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Ignorance of the faith More than four in 10 Catholics in the United States (45 per cent) do not know that their Church teaches that the bread and wine used in Communion do not merely symbolise but actually become the body and blood of Christ, according to a survey on religious knowledge conducted by the respected Pew Forum. On average, Americans correctly answered half of the 32 religious knowledge questions on the survey. Atheists, agnostics, Jews and Mormons averaged above 20 correct answers, Protestants 16 and Catholics 14.7.

Forgiveness ’at heart of reform’ The “blurring of the grace of forgiveness” is at the heart of the “spiritual crisis of our age”, Pope Benedict XVI has told a group of Brazilian bishops. In an ad limina address on 25 September, he said forgive- ness was also the key to reform in the Church. “We need forgiveness, as the back- bone of every true reform,” the Pope said. Losing the sense of forgiveness, he said, led to an obscuring of the sense of sin.

’Link to Vatican II’ dies Mgr Eleuterio Fortino, a theologian who had worked at the Vatican’s ecumenical office since 1965 and been undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) since 1987, has died at the age of 72. “He was the [office’s] historic memory of the post-conciliar ecu- menical movement,” said Cardinal Walter Kasper, emeritus president of the PCPCU. Mgr Fortino attended the Second Vatican Council’s final session as an aide to ecu- menical observers.

Epiphany holiday restored Poland’s Catholic Church has welcomed a parliamentary vote to make the 6 January Epiphany festival a public holiday, 50 years after it was abolished by the Communist regime. “We are now restoring an old tradition. I think Church-State relations will benefit from this,” said Archbishop Damian Zimon of Katowice.

Seers speak at Vienna vigil Marija Pavlovic-Lunetti and Ivan Dragicevic, two of the six Medjugorje seers, were guests of honour at a peace initiative organised by the community “Oasis of Peace” and held at St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna on 23 September. The Virgin Mary has reportedly appeared to the seers over 40,000 times since 1981. Cardinal Christoph Schönborn thanked the two seers for their “longstanding serv- ice as servants of the Gospa”. The seers always speak of the Virgin Mary as “the Gospa” – Croatian for Our Lady.

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38 | THE TABLET | 2 October 2010

Letter from Rome A

fter spending nearly three months at the papal summer villa at Castel Gandolfo, Pope Benedict XVI

moved back to the Vatican on Thursday to start what the Italians call il nuovo anno pastorale. Actually, the Bishop of Rome has already inaugurated the new pastoral year with his visit to Britain. In the coming weeks he will hold a Synod for the Middle East, canonise seven new saints (including Australia’s Mary MacKillop) and make a pastoral visit to Spain in the first weekend of November. It is almost certain that he will also create up to 20 new cardinals at a 20 November consistory. Expect the formal announcement within the next few weeks. But nearly as quickly as Pope Benedict got back to the Apostolic Palace, he was already heading out of town again. He flies to Palermo tomorrow to celebrate Mass for a Sicilian conference on the family and young people. The regional meeting is just an appetiser for the next International Meeting for Families, which the Pope also hopes to attend. It doesn’t take place until 2012 in Milan, but the Vatican held a major press conference last week to jump-start preparations. The briefing was curious, if predictable. A journalist noted the irony that all five presenters of the family gathering were priests. There was not a single layperson to be seen. It was also noted that none of the presenters of this seventh “international” meeting – four Italians and one Frenchman – spoke English. The theme of the gathering is “The Family: Work and Celebration”, and is sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Family. During the briefing, Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, the council’s president, said his department hopes to issue a new set of marriage-preparation guidelines before the next family gathering. Don’t be surprised if they have a very Italian flavour.


he Church is not a democracy. Vatican officials and most bishops consistently proclaim this refrain

whenever there are calls to reform ecclesial structures and governance. And yet democratic-like procedures have been a part of the Christian community since its very foundation. Even the Pope is elected. The best examples of participatory democracy in the Catholic Church can be found in the hundreds of religious orders. During the past month, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate have offered a glimpse of democratic elements and transparency at their best in the Church. Eighty-nine delegates from the 4,000-strong international order have been in Rome for a general chapter and, like other communities, they elected a new superior general. Fr Louis Lougen, a

58-year-old American who served as a missionary in Brazil for nearly 17 years and has led the order’s US province since 2005, was elected on Tuesday for a six-year term. What was amazing about his election was that the Oblates videotaped the entire process, including the counting of the votes, and made it available on their open website ( Fr Lougen was elected on the first ballot, capturing 75 of the 89 possible votes. Many religious communities publish updates on their general chapter, but this type of transparency is unique. And it’s not just the election that’s available on the OMI World website promised at the beginning of the chapter. It has posted videos and texts of reports, addresses, homilies and liturgies, and has also offered daily news summaries and a large gallery of photos. This has allowed Oblates in more than 60 countries to participate in the meeting.

pontifical council to promote a “new evangelisation” of traditionally Christian countries, which, he said were threatened by “the eclipse of the sense of God”. Two days after making that announcement, the Pope formally appointed Archbishop Rino Fisichella as president of the new department. The only problem was that the 59-year-old Italian theologian had been named head of an office that did not yet exist. And three months later it still does not exist, except as a papal intention. This anomaly is not destined to last forever, as the pontifical council will eventually be established. In fact, office space is already being prepared in the building that houses the pontifical councils for social communications and ecumenism. And the draft motu proprio formally to establish the new pontifical council has already been written. But it’s not clear when it will be promulgated. That’s because not everyone inside the Roman Curia is happy with it. There are serious concerns about the exact competencies the new department will have. Some officials fret that it will inevitably encroach on matters jealously guarded by other Vatican dicasteries, as well as those that are the specific jurisdiction of national episcopal conferences. Even those in the Roman Curia who are most loyal to Pope Benedict are baffled by his decision to set up this new office. They believe it is superfluous. And, worse, they anticipate it will cause further acrimony and divisions within the Vatican, especially given Archbishop Fisichella’s forceful personality.

B Robert Mickens

ack on 28 June, just before beginning his summer sojourn, Pope Benedict announced his intention to create a

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