ROME -- In a post-modern, pragmatic, "gimme-something-that-works" sort of world, Eastern religions have had considerable success in exporting elements of their spirituality and tradition that meet perceived contemporary needs. Plenty of fitness-conscious people have been exposed to Hinduism through yoga, for example, just as many stressed-out Westerners have been intrigued by Buddhism though transcendental meditation (TM).
VATICAN CITY -- Just in case Catholics are wondering if a new iPhone app might be able to forgive their sins, the Vatican has issued a clarification: No.
“One may not speak in any sense of confessing via iPhone,” Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, said in a statement on Wednesday.
According to its U.S. producers, “Confession: A Roman Catholic App” is designed to help users prepare for confession through a “personalized examination of conscience for each user, password protected profiles, and a step-by-step guide to the sacrament.”
The Indiana-based company, Little iApps LLC, says its app is the first to receive an imprimatur, or official permission for publication, from a Catholic bishop—in this case, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
Lombardi said the “Sacrament of Penance necessarily requires the relationship of personal dialogue between the penitent and the confessor and absolution by the confessor present.”
“This cannot be substituted for by any information technology application,” he said.
VATICAN CITY -- Controversies over bioethical standards at U.S. Catholic hospitals show the need for greater Catholic education for health care workers, Vatican officials said Thursday (Feb. 3).
Church leaders said a new set of biomedical guidelines will be published later this year, as well as a separate document on AIDS prevention after last year’s controversial remarks by Pope Benedict XVI on the morality of condom use.
The announcement, at a press conference to publicize educational initiatives of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, did not include a publication date for the AIDS document.
Bishop Jose L. Redrado, secretary of the council, said Catholic facilities are confronting a “culture of death” following disputes over a 2009 abortion at a Catholic hospital in Arizona that doctors said was necessary to save the mother’s life. Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted stripped the hospital of its Catholic affiliation and excommunicated its chief ethicist.
Such disputes show the need to translate church teaching into the terms of “modern society,” Redrado said.
VATICAN CITY -- The Brazilian archbishop who now heads the congregation for religious said he almost abandoned the seminary and the Catholic Church because of the ideological excesses that emerged in the early years of liberation theology.
"Personally, I lived with a lot of anguish during the years of the birth of liberation theology," Archbishop Joao Braz de Aviz said in an interview with the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, Feb. 2.
In January, Pope Benedict XVI appointed the former archbishop of Brasilia to head the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
The 63-year-old archbishop said he was studying theology in Rome when the liberation theology movement was building in Latin America, and it was at that time that "I came very close to abandoning my priestly vocation and even the church."
But a strong relationship with the Focolare movement and a dedication to its spirituality of unity "saved me," he said.
Prominent Catholics, reacting to the Jan. 14 announcement that Pope John Paul II will be beatified, have expressed a tension between the desire to recognize the late pope’s holiness while still investigating his actions during his pontificate.
News of the beatification came following official declaration of a miracle attributed to John Paul -- the healing of 49-year-old French Sr. Marie Simon-Pierre, a member of the Little Sisters of Catholic Motherhood, from an aggressive form of Parkinson’s disease.
John Paul’s beatification will take place in a ceremony at the Vatican May 1.
NCR interviews and e-mail exchanges with more than two-dozen prominent Catholics found opinions mixed, with many reluctant to speak publicly on the late pope’s progress toward canonization.
The miracle seems to show that “God is behind” the late pontiff’s beatification, said Jesuit Fr. James Martin, author of My Life With the Saints. “You can’t argue with that.”
When John Paul II is declared “Blessed” on May 1, it will represent the fastest beatification of modern times, narrowly surpassing Mother Teresa. Both, of course, were global celebrities whose deaths prompted grass-roots campaigns for immediate sainthood, and they remain the only two recent cases in which the normal waiting period to launch a cause was set aside.
In light of the speed with which John Paul’s beatification has unfolded, some wonder why the wheels are taking longer to grind for other notable would-be saints: Catholic Worker founder Dorothy Day, for instance, or Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, or the wartime pontiff Pius XII.
In effect, it raises the question: What makes a “fast-track” saint?
In 1983, John Paul overhauled the sainthood process to make it quicker, cheaper and less adversarial, in part because he wanted to lift up contemporary models of holiness. The result is well-known: John Paul presided over more beatifications (1,338) and canonizations (482) than all previous popes combined.
VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican announced a new initiative aimed at promoting dialogue between theists and atheists to be launched with a two-day event this March in Paris.
The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture will sponsor a series of seminars on the theme of “Religion, Light and Common Reason,” at various locations in the city, including Paris-Sorbonne University.
The events will conclude with a party for youth in the courtyard of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, followed by prayer and meditation inside the cathedral.
The initiative, called “Courtyard of the Gentiles,” takes its name from a section of the ancient Temple of Jerusalem accessible to non-Jews, which Pope Benedict XVI has used as a metaphor for dialogue between Catholics and non-believers.
“I believe that the church should also today open a sort of `courtyard of the gentiles’ where men can in some way hook on to God, without knowing him and before having gained access to his mystery,” Benedict said in Dec. 2009.
VATICAN CITY -- If you’re looking for the pope’s Twitter account, keep looking.
There’s @Pope--Benedict, @popebenedictxvi, @Benedict XVI, @PopeBenedict XVI, @Benedict--XVI, @popebenedict--16, @JoeRatzinger and even @pope--benny--16, and none of them are officially sanctioned sites.
So it’s fitting that the real Pope Benedict XVI on Monday cautioned against creating false online profiles on social networks that are now an “integral part of human life.”
VATICAN CITY -- It is "unacceptable" to evangelize without addressing the urgent problems of poverty, injustice and oppression, Pope Benedict XVI said.
To not be concerned with life's temporal problems would be to forget the Gospel teaching to love one's neighbor who is suffering and in need and "it would not be in harmony with Jesus' life," which combined proclaiming the Good News and curing people of disease and illness, the pope said in his message for World Mission Sunday 2011.
The annual observance will be marked Oct. 23 at the Vatican and in most countries.
In his message, released in Italian Jan. 25 at the Vatican, the pope focused on the responsibility of every baptized Christian to announce the Gospel message to all men and women in every corner of the world.
"We cannot remain untroubled by the fact that after 2,000 years, there are still people who don't know Christ and still have not heard his message of salvation," the pope said.
VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI named the president of the Vatican's investment agency to head a new watchdog agency charged with monitoring all Vatican financial operations.
Italian Cardinal Attilio Nicora, 73, is president of the new Financial Information Authority, which the pope instituted Dec. 30 to oversee the monetary and commercial activities of all Vatican-related institutions, including the Vatican bank.
The pope also named the members of the four-person executive board, which together with Cardinal Nicora, will monitor such Vatican agencies as the Vatican City State, the Vatican bank, the Vatican's investment agency and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and smaller agencies such as the Vatican pharmacy, supermarket and the Vatican Museums.
The Vatican released the names in a written statement Jan. 19.
Cardinal Nicora and the executive board will name a director and additional staff by April 1, according to Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman.
The new executive council members are: