Cuba Makes Good Friday a Holiday!

USA Today is reporting:

Havana (AP) – Cuba has honored an appeal by Pope Benedict XVI and declared next week’s Good Friday a holiday for the first time since the early days following the island’s 1959 Revolution, though a decision on whether the move will be permanent will have to wait.

The Communist government said in a communique Saturday that the decision was made in light of the success of Benedict’s “transcendental visit” to the country, which wrapped up Wednesday. It said the Council of Ministers, Cuba’s supreme governing body, will decide later whether to make the holiday permanent.

Benedict’s appeal was reminiscent of his predecessor John Paul II’s 1998 request that Christmas be restored as a holiday. Religious holidays were abolished in the 1960s after brothers Fidel and Raul Castro came to power, ushering in a Marxist government.

Good Friday is the day Catholics commemorate the death of Christ, but it is not a holiday in the United States, most of Europe or even Mexico, the most Catholic of the world’s Spanish-speaking countries.

Cuba removed references to atheism from its constitution in the 1990s, and relations have warmed with the church. Still, less than 10% of islanders are practicing Catholics.

Benedict was met by large, but not overwhelming, crowds during his three-day tour. He dismissed Marxism as outmoded even before he arrived, then sprinkled his homilies and speeches with calls for more freedom and tolerance, often as senior members of the government watched from front-row seats. The pope also spoke out against the 50-year U.S. economic embargo, which the Vatican has long opposed.

The Vatican welcomed the decision, saying it hoped it would lead to greater participation in Easter celebrations.

“The fact that the Cuban authorities quickly welcomed the Holy Father’s request to President Raul Castro, declaring next Good Friday a non-work day, is certainly a very positive sign,” said the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi.

“The Holy See hopes that this will encourage participation in the religious celebrations and joyous Easter festivities, and that following the visit of the Holy Father will continue to bring the desired fruits for the good of the church and all Cubans.”

Cubans said they were thrilled, if slightly incredulous, to hear of the day off…


Italian Bishops Forbid Scattering of Ashes after Cremation

Catholic Culture:

In new guidelines for funerals and burials, the Italian bishops’ conference has said that the scattering of ashes of the deceased is not allowed.

The revised funeral rites, released on March 31, said that although civil law allows for the scattering of ashes, that practice raises “considerable doubts as to their coherence to Christian faith.”

This instruction is placed in an appendix to the new book of funeral rites, a spokesman for the Italian bishops’ conference explained, because the Church, “although she does not oppose the cremation of bodies, when not done in odium fidei, continues to maintain that the burial of the dead is more appropriate, that it expresses faith in the resurrection of the flesh, nourishes the piety of the faithful, and favors the recollection and prayer of relatives and friends.”


TTAC Communication

For March is out from Fr Ian Gray, Vicar General:

My Dear Friends,

I have delayed writing this letter whilst I received news from the Johannesburg meeting of the
Traditional Anglican Church College of Bishops.

I can now state that contrary to some reports, this meeting was not a meeting of a few Bishops, but a rather full and fully ratified College of Bishops meeting held in accordance with the Traditional Anglican Church concordat.

Archbishop John Hepworth’s resignation was verified and accepted with immediate effect, he was not deposed as some have suggested. With Archbishop Hepworths departure also came the ending of any appointments he made including those concerned with Episcopal oversight.

I understand that Bishop David Moyer will shortly be writing to us, he is fully aware of the outcomes of the meeting.

Archbishop Prakash has been appointed as our acting Primate and Bishop Michael Gill as the new secretary to the College of Bishops.

For Britain, Ireland, Kenya, Zambia and Japan, new Episcopal oversight appointments will shortly be announced.

The College of Bishops meeting witnessed a renewed and invigorated TAC with a strong emphasis on Mission and Evangelism as our Lord would have for His church.

I will write a more detailed report in my April News Letter including the news of all appointments.

I understand that Father Brian Gill my predecessor has been accepted for the Ordinariate. I would like to place on the record on behalf of us all, heartfelt thanks for the work he did as Vicar General during his time in office and for his steady and faithful witness. I wish him well for the future and pray that his Ministry be Blessed. I also wish to thank Ann, his wife for her unfailing support in the life and witness of the Church and the faithful that are Father Brian’s congregation.

May God Bless and Keep You All,

Yours in Christ Jesus,

Father Ian Vicar General.


Note from webmaster.

There is no point in repeating issues of contention. From Easter the situation will be as described for those remaining in TTAC. It is hoped that other arrangements will be made for those still on the way to the Ordinariate.

It is unlikely that I will make further postings, other than to remove known departing clergy and parishes from the list of contacts. It is for those remaining in TTAC to decide how to provide for the future internet needs of the body. An outsider cannot know what those needs are or how to meet them.

The above is in pdf. here.

Not much new.

Off the Beaten Track: City of David

There’s no better place this Passover to explore new excavations that have so much to do with the holiday.

Joe Yudin writes in the Jerusalem Post:

… Starting this Passover you will be able to walk the entire distance from the Shiloach (Siloam) Pool to the southwest corner of the Temple Mount. If you go before Passover begins you can walk from through the tunnels from the Givati parking lot to the Western Wall.

There are terrific guided tours given by staff at the national park. Start your tour with the 3-D movie, which gives a wonderful recreation of the City of David from Canaanite times through the destruction of Solomon’s Temple.

Go up to the roof for a terrific view of the Temple Mount and surrounding area. From there make your way down below the ticket area by way of a metal staircase between the movie theater and the ticket booth. Here you will find a huge public building complex dating back to the time of King David, uncovered by Eilat Mazar in 2005. She contends that this is the remains of the palace of King David and we can be almost certain that later Kings of Judah ruled from this spot.

Several clay seals where found in this excavation bearing names in biblical Hebrew. Notice the large stone walls from the 9th and 10th centuries BCE and the ritual baths from the later Maccabean period, then make your way down to the Area G excavations on the far side of the “palace.” Here you can view the older excavations from the 1960’s and before.

Make your way all the way down to Warren’s Shaft and you can check out the excavations of the Israelite and Canaanite underground water systems which have been explored and excavated since 1867. Near Warren’s Shaft you can see the difference between the Israelite renovations of the tunnel at your level and the original Canaanite tunnel above you.

After turning the corner you will see some relatively new excavations. In 1995 archaeologists Reich and Shukron began excavating the “Spring House” and discovered an interconnecting complex of a tower, fortress, reservoir, walls and tunnels that may have been the entry point for David’s soldiers led by Yoav (Joab) in his conquest of the Jebusites.

Go down the spiral staircase and either walk through King Hezekiah’s water tunnel (bathing suit, flashlights and water shoes required) or the adjacent Canaanite water tunnel (well lit and now dry) which was a part of the newly-discovered tower complex.

Both tunnels will eventually take you to the Shiloach Pool if you follow the signs.
In 2004, while fixing a sewer pipe, construction workers stumbled upon some long stairs a few dozen meters from where the Byzantines believed was the Shiloach Pool.

Reich and Shukron’s excavations uncovered what we now know is the pool, an important site for both Jews and Christians. For Jews this was the first stop for those coming to Jerusalem from abroad, on their way up to the Temple for the Passover sacrifice. It was here, after coming out of the desert, that they could cleanse themselves and start the ascent up to the Temple Mount.

For Christians, this site takes on another meaning. When Jesus comes to Jerusalem for the Passover sacrifice, he comes upon a blind man in Jerusalem he spits on the ground and using the spit-mud, rubs it in the man’s eyes and tells him “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam…He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing (John 9:7).”

Walk west up the hill, up the stairs just after the pool and there is a metal door. Inside you will find a narrow portion of a giant stairway built in the time of King Herod which heads all the way up to the Temple Mount. If you were to come here 2,000 years ago there would be nothing but sky up above you but today there are layers of destroyed civilizations, all from different periods of Jerusalem’s history above you. Just to the right of the stairway is a sewer with some of the stone coverings broken open. Inside Ronny Reich found remnants of the Jewish rebels battle against the Romans in the year 70 CE.

Go around the corner and check out the artist’s rendition of the pool and continue around the corner. Here is a terrific map that shows the path of the road and the drainage channel that reaches the Western Wall. The road was once lined with shops, including moneychangers, sellers of animals for the sacrifice and ritual baths. Today you may walk underground through this tunnel all the way to the Western Wall at the Davidson Center just as Jewish pilgrims once did when the Temple was still standing.


Archbishop Charles Chaput: Make the Most of the Final Days of Lent

“Lent is a time for self-denial and prayer; a time to reconnect with  Scripture; a time to purify ourselves and reconcile with God through the  sacrament of penance,” wrote Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia in a  recent column. “It’s an invitation to humility,  forgiveness of others, honest self-examination and repentance — but also to  growing joy, because, with Easter, our redemption will be at hand.

“Lent is a precious time and gift; a unique chance to reorient our lives  toward those unseen but enduring things that really matter. This year, may God  grant us the wisdom to use these weeks of Lent well. May we remember that we  serve justice best by first giving ourselves to God, and then bringing the light  of Jesus Christ to others through the witness of our lives, our words and our  actions. There is no justice without truth; and only Jesus Christ is the way,  the truth and the life.”



Catholic Interpretation of Scripture

Self-conscious reflection on the proper methods of interpretation of Scripture began already with the early Church Fathers. One of the most definitive patristic statements on interpretation is St. Augustine’s De Doctrina Christiana, “On Christian Doctrine.” While its title might lead the modern reader to expect a treatment of Church dogma in systematic form, De Doctrina is in fact a handbook for the interpretation of Scripture. This fact in itself is significant: for Augustine and the other fathers, Christian doctrine was the interpretation of Scripture. This truth continues to be affirmed by the Second Vatican Council: “the ‘study of the sacred page’ should be the very soul of theology” (DV §11), and by Pope Benedict XVI: “Dogma is by definition nothing other than an interpretation of Scripture” (Ratzinger 1983, 178).

Augustine’s De Doctrina represents a synthesis of patristic thinking on the interpretation of Scripture, and it continued to be used as a handbook for exegesis throughout the medieval period. In the following discussion of the Catholic interpretation of Scripture, we follow St. Augustine’s basic framework, fleshed out with more recent teachings of the Church and developments within biblical studies.

None of the Church Fathers was so naïve as to believe that interpretation could be reduced to a certain method which would yield consistent results regardless of the character of the interpreter applying it. Augustine was no exception: therefore his discussion of the exegesis of Scripture falls essentially into two..

Read on at The Sacred Page here. Follow the blog for the series will continue.

A nice academic read on a Saturday morning.


The Cross and You

Via Fr Jeremy Davies:

This is the week when the Cross looms very large in our lives. Today, at Mass we hear again the passion story so that we might focus our full attention on the cross through the week. It begs the question – how important, how central, is the Cross of Jesus Christ in your life?

I remember at Anglican theological college being asked how I would feel if someone broke a crucifix in front of me. My reaction was instantaneous – I’d be very upset. “Why?”, I was asked. “Because the cross means everything to me,” I said. “Without the Cross, there’s no meaning to life.”  “So what about two pieces of wood shaped into a cross?  Would that have the same effect?”  “Yes, if those pieces were intended to represent the cross of Christ.”   The level of questioning was designed to make us aware of the importance of symbols and symbolic language. When something or a place or someone matters to us deeply, anything that speaks of that thing, place or person takes on special significance, be it a photo or ornament or a news story on TV. It matters because your life is anchored to it or them in some way.  So when we see a block of flats go up where there used to be our local park, we get distressed. When someone who matters walks out of your life, you get upset. When someone smashes a crucifix in front of you, it hurts deeply.

So how much does the cross mean to you? In an age when wearing a crucifix can get you reprimanded at work, or even the sack, I believe it is time for us Catholic Christians to start wearing our crucifixes with pride, not to be provocative, but because we want it seen that the cross is important to us. It is a witness to what motivates and directs our lives, and we are not afraid to let others know.

Maybe this Holy Week, you can join me in wearing something that speaks of your faith, and put a Holy Week poster in your front window at home as well.  Let others know the importance of the cross in your life.


The Final Week of Jesus’ Life, a Chronology

Helpful, from The New Theological Movement:

As the Church prepares to enter into Holy Week, we do well to consider the final week of Jesus’ life, from Friday to Friday. In a later post, we will look at the last twenty-four hours (from the Last Supper to the death of Jesus on the Cross) in greater detail.

It will be helpful to review the Gospel accounts given by Sts. Mark and John, the two who offer the most explicit chronology of Holy Week. See Mark 11:1 – 15:37 and also John 11:54 – 19:30.

The Friday before the Passion

Jesus was in the city of Ephraim, in hiding since the Jewish authorities desired to kill him. On this day (before evening), Jesus and his disciples went up to Jerusalem, before the pasch to purify themselves (John 11:55).

They spent the night in Bethany, which is very close to Jerusalem.

Saturday before the Passion

Jesus therefore, six days before the pasch, came to Bethania, where Lazarus had been dead, whom Jesus raised to life. And they made him a supper there: and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that were at table with him. Mary therefore took a pound of ointment of right spikenard, of great price, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. (John 12:1-3)

The pasch (i.e. Passover) was on a Thursday that year (beginning Thursday eve with the Passover Meal), and so six days before, that is, on Friday, Jesus came to Bethany.

The next day, which is to say, Saturday, Jesus came to the feast there and was anointed by Mary of Bethany (that is, Mary Magdalene [here]). In this first anointing, Mary pours the oil over the Savior’s feet.

This meal and anointing occurred, most probably, at the house of Lazarus known as the Lazarium.

Our Savior spent the night in Bethany.

Palm Sunday

And on the next day, Sunday (John 12:12), Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem upon an ass and upon a colt, the foul of an ass. This was the first Palm Sunday, when the children of the Hebrews bearing olive branches went forth to meet the Lord, crying out and saying, “Hosanna in the highest!”

Our Lord returned to Bethany for the night.

Monday of Holy Week

On the way into Jerusalem, Jesus sees a fig tree which has born no fruit – which tree he curses in the presence of his disciples.

Upon entering the city, our Lord goes up and cleanses the Temple for the second time (he had cleansed it once already, two years ago – cf. John 2:13ff [see our article, here]).

That eve, Jesus returned to Bethany (cf. Mark 11:19).

Tuesday of Holy Week

On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus’ disciples notice that the fig tree which he had cursed the morning before has now withered. They are amazed.

Entering the Temple area, Jesus preaches extensively and answers the questions of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

It is on this day that our Lord tells the parable of the vineyard workers who kill the owner’s son who is the heir to the vineyard. Also, on this occasion, the Lord answers the questions regarding the tribute to Caesar, the resurrection of the body, the greatest commandment, and whether the Christ will be the son of David.

Further, while in the Temple, our Lord sees a widow offer two small coins and declares her gift to be greater than those of the others.

Finally, Jesus foretells the destruction of the Temple and speaks of the final judgment.

He returns that night to Bethany.

Spy Wednesday

Spending the day in retirement, our Lord attends a feast at the house of a certain Pharisee, Simon the Leper. During this meal, Mary of Bethany (i.e. Magdalene [here]) again anoints our Lord, but this time upon his head (cf. Matthew 26:7; Mark 14:3).

As before, Judas complains; but now he is set against our Savior, and so goes to the priests to betray Jesus. And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests, to betray him to them. (Mark 14:10)

Because it was this evening that Judas conspired against Jesus, the day is called “Spy Wednesday”.

Holy Thursday

Now on the first day of the unleavened bread, when they sacrificed the pasch, the disciples say to him: Whither wilt thou that we go, and prepare for thee to eat the pasch? (Mark 14:12)

Because the Passover meal would be consumed Thursday evening, Jesus sent his disciples to make the preparations for the pasch. They went from Bethany to Jerusalem and prepared the upper room.

On this evening, Jesus offered the Last Supper in which he instituted both the Eucharist and the Priesthood. Upon finishing the meal, our Lord and his apostles (excepting Judas, who left early) sang a hymn and then went forth to the Mount of Olives.

On this night, our Lord suffered the agony in the garden and was arrested. Jesus spends the night locked in the dungeon of the house of Caiaphas, after undergoing a secret night-trial by the Sanhedrin.

Good Friday

It was on Friday that our Lord suffered and died. Condemned to death at 10am, nailed to the Cross at noon, and dying at 3pm.

Christ was buried before 5pm and, the stone being rolled across the entrance, all departed.


Some Anglican Difficulties

Writes Fr Dwight Longenecker (who I seem to be linking a lot to of late):

When I lived in England Anglicans almost universally referred to the Catholic Church as “the Roman Catholic Church.” They would emphasize the word “Roman”. The subtext was, “We Anglicans are Catholics too you know. It’s just that we’re not ‘Roman’ Catholics.”

Very often this was accompanied by a branch of the Dan Brown school of church history in which Christianity came to Britain directly by Joseph of Arimathea. They would explain that he founded the Celtic Church which was independent of “Roman hierarchical authority.” This Celtic Church was in tune with nature, valued women’s ministry, was democratic and well, pretty much the way Anglicanism is today…” Then at the  Synod of Whitby the Roman Catholic Church began to assert it’s harsh, foreign and hierarchical authority. At the Reformation the true, unsullied, English Catholicism was restored. Unfortunately there is virtually no evidence for this theory, but they cling to it still in one form or another. To read more about this idea here’s an article I wrote on it some time ago.

They like to say, “Romanism is just one form of Catholicism.” In addition to this the word “Romanism” or the “Roman” prefix is very often linked with an incurable English snobbery and racism. So the Anglicans would say in a delightfully snide way, “The Roman Catholic Church! The Church for Italian waiters and Irish ditch diggers!” It’s nice in an old fashioned Miss Marple English sort of way I guess. All Oscar Wilde quips, tea and lace and fine china for the old ladies (of both genders and all ages).

I don’t really mind this sort of thing. It adds to the quaint charm of the Church of England.

However, a couple of things should be observed. First, by its very definition there can be only one Catholic Church. Saying, “We’re Catholic just not Roman Catholic.” is a contradiction in terms. It’s like a fellow on a dude ranch in Sweden saying, “I’m a Texan, just not an American Texan.” Saying “Romanism is just one form of Catholicism” is like a person  who runs an English tea room in Los Angeles saying, “Of course being an English subject is just one expression of Englishness.” That’s nonsense. Anglicans shouldn’t deceive themselves. They may do things in a Catholic way, and that’s very nice indeed, but dressing up like a Catholic doesn’t make you a Catholic. Believing Catholic doctrine and using a Catholic liturgy is very nice too and a darn sight better than not doing so, but that also does not make you a Catholic.

Being a Catholic is defined by being in full communion with the Bishop of Rome, and if you don’t mind we’ll define what being a member of our church consists of just as you,  quite rightly, would define yours. We don’t mind at all if you imitate us, and we’re flattered that you want to be Catholic in many ways and we encourage you in this enterprise, and seek fellowship with you as our brothers and sisters in Christ. We acknowledge your many gifts and the service you bring to Christ and his church and we value our relationship and seek for fraternal charity to be nurtured, but within this same spirit of charity we also wish to correct your mis apprehension that you are Catholics.

You are not. Your church was founded in a violent and rapacious revolution that deliberately broke communion with the successor of Peter, and that wound to the unity of Christ’s body has been made worse through the conscious and intentional decisions your church has made over the last forty years.

I realize what I have written may anger and offend some Anglicans, but healthy relationships are based on honesty and clarity. I, for one, find that one of the greatest obstacles to unity is the number of Anglicans who still–despite the events of the last decades–maintain that they are Catholic. With all sorts of subtlety, smoke and mirrors they maintain this fiction.

If only they could see, from a Catholic perspective, how sad and silly they appear. Once I became a Catholic I looked back on the arguments I made and the positions I took and I was ashamed of how much I had believed the lies of others and worst of all, lied to myself.


Census Shows Ireland is Still Overwhelmingly Catholic

Despite being rocked by the sex abuse scandal, a huge percentage in the country still self-identify as Catholic.  Details, from the Irish Times:

Ireland remains the overwhelmingly Catholic country of the English-speaking world, according to results of the April 2011 census, published yesterday. Over 84 per cent of people in the Republic, or 3.86 million, described themselves as Roman Catholic in that census.

It may represent a drop from the 86.8 per cent of the population who did so in the 2006 census but, in actual terms, the 2011 figure is an increase of 179,889, or 4.9 per cent, on the 2006 figure.

This anomaly, of an increase in numbers and percentage but a drop overall, is because the general population of the Republic increased by 348,404, to 4.58 million, since 2006.

The nearest in numbers to Catholics are those who declared themselves as having “no religion” last April. They now number 269,800, an increase of 44.8 per cent on the 2006 figure. A further 72,914 did not state their religion, compared to the 70,322 “not stated” figure for 2006.

Among those who did declare themselves last year the next largest grouping to those with “no religion” are members of the Church of Ireland who now number 129,039, an increase of 6.4 per cent on their 121,229 figure in 2006. Presbyterian numbers are up by 4.5 per cent to 24,600 as are Jehovah’s Witnesses, by 19.4 per cent to 6,149.

Far and away the most significant non-Christian religion in Ireland today is Islam. Members of Ireland’s Muslim community now number 49,204, an increase of 51.2 per cent on the 32,539 figure in 2006.

Continue reading.

SourceThe Deacon’s Bench



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