MARCH 11, 2012, Vol 62, No 05

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MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – Catholics in British cities hosting events for the 2012 Olympic Games are being urged to show hospitality to athletes who cannot afford to stay in hotels.

They are being encouraged to register with the Athlete Family Homestay Programme and open their homes for eight days or more to Olympic and Paralympic competitors and their families from poor nations.

Mr James Parker, the Catholic Church’s executive coordinator for the 2012 London Olympic Games, told Catholic News Service that the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales saw the initiative as an act of solidarity.

“It is estimated that approximately a third of all official Olympic and Paralympic athletes and coaches will be from a Catholic background,” he said in a Feb 17 email to Catholic News Service.

“With this in mind, the Catholic community, alongside other Christians and those of other faiths and no faiths, wishes to offer a tangible way of ‘welcoming the stranger’ to our shores by offering free board and lodging for limited periods during the games.”
VATICAN CITY – For perhaps the first time ever, Anglican hymns, chants and prayers reverberated off the marble walls of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome as some members of the world’s first ordinariate for former Anglicans celebrated their coming into the Catholic Church.

“Wonderful is not a strong enough word to express how we feel to be here,” where the apostle Peter gave his life “and where his successors guarded the faith for generations,” said Fr Len Black in his homily.

Mass at the basilica and the pilgrimage to Rome generated “a feeling of coming home”, said the Catholic priest who served as an Episcopalian pastor in the Scottish Highlands for 31 years.

The group of about 94 pilgrims, including a dozen priests, was led by Msgr Keith Newton, head of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, which was established in January 2011 for former Anglicans in England and Wales.

After celebrating morning Mass on Feb 24 in a side chapel, the group moved to the centre of the basilica and stood in front of the Confessio, a lower chapel honouring St Peter’s confession of faith that led to his martyrdom, and recited the General Thanksgiving, a traditional Anglican prayer.
VATICAN CITY – The government of Vietnam has agreed to allow the pope’s special envoy to have greater freedom to visit Catholics in the communist country, the Vatican spokesman said.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi said Vatican-Vietnamese relations continue to take “gradual steps forward”, including an agreement reached in late February “to facilitate the work” of Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, the pope’s non-resident envoy to the Vietnam, by making it easier for him to visit Catholic leaders and communities.

The archbishop, who was appointed in January 2011, took part in meetings from Feb 27-28 of a joint Vatican-Vietnamese working group, established to work towards fully normalising relations.

For years, top Vatican diplomats made annual trips to Vietnam to work out details of the Church’s life and freedom to function in the country. The trips included a discussion of every potential bishop’s appointment with government officials.
Msgr Georg Ratzinger has written a book about his brother, Pope Benedict

ROME – Recounting their rural Bavarian childhood and subsequent lifelong friendship, the elder brother of Pope Benedict XVI offers a privileged look at the personal side of the spiritual leader of 1.3 billion Catholics.

My Brother, the Pope, scheduled for publication on March 1 by Ignatius Press, is based on interviews with Msgr Georg Ratzinger by German writer Michael Hesemann and was originally published in German last year.

Joseph, the future Pope Benedict, was “very slight and delicate” at birth, Msgr Ratzinger says, and was “often sick” as an infant, with diphtheria among other ailments. Later on, Joseph’s favourite toys were stuffed animals, and he was particularly attached to a pair of teddy bears.

Msgr Ratzinger describes family life with their parents and older sister Maria as free of any overt conflict, “since each one settled that himself and with God in personal prayer”.

Glimpses of the boys’ destinies came early on.