Taking aim at the notion that one religion is as good as another, a new Vatican document emphasized the exclusive, universal and absolute value of Jesus Christ and said the Catholic Church is necessary for salvation. While acknowledging that non-Christians can be saved through a special grace that comes from Christ, the document said the church can never be considered merely as one way of salvation alongside those constituted by the other religions. And despite a certain level of communion with other Christian churches, the church of Christ...continues to exist fully only in the Catholic Church, said the document, released at the Vatican on Sept. 5. The 36-page declaration, titled Dominus Iesus: On the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church, was signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Cardinal Ratzinger said the document responded to the spread of a new ideology of dialogue that attempts to replace mission and conversion in the church with a false sense of religious tolerance. Overemphasis on interreligious collaboration has led Catholic theologians and faithful to downplay Christ and reject the absolute necessity of the church’s dogma and sacraments, he said.
Irish Bishops Concerned About Domestic Violence and Liturgy
A document titled Domestic Violence, by two Irish bishops’ commissions, denounced all forms of violence in marriage and identified seven New Testament readings they said should not be used at Mass because they give an undesirably negative impression regarding women. Four of the passages cited by the Irish bishopsCol. 3:12-21, Eph. 5:21-32, 1 Pt. 3:1-6 and Titus 2:4-5are in the Lectionary. On Aug. 27, the day the document was released, the second reading at Mass included the verse, Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.
In the U.S. Lectionary, which has been in use since Advent 1998, the bishops provided short forms of the readings from Colossians and Ephesians that omit verses which were reported to have caused widespread misunderstandings when proclaimed in some parishes, said the Rev. James Moroney, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for the Liturgy. The U.S. bishops chose not to modify the other readings1 Pt. 3:1-6 and Titus 2:4-5which are in the second volume of the Lectionary awaiting confirmation by the Holy See, because in instances where those readings are given for use, there are other options available, Father Moroney said.
The Irish bishops said that on the issue of domestic violence the church has not been without its share of responsibility in the past, and we acknowledge this. Within marriage, the mutual submission of spouses was often overlooked or equated with unilateral dominance. There is no ground in the teaching of the church today to justify domestic violence.
Cardinal Says Islamic Legal System a Mistake for Nigeria
A Nigerian cardinal said the adoption of the Shariah Islamic legal system by some states in Nigeria is a mistake that, if not rectified, could create more problems for the country. The president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Cardinal Francis Arinze, said some people in his country do not seem to know that efforts are being made all around the world for harmony among people of other religions. It is not true that if you are a Muslim you must have Shariah as state law, said Cardinal Arinze. Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, does not have Shariah law, he said. The number of Muslims in all Arab countries together is less than the Muslim population of Indonesia. The cardinal noted that Egypt and Jordan, predominantly Muslim countries, do not have Shariah as state law.
Jesuit Biographer of Pope Pius IX Skips Beatification
The author of a three-volume biography of Pope Pius IX skipped the beatification of the controversial pontiff on Sept. 3. I told them more than 10 years ago that [beatification] wasn’t a good idea, that it was inopportune. The pope listened to me then, but something happened to change his mind, said Giacomo Martina, S.J. Father Martina’s biography of Pope Pius is considered the authoritative work on the 19th-century pope. Father Martina said that when the Vatican was considering the pope’s cause in the 1980’s, he wrote a report that recommended against beatification, and the Vatican temporarily shelved the cause. What happened later, I don’t know. I think the bishops from the region of Pius IX brought some pressure, he said.
A big part of the controversy surrounding Pope Pius was his attitude toward Jews. In 1871 Pope Pius said: The Jews, who were children in the house of God, through their hardness and lack of belief became dogs. And today there are too many of these dogs in Rome, and we hear them barking through all the streets, and they go around creating a nuisance everywhere. Let’s hope they become children again. Father Martina, while not excusing the remarks, said they must have reflected the pope’s bitter state of soul at the time, following the loss of papal temporal power in Rome and Italy. He was a truly disappointed man, and he lost his equilibrium in the speech, Father Martina said.
At a press conference on Sept. 1, the promoter of Pope Pius’s cause, Msgr. Brunero Gherardini, questioned the accuracy of the quotation. He said he would consider such a comment a truly serious matter. But he said no serious historian mentions the comments and that it was not found in the volumes prepared for Pope Pius’s beatification cause. The quotation about the Jews is from a speech on Aug. 24, 1871, to the Pious Union of Catholic Women of Rome, and is found in the first volume of the Collected Speeches of Pope Pius IX, on page 222. The volume is readily available in Rome.
U.N. Force Seeks Church Help in Reintegrating East Timor Militias
U.N. peacekeepers have enlisted the support of priests to help reintegrate militias into East Timorese society. U.N. troops air dropped about 1,000 leaflets in the Alas and Same districts in East Timor, about 40 miles east of the border with West Timor, requesting that militias seeking to return to East Timor contact the local church, said Lt. Col. Brynjar Nymo, spokesman for the peacekeeping force. Nymo reported that about five groups of armed militias totaling about 80 to 120 men have returned to Alas and Same and are residing in the mountains. Militias have contacted the parish priest there on several occasions, asking if it was safe for them to return to East Timor with their families, said Nymo.
Chinese Arrest Bishop
Chinese authorities arrested a bishop belonging to China’s underground Catholic Church, reports Fides, the Vatican’s missionary news agency. Auxiliary Bishop Jiang Ming Yuan of Zhao Xian was arrested on Aug. 26 in Hebei Province, Fides said, and there has been no word from the bishop since then. The report said the Chinese government had tried to block Bishop Jiang’s consecration on Aug. 8 because he belonged to China’s underground church, which recognizes papal authority.
Fides called the arrest another chapter in the campaign launched by the Chinese government at least six years ago to eliminate the entire underground church. In Hebei Province alone, said the news service, two underground bishops of the Diocese of Baoding, Bishop Giacomo Su Zhimin and Auxiliary Bishop Francesco An Shuxin, have been missing since their arrest in 1996. Additionally, Fides said other bishops remain under house arrest.
Philippine Government Has Hidden Agenda’ on Muslims
A Philippine archbishop from Mindanao, where there is a large Muslim population and conflict between the government and Muslim rebels, said that a dialogue of Christian bishops with Muslim leaders had produced significant results. But Archbishop Fernando R. Capalla of Davao said the government refused to follow their recommendation that it negotiate a settlement and was instead seeking to exterminate the rebels. He also expressed puzzlement that the government did not call on him for help in negotiating release of kidnap victims, even though he had successfully negotiated the release of victims in the past without paying money to the kidnappers. There must be some hidden agenda, he said.
Archbishop Capalla, chairman of the Philippines bishops’ Commission for Interreligious Dialogue, is co-convener of a forum in Mindanao that includes 21 Catholic bishops, 18 Protestant bishops and 24 Muslim scholars. Starting in November 1996, the month he became archbishop, these religious leaders have met every three months to study the meaning of peace and dialogue in the Koran and the Bible, he said. We have been successful in promoting peace zones, areas in Mindanao where Muslims and Christians declare that arms and armed conflict will not be allowed, the archbishop said. Both the rebels and the government forces have been persuaded to respect this concept of peace zones, he said. It is working.
Phoenix Bishop Slams Newspaper for Hate Ad’
Bishop Thomas J. O’Brien of Phoenix was incensed about what he called a hate ad directed at Catholics in the Aug. 19 edition of the Arizona Republic, Phoenix’s daily newspaper. The full-page ad by the Sweetwater 7th Day Adventist Association referred to the Catholic Church as a beast and the pope as the Antichrist. It was headlined Earth’s Final WarningWhat is the Mark of the Beast? The Sweetwater 7th Day Adventists from Athens, Tenn., are not affiliated with the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Bishop O’Brien demanded an apology from the newspaper. At first, executives responded that they were exercising their First Amendment rights in running the ad, but they later agreed to apologize.