Daily Archives:February 9th, 2018

Pope Francis meets with Malaysian, Singapore and Brunei prelates

Pope Francis poses with prelates of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia-Singapore-Brunei, who are on their “ad Limina Apostolorum” visit to Rome 4-9 Feb 2018.  The audience took place on Feb 8. L-R: Canossian Sr Margarete Sta Maria (secretary), Abp John Wong of Kota Kinabalu, Bishop Richard Ng of Miri, Abp Simon Poh of Kuching, Bishop Cornelius Sim of Brunei, Bishop Bernard Paul of Melaka-Johor, Bishop Sebastian Francis of Penang, Cardinal Soter Fernandez, Pope Francis, Bishop Julius Gitom of Sandakan, Bishop Cornelius Piong of Keningau, Abp William Goh of Singapore, Abp Julian Leow of Kuala Lumpur, Abp Emeritus Murphy Pakiam of Kuala Lumpur, Bishop Emeritus Antony Selvanayagam of Penang, and Bishop Joseph Hii of Sibu.

VATICAN CITY – Fourteen Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Malaysia-Singapore-Brunei met with Pope Francis on 8 Feb 2018, on their “ad Limina Apostolorum” Visit.

The Holy See Press Office reported on the meeting in a press release on the same day.

Altogether, the three countries have some 1,174 million Catholics: 850,000 in Malaysia; 303,000 in Singapore and 21,000 in Brunei (Wikipedia data).

The Episcopal Conference of Malaysia-Singapore-Brunei reviews the position of the Church in these countries, and also carries out activities that include youth, medical care, and means of communication.


 On 27 July 2011, the Holy See and Malaysia established diplomatic relations between both States.

Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, Substitute of the State Secretariat, celebrated Holy Mass on 24 November 2017, in the new Apostolic Nunciature of Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), the day after its inauguration.


 –Monsignor John Wong Soo Kau, Archbishop of Kota Kinabalu.

–Monsignor Cornelius Piong, Bishop of Keningau.

–Monsignor Julius Dusin Gitom, Bishop of Sandakan.

–Monsignor Julian Leow Beng Kim, Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur with Archbishops Emeritus Cardinal Anthony Soter Fernandez and Monsignor Murphy Nicholas Xavier Pakiam.

–Monsignor Anthony Bernard Paul, Bishop of Melaka-Johor.

–Monsignor Sebastian Francis, Bishop of Penang with Bishop Emeritus, Monsignor Antony Selvanayagam.

–Monsignor Simon Poh Hoon Seng, Archbishop of Kuching.

–Monsignor Richard Ng, Bishop of Miri.

–Monsignor Joseph Hii Teck Kwong, Bishop of Sibu.

–Monsignor William Seng Chye Goh, Archbishop of Singapore.

–Monsignor Cornelius Sim, Bishop of Puzia of Numidia, Apostolic Vicar of Brunei. – Zenit.org

Fulton Sheen’s final resting place not yet final

NEW YORK- Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s niece has said her uncle’s remains belong in Peoria, but a lawsuit seeking his internment there has been returned to a lower court for further consideration.

“I just hate that this is dragging on and on and on,” Joan Sheen Cunningham said, according to the New York Times.

Cunningham, a Yonkers, NY resident now aged 90, has suggested Sheen’s body be divided into relics.

“Let it go to Peoria for a few months, and then bring back some of the relics to New York and leave some in Peoria,” she said. “It’s just too bad it can’t just be settled without all this fuss.”

In 2016 she filed a legal complaint seeking to have her uncle’s remains moved to Peoria, Ill. Sheen was born in the Peoria diocese and served as an altar boy at its cathedral, where he was ordained a priest in 1919. He served New York City as an auxiliary bishop from 1951-66 before becoming Bishop of Rochester, and retired to New York City before his death in 1979 at the age of 84.

New York State Appeals Court has ruled that a lower court’s decision upholding Cunningham’s lawsuit failed to give sufficient attention to a sworn statement from a colleague of Archbishop Sheen, Monsignor Hilary C Franco. Msgr Franco had said that Sheen told him he wanted to be buried in New York and that Cardinal Terence Cooke, New York’s then-archbishop, had offered him a space in the crypt of St Patrick’s Cathedral.

“There are disputed issues of material fact as to Archbishop Sheen’s wishes,” the appeals court said on 6 Feb 2018 in a 3-2 ruling. It has ordered “a full exploration” of the archbishop’s desires.

Cunningham has said Sheen had never told her about Cardinal Cooke’s reported offer.

Sheen’s will had declared his wish to be buried in the New York archdiocese’s Calvary Cemetery. Soon after Sheen died, Cardinal Cooke asked Cunningham, Sheen’s closest living relative, if his remains could be placed in the New York cathedral’s crypt, and she consented.

Cunningham has said that Sheen would have wanted to have been interred in Peoria if he knew that he would be considered for sainthood.

The Peoria diocese opened the cause for Sheen’s Canonization in 2002 after the New York archdiocese said it would not explore the case.

In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI recognised the heroic virtues of the beloved archbishop, who served as host of the “Catholic Hour” radio show and the television show “Life is Worth Living.” He now has the title “venerable.”

Despite the progress of the cause for beatification, the fate of Archbishop Sheen’s body became the subject of an impasse.

Peoria’s Bishop Daniel R Jenky suspended the beatification cause in September 2014 on the grounds that the Holy See expected Sheen’s remains to be in the Peoria diocese.

The Archdiocese of New York, however, has said that Vatican officials have said the Peoria diocese can pursue Sheen’s canonization regardless of whether his body is at rest there.

In the wake of Tuesday’s decision, both the Peoria and New York dioceses predicted success.

“We believe that Archbishop Sheen clearly stated his intention in his will, written just days before his death, that he be buried in New York, where he conducted his ministry, and where he lived most of his years, including at the time of his death,” the Archdiocese of New York said in a statement.

Msgr. James E. Kruse, vicar general of the Diocese of Peoria, discussed the case in a Feb. 7 update to the priests of the diocese, reported in the diocese newspaper the Catholic Post.

“We are confident that the new hearing and ruling will be completed in short time,” he said. “Please continue your prayers for the success of these legal issues and for the Cause of Canonization for our brother, Venerable Fulton Sheen.”

Msgr. Kruse of Peoria predicted that the future ruling would favor Cunningham’s position. Her attorneys “are very confident the new hearing will end in re-affirming the original ruling,” said the priest, who added that the same judge who sided with Cunningham’s argument will preside at the evidentiary hearing.

New York archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling voiced hope that the Peoria diocese will reopen the beatification cause, the New York Post reports.

Cunningham has praised the efforts of Bishop Jenky to pursue the beatification, arguing this work means he “deserved the honor” of hosting Sheen’s remains.

In addition to his pioneering radio and television shows, Archbishop Sheen authored many books, with proceeds supporting foreign missions. He headed the Society for the Propagation of the Faith at one point in his life, and continued to be a leading figure in U.S. Catholicism until his death.

Archbishop Sheen’s intercession is credited with the miraculous recovery of a pronounced stillborn American baby from the Peoria area.

In June 2014, a panel of theologians that advises the Congregation for the Causes of Saints ruled that the baby’s recovery was miraculous.

The baby, later named James Fulton Engstrom, was born in September 2010 showing no signs of life. As medical professionals tried to revive him, his parents prayed for his recovery through the intercession of Fulton Sheen.

Although the baby showed no pulse for an hour after his birth, his heart started beating again and he escaped serious medical problems. – CNA/EWTN News

German cardinal urges pastoral care, but not ‘blessing’ of gay couples

Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich-Freising, president of the German bishops’ conference, celebrates Mass in 2017 during the opening of the annual meeting of Germany’s bishops at the cathedral in Cologne. (CNS photo/Sascha Steinbach, EPA)

ROME – The president of the German bishops’ conference urged priests to provide better pastoral care to Catholics who are homosexual, but he said, “I think that would not be right” when asked if he could imagine the Catholic Church blessing gay couples.

The German bishops’ conference released an English translation on 7 Feb 2018 of remarks Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, conference president, made during a radio interview Feb 3.

German Catholic media had interpreted the cardinal’s remarks as moving a step back from a suggestion made by Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabruck in January that the Catholic Church should debate the possibility of a blessing ceremony for Catholic gay couples involved in the church.

But some English-language media and blogs portrayed Cardinal Marx’s remarks as meaning he “endorses” such blessing ceremonies.

The coverage led Archbishop Charles J Chaput of Philadelphia to write a blog encouraging bishops to be clear about what they intend or don’t intend to suggest on the subject.

And, Archbishop Chaput said, “any such ‘blessing rite’ would cooperate in a morally forbidden act, no matter how sincere the persons seeking the blessing. Such a rite would undermine the Catholic witness on the nature of marriage and the family. It would confuse and mislead the faithful. And it would wound the unity of our church, because it could not be ignored or met with silence.”

The Catholic Church insists marriage can be only between a man and a woman. It teaches that while homosexual people deserve respect and spiritual care, homosexual activity is sinful.

In the interview with Cardinal Marx, the journalist said many people believe the church should bless gay unions, ordain women to the diaconate and end obligatory celibacy for priests in the Latin-rite church.

According to the bishops’ conference translation, Cardinal Marx said he did not believe those changes were what the church needs most today. “Rather, the question to be asked is how the church can meet the challenges posed by the new circumstances of life today — but also by new insights, of course. For example, in the field of pastoral work, pastoral care.”

Following the teaching and example of Pope Francis in pastoral care, he said, “we have to consider the situation of the individual, his life history, his biography, the disruptions he goes through, the hopes that arise, the relationships he lives in — or she lives in. We have to take this more seriously and have to try harder to accompany people in their circumstances of life.”

The same is true in ministering to people who are homosexual, he said. “We must be pastorally close to those who are in need of pastoral care and also want it. And one must also encourage priests and pastoral workers to give people encouragement in concrete situations. I do not really see any problems there. An entirely different question is how this is to be done publicly and liturgically. These are things you have to be careful about, and reflect on them in a good way.”

While excluding “general solutions” such as a public ritual, Cardinal Marx said, “that does not mean that nothing happens, but I really have to leave that to the pastor on the ground, accompanying an individual person with pastoral care. There you can discuss things, as is currently being debated, and consider: How can a pastoral worker deal with it? However, I really would emphatically leave that to the pastoral field and the particular, individual case at hand, and not demand any sets of rules again — there are things that cannot be regulated.”

The spokesman of the bishops’ conference said the cardinal was unavailable for further interviews. – Cindy Wooden, CNS

Diocesan priesthood vocation seminar draws 172 participants

BUNDU TUHAN – This year’s diocesan priesthood vocation seminar drew 172 participants at the retreat centre here on 19-21 Jan 2018.

Among the participants, 109 were from Kota Kinabalu Archdiocese, 26 from Keningau Diocese and 33 from Sandakan Diocese.

In his homily at the opening Mass, Archbishop John Wong said the participants were called by Jesus just like the first four disciples.  He urged them to listen attentively to the voice of God throughout the seminar.

After dinner, Father Joshua Liew welcomed the participants and briefed them on the programme before Seminarian Morti led them into the ice-breaking session.

The next day, Father Michael Modoit shared on his vocational journey while Father Sunny Chung shared on his priestly ministry.  Time was given for personal reflection after each session.

Participants were given time in the afternoon to speak individually to any of the priests present.  At the same time, Father Philip Obaso of the Mill Hill Missionaries shared on the missionary vocation. Some seminarians also shared their vocation stories.

After dinner, there were Taize prayer and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament with Benediction. This allowed the participants to listen attentively the voice of God.

A forum with Q&A session was held on the last day, giving the participants time to ask their questions to the panel of selected seminarians.

Father Simon Kontou presided over the closing Mass. In his homily, he encouraged the participants to be daring in responding to God’s calling. He advised the participants not to run away from God’s calling because God is the one who chose us.

At the end of Mass, Fr Liew announced the names of the eight candidates who will join the aspirancy programme this year.

The names of the candidates are:
KK Archdiocese: Evan Alicius Petrus (St Peter Claver Ranau), Corllin Sumail (Holy Nativity Terawi), Joehbeey Bin Majimin (Sacred Heart Cathedral KK), Stanley Bin Kurumbong (St Michael Penampang) and Stephen Johnny (St Paul Dontozidon).
Keningau Diocese: Brad Brandon Bridge (St Peter Bundu Kuala Penyu) and Constantine N Olot (St Theresa, Tambunan).
Sandakan Diocese: Ryennadem Vitalis (St Martin Telupid). – Sem Bradley Belly @ Stephen

Cardinal Ratzinger’s far-sighted address on current challenges in the Church

In his blog posted on 6 Feb 2018 on the National Catholic Register, Edward Pentin wrote on the talk given to European bishops in 1989 by the future Pope Benedict XVI who foresaw many of the challenges afflicting the Church today, and proposed how to understand and effectively deal with them.

How can we best understand and handle what seem today to be incessant challenges to the faith from inside as well as outside the Church?

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger gave some helpful pointers in a prophetic 1989 address in which he showed not only how these new revolutionary “paradigms” have evolved, but how to understand their specious nature, and in what way the faithful can effectively respond to them.

In his discourse to doctrinal commissions in Laxenburg, Austria, entitled Difficulties Confronting the Faith in Europe Today, the then-prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith pinpointed a “litany of objections” to the Church’s teaching and practice repeated by “progressive-thinking Catholics.”

The first of these objections, he said, was the rejection of the Church’s teaching on artificial contraception — a long-standing dissension which, during this 50th anniversary year of Blessed Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae, is now, for the first time, being promoted without censure by papal-appointed Vatican figures.

Cardinal Ratzinger said the rejection takes the form of placing artificial birth control on “the same moral level of every kind of means for the prevention of conception upon whose application only individual ‘conscience’ may decide.”

A second objection concerns the Church’s “discrimination” with regards to homosexuality, and the “consequent assertion” by progressive-thinking Catholics of a “moral equivalence for all forms of sexual activity as long as they are motivated by ‘love’ or at least do not hurt anyone.” Connected with this, he singled out the “admission of the divorced who remarry to the Church’s sacraments,” and, lastly, “the ordination of women to the priesthood.”

Cardinal Ratzinger noted how these “objections” question both sexual morality and the Church’s sacramental order, but are “very much linked together,” springing from “a particular notion of human freedom” and difficulties relating to the “Church’s traditional sexual morality.” Today, he said, man feels he has to “come to terms with his sexuality in a differentiated and less confining way” and he thus urges a revision of standards, ones which are deemed “no longer acceptable in the present circumstances, no matter how meaningful they may have been under past historical conditions.”

Conscience Rules

Such thinking, he added, claims to show how today we have “finally discovered our rights and the freedom of our conscience” and how we are “no longer prepared to subordinate it to some external authority.”

He added that for those who hold such opinions, the “fundamental relationship between man and woman” should be reordered in such a way that “outmoded role expectations” must “be overturned and that complete equality of opportunity be accorded women on all levels and in all fields.”  

The cardinal said it would be surprising if the Church, being the “conservative institution that she is,” would go along with such an ideology, but if she did, she would be obliged to “set aside the theological justification of old social taboos, and the most timely and vital sign of such a desire at the present moment would be her consent to the ordination of women to the priesthood.”

The future pope then turned to the roots of this “progressive-thinking,” and noted that its “key concepts” are the words “conscience” and “freedom” which, although supposed to “confer the aura of morality,” actually are a “surrender of moral integrity” and the “simplifications of a lax conscience.”

Conscience, he pointed out, is no longer understood as knowledge derived from a “higher form of knowing” but rather the “individual’s self-determination” — each person deciding for himself “what is moral in a given situation.”

Furthermore, he said the concept of “norms,” or the “moral law,” take on “negative shades of dark intensity,” and while an “external rule may supply models for direction,” for the progressive Catholic thinker it can in “no case serve as the ultimate arbiter of one’s obligation” — an argument used recently by a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life who placed conscience and responsibility above the moral precept of artificial contraception as an intrinsic evil.

These changes in approach, Cardinal Ratzinger said, are portrayed as “liberation” but actually lead to the disappearance of the differentiation between the sexes, precipitated by the separation of “sexuality and procreation” that was first “introduced with the [contraceptive] pill” and “brought to its culmination” by being able to “‘make’ human beings in the laboratory.”  

It has led, he added, to seeing as “unimportant” the differences between homosexuality and heterosexuality as well as other extra-marital relations — a “revolutionary vision” which lies behind the litany of objections to Church teaching he laid out at the beginning.

“Without a doubt this will be one of the principal challenges for anthropological reflection in coming years,” the cardinal said presciently, and predicted meticulous work is needed to discern which is in opposition to the faith’s vision of man, and which could be “quite meaningful corrections to traditional notions.”

Breathing in Paradigm Shifts

He then looked at how such thinking has come to be adopted by Christians, and concluded that it rests on a “far-reaching change of ‘paradigms’” that appear plausible while removing the old ones for consideration. Many Christians “breathe in” such an atmosphere, he said, which can easily appear more attractive.

“Who would not be for conscience and freedom and against legalism and constraint?,” he asked rhetorically. “Who wishes to be put into the position of defending taboos? If the questions are framed in this way, the faith proclaimed by the Magisterium is already manoeuvred into a hopeless position. It collapses all by itself because it loses its plausibility according to the thought patterns of the modern world, and is looked upon by progressive contemporaries as something that has been long superseded.”

To effectively respond to this, Cardinal Ratzinger advocated expressing the “logic of the faith in its integrity, the good sense and reasonableness of its view of reality and life.”

He also stressed the need to understand how this new revolutionary “paradigm” came into existence, and put it down to changes in three areas: The complete disappearance of the theological doctrine on creation which is connected to the demise of metaphysics; man’s “imprisonment in the empirical,” that is, knowledge based only on the senses, which has led to a “weakening of Christology” and essentially a lack of belief in the divinity of Christ; and lastly a loss of belief in the Last Things, and the fact that belief in eternal life “has hardly any role to play in preaching today.”

This has led, he continued, to the “Kingdom of God” being almost “completely substituted” by the “Utopia of a better future world,” but it is a yearning that “does not suffice.” Rather, it is dangerous, he added, “if the better world terminology predominates in prayers and sermons and inadvertently replaces the faith with a placebo.”

Cardinal Ratzinger ended by not wishing to appear too negative, but rather to set out the “obstacles to the faith in the European context” and to examine the “deepest motives which give rise to the individual difficulties in ever changing forms.”

“Only by learning to understand that fundamental trait of modern existence which refuses to accept the faith before discussing all its contents, will we be able to regain the initiative instead of simply responding to the questions raised,” he advised.

“Only then can we reveal the faith as the alternative which the world awaits after the failure of the liberalistic and Marxist experiments,” he added. “This is today’s challenge to Christianity, herein lies our great responsibility as Christians at the present time.”

The talk can be read in full on the Vatican website here.

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