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The Catholic New World
The Cardinal's Column

By John Norton
Catholic News Service

Vatican City — Family issues and ecumenism were among the themes dominating cardinals’ speeches during major discussions at the extraordinary consistory.

At a press briefing May 22 just before The Catholic New World went to press, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said 39 cardinals took the microphone during the more than five hours of meetings.

Many said the Catholic Church had to devote more energy to family and sexual issues through education and greater reflection on underlying theological and social issues, he added.

Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, head of the Pontifical Council for the Family, announced that his office was working with 50 international experts on a “lexicon” of terms relating to sexuality and family issues.

Navarro-Valls said no further details on the document were available, but examples of words that might be treated included “sexual health” and “gender.” Definitions of such terms have been debated over the years in U.N. forums, he noted.

The Vatican spokesman said putting the theme of the family in the U.S. context, Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua of Philadelphia listed statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau that showed an increasing number of unmarried couples who live together and babies born outside of marriage. The whole notion of what marriage means is evolving in the United States, the cardinal said.

Reached by telephone, Cardinal Bevilacqua said his speech went beyond statistics to examine the “whole field” of marriage and family life. He declined to elaborate.

Cardinal Frederic Etsou-Nzabi-Bamungwabi of Kinshasa, Congo, said he considered the damage done to his country’s family life by a four-year regional African conflict far worse than the more commonly reported death tolls.

In addition to pulling husband-soldiers from their homes, the cardinal said the war had prevented children from attending school, and their idleness led to sexual initiation at an earlier age, reported Navarro-Valls.

Another frequent word in cardinals’ mouths was ecumenism, the Vatican spokesman said.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican’s top ecumenical official, called the restoration of Christian unity “the theme of the new millennium.” The German prelate said that, despite the church’s great ecumenical advances since the Second Vatican Council, “resistance and misunderstandings” persisted among some Christians, including Catholics.

Several cardinals said they were disappointed that a hoped-for gathering of Christian leaders during the jubilee never materialized.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor of Westminster, England, proposed that Pope John Paul II again seek to organize a pan-Christian council meeting.

Addressing a commonly cited sticking point to Christian unity, Cardinal Avery Dulles, a U.S. Jesuit theologian, defended the importance of papal primacy, even in ecumenical dialogue. Paradoxically, he said, history shows that Christian communities without a clear head often suffer doctrinal and disciplinary divisions.

Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, head of the Eastern-rite Ukrainian Catholic Church, said union with the Orthodox Churches should only require their openness “to full communion with the successor of Peter.”

“Everything else must remain intact. We must not ask anything more than this,” he said.

With union, he said, “we Eastern Catholic Churches will have concluded our historic function” and can rejoin the family of “the currently Orthodox sister churches as was our condition before the divisions.”

Regarding other issues raised during the meetings, Navarro-Valls reported that:

  • Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, head of the Vatican’s clergy congregation, said “in passing” that “it would not be useful, practical or realistic” for the pope to convene another ecumenical council now like Vatican II, which he said still needed implementation.
  • Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini of Milan, a Jesuit Biblical scholar, suggested a Synod of Bishops on the theme of the Word of God in the life of the church.
  • Several cardinals called for improved communications between the Vatican and local bishops.

As an example of areas that need improvement, one cardinal criticized the Vatican’s occasional practice of releasing church documents before they have been sent to dioceses and bishops’ conferences. In early May, some bishops made the same complaint about the Vatican’s recent instruction on translating liturgical texts.

(Cardinal George's column will return)

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Week of
May 27th

Sunday, May 27-Saturday, June 2:

Sunday, June 3:
11 a.m., Confirmation Mass, Holy Name Cathedral. 2 p.m., Chicago Project for Violence Prevention Cease Fire Weekend in Chicago.

Monday, June 4:
5:30 p.m., Accept grant for Project Rachel at the Illinois Club for Catholic Women gathering, The Casino Club.

Tuesday, June 5:
7:30 a.m., Big Shoulders breakfast, Residence. 12 noon, Guest speaker in Catholic Studies class, De Paul University. 6 p.m., Priests’ Placement Board dinner, Residence.

Thursday, June 7:
12 noon, Big Shoulders lunch, Residence. 2:30 p.m., Employee Service Awards, Quigley Seminary. 6 p.m., Big Shoulders dinner, Residence.

Friday, June 8: 9 a.m., Address the Catholic Theological Society of America Convention Mission Ad Gentes, Milwaukee.
Saturday, June 9: 9 a.m., Baccalaureate Mass and commencement address at Thomas Aquinas College, Santa Paula, Calif.

Cardinal's appointments
His Eminence, Francis Cardinal George, announces the following appointments:

Pastor Emeritus
Rev. R. Peter Bowman, from director of specialized ministries, to retire after 46 years of service to the archdiocese and be pastor emeritus of St. James Parish, Arlington Heights, with residence at St. Teresa of Avila Parish, West Armitage, effective immediately.

Rev. John W. Clemens to be a resident at St. Benedict Parish, West Irving Park Road, while retaining his duties on the Priests’ Placement Board, effective immediately.