Vatican announces apostolic visitation of Irish church

Irish bishops at a press conference at the Vatican in February. (CNS/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican today announced the names of the nine bishops, priests and religious who will conduct an apostolic visitation of dioceses in Ireland, the Irish seminaries and religious orders.

Pope Benedict XVI announced the visitation in March in his letter to Irish Catholics on the clerical sex abuse scandal.

Beginning in the fall, Retired British Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor of Westminster will conduct the visitation of the Archdiocese of Armagh. Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston will visit the Archdiocese of Dublin. Archbishop Thomas C. Collins of Toronto will conduct the visitation of the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly. and Archbishop Terrence T. Prendergast of Ottawa will visit the Archdiocese of Tuam.

The four visitors will report to the Congregation for Bishops. The Vatican did not say what other Irish dioceses would be visited or when.

Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, former rector of the North American College in Rome, will lead the visitation of the Irish seminaries, including the Pontifical Irish College in Rome, the Vatican said. Archbishop Dolan will report to the Congregation for Catholic Education, which oversees seminaries.

Two priests and two religious women will lead the visitation of Irish religious orders. U.S. Redemptorist Father Joseph W. Tobin, former superior of the Redemptorist order, and Jesuit Father Gero McLoughlin, promoter of Ignatian spirituality for the Jesuit’s British Province, will visit men’s religious orders. U.S. Sister Sharon Holland, as member of the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and former Vatican official, and Irish Sister Mairin McDonagh, a member of the Religious of Jesus and Mary, will conduct the visitation of the women’s communities.

The four religious will report to the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi said no deadline has been set for the visitors to complete their work, because many details still need to be worked out and because of the busy schedules of the visitors themselves.

Here is the Vatican’s press release on the apostolic visitation in Ireland:

Following the Holy Father’s Letter to the Catholics of Ireland, the Apostolic Visitation of certain Irish dioceses, seminaries and religious congregations will begin in autumn of this year.

Through this Visitation, the Holy See intends to offer assistance to the Bishops, clergy, religious and lay faithful as they seek to respond adequately to the situation caused by the tragic cases of abuse perpetrated by priests and religious upon minors. It is also intended to contribute to the desired spiritual and moral renewal that is already being vigorously pursued by the Church in Ireland.

The Apostolic Visitors will set out to explore more deeply questions concerning the handling of cases of abuse and the assistance owed to the victims; they will monitor the effectiveness of and seek possible improvements to the current procedures for preventing abuse, taking as their points of reference the Pontifical Motu Proprio “Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela” and the norms contained in Safeguarding Children: Standards and Guidance Document for the Catholic Church in Ireland, commissioned and produced by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church.

The Visitation will begin in the four Metropolitan Archdioceses of Ireland (Armagh, Dublin, Cashel and Emly, and Tuam) and will then be extended to some other dioceses.

The Visitors named by the Holy Father for the dioceses are: His Eminence Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Emeritus Archbishop of Westminster, for the Archdiocese of Armagh; His Eminence Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, for the Archdiocese of Dublin; the Most Reverend Thomas Christopher Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, for the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly; the Most Reverend Terrence Thomas Prendergast, Archbishop of Ottawa, for the Archdiocese of Tuam.

In its desire to accompany the process of renewal of houses of formation for the future priests of the Church in Ireland, the Congregation for Catholic Education will coordinate the visitation of the Irish seminaries, including the Pontifical Irish College in Rome. While special attention will be given to the matters that occasioned the Apostolic Visitation, in the case of the seminaries it will cover all aspects of priestly formation. The Most Reverend Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, has been named Apostolic Visitor.

For its part, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life will organize the visitation of religious houses in two phases. Firstly it will conduct an enquiry by means of a questionnaire to be sent to all the Superiors of religious institutes present in Ireland, with a view to providing an accurate picture of the current situation and formulating plans for the observance and improvement of the norms contained in the “guidelines”. In the second phase, the Apostolic Visitors will be: the Reverend Joseph Tobin, CSsR and the Reverend Gero McLaughlin SJ for institutes of men; Sister Sharon Holland IHM and Sister Mairin McDonagh RJM for institutes of women. They will carry out a careful study, evaluating the results obtained from the questionnaire and the possible steps to be taken in the future in order to usher in a season of spiritual rebirth for religious life on the Island.

His Holiness invites all the members of the Irish Catholic community to support this fraternal initiative with their prayers. He invokes God’s blessings upon the Visitors, and upon all the Bishops, clergy, religious and lay faithful of Ireland, that the Visitation may be for them an occasion of renewed fervour in the Christian life, and that it may deepen their faith and strengthen their hope in Christ our Saviour.

South African church readies for World Cup

Are you a soccer fan? If you are then you know that the World Cup — soccer’s Super Bowl — is set to begin in just 14 days. For the first time in football history, Africa will play host. It’s a great showcase for South Africa, where the games will take place, and the South African church plans to be a big part of the celebration. Check out the video, “Church on the Ball,” produced by the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference. It’s a terrific look at the work of the church in the southern tip of the continent and the people of  the nation that is rolling out its red carpet to the world. If you can’t get there for the big event, the South African church’s website is almost the next best thing.

Shout out for high school chaplains

Father John Muir, chaplain at Xavier College Preparatory School in Phoenix, celebrates a final liturgy with the senior class May 3. Photo by Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN

A recent story in The Catholic Sun, Phoenix’s diocesan newspaper, drives home the point that priests are needed on high school campuses.

Graduating seniors at Phoenix-area Catholic high schools praised school chaplains for celebrating school Masses and being available to talk to students and give advice about school, relationships and future choices. They appreciated cultural references priests used in homilies and liked seeing them at basketball games and school plays. They also were keenly aware that priests were there for them during tough times such as praying with them after a student at a nearby school was killed in a car crash.

One high school student described his high school chaplain this way: “A lot of the kids see him as a guide, as a mediator between our faith and our daily lives.”  

Father Will Schmid, chaplain at Seton Catholic Preparatory High School in Chandler, says his role is a basic one.

“I just try to show them that the Catholic Church isn’t as crazy as the world makes it out to be, that the teachings make sense and that the faith is worthwhile and it matters,” he said.

And based on the students’ responses, he has done his job.

Eucharistic adoration at the Vatican in reparation for abuse

(CNS photo/Michael Alexander, Georgia Bulletin)

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican is hosting two hours of eucharistic adoration “in reparation for abuses committed by priests and for the healing of this wound within the church.”

The service in St. Peter’s Basilica this Saturday will feature an hour of silent adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, an hour of prayer and meditation, and a solemn blessing at the end.

The unusual initiative was organized by Catholic university students in Rome. Sources said the event was originally planned for the small Church of St. Anne inside Vatican City, but that it was moved to St. Peter’s at the suggestion of Cardinal Angelo Comastri, who is archpriest of the basilica.

So far, however, the Vatican has not publicized the event. Invitations have been forwarded by email and spread by word-of-mouth.

The hour of prayer and meditation will be led by Msgr. Charles Scicluna, an official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith who deals directly with cases of priests accused of abuse of minors.

In several recent statements, Pope Benedict has said the response to the sex abuse crisis in the church will require openness, adoption of new measures to protect children and spiritual reparation.

In a letter to Irish Catholics earlier this year, he asked that eucharistic adoration be set up in every diocese, so that “through intense prayer before the real presence of the Lord, you can make reparation for the sins of abuse that have done so much harm.”

Haiti’s Radio Soleil slowly getting back to normal

Father Desinord Jean, director of Radio Soleil, broadcasts from a van in Petionville, Haiti. (CNS/Bob Roller)

Back in February when a CNS photographer and I visited the makeshift operation of Radio Soleil, Haiti’s popular Catholic radio station, it was on the air, but barely so.

Things are much better, if not absolutely normal, today.

Courtesy of the U.S. bishops and a number of German church-related benefactors, $100,000 in new studio equipment is making its way to Petionville, a suburb in the hills above the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, where the station relocated after the Jan. 12 earthquake.

The equipment replaces what was lost when the building that housed the station collapsed during the 45 seconds of shaking in the central part of the city, across the street from the now-ruined Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption.

Since returning to the airwaves Jan. 24, Radio Soleil has operated from the station’s van, which was moved to the courtyard of a sturdy building that survived the quake. Staffers flattened the tires so no one could make off with a few pieces of replacement equipment bought in the Dominican Republic.

Jesuit Father Pierre Belanger, who coordinates the communication effort for his order’s province for French Canada and Haiti, has been helping the station return to its normal around-the-clock operation. He is also fostering stronger ties between Radio Soleil and the nine other Catholic stations across the country.

In addition to assistance from the U.S. bishops, Radio Soleil is getting the support of German organizations, including Aid to the Church in NeedAdveniat, the German bishops’ mission office for Latin America, the Diocese of Cologne and Catholic Media Council, a consulting agency that assists emerging communications efforts worldwide.

The new studio equipment will be housed in two pre-fabricated modular units in the courtyard of a sturdy building which survived the earthquake with only minor damage. The Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince is relocating to the building as well.

Communicating with Haiti remains sporadic and CNS could not reach Father Desinord Jean, station director and general manager. But Father Belanger said that the Haitian priest has resumed his normal hectic schedule after suffering a leg injury in a strong aftershock as he fled his sheet tent.

Year for Priests: The “cool” church

By Basilian Father Chris Valka
One in a series

. . . and to this the student responded, “You can’t do that.  You don’t ask questions like that . . . you just don’t.” (The written word doesn’t capture his emphasis and shock, but believe me it was there).

You would have thought he was responding to something illegal or forbidden, but as it turns out, he was responding to me – a priest asking him why he believed in God and why he is Catholic.

Life at the end of the school year takes on a decidedly different pace.  We are all itching to get out and enjoy the warm sunny days that are now finally upon us.  In order to avoid the discipline problems that usually accompany “traditional” forms of class work, I decided it was time for a new, more interactive, approach.

Using provocative videos I have collected over the years, podcasts such as those featured on my own site, Attuned, and interactive multimedia websites such as PBS Frontline, my students and I have become faith-based analysts of society.  The media creates the forum for discussion:  provoking, engaging and providing a compelling, multifaceted world view.

Together my students and I discuss the questions they are usually never allowed (or given the opportunity) to ask:  “So, how do we know we are right?  How can we say Muslims, Jews or Buddhists don’t have the right path to heaven and we do?”  “If the church is so concerned about the poor, why doesn’t the pope just sell some stuff and take care of them?”  “Are people really born gay?”  “Why do I have to go to Mass when I am more prayerful outdoors?”  “Why didn’t God just make everyone believe?”  “If God is so merciful, why does he send people to hell?”

For three weeks, my public-speaking students learn how to articulate their beliefs, see the value in another point of view, and facilitate some of the most controversial topics of their age.  Perhaps because I am priest, our discussions inevitably circle back to Catholicism.

You may be surprised just how many teenagers, even in a Catholic context, can rattle off tenants of the faith, without accepting all but a few of them.  Many remain unconvinced, not because belief is illogical, but because it is seemingly inauthentic.

After a documentary on media and marketing, we had a long discussion on what is “cool.”  To the teenage boy, “cool” pushes the limit, and is always relevant to what is most important.  Using their own definition, I eventually asked if being Catholic was cool?  In their minds, Catholicism should be cool because it stands outside of the accepted norms in society, but much to their frustration, God, as mediated by the Church, stopped being relevant and cool a long time ago.

According to my students, both God and the church appear “old,” but they admitted that our discussions were changing their perception.  As they elaborated, we all concluded that “old” results from a lack of relevance.  Cool is being able to discuss, understand, and feel like they are heard and able to contribute.  Cool is integrated, connected and diverse.

Of course, cool is also not the mainstream, but they concluded that if they really lived their faith, they would probably never have a problem being, by their own definition, cool.

Their challenge to me was quite clear:  The more discussions they have about their faith, the cooler it will become.  The more questions we ask, the more willing we are to let the youth speak, the more we connect our faith to our world – the more cool it will be for all of us.

Father Chris Valka, CSB, was ordained a priest for the Congregation of St. Basil in May 2009 and is teaching at Detroit Catholic Central High School in Michigan.

Click here for more in this series.

The bishops look back — and forward — on health reform

Those who followed the ins and outs of the health reform debate — and especially the Catholic participation in that debate — will be interested in reading a new statement by the chairmen of the three U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ committees most involved. Called “Setting the Record Straight,” the statement reviews the various USCCB actions in the effort to achieve health reform that would be “in accord with the dignity of each and every human person, showing full respect for the life, health and conscience of all.” The three — Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, chairman of the pro-life committee; Bishop William F. Murphy of the Committee on Domestic Justice, Peace and Human Development; and Bishop John C. Wester of the Committee on Migration — said some hoped the bishops might be persuaded to abandon some of their key concerns “in response to political pressures from left or right.” There was “never any chance” of that happening, they said.

The statement came on the heels of a May 20 letter to House members from Cardinal DiNardo urging passage of a bipartisan bill that he said would fix some of the health reform law’s flaws on abortion and conscience rights. You can read that story here.