France: Catholic Church Prayer for Nation


The French Catholic Church will revive a centuries-old custom next week with an updated national “prayer for France” opposing the same-sex marriage and euthanasia reforms planned by the new Socialist government.

The prayer, to be read in all churches on Aug 15, echoes the defense of traditional marriage by Pope Benedict and Catholic leaders around the world as gay nuptials gain acceptance, especially in Europe and North America.

King Louis XIII decreed in 1638 that all churches would pray on Aug 15, the day Catholics believe the Virgin Mary was assumed bodily into Heaven, for the good of the country. The annual practice fell into disuse after World War Two.

In the text, Catholics will pray for newly elected officials “so that their sense of the common good will overcome special demands.” This would include support for traditional families “throughout their lives, especially in painful moments.”

Opposing gay adoption, it says children should “cease to be objects of the desires and conflicts of adults and fully benefit from the love of a father and a mother.”

The prayer is unusual for French bishops, who usually keep a low political profile. Church spokesman Monsignor Bernard Podvin said they wanted to “raise the consciousness of public opinion about grave social choices.”

Pope Benedict said in January that same-sex marriage threatened “the future of humanity itself.” In March, he denounced moves to legalize it in the United States, where President Barack Obama has since come out in its support.

Catholic Church leaders in England and Scotland have spoken out against gay marriage this year after Prime Minister David Cameron and the Scottish regional government both announced plans to legalize it.


Socialist President Francois Hollande pledged during the election campaign last spring to reform marriage laws and his government has said it would do so early next year. Opinion polls say about two-thirds of the French support gay marriage.

Defending the Church’s opposition, Lyon Cardinal Philippe Barbarin said marriage was defined at the very start of the Bible as created by God to join man and woman.

“Nobody should be surprised that we Catholics think the first page of the Bible is right, even more so than a parliament,” he told Europe 1 radio.

The Roman Catholic Church, which has 1.3 billion members worldwide, teaches respect for individual gays and lesbians but condemns homosexual acts as sinful.

Hollande has also expressed sympathy for euthanasia, which is not allowed in France, and named a commission to review whether the current law stressing palliative care for the dying needed to be expanded.

Paris Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois discussed the issue with Hollande during their first official meeting in July. He did not oppose the review but said: “Just because one asks a question doesn’t mean one answers it positively.”

Same-sex marriage is legal in several European countries, including traditionally Catholic Spain and Portugal. It is also allowed in Canada as well as in six U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium. Switzerland and the U.S. state of Oregon allow assisted suicide.



Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference Leadership Changes

The Bishops have voted for their new Leadership from January 2013-2015. President: Archbishop Stephen Brislin (Cape Town). 1st Vice President: Archbishop Jabulani Nxumalo (Bloemfontein). 2nd Vice President: Bishop Sithembele Siphuka (Mthatha). Archbishop Buti Tlhagale, outgoing president congratulated the new ‘Troika’. The Bishops will vote on leadership for Departments, Offices and Associate bodies in January 2013.


There is more about Archbishop Stephen Brislin here.



Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross: Some More News

Via David Schütz:

Dawn Shaw recently sent around this information. It contains all the detail about the establishement of the Melbourne Parish of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross that you will need to know.

Also, some have been asking re the identity of some of the priests to be ordained on 8th of September. Perhaps one of the lesser known is Ramsay Williams. The most recent edition of the Kairos has an article interview with Ramsay here.

James Grant, another of the candidates, is personally known to me. We worked together in Jewish Christian Muslim Association at its inception, and he has also studied at the John Paul II Institute. A good man!

Here is Dawn’s round up of info:

Dear Members of the ODG, ASK Parishioners & Friends:

1. The Melbourne Parish of the Australian Ordinariate will come into being over the weekend of 7th-9th September, 2012.

Friday, 7th September at 7.00 p.m. Laity coming into the Personal Ordinariate will be Received by the Australian Ordinary, Mgr Harry Entwistle at Holy Cross Catholic Church, 707 Glen Huntly Road, Caulfield South.

Saturday, 8th September at 10.00 a.m. Ordinations to the Priesthood at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, East Melbourne. Archbishop Denis J. Hart will preside. Candidates for the Ordinariate: James Grant, Neil Fryer, Ramsay Williams and Christopher Seton. Candidates for the Melbourne Diocese: Andrew McCarter, Benneth Osuagwu, Jerome Santamaria and Kevin Williams.

Sunday, 9th September at 11.00 a.m. Mgr Entwistle will Concelebrate Mass with newly Ordained Ordinariate Priests at Holy Cross Catholic Church.

2. Fr Christopher Seton has advised that he will resign as Parish Priest of All Saints’ Anglican Church, Kooyong on Sunday, 2nd September, 2012.

From Sunday, 9th September, 2012 the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross, Melbourne Parish, will reside and worship at Holy Cross Catholic Church, with the initial Service times of –

High Mass 11.00 a.m.; Evensong & Benediction 7.00 p.m.

3. The Ordinariate Discussion Group (ODG) will continue to meet at All Saints Kooyong (ASK) on Monday evenings 6th August, 13th August, 20th August and 27th August.

Mass will be at 6.00 p.m. as usual with the meeting to follow at 7.00 p.m.

From Monday 3rd September, meetings will be held at Holy Cross Catholic Church (NO Mass on the evening of 3/9/12 – Meeting to commence at 8.00 p.m).

(Note new times) From Monday 10th September Mass will be at 7.00 p.m. with the meeting to follow at 8.00 p.m.

4. Reminders: This coming Monday 6th August at 7.00 p.m. Bishop Peter Elliott will present: “On the Way to the Ordinariate” (1 hour followed by 30 minutes for Q&A)…



Ruins a Memento of Iraqi Christians’ Glorious Past

Iraq (AP) — A hundred meters (yards) or so from taxiing airliners, Iraqi archaeologist Ali al-Fatli is showing a visitor around the delicately carved remains of a church that may date back some 1,700 years to early Christianity.The church, a monastery and other surrounding ruins have emerged from the sand over the past five years with the expansion of the airport serving the city of Najaf, and have excited scholars who think this may be Hira, a legendary Arab Christian center.

“This is the oldest sign of Christianity in Iraq,” said al-Fatli, pointing to the ancient tablets with designs of grapes that litter the sand next to intricately carved monastery walls.

The site’s discovery in 2007 and its subsequent neglect are symbolic of a Christianity that has long enriched this country, and is now in decline as hundreds of thousands have fled the violence that followed the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

At the same time, the circumstances of the find reflect a renaissance for Najaf, a holy Shiite Muslim city. The airport expansion that revealed the ruins was needed because Najaf attracts multitudes of pilgrims.

The ruins left in the baking heat are within the airport perimeter and relatively safe from vandals and looters. The site’s stone crosses and larger artifacts have been moved to the National Museum in Baghdad.

For al-Fatli, it’s all very tantalizing. “I know if we were to work more, we will find more and similar churches,” he said.

But there is no money to mount a proper dig, he laments. In a country where bombings constantly kill people and much of the populace lacks reliable electricity or clean water, archaeological preservation is a low priority.

Today, the Christian portion of Iraq’s population of 31 million has fallen from 1.4 million to about 400,000, according to U.S. State Department data.

Caught in the sectarian violence of 2005 to 2008, massacred by Muslim militias as heretics, “We were in the worst of times,” says Younadam Kanna, a Christian member of Iraq’s parliament. He says the exodus has slowed but the future for Christians remains uncertain.

Still, he says, for those who remain, the discoveries at Hira provide some hope.

“It shows we can live together in peace with Muslims — because we did for centuries before,” he says. “When Islam first came to Iraq, the Christians here welcomed them.”

Legend traces Christianity in Iraq to Thomas, one of the Twelve Apostles who fanned out to spread Christ’s word after the Crucifixion.

Historians believe Hira was founded around 270 A.D., grew into a major force in Mesopotamia centuries before the advent of Islam, and reputedly was a cradle of Arabic script.

Lying 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of Baghdad, it was lost to Iraq’s southern desert for centuries after Christians were driven out of the area by Muslim rulers.

Erica Hunter, a professor of early Christianity at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, says historical evidence shows that by the early third century, the faith was well established in what is now southern Iraq by the Lakhmid dynasty, an Arab kingdom whose final ruler converted to Christianity.

For centuries Hira was an important center of the Church of the East, sometimes known as the Nestorian church, whose modern offshoot, the Assyrian Church of the East, is still followed in Iraq. Hira, also called al-Hirah, lay near the Sea of Najaf, since vanished, and was renowned as an idyllic retreat.

Archaeological finds have been traced in the 1900s, but the evidence is limited.

Hunter, one of the few scholars to explore the other sites linked to Hira, studied the Syriac inscriptions found by a Japanese-led team in the 1980’s. Other traces of Hira include two churches excavated in 1934 by an Oxford University team. Several church sites were mapped by German archaeologists in the 1980s before the 1991 Gulf War curtailed new exploration.

Hunter is cautious about claims the newly discovered ruins are Iraq’s oldest church, but adds, “They certainly must be very, very early,” perhaps dating to the fourth century dating.

What is clear is that Christianity at Hira continued to thrive alongside Islam until at least the 11th century, hundreds of years after the Muslim conquest of the area.

“In fact Muslim historians talk of 40 monasteries in the vicinity of Hira,” Hunter said in a telephone interview from London

Eventually the region’s Muslim rulers began persecuting the Christians, and Hira’s churches were abandoned. Most remaining Iraqi Christians today are clustered in Baghdad, Mosul, Kirkuk and the self-ruled Kurdish north of Iraq.

Al-Fatli, himself a Shiite, thinks of those 40 lost monasteries as he surveys the desert around the abandoned Najaf excavation. For now, though, Christianity’s lost city in Iraq will remain mostly a mystery.

But lawmaker Kanna says there’s still time to uncover it. After all, like the remains, Christians in Iraq have endured for some two thousand years.

“This is our country. We will be here,” he says. “We’ll be here not only for one more century, but for many centuries to come.”

Source (and some more pics are there).



Mars Rover Landing a Success — What Happens Now?

After a yearlong flight and “seven minutes of terror,” Curiosity stretches its legs.

National Geographic:

The rover has landed.

At 1:31 a.m. ET Monday, the Curiosity rover‘s “seven minutes of terror” evaporated in a swirl of fine-grained soil as six aluminum wheels touched the red planet for the first time. NASA had nailed the riskiest Mars landing ever.

Now Curiosity’s two-year search for signs of life begins, with the kind of extended stretch and warm-up you might expect after a cramped, yearlong flight—as detailed here in an excerpt for the new National Geographic e-book Mars Landing 2012.

(Watch live Mars rover landing coverage via NASA TV streaming video.)

If [the rover’s essential systems] are working, then comes a gradual unfolding, deploying, and revving up of the ten science instruments and cameras that are Curiosity’s reason for being.

It’s a process that will take days, and in some cases weeks or months. But the [Curiosity] team will know soon whether the key power and communication systems have sustained any damage during the 352-million-mile [567-million-kilometer] journey or during the high-wire landing.

(Pictures: Mars Rover’s “Crazy” Landing, Step by Step.)

Communication is largely accomplished through relays to three satellites orbiting Mars or through the Deep Space Network, a system of giant interconnected antenna dishes in Madrid, Spain; Canberra, Australia; and the Mojave Desert.

Assuming that communications are established, the first order of business will be to verify the health of the small nuclear battery that will provide power for the rover. Curiosity carries ten pounds of plutonium-238 dioxide as a heat source, which is then used to produce the onboard electricity needed to move the rover, operate the instruments, and keep the frigid nighttime cold at bay.

(Explore an interactive time line of Mars exploration in National Geographic magazine.)

Curiosity Unpacks for a Two-Year Visit

If all is well, what follows will be a highly choreographed unpacking of the rover…

Find out more here.



A New Blogger over at Anglican Patrimony

Fr Matthew Venuti:

My thanks to Fr. Bartus for inviting me to contribute to the Anglican Patrimony blog. Before I jump into the blogging fray, courtesy dictates that I share a brief introduction. 

I had the honor of being the first priest ordained for the Personal Ordinate of the Chair of Saint Peter (CSP from here on out) on June 2nd, 2012, by Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Mobile, Alabama. I am the administrator of The Society of St. Gregory, the Ordinariate group for Mobile and Dothan, Alabama.

While I may have been the first priest ordained for CSP, at 31 years of age, my experience is dwarfed by that of most of my brother priests. However, as a converted atheist, I like to think I have a unique perspective on the Ordinariates…

There’s more here.

Go say hello and do give Fr Venuti a warm welcome.