Monday, November 16, 2015

Priest-Professor Inspires Selfless Service

16 November 2015 (ORCNS) - Monsignor Rutherford Cardinal Johnson was recently honored with a Gold Medal in the President's Volunteer Service Award program. The program recognizes volunteer work in organizational support, humanitarian efforts, and education on local, national, and global levels.

It is the premier volunteer service recognition given by the President of the United States as part of an initiative to inspire people to take positive action to change the world. The Gold Medal recognizes 500 or more hours of volunteer service in a calendar year. 
Mgr. Rutherford Card. Johnson
Mgr. Rutherford is an economics lecturer at the University of Minnesota, an Adjunct Professor of Geography at the University of South Alabama, and a traditional Old Roman Catholic priest.

"It’s a wonderfully kind recognition; however, we don’t do it for a medal. Helping others is part of my clerical vocation and mission as an educator,” Mgr. Rutherford said.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Researchers advance scientific knowledge on high altitude mountains

22 October 2015 (ORCNS) - A multi-year high-altitude mountaineering initiative seeks to advance scientific
Mgr. Rutherford Johnson,
project leader, during a
project expedition.
knowledge and promote world peace through awareness. The project, which began in 2005, investigated human decision-making processes in hypoxic environments. Studies were conducted on three high-altitude mountains, one quite remote, located on three continents. Other mountains were used for expedition training and preparation. Results of the research demonstrated a difference in decision outcomes under conditions of hypoxia as measured in the field, and agree with a similar laboratory study conducted in 2012 by an Italian team of scientists. (continued below)

Some expedition members preparing to trek to
one of the study locations.

Johnson on a preparatory climb.
The current study is led by Mgr. Rutherford Cardinal Johnson, PhD, STD, JCL, a professor of economics and geography. Johnson is also a traditional Old Roman Catholic Bishop of St. Stephen. He is a member of the famed Explorers Club, the professional field science organization whose membership list includes the late Sir Edmund Hillary, Jacques Piccard, Neil Armstrong, Robert Peary, and Theodore Roosevelt, among many other great explorers. 

"Our work continues the Church tradition of scientific enquiry, which has helped to advance human understanding of the universe for over 1000 years," Johnson said.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Meeting with United States bishops: never repeat the crimes of the past

Vatican City, 24 September 2015 (VIS) – The challenges of a nation whose vast resources require not insignificant moral responsibility in a world seeking new equilibria of peace, prosperity and integration, the importance of never again repeating past “crimes” against victims of abuse, the need for dialogue instead of hard and bellicose language, and the defence of the excluded, migrants and the environment were some of the themes that Pope Francis considered yesterday in the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington D.C., during his meeting with the episcopate of the United States. The following are extensive extracts from his address.

“My first word to you is one of thanksgiving to God for the power of the Gospel which has brought about remarkable growth of Christ’s Church in these lands and enabled its generous contribution, past and present, to American society and to the world. … I appreciate the unfailing commitment of the Church in America to the cause of life and that of the family, which is the primary reason for my present visit. I am well aware of the immense efforts you have made to welcome and integrate those immigrants who continue to look to America, like so many others before them, in the hope of enjoying its blessings of freedom and prosperity. I also appreciate the efforts which you are making to fulfil the Church’s mission of education in schools at every level and in the charitable services offered by your numerous institutions. These works are often carried out without appreciation or support, often with heroic sacrifice, out of obedience to a divine mandate which we may not disobey. I am also conscious of the courage with which you have faced difficult moments in the recent history of the Church in this country without fear of self-criticism and at the cost of mortification and great sacrifice. Nor have you been afraid to divest whatever is unessential in order to regain the authority and trust which is demanded of ministers of Christ and rightly expected by the faithful. I realise how much the pain of recent years has weighed upon you and I have supported your generous commitment to bring healing to victims – in the knowledge that in healing we too are healed – and to work to ensure that such crimes will never be repeated.

“I speak to you as the Bishop of Rome, called by God in old age, and from a land which is also American, to watch over the unity of the universal Church and to encourage in charity the journey of all the particular Churches toward ever greater knowledge, faith and love of Christ. … I too know how hard it is to sow the Gospel among people from different worlds, with hearts often hardened by the trials of a lengthy journey. Nor am I unaware of the efforts made over the years to build up the Church amid the prairies, mountains, cities and suburbs of a frequently inhospitable land, where frontiers are always provisional and easy answers do not always work. What does work is the combination of the epic struggle of the pioneers and the homely wisdom and endurance of the settlers”.

“It is not my intention to offer a plan or to devise a strategy. ... I have no wish to tell you what to do, because we all know what it is that the Lord asks of us. Instead, I would turn once again to the demanding task – ancient yet never new – of seeking out the paths we need to take and the spirit with which we need to work. … We are bishops of the Church, shepherds appointed by God to feed his flock. Our greatest joy is to be shepherds, and only shepherds, pastors with undivided hearts and selfless devotion. … The heart of our identity is to be sought in constant prayer, in preaching and in shepherding the flock entrusted to our care”.

“Ours must not be just any kind of prayer, but familiar union with Christ, in which we daily encounter His gaze and sense that He is asking us the question: 'Who is My mother? Who are My brothers?'. One in which we can calmly reply: 'Lord, here is Your mother, here are Your brothers! I hand them over to You; they are the ones whom You entrusted to me'”.

“Such trusting union with Christ is what nourishes the life of a pastor. It is not about preaching complicated doctrines, but joyfully proclaiming Christ Who died and rose for our sake. The 'style' of our mission should make our hearers feel that the message we preach is meant 'for us'. … May the closeness of the shepherd make them them long once again for the Father’s embrace. Be vigilant that the flock may always encounter in the heart of their pastor that 'taste of eternity' which they seek in vain in the things of this world”.

“Shepherds who do not pasture themselves but are able to step back, away from the centre, to 'decrease', in order to feed God’s family with Christ. Who keep constant watch, standing on the heights to look out with God’s eyes on the flock which is His alone. … Shepherds who do not lower our gaze, concerned only with our concerns, but raise it constantly toward the horizons which God opens before us and which surpass all that we ourselves can foresee or plan. Who also watch over ourselves, so as to flee the temptation of narcissism, which blinds the eyes of the shepherd, makes his voice unrecognisable and his actions fruitless”.

“Certainly it is helpful for a bishop to have the farsightedness of a leader and the shrewdness of an administrator, but we fall into hopeless decline whenever we confuse the power of strength with the strength of that powerlessness with which God has redeemed us. Bishops need to be lucidly aware of the battle between light and darkness being fought in this world. Woe to us, however, if we make of the cross a banner of worldly struggles and fail to realise that the price of lasting victory is allowing ourselves to be wounded and consumed. … I know that you face many challenges, and that the field in which you sow is unyielding and that there is always the temptation to give in to fear, to lick one’s wounds, to think back on bygone times and to devise harsh responses to fierce opposition. And yet we are promoters of the culture of encounter. We are living sacraments of the embrace between God’s riches and our poverty. We are witnesses of the abasement and the condescension of God Who anticipates in love our every response”.

“Dialogue is our method, not as a shrewd strategy but out of fidelity to the One Who never wearies of visiting the marketplace. … I cannot ever tire of encouraging you to dialogue fearlessly. ... Do not be afraid to set out on that 'exodus' which is necessary for all authentic dialogue. Otherwise, we fail to understand the thinking of others, or to realise deep down that the brother or sister we wish to reach and redeem, with the power and the closeness of love, counts more than their positions, distant as they may be from what we hold as true and certain. Harsh and divisive language does not befit the tongue of a pastor, it has no place in his heart; although it may momentarily seem to win the day, only the enduring allure of goodness and love remains truly convincing. … We need to … remember that Jesus’ Church is kept whole not by 'consuming fire from heaven', but by the secret warmth of the Spirit, Who 'heals what is wounded, bends what is rigid, straightens what is crooked'”.

“The great mission which the Lord gives us is one which we carry out in communion, collegially. The world is already so torn and divided, brokenness is now everywhere. Consequently, the Church, 'the seamless garment of the Lord' cannot allow herself to be rent, broken or fought over. … It is imperative, therefore, to watch over that unity, to safeguard it, to promote it and to bear witness to it as a sign and instrument which, beyond every barrier, unites nations, races, classes and generations. … This service to unity is particularly important for this nation, whose vast material and spiritual, cultural and political, historical and human, scientific and technological resources impose significant moral responsibilities in a world which is seeking, confusedly and laboriously, new balances of peace, prosperity and integration. ... I encourage you, then, my brothers, to confront the challenging issues of our time. Ever present within each of them is life as gift and responsibility. The future freedom and dignity of our societies depends on how we face these challenges”.

“The innocent victims of abortion, children who die of hunger or from bombings, immigrants who drown in the search for a better tomorrow, the elderly or the sick who are considered a burden, the victims of terrorism, wars, violence and drug trafficking, the environment devastated by man’s predatory relationship with nature – at stake in all of this is the gift of God, of which we are noble stewards but not masters. It is wrong, then, to look the other way or to remain silent. No less important is the Gospel of the Family, which in the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia I will emphatically proclaim together with you and the entire Church”.

“These essential aspects of the Church’s mission belong to the core of what we have received from the Lord. It is our duty to preserve and communicate them, even when the teno

Francis arrives in the United States of America

Vatican City, 23 September 2015 (VIS) – With his arrival, ten minutes earlier than expected (3.49 p.m. local time, 9.50 p.m. in Rome) at the Andrews air base in Washington D.C. yesterday, the Pope began the second part of his apostolic trip. During his six days in the United States, he will meet with President Barack Obama and the American episcopate, canonise Blessed Junipero Serra, speak before the United States Congress (the first Pontiff to do so), meet the homeless in New York, address the United Nations, participate in an interreligious meeting at Ground Zero and a meeting for religious freedom, visit prison detainees and celebrate mass at the World Meeting of Families.

Upon arrival in the United States, Francis was received by President Barack Obama accompanied by the First Lady Michelle Obama, and their two daughters. The mayor of the District of Colombia and the governors of Maryland and Virginia were also present, along with the apostolic nuncio in the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, and the archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl.

The Pope and the President, with the First Lady, spoke privately for a few minutes in the airport. Following their conversation the Pope transferred by car to the apostolic nunciature in Washington D.C., where he spent the night.

At 9.15 a.m. local time (3.15 p.m. in Rome) the welcome ceremony will be held in the White House, and in the grounds the Holy Father will pronounce his first discourse in the United States. He will then meet in private with President Obama, after which he will meet the bishops in the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. He will later celebrate Mass for the canonisation of Blessed Junipero Serra in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Francis will conclude his day with a visit to the John Paul II Seminary.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Pope Francis joins ARRCC in simplifying marriage annulment process

 Rome 8 September 2015 (ORCNS) - Pope Francis has approved new measures that greatly simplify the tribunal process for the annulment of marriages. The approach adopted by the Holy Father has been in use within the Patriarchate of St. Stephen, Anglican Rite Roman Catholic Church, for years and has been very effective in both ensuring standards in the determination of invalidity of the sacrament of Holy Matrimony and maintaining an appropriate pastoral approach in the care of souls. The Holy Father's new policy, applicable to the Latin Rite of the Roman Communion, states that only one sentence of nullity is required, only one judge is required, and the bishop himself can serve as the judge. The more straightforward the case of nullity, the more streamlined the process can be. Also, it is intended that fees be minimalized and only be what is necessary for just remuneration of the tribunal workers. This is a positive move that will doubtless help many who are in financial need. The ARRCC has long had the process of funding tribunal efforts itself, charging fees only when necessary for the expenses of the court. Also, the Holy Father's appellate process is similar to that of the ARRCC. A Metropolitan See may hear an appeal, and then further to the Apostolic See.

(Image above is in the public domain.)

Monday, September 7, 2015

We cannot remain indifferent to those who suffer as a result of war and violence

Vatican City, September 2015 (VIS) – “Peace is always possible – religions and cultures in dialogue” is the title of the 28th International Meeting for Peace, organised by the Sant'Egidio Community. Twenty years after the end of the war in the Balkans, it is being held this year in Tirana, Albania from 6 to 8 September. The Meetings follow the trail of St. John Paul II who attended the first in 1986 in Assisi, Italy.

Below are extensive extracts of the Holy Father's message to participants, dated 29 August 2015, memory of the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist.

“As historical contexts change and peoples are called upon to face profound and at times dramatic transformations, we are increasingly aware of the need for the followers of different religions to meet, to engage in dialogue, to journey together and to collaborate for peace, in that 'spirit of Assisi' that refers to the luminous witness of St. Francis”.

“This year you have chosen to visit Tirana, the capital of a country that has become a symbol of the peaceful cohabitation of different religions, after a long history of suffering. … I wished to choose Albania as the first European country to visit, precisely to encourage the path of peaceful coexistence after the tragic persecutions suffered by Albanian believers during the last century. The long list of martyrs still speaks to us today of that dark period, but also of the strength of faith that does not bend to the arrogance of evil. In no other country in the world has the decision to exclude God from the life of the people been so strong; even just a religious sign was enough to warrant punishment with prison, if not death. This deeply affected the Albanian people, up to the moment at which they regained their freedom, when the members of the various religious communities, sorely tested by the suffering they had experienced, were once more able to live together in peace”.

“It is precisely because it has its foundations in God that 'peace is always possible', as the title of your Meeting this year affirms. It is necessary to confirm this truth, especially today, when in some parts of the world it would seem that violence, persecution and abuse prevail over religious freedom, along with resignation to protracted conflicts. We must never become resigned to war! And we must not remain indifferent to those who suffer as a result of war and violence. For this reason I have chosen as the theme of the next World Day of Peace: 'Overcome indifference and win peace'. But it is also a form of violence to raise walls and barriers to obstruct those who seek a place of peace. It is violence to reject those who flee from inhuman conditions in the hope of a better future. It is violence to discard children and the elderly from society and from life itself. It is violence to widen the gap between those who waste the superfluous and those who lack essentials”.

“In this world, faith in God leads us to believe and leads us to cry aloud that peace is possible. It is faith that drives us to trust in God and not to resign ourselves to the work of evil. As believers we are called upon to rediscover that universal vocation to peace that lies at the heart of our different religious traditions, and to courageously offer it again to the men and women of our time. I reiterate what I said in this respect when speaking to religious leaders in Tirana: 'Authentic religion is a source of peace and not of violence! No one must use the name of God to commit violence! To kill in the name of God is a grave sacrilege. To discriminate in the name of God is inhuman'”.

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Pope's video message to the Second International Congress of Theology in Buenos Aires: overcome the divorce between theology and pastoral ministry

Vatican City, 4 September 2015 (VIS) – Yesterday Pope Francis sent a video message to the participants in the Second International Congress of Theology, on the theme “Vatican II: memory, present and prospects”, held in Buenos Aires from 1 to 3 September to commemorate the centenary of the Faculty of Theology at the Catholic University of Argentina (UCA), and the fiftieth anniversary of the conclusion of Vatican Council II. Extensive extracts from the message are published below:

“The anniversary of the Faculty of Theology celebrates the coming to maturity of a particular Church. It celebrates life, history, the faith of the People of God journeying on earth and in search of 'understanding' and 'truth' from their own positions. … It seems to me of great importance to link this event with the 50th anniversary of the Closing of Vatican Council II. There exists no isolated particular Church that can be said to be the owner and sole interpreter of the reality and the work of the Spirit. No community has a monopoly over interpretation or inculturation just as, on the other hand, there is no universal Church that turns away from, ignores or neglects the local situation”.

“And this leads us to assume that it is not the same to be a Christian … in India, in Canada, or in Rome. Therefore, one of the main tasks of the theologian is to discern and to reflect on what it means to be a Christian today, in the 'here and now'. How does that original source manage to irrigate these lands today, and to make itself visible and liveable? … To meet this challenge, we must overcome two possible temptations: first, condemning everything: … assuming 'everything was better in the past', seeking refuge in conservatism or fundamentalism, or conversely, consecrating everything, disavowing everything that does not have a 'new flavour', relativising all the wisdom accumulated in our rich ecclesial heritage. The path to overcoming these temptations lies in reflection, discernment, and taking both the ecclesiastical tradition and current reality very seriously, placing them in dialogue with one another”.

“Not infrequently an opposition between theology and pastoral ministry emerges, as if they were two opposite, separate realities that had nothing to do with each other. We not infrequently identify doctrine with conservatism and antiquity; and on the contrary, we tend to think of pastoral ministry in terms of adaptation, reduction, accommodation. As if they had nothing to do with each other. A false opposition is generated between theology and pastoral ministry, between Christian reflection and Christian life. … The attempt to overcome this divorce between theology and pastoral ministry, between faith and life, was indeed one of the main contributions of Vatican Council II”.

“I cannot overlook the words of John XXIII in the Council's opening discourse, when he said 'The substance of the ancient doctrine of the depositum fidei is one thing; and the way in which it is presented is another'. We must turn again ... to the arduous task of distinguishing the living message from the form of its transmission, from the cultural elements in which it is codified at a given time”.

“Do not allow the exercise of discernment to lead to a betrayal of the content of the message. The lack of this theological exercise detrimental to the mission we are invited to perform. Doctrine is not a closed, private system deprived of dynamics able to raise questions and doubts. On the contrary, Christian doctrine has a face, a body, flesh; He is called Jesus Christ and it is His Life that is offered from generation to generation to all men and in all places”.

The questions our people pose, their anguish, their quarrels, their dreams, their struggles, their concerns all have hermeneutical value we cannot ignore if we are to take seriously the principal of incarnation. … Our formulations of faith were born of dialogue, encounter, comparison and contact with different cultures, communities and nations in situations calling for greater reflection on matters not previously clarified. For Christians, something becomes suspicious when we no longer admit the need for it to be criticised by others. People and their specific conflicts, their peripheries, are not optional, but rather necessary for a better understanding of faith. Therefore it is important to ask whom we are thinking of when we engage in theology. Let us not forget that the Holy Spirit in a praying people is the subject of theology. A theology that is not born of this would offer something beautiful but not real”.

“In this regard, I would like to explain three features of the identity of the theologian:

1. The theologian is primarily a son of his people. He cannot and does not wish to ignore them. He knows his people, their language, their roots, their histories, their tradition. He is a man who learns to appreciate what he has received as a sign of God's presence because he knows that faith does not belong to him. This leads him to recognise that the Christian people among whom he was born have a theological sense that he cannot ignore.

2. The theologian is a believer. The theologian is someone who has experience of Jesus Christ and has discovered he cannot live without Him. ... The theologian knows that he cannot live without the object / subject of his love, and devotes his life to sharing this with his brothers.

3. The theologian is a prophet. One of the greatest challenges in today's world is not merely the ease with which it is possible to dispense with God; socially it has taken a step further. The current crisis pivots on the inability of people to believe in anything beyond themselves. ... This creates a rift in personal and social identities. This new situation gives rise to a process of alienation, owing to a lack of past and therefore of future. The theologian is thus a prophet, as he keeps alive an awareness of the past and the invitation that comes from the future. He is a able to denounce any alienating form as he intuits, reflecting on the river of Tradition he has received from the Church, the hope to which we are called”.

“Therefore, there is only one way of practising theology: on one's knees. It is not merely the pious act of prayer before then thinking of theology. It is a dynamic reality of thought and prayer. Practising theology on one's knees means encouraging thought when praying and prayer when thinking”.

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Friday, July 3, 2015

The Pallium - Relics of St. Peter and St. Stephen

The pallium is an ancient liturgical symbol of the papacy and of those who share in its Apostolic authority. In the Patriarchate of Saint Stephen, the pallium is of a special design. It is a flat yoke of white wool, with twelve black crosses. The tips of the lapits (parts the hang down the front and back) are black. It is worn by the Patriarch, the Governor-General, and those with Metropolitan authority within the Patriarchate. Each pallium contains third class relics of Saint Peter the Apostle and Saint Stephen the Deacon and Protomartyr. On the front and shoulder are pins representing the nails of the Crucifixion. The Patriarchate uses silver pins with amethysts. The pallium itself should invoke the image of Christ carrying the lamb over His left shoulder. The pins are angled to follow the way that the lamb would be physically oriented.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Statement of the Cardinal Patriarch of St. Stephen on the Recent Marriage Ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States

PATRIARCHAL SEE 29 JUNE 2015 (ORCNS) - The following is the text of the statement issued by the Cardinal Patriarch of St. Stephen on the recent ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States:

We wished to delay until now commentary on the ruling of Supreme Court of the United States on what is often termed homosexual marriage in order to allow emotions to subside somewhat from the frenzy of the past weekend. We also wished to wait because the appointed readings for the mass of yesterday were so appropriate and timely.

The Supreme Court, with a narrow majority, voted to prohibit states from denying civil marriage licenses to homosexual couples. In so doing, the court has taken it upon itself to fundamentally alter the definition of a word – a word that has had the same meaning since before the United States, since before Christ, since before Judaism. The concept of marriage is a fundamental and essential building block upon which human societies since before the recording of history are built.

What the Supreme Court has done, however, applies only to the civil concept of marriage under United States law. The Supreme Court has absolutely no jurisdiction over the Church, which has sole jurisdiction over the administration of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. It is, therefore, time to sever the concept of “civil marriage” from Sacramental Marriage. No longer should priests act as effective agents of the state by signing marriage licenses or through other similar acts. Let couples handle the civil side of their marriage with the state, and then let them come to the Church to receive the graces and blessings of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. In Europe, this is the norm. A marriage is registered with the state independently from and prior to the rites that take place in the church. In light of this recent ruling, let us as clerics wash our hands of the civil concept of marriage in the United States.

In so doing, however, we must continue to preach the truth of the Gospels of Christ. From the Epistle appointed for Sunday, yesterday, we know that “…there shall be a time, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears: And will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables.” Therefore we again echo the words of Blessed Paul the Apostle: “I charge thee, before God and Jesus Christ, who shall judge the living and the dead, by his coming, and his kingdom: Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine.” It is not hate speech to do these things if they are done with the proper intent and out of love of Christ and of our fellow man.

From the Gospel of the principal mass appointed for yesterday, our Lord reminds us: “Fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell. Every one therefore that shall confess me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven.” Never be afraid to speak the truth out of love and respect for others. As the Venerable Fulton Sheen said, tolerance should be applied to people and never to ideas, while intolerance should be applied to ideas and never to people. It is a difficult standard to maintain, but one to which we must strive nonetheless.

In this difficult time in which the United States seems bent on turning as a society more and more from God, and in which those who warp the message of the Gospel become more and more vocal, we must nevertheless resolve to keep the faith and to proclaim the faith in word and deed.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

New Franciscan Postulant Admitted

CHARLOTTE, NC, 20 May 2015 (ORCNS) - Sister Rebecca Clare Naomi Crowe Burch, p/TOR Mar. was admitted as a postulant to the Franciscan Third Order Regular of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance of the Blessed Virgin Mary (TOR Mar.) on May 18th in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA. The rite of admission was officiated by Rt. Rev. Msgr. Abbot Anthony Giunta, the Minister General of the order. Also participating were Rt. Rev. Thomas Gordon, Rt. Rev. Luis Morales, and Canon Rusty Marts, of the OAC.

The TOR Mar. is a Franciscan Third Order Regular, meaning its members are clerics, laymen, or laywomen who take vows of chastity according to their state in life, obedience, and stability. The first order (monks and friars) and second order (nuns) Franciscans are exclusively unmarried and take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Members of the Third Order, or "tertiaries," otherwise participate in good works according to Franciscan tradition. "Regular" tertiaries, such as the TOR Mar, have a habit, while secular tertiaries typically do not. The TOR Mar. operates within the Patriarchal See of St. Stephen, Anglican Rite Roman Catholic Church.

Msgr. Abbot Anthony imposes the white veil on
Sister Rebecca Clare as Bishop Gordon looks on.
L-R: Mr. Gordon, Canon Marts, Sister Rebecca Clare,
Bishop Gordon, Bishop Morales, and Msgr. Giunta.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Pope Francis to Visit Temporal Seat of the See of St. Stephen

Vatican City 27 March 2015 (ORCNS) - Pope Francis will make a pastoral visit to Florence, Italy, the traditional temporal seat of the Traditional Old Roman Catholic Patriarchate of St. Stephen, on the 10th of November this year. Florence was part of the Margraviate* of Tuscany, a sub-division of the Kingdom of Italy in Charlemagne's Holy Roman Empire, the temporal "arm" of the Church. Before its collapse, the Margraviate's territory included Parma, Piacenza, and Brescia. Florence then grew into a powerful City-State, with rule eventually consolidated in the powerful Medici banking family. They were made Dukes of
Florence by the Pope and eventually Grand Dukes of Tuscany. Under the Napoleonic era, from 1801-1807 the region was known as the Kingdom of Etruria. (Both Etruria and Tuscany refer to the same region and derive from its ancient inhabitants, the Etruscans.)  The Holy Roman Empire was forced into dissolution in 1806. After the fall of Napoleon in 1815, the Grand Duchy of Tuscany was revived as a satellite of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It eventually was annexed into the new Kingdom of Italy and now is a province within the Italian Republic. The patrimony of Etruria and its capital of Florence is perpetuated today as a treasured legacy of the Patriarchal See of St. Stephen. That legacy descends from the earliest Margraves of Tuscany and Kings of Italy in the Holy Roman Empire. The visit of Pope Francis to this important Italian city coincides with the 5th National Ecclesial Congress of the Italian Episcopal Conference, held 9-13 November. The theme of the Congress is "A New Humanism through Jesus Christ."

* A Margraviate, or March, is a territory similar to a Duchy, often in a border region. It is ruled by a Margrave (feminine, Margravine). The title of Margrave is also the origin of the French title of Marquis and the Italian title of Marchese.  

Pope Expresses Solidarity with Families in Iraq and Nigeria

Vatican City, 27 March 2015 (VIS) - Pope Francis has a constant concern for the situation of Christian families and other groups of victims who have been expelled from their homes and villages, particularly in the city of Mosul and the Nineveh plains, many of whom have taken refuge in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. The Pope prays for them and hopes they can return and resume their lives in the lands and places where they have lived and built good relationships for hundreds of years.

In this coming Holy Week, these families are sharing together with Christ the unjust violence of which they have been made victims, participating in the suffering of Christ himself.

In a desire to be close to these families, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, is returning to Iraq as a sign of nearness, affection, and unity in prayer with them.

The families of the Diocese of Rome, united with their bishop in the feeling of nearness and solidarity with these families, through a special collection in the parishes, are sending the traditional Easter cakes in the shape of a dove (colomba cake) to share the joy of Easter and as a herald of good based on the faith in the Resurrection of Christ.

The Holy Father, moreover, makes himself present in a concrete way with a tangible sign of solidarity. Not wanting to forget the suffering of the families in northern Nigeria either, he has also sent a similar sign of solidarity through the local Bishops? Conference.

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Friday, March 6, 2015

Acta Patriarchalis Sedis Vol. 4 Released

PATRIARCHAL SEE 6 March 2015 (ORCNS) - The Patriarchal See of St. Stephen announced today the release of the fourth volume of Acta Patriarchalis Sedis (APS). Since it began publication in 2011, APS continues to be the Patriarchate's official gazette, recording acts spiritual and temporal, church leadership, pastoral writings, and honors and appointments. Volume 4 covers the calendar year 2014.

Audience with the president of Azerbaijan: importance of intercultural and interreligious dialogue to promote peace

Vatican City, 6 March 2015 (VIS) - This morning the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and his wife were received in Audience by the Holy Father Francis. The president subsequently met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by the under secretary for Relations with States, Msgr. Antoine Camilleri.

During the cordial discussions, satisfaction was expressed for the development of bilateral relations. In particular, attention was paid to themes regarding the life of the Catholic Community in the country and to a number of initiatives in the culture field, revealing the value in the contemporary world of intercultural and interreligious dialogue to promote peace.

Reference was then made to the current regional and international situation, emphasising the importance of negotiation in conflict resolution, and education for promoting the conditions for peaceful coexistence between populations and different religious groups.

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Thursday, March 5, 2015

To the Academy for Life: abandonment is the worst affliction for the elderly

Vatican City, 5 March 2015 (VIS) - “Palliative care expresses the typically human attitude of caring for each other, especially for those who suffer. It is the demonstration that the human person always remains precious, even when elderly or afflicted by illness. Indeed, the person is in any circumstance valuable to himself and to others, and loved by God. Therefore, when life becomes very fragile and the end of earthly life comes close, we feel the responsibility to look after and accompany the person in the best way possible”, said the Pope this morning, as he received in audience the members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, on the occasion of their general assembly on the theme “Assisting the elderly and palliative care”.

“The biblical commandment to honour our parents reminds us in a broader sense of our duty to honour all elderly people. God links a dual promise to this commandment: 'so that your life will be long on the fertile land that the Lord your God is giving you'. Obedience to this commandment ensures not only the gift of the land, but above all the possibility of making use of it. … The precept reveals to us the fundamental pedagogic relationship between parents and children, between the elderly and the young, with reference to the stewardship and transmission of religious teaching and wisdom to future generations. Honour this teaching, and those who transmit it are a source of life and blessing. On the contrary, the Bible severely admonishes those who neglect or mistreat their parents”.

“The Word of God is always living and we can see clearly how the commandment proves to be relevant to contemporary society, in which the logic of utility often takes precedence over that of solidarity and gratuitousness, even within families”, he continued. “'To honour' may be translated as the duty to have extreme respect and take care of those who, on account of their physical or social condition, could be left – or made – to die. Medicine has a special role within society as testimony to the honour due to an elderly person and to every human being. Evidence and efficiency cannot be the only criteria governing the work of doctors, and nor can the rules of healthcare systems and economic profit. A State cannot expect to profit from medicine”.

The Bishop of Rome remarked that the Assembly of the Academy for Life has studied new sectors for the application of palliative care which until now have been of valuable assistance to cancer patients. However, it may now be applied to a wide range of illnesses, often linked to old age and characterised by chronic and progressive degeneration. “The elderly need, first and foremost, the care of their families – whose affection cannot be substituted even by the most efficient structures or by the most competent and charitable healthcare workers”, he emphasised. Palliative care is “an important help for the elderly who, for reasons of seniority, receive less attention in terms of curative medicine and are often neglected. Abandonment is the most serious 'malady' to afflict the elderly, and also the greatest injustice they can suffer; those who have helped us to grow should not be abandoned when they need our help, our love, our tenderness”.

Francis concluded his address by encouraging healthcare professionals and medical students to specialise in this type of care, “which does not have less value on account of the fact that it is not 'lifesaving'. Palliative care involves something equally important: it accentuates the value of the person. Therefore, I urge all those who, in various ways, work in this sector to carry out their task in the spirit of service and recalling that all medical knowledge is truly science, in its most noble sense, only if it may assist the good of mankind, which can never be achieved by opposing life and dignity”.

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Saturday, January 3, 2015

What does it take to become a true Catholic cleric?

PATRIARCHAL SEE 3 December 2014 (ORCNS) - There are many Old Catholic and even Old Roman Catholic jurisdictions today that seem to ordain anyone at the drop of a hat (or the drop of a coin). Formation in some places has all but gone, leaving some wondering "How do these people get ordained?"

Church-shopping has become equally prevalent among potential clergymen as it has among the laity. If Church A requires 4 years of training and Church B requires 6 years, then Church C starts looking might attractive, for it only requires 2 weeks! This, dear readers, isn't Catholic. It is nothing more than instant gratification.

What, then, does it take to become a true Catholic cleric? Let's answer that by explaining what the Anglican Rite Roman Catholic Church requires. So what all is involved in becoming a cleric in this traditional Old Roman Catholic Patriarchate? Let's find out!

What it takes to become a true Catholic cleric can be summed up in three words... Formation, Formation, Formation! Now let's look at what that means in a bit more detail.

First it is essential for the candidate to be strong in the true Catholic Faith. He (and only men can validly receive Catholic Holy Orders) must embrace all that is meant by the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds. It must be at the core of his identity. It must bring the man to his knees. It is from this perspective that discernment of a clerical vocation can begin.

Once a vocation is initially discerned (and that is an ongoing process throughout formation), formal application must be made to the Patriarchate. This requires a 7-page application, plus a large amount of supporting documentation. All candidates must be recommended by a Catholic priest who knows them personally and pass a thorough background investigation performed (at the candidate's expense) by Oxford Document Management (a firm with a long legacy of service to Roman Catholic, Anglican, and other churches). They must also pass a psychological examination performed by a licensed psychiatrist or clinical psychologist. Also with the application must be submitted a series of signed oaths. Before an officer of a civil court (usually a Notary), the candidate must sign an statement of intent and truthfulness and an oath of voluntary permanent submission to the laws of the Patriarchate. The Candidate must also sign the Oath against Modernism of Pope Pius X and the Clerical Oath. 

Once this is completed, then the candidate must participate in an in-person interview. If the candidate is subsequently admitted as a postulant, he must then make formal petition and take the clerical oath kneeling before the throne of his Bishop with his hands placed on the Book of Gospels. At this point he is admitted as a Minor Seminarian at the Patriarchate's official seminary, Pontifical Georgian College. The Minor Seminary program is approximately 2 years long. It may be done during the junior and senior year of the candidate's regular bachelor's program at another university or else after graduation if he already possesses a baccalaureate degree. Typically new seminarians are presented wearing lay attire to their Bishop, who blesses their clerical cassock and invests them with it.

During Minor Seminary, the postulants typically are eligible to become clerics through the conferral of First Tonsure after their first year, and then to be ordained as Porters 6 months to a year later. Each level of ordination requires a formal petition and oath to be taken upon the Book of Gospels, kneeling in front of the throne of the candidate's Bishop. After Minor Seminary, the successful student receives the degree of Diplomate of Sacred Theology and enters Major Seminary.

The Major Seminary program is approximately 4 years long. Training includes theology, Latin, canon law, pastoral work, homiletics, pastoral counseling, history, liturgy, and more. After the first year, successful seminarians are usually ordained to the next two Minor Orders, Lector and Exorcist. Six months later they enter the Sub-Diaconate. Before being ordained to the Sub-Diaconate, the cleric must also take a practical examination in which he demonstrates proficiency, devotion, and competence in the liturgical duties of a Sub-Deacon. Once ordained as Sub-Deacons, the laws of the Patriarchate forbid marriage if the cleric is not already married.

After three years of Major Seminary (5 years of study including Minor Seminary), the Sub-Deacons are eligible to be considered for admission to the Major Holy Order of Deacon. This requires another practical examination in the liturgical duties of a Deacon, a written liturgical exam, a written General Ordination Exam, and an interview. These Deacons are often called "transitional" Deacons because they are planning to become Priests.

The Sacred Vessels are presented to a new priest at his ordination.

In the final year of Major Seminary, the Deacons intensify their studies directly for a ministry as a Priest. Upon successful completion, they receive the degree of Licentiate of Sacred Theology. Then they are eligible to make a formal petition for admission and ordination to the priesthood. Deacon-Candidates for the priesthood are also required to pass both a written and a practical liturgical examination on all sacramental duties of priests, a written General Ordination Examination, and an oral exam before a Board of Examining Chaplains. The final decision of ordination is made by the Deacon's Bishop. The successful Deacon is then ordained to the priesthood. In the ancient rites of ordination, the new priest prostrates before the altar and receives the laying on of hands. His palms are anointed for the sacred work he is to perform, and the Sacred Vessels of the Holy Mass are presented.

Becoming a cleric at any level, especially a priest, is not easy. It is not and cannot be an overnight endeavor. He who seeks Holy Orders through the path of least resistance does himself a great disservice and harms those whom he otherwise could help. Men with a true vocation seek constantly to make themselves better and to study, that their knowledge may benefit the salvation of others. Seminary is not the end. Priests are required by canon law to continue studying in their vocation on their own.

So there you have it. This is what it takes to become a true priest through the Patriarchate of St. Stephen. It is not an easy path. Many are called - few are chosen.