Catholic Church

Pope Benedict XVI Announces Resignation

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Pope Benedict XVI at a January Vespers service. Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Pope Benedict XVI announced today he will step down on Feb. 28, citing his advanced age. The head of the Catholic Church is 85 years old. Below is the text of his announcement.

Dear Brothers,

I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

Baby Boomer Nuns Help Revolutionize Health Care

Since Vatican II American Nuns have  worked to fill in the gaps of the American health care system. A new documentary chronicles how these nuns changed the Catholic Church's social justice movement. CNN reports:

"Vatican II was the spark that showed the church isn't just the hierarchy, it's the people," Fishman said. "Sisters from all over the country were inspired to work directly with those that needed their help. These faith-filled people became the most vibrant part of the church who went on to get people excited and passionate about doing God's work and creating real change."

Read more here.



On Sistine Chapel’s 500th, Foot Traffic Remains a Threat

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Painting on ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Creation of Adam, Vatican, Rome, Italy. Getty Images

VATICAN CITY — Exactly 500 years ago, on Oct. 31, 1512, Pope Julius II led an evening prayer service to inaugurate the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo's newly-finished vault frescoes.

But as Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Renaissance masterpiece, the Vatican said the growing number of tourists who visit the historic site every year might eventually lead to limiting access to the chapel to help preserve the frescoes from human-born problems and pollutants.

“We could limit access, introducing a maximum number of entries,” wrote Antonio Paolucci, the director of the Vatican Museums, in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's semi-official newspaper. “We will do this, if the pressure from tourism were to increase beyond a reasonable level and if we were to fail in resolving the problem efficiently.”

Paolucci stressed, however, that in his opinion such measures will not be necessary “in the short to medium term.”

Breakaway Group Offers More Progressive Form of Catholicism

Cross illustration, file404 /

Cross illustration, file404 /

About 30 people are gathered in a dark, makeshift sanctuary at St. Anthony of Padua Church as the sun dips into the horizon. The service follows the familiar pattern of a Catholic Mass, but something is different: The worshippers are dressed casually, many in jeans, and the priest speaks directly and informally to his parishioners. Even the words of the liturgy seem slightly off.

This isn’t a typical Roman Catholic Mass. The church is barely a year old, and it’s part of a new independent Catholic movement, the American National Catholic Church, and bills itself as a home for "Contemporary Catholics."

Founded in 2009 by a bishop and a group of priests seeking a more inclusive religious experience but not ready to leave the Catholic tradition completely, the ANCC aims to follow the spirit of reform established by the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).

While the sacraments and many fundamental beliefs remain identical to those of Roman Catholicism, the ANCC presents a more progressive version of Catholicism: divorced members can take Communion, women and gays can be ordained, and priests can marry.

50 Years After Vatican II, Should Pope John XXIII Be a Saint?

"The Good Pope: John XXIII & Vatican II." RNS photo courtesy HarperOne

"The Good Pope: John XXIII & Vatican II." RNS photo courtesy HarperOne

Fifty years after Pope John XXIII convened the Second Vatican Council that revolutionized the Catholic Church, will the jolly man known as the "Good Pope" be declared a saint of the Roman Catholic Church? Perhaps the better question is: Should he be?

On the evening of June 3, 1963, John XXIII passed into eternity with his family, doctors and household staff present in the papal apartments where he had lived for four and a half years. The Vatican press office issued this terse statement: “He suffers no more.”

Immediately, there was a movement by some close to the deceased pope to have him canonized by acclamation, as saints had been during the early centuries of the church. The first session of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) had ended in December 1962, and the pope had published his landmark encyclical letter,Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth) in April 1963.

Vatican Lifts Suspension of Priest who Altered Prayers at Mass

An Illinois priest who was forced out of his parish by his bishop for improvising prayers during Mass has had his suspension reversed by the Vatican.

The Vatican decided in favor of the Rev. William Rowe on one of three counts, saying Bishop Edward Braxton of Belleville, Ill., had not followed the proper procedure.

The Vatican's reversal means he can celebrate Mass in another diocese, Rowe said, as long as he has the local bishop's approval. Others, however, disputed that interpretation of the decree. 

In a letter that accompanied the document, Monsignor Antonio Neri, an undersecretary of the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy, said Rowe could only return to celebrating Mass “when you shall have acknowledged your error and formally promise to dispose yourself to adhere to the rights and rubrics of the sacred liturgy set down by the lawful ecclesiastical authorities.”

The Vatican sided with the bishop on two counts: upholding his removal from the parish, and agreeing with the bishop's withdrawal of the priest's "faculties" — or his license to practice ministry under church law.

Father Benedict Groeschel Leaves Catholic Cable Show After Abuse Remarks

 RNS photo courtesy Franciscan Friars of the Renewal

The Rev. Benedict Groeschel (seated). RNS photo courtesy Franciscan Friars of the Renewal

The Rev. Benedict Groeschel, a well-known Catholic author and television personality, has given up his longtime spot on the conservative cable network EWTN following comments in which he appeared to defend clergy who abuse children while blaming some victims.

“Father Benedict has led a life of tremendous compassion and service to others and his spiritual insights have been a great gift to the EWTN family for many years. We are profoundly grateful to him and assure him of our prayers,” Michael P. Warsaw, head of EWTN Global Catholic Network said in announcing Groeschel’s decision to step down.

In his statement on Monday Warsaw also asked EWTN viewers “to pray for all those who have been affected by this painful situation and in particular those who have been victims of sexual abuse.”

Catholic Bishop Says Church’s Credibility on Sexual Abuse Is ‘Shredded’

The U.S. Catholic bishops' point man on sexual abuse has said that the hierarchy's credibility on fixing the problem is "shredded" and that the situation is comparable to the Reformation, when “the episcopacy, the regular clergy, even the papacy were discredited.”

Bishop R. Daniel Conlon of Joliet, Ill., last month told a conference of staffers who oversee child safety programs in American dioceses that he had always assumed that consistently implementing the bishops’ policies on child protection, “coupled with some decent publicity, would turn public opinion around.”

Rev. Benedict Groeschel Apologizes for Sex Abuse Comments

RNS photo courtesy St. Joseph's Seminary Dunwoodie

Archbishop Dolan (left) with Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R. RNS photo courtesy St. Joseph's Seminary Dunwoodie

The Rev. Benedict Groeschel, whose comments defending priests who sexually abuse children sparked a firestorm of controversy (see related story here), on Thursday evening apologized for the remarks. Groeschel had said that priests who sexually abuse children "on their first offense" should not go to jail and added that in “a lot of cases,” the child is “the seducer.”

The religious community he founded, the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, based in New York, also denounced the comments. The statements followed a wave of condemnation that grew in the days since the interview with Groeschel was first published.

Roman Catholic Church in Scotland Campaigns to Stop Gay Marriage

St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland.

St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The Roman Catholic Church has sent a letter to its parishes across Scotland protesting a political race to legalize same-sex marriage.

The letter was read Sunday (Aug. 26) by priests in 500 Catholic parishes urging Scotland's political leaders to "sustain rather than subvert marriage" and to reaffirm that "marriage is a unique, lifelong union between a man and a woman."

Scotland is caught up in a debate over whether it should become the first segment of Britain to legalize gay marriage, ahead of England and Wales.

After the letter was read out in churches Sunday, the Scottish government insisted that it intends to legalize same-sex marriages and religious ceremonies for civil partnerships because "it is the right thing to do."

The issue is still in the consultation stage in England and Wales.