Archive for the ‘13 History’ Category

Digitalization of Ancient Manuscripts

In 13 History on 2015/12/11 at 12:00 AM

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The Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford and the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican Library) have joined efforts in a landmark digitization project with the aim of opening up their repositories of ancient texts. Over the course of the next four years, 1.5 million pages from their remarkable collections will be made freely available online to researchers and to the general public.

The initiative has been made possible by a £2 million award from the Polonsky Foundation. Dr Leonard Polonsky, who is committed to democratizing access to information, sees the increase of digital access to these two library collections — among the greatest in the world — as a significant step in sharing intellectual resources on a global scale.

Dr Polonsky said: ‘Twenty-first-century technology provides the opportunity for collaborations between cultural institutions in the way they manage, disseminate and make available for research the information, knowledge and expertise they hold. I am pleased to support this exciting new project where the Bodleian Libraries and the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana will make important collections accessible to scholars and the general public worldwide.’

The digitization project will focus on three main groups of texts: Hebrew manuscripts, Greek manuscripts, and incunabula, or 15th-century printed books. These groups have been chosen for their scholarly importance and for the strength of their collections in both libraries, and they will include both religious and secular texts. For the launch of the project, however, the two libraries have focused on bringing to light a smaller group of Bibles and biblical commentaries, each of which has been chosen for its particular historical importance.

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Milestones in Modern Catholic-Jewish Relations

In 13 History on 2015/12/11 at 12:00 AM

by Lucy Thorson nds & Murray Watson

Since the Second World War, the Catholic Church has been involved in a deliberate process of rethinking its relationship to Judaism and the Jewish people. Especially in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, Catholic-Jewish relations have improved tremendously-on local, national and international levels.

As several Jewish and Catholic leaders have noted, there have probably been more positive encounters between Jews and Catholics in the last sixty years than in the previous fifteen hundred. These years have been a time of renewal, hope and growing cooperation between these two faiths evidenced by the multitude of Catholic-Jewish dialogue groups, organizations and institutions that have emerged throughout the world since Vatican II.

The following listing of events provides a taste of how relations between Catholics and Jews have been changing and developing in recent decades – and this is a journey that has only just begun.

1947 Ten Points of Seelisberg: An international conference of Jews, Protestants and Catholics, gathered in Switzerland to confront the reality of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, issues a series of ten principles to guide Christian teaching and preaching when referring to Jews and Judaism.

1959 Good Friday Prayer: Pope John XXIII modifies the intercessory prayer for the Jews in the Church’s Good Friday liturgy by suppressing the term “perfidious (faithless, unbelieving) Jews.” Over the years, the prayer continues to undergo revision to bring it more in keeping with the renewal in Church teaching about the Jews and Judaism.

1960 Pope John XXIII and Jules Isaac: Jules Isaac, a noted French Jewish historian, presents Pope John XXIII with historical documentation on Christian anti-Judaism and attitudes which contributed to the Holocaust.

1965 Vatican II and Nostra Aetate: Called by Pope John XXIII, the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) issues Nostra Aetate (The Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions.) Nostra Aetate No. 4 addresses the issue of Christian attitudes towards the Jewish people. This document marks the end of a long era in the history of Catholic-Jewish relations and the beginning of a new age of dialogue between the two ancient communities.

1974 New Vatican Commission: What was formerly the Office for Catholic- Jewish Relations – created in 1966 and attached to the Secretariat for the Promotion of Christian Unity – is renamed the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews.

1974 “Guidelines and Suggestions for Implementing the Conciliar Declaration Nostra Aetate (No. 4)”: This Vatican document proposes some concrete suggestions born of experience to help to promote in the life of the Church the attitudes towards the Jewish people articulated in the 1965 declaration Nostra Aetate No.4. In particular, this document encourages Christians to “acquire a better knowledge of the basic components of the religious tradition of Judaism and to learn by what essential traits the Jews define themselves in light of their own religious experience.”

1978 Karol Wojtyla elected Pope: From the beginning of his twenty-six year pontificate, the newly elected Pope – John Paul II – sets out to build a new relationship between the Church and the Jewish people.

1980 Pope John Paul II – A Covenant Never Revoked: Addressing the Jewish community in Mainz, Germany, John Paul II insists on the eternal validity of God’s covenant with the Jews, a theme repeated in subsequent Church teachings.

1985 “Notes on the Correct Way to Present Jews and Judaism in Preaching and Catechesis in the Roman Catholic Church”: This Vatican document provides a helpful reference for those who teach and preach about Jews and Judaism and wish to do so in accord with the current teaching of the Church.

1986 Pope John Paul II Visits Rome Synagogue: John Paul II becomes the first Pope in history to visit Rome’s chief synagogue. In his speech he reiterates the Second Vatican Council’s condemnation of all discrimination toward the Jews and states: “The Jewish religion is not ‘extrinsic’ to us, but in a certain way is ‘intrinsic’ to our own religion. With Judaism therefore we have a relationship which we do not have with any other religion. You are our dearly beloved brothers and, in a certain way, it could be said that you are our elder brothers.”

1993 Israel-Vatican Accord: Israel and the Vatican establish full diplomatic ties, easing decades of diplomatic tensions between the two states.

1997 Vatican Symposium “Roots of Anti-Judaism in the Christian Milieu”: Addressing the symposium, John Paul II says, “In the Christian world…erroneous and unjust interpretations of the New Testament regarding the Jewish people…have circulated too long engendering feelings of hostility toward this people.”

1998 “We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah”: In a long -awaited document on the Holocaust, the Church expresses repentance for those Christians who failed to oppose the Nazi persecution of the Jews.

2000 Visit of Pope John Paul II to Israel: Following a Lenten liturgy in which he prayed for God’s forgiveness “for those who have caused these children [the Jews] to suffer” Pope John Paul II undertakes a historic visit to Israel, during which he visits Judaism’s holiest site, the Western Wall, and places in the Wall a copy of his Lenten prayer.

2000-2002 Historic scholarly documents: In 2000, an interdenominational group of Jewish scholars issues Dabru Emet, a consensus document offering eight suggestions about how Jews and Christians might better relate to one another. In 2002, the Christian Scholars Group on Christian -Jewish Relations publishes its response to Dabru Emet, entitled “A Sacred Obligation”.

2002 “The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible”: The Pontifical Biblical Commission publishes a thorough study of the relationship between the New Testament and the Hebrew Scriptures. The document notes that Christians have much to learn from Jewish interpretation of the Bible and confronts the problem of anti-Jewish passages in the New Testament.

2002 Bilateral Commission of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate and the Holy See: As a result of Pope John Paul’s visit to the State of Israel in 2000, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Holy See established a joint commission which has continued to meet annually, to address topics of shared concern, and to strengthen the relationship between the Vatican and the religious leadership of Israel. Together hey have explored the role of Scripture in each faith’s central teachings, the sanctity of human life, freedom of conscience, religious education and other significant matters.

2005 Joseph Ratzinger elected Pope: As a cardinal, Pope Benedict had been a close collaborator with Pope John Paul II in many of his historic interfaith initiatives and writings. In his homily for the Mass inaugurating his papacy, the new Pope specifically mentioned the Jews among those to whom he extended greetings: “With great affection I also greet … you, my brothers and sisters of the Jewish people, to whom we are joined by a great shared spiritual heritage, one rooted in God’s irrevocable promises.” His first official correspondence as Pope was a letter of congratulations to the Chief Rabbi-emeritus of Rome’s Great Synagogue, Dr. Elio Toaff, on the occasion of his 90th birthday.

2005-2010 Pope Benedict pays visits to three synagogues: In August 2005, as part of his pilgrimage to Germany for World Youth Day, the Pope visited the synagogue of Cologne, where he said: “We must come to know one another much more and much better. Consequently, I

would encourage sincere and trustful dialogue between Jews and Christians … Our rich common heritage and our fraternal and more trusting relations call upon us to join in giving an ever more harmonious witness.”

On April 28, 2008, Pope Benedict was the guest of Rabbi Arthur Schneier and the congregation of Park East Synagogue. In his remarks, the Pope said: “”I find it moving to recall that Jesus, as a young boy, heard the words of Scripture and prayed in a place such as this,” and he encouraged everyone present “to continue building bridges of friendship”. In January 2010, Pope Benedict marked Italy’s annual “Day for Judaism” by visiting the main synagogue of Rome, repeating the historic visit first made by his predecessor. There, he invited Jews and Christians to come together to proclaim the religious and ethical teachings they share: “Reawakening in our society openness to the transcendent dimension, witnessing to the one God, is a precious service which Jews and Christians can offer together … Bearing witness together to the supreme value of life against all selfishness, is an important contribution to a new world where justice and peace reign …”.

2005 Papal recommitment to the vision of Nostra Aetate: On the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of Nostra Aetate’s promulgation, Pope Benedict wrote: “The Jewish- Christian dialogue must continue to enrich and deepen the bonds of friendship which have developed, while preaching and catechesis must be committed to ensuring that our mutual relations are presented in the light of the principles set forth by the council.”

2007 Pope quotes Jewish rabbi-scholar in his own book about Jesus: In April, Pope Benedict published the first volume in a trilogy, “Jesus of Nazareth”. In it, he quotes extensively from a 1993 book by Rabbi Jacob Neusner, a distinguished scholar of Judaism, called A Rabbi Talks With Jesus.

2009: Visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Israel and the Palestinian Territories: From May 8 to 15, Pope Benedict visited the Holy Land, meeting with religious and political leaders in both Israel and the Palestinian Territories, visiting major Jewish sites and expressing the solidarity of the Catholic Church with the peoples of that region.

2009 International Council of Christians and Jews issues “A Time For Recommitment” (The Twelve Points of Berlin): More than sixty years after the ICCJ published its seminal “Ten Points of Seelisberg,” the “Twelve Points of Berlin” is issued in July, as an attempt to address key topics in Jewish-Christian relations in the light of the considerable progress in this dialogue, and to provide guiding principles for the future.

Sisters of Sion  Dynamic Movement of the Spirit #33

Matteo Ricci 1552 – 1610 利玛窦; 利瑪竇; 西泰 Xītài)

In 13 History on 2015/11/06 at 12:00 AM

In 1582, Matteo Ricci, a Jesuit barely thirty years old, entered China looking more like a Buddhist monk than a priest.  Like Francis Xavier and later  Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Matteo firmly believed that cultural adaptation was essential for missionaries and that missionaries must adapt to the culture surrounding them unless in some way that culture directly contradicted the Christian faith.

China which considered itself the most ancient civilization of the world believed itself to be the only “real” civilized country in the world.  The Chinese did not believe foreigners had anything of value to teach them and feared the destabilizing effects a new religion might introduce.  China’s government had, therefore, in the past rejected every attempt made to introduce Christianity to China.

Matteo Ricci was born at a unique time when the scientific and technological innovations of the the Renaissance days had reached full bloom.  Matteo had a bag of tricks with him that would fascinate the Chinese.  And that cornucopia of information, new ideas and gadgets included clocks,  prisms, composition of light, perspective, mathematics applied to physics, map-making and printed books.

With genius rapidity, Ricci mastered the Mandarin language of the cultured.  He spoke to them about Christ and skillfully used the wise sayings of the Chinese when those sayings agreed with Christian doctrine.  His success was impressive: “Without going out of the house, we preach to the Gentiles, some of whom are converted.”

Ricci and his Chinese fellow-workers devised a system to write Chinese phonetically.  He then translated scores of western scientific works into Chinese, works that were printed along with a primer on Christian doctrine.

Unbelievably, Ricci was admitted into the Emperor’s court in the Forbidden City.  The Emperor was absolutely fascinated by Ricci and clocks.  Ricci had learned much from his mentor, the famous Jesuit Christopher Clavius, a mathematical genius (the greatest mathematician of his time), the maker of the Gregorian Calendar and a supporter of Galileo.

Possessing a unique sense of history, the Chinese people later often asked: “Why did we not hear of Christianity earlier?  Why is it all new and strange to us?  Had God forgotten us for all the centuries of our ancestors?”  The answer came later, in 1623, when a monument was discovered and authenticated by many scholars.  It was a long inscribed tablet in Chinese relating a Syrian mission to China which started about 600 AD in the days of the T’ang dynasty.  Sadly,  persecutions suppressed this and later efforts.

By the time Ricci died in 1610, he had brought more than four hundred converts to Christianity.  Within years of his death, that number grew to one hundred and fifty thousand.  Matteo Ricci was buried inside the Forbidden City and is the only westerner ever to have that honor.  On his grave marker is inscribed the list of high ranking Chinese who had become Christians. This grave preserved from desecration during the rampage of Mao’s Red Terror.

Robert Bellarmine had also been an advocate of Galileo and Ricci and had supported the permission granting to Chinese priests the permission to celebrate the Mass in Chinese and cover their heads according to the Chinese custom.  With Papal approval, the monumentally difficult task of translating the Bible into Chinese began.  However, the vice-president of the Board of Rites in Nanking destroyed those plans by launching a virulent persecution against Christians.

Matteo Ricci had laid a foundation for the Faith among the Chinese people. The church Ricci planted has stood ever since.  The Catholic Church in China, while mainly underground, is vital and constantly watered with the blood of martyrs, which as Origen said is “seed.”

Theodore Ratisbonne

In 13 History on 2015/06/26 at 12:00 AM

The Sisters of Sion Congregation was founded on a threefold commitment: to the Church, to the Jewish people and to a world of justice, peace and love.

Such a unique vision came to be through a Jewish man, Theodore Ratisbonne, born in Strasbourg , France in 1802. His family believed deeply in education and established a school in that town and Theodore was its principal.

Meanwhile his own studies led him to study Philosophy with a group of young men. Interestingly, they were guided spiritually by a very wise and learned Catholic woman, Louise Humann. She led him to an in-depth reading of both Jewish and Christian scriptures. Through her, he saw with great clarity the link between the two sacred texts. Always after, he proclaimed that the Old and New Testaments formed one continuous expression of God’s continued faithfulness and love. Together they reveal God’s all embracing love and the biblical call to act to bring about God’s reign.

When Theodore chose to be baptized by Louise in 1827 he had to relinquish his role as principal and experienced a separation from his family. Further study prepared him to be ordained a priestin1830andalongwith theother young men in his group taught near Strasbourg. In 1840, he moved to Paris and his reputation as a preacher and as a sound spiritual director of women grew.

His thoughts and words were grounded in the Scriptures, a practice that was not so common at the time. He was so steeped in the Word of God that his own vocabulary was biblical in tone and values. Many of the women he guided spiritually urgedhimtoformareligious community but he was hesitant until an event of January 20, 1842.

His youngest brother, Alphonse, visiting Rome, had an experience of the Blessed Virgin Mary which he simply called ‘light’. It led him to be baptized within 12 days andlaterbecomeapriest.Thiswas a sign for Theodore to form a community of religious women. Both brothers, henceforth shared a vision to ‘journey by the light of the Word of God and Mary’.

At the time of Theodore’s death in 1884, the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion were established equally in three distinct areas, one third in each of Muslim countries, in Orthodox countries and in CatholicEurope.Theodore insisted we have hearts “ bigger than the world”.

Sisters of Sion Dynamic Movement of the Holy Spirit #23


In 13 History on 2015/06/05 at 12:00 AM

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Sr. Audrey Gerwing (a Catholic Sister of Sion) writes of the experience she and Sr. Marge Zdunich had this summer.

“Marge and I began our pilgrimage to Poland long before we ever left Canada. We spent many hours preparing, reading, talking and discussing what we wanted to see and experience in our time in Poland. All the prep work bore much fruit in the 10 days we were in Poland.

We began in Warsaw where we followed the paths of the Jewish People from the beginning of their life in Poland and ending with the death of over 500,000 Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto. There really was NOTHING to see–nothing was left standing; it had all been destroyed by Hitler and his henchmen; not a stone was left upon stone. So we had to do our own investigation and searching. It was like trying to find the needle in the hay stack–only the hay stack had been removed! The Ghetto of 1940 was huge and ran the entire north – south of Warsaw covering over 2.4% of city of Warsaw; small by any modern standards and yet contained over 400,000 Jews. After much walking in and out of small streets, and corners we finally found plaques that revealed some of the important places in the ghetto such as Mila 18, the last stand of the resistance ghetto fighters, the “umshlaplatz” where the Jews were rounded up and put on transports, one synagogue that had been restored since then. And finally we found the old cemetery dating back from the 12 th century. In this cemetery there were many tombs for those who died in the ghetto.

From Warsaw we went to Krakow where we spent 4 days with Sion and then went to Auschwitz and Berkenau the largest death camps during the war. I cannot adequately describe these camps…the electrified fences keeping people in and others out….the hundreds of packed barracks, the smell of which must have been something akin to rotten fish…..the killing walls where prisoners were summarily shot mostly to keep people in fear of even thinking of escaping or rebelling….and yet the rebellion was visible – so visible that the letter ‘B’ on the entrance to A was upside down. We walked for hours and never came to the end of the camps. The second day we were there we did the way of the cross at A-B with a friend of Marge and mine. It was the right way for us to be there – as Christians asking and seeking forgiveness….praying for the women who were martyred there…being crucified just for being Jewish, or Polish or a resister….the largest cemetery in the entire world is here; and for me, in the end, the resurrection came in the form of a gentle breeze that accompanied us along this journey; a gentle breeze that was so refreshing in the heat of the day; a gentle breeze that seemed to say to us: we are the Ruah of God, we are the breathe of God breathing new life into this place. We who have been martyred are with The Holy One forever – this place is not the last word. We finished with saying Kaddish for all those who perished there – Jews and non-Jews.“


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Sisters of Sion Dynamic Movement of the Holy Spirit #25

Thanksgiving for Catholic Faith

In 13 History on 2014/11/21 at 12:00 AM

by Mary Ellen Bork, Register Correspondent  originally posted on Thursday, Nov 28, 2013 

“What madman would exchange present gifts for those unseen? You fly from real blessings, blessings unreal you chase. Purge, I pray, these vain dreams from your fevered mind, and drive the hope deep-embedded far from your heart.”

Charles Carroll, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, wrote these lines in 1753, while at St. Omer’s College, in a poem recently discovered at the Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst College in England.

This discovery came from the oldest surviving museum collection in the English-speaking world, and its directors are eager to make its riches more available through digitizing and expansion.

On a visit to the United States, Lord David Alton, a prominent British Catholic and pro-life leader and an advocate for religious freedom, and Lord Nicholas Windsor, cousin to Queen Elizabeth II and a Catholic convert, said they see this collection of artifacts, relics and art as a critical reminder of what religious freedom costs, namely the blood of martyrs.

Catholic Carrolls

Meanwhile, the Carroll poem underscores the connection between America’s founding and the Jesuit school that formed not only Charles, but his cousin, John Carroll, who became the first bishop of Baltimore. For them, faith was not a “vain dream,” but the light that guided them in striving for religious freedom for Catholics in America. Catholics were disenfranchised until the Declaration of Independence.

Both Charles and John Carroll, inspired by their knowledge of English Catholic history, fought for the right of Catholics to practice their religion at a time of strong anti-Catholic sentiment.

Knowing more about the history of the English Catholic struggle can better prepare us for the work of re-evangelization and defending our own religious freedom. Remembering our past will give us hope for the future.

Curator Jan Graffius said that Charles Carroll was 17 when he wrote this poem in Latin for a recitation on the feast of St. Cecilia. The tyrant Amachius, having sentenced Cecilia to death, pressured her to worship Roman gods in order to save her life, her youth and her beauty. The poem shows that young Charles saw clearly the corrosiveness of compromise.

Recitation formed an important part of the Jesuit education that started in the school, originally called St. Omer’s, which was founded in 1593 by Father Robert Persons during the persecution of Catholics by Queen Elizabeth I. There were no Catholic schools allowed in England, so the boys were smuggled out of their country to the school outside of Calais in France, then under Spanish rule. If they were caught leaving England, the penalty was imprisonment or death.

The school’s brave mission is engraved above the door: “Jesus, Jesus, convert England; may it be, may it be.” Many students became priests and went back to England to preach the faith.

Saving History

How did Stonyhurst come to have such a collection? English Catholics lived under severe restrictions after Henry VIII outlawed the practice of Catholicism in 1535 and destroyed churches, smashed altars and confiscated monasteries and property. Many Catholics hid sacred vessels, vestments, monstrances, prayerbooks and relics in their homes or buried them in their back yards, while threatened with death or imprisonment. Slowly, these sacred items found their way to St. Omer’s, where they were carefully kept and venerated, inculcating in the students deep respect for the sacrifices of martyrs like Edmund Campion, a young eloquent Jesuit priest, and Robert Southwell, a young Jesuit poet.

The school moved several times, as political power shifted. Finally, in 1753, when the Jesuit order was suppressed, the school moved to Liege. In 1774, during the French Revolution, it finally moved to Stonyhurst in Lancashire, northeast of Liverpool.

Stonyhurst was founded in response to religious persecution in the 16th century and is the oldest surviving Jesuit school in England.

When he walks through Westminster Hall, where Sts. Thomas More and Edmund Campion were tried, Lord Alton recalls how “a faith worth dying for is a faith worth living for.” He sees the establishment of a Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst as an inspiring and intelligent way to present and safeguard the richness of the Church for future generations, because “our Christian heritage is being eroded particularly by aggressive forms of secularism and atheism.”

The church on the grounds has already been restored, and now there are plans to build a new library that will give digital access to Stonyhurst’s remarkable collection. The third phase of the project is to build a retreat and study center. The final phase is to develop the College Mill into a full-fledged museum to house the collection.

The Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst stands as a call to know our history, and the many examples of heroism and holiness preserved there are a call to witness to strengthen and encourage us to work for religious freedom.

As American Catholics, we can be grateful again to our English cousins for their careful attention to their own precious and difficult history. Now, it is our turn to defend the freedom we have inherited with the same faith they showed.

Mary Ellen Bork is the widow

of Judge Robert Bork.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/site/article/thanksgiving-for-the-catholic-faith/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NCRegisterDailyBlog+National+Catholic+Register#When:2013-11-28%2011:15:01#ixzz2lxVUAJww

Preservation of Catholic Heritage

In 13 History on 2014/11/07 at 12:00 AM

The Apostolic and Nicean Fathers preserved the original teachings of Jesus Christ which he gave to the Apostles and are abiding witnesses to this teaching, also referred to as “Sacred Tradition.”  Together, Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture are primary and foundational to Christian Doctrine.  Both flow from the same source: Christ.

Sacred Tradition predates the Church Fathers; the Fathers did not invent Sacred Tradition, but are simply “timely witnesses” to Sacred Tradition which comes from Christ Himself.  To know the Church Fathers is to know Truth. The Fathers teach with authority and are witnesses to the unbroken continuity of Church teaching.

It’s interesting to note that the early Church Fathers did not include their own writings in the canon of Sacred Scripture.  Rather, they included only the writings of Christ’s apostles up to the writings of John.

What the Apostles and Church Fathers warned the Early Church of still holds true today.  Paul warned that heretical teachers would pervert Scripture.  Augustine explained that heresies would arise through Scripture being misunderstood properly.  Essentially, heresy is stressing certain passages of Scripture more or to the exclusion of other passages, interpreting Scripture at will and losing sight of the unity that exists in Scripture.  In short, heresy can occur when Scripture is interpreted or misinterpreted out of context of the cannon of Scripture in its entirety.

John Henry Newman wrote of  ideas or concepts that begot heresies in his day and which still spawn heresies now:

1. That truth and falsehood in religion are but a matter of opinion;

2. That one doctrine is as good as another;

3. That God does not intend we should gain the truth;

4. That there is no truth;

5. That we are not more acceptable to God by believing one thing than by believing another;

6. That no one is answerable for his opinions;

7. That they are a matter of necessity or accident;

8. That it is enough if we sincerely hold what we profess;

9. That our merit lies in seeking not possessing;

10. That it is a duty to follow what seems to us true, without a fear lest it should not be true;

11. That it may be a gain to succeed, and can be no harm or fail;

12. That we may take up and lay down opinions at pleasure;

13. That belief belongs to the mere intellect, not to the heart and will also; and

14. That we may safely trust to ourselves in matters of Faith, and need no other guide.

Unfortunately, Luther and Calvin originally cited the Church Fathers in justifying their interpretations, but, by emphasizing the doctrine of “Scripture alone,” they explicitly excluded the teachings of the Fathers of the Church.

St. Vincent of Lerins summed it up in a formula: “The Truth is what has been taught everywhere, always, and by all.   Blessed John Henry Newman, described the nature of their testimony more analytically: “The Fathers  do not say, ‘This is true because we see it in Scripture’ – about which there might be differences in judgment- but, “this is true because in matters of fact it is held, and has ever been held, by all the churches down to our times, without interruption, ever since the Apostles.” Newman maintained that “the Church teaches that the ‘common doctrine of the Fathers’ may not be opposed.”  He further wrote that this “consensus of the Fathers” is best discerned by the living Magisterium of the Church.

The First Vatican Council (1869-70) confirmed the decision of the Council of Trent (1545-63) saying that “it is not permissible for anyone to interpret Holy Scripture in a sense contrary to this, or indeed against the unanimous consent of the Fathers.”  Newman was cited consistently in discussions during Vatican II discussions.

It was after reading the writings of the Church Fathers that Newman himself, Oxford’s famous Anglican divine, became a Catholic.  In his “Apologia Pro Vita Sua”, he states: “I looked into the mirror, and I saw myself an Arian.”

Researching the writings of the Church Fathers may also lead you to a new home, a new Church.

Pius XII knew he would be misunderstood, theologian says

In 13 History on 2014/05/30 at 12:00 AM


Vatican City, Sep 26, 2013 / 05:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A priest who knew Pius XII personally and had access to “every strip of paper” in the Vatican archives says the pontiff believed he did the right thing during the holocaust despite knowing he would be questioned.

Ninety year-old Father Peter Gumpel, a former professor at the Gregorio University in Rome for 25 years, was simultaneously appointed as a Theological Consultant to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and as Assistant Postulator General.

He was personally acquainted with Pope Pius XII, and has met every pontiff since with the exception of John Paul I.

The work that Fr. Gumpel was assigned as a theological consultant was to “examine everything” related to Pius XII and other causes of interest, and to present the information in a “historically and theologically accurate way to the congregation before they start to discuss it,” he told CNA in a Sept. 17 interview.

The cause of canonization for Pius XII was overseen by Fr. Gumpel, who was in charge of the research needed in order to prove the late pope’s heroic virtue.

“I had absolute access to every strip of paper that is in the Vatican archives,” he said. “The period of Pius the XII is not yet accessible to scholars, but as a responsible investigating judge, I had to see everything.”

The priest added that he studied “about 100,000 pages” in documents and correspondence in the life of the pontiff.

In his research, Fr. Gumpel confirmed that there were already some who opposed the Pope’s course of action during the Nazi persecution of World War II in the 1940s, and that Pius XII himself was aware of it.

The late pontiff faced criticism then and in subsequent decades for being perceived as silent or inactive in the face of the holocaust. It is believed, however, that the Pope chose to help the victimized secretly so as not to provoke increased persecution by the Nazis.

“He knew that some of his measures were not pleasing to everybody,” Fr. Gumpel noted, and that “at a certain moment he said, ‘I know that what I am going to do will not be pleasing to everybody, but I am going to do it because in conscience I feel that it is my duty to do it.’”

“So he was aware that there would be opposition. It is an attitude that any person with higher responsibility has to take.”

Fr. Gumpel recalled how some during the time of the war thought that the Church should publicly react against the holocaust, but stressed that this “was totally useless.”

“Anytime anybody made a public protest, it aggravated the situation.”

“If you find documents from the Polish episcopacy during the occupation of the Germans of Poland,” he said, it was clearly pleaded “‘don’t speak out, it doesn’t help anything, it only makes things worse.’”

“The same happened in the German resistance movement against Hitler. They said, ‘For Heaven’s sake, don’t say anything because it will make the situation, the persecution will be even worse.’”

Pius XII, he emphasized, “knew that this in the future would be misunderstood.”

“People who had no responsibility in government, who had never dealt with a situation like this, would not understand it,” Fr. Gumpel said, quoting a Jewish lawyer named Kempner who defended Pope Pius XII by saying “the only thing to do was to help people in secrecy as much as possible.”

Another aspect of Pius XII that Fr. Gumpel believes is “very much unknown to people,” is the pastoral heart of the late pope.

“He was always presented as a diplomat,” Fr. Gumpel said, referencing the late pope’s natural gifting and service in this area.

The priest explained that Pius XII had been a bright student, and was asked by a high-ranking official of the Secretary of State on behalf of the Pope to come into the diplomatic service of the Holy See.

However, “he wanted to become a parish priest,” Fr. Gumpel noted, stressing that Pope Pius XII was always primarily concerned with the care of souls. He “didn’t want to become a diplomat,” but did so out of obedience.

Other causes for canonization under Father Gumpel’s jurisdiction that have received decree on the diversity of virtues — meaning, their heroic virtue has been proved — are Mother Katherine Drexel and Cardinal John Henry Newman.

The Cripple Saint

In 13 History on 2014/04/18 at 12:00 AM

It was Paderewski’s aunt who convinced her sister that she should not abort her child because she might be depriving the world of a great person.   The world of music would have never had the privilege of hearing this magnificent pianist, the pride of Poland.

Had Herman von Reichenau lived in our times and been aborted because test showed he had many serious crippling defects, the world would have been deprived of a superb chronicler, mathematician, poet, musician.  But fortunately he was born in 1054  and when his parents could not assist him properly, they requested that the abbot of Reicheneau  take him into the monastery for care.

There is was discovered that he was uniquely intellectually gifted.  Conquering his physical weakness with his strong will, he showed early his genius in theology, astronomy, mathematics, music and wrote on those topics.  In addition he had a great proficiency in languages including Greek, Latin, Arabic.  He also constructed musical and astronomical instruments.  

Having taken monastic vows, Herman, the cripple, as he was known to all,  lived a life of virtue and was loved by all because of his charming and kindly personality.

To him we are indebted for the prayer with which we end the rosary: the Hail Holy Queen which he composed to music and whose words reflect his sufferings and recourse to the heavenly mother God gave us while on the Cross.

An exemplary Priest-Martyr Vladimir Ghinka Continues to Inspire Romania’s Catholics

In 13 History on 2014/02/13 at 12:00 AM

Anton Balint, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of BucharestBlessed Vladimir Ghika– Anton Balint, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Bucharest
The beloved Romanian monsignor, who died in prison in 1954 following two years of torture, was beatified in Bucharest.
BUCHAREST, Romania — The life of a saint can be part parable, part thriller and, often, part nightmare — but always 100% inspiration.

A beloved Romanian priest, Vladimir Ghika, was beatified Aug. 31 before 10,000 people at a Mass in Bucharest celebrated by Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, together with Cardinal André Vingt-Trois of Paris, Romania’s sole cardinal, Lucian Muresan, and more than 200 other priests and bishops.

Msgr. Ghika’s sacred story reads like a novel with a tragic ending.

Descended from French and Romanian nobility, Ghika was born on Christmas in 1873 in Constantinople, where his father was serving as ambassador to the Ottoman Court. He was baptized into the Orthodox faith of his parents.

Educated in medicine, botany, art and political science in France, he was ultimately drawn to theology and thus to Rome, where he converted to Catholicism at age 29.

On the advice of his friend Pope Pius X, this refined, cosmopolitan prince — he spoke 22 languages  — became a lay missionary, igniting charity efforts on behalf of the Church in Europe and beyond, traveling to the Congo, Tokyo, Sydney and Buenos Aires.

Pope Pius XI nicknamed him the “major apostolic vagabond.”

Back in his fatherland, he created a foundation for Catholic charity work: establishing the first free medical clinic in Bucharest and the country’s first ambulance service.

He traveled to dangerous war zones to care for the wounded and refugees as well as victims of cholera epidemics. During World War I, the Vatican gave him diplomatic assignments on top of his humanitarian work. It is said that Pope Pius XI gave him an assignment to go to Russia to convert Lenin, but when he arrived, Lenin had just died.

Most of these global missions were financed through personal wealth.

WWII Ministry

Finally, Vladimir Ghika was ordained at age 49 by the cardinal of Paris in 1923. He spent the next seven years ministering in the poorest, most dangerous part of Paris, Villejuif.

In August 1939, on the eve of World War II, he returned to Romania as the first priest, with papal approval, to celebrate both the Latin Catholic Mass and the Byzantine-rite liturgy, locally known as the Greek Catholic Church, which follows Orthodox ritual while being loyal to Rome.

At the time, Romania’s Catholic community comprised almost 12% of the population: 1.4 million Greek Catholics and approximately 700,000 Latin-rite Catholics.

Known to all as “Monsignor,” his base was a small hospital chapel in Bucharest, Sacre Coeur, from where he crisscrossed the city, carrying a cardboard valise with priestly essentials.

Europe’s war cataclysms multiplied demands on the servants of Christ. Msgr. Ghika ministered to refugees from Poland and elsewhere and to other victims of war.

In 1944, American and British air forces bombarded strategic resources in Romania, such as oil fields utilized by the German army. Some 3,000 Romanians were killed in these air attacks. Mgsr. Ghika habitually accompanied terrified citizens into bunkers.

Every week, he celebrated Mass at a jail for prostituted women. Once while there, aerial bombing erupted. Instead of leaving the prison for shelter with the guards, the priest stayed to pray with the stigmatized prisoners who had no chance of escape if they were hit.

“To console another person in God’s name is our power to offer something more true than pain,” the holy man wrote.

Prison and Martyrdom

As World War II ended, the Soviet Union positioned itself to take over exhausted neighbors such as Romania. With writing on the wall that the new communist leadership being imposed would not be friendly to property owners or priests, Vladimir Ghika’s family urged him to leave alongside others fleeing communist oppression.

The priest’s response was typically sacrificial: “If God wants me here, then here I remain.”

He even passed up a spot on the king’s own train (Romania was a constitutional monarchy), which left the country for good in December 1947, when the communists forced King Michael to abdicate or die.

Between 1948 and 1952, every Catholic bishop and auxiliary in Romania was arrested and jailed. The new regime set out to create a new Catholic hierarchy, appointed by the political power and no longer loyal to the Holy See. The project failed, as each Catholic cleric chose punishment over capitulation.

In 1952, the Securitate (political police) came for Msgr. Ghika, grabbing him and shoving him into a car as he walked down the street in priestly garb.

Greek-Catholic leader Father Matei Boila was a young victim of the regime who remembers the day the legendary priest appeared in a Jilava jail cell in a video interview: “A very old, very thin man with a white beard, wearing long underwear and nothing else, was pushed into our cell, the cell of political prisoners. The whisper went through our group — it’s Msgr. Ghika! We rushed to greet him, dress him. The guards had stripped off his priestly clothes, so he had almost nothing on.”

“Each of us presented ourselves to him in turn. When I gave my name — because I had never met him personally — he took my hand and said, ‘I know your sister and brother. We have prayed for you. You are blessed by God for the Church,’” Father Boila remembered.

“I told him, ‘No. I don’t really have anything to do with the Church,’ because I was a young idiot then. And Monsignor looked into my eyes: ‘I know better than you do. You are blessed for the Church.’”

“Suddenly, it was as though I had returned home, a place I didn’t know how much I missed. It was a gaze I’ll never forget. He changed my life,” Father Boila concluded.

Throughout his internment until his death on May 16, 1954, Msgr.Ghika was a medical and spiritual doctor to the inmates, especially the young.

Thirty direct witnesses testified to Msgr. Ghika’s holiness while in jail, where various sociopathic torture techniques were employed to get him to confess to being a traitor for communicating with the Vatican.

Msgr. Ghika was starved. He was beaten. Guards ordered dogs to attack him. Over 80 times, he was tortured with electric shocks and strangulation. A firing squad was assembled to shoot him, but it was all a game, as they used blanks; it was a sick stunt to make him confess. He didn’t. Eventually, he lost his eyesight and hearing as a result of brutality.

Near death, in describing his time in prison, he declared, “Nothing is more precious than being jailed for Jesus Christ. The prison is holy, and we didn’t even suspect it.”

According to witnesses, the only time Msgr. Ghika cried was when the jailers denied him a Catholic priest to hear his last confession.

On his prison deathbed, he was assisted by men who happened to be in Jilava at the same time: an Orthodox priest, a Protestant minister, a Tartar imam and a young Jewish inmate.

A Luminous Model

The enthusiasm with which Blessed Vladimir Ghika’s beatification was received — a standing-room-only crowd packed a huge exhibition hall for the Mass, which was broadcast live on TV — shows that holiness is a story, no matter how tragic in real time, that ends in triumph.

For Archbishop Ioan Robu of Bucharest, who guided relentless efforts to assemble documents from around the world on behalf of this martyr’s cause, Blessed Vladimir is especially luminous as a model for believers today.

“His limitless charity extended to all people, of all faiths, everywhere,” Archbishop Robu told the Register. “His capacity for forgiveness was infinite too.”

Explained Archishop Robu, “Most inspiring to me was his ability to see God in all things. In this, he provides us with a perfect model of faith for our Year of Faith.”

Register correspondent Victor Gaetan writes from Washington.

He is a contributor to Foreign Affairs magazine

National Catholic Review.  Originally appeared on 9/6/13.

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