Saturday, 24 July 2010

Benedict XVI Working on Vol. 3 of "Jesus of Nazareth"

Aide Sees Book at the heart of Pope's Service to People of God

VATICAN CITY, JULY 23, 2010 - A few days ago, Benedict XVI started work on Vol. 3 of his international bestseller, "Jesus of Nazareth."

This was confirmed by Vatican spokesman Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, in the most recent edition of Vatican Television's "Octava Dies."

Vol. 3 will consider Christ's childhood.

"After having handed in some months ago the manuscripts of the second volume, dedicated to the Passion and the Resurrection, which are now being translated and edited in various languages, and should be available next spring, Benedict XVI has now begun the third and last part" of his work on "Jesus of Nazareth," Father Lombardi reported.

The spokesman explained that "as the faithful themselves were able to attest on seeing the Pope last Sunday for the Angelus, after a few days in Castel Gandolfo he seemed reinvigorated and smiling, and has begun immediately to dedicate himself to reading and studying, which, although it requires determination, does not tire him."

He added, "And now he has begun to work to complete his work on Jesus. It is clear, therefore, how important it is for him to finish this great project that he started some years ago."

Free time

Benedict XVI finished the first volume of "Jesus of Nazareth" in late 2006. That edition focuses on Jesus' public ministry.

In the preface of that volume, the Pope mentioned that he began to work on it "during the summer holidays of 2003," when he was cardinal prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and that he gave a definitive form to Chapters 1-4 in August 2004.

Then he added, "After my election to the Episcopal See of Rome, I have dedicated all my free time to get on with the book."

Father Lombardi explained that "on the occasion of the synod of bishops on the Word of God, many addresses stressed the crucial importance of this work of the Pope as a model of theological and spiritual reading of the Gospels, as a guide so that believers will find, through the Gospels, the person of Jesus: 'the real Jesus, the historical Jesus in the true sense.'"

Hence, the purpose of the book is to "lead us to encounter Jesus. It is the very heart of the service of the Successor of Peter for the Church and for men of all times. Benedict XVI is dedicating his 'vacation' to this. Thank you! Have a good vacation, Holy Father!"


Tuesday, 13 July 2010

A Visit to China's Largest Catholic Village

Anthony E. Clark, Ph.D. | July 12, 2010 | Ignatius Insight

Editor's Note: Dr. Anthony E. Clark, Assistant Professor of Asian History at Whitworth University (Spokane, Washington), has been traveling and researching in China this summer. The following was written in Shanghai on July 8, 2010.

Traveling through China's poorer provinces one often sees blue coal trucks, mule-driven carts brimming with freshly harvested vegetables, squatting peasants smoking long-stemmed pipes, or dilapidated roadside hovels with exposed light bulbs hanging precariously from crumbling ceilings. Occasional pavilions or temples might be seen, though these were largely destroyed during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).

Catholic churches suffered two major periods of destruction, the Boxer Uprising (1898-1900) and the Cultural Revolution. The anti-foreign Boxers, called the Fists of Righteous Harmony, swept through China's northern provinces attacking churches and Christians, and when the Red Guards were told to destroy the "four olds" – old ideas, old customs, old habits, and old culture – they attacked not only anything that seemed traditional, but also anything that was foreign or religious. Being old, traditional, foreign, and religious, Catholic churches, orphanages, seminaries, and hospitals suffered widespread destruction through the Maoist era.

Despite these two historical events Chinese Christianity has grown at a meteoric rate in recent decades, swelling from around four million faithful in 1949 to over fifty million today. The current government has behaved quite openly to this growth compared to its previous intolerance, though the situation in China remains unsteady, and present signs suggest increased control over Catholic activities by the central authorities. Surveillance cameras monitor church entrances and the Religious Affairs Bureau has become more rigid in its stance against Roman "interference" in Church affairs in China. Papal authority, abortion, and the election of bishops continue to be sensitive topics, though the level of intensity of these conflicts differs from province to province.

One of the most astounding Catholic success stories in China is the village of Liuhecun, located an hour's drive outside of the economically poor capital city of Shanxi, Taiyuan, the center of what is China's most Catholic diocese. Liuhecun is difficult to find without help, and it is best accessed through the introduction of one of the local priests. On the way to the village one of Shanxi's largest secrets unfurls; church after church dot the landscape and high steeples rise above small villages as they do in southern France.

Passing through a narrow side road one arrives at Liuhecun and is welcomed by three great statues at the village entrance: St. Peter holding his keys is flanked by Saints Simon and Paul. Thirty minutes before Mass the village loudspeakers, once airing the revolutionary voice of Mao and Party slogans, now broadcasts the rosary. Winding through the village, the large church with its imposing edifice and towering dome loom above, and once you arrive you are greeted by a curious admixture of Romanesque architecture, yellow plastic palm trees, and streaming colored banners. Shanxi has its own peculiar tastes, and almost every church contains two large grandfather clocks (no-one could tell me the origin of this curious tradition) and lines of colored flags in and outside the sanctuary.

Liuhecun is China's largest Catholic village. Attending one of the church's Sunday Masses, which draws nearly three thousand faithful, is dizzying. Before Mass the priests and faithful kneel to intone the rosary in an old Shanxi-style chant – it is a loud affair, broadcast over loudspeakers. In what is only a very modest village by Chinese standards – around seven thousand people – more than ninety percent are Catholic. One of the reasons for its strong commitment to its Catholic faith, villagers say, is the village's endurance through the two terrible anti-Catholic persecutions.

Popular local stories circulate about how Liuhecun village survived the ravages of the Boxer Uprising. In a meeting with the church's lively pastor, Fr. Zhang Junhai, one of these stories was recounted. The residents say that as the Boxers approached the village during the summer of 1900, the Virgin Mary appeared above the church's bell tower in flowing white robes; her hands were extended in prayer before her. They say an army of angels surrounded her as she prayed, and whichever direction she faced pointed toward the direction from which the Boxers were approaching. Thus, with Mary's help the stronger men of the community were able to prepare in advance to ward off the Boxer attack. Several times the Boxers approached, and each time Mary appeared above the church praying in the direction of their advance. The Catholics of the village also attribute to Mary's assistance the fact that the Boxer cannons backfired on the attackers as they fired on the village. Today, the village's devotion to Mary is tangible; traditionally each family prays an evening rosary and displays an image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in their home.

Nearly seven decades after the violent Boxer Uprising, the Cultural Revolution disturbed the peaceful rhythms of the village. The church was stripped of its pews, the altar lay bare, and revolutionary slogans covered the walls and columns. Like all China at that time, Liuhecun's church was closed and the faithful were compelled to either join the radical fervor of the Red Guards or suffer under the revolution for remaining Catholic. Some of the villagers erected tents for Mass where the priest courageously offered the Holy Sacrifice on a makeshift altar. One elderly man, in his nineties, quite openly recounted for us the arrest and beating of his Franciscan uncle during the turbulence of the Maoist era. The priest was "struggled against" several times, which included pulling his hair, physical beatings, and cruel forms of restraint. In the end, the priest suffered from a head injury and died. Stories of Mary's assistance and the sacrifices of such holy people as the Franciscan who died in 1969, strengthen the resolve of the village to remain committed to its faith.

Fr. Zhang informed me that there are new struggles today, less related to persecution than the burgeoning wave of materialism that prevails in modern China. While the youth are in the village they commonly attend catechism, in addition to a rich schedule of liturgical rites and parish events. Since nearly all of the villagers are active Catholics, those who remain in the community are little affected by the consumerism and secular views of China's majority. Less than three percent of China is Christian, so there is scant spiritual support for those who leave the village for study or employment outside the community. The villagers can rely on each other for support and encouragement; they are willing to bear the monetary fines when having more than one child since their Catholic neighbors support and assist them. But it is more difficult to resist official policies and pressures when away from the community. Liuhecun remains China's largest Catholic village largely because it has formulated strategies for having multiple children, who are subsequently raised in devoted Catholic households. Attending Mass in the immense church, one is bewildered by the number of children whirling through the aisles before the service, a unique sight in one-child-policy China.

Just over two centuries ago, Liuhecun was little more than a sequence of agricultural fields; today it is a Catholic success story in a country with a long history of anti-Catholic persecution. When asked about the village's dedication to the Pope, Fr. Zhang noted its fierce loyalty to the Holy Father and its commitment to following his teachings. I noticed the proudly-displayed papal blessing and photograph of Benedict XVI near Fr. Zhang's desk as he answered this question. "We are a very traditional Catholic community," he said, "not like in other countries." I could not help but think that despite the irregularity of the Chinese Church's relationship with Rome, in many ways it retains a stronger Catholic identity and commitment than many other countries.

Liuhecun is an extraordinary Catholic village, and it enjoys comparative freedom from governmental interference, perhaps due to its remote location. It is also extremely poor, and the lure of material comforts continues to draw villagers away. Not all of those who leave the village strain to retain their faith, however. Liuhecun is one of the principal springs from which vocations emerge in all of China. It seems that in almost every diocese one encounters a young priest who tells you he is from Liuhecun, and there can be little doubt that most of China's Catholics have heard of this wellspring of faith and vocations.
The faith of China's largest Catholic village is passionate, for the very name of their small village alludes to God's role in synchronizing all existence. From ancient times China has believed in the harmonious relationship between the "five directions," north, south, east, west, middle, known as the "Five Harmonies" (Wuhe). Not long after the Catholics of this region settled, they named their new village "Six Harmonies Village" (Liuhecun) because they believe there can be no harmony without God, the "sixth direction."

As I departed from Liuhecun after attending a Mass that felt almost like Mass at St. Peter's, Fr. Zhang, his assistant priest, and the church manager stood near the gate, waving goodbye. Hundreds of old men and women stood near the church door watching the foreign guests leaving the village. And it seemed like a thousand children ran past us laughing and playing with each other. I imagined that many of those young boys and girls, God willing, someday will serve the Church as priests and nuns. I wondered also how many non-Chinese Catholics have heard of this astonishing village, tucked inconspicuously in the arid scenery of Shanxi province.

Looking back at the enormous church I reflected on the catholicity of the Catholic Church; a Western-style church surrounded by all things Chinese. Most Westerners would not recognize the tunes of the chanted prayers, or the language, or the way people interact. But any Christian would readily admire the deeply pious faith of Liuhecun's humble Catholics, who have not only survived two persecutions, but in fact grown from them as a seed from watered soil.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Pius XII's Efforts to Save Jewish Culture Revealed

Mobilized Church Leaders to Defend Synagogues

NEW YORK, JULY 1, 2010 ( The recently opened sections of the Vatican Secret Archives have revealed that Pope Pius XII not only helped save thousands of Jews, but also their patrimony, from the Nazis.

Pave the Way Foundation reported Tuesday that its researchers found documents of "great importance."

Michael Hesemann, a historian and foundation representative from Germany, has been researching documents in the Vatican archives and he found a letter sent by Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, who would later become Pius XII, on Nov. 30, 1938, only three weeks after the Kristallnacht.

In this letter, which was sent to the nunciatures and apostolic delegations as well as 61 bishops, the cardinal requested 200,000 visas for "non-Aryan Catholics." Just over a month later, on Jan. 9, 1939, he sent three additional letters.

Hesemann explained that this language, in which Cardinal Pacelli speaks about "converted Jews" and "non-Aryan Catholics," is most likely a cover to hide the real scheme from the Nazis.

At that time, under the concordat of 1933, Germany allowed the Holy See to aid those considered "non-Aryan Catholics."

The foundation added that Cardinal Pacelli specifically requested in his letter: "Care should be taken that sanctuaries are provided to safeguard their spiritual welfare and to protect their religious cult, customs and traditions."


The communiqué explained that this seems to refer to a group other than converted Jews, who, upon their baptisms, "just became normal Catholics" without any "sanctuaries, customs, or traditions on their own."

Furthermore, many of the bishops responded to the cardinal's request, and documents show that they referred to aiding the "persecuted Jews" rather than the "converted Jews" or "non-Aryan Catholics."

Matteo Luigi Napolitano, political science professor at the University of Urbino, Italy, told ZENIT that one of the Jan. 9, 1939, letters was even more explicit.

It too was sent to over 60 prelates, and the instructions, written in Latin, "leave no room for doubt about the intentions of the Holy See and about Eugenio Pacelli's thoughts," the scholar said.

The letter, he reported, reads, "Do not engage in saving only Jewish people but also synagogues, cultural centers and everything that pertains to their faith: the Torah scrolls, libraries, cultural centers, etc.)."

The foundation explained that this point is important, because many historians have only acknowledged the efforts of Pius XII to save converted Jews, but the evidence seems to paint a different picture.

It continued: "Since many of the critics of this papacy have not yet accepted the proven Nazi threat against the Vatican State and the life of Pope Pius XII directly, they seem not to understand that there was a need for deception sending only encrypted or verbal directives.

"In many cases the historians are ignorant of the unique Vatican language sometimes using ancient Latin to express the hidden meaning of these requests."

It added that "the terms non-Aryan Catholics, non-Aryans, and Catholic Jews all indeed meant Jews," thus coded so that "if documents were intercepted, this deception would not raise a red flag since the concordat signed in 1933 specifically provided protection for Jews who converted to Christianity."

Eliminate obstacles

The foundation's president, Gary Krupp, underlined the mission "to identify and eliminate non-theological obstacles between religions," such as the discrepancies regarding the World War II papacy of Pius XII.

In this light, he said, the foundation undertook a "document retrieval project of the war time era to publicly post as many documents and eye witness testimonies as possible to bring the truth to light."

Elliot Hershberg, the foundation's chairman, stated that the organization "will continue to reveal as many documents as possible since everything we have found thus far seems to indicate the known negative perception of Pope Pius XII is wrong."

The foundation has over 40,000 pages of documents on its Web site, along with eyewitness videos available for public perusal.

Hershberg affirmed, "We also believe that many Jews who were successful in leaving Europe may not have had any idea that their visas and travel documents were obtained through these Vatican efforts."

Ronald Rychlak, author of "Hitler, the War and the Pope," acknowledged that this discovery by the foundation is "another confirmation" of the "good works of Pope Pius XII and the Catholic Church."

He stated, "The important aspect of this document is that it shows what many of us have been saying all along: Efforts that appear to have been directed to protect only converted Jews actually protected Jews regardless of whether they had converted."

[With the contribution of Jesús Colina]

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