Colorado Springs man says ordeal of wildfire has strengthened his faith

Colorado Springs home damaged by wildfire smolders. (CNS photo/Reuters)

Al Cunningham, one of the thousands of residents displaced by the worst fire in Colorado history, told Linda Oppelt of  The Colorado Catholic Herald, the whole ordeal has strengthened his faith. “It’s not that I’m not attached to my property, but it’s not the end of the world,” he said in an interview with the newspaper of the Colorado Springs Diocese.

He was one of about 80 people who attended a special Holy Hour at St Mary’s Cathedral Thursday night to pray for the victims and first responders of the Waldo Canyon Wildfire, the Herald reported. Bishop Michael J. Sheridan announced the prayer service in an email to priests and deacons of the diocese early Wednesday.

Beverly Beal, of Manitou Springs, told Oppelt that seeing “people coming together as a community to offer support” has strengthened her faith. On Sunday morning, for example, when she had been evacuated and went to Mass, “a couple we didn’t even know offered us their home,” she said.

The Colorado Catholic Herald has had extensive coverage of  the disaster and the emergency relief efforts of the diocese, Catholic Charities and parishes. A June 30 story reported on President Barack Obama’s visit to the area and how evacuees were coping with a tough week.

The Associated Press reported this morning that of the 35,000 people who had been evacuated, 3,000 of them were still displaced. More of the evacuees were allowed to return to their neighborhoods today see what, if anything remained of their houses. News reports said about 350 homes were destroyed. Two people died in the blaze that started June 23 in a popular hiking area. AP said the fire was 55 percent contained but that 1,500 firefighters remained on the scene.

New text in Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial softens criticism of Pope Pius XII

UPDATE: Full story; papal nuncio says updated text is “a step forward.”

Visitors look at an exhibit at Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. (CNS/Debbie Hill)

A new text revealed at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial  has in Jerusalem has softened the message regarding the actions of Pope Pius XII which has caused strife between the museum and the Holy See in the past.

While reportedly the new wall text still blames the pope for the Catholic Church not having intervened more forcefully to help save Jews from the Nazi persecution, it does paint a more complex picture of the situation, reports Catholic News Service correspondent Judith Sudilovsky in Jerusalem.

According to a report in the Ha’aretz newspaper, the text still includes veiled criticism of the Vatican for not opening its archives to allow historians to research the actions of the Holy See at the time.

The New York Times reports that the new museum panel is titled “The Vatican” instead of “Pope Pius XII.” The new text reduces the role of Pope Pius XII in negotiating the agreement that recognized the Nazi regime whole preserving the Catholic Church’s rights in Germany, explaining that it was reached under his predecessor, Pope Pius XI. Pope Pius served as secretary of state under his predecessor. The new text reads that Pope Pius XII “did not publicly protest.” when Jews were deported from Rome; the old text said he “did not intervene,” the newspaper said.

CNS is seeking comments from church officials and the museum and will post an update when they become available.

Pope names German theologian to head doctrine office

Pope Benedict XVI named Archbishop Gerhard L. Muller of Regensburg, Germany, the new prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI has named Archbishop Gerhard L. Muller of Regensburg, Germany, the new prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The 64-year-old expert in dogmatic theology and ecumenism, who has co-authored a work on liberation theology, replaced U.S. Cardinal William J. Levada, who retired at 76.

As head of the doctrinal congregation, the archbishop also assumes the roles of president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, the Pontifical Biblical Commission and the International Theological Commission.

The appointment automatically elevates the former bishop of Regensburg, Germany, to the rank of archbishop, according to a Vatican statement July 2.

The archbishop’s academic research focuses on “ecumenism, modern age theology, the Christian understanding of revelation, theological hermeneutics and ecclesiology — the priesthood and the diaconate,” according to the web site of the Diocese of Regensburg.

He has authored more than 400 works with the most well-known being the 900-page “Catholic Dogmatics: For the Study and Practice of Theology.”

In 2004, he co-authored a book titled “On the Side of the Poor: The Theology of Liberation” with Dominican Father Gustavo Gutierrez, who is considered the father of liberation theology.

Though the doctrinal congregation, led by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, asked Father Gutierrez, to write and rewrite articles clarifying some of his theological and pastoral points during the 1990s, the doctrinal congregation expressed approval in 2004 of his latest work on ecclesial communion, which was published by a pontifical university.

Archbishop Muller has been a member of the doctrinal congregation since 2007 and was a member of the International Theological Commission from 1998 to 2003 — both bodies that Pope Benedict led until 2005 when he was elected pontiff.

The archbishop is also a member of Pontifical Councils for Culture and for Social Communications. He was named in June as a member of the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

He is also a member of the doctrinal congregation’s “Committee for the Preparation of the Year of Faith,” which helped draw up a note of pastoral recommendations for the year, which begins in October.

He has close ties to Pope Benedict and in 2008 helped establish the Pope Benedict XVI Institute, which is publishing a complete collection of works by Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI. Pope Benedict personally commissioned the archbishop to lead the publication of his collected works, according to the Diocese of Regensburg.

He is also a contributing academician of the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas.

In his new capacity at the doctrinal office, the archbishop will follow the Vatican-mandated reform of the U.S. Leadership Conference of Women Religious. He will also oversee talks with traditionalist Catholics and the handling of accusations of sexual abuse of minors by priests — two issues he has dealt with extensively as bishop of Regensburg.

The traditionalist Society of St. Pius X has a seminary in Zaitzkofen in the Diocese of Regensburg, and the archbishop has criticized the society’s illicit ordinations of priests and deacons there as “a sin against church unity.” He has said the unauthorized ordinations violate canon law and create a “dangerous situation” for the church.

There have been incidents of abuse involving the diocese, including the cathedral’s famous boys’ choir and school. Two priests accused of abuse in the 1950s have been jailed and the archbishop has said any claims of sexual abuse would be treated with “the maximum transparency.”

However, he faced criticism for his reinstatement in 2004 of a priest previously convicted of child molestation. The priest, whose therapist had declared him no longer dangerous, was arrested in 2007 on further abuse charges.

Upon news of the arrest, Muller expressed his “deepest regret and sympathy towards those children who have been mentally scarred” and promised “every imaginable assistance.”

During a 2010 conference in Rome marking the Year for Priests, he told reporters it was “stupidity” to believe that celibacy causes clerical sexual abuse, and he said that any priest who sexually abuses a child has placed himself outside of the priesthood, even before the church acts formally to dismiss him.

Concerning the church’s teaching against women’s ordination, he explained in a speech in 2002 that the Catholic Church does not profess that “men are superior to women,” but emphasized that Christ chose only men as his Apostles.

On the level of symbolism, with Christ as the bridegroom of the church, the maleness of the priest is essential, he said. “Being priests, just like being a father or a mother, is not a social profession, position or role. Being a priest implies a personal relationship and the representation of a person through another,” he said.

Born in Mainz, Germany, Dec. 31, 1947, the archbishop became a priest in 1978 and served in his native diocese as a chaplain and high school religion teacher.

With degrees in philosophy and theology, he was a professor of dogmatic theology in Munich from 1986 to 2002.

He was named Bishop of Regensburg in 2002 and then-Cardinal Ratzinger attended his episcopal ordination. Then Bishop Muller chose as the motto for his episcopate “Dominus Iesus” (Jesus is Lord), which comes from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans and is the title of the 2000 document on salvation through Christ alone, issued by then Cardinal Ratzinger’s doctrinal congregation.

Video: Did Pius XII help rescue Jews from Holocaust?

From our Rome bureau today:

On Sunday, July 1, Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum modified a controversial exhibit on Pope Pius XII to acknowledge claims that the wartime pope actively encouraged efforts to rescue Jews from the Nazi genocide.

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