AUGUST 28, 2011, Vol 61, No 17


Dear Muslim Friends, I join in prayer with you on the occasion of your joyful feast, Id al-Fitr, which celebrates the end of Ramadan, a month of fasting and prayer.

As Muslims in Singapore and around the world celebrate this feast with renewed strength for their personal, family and social existence, the Catholic community joins in prayer with you, acting together as witnesses to our religious beliefs in conformity with the Creator’s plan, which encourages us to serve our brothers and sisters and work together for the common good.
In this continuing series on Values by the Catholic Medical Guild and Caritas Singapore, we examine the difference between organ donation and organ trading.

On June 27, 2008, an Indonesian Sulaiman Damanik pleaded guilty in a Singapore Court for trying to sell his kidney to retail magnate Tang Wee Sung for $23,700. The broker of the deal, Wang Chin Sing, 43, was to collect $300,000 from Tang on successful transaction.

Tang was fined $17,000 and sentenced to a day’s jail. Sulaiman was jailed for three weeks. Wang received the heftiest sentence, 14 months’ jail.

Should Tang have been allowed to buy the kidney? His medical condition was fairly desperate and $23,700 was for Sulaiman, the equivalent of 16 years in salary. Would it not have been a win-win situation, a fair exchange?

Organ donation or trade? Should we allow people to die for a principle? This is how the issue of organ trade is likely to crawl into people’s conscience. What is heavier in the ethical scale, organ trade or human lives?

The Church has stubbornly maintained that “the human person” is at the centre of all ethical decisions. Does this not then imply that the morality of organ trade depends on how many human persons may benefit from it?


BY NOW, you’ve probably heard about the death of British soul singer Amy Winehouse.

Winehouse’s second album, Back to Black, captured the attention of everyone who listened to it because of its originality and the sheer technical proficiency of Winehouse’s singing.

Outside of music, though, Winehouse’s life was a raucous, downward spiral as she made attempt after attempt to get off drugs and alcohol.

Winehouse tried rehabilitation, but, in the end, she always ran back to the bottle, making tabloid headlines about her destructive habits, her run-ins with the law, and performances where she could hardly stand.

It’s a horrible, sad story to lose someone with such incredible potential at such a young age and for such a stupid reason.

Police suspect that Winehouse’s death was “violent or suspicious”. An investigation into her death is being closed until Oct 26. Toxicology test results are expected by the end of August.
WASHINGTON – Mr Todd Williamson, director of the Office for Divine Worship in Chicago archdiocese, has a pretty tight schedule from now until Nov 27.

He’s making sure Chicago Catholics are prepared for the new responses to be used in the Mass effective from the first Sunday of Advent, when the third edition of the Roman Missal is implemented in Catholic parishes in English-speaking countries.

Lately he has been introducing the new missal to Chicago’s Catholic young adults in the relaxed setting of sessions called Theology on Tap. The informal gatherings are primarily held in parish halls, and food is often served.

The age group has reacted to the upcoming changes much like the overall Catholic population, Mr Williamson said, noting that their response “runs the gamut” of those who understand and agree completely with the upcoming changes and others who think the new missal will only make people feel more distant from the Church.

Despite the mixed reaction, Mr Williamson keeps on an even keel.

‘Teens are not as wedded to tradition. In today’s culture everything is always changing. New is not something they’re afraid of.’
– Fr Richard Hilgartner, executive director of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat on Divine Worship

WASHINGTON – Although the phrase “consubstantial with the Father” might not roll off the tongues of Catholic youths, Church officials and catechists hope its meaning will sink in when it is said in the Nicene Creed later this year.

“Consubstantial”, which means “of the same essence”, is closer to the creed’s original Latin and Greek text and basically holds more theological punch than “one in being with the Father”, the phrase it replaces.

It is one of several changes in Mass responses that are part of the revised edition of the Roman Missal to be implemented in Catholic churches on Nov 27.

“Consubstantial” reflects the “language of theology, the language the ancient Church Fathers carefully constructed” to explain “the mystery of Christ’s divinity”, US priest Father John Terry explained in a July 31 Sunday bulletin.
Editorial in Nashville diocese’s newspaper accuses US administration of hostility to Catholic values

CNS photo

AFTER President Barack Obama was elected in 2008, the Catholic bishops of the United States applauded the historic nature of the election of the first African-American as president while at the same time expressing fear that the new president would pursue an aggressive pro-abortion agenda as part of efforts to reform the nation’s health care system.

Despite protestations from the president and his administration, it’s becoming ever clearer that that is exactly what is happening.

But it’s not just on life issues that the president is so out of step with Catholic teaching.

On immigration reform, protecting the poor and vulnerable from carrying the burden of the recently enacted budget cuts, and defending the integrity of marriage, the president has done little to nothing.

For all those Catholics who convinced themselves to vote for Obama despite his aggressive pro-choice positions because they believed that on balance he would pursue policies that would protect the poor, improve access to health care for all, bring sanity to the country’s immigration system, the first three years of this administration must be more than disappointing.
The Crystal Cathedral. The US Diocese of Orange, which does not have a cathedral, has made a bid for the building, which is made up of more than 10,000 panes of glass. CNS photos

ORANGE, CALIFORNIA – A US diocese has made a formal bid of US$50 (S$60.7 million) million to buy a cathedral complex, which was once the home church of a Christian TV preacher.

The Diocese of Orange announced that it has presented its bid to the Crystal Cathedral Ministries board of directors and the organisation’s counsel.

The 2,900-seat Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove opened in 1980, and was one of the nation’s first megachurches. It is made up of more than 10,000 panes of glass and served as home to a non-denominational Christian community.

The cathedral property was put up for auction earlier this year as part of the cathedral ministries’ bankruptcy proceedings.

Crystal Cathedral Ministries, founded by Rev Robert Schuller, now retired, filed for bankruptcy last October. It was facing debt amounting to more than US$50 million.

Left: The Jesuits have sold the seventh-century St Cuthbert Gospel, believed to be Europe’s oldest intact book, to the British Library. Right: A page from the book. (CNS photo)

LONDON – The Jesuits have sold the historic St Cuthbert Gospel – believed to be the oldest intact book produced in Europe – to the British Library for US$14.7 million (S$17.9 million).

The British Province of the Society of Jesus agreed to sell the late seventh-century Anglo-Saxon manuscript to raise funds to restore a historic church and pay for educational work in London and Glasgow, Scotland.

The book, a pocket-size Latin translation of the Gospel of St John, was found inside the coffin of St Cuthbert, bishop of Lindisfarne, when the saint’s grave was opened in 1104. Experts believe the manuscript was placed inside the casket within 10 years of the hermit’s death in 687.

Jesuit Fr Kevin Fox, spokesman for the British Province of the Society of Jesus, announced the sale of the Gospel in a statement in July.

“It has been our privilege to possess this book for nearly 250 years,” he said. “Now, in order to answer more of the many demands on our resources, the province trustees have decided to sell.”

US soldiers fire artillery in Kandahar province, Afghanistan. The head of the US Archdiocese for the Military Services has expressed sorrow at the loss of lives after a military helicopter crashed. -CNS file photo


WASHINGTON – The deaths of 30 US service members and eight Afghans in the crash of a US military helicopter in Afghanistan are another “reminder of the terrible tragedy of war and its toll on all people”, said the head of the US Archdiocese for the Military Services.

“No person of good will is left unmoved by this loss,” Archbishop Timothy P Broglio said in an Aug 8 statement.

The service members, who included about 20 Navy SEALs, along with seven Afghan soldiers and an interpreter, were killed as insurgents shot down a NATO Chinook transport helicopter early on Aug 6.

It is the single deadliest loss for US troops in the 10-year-old war.

“I express my heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of the valiant members of the armed forces and the Afghan citizens who perished in the helicopter crash and the recent fighting in the Tangi province of Afghanistan,” Archbishop Broglio said.Image


Above: About 200 people attended a workshop during which they learnt about the rationale behind the new English translation of the Roman Missal. Inset: The DVD, Become One Body One Spirit in Christ, delves into the meaning of the missal’s texts.

SINGAPORE – Singapore Catholics will be able to use the Order of the Mass booklets containing the new English translation of the Roman Missal from the first weekend of September.

This is to help them become familiar with changes in the texts and responses before the official implementation of the new missal on Nov 27, the First Sunday of Advent.

However, there will be no singing or chanting of the texts for about a month. Instead, the congregation will recite the text to help them become familiar with it.

The Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission made these announcements at a workshop for priests, seminarians and laypeople at the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary on Aug 17 and 18.
The Roman Catholic Prison Ministry needs more volunteers for its aftercare programme

The Roman Catholic Prison Ministry (RCPM) has seen a good response from volunteers who have signed up to serve in the ministry’s aftercare programme for ex-offenders.

However, RCPM says it needs more male volunteers 35 years and older to volunteer for the “befriending” service as many of the ex-offenders are male.

The Walk-with-You aftercare programme provides ex-offenders with befriending, counselling, employment and temporary financial assistance services.
Having such surgery out of vanity ‘is unethical,’ said Fr David Garcia.

Cosmetic surgery is ethically justified if used to restore or acquire a normal appearance for one’s gender and age that benefits normal social interaction.

However, if it is done out of vanity, it is considered immoral, Fr David Garcia told participants at an ethics and moral theology course on Aug 2.

The Dominican priest was speaking on the topic of cosmetic surgery as part of a moral theology programme titled The Personal Compass: Navigating Ethical Ambiguity. The yearlong course is organised by the Wonderfully Made! ministry and Singapore Pastoral Institute.
Br Collin Wee gives a haircut to a resident of Hopehouse, located at St Patrick’s School.

LaSalle Brothers’ project aids young offenders, homeless boys

Henry (not his real name) was a homeless youth living at a rubbish centre. The Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) then referred him to LaSalle Br Collin Wee where he was given a place to stay.

Even though Henry could be rude and difficult, through counselling, Br Collin helped Henry turn his life around. The young man would one day return to give Br Collin $200 to help other “youths at risk”.

Another homeless youth had been living at a sleazy hotel before Br Collin gave him shelter in what would later become Hopehouse, a joint project by the LaSalle Brothers and a group of lay people, supported by MCYS.

Lay Dominicans pose for a photo with Dominican Fr David Garcia (fourth from left). From left: Mr Michael Yip (temporarily professed), Prof Richard Davis (novice), Ms Karen Seet (made temporary profession in 2009), Mr Francis Nyan (solemnly professed), Mrs Chris Yeo (solemnly professed), Mr Jason Koh (novice), Dr Sally Ho (temporarily professed), Ms Estella Young (solemnly professed), Ms Anna Low (solemnly professed), Dr Tan Hsien-Li (made temporary profession in 2010). Not in the photo: Ms Priscilla Huang (solemnly professed).

Five Singaporeans made history on Aug 7 by becoming the first solemnly professed Lay Dominicans in the country.

This act establishes the Fraternity of St Francis de Capillas, named after the Dominican friar who was the first martyr of China. Called to live the Dominican charism of prayer, study and preaching as laypeople, their mission is to share God’s love and Christian truth in the secular world.

The promise by Mr Francis Nyan, Mrs Chris Yeo, Ms Anna Low, Ms Priscilla Huang and Ms Estella Young to live by the rule of the Lay Dominicans until death was a long time coming.

Rev Dr Simon Chan (left, in grey longsleeve shirt) and students from Trinity Theological College attending a Mass at the Church of the Risen Christ on July 31.

Trinity Theological College students engage in discussion with priests and church ministry leaders

Forty-four adult students from a Christian theological institute visited the Church of the Risen Christ recently to learn more about the church’s liturgy, faith formation and ministries.

The visitors were from the Trinity Theological College, located at Upper Bukit Timah Road. The college trains pastors, missionaries, church workers, and theological educators for Christian Churches in Asia.
Have you ever awakened to the call of birdsong? It is certainly a lot more pleasant than the insistent ringing of an alarm clock.

Birds sing at daybreak because trees give off oxygen just before dawn, and this wakes up the birds and makes them sing! And naturally, of course, the sun appears with its great gift of light and warmth to give us all a wake-up call. If only more people paid attention to the signs of Creation.

Instead, we live in a society that, like the proverbial “blissfully ignorant” frog, is content to sit in a pot of water, oblivious to the fact that beneath it is a flame heating up the pot ever so slowly until it reaches boiling point, when it is too late.

There is hope however, if we remember another frog proverb: “The frog does not drink up the pond in which it lives.” Which frog do we want to be? The choice is a no-brainer.

ROME – The US is not necessarily “a nation in decline or struck to the core”, says the head of the Vatican Bank.

“The US remains the most technologically advanced country in the world, with the highest GDP, surpassing one and a half times that of Europe, four times that of China, and 10 times that of Italy,” wrote Mr Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, president of the Vatican Bank, in the Vatican’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

His Aug 9 comments came in the middle of a week of global financial uncertainty after credit ratings agency Standard & Poor’s has marked down the US’ credit rating for the first time in its history amid fears over the country’s ability to pay its debts.

“The fact that it has been declassified does not flatten it to the ground, but probably will cause it to be more humble and open to collaborating with Europe,” said Mr Gotti Tedeschi.
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – Catholic pharmacists in the United Kingdom are concerned that new guidelines from an industry regulator will force them to act against their consciences.

They also are troubled that guidelines issued in late July by the General Pharmaceutical Council could lead to dismissal of Christian pharmacists and even could prevent them from entering the field if they act on their beliefs by refusing to distribute the morning-after pill.

The abortifacient drug prevents a fertilised ovum from implanting into the womb.

“Catholic pharmacists have the obligation to respect the fact that life is sacred from the moment of conception to natural death by not supplying, or participating in the supply of, drugs for abortion or euthanasia,” said Ms Anna Sweeting-Hempsall, a Catholic hospital pharmacist from England, and a member of the US-based Pharmacists for Life.
CASTEL GANDOLFO, ITALY – Pope Benedict XVI appealed for reconciliation and respect for human rights in Syria and Libya where the governments have used force to try to end pro-democracy protests.

“With deep concern, I am following the dramatic and growing episodes of violence in Syria,” the pope said on Aug 7 at the end of his Angelus address to visitors gathered in the courtyard of the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo.

The United Nations has said “around 2,000 people are reported to have been killed in clashes in Syria since protesters took to the streets in mid-March demanding greater civil liberties. The violent crackdown by the authorities has received widespread condemnation from the UN, including the Security Council and top officials, as well as world leaders”.

Pope Benedict also used his Angelus address to call attention “to Libya where the power of weapons has not resolved the situation”.
CASTEL GANDOLFO, ITALY – Pope Benedict XVI appealed for reconciliation and respect for human rights in Syria and Libya where the governments have used force to try to end pro-democracy protests.

“With deep concern, I am following the dramatic and growing episodes of violence in Syria,” the pope said on Aug 7 at the end of his Angelus address to visitors gathered in the courtyard of the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo.

The United Nations has said “around 2,000 people are reported to have been killed in clashes in Syria since protesters took to the streets in mid-March demanding greater civil liberties. The violent crackdown by the authorities has received widespread condemnation from the UN, including the Security Council and top officials, as well as world leaders”.
... Vatican cardinal tells hundreds of thousands of youths at World Youth Day opening Mass

Pilgrims fill Madrid’s Plaza de Cibeles for the opening Mass. CNS photos

MADRID – “It’s nothing I’ve ever seen before,” said 16-year-old Morgan Simon of Sydney.

“The representations of all the countries around the world – it’s mind-blowing. Everyone’s happy and cheerful. They all want to talk to each other and get to know you and where you’re from and trade things. It’s one of the most amazing things ever.”

Walking down a street in Madrid arm-in-arm with fellow pilgrims from Bogota, Colombia, Catalina Bamargo said she could not believe that she was living the World Youth Day (WYD) experience with 3,000 pilgrims from her country and with hundreds of thousands more from around the globe.

“This is wonderful, we’re excited!” she said. “The Church lives!”

Simon and Barmargo are just two of the many young people gathered for the WYD opening Mass on Aug 16.
KATHMANDU – Bishop Anthony Sharma has suspended the activities of the Neocatechumenal Way in Kathmandu, seven years after the organisation, which is dedicated to the Christian formation of adults, first came to Nepal.

According to Church authorities, the Catholic group, which started in Madrid in 1964, was never formally invited to Nepal, but “came by themselves”.

A short announcement on the notice board of Kathmandu’s Assumption Church said the suspension came into effect on Aug 1.

Several Neocatechumenal Way members, who are also parishioners of Assumption Church, said they still do not know why their activities were suspended.
MANILA – A “secret” meeting between Philippine President Benigno Aquino and Moro rebel leaders has not gone down well among Christian leaders, who say transparency and consultation is the way to lasting peace in the country.

Mr Aquino met Al Haj Murad Ibrahim, chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), in Tokyo on Aug 4 to discuss peace efforts in Mindanao.

Mr Abdulrahman Palcarey, Muslim convenor of the Muslim-Christian Alliance for Justice and Peace in the Philippines, hailed the meeting as a “big step forward in achieving peace”, but his Christian counterpart Gerry De Guzman voiced reservations.

“Though we welcome the meeting, we should be watchful and urge both sides to be transparent with regard to the public on the details, terms and conditions set forth in the talks,” he said.
- Fr Damian de Wind will be transferred to the Church of the Holy Family on Sept 1.
- Fr Erbin Fernandez will be transferred to the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Sept 1.
- Fr Adrian Yeo will be transferred to Church of St Teresa on Sept 1.
- Deacon Clement Chen will be transferred to the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour on Sept 19
YANGON – The Catholic Church in Myanmar is trying to help an increasing number of refugees fleeing ongoing clashes between rebel and government forces.

It has also voiced concern for the long-term well-being of displaced people who have been unable to return home after fighting between government troops and the Kachin Independence Army broke out on June 9.

“These people have not been able to earn a living since they ran away from the fighting,” said one Church official in Banmaw who requested anonymity.

Their continued displacement is also affecting their children’s education, he added.
A Christian woman sorts through burned religious books in her house in Gojra in 2009 after it was attacked by Muslims.

GOJRA, PAKISTAN – Two Muslims have apologised for an anti-Christian rampage in the Punjab city of Gojra two years ago that left 10 Catholics dead.

At an interfaith seminar at Sacred Heart Church in Gojra on Aug 1, marking the second anniversary of the incident, two Sufi masters expressed regret for the violence, saying it went against the “spirit of Islam”, reported the Asian Church news agency UCA News.

In August 2009, hundreds of Muslims rioted in Gojra and a nearby village, torching buildings and attacking inhabitants. Authorities said the violence was fuelled by a false rumour that a Qur’an had been desecrated.

The anti-terrorism court in Faisalabad in June acquitted all 70 people arrested in connection with the attacks.

Fr Aftab James Paul, director of Faisalabad diocese’s Commission for Interfaith Dialogue and Ecumenism, described the apology as “hugely significant”.
Catholic minorities’ affairs minister Shahbaz Bhatti had wanted changes to blasphemy laws.

LAHORE, PAKISTAN – Some Pakistani Christians have rejected claims by police that assassinated minorities’ affairs minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, was killed by a relative and not by religious extremists.

A joint investigation team believes the murder of the Catholic minister was linked to a bitter property dispute with relatives in Faisalabad, in Punjab province. Police investigators have concluded that it was not a religiously-motivated murder and that the killers, a few of whom have now converted to Islam, are currently in Dubai or Kuala Lumpur.

Bhatti, who supported changes to the country’s controversial blasphemy laws, was gunned down on March 2 in Islamabad.

Supporters of al-Qaeda and the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the killing. Two of his brothers moved to Europe in the aftermath of the assassination for security reasons.
Fr Joseph Chen Hailong of Xuanhua. Photo: UCANEWS.COM

BEIJING – A young priest in China’s northern Hebei province was released to his hometown after more than three months in detention, Church sources said.

Fr Joseph Chen Hailong of Xuanhua, who has served in Yanqin parish near Beijing since his 2009 ordination, had been detained since he was seized by plainclothes police on April 9, reported the Asian Church news agency UCA News.

In recent years, government officials in the Zhangjiakou area have cracked down on priests who are not affiliated with the government-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

Two young Catholics who were taken away with Fr Chen were released two days later.

Local Church sources said authorities held Fr Chen to question him about the whereabouts of Bishop Thomas Zhao Kexun of Xuanhua, who is in hiding from the government.

Chinese officials do not recognise Xuanhua diocese. Bishop Zhao, who is in his 80s, has headed the diocese since 2007 but has remained underground throughout much of his tenure.

Youths from the Church of St Francis of Assisi.

Some of the 200 Singapore youths now at WYD share their excitement at attending the Church celebration prior to their departure

Singapore pilgrims to the World Youth Day (WYD) in Madrid say they are excited about experiencing a faith renewal at the massive international event.

About 200 young people from various contingents in the archdiocese are right now at the Aug 16-21 celebration. CatholicNews caught up with some of them at Changi Airport just before their departure.

Ms Mariana Wijayanti, a youth worker with the archdiocesan Youth Ministry Office said she hopes participants would not only enjoy the convivial and welcoming atmosphere but also experience the universality of the Church at WYD.

Riot police officers prepare to carry out a raid in London on Aug 11. The Sisters of Marie Auxiliatrice are assisting those displaced by mob violence. CNS photos

LONDON – Catholic nuns who live near London neighbourhoods hit by riots are working with local authorities to help and even counsel homeless victims.

The Sisters of Marie Auxiliatrice, a French-based community, made their decision after attending an ecumenical prayer vigil amid smouldering ruins and husks of burned-out vehicles in the British capital’s Tottenham district.

Dublin-born Sister Sylvia McCarthy told Catholic News Service on Aug 10, “The shops were burned out completely, and many people lived over those shops, and they had very little time to get out of their apartments.

“The people were in an awful state,” she said. “They are short of everything.”
NEW ORLEANS, USA – For eight days at Loyola University New Orleans, three American priests and five deacons absorbed the cool mathematics and internal symmetry of good preaching.

Just as Moses descended from Mount Sinai with Ten Commandments chiselled on two stone tablets, the rules laid out by Fr Roy Shelly and Ms Deborah Wilhelm of the Diocese of Monterey, California, while not etched in permanent marker, are boundaries worthy of respect: six to eight minutes for a Sunday homily, three to five minutes for a weekday sermon.

“The idea is not so much ‘brevity’ as it is not taking longer than you need,” said Ms Wilhelm, a doctoral student with a focus on preaching at the Aquinas Institute of Theology.

Improving the quality and spiritual depth of preaching has been a passion for Fr Shelly, who is director of vocations and oversees homiletics training for the permanent diaconate in his diocese.

If priests and deacons do not take seriously their vocational call and the preparation needed to preach the Gospel, Fr Shelly said, the resulting communication will be flat and possibly even an obstacle to worship.