"Whatever is needed to complete this project, even in phases rather than only as a whole, should be explored for its practicability," said the New York archbishop and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in an evening talk at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. "Whatever the archives hold, the Catholic Church does not fear the truth about the often heroic and sometimes disgraceful conduct of her leaders and members during the Second World War," he added. The archbishop, a trained historian who served as the bishops' liaison for Catholic-Jewish relations until his election as USCCB president in November, said he sometimes hears questions about how the church can consider both Pope Pius XII and Pope John Paul II as candidates for beatification. But, he said, "what constitutes holiness of life --- that is to say, closeness to and friendship with God --- is not measured in the same way as political, social or financial success."
Vatican commission expresses deep concern over relations with China
VATICAN CITY (CNS) --- A Vatican commission on China expressed deep concern over worsening relations with the Chinese government and appealed to authorities there to avoid steps that would aggravate church-state problems. Specifically, the commission urged Chinese authorities not to persist in imposing new government-backed bishops who do not have the approval of Pope Benedict XVI. Titled a "Message to Chinese Catholics," the text was issued April 14 following a three-day annual meeting of the commission at the Vatican. The commission expressed joy at the news that the Diocese of Shanghai was launching the beatification cause of Paul Xu Guangqi, a Chinese scholar who worked closely with the famed Jesuit missionary, Father Matteo Ricci, in the 16th and 17th centuries. Pope Benedict met with commission members at the end of their encounter, praising Chinese Catholics' desire for unity with Rome and underlining the importance of spiritual formation in confronting present challenges. The commission's message began by noting the "general climate of disorientation and anxiety about the future" of the church in China, following recent setbacks in church-state relations. It said that given the numerous vacant dioceses in China, the selection of new bishops was an urgent necessity and at the same time "a source of deep concern."
Pope earmarks Holy Thursday collection for disaster relief in Japan
VATICAN CITY (CNS) --- Pope Benedict XVI has decided the collection taken up at his Holy Thursday evening Mass will be used to help those affected by the devastating earthquake and tsunami in northeast Japan. The March 11 disaster left more than 13,000 people dead and another 13,700 unaccounted for. More than 150,000 were made homeless and many lost their jobs, especially in the fishing industry. Each year, the pope chooses where to send the collection taken up during the Mass of the Lord's Supper at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome. Pope Benedict's decision to use the collection from the Mass April 21 to support Japanese earthquake and tsunami victims was announced by the Vatican April 14. In announcing the pope's decision to use the Holy Thursday collection for Japan, the Vatican also published the pope's Holy Week schedule. The pope was to celebrate the usual slate of Holy Week and Easter liturgies: Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square April 17; the chrism Mass in the morning April 21 in St. Peter's Basilica; the Mass of the Lord's Supper that evening; on Good Friday, April 22, the afternoon liturgy of the Lord's Passion in St. Peter's Basilica, followed by the nighttime Way of the Cross; the Easter Vigil April 23 in St. Peter's Basilica; and Easter morning Mass April 24 in St. Peter's Square.
Mexican bishop says priest abandoned parish after threats
MEXICO CITY (CNS) --- A Mexican bishop said at least one priest has abandoned his parish in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, where the bodies of at least 122 abducted and murdered bus passengers have been pulled from mass graves within the first half of April. Matamoros Bishop Faustino Armendariz Jimenez told reporters April 13 that at least one priest from a municipality near where the mass graves were discovered had fled after being threatened and subjected to harassment by presumed members of organized crime. He added that other priests have encountered difficulties traveling in the state, which is plagued by highway checkpoints manned by organized criminal groups such as Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel. "We've had (incidents) at the armed checkpoints," Bishop Armendariz said in comments published by the newspaper El Universal. "Thanks to God, we're still here. Fortunately, nothing has happened, but we travel with fear." The bishop spoke as Mexico confronted the horror of another mass slaying in Tamaulipas, where Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel have fought over lucrative drug-smuggling routes and carried out crimes such as extortion and the kidnapping of undocumented migrants with impunity. Tamaulipas state officials report having pulled at least 122 bodies from mass graves in the municipality of San Fernando, which is part of the Diocese of Matamoros and approximately 85 miles south of the Texas border at Brownsville.