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WYD's First Event: Mass for 150,000 in Sydney PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 15 July 2008 09:23
Clara reports from the first major event of WYD - the Mass for 150,00 on Sydney's waterfront:

After noting that registration was very slow and frustrating (although our team had already registered online months ago) due to the fact that 50,000 unregistered people have just "shown up" and swamped the organizers, Clara writes:

All this frustration evaporated at the extraordinary Opening Mass - stunning location, beautiful liturgy. Attendance is estimated at 150,000 with many being turned away. Cardinal Pell's homily was his best ever. I was almost in tears by the end. Hopefully, the full text will soon be available on the Sydney diocesan website.

Here's a excerpt:

Our first reading today was from Ezekiel, with Isaiah and Jeremiah, one of the three greatest Jewish prophets,” he said.

“Many parts of Australia are still in drought, so all Australians understand a valley of dry bones and fleshless skeletons.”

Dr Pell also called out to those who may find themselves “lost” or in deep distress.

“Earlier in this mass I welcomed you all to this World Youth Day week ... but I do not begin with the 99 healthy sheep, those of you already open to the Spirit, perhaps already steady witnesses to faith and love,” he said.

“I begin by welcoming and encouraging anyone, anywhere, who regards himself or herself as lost, in deep distress, with hope diminished or even exhausted.

“Young or old, woman or man, Christ is still calling those who are suffering to come for healing, as he has for 2,000 years.”


The new Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, is openly Christian and also spoke at the Mass.

Clara continues:

In the context of the debate in this country which is trying to divorce religion and politics the following comments from Prime Minister Kevin Rudd are hugely significant:

"Some say there is no place for faith in the 21st century. I say they are wrong. Some say that faith is the enemy of reason, I say, also they are wrong. Because faith and reason are great partners in our human history and in our human future. Rich in humanity, rich in scientific progress. Some say only that which they see wrong in Christianity and in the church, I say let us speak also about what is right in Christianity and the church."


I was assured after the Mass by Tony Burke MP, a member or the Rudd cabinet, that the Prime Minister writes his own material.


Clara promises some photos a bit later.

Delayed coverage of the Mass will begin on EWTN about 10 am Mountain Time. Unless you were one of the really committed who stayed up all night watching it live. I went to bed!
 
Can Good Catholics Disagree in the Polling Booth? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 14 July 2008 21:25
Fr. Mike is presently lolling in Latte Land aka Seattle, Washington. (Sure he preached all the Sunday Masses but how hard can that be? she says as she ducks missles from 1400 miles away) But Wednesday, July 16, he will earn his keep.

Join him at 7pm at Blessed Sacrament Church for a very timely talk:

Applying Prudential Judgement: Can Good Catholics Disagree in the Polling Booth?

Fr. Michael "will examine the interplay of moral principles, the fully formed Catholic conscience, and the critical role of prudential judgement with regard to voting and other moral choices. He will also propose an ideal model of collaboration between laity and clergy for Catholic parishes to adopt that respects the teaching office of the pastor while taking advantage of the wide variety of competences, information and experiences that the laity offer with regard to issues our society faces."

It's Dominican, so you know it is gonna be good. If you are in the Seattle area, you don't want to miss it.
 
Catholic Quote of the Day PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 14 July 2008 10:40
"If [Catholics] are convinced that Jesus Christ is indeed the Son of God and Savior of the world, they will want everyone to share the Faith and draw near to Jesus in study, prayer, and worship. ...

"I have heard some Catholics speak as though ours were a shrinking Church. It could shrink and lose its vitality if it relied simply on transmission of the Faith in traditional ways through families, neighborhoods and schools. But Christ urgently summons the Church to engage in apostolic outreach. Protestant Evangelicals and Pentecostals have mounted highly successful programs of evangelization. They have a lot to teach us, though we should not imitate all of their tactics.

"Increasing numbers of Jews and non-Catholic Christians, including rabbis and ministers, are finding the fullness of truth in the Catholic Faith. Too often they have cause to complain that Catholics rarely help them join the Church or make them feel welcome when they come in."

[Excerpt from: Avery Cardinal Dulles, SJ, "True Mission Priorities," Extension (November 2005), 20.]

h/t: Aufer a Nobis
 
China Soul PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 14 July 2008 09:45
Related to the interesting discussion here about "conscious" and "unconscious" faith in different cultures of the world, do take a look at some of these videos produced by China Soul.

They are long but intensely moving as you hear the stories of Chinese Christians and what they have suffered for the faith over the years. I listened to Seeds of Blood last night. The hymns that punctuate the stories are 20th century Protestant hymns (not contemporary praise & worship) that I remember vaguely from my childhood. Occasionally the swelling music get a bit much for me but the power is in the authenticity of the stories from these elderly Chinese who have spend decades in labor camps and sacrificed so much for Christ.

"Unconscious" religiosity was not an option for these people and their perseverance in the face of terrible suffering has changed the course of the most populous nation on earth.
 
The Safest Place in Town PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 14 July 2008 08:32
Meanwhile, back home in mid America . . .

On May 12, in Postville, Iowa

"Federal immigration agents raided the Agriprocessors factory, arresting nearly 400 workers, most of them men, for being in the United States illegally. Within minutes of the raid, with surveillance helicopters buzzing above the leafy streets, the wives and children of Mexican and Guatemalan families began trickling into St. Bridget’s Church, the safest place they knew.

It was about that time, with several dozen cowering people inside the church, when Sister Mary McCauley, the pastor administrator at St. Bridget’s, found out that Father Ouderkirk was attending a ceremony for diocesan priests nearly two hours away in Dubuque. Unable to reach him directly, she left a simple, urgent message: “We need to see a collar here.”

By the time Father Ouderkirk extricated himself and reached Postville in the evening, nearly 400 families, some of them not even Catholic, filled the rotunda and social hall of St. Bridget’s. They occupied every pew, every aisle, every folding chair, every inch of floor. Children clutched mothers. One girl shook uncontrollably.

A few volunteers from the old Postville, descendants of the Irish and Norwegian immigrants who settled here more than a century ago, set out food. Others took turns standing watch at the church door, as if the sight of an Anglo might somehow dissuade the feared Migra, as the immigrants call Immigration and Customs Enforcement, from invading their sanctuary.

Already, members of the church staff and a Spanish teacher from a nearby college were tallying the names of the detained workers. Father Ouderkirk conducted his own version of a census in this predominantly Hispanic parish. Gone were all but two members of the choir he had assembled over the years. Gone were all but one of the eight altar servers. Gone were the husbands from the weddings he had performed, and gone were the fathers of the children he had baptized.

As for the mothers, many of them also worked at Agriprocessors and had been arrested. In a putative show of compassion, federal authorities released them after putting an electronic homing device on each woman’s ankle to monitor her whereabouts. These mothers were, in the new lexicon of Postville, “las personas con brazalete,” the people with a bracelet.
"

Snip.

The only redemptive thing that can be said, perhaps, is that in the crisis at Postville — with nearly 400 immigrants imprisoned and facing deportation, with 40 mothers under house arrest awaiting their own court dates, with families that had two working parents now forced to survive on handouts from a food pantry — the beacon of the Roman Catholic Church to immigrants has rarely shone more brilliantly.

Read it all.
 
Pilgrims from Asia PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 14 July 2008 08:24
Another snapshot of the widespread Asian contingent at WYD - and what it means for young people from countries where Catholics are a distinct minority:

For Wiyond, a young Catholic living in Muslim-dominated Indonesia, the World Youth Day festival in Sydney led by Pope Benedict XVI provides a rare chance to celebrate his religion with others.

The 34-year-old is one of more than 100,000 foreign pilgrims who have come to Australia for World Youth Day, many of them from countries in Asia without a strong Catholic tradition.

As he stood on the sidelines of a noisy procession of thousands of pilgrims carrying a cross through Sydney's central business district on Monday, Wiyond said he was grateful for the chance to mix with other young Catholics.

"We really want to meet with all the other youth from around the world and share our faith and to know that we are not alone," he said.

"Sometimes we feel that we are alone to become a Catholic in Indonesia. We are the minority."

Like many pilgrims from Asia, Wiyond is excited about seeing the leader of the Roman Catholic church in the flesh during the six-day event, which culminates in an open-air mass by Benedict on July 20.

"We really hope to see the Pope, and shake hands with the Pope, and kiss the ring," he told AFP.

Thousands of pilgrims from the United States, Italy and Germany have poured into Sydney over recent days, with their numbers strengthened by thousands from New Zealand and Pacific islands such as Papua New Guinea.

The Philippines has provided the largest number of pilgrims from Asia, with 2,500, while 700 have come from Indonesia and 260 from Japan.

World Youth Day organisers refused to comment on the number of pilgrims from China, where the Vatican has long been at odds with Beijing over who controls the booming Catholic church.

But 23-year-old Taiwanese university student Karen Lin said there were many Asian faces among the thousands of pilgrims around Sydney's St Mary's Cathedral and surrounding Hyde Park.

"We've seen the Koreans, and some Japanese and some from China," she said.


The question of young people from mainland China is a very interesting one. Anyone have information about Chinese pilgrims?
 
The International Religion Monitor: Religious Belief Around the World PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 14 July 2008 06:25
Warning: long post ahead.

Over the weekend, i stumbled across the International Religion Monitor: This is an effort by the Bertelsmann Foundation of Germany to survey religious attitudes across a wide variety of countries, cultures, and religious traditions. They have surveyed 21,000 people in 21 countries so far and are now publishing their results.

And naturally, they are highlighting their Australian findings because WYD is in the news.

The IRM has three basic categories that seem minimalist to me but one gets the feeling that some kind of vague belief in a supreme being seems like a major achievement to this group.

The three categories are:

"highly-religious", religious matters play a central role in their personality,

"religious" are at least "open" to religious matters and patterns of interpretation,

religious matters, practices and experiences hardly feature in the lives of the "non-religious" at all.

To give you an base point, the US is in the upper end of religiosity according to this study.

54% highly religious, 35% religious, 9% "non-religious"

(Which does correlate with Pew findings that even self-described "atheists" and "agnostics" have a surprising amount of religious belief in the US. (more on that in another post)

The most religious country they have studied? Nigeria where 91% of people are "highly religious" and no one qualified as "non religious"

The most non-religious nations? From the bottom up

Russia 3% "highly religious" 53% "non religious"
France 8% "highly religious" 49% "non religious"
Austria 5% "highly religious" 39% "non religious"
Great Britain 16% "highly religious" 37% "non religious"
South Korea 22% "highly religious" 50% "non religious"
Germany 14% "highly religious" 31% "non religious"
Switzerland 14% "highly religious" 18% "non religious"
Australia 19% "highly religious" 31% "non religious"

Their basic conclusion: Europe's religious situation is unique and cannot be assumed to be representative of the rest of the world.

For instance, the perception that young people are less religious than their parents and grandparents is typically Western European and does not correspond to the reality worldwide.

80 percent of all young Protestants outside of Europe are deeply religious and 18 percent are religious, compared to just seven percent of young Protestants in Europe who are deeply religious, and 25 percent can only be classified as nominal members of their church.??

Sherry's note: Europe is the part of the world least influenced by the whole Independent/Pentecostal movement which is huge elsewhere.

Catholics: Although the proportion of deeply religious Catholics in Europe is 25 percent, outside Europe this figure is 68 percent.

Fascinating: - more young Protestants are deeply religious (80%) than are young Catholics outside Europe. (68%) while a considerably larger number of young European Catholics are more deeply religious (25%) than young Euro Protestants (7%).

Sherry's question: Is the somewhat brighter picture for European Catholics a reflection of the influence of the Catholic lay movements in Europe?

The figures for France and Austria can only be described as bleak. Daily prayer is no longer common practice among young Europeans. In France, just nine percent of young adults pray daily, in Russia the figure is eight percent and in Austria only around seven percent. (To compare, the Pew study showed that 58% of US Catholics and 78% of US evangelicals pray daily outside of services.) Church attendance in France for the 20 something crowd is about 1%. (CARA says that the weekly attendance of Gen X US Catholics is 15% while 17% of Catholic Millennials attend Mass every week)

The former Communist bloc's situation is also grim: Only a third of young people in Eastern Europe and Russia have been christened, (baptized) and most young people have no connection at all to faith and the Church. Only 13 percent are deeply religious.?

Surprises:

According to these findings, the US is more religious than India. (41% "highly religious") (Although since HInduism is such a different animal, the questions might not have captured reality. Should we change the expression to "the US is a country of NIgerians run by Russians?"

Poland is not that high on the "highly religious" scale. (only 29%) While only 6% are considered "non religious", the vast majority of Poles fell into the "religious" category: At least "open" to religious matters and patterns of interpretation"

I e-mailed a close friend who is a Poland scholar and serious Catholic (and currently in Poland) and got his take:

My own sense is that Poles probably in general wouldn't do well on a test that asked them to articulate/or measured their beliefs in ways that would distinguish sharply between secular and sacred. There is a very real way in which this is almost still like Christendom - many people still seem to take for granted that religion/"the Church" and their faith just are. The sense of a distinct option to chose non-belief or other faiths does not seem as highly developed here - hence I think an effort to measure faith via some kind of "objective" multiple choice/fill in the blank test is likely to not get the full reality of religious experience in a place where even the atheists are pretty Catholic (in a very "traditional" sense).

There are modern Catholics here, and I think one of the reasons that both Catholicism and the Church are doing relatively well in influencing Polish society is that a good number of clergy really do get what it means to be a disciple - the homilies I've heard from Dominicans really do try to push people to think about what it means to be a Christian, and there is a lack of concern for liturgical correctness - I went to a mass for families with children where a kid with a microphone went around during the prayers of the people and encouraged other children to offer their own petitions - tis the kind of thing that would drive some Catholics bezerk if it was done in a US parish - but in Poland it fits.

But also I wonder if there is not a sense of expectations at work here too - in a country with some very powerful religious mojo, for someone to self-designate as "highly religious" or identify religion as playing such a major role in their own life might be because the benchmarks for comparison and expectations for what constitutes a high level of religiosity might be higher. Again, it could be that I'm seeing what I'm wanting to see - but it is hard to see so many people popping in spontaneously to pay visits to the Blessed Sacrament (and not just old ladies either - a good smattering of young moms, single women and young men too) or the gazzilion masses that every tiny parish has, or whole phalanxes of very young priests, nuns, etc. and not think that this isn't a religiously dynamic country.


My question: Of course, if we presume that people who live in an all-embracing religion-saturated culture would be a disadvantage when asked questions about self-conscious religious choice, how is it that people in Nigeria, Guatemala, Indonesia, Morocco, and Brazil (all countries at the top of the "highly religious" heap) were able to answer them? NIgeria, Guatemala, and Brazil are hotbeds of evangelical/Independent/Pentecostal Christianity but Morocco and Indonesia are not.


Here's another revealing tidbit:

"Most young religious Europeans view sex as a private matter and only a minority believe that their religious beliefs influence their sexual relationships.

Religious considerations have an impact on the love lives of just seven percent of young Protestants in Europe, 12 percent of Orthodox believers and 14 percent of Catholics.

However, the picture outside of Europe is quite different: here, no less than 67 percent of Protestants and 68 percent of free-church Protestants (i.e, evangelicals) see a connection between their religious beliefs and sexuality. Catholics outside of Europe are more emancipated in this respect. Only around half (52 percent) say that their personal faith affects their own sexuality."


Sherry's comments: Hence the inability to take Church teaching on the topic seriously. One's relationship with God is just not connected to one's sexual life.

Love how Catholics are more "emancipated"! That phrase says everything about the assumptions of the people behind the survey.

 
WYD: Catholic, Samoan, and Kiwi PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 14 July 2008 06:18
More WYD news:

Here's an article about a "Wellington Lass" who is going to serve as MC for the Papal Mass.

"Josie was originally asked to give a testimony in Samoan at one of the major World Youth Day World Youth Day events and had no idea that this would lead to an invitation to share the role of MC.

“When they said they didn’t want to use my testimony in Samoan, I thought ‘Oh well, that’s fine.’ I certainly wasn’t expecting them to then ask me to MC! What an unbelievable privilege!” said Leota. “I will do my very best to represent the young people of Oceania, to share their faith, joy and vitality through my role.”

Indeed, through her testimony, the selection committee felt “her joy over her background – Catholic, Samoan, and Kiwi – was contagious,” said Sr Anna Wray OP. “The depth of Josie’s conviction and dedication to the Christ was evident to us from the beginning of our correspondence with her."

 
Urgent Prayer Request PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 13 July 2008 14:10
We've received an urgent prayer request:

A reader writes that a good friend and his wife were in the process of adopting a third child and have had her for more than two months. Suddenly, two days ago, the birth parents demanded the baby back. The couple have little hope of legal redress. Prayer is the only thing that can help.

Bad as the situation is, it's the second time this has happened to this couple.

Your prayers for this situation would be most appreciated!
 
40 Hours in Perth PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 13 July 2008 12:35
Franciscan Friars of the Renewal holding 40 hour Adoration in Perth.

PERTH, Australia, JULY 13, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Christ is key for the success of World Youth Day, according to the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.

The friars from New York organized a 40-hour Eucharistic adoration marathon at All Saints Chapel in Perth's central business district this week.

Brother Columba Jordan, 30, who had at least 1,000 youth participating in activities, said adoration is a powerful way of helping youth realize Christ's presence in the Eucharist.

"Benedict XVI asked young people in his World Youth Day message to pray for a new Pentecost for Australia, and young people can't do that without spending time with Christ," said Brother Columba, who found the courage and clarity to follow his calling at the international youth day held in Rome in 2000.

"The whole point of World Youth Day is helping young people to have an encounter with Christ," he added. "If not, it's pointless."


The 40 Day Adoration has a fascinating history (the material below is from the Archdiocese of Boston website). I know that Frances de Sales celebrated the 40 hours as part of receiving the professions of faith of many prominent Protestants in his diocese.:

The exact origin of the Forty Hours Devotion is not known. The first clear attestation for its celebration comes from Milan in 1527. In its inception it was celebrated as reparation for the sins of the community and was motivated to offer prayers to God for protection during the crisis of war. The practice of celebrating Forty Hours Devotion spread rapidly from this point. This may be attributed to various reasons such as the quick approval granted to it by Pope Paul III in 1539. Furthermore, the support of St. Anthony Maria Zaccaria and Saint Philip Neri, who introduced its celebration into Rome in 1550, helped to extend its celebration beyond Milan. Finally, as it was introduced to more places this practice rapidly became popular with the lay faithful.

In time the purpose for celebrating Forty Hours Devotion started to be transformed. This change is witnessed in 1560 by the bull promulgated by Pope Paul IV. He states that the devotion is an imitation of the forty days of fasting of the Lord in the desert, and the time of unceasing prayer called for in scripture and by the early church. This transformation continued such that by the time of the eighteenth century this devotion became primarily eucharistic in nature and centered on thanksgiving for the mystery and gift of the eucharist.

From the eighteenth century onward the rules for celebrating the Forty Hours Devotion were heavily influenced by Pope Clement XII who published in 1731 the Instructio Clementina. This document gave detailed instructions for how this devotion was to be celebrated in the city of Rome. The Instructio became the basis for the further development of Forty Hours throughout the Church. It was very detailed in how the celebration was to occur and what the expectations around its celebration would entail. Other dioceses used this as the foundation for their celebration of the devotion such was the case in the United States.

These rules for celebration did not change until the Second Vatican Council. The present rules for celebrating Forty Hours Devotion can be found in the Order for the Solemn Exposition of the Holy Eucharist published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1992. This document is an adaptation of the Roman Ritual: Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist outside Mass

 
Voting & the Eucharist Down Under PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 13 July 2008 12:12
The communion issue will be played out during WYD. There are several high profile Catholic politicians who plan to attend the Papal Mass - including the Premier of New South Wales who greeted the Pope as he arrived in Sydney yesterday. Per the Catholic News Agency:

Morris Iemma, the Premier of New South Wales who voted for embryonic stem cell research, has said he wants to receive Holy Communion from Pope Benedict XVI at the closing Mass for World Youth Day but also said he did not expect to do so, the Sydney Morning Herald says.

Iemma, a practicing Catholic, said having the Pope in Sydney would be a “deeply rewarding experience for all Catholics, my family included.”

New South Wales Deputy Premier John Watkins, who is also a Catholic, said he would probably attend the closing Mass “in an operational capacity rather than as a guest.” Watkins cast a vote that helped overturn the state parliament’s ban on so-called therapeutic cloning.

Watkins and Iemma voted in favor of the stem cell bill despite a warning from the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, who said that their vote would have consequences concerning their place in the life of the Church.

And this is lovely: One Minister met her husband at a previous World Youth Day:

Other Australian officials will attend the closing Mass, including Kristina Keneally, the New South Wales Minister for Ageing, who met her husband at a previous World Youth Day and voted against the embryonic stem cell bill. The Minister for Ports and Waterways, Joe Tripodi, will also be present. He has described Catholicism as “one of the most significant factors in my upbringing.”
 
The Pope and the Environment PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 13 July 2008 11:46
Again per John Allen. Pope Benedict had hardly stepped foot in Australia before he brought up the topic of environmentalism.

"Environmentalsm has shaped up as a key social theme under Benedict XVI. Aside from numerous public comments, the pope has also approved plans to install solar panels atop the Paul VI Audience Hall, in addition to signing an agreement to reforest a stretch of central Hungary sufficient to offset the Vatican’s annual carbon output.

Among other things, Benedict XVI sees the environmental movement as a promising route for the recovery of a strong sense of "natural law," meaning the idea that moral limits to human conduct are inherent in nature. If people are willing to accept that idea about the environment, Benedict seems to hope, perhaps they will be more open to the claims of natural law in other areas of life as well."

 
No Justice Without Him Who is Just PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 13 July 2008 11:42
Per John Allen, this welcome message from Pope Benedict:

The Vatican today released the pope’s message for the annual World Day for Missions, to be celebrated on October 19. In it, Benedict returns to a recurrent motif in his approach to evangelization, by now familiar from his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, as well as his book Jesus of Nazareth: Preaching the gospel is not a distraction from working for justice, it is working for justice, because ultimately the world cannot be just without Him who is Just.

Snip.

The heart of Benedict’s argument is that these seemingly secular concerns cannot be adequately addressed without laying the proper spiritual foundations in the heart of the human person. Building a better world, in other words, means bringing people to Christ.

Preaching the gospel, the pope argues, is what creates “the spiritual energy capable of nourishing within the human family the harmony, justice, and communion among persons, races and peoples for which everyone longs.”

“Only from this source,” the pope writes, referring to Christ, “can the necessary attention, tenderness, compassion, welcome, openness, and commitment to solving people’s problems be generated, as well as those other virtues needed by messengers of the gospel in order to let everything else go and to dedicate themselves completely and unconditionally to spreading the sweet perfume of the love of Christ throughout the world.”

For that reason, Benedict insists, “no reason can justify a slow-down or stagnation” in missionary efforts, including concerns such as “the scarcity of clergy or the absence of vocations.” Quoting Pope Paul VI in his 1975 encyclical Evangelii nuntiandi, Benedict calls evangelization “the life and essential mission of the church.”

Benedict closes the message by calling upon various groups in the church to redouble their missionary efforts, including bishops, priests, and women and men religious.

The pope also has a message for laity: “A complex and multiform areopagus of evangelization is open before you – the world. Testify with your lives that Christians belong to a new society, towards which they’re on the way, and which is already anticipated in their pilgrimage,” the pope writes, quoting his own encyclical Spe Salvi.

 
A Weak Church & An Ignorant Secularism? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 12 July 2008 09:47
Fr. Anthony alerted me to this long and challenging editorial in today's The Australian (the national newspaper).

Test of Spirit by Paul Kelly shed a light on the debates within Australia over religion in the public square for this American. Kelly begins:

"Beyond the squabbles over security, transport inconvenience and taxpayer-funded support, the Australian traditions of utility and pragmatism have been on display. World Youth Day next week will be a grand event, to many an inspiring event where religion will briefly dominate the public square. Yet its preparations have been marked by a community irritation that signifies a rising hostility and fatalistic indifference in Australian attitudes towards organised religion."

On Benedict's press in Australia:

"The truth of his Australian reception is that his speeches are unread; his messages are unreported by the media; the meaning of his trip beyond rail union and traffic woes is seemingly lost. This is a commentary upon both the church and our society. It may reveal the deadly embrace of a weak church and an ignorant secularism that reinforce each other."

Benedict comes to speak to the modern Australia and youth of the world. The questions are how he speaks, what he says and how the Australian mind, Catholic, Christian and non-believer, comprehends and responds. The Pope will arrive for this joyous occasion with a sense of suffering. He said in his July 2005 meeting with local priests at Aosta, Italy, that "the so-called 'great' churches seem to be dying" and that "this is true particularly in Australia, also in Europe but not so much in the US". He will be assessed by his capacity to address the manifest problems of the Catholic Church in Australia dominated by lack of vocations and disillusion of the young.

Snip.

Australia is about 65 per cent Christian. But it is a long time since Australian society saw Christianity celebrated in so spectacular a moment, with the city's landmarks for recreation and commerce given over to worship of God.

This is an affirmation of the true and mature secular state. Yet it is resisted by many who seek a radical change in the status quo. They represent an aggressive "new secularism", a philosophy much discussed by Benedict, that aspires to deny religion by shrinking it to a strictly private affair. In terms of governance, such advocates want not a traditional secular state to enshrine religious freedom, but the creation of atheism as the de facto established religion to drive real religion from the public domain.

This constitutes one of the most radical and intolerant projects in Australian political history.

"Its essence was captured by Australian Anglican bishop Tom Frame in last year's Acton Lecture: "There is no doubt that there is an increase in number and prominence of those who want religion banished from the public square on the grounds that theistic beliefs are intellectually vacuous, morally bankrupt, politically dangerous and socially divisive." Influenced by writers such as Richard Dawkins, highly popular in this country, "they do not support religious toleration because they believe that religious convictions are the cause of much serious and enduring harm in the world, not unlike racism and sexism, both of which have been the focus of legislative prohibition in many jurisdictions.
"

Kelly sums it up:

"This is not a serious movement offering intellectual argument but old-fashioned prejudice disguised because it comes from the educated."

Do read the whole essay. Kelly discusses Pope Benedict's concern about the crisis of western culture at great length.

In the US, as the Pew Survey showed, even atheists and agnostics can be remarkably religious. The category of Americans that seems to come closest to the Australian spirit is that of "secular unaffiliated". These were the US adults who told Pew surveyers that religion was not important. They are 6.3% of our population: about 14.2 million adults.

In the US as a whole, they are swamped in a sea of believers although you can easily find secular unaffiliated pockets in the urban areas of the coasts, universities, etc. But the Christians of Australia are not nearly as numerous and vocal.

As Kelly put it:

The Australian situation " may reveal the deadly embrace of a weak church and an ignorant secularism that reinforce each other."
 
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