Friday, June 27, 2003

The Word From Rome:

Lots on the Pope's Bosnian trip:

All this has left Bosnian Catholics with a unique sense of being orphans of history. This is especially acute in Banja Luka, where Catholicism was virtually wiped out by the latest war. There were 125,000 Catholics in the Banja Luka diocese in 1991, while today there are 51,500. Only 3 percent of the refugees have returned. Thirty-nine churches were destroyed and 22 damaged; nine chapels were destroyed and 14 damaged; two convents were devastated and one severely damaged, as were 33 cemeteries. (The convent at Petricevac was one of the places that went up in flames, leaving 80-year-old Friar Alojzije Atlija dead). A background paper said that the war had produced “a total exodus of the Catholic population from this region,” that the few who remain are “predominantly elderly,” and that the church in Bosnia now risks “total extinction.”In such a climate, it’s hardly surprising that many in the Catholic community seem underwhelmed by a policy of forgive-and-forget.

The Church in China:

Aid to the Church in Need, a charitable agency that delivers help to persecuted and suffering Christians, presented its annual report on religious freedom June 26. The highlight was an update on China, presented by Fr. Bernardo Cervellera, a veteran China-watcher and director of Asia News magazine.Cervellera reported on three recent documents published by the Chinese government, which assert sweeping new controls over the life of the Catholic Church, including matters of doctrine. They risk schism with Rome, which has been the object of Chinese policy since 1957 –an indigenous Catholic Church with no connection to the Vatican.The Chinese Catholic Church is divided between an official church approved by the government, and a subterranean church loyal to Rome. Together the two have some 130 bishops, Cervellera said, and of that number, more than 100 are over 80 years old. Hence the government is trying to put itself in a position to dictate the selection of the new generation of bishops.

The Pope's birthday emails

How many e-mails did Pope John Paul receive for his May 18th birthday? Between 22,000 and 23,000, according to Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, who oversees the Vatican Web site. He was speaking at a June 24 press conference on the launch of a new site for the Vatican museums.Celli said the e-mails created a logistical challenge — not responding to them, which is the Secretariat of State’s problem — but printing them out.

Printing? But isn’t the point of e-mail to avoid paper?Maybe, but in the world of the Vatican, that’s not how things work.

An interview with Sr. Jeannine Gramick:

I asked Gramick about the split in the Anglican Communion over the ordination of a gay bishop, and if she worried about pushing the Catholic church, at least in the United States, towards a similar rupture. She replied that unity based on injustice is false.I then asked if Gramick had read Philip Jenkins’ book The Next Christendom, in which he argues that the demographic shift in Christianity towards Africa, Latin America and Asia will push the church in a conservative direction. What if the global church is not prepared to adopt Gramick’s view of homosexuality?Gramick said this is a dilemma for her — do you want democracy in the church if you lose the vote? But deep down, she doesn’t believe this is how things will shake out. She is convinced that her positive stance towards gays and lesbians will carry the day.