Archive for February, 2007


I leave tomorrow morning for Australia for the first meeting of the Passionist International Committee for the World Youth Day 2008. With the announcement of a June date for the Canonisation of Blessed Charles, I really have lots of other things I should be doing, but this is important too (and it really doesn’t do to say No to the General). You can read the Superior General’s letter on the World Youth Day here.

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Last Friday’s Consistory

I arrived at Rome Ciampino airport last Thursday night to attend the Consistory for Blessed Charles (Houben) of Mount Argus et alii and was met by Father Mirek, the rector of Saints John and Paul. My room this time was in the Reparto Campanile, just beside the bell tower.

The next morning, we set out for the Vatican to attend the Consistory which was to begin at eleven o’clock. Fortunately I was with some Passionist Vaticanisti, otherwise I probably would have got lost once I went through the Bronze Door. A flight of stairs brought us to the Court of Saint Damasus. We crossed the courtyard and, after politely stepping back to let some cardinals go first, we entered the building on the other side and took the lift to the second floor. The buttons on the lift were not marked Ground Floor, First Floor, Second Floor, but San Damaso, Prima Loggia, Seconda Loggia. At the end of the long corridor (I should really say Loggia) was the Sala del Concistoro. The five future saints were each allowed twelve guests and, in recognition of the humility of Blessed Charles, the Passionists had been given the seats at the back, which meant that we could misbehave in comfort.

However, just in case we forgot ourselves and started singing and dancing with joy when the Pope made the announcement, the Postulator General (Father Giovanni Zubiani) came up to remind us where we were. Here are the General Consultors revising Courtesy for Clerics with Father Giovanni.

And here is Father Frank Keevins, rector of Mount Argus and vice-postulator of the Cause of Blessed Charles, looking quite chuffed.

I don’t usually put pictures of me on Laus Crucis, but since I’ll probably never be so high up in the Vatican again (Seconda Loggia), here’s a picture of myself and Father Frank.

Sitting in front of us was a group from Malta. I spoke to the lady in front of me and told her that I had received a comment on this blog from a member of M.U.S.E.U.M., the movement founded by Blessed George Preca; you can imagine my surprise when I discovered that this was the lady who had posted the comment.

Here are some of the cardinals waiting for the Pope to arrive. The cardinal in black (with his back to the camera) is the Archbishop of Toledo; Cardinal Arinze is just walking through the door.

Everyone sat down when it was nearly time for the Pope to come in.

The Consistory began with a celebration of Midday Prayer; the schola and organ were just behind us. Here is the Holy Father joining in the singing one of the antiphons.

After the Office, the Cardinal Prefect read something about each of those to be canonised and asked the Holy Father to enrol them among the saints. This (and everything else) was done in Latin.

The Pope then asked if any of the cardinals or bishops had any objections; after a moment of silence, he then said that the five Beati were to be canonised and announced the dates of canonisation. (You can see and hear this bit on the previous post.)

There were some other bits of consistorial business to be done, after which the Holy Father gave his blessing and left. This gave me a chance to take a picture of the room, as everyone else went too.

Here is a picture of the ceiling.

And here is a picture of the hall taken from outside which shows that, in fact, I wasn’t the last one to leave.

Whispers in a Loggia

Father Luis Alberto Cano, General Consultor from Spain.

Father Denis Travers, First General Consultor, apparently being arrested by the Swiss Guard. Father Denis represented the General, Father Ottaviano, who was in the north of Italy presiding at the Provincial Chapter of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Province

On our way downstairs (quicker than the lift), we almost took a wrong turning but were given directions by Cardinal Re; since he appoints the new bishops, I think we’ve all managed to get struck off that list. Here he is in the Court of Saint Damasus (he’s the one in red and white in the centre of the picture) talking to another cardinal before going to lunch.

Father Denis was rescued by Father Frank and the Dutch Provincial, Father Leo.

Father Frank on his way to phone Mount Argus to tell the community to get moving, as the canonisation will be at the beginning of June and not in October as we had expected.

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Pope Benedict in Latin

Here is a half-minute video clip I made of Pope Benedict announcing that the canonisation of Blessed Charles of Mount Argus, Blessed George Preca, Blessed Szymon of Lipnica and Blessed Marie Eugenie de Jesus will be on Sunday, 3 June (in Rome) and that of Blessed Antonio de Santa Ana will be on Friday, 11 May in Brazil.

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Canonisation Date

This morning I was at the Consistory where Pope Benedict announced the date for the Canonisation of Blessed Charles of Mount Argus. It will be on Sunday, 3 June 2007. Pictures and more about the Consistory to follow.

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Whose Human Rights?

Yesterday, Bishop Elio Sgreccia, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, was asked at a press conference for his view on the assault on the conscience of Catholics currently being made by the British Government in its refusal to guarantee conscience-based exemption for Catholic Adoption Agencies. Bishop Sgreccia said in reply:
I think that conscientious objection is fully justified and I would be surprised if a nation such as Great Britain, usually considered as the homeland of fundamental liberties, would refuse… to recognise this objection. I hope this won’t happen or that, if it does, it will give rise to an appeal before the [European] Court of Human Rights [translation slightly modified by me for greater clarity].

Meanwhile, the exemplary Bishop of Paisley, Philip Tartaglia, published a Pastoral Letter on Religious Freedom last weekend in which he urged his readers to write to their local Councillors, MPs, Members of the Scottish Parliament, and to members of the House of Lords making the point that regulations deriving from equality legislation are unacceptable if they damage religious freedom and the right of conscience.

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Not Aware

You may remember an e-mail I sent three weeks ago to Alan Johnson, the Education Minister who led Cabinet opposition to freedom of conscience for Catholic Adoption Agencies. I wrote:
Dear Mr Johnson
You are quoted in today’s “Independent” as saying: “We reject discrimination in all its forms.” Do you or your party intend to bring in legislation to repeal the Act of Settlement, which declares that no one can be Monarch who “professes the popish religion, or marries a papist” and, if so, when do you intend to do this?

Today, Ash Wednesday, I received this reply from Mister Johnson’s Office:
Dear Rev’d Spencer,
Thank you for your email dated 31st January to Alan Johnson about discrimination. I am responding as I am responsible for discrimination legislation in relation to education this Department.
I am not aware of any plans to repeal the Act of Settlement.
Yours sincerely,
John Luckett
Legislation Team : Equality and Diversity Unit

Mr Luckett is not aware of any plans because the Government of the United Kingdom, a government which claims to be against discrimination in all its forms, has no plans to deal with the blatant anti-Catholicism of the Act. Kevin McNamara, when he was Member of Parliament for Hull North, campaigned unsuccessfully to have the anti-Catholic provisions of the Act repealed. He wrote in 2001:
This legislation singles out Catholics by denying the right of the monarch or the monarch’s spouse to be a Catholic and excluding Catholics from the line of succession. It goes further – any member of the royal family who marries a Catholic has to renounce their right to the throne. But those in the line of succession are free to marry a person of any other faith, without exception.
It is not enough to say that this legislation is discriminatory and stop at that. It is not sufficient to say that it is a legacy of history. It is not even fair to say that it doesn’t matter to the bulk of Catholics who live in this country – it does.
This legislation implies that a Catholic could not be trusted as the spouse of a future monarch. I couldn’t care who is in succession to the throne, but I do care passionately when a piece of our national legislation singles out people of a particular religion and somehow casts doubt upon their loyalty to their country. I also believe that this legislation contravenes article 9 of the European convention on human rights, which upholds the right to freedom of religion and belief. The question on this is simple: is it discriminatory? If so, change it and change it now; if not, the UK should be comfortable with the label sectarian, and a sectarian head of state.

Why did Kevin McNamara not succeed? Because the Government (in fact the Prime Minister) refused to support him. Two years earlier, in 1999, Lord James Douglas-Hamilton had made a speech against the anti-Catholic provisions of the Act during a debate in the Scottish Parliament, in the course of which he said:
The important issue is whether there should be legislation that blatantly discriminates against a Christian religion. The subject is particularly relevant as we live in a multifaith community. The heir to the throne can accede if he marries a Muslim, a Buddhist, a scientologist, a Moonie, an atheist or a sun-worshipper, but not if he marries a Roman Catholic. Leaving such a stigma in place when no other religion or faith is singled out is grossly unfair.
I wrote to the prime minister, whose response offered no defence or justification for the present legislation. He had “no plans” to do anything about the situation and said that reforming the law would be complex. That is absolutely right. Similarly, it was complex to reform the House of Lords, but that did not prove an insurmountable problem. The complexity can be exaggerated.

Before the 2001 General Election, Tony Blair had acknowledged that the Act of Settlement was “plainly discriminatory” and had promised to look at it again if Labour won a second term. In an interview with Glasgow’s Herald newspaper, he had said: Obviously, in principle, it can’t be right that Catholics are unable to succeed, so we will examine it again. Six years later, the Government has no plans – or is it no time? – or maybe just no inclination. Anti-Catholicism remains the last acceptable prejudice, even for a Government which claims to “reject discrimination in all its forms”.

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The Day After Tomorrow

From yesterday’s Vatican Information Service bulletin:
VATICAN CITY, FEB 20, 2007 (VIS) – At 11 a.m. on Friday, February 23, in the Consistory Hall of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, an Ordinary Public Consistory will be held for the canonization of the following Blesseds:
– George Preca, Maltese, priest, founder of the “Societas Doctrinae Christianae” (M.U.S.E.U.M.).
– Szymon of Lipnica, Polish, priest of the Order of Friars Minor.
Charles of St. Andrew (ne Johannes Andreas Houben), Dutch, priest of the Congregation of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
– Antonio de Santa Ana (ne Antonio Galvao de Franca), Brazilian, priest of the Order of Alcantarine or Discalced Friars Minor, and founder of the Convent of Conceptionist Sisters “Recolhimento da luz.”
– Marie Eugenie de Jesus (nee Anne-Eugenie Milleret de Brou), French, foundress of the Institute of Sisters of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

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Message for Lent

The theme of Pope Benedict’s Message for Lent is They shall look on Him
whom they have pierced
(Jn 19:37). Here again the Holy Father meditates on the meaning of love, seeing in the pierced Heart of Jesus the deepest expression of this mystery of love. He reminds us that our response this Lent has to be a response of love for love:
Jesus said: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself” (Jn 12:32). The response the Lord ardently desires of us is above all that we welcome His love and allow ourselves to be drawn to Him. Accepting His love, however, is not enough. We need to respond to such love and devote ourselves to communicating it to others. Christ “draws me to Himself” in order to unite Himself to me, so that I learn to love the brothers with His own love.
To read the full text of the Message for Lent, click here.

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The other Charles

Blessed Charles of Mount Argus is our man of the week, with Pope Benedict about to publish the date for his canonisation but, for your entertainment, here is a very short interview with the other Charles C.P. (Fr Charles Cross) which I recorded somewhat badly yesterday at the end of the Passionist Religious Life Weekend. He speaks about our province (Saint Patrick’s Province) as consisting of Ireland and Scotland, thereby losing votes from the province members in Paris, Botswana, South Africa and Zambia! How do you ever expect to become Provincial, Charlie?

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The Consistory for the Miracle attributed to Blessed Charles of Mount Argus will take place next Friday, 23 February. It also happens that the Lenten Station that day, the Friday after Ash Wednesday, is at Saints John and Paul.

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