disaster Aid Fund and future donations to specific disasters in the future will be accounted for in these sub-accounts,” added Mr Phoon.