God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Christian Unity – a sermon to listen to

I know, lots of sermons are boring, old-fashioned and definitive to long. But there are indeed exceptions and I would like to share one with you all: It’s a Catholic sermon at an Anglican event speaking about reformation – it almost sounds like a contradiction, but Father Raniero Cantalamessa, Preacher to the Papal Household, was invited to a Eucharist celebration in Westminster Abbey, London, on Tuesday 24 November 2015. The event marked the inauguration of the 10th General Synod of the Church of England and the sermon was indeed short and sweet, but powerful and leading the way to the possibility of a unified diversity of Christian Churches. Addressing the Queen and the whole Synod, Fr Raniero Cantalamessa reflected on the preparations for the fifth centenary of the Protestant Reformation saying the following:

Rebuild my house – Haggai 1:1-8
Few prophetic oracles in the Old Testament can be dated so precisely as that of Haggai, which we have just heard in the first reading. We can place it between August and December in the year 520 BC. The exiles, after the deportation to Babylon, have come back to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. They set to work, but soon grow discouraged, each preferring to work on his own house instead. Into this situation comes the prophet Haggai, sent by God with the message we have heard.
The Word of God, once it is proclaimed, remains forever alive; it transcends situations and centuries, each time casting new light. The situation deplored by the prophet is renewed in history each time we are so absorbed in the problems and interests of our own parish, diocese, community – and even of our particular Christian denomination – that we lose sight of the one house of God, which is the Church.
The prophecy of Haggai begins with a reproof, but ends, as we heard, with an exhortation and a grandiose promise: “Go up into the hills, fetch timber and rebuild the House, and I shall take pleasure in it and manifest my glory there” – says the Lord”.
One circumstance makes this point particularly relevant. The Christian world is preparing to celebrate the fifth centenary of the Protestant Reformation. It is vital for the whole Church that this opportunity is not wasted by people remaining prisoners of the past, trying to establish each other’s rights and wrongs. Rather, let us take a qualitative leap forward, like what happens when the sluice gates of a river or a canal enable ships to continue to navigate at a higher water level.
The situation has dramatically changed since then. We need to start again with the person of Jesus, humbly helping our contemporaries to experience a personal encounter with Him. “All things were created through him and for him”; Christ is the light of the world, the one who gives meaning and hope to every human life – and the majority of people around us live and die as if He had never existed! How can we be unconcerned, and each remain “in the comfort of our own paneled houses”? We should never allow a moral issue like that of sexuality divide us more than love for Jesus Christ unites us.
We need to go back to the time of the Apostles: they faced a pre-Christian world, and we are facing a largely post-Christian world. When Paul wants to summarize the essence of the Christian message in one sentence, he does not say, “I proclaim this or that doctrine to you.” He says, “We preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor 1:23), and “We preach . . . Jesus Christ as Lord” (2 Cor 4:5). This is the real “articulus stantis et cadentis Ecclesiae”, the article by which the Church stands or falls.
This does not mean ignoring the great theological and spiritual enrichment that came from the Reformation or desiring to go back to the time before it. It means instead allowing all of Christianity to benefit from its achievements, once they are freed from certain distortions due to the heated atmosphere of the time and of later controversies.
Justification by faith, for example, ought to be preached by the whole Church—and with more vigor than ever. Not in opposition to good works – the issue is already settled – but rather in opposition to the claim of people today that they can save themselves thanks to their science, technology or their man-made spirituality, without the need for a redeemer coming from outside humanity. Self-justification! I am convinced that if they were alive today this is the way Martin Luther and Thomas Cranmer would preach justification through faith!
Unity is not a simple matter. One has to start with the big Churches, those that are well structured, putting together that which unites them, which is vastly more important than what divides them; not imposing uniformity but aiming at what pope Francis calls “reconciled diversities”. Nothing is more important than to fulfill Christ’s heart desire for unity expressed in today’s gospel. In many parts of the world people are killed and churches burned not because they are Catholic, or Anglican, or Pentecostals, but because they are Christians. In their eyes we are already one! Let us be one also in our eyes and in the eyes of God.
The Anglican Church has a special role in all of this. It has often defined itself as a “via media” (a Middle Way) between Roman Catholicism and Reformed Christianity. From being a “via media” in a static sense, it must now become more and more a via media in a dynamic sense, exercising an active function as a bridge between the Churches. The presence among you of a priest of the Catholic Church, in circumstances of such special significance, is a sign that something of the kind is already happening.
Let us conclude by returning to the text of Haggai. After the people of Israel, in obedience to the prophet’s invitation, had returned with renewed fervour to the task of rebuilding the temple, God sent His prophet again, this time with a message full of hope and consolation:
“But take courage now, Zerubbabel – it is the Lord who speaks -, courage, Joshua, son of Jehozadak, high priest; courage, all you people of the country – it is the Lord who speaks. To work! I am with you, the Lord of hosts declares; and my Spirit is present among you. Do not be afraid!” (Hg 2, 4-5).
Zerubbabel was the political leader at the time, and Joshua the religious leader. I believe that the Lord wanted me to be among you today, above all to tell you that He is addressing this same message to you, at the inauguration of your Synod and also in view of the meeting planned for next January between the leaders of the entire Anglican communion: “Take courage, Your Majesty, Sovereign of this nation, courage, Justin, Archbishop of Canterbury, courage Sentamu, Archbishop of York, courage, you bishops, clergy and laity of the Church of England! To work, because I am with you. Says the Lord!”
Source: http://www.anglicannews.org/news/2015/11/rebuild-my-house-sermon-to-the-general-synod-of-the-church-of-england-by-father-raniero-cantalamessa.aspx

 

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, Religion and Ethics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“Kill the gay” bill receives Catholic support…

The “Kill The Gays” bill is infamous around the world for its provision mandating the death penalty for anyone convicted of “crimes” in the area of  homosexuality, same-sex rape,  “serial offender,” and  HIV/AIDS .
It has been sponsored since 2009 by David Bahati, an MP with clearly visible homophobic tendencies.
The bill is strongly supported by the First Lady Janet Museveni and legislators with close ties to the American religious right. Opposed by the State Department and leaders around the world, it never came to a vote in parliament.

Also the Roman-Catholic Church under Bishop Cyprian Lwanga denounced the bill’s death penalty and imprisonment provisions as a contradiction to a “Christian caring approach” towards the issues. But he also stated: “We, the Catholic Bishops of Uganda, appreciate and applaud the Government’s effort to protect the traditional family and its values.”His last statement seems now to catch up with him.

The Vatican issued in December 2009 a clear statement denouncing “all grave violations of human rights against homosexual persons,” particularly “the murder and abuse of homosexual persons are to be confronted on all levels, especially when such violence is perpetrated by the State.”

The bill also includes:

  • A 7-year jail sentence for consenting adults who have gay sex;
  • A life sentence for people in same-sex marriages;
  • Extradition and prosecution of LGBT Ugandans living abroad;
  • The death penalty for adults who have gay sex with minors or people with disabilities, consensual or no, or who communicate HIV via gay sex, regardless of condom usage or consent;
  • Jail for anyone who doesn’t report suspected gay people within 24 hours;
  • A ban on the “promotion” of homosexuality so open-ended that it would endanger HIV/AIDS treatment and sexual health clinics in the country and could effectively exclude gay people from petitioning the courts by making those representing them liable for criminal action;
  • A mandate to break all ties with international commitments and laws opposing the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Now it seems that the stance of the Roman Catholic Church in Uganda is now snow from yesterday.

The Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC), an ecumenical body which brings together the Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox churches,participants  resolved that the bill  should be brought back to parliament.  The UJCC said that the bill was needed to prevent what they called “an attack on the Bible and the institution of marriage.” MP Bahati seems to indicate his belief, that during the process of debating the bill in parliament, the death penalty would be removed from the bill. Certainly a very vague hope for a Catholic Bishop, now calling for the introduction of a bill, he vocally opposed in December 2009 during his broadcasted Christmas message.

This bill is clearly against human rights and the dignity of people – values every Catholic Bishop is called to defend. What ever drives Bishop Cyprian Lwanga – it can never be an excuse and what is remaining is to call on him to retract his support for this bill before it is too late and destroyed lives and blood is on his hands.

 

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Bidding farewell to IAM

We all are learning to bid farewell at times, it is like a repeated rehearsal for the big farewell of dying.  Today I bid farewell to IAM where I was for 6 years on board as a trustees. IAM stands for Integrative Affirmative Ministry and deals with the question of inclusion of gay and lesbian and transgender people into the mainstream churches. It is an amazing bunch of people, straight, gay and lesbian, priests, reverends and bishops are taking seriously the situation of the gay and lesbians who are part of the churches, but most times are not welcomed. Take my church: Homosexuality is intrinsic evil, so I have read – but being a homosexual is ok – well, as long as you don’t live it out. Not even in a committed partnership. It’s one of the most contradictory teachings in the church: Your God-given sexuality is not allowed to be practised, you are sentenced to a life in chastity to be certain to go to heaven… So they think or so some think.. Not sure what God thinks.. But I am sure that his unconditional love allows more than the church’s teaching. Other churches are fine with homosexuality – as long as it is not the pastor. Some are fine with a homosexual pastor – but not that the boyfriend or partner is living in the parish house. And vividly I remember the fight in the Anglican church when the first openly gay living bishop was ordained. What kind of threats from African and US Anglicans wanna – know – it – better – what – is – God’s – will…

The churches teaching is based on the scripture – well, the scripture did not know about committed relationships, it did not know about sexuality as we do – but what St. Augustin and others thought to know some hundred years ago – nothing has changed for the official church. Or has it? The permission of a bishop in Vienna to allow for a gay parish council chair is a light at the end of a very long tunnel. But the fight continues about the issue – and we often forget that we talk about brothers and sisters in Christ – this is not an academic study or reflection. I personally believe that we should leave it to God and the people concerned what happens between two adults in a bedroom as long as it is consensual and committed.

But back to the farewell – after six years of serving on board of this fine organisation I retired today from service and it was a touching moment. I really learned a lot about the Afrikaans culture, about LGBTI, about church and Christian communities – it was a humble experience and an eye opener in many instances. Judith, Peter, Retha and all the rest: I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your love, your friendship and the joined efforts. David, who also left today after 8 years of service: Have a great sabbathical, bishop and keep your friendly and welcoming attitude…  And yeah, we all keep in touch…

Filed under: General, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

21.10.2009 Anglican Catholics…

And in between this news:

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Benedict on Tuesday took a major step to make it easier for disaffected Anglicans who feel their Church has become too liberal to convert to Roman Catholicism.

The move comes after years of discontent in some sectors of the 77-million-strong worldwide Anglican community over the ordination of women priests and homosexual bishops.

While both sides stressed the step would not affect dialogue between the two Churches, it was clear it was taken because of the growing number of Anglicans who want to leave their Church.

The Vatican said the Pope had approved a document known as an “Apostolic Constitution” to accept Anglicans who want to join Catholicism, either individually or in groups, while maintaining some of their own traditions.

It marks perhaps the clearest and boldest institutional step by the Vatican to welcome disaffected Anglicans into the fold since King Henry VIII broke with Rome and set himself up at the head of the new Church of England in 1534.

The new structure allows for the appointment of leaders, usually bishops who will come from the ranks of unmarried former Anglican priests, to oversee communities of former Anglicans who become Catholics and recognise the pope as their leader.

“In this way, the Apostolic Constitution seeks to balance on the one hand the concern to preserve the worthy Anglican liturgical and spiritual patrimony and, on the other hand, the concern that these groups and their clergy will be integrated into the Catholic Church,” the Vatican said. ”
Euronews (Secular; Independent; French), article by Reuters (Secular; Independent; French)

20 / 10 | October / 2009
[read on at article]
http://www.euronews.net/newswires/40473-pope-approves-document-on-anglicans-joining-church/

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , ,

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