ROME Dates confirmed for Benedict XVI’s visit to Cuba
POPE BENEDICT XVI will celebrate two outdoor Masses in Communist Cuba and one in staunchly Catholic Mexico when he travels to the Latin American countries just two weeks before Easter, write Robert Mickens and Ellen Teague.
The local bishops have confirmed that the two-nation pastoral visit will take place from 23-28 March (as predicted in Letter from Rome, 10 December 2011). It will be the twenty-third time that Pope Benedict has journeyed outside Italy since his election in April 2005 as Bishop of Rome.
The Pope is scheduled to take a 14-hour flight from Fiumicino Airport and arrive in the north-central Mexican state of Guatajuato on the afternoon of Friday 23 March. During a two-and-a-half-day visit to three locales – all in the Archdiocese of León – he is to celebrate an outdoor Mass for hundreds of thousands of people, hold a special meeting with all the bishops of Latin America and meet with Mexico’s political leaders. The following Monday morning, 26 March, he is scheduled to travel another four hours by plane to Santiago de Cuba, nearly 600 miles east of Havana. The Pope will be greeted by Cuban President Raúl Castro and will celebrate a Mass to mark the 400th anniversary of the appearance of the statue of the Virgin of Caridád del Cobre (Virgin of Charity of Cobre), patroness of Cuba, before making a 90-minute flight to Cuba’s capital the next day. His two-and-half-day visit to the island nation of 11 million people will conclude with another Mass on Wednesday morning, 28 March – this time in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución “José Martí”.
The Archbishop of Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega and all the Cuban bishops led tributes on 30 December to the Virgin of Caridád del Cobre, at a Mass marking the end of the statue’s 16-month tour of the island – the first such religious display permitted since the 1950s. The Catholic leaders called for reconciliation among Cubans and urged economic reform as they marked the end of the national pilgrimage.
Church leaders attract censure for choice of words
Michael Sean Winters In Washington
A CATHOLIC bishop and a cardinal have both ignited controversies in the past two weeks over the language they used to engage with sensitive public issues.
Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo, North Dakota, compared some of the policies of the current administration to those of the Nazis, while the Archbishop of Chicago Cardinal Francis George warned the gay-rights movement against emulating the Ku Klux Klan.
Bishop Aquila compared the US Government with Communist and Nazi regimes last week in an interview on a local radio station. “People need to understand that when a government embraces atheism, which is what both Communism and Naziism [did], then religious rights are going to be violated,” Bishop Aquila told KFGO radio.
His remarks echoed his Christmas column in the diocesan newspaper, in which he focused on religious liberty in the US. He wrote: “We have only to look at Naziism and Communism and the manner in which they violated religious freedom to see how similar it is in today’s world with the desire to redefine human life and its origins, to justify abortion, to redefine marriage to justify same-sex unions, and to redefine medical care to justify abortion, contraception, and euthanasia and then to impose these new definitions on people of faith.” Professor Stephen Schneck, of Catholic University, condemned the bishop’s remarks: “Our Jewish friends and all who have borne the totalitarian evil of Hitler’s Naziism deserve an apology,” he said. “We can never forget the full, unique gravity of the Shoah.” Meanwhile, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual activists are planning a protest in front of Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago tomorrow over remarks made by Cardinal George about the gay-rights movement. Asked on Fox News Chicago last month to comment on a controversy over the timing of next summer’s gay pride march, which then threatened to interrupt Mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, the cardinal said: “Organisers [of the march] invited an obvious comparison to other groups who have attempted to stifle the religious freedom of the Catholic Church. One such organisation is the Ku Klux Klan which, well into the 1940s, paraded through American cities not only to interfere with Catholic worship but also to demonstrate that Catholics stand outside of the American consensus. It is not a precedent anyone should want to emulate.” Gay-rights advocates said Cardinal George was expressing “bigotry”. The cardinal has refused to apologise.
(See Michael Sean Winters, page 6.)
US ordinariate up and running
IN A RARE New Year’s Day announcement, Pope Benedict XVI formally erected the Anglican ordinariate of “the Chair of St Peter” in the United States, named Fr Jeffrey Steenson as the first ordinary and designated Our Lady of Walsingham parish in Houston, Texas, as the principal church of the new ordinariate, writes Michael Sean Winters.
Fr Steenson, 59, was the Episcopal bishop of Rio Grande, Texas, before converting to Catholicism in 2007. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2009. Because he is married,
he cannot be ordained a bishop under the norms for the ordinariates set by the Vatican.
“I ask for your prayers for me and for those who will become members of the ordinariate,” Fr Steenson said in a statement.
“There is so much to learn, and it is a steep learning curve. Be patient with us as we embark on this journey. Pray that we may strive to learn the faith, laws, and culture of the Catholic Church with humility and good cheer. But pray too that we do not forget who we are and where we have come from.”
■ RUSSIA: The Russian Orthodox Church has supported demands for an investigation of alleged vote-rigging in December elections, which were narrowly won by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party, writes Jonathan Luxmoore.
“We can’t say today whether those voicing accusations are right or wrong,” Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, head of the Church’s Synodal Department for Church-Society Relations, told the Orthodox Soyuz TV channel. “But it’s very important all claims of dishonest vote-counting and violations in election arrangements get a proper answer – they shouldn’t be left hanging.”
The priest was speaking as protests continued against the 4 December ballot, in which United Russia gained less than 50 per cent of votes after dominating previous elections. He said Russian society needed a “serious dialogue” over how elections were conducted in order to “avoid extremes in political life”.
26 | THE TABLET | 7 January 2012