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Archbishop Gomez: The Church belongs to Christ

November 21, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Los Angeles, Calif., Nov 21, 2019 / 11:39 am (CNA).- Following his election as president of the US bishops’ conference, Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles has noted that what is of importance is not his own vision for the Church, but that of Christ.

“In interviews this week, I am getting asked a lot about my ‘vision’ for the Church. It is a good, sincere question. But I’m not sure it is the right question,” he wrote in a Nov. 19 column at Angelus News.

“The Church does not belong to any archbishop, even the president of the bishops’ conference. The Church does not belong to any of us. She belongs to Jesus, the Church is his Body and Bride.”

Archbishop Gomez said that the Church’s mission and identity given her by Christ is “to tell the world about his life and what he has done for us, and to help them know that Jesus is the way that leads to the truth about their lives, to the love and happiness that they long for.”

The baptized “are called to be people who evangelize, disciples who are missionaries … this is the true nature of the Church. And our mission is urgent.”

The archbishop noted that our culture is confused “about the meaning of human life and freedom,” and that “there are many competing narratives now about how to find happiness and what is essential in life.”

The Church, he said, has a duty “to reach out to those who are no longer practicing any religion and also to those who come to church regularly but may not be sure what it means to be Catholic, or what the Church teaches and why.”

Archbishop Gomez called for the Church “to find new ways to propose Jesus Christ as the answer to the questions that every person holds in their hearts and minds. We need to call every man and woman to experience the full beauty of the gospel, the joy and newness of life that we have in Jesus Christ. We need to call them to find their home in the Church, in the saving mysteries of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist.”

“So, my ‘vision’ is that we work together — priests, deacons, seminarians, consecrated men and women, lay people in every walk of life — all of us seeking to do God’s will, spreading the good news of Jesus and his salvation and calling everyone to holiness.”

This is possible only by God’s grace and “in union with Christ’s vicar on Earth,” he recalled.

Pope Francis “is leading us and calling all of us in the Church to rediscover this idea: that God has created us, and in baptism has given us a part to play in his plan of salvation — to be missionary disciples.”

Archbishop Gomez said he is honored and humbled by the support and confidence indicated by his Nov. 12 election as USCCB president.

He said the election “is a reflection of the growing diversity of the Church in this country, and I also think it is a reflection of what we are doing here in Los Angeles.”

“Certainly, the bishops recognize the presence and importance of Latinos in the Church and in our nation,” he added.

The universality of the Church is seen “in the amazing diversity of the local Church here in Los Angeles,” the archbishop stated. “But more and more, the face of the Church is changing in dioceses across the country.”

He said this is beautiful, reflecting that “Christ intends his Church to be a home for all people, God’s family on earth, with children of God from every race and culture, every nationality and language all following him and living as brothers and sisters.”

“This is the only reason the Church exists: for this great mission of calling the family of God into being, building God’s kingdom on Earth.”

Archbishop Gomez solicited prayers as he takes on the responsibility of USCCB president, and entrusted his time in the role “to the maternal care of Our Lady of Guadalupe.”

“May she intercede for us and inspire every Catholic to follow Jesus with deep love and a true desire to share his message of salvation with the people of our time,” Archbishop Gomez concluded.


The Dispatch

Verdict first, sentence afterwards

November 21, 2019 Russell Shaw 1

During a mad, memorable trial scene near the end of Lewis Carroll’s classic fantasy Alice in Wonderland, the Queen of Hearts decrees “Sentence first–verdict afterwards.” When Alice corrects her, the Queen, face purple with rage, […]

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Chinese bishop in hiding after refusal to register with Communist authorities

November 21, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Fujian, China, Nov 21, 2019 / 09:30 am (CNA).- A Catholic bishop in China is reportedly on the run from state authorities after refusing to register with the state-sponsored Church. Bishop Vincenzo Guo Xijin is believed to be in hiding in the diocese of Mindong after leaving the residence of the local state-sponsored bishop.

Bishop Guo is considered a leader in the Chinese underground Catholic Church, which refuses to submit to the state-sponsored Church which is in turn under the authority of the Chinese Communist Party. Priests in China are required to register with the government in order to be able to minister openly. In the process of doing so, they are expected to acknowledge the government’s policy of “sinicization.”

According to Asia News, on November 9, Guo was placed under the supervision of two state security officials and visited daily in an attempt to force him to sign an act of registration with the state.

On November 12, officials attempted to compel Guo to attend a meeting of “independent” clergy of the diocese with a view to bringing them in line with the state-sanctioned Church. Asia News reports that the majority of the diocese’s priests have refused to sign the act of registration with the Communist-backed Church. When Guo refused, he was taken to the Mindong diocesan chancery in Ningde to meet with Bishop Vincent Zhan Silu, who was expected to “convince” him to sign the formal submission to the state-Church.

Guo was the Vatican-recognized bishop of the Diocese of Mindong until the conclusion of the recent Vatican-China deal, agreed in 2018. Following that agreement, which gave communist officials say over the appointment of bishops and the right to enforce “sinicization” on local Catholic practice, the Holy See recognized the communist-approved Bishop Zhan, who had previously been considered an excommunicated schismatic, as the diocesan bishop, and compelled Guo to accept the position of auxiliary bishop in his own diocese.

In June, the Vatican issued “pastoral guidelines of the Holy See concerning the civil registration of clergy in China.” While recognizing the need to continue efforts to normalize relations between the Catholic community and government authorities, the document “respects the choice” of priests who refuse to register with the state.

“For some time, requests have been received by the Holy See from Bishops in mainland China for a concrete indication of the approach to be adopted in relation to the obligation of presenting an application for civil registration,” the document says, noting that “many pastors remain deeply disturbed [at] the modality of such registration.”

The Holy See also noted that the act of registration “requires, almost invariably, the signing of a document in which, notwithstanding the commitment assumed by the Chinese authorities to respect also Catholic doctrine, one must declare acceptance, among other things, of the principle of independence, autonomy and self-administration of the Church in China.”

If, the Vatican said, “the text of the declaration required for the registration does not appear respectful of the Catholic faith,” priests should specify – in writing if possible, or else in front of witnesses – that the declaration is made only to the extent it is “faithful to the principles of Catholic doctrine.”

“At the same time, the Holy See understands and respects the choice of those who, in conscience, decide that they are unable to register under the current conditions.”

Guo has previously been arrested for refusing to participate in public events with Zhan. In February, Guo told the New York Times that “we must obey Rome’s decision,” and that “our principle is that the Chinese Catholic Church must have a connection with the Vatican; the connection cannot be severed.”

But he also indicated that while “the Chinese government doesn’t say explicitly that we need to disconnect” from Rome, “in some circumstances it has such an implication.”

Asia News reports that on November 13, Guo “escaped” from the chancery and returned to his home town of Luojiang where it is belived state authorities are attempting to locate him.

The Diocese of Mingdong is home to 90,000 Catholics, 80,000 of whom are affiliated with the “underground Church,” as are 57 of the diocese’s 69 priests.


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In a meeting with Thailand’s Supreme Buddhist Patriarch, Pope Francis encourages peace

November 20, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Bangkok, Thailand, Nov 20, 2019 / 09:42 pm (CNA).- Catholics and Buddhists share should work together to advance the cause of mercy in the world, Pope Francis said Thursday during a historic meeting with the Supreme Buddhist Patriarch of Thailand.

“Thanks to scholarly exchanges, which lead to greater mutual understanding, as well as the exercise of contemplation, mercy and discernment – common to both our traditions – we can grow and live together as good ‘neighbors,’” the pope said Nov. 21.

When Catholics and Buddhists “have the opportunity to appreciate and esteem one another in spite of our differences, we offer a word of hope to the world, which can encourage and support those who increasingly suffer the harmful effects of conflict.”

Pope Francis met with His Holiness Somdej Phra Maga Muneewong at the Wat Ratchabophit Sathit Maha Simaram Temple in Bangkok, during a six-day Asian trip to Thailand and Japan.

The Supreme Buddhist Patriarch of Thailand is the head of Buddhist monasticism in the country. He is chosen from among senior Buddhist monks and appointed by the country’s king. Somdej Phra Maga Muneewong, the 20th Supreme Patriarch of Thailand, was appointed to the role in 2017.

The position has both spiritual and political significance in Thailand, and Muneewong’s appointment was not without some controversy, especially among monastic factions with Thai Buddhism. Before Muneewong was chosen for the role by the king, another Thai monk had the endorsement of senior monastic leaders in the country, but he was accused by the military of tax evasion before being officially selected. His supporters said that charge was trumped up, and opposed the selection of Muneewong.

The pope noted that Catholics and Buddhists can “contribute to the formation of a culture of compassion, fraternity and encounter, both here and in other parts of the world. I am sure that this journey will continue to bear fruit in abundance.”

Pope Francis’ visit to Thailand is intended to encourage the small Catholic community living in the Buddhist-majority country. The pope also has several interreligious meetings while in the country.

“On this path of mutual trust and fraternity, I wish to reiterate my personal commitment, and that of the whole Church, to furthering an open and respectful dialogue in the service of the peace and well-being of this people,” the pope said.

Francis noted that his visit follows in the footsteps of St. Pope John Paul II, who met the Supreme Buddhist Patriarch at the same temple in 1984.

St. Pope Paul VI was also visited by the Supreme Buddhist Patriarch at the Vatican almost 50 years ago, Francis said.

“Such small steps help testify that the culture of encounter is possible,” he stated, “not only within our communities but also in our world, so prone to creating and spreading conflict and exclusion.”

After giving prepared speeches, Pope Francis and the Supreme Patriarch had a brief informal conversation, in which they spoke about the value of fraternity between the two religions for promoting peace.

“If we are brothers, we can help world peace,” the poor, and the suffering, Pope Francis said, “because to help the poor is always a path of blessing.”

They also spoke about education and the role of missionaries in the country. Before leaving, the two exchanged blessings.






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Tokyo archbishop: Japanese Shinto celebrations be a chance for evangelization

November 20, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Tokyo, Japan, Nov 20, 2019 / 05:25 pm (CNA).- Though it is mostly an irreligious country, seemingly untroubled by matters of the hereafter, Japan is over-run with festivals and holidays dedicated to the Buddhist and Shinto gods.

Few contemporary Japanese people claim any affiliation with a specific religion, and even fewer of those religious citizens claim devotion to any particular sect or discipline.

According to the most recent available data, approximately 35% of Japanese people claim Buddhism as their religion, while around 3-4% claim Shinto or associated folk religions. Only 1-2% of Japanese claim Christianity as their religion, and only around half of Japanese Christians are Catholic.

However, despite the minuscule portion of the general population that actively affiliate themselves with Shinto temples and claim to abide by the Shinto worldview, around 70% of Japanese report participating in some annual Shinto ceremonies.

These ceremonies include Tanabata, the star festival, wherein families visit temples and shrines in order to write wishes on slips of paper and hang them from bamboo plants.

The festival’s mythology claims that the day is the annual meeting of two gods, one male and one female, who are separated lovers – Orihime and Hikoboshi. Tradition states that these two spirits are separated by the Milky Way, and that when there is no rain on the seventh day of the seventh month of the year, the two can be together.

The celebration is so widespread that even Tokyo Disneyland performs a special event for the day, casting Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse as the separated god and goddess in love.

Another example of common Shinto-influenced celebrations is Obon, a week-long festival far more solemn than the joyful, carefree festivals of spring and early summer.

Obon is a week-long holiday dedicated to deceased ancestors. Many families come together from across the country to meet at ancestral homes, cleaning graves and leave offerings for the spirits ancestors, including sake and rice.

But are these Shinto holidays off-limits to Catholics?

“A few years ago, the Committee on Inter-religious Dialogue of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan issued a guideline on this matter,” Archbishop Isao Kikuchi told CNA, ahead of Pope Francis’ Nov. 23-26 visit to Japan.

“In the case of community traditions, there is no problem participating in the event.”

That’s because, according to the committee’s findings, these festivals often carry no spiritual weight for participants.

“In many cases, members of the community do not find religious implications for these events. But rather, they see it as an opportunity to strengthen the community spirit of the neighborhood.”

These Shinto “community events” can perhaps best be compared to, for instance, Halloween in the United States.

While for some Christians, Catholics included, All Saints Day and All Souls Day are very real and religiously charged days on the liturgical calendar, many people celebrate the holiday of Halloween with no awareness of its actual spiritual significance.

The reality of Shinto celebrations (and to a lesser degree Buddhist celebrations) in Japan are largely the same.

However, Archbishop Kikuchi made one clear distinction on the subject of these holidays.

“It is not recommended to actively participate in worship at places such as in a Shinto shrine.”

The Japanese bishops have warned against certain forms of participation in these community festivals that still swerve too close to expressions of real religious devotion. While many visitors to shrines and temples around these times of year are not directly engaging with any religious worship, others can toe the line or fully cross it, the bishops warn.

For example, a common ritual at shrines during the holidays is to toss money into the open area in front of the main worship area, clap thunderously to scare away evil spirits, then clasp your hands and close your eyes in prayer. While there can be debate over what exactly the average Japanese means when they say they “pray” during these events, the practice is still universally condemned for Catholics in the country.

Additionally, a Shinto totem known as a mikoshi is often carried through the streets on festival days. A mikoshi is considered by Shinto believers to be a portable vehicle through which to transport gods and spirits from one shrine to another.

These miniature shrines are carried on the shoulders of dozens of town volunteers, each shouldering a small portion of the very heavy religious object. The transport of mikoshi often brings with it parades, chants, and religious dances.

Mikoshi, too, are strictly banned for Catholics.

The bishops do not see these universally important days in the Japanese calendar as obstacles to evangelization. Instead, they want to break them down and reshape them into something Catholics can use for their own spiritual lives.

And most importantly, it seems that they want to keep Japanese Catholics from being alienated entirely from Japanese life.

“In addition, many parishes have incorporated in their liturgical calendar Japanese customs having no religious character, such as the blessing of children aged 7, 5 and 3,” the archbishop explained.

A few Catholic parishes have even begun to shift their celebrations of the dead, usually reserved for October and November, to August to match with Obon.

“The Church can […] turn such occasions into opportunities for evangelization,” said Archbishop Kikuchi.