FEBRUARY 13, 2011, Vol 61, No 3

(left) Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury walking with Pope Benedict XVI in London last year. Unity based on a whitewashing of differences, according to the pope, only stalls fruitful dialogue.

THE Church celebrated the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity from Jan 18 to 25.

The Decree on Ecumenism of the Vatican Council II encourages all Catholics to participate in this special week and to strive to remove the blocks of division. The key to realising this is through a dialogue of life, of work, of studies and of prayer.

Working towards Christian unity is nothing new for the Catholic Church. We have been speaking of Christian unity for decades. Now the Evangelicals and Pentecostals have been gradually included in ecumenical activities. They are now convinced of the need for unity.

The problem, however, is that “unity” and “ecumenism” are interpreted rather differently in different Christian traditions. Some leaders of Evangelical communities seem to be saying that Christian unity has already been achieved and it does not need to involve a visible oneness of the Church.

Catholic Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster stands with the three former Anglican bishops ordained Catholic priests in London on Jan 15. They are (from left) Fathers John Broadhurst, Andrew Burnham and Keith Newton.

LONDON – Almost immediately after he was ordained a Catholic priest along with two other former Anglican bishops, Father Keith Newton was named head of the world’s first personal ordinariate (similar to a diocese) for former Anglicans in England and Wales.

Father Newton, who is a 58-year-old married man and former Anglican bishop of Richborough, was ordained to the Catholic priesthood on Jan 15 by Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster. Also ordained Catholic priests during the Mass in Westminster Cathedral in London were former Anglican Bishop John Broadhurst of Fulham and former Anglican Bishop Andrew Burnham of Ebbsfleet.

A capacity congregation of about 1,500 worshippers filled the cathedral for the historic event.

The Mass began with the reading of a message from US Cardinal William Levada, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who described the priestly ordinations as an “occasion of great joy”. He said the establishment of the ordinariate marked a “unique and historic moment in the life of the Catholic community” of England and Wales.

Fr Newton issued a statement saying he was “humbled” to be appointed as the first head of the ordinariate in England and Wales.
Archbishop issues message to Catholic schools on sexuality education programmes
‘Within the context of our Catholic schools, I would find it unacceptable if students were given a compromised message on pre-marital sex.’ - Archbishop Nicholas Chia (File photo)

Archbishop Nicholas Chia has issued a message to Catholic schools, clarifying the Church’s stand on pre-marital sex and contraception, topics dealt with in sexuality education programmes here.

In his message, signed on Jan 10 and issued to school supervisors and heads of Catholic schools a few days later, Archbishop Chia reiterated Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks in his World Day of Peace message regarding religious freedom.

“The right to religious freedom is rooted in the very dignity of the human person, whose transcendent nature must not be ignored or overlooked. God created man and woman in his own image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:27). For this reason, each person is endowed with the sacred right to a full life, also from a spiritual standpoint,” Archbishop Chia quoted the pope.

A priest can most certainly impose a dress code
I am writing regarding the letter, Correct To Impose Dress Code? (CN, Jan 30).

As a parishioner of the Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea, I felt that this comment should be addressed because it asserts the opinion that a priest cannot impose a “dress code” for the Eucharistic celebration.

However, it has been the opinion of Holy Mother Church that “bodily demeanour (gestures and dress)” are part of the elements for worthy reception of the Eucharist and that such acts “ought to convey respect, solemnity, and joy of the moment when Christ becomes our guest” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1387).

The posters in the church are guidelines of what should not be worn to Mass and are there in order to keep the Mass a reverent environment that honours Christ.

This can even be deduced from reading the passage cited in the posters, Ecclesia Eucharista no. 49, which explains: “With this heightened sense of mystery, we understand how the faith of the Church in the mystery of the Eucharist has found historical expression not only in the demand for an interior disposition of devotion, but also in outward forms meant to evoke and emphasize the grandeur of the event being celebrated.”

A Coptic Orthodox woman in Rome holds a crucifix during a Jan 9 demonstration to condemn the Christmas attack on a church in Alexandria, Egypt. CNS photo

STRASBOURG, FRANCE – The European Parliament has urged governments to do more to protect Christians from persecution.

“In some cases, the situation facing Christian communities is such as to endanger their future existence – if they were to disappear, this would entail the loss of a significant part of the religious heritage of the countries concerned,” the European Parliament said in a Jan 20 resolution addressed to European Union institutions.

“We call on the [European] Council, the Commission and High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy ... to pay increased attention to the subject of freedom of religion or belief and to the situation of religious minorities, including Christians, in agreements and cooperation with third countries as well as in human rights reports.”

The document said the Dec 31 explosion at an Orthodox church in Alexandria, Egypt, was only one of numerous attacks against Christians in 2010. It cited incidents in Nigeria, Iraq, Philippines, Vietnam and Cyprus.

It added that the EU had stressed the duty of governments to guarantee freedom of thought, conscience and belief and was committed to promoting democracy and respect for human rights and civil liberties as a fundamental aim.