Archive for March, 2010

Peace at risk in Sudan but you can help

March 31, 2010

PEACE is at risk in Sudan, according to a report by the Denis Hurley Peace Institute.

While Archbishop Leo Boccardi, Apostolic Nuncio to Sudan and Eritrea, remains open to the hope of peace, the report says: “The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed five years ago on 9 January 2005 by the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) brought an end to 22 years of civil war in southern Sudan and the marginalised areas of southern Blue Nile, the Nuba Mountains and Abyei. However, the CPA is not comprehensive, not peace, nor is it an agreement.”

It goes on to reveal: “Northern Sudanese governments have arguably not honored any agreement signed with the South since 1947, so southerners are understandably skeptical about the worth of this one. The international community accepted the CPA at face value and turned their attention to Darfur. This was a mistake. The war was not yet over.”

The Scottish Catholic Observer is backing Aid to the Church in Need’s Lenten fund raising campaign to help the Church in and the people of Sudan.

A free copy of Cardinal Zubeir Wako’s Roll Back the Stone of Fear is on offer to everyone who makes a donation to the SCO/ACN Lenten campaign. If you would like to donate via ACN’s website simply go to—and you will automatically be sent a copy of Cardinal Wako’s book.

For further information on how you can get involved in supporting the vital work of ACN in the Sudan is available from ACN’s Scottish administrator Dermot Lamb: e-mail write to Office 2.9, Dalziel Building, 7 Scott Street, Motherwell ML1 1PN or phone 01698 337470. ACN would particularly welcome enquiries from parish groups and schools.

To read the Denis Hurley Peace Institute report on line visit


Wonderful news from Haiti

March 30, 2010

A statue of St Martial lies broken at the seminary in Port-au-Prince PIC: CNS

WONDERFUL news today from Haiti—the major seminary on the island will reopen two days after Easter.

It is an early sign of hope as the Caribbean island continues to battle to recover from the devastating earthquake of January 12.

“The bishops have decided to call the seminarians back together and re-open the academic year on April 6. With the destruction of the entire Major Seminary, then we must find accommodations for the 243 surviving major seminarians,” Archbishop Bernard Auza, Apostolic Nuncio to Haiti, said.

The seminary will be located under canvas on the large grounds of the headquarters of the Haitian Bishops’ Conference. Students of philosophy will be housed in tents in the Seminary of the Scalabrini Fathers and those of theology, in the Our Lady of Guadalupe Home, on the grounds of the conference.

Donations collected during the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper, presided by the Pope at the Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano, will be used for the reconstruction of the Seminary of Port-au-Prince.

As Haiti prepares for the rainy season, the task ahead is enormous.

Catholic Relief Services on the island reports that hundreds of thousands of islanders remain homeless and heavy rain has already begun although the rainy season is not due to peak until May.

Huge efforts are underway to get the homeless into shelter, even if it is just sturdy tents on safe ground.

For more on Haiti visit:

Pope’s message overlooked amid abuse reports

March 29, 2010

POPE BENEDICT XVI’s Palm Sunday homily appears to have fallen victim to extensive reporting in the mainstream media of the sex abuse issue in the Church.

Several reports have suggested that Pope Benedict had made comments on the crisis during his homily at Palm Sunday Mass in St Peter’s Square.

While the Holy Father did remind worshippers that belief in Jesus Christ helped lead Christians ‘towards the courage of not allowing oneself to be intimidated by the petty gossip of dominant opinion’ the homily, entitled The Cross Is Part of the Ascent Toward the Height of Jesus Christ, had a broader, more spiritual and ultimately less sensationalist message at its hearts than has been suggested.

Many young people participated in the celebration, which also marked this year’s World Youth Day, and listened to what the Pope had to say:

“The Gospel for the blessing of the palms that we have listened to together here in St Peter’s Square begins with the phrase: ‘Jesus went ahead of everyone going up to Jerusalem’ (Luke 19:28). Immediately at the beginning of the liturgy this day, the Church anticipates her response to the Gospel, saying, “Let us follow the Lord.” With that the theme of Palm Sunday is clearly expressed. It is about following. Being Christian means seeing the way of Jesus Christ as the right way of being human—as that way that leads to the goal, to a humanity that is fully realised and authentic. In a special way, I would like to repeat to all the young men and women, on this 25th World Youth Day, that being Christian is a journey, or better: It is a pilgrimage, it is a going with Jesus Christ. A going in that direction that he has pointed out to us and is pointing out to us.

“But what direction are we talking about? How do we find it? The line from our Gospel offers two indications in this connection. In the first place it says that it is a matter of an ascent. This has in the first place a very literal meaning. Jericho, where the last stage of Jesus’s pilgrimage began, is 250 meters below sea-level while Jerusalem—the goal of the journey—is 740-780 meters above sea level: an ascent of almost 1,000 meters. But this external rout is above all an image of the interior movement of existence, which occurs in the following of Christ: It is an ascent to the true height of being human. Man can choose an easy path and avoid all toil. He can also descend to what is lower. He can sink into lies and dishonesty. Jesus goes ahead of us, and he goes up to what is above. He leads us to what is great, pure, he leads us to the healthy air of the heights: to life according to truth; to the courage that does not let itself be intimidated by the gossip of dominant opinions; to the patience that stands up for and supports the other. He leads us to availability to the suffering, to the abandoned; to the loyalty that stands with the other even when the situation makes it difficult.

“He leads us to availability to bring help; to the goodness that does not let itself be disarmed not even by ingratitude. He leads us to —he leads us to God…

To read rest of the Pope’s Palm Sunday homily visit

Pilgrim’s Journey

March 26, 2010

The annual Christian cross–carrying Pilgrimage to Holy Island will begin tomorrow. During the week before Easter,  dozens of pilgrims will make the 100 mile trek through Northumberland and the Scottish Borders to the ancient shrine.
Northern Cross starts on Friday 26 March and finishes on the Island of Lindisfarne, (Holy Island)  Northumberland,  on Easter Sunday, 4 April. The pilgrimage began in 1976 and has grown steadily every year.
This year’s pilgrimage is made up of three groups or ‘Legs’ who will set off for Holy Island – Lindisfarne in Northumberland to join together and celebrate the Easter weekend. They will walk 10 –19 miles per day and each group carries a large wooden cross as a sign of Christian witness. They stay in church and village halls along the route, and join in with  people of local churches for worship. Groups will be starting from Bellingham ,Northumberland,, Lanark ,Strathclyde, and Carlisle ,Cumbria. The pilgrims of Northern Cross come from many different denominations, as do the hosts, but are linked by their enthusiasm for walking through beautiful countryside  and their faith in God.
All too often we forget the ancient and powerful traditions of the Christian Faith. For generations upon generations pilgrims have traveled to Holy Island, for almost as long as Christianity has been in these islands. For most of that time there were no trains, planes or automobiles. In those days such a journey was a huge and dangerous undertaken, given that most people never left their home villages. They traveled hundreds of miles by foot, a living journey of faith.
There is a tendency among human beings to fixate on the present day, often it is hard not to, especially no when there is so much to occupy our minds.
But in the past we will find many answers especially in the Christian traditions of our ancestors.
As we go through this holy week, spare a prayer for those brave pilgrims traveling towards holy island in what is likely to me inclement weather. And have a thought for the example they all those who have traveled that path before set for modern Catholics.

State apologises for Oscar Romero’s murder

March 25, 2010

Pic: Paul McSherry

EL Salvador’s President Mauricio Funes publicly apologised yesterday on behalf of the state for the assassination of a Archbishop Oscar Romero 30 years ago at the outset of the country’s civil war.

Archbishop Romero, a human rights proponent who spoke out against repression by the Salvadoran army, was gunned down March 24, 1980, as he celebrated Mass in a hospital chapel.

Cardinal Keith O’Brien was the main celebrant at the Oscar Romero 30th anniversary Mass celebrated at St Mary’s cathedral, Edinburgh, last night. He was joined by Bishop Emeritus Maurice Taylor, Fr Chris Boyles, Fr Gero McLoughlin, Fr Alan Ocdendaria and Deacon Michael O’Donnell.

A group of street children from Nicaragua (pictured above) who visited the cardinal in Edinburgh after taking part in the Street Children’s World Cup in Durban, South Africa, also attended the Mass.

Bishop Taylor’s powerful homily (in full below) provided great insight into the Oscar Romero cause.

“The lack of progress towards beatification and canonisation [of Oscar Romero] is hard to fathom, but perhaps it is unimportant.” Bishop Taylor said. “ Millions of ordinary people who, after all, are the Church and provide a sensus fidelium do not doubt that he is a saint.”

Homily in full:

WHEN Central America gained independence from Spain nearly 200 years ago, it soon split into five separate and different republics: Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and El Salvador.

Of the five, El Salvador is the smallest in area. It is also the only one whose name is a Christian name—a name that could not be more Christian:

El Salvador, The Saviour—yet its people are probably the most argumentative and combative in all of Central America. Nonetheless, as if the name of the country were insufficient, its capital city is San

Salvador (Holy Saviour) and many of the towns have saints’ names. For example, I spent some time as the temporary priest in charge in the town of Dulce Nombre de María (literally, Sweet Name of Mary).

El Salvador, like the other independent republics of Central America, inherited from Spain a legacy of autocracy. Power and wealth lay with a minority, even an oligarchy, whose members, generation after generation, succeeded in retaining their wealth and power. The great majority of the people were poor, ill-educated, kept marginalised and without prospects.

Proper reform was not on the agenda—neither political reform, nor judicial reform, nor land reform. The status quo had to be maintained and it was maintained principally because the few had most of the land and the best of the land, the most productive land. And why should they give up such a comfortable and privileged lifestyle by allowing a more equitable sharing of nature’s riches and life’s opportunities?

Of course, this unjust state of affairs began to be challenged. There were some attempts at armed rising earlier last century, but they were suppressed ruthlessly and without great difficulty. In the 1970s, unrest began to grow in a serious and widespread way and the army was used for what was called counter-insurgency. In addition to the uniformed forces of the republic, officered by men from the privileged classes, there also began to exist death squads, employed by powerful and brutal elements. The result was that the poor, whether the urban poor or the peasants, were living in fear as well as in poverty and in the midst of conflict.

Gradually, those brave enough actively to fight the structural injustice coalesced into an armed organisation called the Farabundo Martí Front for National Liberation and usually known as the FMLN. (Farabundo Martí had led an unsuccessful revolt earlier in the century). Thus, around the year 1980, civil war began in El Salvador, a war that, from the army’s point of view was waged on a ‘search and destroy’ basis while the FMLN fought a guerrilla type of campaign.

Since Central America is in what is called the United States’ sphere of influence, the US government was, in various ways, active in El Salvador. It had much financial and commercial involvement in the country and that, along with an obsession about communism in the hemisphere, ensured that the United States provided financial, diplomatic and even military support to the regime and its policies of repression.

During this time what was the Catholic Church in El Salvador doing? Rather, let me phrase that differently. What was the Church leadership doing? On the whole, the bishops supported the status quo, either by giving active encouragement or by their silence and non-intervention, There are several possible reasons for this. Some bishops came from the wealthy sector of the population; some feared that the opposition to right wing governments was Marxist-inspired; others, perhaps on the specious grounds that the Church should not interfere in politics (even when those politics are blatantly unjust).

Despite the very encouraging teachings coming from Latin American bishops meeting in Medellín and Puebla, many bishops in that part of the world have either been hostile to those actively engaged in trying to change the unjust structures so widespread; or, at least, have shown little or no enthusiasm for such endeavours. And, since bishops are appointed by Rome and only after careful investigation into their backgrounds, opinions and suitability, one sometimes wonders. Similarly and personally, I have to say that the Holy See’s attitude to liberation theology and to Small Christian Communities has often been suspicious and negative; but to say more on that would take us down another path.

When the archdiocese of San Salvador needed a new archbishop in 1977, there was satisfaction in government circles that the Vatican’s choice fell on the relatively little known Oscar Arnulfo Romero. He was bishop of Santiago de Maria, a small rural diocese in the east of El Salvador. The general expectation was that he would have little to say about the injustice and violence rampant in the country. Perhaps Oscar Romero himself, when nominated to the capital, had little thought of getting deeply involved. But it is one thing to be bishop of a small diocese away from the centre of things and another to be archbishop in the capital city and very much in the public eye.

His tenure of office in San Savador was very short —only three years, but what a heroic and inspirational leader he turned out to be. He probably knew that, as archbishop of the nation’s capital and the seat of the government, he could not ignore the prevalent and intolerable situation. God gave him the wisdom and the courage that he needed and he did not fail in his duty.

The new archbishop did not have long to wait before having the opportunity to declare where he stood. The Jesuits had been particularly courageous and outspoken on behalf of the victims of the oppression and in their criticism of injustice. Soon after Romero became archbishop, Fr Rutilio Grande, a Jesuit and the parish priest of a village in the archdiocese, was assassinated by a death squad. The archbishop was swift, unequivocal and public in his condemnation of the crime.

Thereafter, his wekly homilies at Mass in his cathedral were broadcast nationwide by Radio Católica. As the violence increased, as the army became more and more ruthless against the peasants, as death squads operated with impunity, the archbishop’s homilies became increasingly critical and proved a much needed solace for the oppressed and fearful people. He condemned the violence, declared  that it was the consequence of the injustice in Salvadoran society. He called on the authorities in

God’s name to halt their policy of cruel and unmerciful repression. Each Sunday, as well as the archbishop’s homily, a list of the names of the victims killed in the previous week was broadcast.

The government objected to the archbishop, denied his accusations and called on him to desist. Not for the first time nor for the last, a veritable reign of terror gripped the country. Archbishop Romero became so distressed about the situation that he even appealed to the ordinary ranks in the army not to obey orders to kill their innocent fellow-citizens.For the archbishop’s enemies, that was the last straw. He had to be silenced.

He spent Monday 24th March 1980 with a group of his priests, relaxing at the beach, an hour’s drive south of San Salvador. In the afternoon he returned to the city and to his own house, a little cottage in the grounds of a hospital. He then walked the short distance from his cottage to the hospital chapel.  He had arranged to celebrate an evening Mass there. Having completed the Liturgy of the Word, he had just taken the bread in his hands to commence the Liturgy of the Eucharist when a shot was fired and he fell to the floor behind the altar, dying or already dead. A hired marksman had been driven into the hospital grounds and, from the vehicle and through the open door of the church, had fired the fatal shot.

Oscar Romero’s death shocked millions of people throughout the world, nowhere more so than in El Salvador. No doubt his assassination satisfied many powerful people in the military and the government. No one has ever been brought to trial for the crime. It is believed that the hired assassin and the car driver were themselves soon murdered to ensure their silence.

The archbishop’s funeral in San Salvador cathedral was attended by huge crowds, including bishops and others from abroad. The presence of those bishops highlighted the absence of all but one bishop from El Salvador itself. The absence of the bishops has sometimes been attributed to disagreement with the archbishop’s very public views or to apathy and indifference. It is neither our right nor our duty to judge. But unfortunately also, the lack, so far, of official Church recognition of Romero’s murder as truly a martyrdom causes sadness and dismay to many.

The lack of progress towards beatification and canonisation is hard to fathom, but perhaps it is unimportant. Millions of ordinary people who, after all, are the Church and provide a sensus fidelium do not doubt that he is a saint.

Oscar Romero had declared that, even if he was killed, he would live on in the hearts of his people. This he assuredly does—not only in the hearts of his fellow—Salvadorans but also in the hearts of countless people throughout the world who venerate him. They, we, believe he is a martyr-saint and pray that we may be inspired by the faith and courage of a heroic disciple of Jesus Christ, Oscar Romero, archbishop of San Salvador.

Vatican accepts Irish bishop’s resignation

March 24, 2010

Bishop John Magee

THE Vatican this morning officially accepted the resignation of one Irish bishop who was found to have mishandled allegations of clerical sex abuse in his County Cork diocese.

Bishop John Magee stepped aside in March 2009 after an independent report found his Cloyne Diocese had put children at risk of harm.

“I take full responsibility for the criticism of our management of issues in that report,” Bishop Magee said this morning.

The inquiry was separate to last year’s Murphy report on decades of abuse mishandling in the Dublin Archdiocese and the Ryan report, which detailed physical and sexual abuse at Catholic-run orphanages and industrial schools in the Irish Republic.

Virtual pilgrimage to the Holy Land

March 24, 2010

MANY thanks to Dom Donald of Nunraw Abbey for drawing our attention, ahead of Holy Week, to the stunning multi-media presentation of 360 degrees Holy Land photographs—including the the Holy Sepulchre, the Western Wall and Al Aqsa Mosque—posted on line by Terra Santa, the Franciscan Custodia of Holy Land in collaboration with Turkish photographer Aykut Ince.

As Terra Santa so rightly point out, not everyone can make the pilgrimage at this time of year but this tour helps to bring it home for us all.

Pope to mark John Paul II death

March 24, 2010

Pope John Paul II

A MASS to mark the fifth anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s death will be held on March 29 as the actual anniversary falls on Good Friday.

Pope Benedict XVI will preside at the Mass.

During the prayers of the faithful, this petition will be offered in Polish: “For the Venerable Pope John Paul II, who served the Church to the limit of his strength: So that from heaven he intercedes to spread the hope that is realized by fully participating in the glory of the resurrection.”

At the funeral of the late Pope, who was Pontiff for 26 years, there were cries from the congregation of santo subito (make him a saint now).

Two years after his death Pope Benedict proclaimed him a Servant of God and last December he was given the title Venerable.

While over 200 miraculous healings have been attributed to Pope John Paul II, a second validated miracle is still required for his canonisation.

Put your money where your heart is

March 23, 2010

IT WAS not a sermon but the message from the one-day Banking on Justice conference at St Georges West Church in Edinburgh couldn’t be clearer: churches should put their money where there heart is.

After the event, supported by a number of church groups including Action of Churches Together in Scotland, the Iona Community and the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund, the Church of Scotland and the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility issued a joint statement.

They have called on churches to invest in a fairer and more sustainable future by embracing ethical and socially responsible models of finance and investment.


Lords attempt to help Catholic adoption

March 23, 2010

CATHOLIC adoption agencies could once again be allowed to operate according to their founding principles if an amendment to the Equality Bill before the House of Lords passes today.

The amendment, which will be voted on today at the bill’s third reading, aims to overturn the anti-discrimination law that prevents Catholic adoption agencies from refusing same-sex couples as potential parents. Baroness Williams of Crosby has tabled the amendment together with Baroness Butler-Sloss; Labour peer Lord Brennan, a human rights campaigner; and former Home Secretary Lord Waddington.

The groups believes the Sexual Orientation Regulations that came into effect in January 2009 have forced Catholic adoption agencies to close or disassociate themselves from the Church. If the amendment passes these adoption agencies could return to their previous and valuable work unhampered.

For more information visit: