Nigeria Attack Targets Catholic Church

Despicable, evil. The BBC with the news:

Up to 11 people were killed after a Catholic church was targeted by suspected suicide car bombers in the restive central Nigerian city of Jos, officials say.

The car was apparently stopped before it could enter the church compound.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack yet.

A bombing at a Jos church two weeks ago killed three people and injured nearly 40. Islamist militants from Boko Haram said they carried out that attack.

Emergency officials said that four people – including the bomber – were immediately pronounced dead at St Finbar’s church in the Rayfield area of Jos.

Eyewitnesses said the suicide bombers refused to open the boot of their car when challenged at the church gates before detonating the explosives as worshippers approached them.

Pam Ayuba, a spokesperson for Plateau state where Jos is located, told Associated Press that the blast damaged the church’s roof, blew out its windows and destroyed a portion of the perimeter fence.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan condemned the attack but said the government was “winning the war against the terrorists”.

He called on people “to remain patient and refrain from taking matters into their own hands through actions such as reprisal attacks”.

Reprisal attacks were reported on Muslims close to the church, but the number of casualties remains unclear.

Plateau state lies on the fault line between Nigeria’s mainly Muslim north and Christian and animist south.

It has witnessed numerous inter-communal clashes in recent years and Islamist group Boko Haram has targeted several churches in Jos, the state capital.

AFP  has a photo of the destruction:


San Gregorio Magno al Celio

Since a lot of people have come to the blog today searching for San Gregorio Magno al Celio (though I suspect they’re actually after yesterday’s events), here is Wikipedia:

San Gregorio Magno al Celio, also known as San Gregorio al Celio or simply San Gregorio, is a church in Rome, Italy, which is part of a monastery. It is located on the Caelian Hill, in front of the Palatine.

The church had its beginning as a simple oratory added to a family villa suburbana of Pope Gregory I, who converted the villa into a monastery, ca 575-80, before his election as pope (590). Saint Augustine of Canterbury was prior of the monastery before leading the Gregorian mission to the Anglo-Saxons seven years later. The community was dedicated to the Apostle Andrew. It retained its original dedication in early medieval documents, then was normally recorded after 1000 as dedicated to St. Gregory in Clivo Scauri. The term in Clivo Scauri reflected its site along the principal access road, which ran up the ancient slope (Latin: clivus) that rose from the valley between the Palatine Hill and the Caelian.

The decayed church and the small monastery attached to it on the now-isolated hill passed to the Camaldolese monks in 1573. This Order still occupies the monastery. The archives of the monastery were published by the Camaldolese abbot, Gian Benedetto Mittarelli, in his monumental history, the Annales Camaldulenses ordini S. Benedicti ab anno 970 ad anno 1770 (published 1755-1773).

The current edifice was rebuilt on the old site to designs by Giovanni Battista Soria in 1629-1633, commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese; work was suspended with his death, and taken up again in in 1642. Francesco Ferrari (1725–1734) designed the interior.

The church is preceded by a wide staircase rising from the via di San Gregorio, the street separating the Caelian hill from the Palatine. The façade, the most prominent and artistically successful work of Giovanni Battista Soria (1629–33), resembles in its style and material (travertine), that of San Luigi dei Francesi; it is not the façade of the church however, but instead leads into a forecourt or peristyle, at the rear of which the church itself can be reached through a portico that contains some tombs: these once included that of the famous courtesan Imperia, lover of the rich banker Agostino Chigi (1511), but later it was adapted to serve as the tomb of a 17th-century prelate. A Latin inscription commemorating Sir Edward Carne, the ambassador of Queen Mary I of England and a noted scholar of ancient Greek language and culture, can be made out.

The marble cathedra associated with Gregory the Great is preserved in the stanza di S. Gregorio in the church; a shrewd and accurate reconstruction of its ancient appearance was illustrated as Gregory’s throne by Raphael in the Disputà. The lion-griffin protomes that form its front and appear in Raphael’s fresco are continued on the sides in an acanthus scroll. Three more marble thrones of precisely the same model may be seen in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, in Berlin and in the Acropolis Museum. Gisela Richter has suggested that all are replicas of a lost, late Hellenistic original; none of the replicas has preserved the separately-carved base that would have continued the lions’ legs, very much as Raphael surmised.

The church follows the typical basilican plan, a nave divided from two lateral aisles, in this case by sixteen antique columns with pilasters. Other antique columns have been reused: four support the portico on the left of the nave that leads into the former Benedictine burial ground, planted with ancient cypresses, and four more have been reused by Flaminio Ponzio (1607) to support the porch of the central oratory facing into the burial ground on the far side, which is still dedicated to Saint Andrew.

In the 1970s, the Camaldolese monks allowed the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, M.C., to set up a food kitchen for the poor of the city in a building attached to the monastery. It is still maintained by her religious congregation, the Missionaries of Charity…

More here.

It has a stunning interior:



What of the TAC?

Posted today on the Ordinariate Expats blog:

Among the prime movers behind the requests to the Holy See to provide a means of corporate communion of Anglo-Catholics with Rome was the Traditional Anglican Communion with its Primate, the Australian Archbishop John Hepworth. Originally all the bishops and vicar generals of the TAC had signed the petition to Rome, which involved a public confession of the faith contained in  the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and Archbishop Hepworth was confident of bringing with him 400,000 faithful.

So far, however, only one cleric from the TAC has been received into the Catholic Church via the Ordinariate, and that is former Bishop Robert Mercer CR, who will be ordained Catholic deacon and a week later priest in April of this year.

As of the beginning of this month, the Traditional Anglican Communion has to all intents of purposes split in half. At a meeting of (part of) the House of Bishops near Johannesburg, South Africa, from 28th February to 1st March 2012, the TAC Primate, Archbishop John Hepworth of the Anglican Catholic Church in Auistralia, was voted out of office as Primate with immediate effect by 12 of the 20 active bishops of the TAC. The offer contained in the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus was formally rejected and the (continuing) TAC was declared “unambiguously Anglican”. This meeting followed a series of unpleasant letters and actions which Archbishop Hepworth describes as “bullying”, such as refusing to allow Ordinariate-leaning TAC members to celebrate various liturgies or de facto expulsion of those in the discernment process.

This is just the last step in a saga which began with the publication of the Apostolic Constitution in November 2009 and which basically hinged on the meaning attached to the words “corporate communion”. It was clearly the hope of most of the petitioners to Rome that the Traditional Anglican Communion would be recognised by the Vatican as an independent church with whom corporately Rome would declare full communion, much like the Anglican and Old Catholic Churches are in communion.

Anglicanorum Coetibus most certainly did not offer that. It recognises the faith history and liturgical, spiritual and pastoral practices of certain groups of Anglicans as compatible with the Catholic Church. It permits these Christians to enter the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church (each of them being received individually) and then regroup in a new and revolutionary structure, which is the Personal Ordinariate. This is a quasi diocese for ex-Anglicans (whereby the stress lies on “ex-”) who are encouraged to brings many aspects of Anglican patrimony into the Catholic Church.

As I have said, this is new, it is revolutionary, but it went much further towards reintegration than many, especially in the TAC, had hoped.

The new structure made it particularly difficult for clerics, who will be required to be (re-)ordained in the Ordinariate. Although the Constitution permits the ordination of married men, it excludes ordination of these men to the episcopate. Also excluded are those whose matrimonial situation is irreconcilable with Catholic Canon Law (e.g. divorced and remarried). Moreover it does not allow those previously ordained in the Catholic Church to return to ordained ministry (it is arguable that this ruling might well have been more lenient). The most significant difficulty is represented by the fact that each cleric’s theological and pastoral training will be assessed and those found to have had “insufficient” training will be expected to enter into a more rigorous diet of seminary training before being ordained in the Ordinariate.

The most prominent among those to be excluded from Catholic ordination is Archbishop Hepworth himself, who recently went public about his reasons for ever leaving the Catholic priesthood in the first place. He states that he was homosexually raped on several occasions by two priests and a senior seminarian while himself a seminarian and young priest. Rome’s decision not to allow Archbishop Hepworth to be reconciled might seem harsh in the circumstances.

Then there is the case of American TAC Bishop David Moyer, who after receiving a nulla osta (no impediment) from the Vatican was prevented from proceeding to Catholic ordination following a negative vote from Catholic Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia, which was ratified by Ordinary Jeffrey Steenson. The unresolved issues to which Mgr. Steenson referred in announcing his decision most likely include the fact that Bishop Moyer is currently facing a lawsuit for fraud.

Most observers doubt whether in the circumstances these two bishops will now decide to enter the Catholic Church as laymen.

The Canadian branch of the TAC, the Anglican Catholic Church in Canada, has been formally divided into two dioceses for some time, the continuing TAC diocese of Canada and the pro-diocese of Our Lady of Walsingham, which includes those parishes and clergy currently in the discernment process as to whether to join the Ordinariate. Because of numbers, there will not be a Canadian Ordinariate for the time being. Instead a Canadian Deanery of St. John the Baptist will be established as part of the now US and subsequently North American Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. Most of the member clergy and parishes of the pro-diocese will officially leave the TAC on 15th April of this year or at a future date yet to be decided. This includes both bishops, Peter Wilkinson and Carl Reid. The latter has informed in a newsletter that the current position is that two bishops, twenty-two priests and three deacons will probably join the Ordinariate, along with eleven or twelve parishes, who will soon form “sodalities” or Ordinariate groups, as they are called in the UK. Another six priests and three or four parishes are undecided.

As far as the UK is concerned, one development is certain, and then there is some speculation. The former vicar general of the UK’s TTAC (The Traditional Anglican Church), Fr. Brian Gill, currently of Wales, has announced his departure and that of his congregation from the TTAC on Ash Wednesday and their intention to join the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. Considering that a number of Ordinariate liturgies have taken place in the TTAC church of St. Agatha’s, Portsmouth, under the active participation of their parish priest (including the reception of Bishop Robert Mercer), it might be fair to assume that this parish too is leaning towards the Ordinariate.

Regarding the “rump” TAC, and particularly Australia, Archbishop Hepworth has announced a meeting of their own in the near future, with the intention of renewing their commitment to “foster and develop the Anglican tradition within the doctrinal framework of Catholic teaching”, to reiterate their “belief in the teachings contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church” and their “reaffirmation of the Portsmouth Petition to the Holy Father”, seeking full communion.

I guess we shall have to wait and see.



The ‘Twilight of Christianity’ in Iraq

Sad and sobering news, from the New York Times:

Iraq’s dwindling Christians, driven from their homes by attacks and  intimidation, are beginning to abandon the havens they had found in the  country’s north, discouraged by unemployment and a creeping fear that  the violence they had fled was catching up to them.

Their quiet exodus to Turkey, Jordan, Europe and the United States is  the latest chapter of a seemingly inexorable decline that many religious  leaders say tolls the twilight of Christianity in a land where city  skylines have long been marked by both minarets and church steeples.  Recent assessments say that Iraq’s Christian population has now fallen  by more than half since the 2003 American invasion, and with the  military’s departure, some Christians say they lost a protector of last  resort.

Their flight is felt in places like the wind-scoured village of Tenna,  which has sheltered dozens of Christian migrants over the past nine  years. The families fleeing Baghdad’s death squads and bombings found  safety here beneath the hulking mountains, but little else besides  poverty, boredom and cold. Villagers estimate that half of the 50 or so  Christian homes are now empty, their families abroad.

Walid Shamoon, 42, wants to be the next to leave. He said he left Iraq’s  capital in January 2011 after a confrontation with Shiite militia  members set off a nightmare of escalating death threats and an attempt  on his life. A brother had already been killed in a mortar attack six  years earlier, so he said he quit his contract job with the Australian  Embassy, giving up a $1,500 monthly salary, and came here.

These days, all he can think about is his application to emigrate to Arizona.

“This is not a life,” he said one recent afternoon, as a blizzard raced  down from the mountains. “There is no improvement. There is no work.”

Many of the people now struggling in Iraq’s Kurdish north came in the wake of a suicide attack in Baghdad at Our Lady of Salvation Church in October 2010. It was the single  worst assault on Iraq’s Christians since the war began, one that left 50  worshipers and 2 priests dead and that turned the church into a charnel  house of scorched pews and shattered stained glass.

Christian families in Baghdad grabbed clothing, cash and a few other  provisions and headed north for the Christian communities along the  Nineveh plain and Kurdistan’s three provinces. They joined tens of  thousands of other Christians from the capital, Mosul and other cities  who traced similar arcs after earlier attacks and assassination  campaigns.

“They traded everything for security,” said the Rev. Gabriel Tooma, who  leads the Monastery of the Virgin Mary in the Christian town of Qosh,  which took in dozens of families.

The Christians in northern Iraq make up a tiny fraction of Iraq’s  legions of displaced people. In all, there are 1.3 million of them  across the country, according to the most recent United Nations  estimates. Many live in garbage dumps, shanty towns and squalor far  worse than anything facing the Christian families in Kurdistan.

Read more.

And for more on the plight of Iraq’s Christians, check out “A New Genesis in Nineveh,” from a recent issue of ONE magazine.




Archbishop of Canterbury in Fresh Push to Stop Anglicans from Converting

The Archbishop of Canterbury signalled a fresh push to dissuade traditionalist Anglicans from defecting to the Roman Catholic Church as he joined the Pope in stressing moves to bring the two churches together.

The Telegraph:

Rowan Williams used a joint prayer service in Rome to call for a renewed drive to “restore full sacramental communion” between the Anglican and Catholic churches.

Dr Williams and Pope Benedict XVI prayed and lit candles together at the Chapel of St Gregory the Great, in a service highlighting 1,400 years of links between the church in England and Rome.

Pope Benedict welcomed Dr Williams as “my dear brother in Christ” and referred to members of the two churches as “the faithful – both Catholic and Anglican”.

The two leaders took part in vespers at the monastery of San Gregorio Magno al Celio which has developed strong links with the Anglican Church in recent decades through its community of Camaldolese monks.

During the service one of the hymns was Love Divine, by Charles Wesley, the English hymn writer.

It was there that Pope John Paul II prayed with the former Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie in September 1989 and again with Dr Williams’ predecessor Archbishop George Carey in 1996.

The site’s links to England date back to the sixth century when it was the home of Pope Gregory the Great.

It was from there that he dispatched St Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, on a mission to help reconvert the Anglo-Saxons.

In his address the Pope described the site as the “birthplace of the link between Christianity in Britain and the Church of Rome”.

He added: “We hope that the sign of our presence here together in front of the holy altar where Gregory himself celebrated the eucharist sacrifice will remain not only as a reminder of our fraternal encounter but also a stimulus for all the faithful – both Catholic and Anglican … to renew their commitment to pray constantly and to work for unity.”

Dr Williams is due to begin discussions with fellow bishops in the coming weeks on how to introduce women bishops in the Church of England.

Traditionalist Anglo-Catholics have warned that the move would set back efforts to restore full communion between the Anglican and Catholic churches.

Several hundred are poised to join the Ordinariate, the branch of the Catholic Church set up for disaffected Anglicans, if a compromise agreement cannot be reached.

But in his address Dr Williams spoke pointedly of the two churches as “one holy catholic and apostolic body”.

He said the churches shared a “clear yet imperfect” relationship with a “vision of the restoration of full sacramental communion”.

But he admitted that this was held back by a “deficit in the depth of our hope and patience”.

He also spoke against a growing materialism in the economy which had created a “feverish advertising culture” fuelled by greed “in which the needs of actual human beings seem to be almost entirely obscured”.

The service was held to mark the 1,000 anniversary of the Camaldolese monastic community.

The Huffington Post has:

Pope Benedict, Archbishop Rowan Williams Pray Together, Avoid Catholic Anglican Divisions.

Read on here.

But as you can see, the Pope was ready:

Pope Benedict XVI attends the Vespers Prayer Service at the San Gregorio al Celio Basilica on March 10, 2012 in Rome, Italy (Getty Images).


Priest Seriously Burned in Church Rectory Fire

UPDATE:  Sadly, Fr James Reilly has died.

The pastor of a Catholic parish in Palisades Park northern New Jersey was taken to the hospital early Saturday morning after suffering burns from a fire at the church rectory, church officials said this morning.

Rev. James Reilly, a long-time pastor at St. Michael’s Church in Palisades Park is currently hospitalized following an overnight fire in the rectory.

Scene of Palisades Park fire in rectory building of St. Michaels’ Church which seriously injured Father James Reilly.

The Rev. James Reilly, a long-time pastor at St. Michael’s Church on East Central Boulevard was asleep when the fire broke out in his room around 1 a.m. this morning, said Rev. Steven Connor, dean over the parish.

He said Reilly, who is in his early 70s and has health issues, lives at the rectory next door with two other adjunct priests. One of the priests was awoken by the fire alarm and ran to Reilly’s door to get him out.

The door was locked so he called 911 and got the other priest out from his room, said Connor.

He said Reilly was taken to a local hospital with burns over 40 percent of his body, and that he was resuscitated during the rescue. He was taken to Saint Barnabus Medical Center in Livingston.

“He is very critical,” said Connor.

Parishioners attending morning mass were upset by the news, Connor said.

“They were all in shock and some were crying,” he said.




At the Cross

Oh Lord You’ve searched me
You know my way
Even when I fail You
I know You love me

Your holy presence
Surrounding me
In every season
I know You love me
I know You love me

At the cross I bow my knee
Where Your blood was she’d for me
There’s no greater love than this
You have overcome the grave
Your glory fills the highest place
What can separate me now

You go before me
You shield my way
Your hand upholds me
I know You love me

You tore the veil
You made a way
When You said that it is done

And when the earth fades
Falls from my eyes
And You stand before me
I know You love me
I know You love me

Love you He does…

Have a good night. Sleep well…