Catholic Essentials

Nation

A nationwide poll of Catholic opinion has demolished the notion that American Catholics demand new gender-adjusted translations of liturgical texts. A survey of a thousand Catholics, conducted by the Roper Center, shows that 69 percent reject the notion that new translations of the Bible and liturgical texts should the use the gender-adjusted approach; only 21 percent prefer such translations.

Nine men, former Legionaries of Christ, accused the founder of that religious order of sexually molesting them as young boys and as seminarians, according to a story in the Hartford Courant. The Legionaries of Christ have strongly denied the charges. In a public statement released from their American headquarters in Connecticut, the Legionaries characterized the charges as an “effort to smear a distinguished Catholic leader,” which the group compared to “the fake accusations made against the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin.”

World

Mother Teresa handed over to her successor administrative control of the religious order she founded and led for forty-eight years. The elderly nun told reporters that she will continue her work serving the poor even as she relinquishes day-to-day control of the Missionaries of Charity. The general chapter of the order elected as superior general Sister Nirmala, a Hindu Brahmin who had converted to Catholicism. When asked in what direction the Missionaries of Charity will move under its new leader, Mother Teresa responded simply: “China.” Mother Teresa also added that she is praying for her native Albania, which is undergoing a chaotic revolt bordering on anarchy.

The Holy See has established formal diplomatic relations with Libya. The Vatican said the new ties with Libya would help to stabilize international relations on a Mediterranean front that should be “more and more a region of peace, stability, and security.” Internal violence stemming from militant Islam has troubled the region in recent years. There are an estimated fifty thousand Catholics in Libya. The Vatican sees the establishment of diplomatic relations as part of an effort to respond to the spiritual needs of Catholics in Libya and to promote relations between Christians and Muslims in the region.

Pope John Paul Ii confirmed that he would travel to Lebanon on May 1011 of this year. Vatican officials emphasized that the pope’s mission will focus exclusively on pastoral purposes; he will be urging the faithful of Lebanon to put into practice the conclusions reached by a special synod of Lebanese bishops in November and December 1995. At that synod, the bishops boldly denounced the effective occupation of their native land and proclaimed the need for political justice, including equality for Christians, who are increasingly likely to emigrate from Lebanon in the face of Muslim advances.

Vatican

Quoted in the Italian daily La Repubblica, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger made it clear that the Church takes the issue of cloning seriously. “This danger should not be underestimated,” said the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. “One cannot take human life lightly.” Any cloning of animals places in stark relief the ultimate question of human cloning. The cardinal made it clear that the interest of the Church extends purely to the moral and ethical questions raised by the new scientific furor. “If the research allows the elimination of hunger or certain diseases, that is welcome,” conceded Cardinal Ratzinger—although he pointed out that to date there is no assurance of such progress. But then he drew a clear line: “The sanctity of life is untouchable. . . . Science must be guided by ethical criteria.”

Statistics presented in the 1997 edition of the Annuario Pontifico, the official yearbook of the Catholic Church, show an overall increase in the number of diocesan priests and seminarians. There are 404,750 priests in the world, 262,418 of whom are diocesan priests. Those numbers represent an increase of 593 in the number of diocesan priests since last year and an overall increase of 289 priests. The number of priestly ordinations for the year also brings good news. There were 8,800 priests ordained in 1996—800 more than in 1995. And for the twentieth consecutive year, there was a small (1.2%) increase in seminary enrollments.

The canonization of Edith Stein—the Jewish philosopher who converted to Catholicism, became a Carmelite nun, and was martyred at Auschwitz in 1942—is under active study at the Vatican. Although the Holy Father is no longer traveling to the International Eucharistic Congress in Wroclaw, Poland where, it was rumored, he would announce Stein’s canonization, hopes are still high for an announcement this summer.

The custodians of St. Peter’s Basilica have declared war on the pollutants and weather conditions that have defaced the walls of the venerable building. The building is the subject of a massive restoration campaign that will continue through September 1999, undertaken by St. Peter’s in collaboration with ENT, the Italian power corporation. The venture is being touted as a scientific and technological partnership. The goal of the campaign is to restore in time for the Jubilee Year the original white color of the building’s facade, now severely darkened by age and various chemical agents.

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