Catholic communion is only for Catholics – cardinal Sarah
Earlier this month, Pope Francis stirred controversy when he expressed comments about intercommunion while addressing a gathering of Lutherans in Rome.
Responding to a question from a non-Italian Lutheran woman who voiced her regret that she couldn’t receive Holy Communion with her Catholic husband, the pope said that while he would never dare give permission for her to receive the Eucharist because it’s not his competence or jurisdiction, he said she should “talk to the Lord and then go forward.”
Owing to confusion over the pope’s words, we asked Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, and Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Astana, Kazakhstan, for their opinion on the matter.
Cardinal Sarah offered initial comment, saying: “Intercommunion is not permitted between Catholics and non-Catholics. You must confess the Catholic Faith. A non-Catholic cannot receive Communion. That is very, very clear. It’s not a matter of following your conscience.”
His Eminence also responded to several questions:
1. Could a priest give Holy Communion to both husband and wife if he knows one is Catholic and one is not?
No, we give Communion to Catholics. Many priests have told me: “I give Communion to everybody.” It’s nonsense.
Sometimes, an Anglican who is very far away from his church for a very long period of time and who desires to receive Communion, can participate in Mass and receive Communion in the Catholic Church, where there is no sin, and he is properly married. Because they believe in the Eucharist, even if in the Anglican church is it not actually the Eucharist because there is no priesthood. But it is rare and would happen under very exceptional circumstances. This is something extraordinary and not ordinary.
But a Catholic cannot receive communion in the Anglican church, because there is no Communion; there is only bread. The bread is not consecrated, because the priest is not a priest. With the break of Henry VIII with the Catholic Church, priestly orders in the Anglican Church became null and void. So the consecration isn’t valid, and therefore it’s not the Eucharist.
And a wife who is Lutheran, or Anglican, and who is married to a Catholic man? If they go to Mass on Sunday, is it ever possible for her to receive Communion?
On the day of their marriage, the priest gave Communion to the Catholic husband and not to the Lutheran or Anglican wife. It’s the same if they go to Mass together, because there is no intercommunion: between Anglicans and Catholics, between Catholics and Protestants. If they go to Mass together, the Catholic can go to Communion but the Lutheran or Anglican cannot.
2. If we’re not unified in faith and doctrine, do you think opening the doors to intercommunion would undermine belief in the True Presence?
I think it would promote profanation. We cannot do this. It’s not that I have to talk to the Lord in order to know if I should go to Communion. No, I have to know if I’m in accord with the rule of the Church. It’s my conscience that says: “Go.” My conscience must be enlightened by the rule of the Church, which says that in order to communicate, I need to be in the state of grace, without sin, and have the faith of the Catholic Church. … It’s not a personal desire or a personal dialogue with Jesus that determines if I can receive Communion in the Catholic Church. How can I know that the Lord has really said: “Come and receive my Body.” No. A person cannot decide if he is able to receive Communion. He has to have the rule of the Church: i.e., being a Catholic, being in a state of grace, properly married [if married].
3. But some would say that opening the doors to intercommunion would be a way for the spouses to become more one?
But the Lord helps us to be one if we receive Him correctly. If not, it doesn’t create unity. We will eat our condemnation. St. Paul says: “Let a man examine himself … for anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself (1 Corinthians 11:27-29). Therefore, we don’t succeed in becoming one if they partake with sin, with disregard for the Body of Christ.
COMMENTS ALSO FROM BISHOP SCHNEIDER
Bishop Schneider was similarly forthright about the issue, saying the Church must be “very clear with the Protestants, not hiding anything.”
“We read in the Second Vatican Council document that real ecumenism is not irenicism, but sincere dialogue in which we hide nothing of our identity.” He added that any gesture which is “not clear, not sincere, and ambiguous will never help true ecumenism” on “every level.”
He said “pastors and shepherds” have to be “very careful” in their pronouncements not to “create ambiguity and confusion among the people,” leading them to believe that “Catholic and Protestant doctrine are basically the same, with only minor differences.”
“This is not true. It does not respond to reality or to the Gospel. All the truths of the Catholic Church are the truths of the Gospel. And those Catholic doctrines which Protestants deny are against the Gospel. We have to speak clearly.”
Regarding the pope’s words to the Lutheran woman, he also said it’s important not to exaggerate the infallibility of the popes. In his usual gestures and expressions, the pope doesn’t intend to “oblige, or to impose” the faithful to believe what he is expressing.
“I am convinced that Pope Francis is not against when someone says to him: ‘Holy Father, I do not agree with this expression. You have not said you oblige me to accept this, because it is not your intention to speak definitively. So we can be in a reverent dialogue with you to clear up these issues.’”
He added: “I think we need to be in a climate of dialogue which is free of intimidation. Otherwise, this will be an atmosphere of dictatorship, and I think Pope Francis does not like to be considered as creating an atmosphere of inquisition, dictatorship or persecution of someone who expresses reasoned thoughts and opinions.”
Pope Francis’ homily at mass at Bangui cathedral (29-11-2015)
On this first Sunday of Advent, the liturgical season of joyful expectation of the Saviour and a symbol of Christian hope, God has brought me here among you, in this land, while the universal Church is preparing for the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. I am especially pleased that my pastoral visit coincides with the opening of this Jubilee Year in your country. From this cathedral I reach out, in mind and heart, and with great affection, to all the priests, consecrated men and women, and pastoral workers of the nation, who are spiritually united with us at this moment. Through you, I would greet all the people of the Central African Republic: the sick, the elderly, those who have experienced life’s hurts. Some of them are perhaps despairing and listless, asking only for alms, the alms of bread, the alms of justice, the alms of attention and goodness.
But like the Apostles Peter and John on their way to the Temple, who had neither gold nor silver to give to the paralytic in need, I have come to offer God’s strength and power; for these bring us healing, set us on our feet and enable us to embark on a new life, to “go across to the other side” (cf. Lk 8:22).
Jesus does not make us cross to the other side alone; instead, he asks us to make the crossing with him, as each of us responds to his or her own specific vocation. We need to realize that making this crossing can only be done with him, by freeing ourselves of divisive notions of family and blood in order to build a Church which is God’s family, open to everyone, concerned for those most in need. This presupposes closeness to our brothers and sisters; it implies a spirit of communion. It is not primarily a question of financial means; it is enough just to share in the life of God’s people, in accounting for the hope which is in us (cf. 1 Pet 3:15), in testifying to the infinite mercy of God who, as the Responsorial Psalm of this Sunday’s liturgy makes clear, is “good [and] instructs sinners in the way” (Ps 24:8). Jesus teaches us that our heavenly Father “makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good” (Mt 5:45). Having experienced forgiveness ourselves, we must forgive others in turn. This is our fundamental vocation: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48).
One of the essential characteristics of this vocation to perfection is the love of our enemies, which protects us from the temptation to seek revenge and from the spiral of endless retaliation. Jesus placed special emphasis on this aspect of the Christian testimony (cf. Mt 5:46-47). Those who evangelize must therefore be first and foremost practitioners of forgiveness, specialists in reconciliation, experts in mercy. This is how we can help our brothers and sisters to “cross to the other side” – by showing them the secret of our strength, our hope, and our joy, all of which have their source in God, for they are grounded in the certainty that he is in the boat with us. As he did with the apostles at the multiplication of the loaves, so too the Lord entrusts his gifts to us, so that we can go out and distribute them everywhere, proclaiming his reassuring words: “Behold, the days are coming when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jer 33:14).
In the readings of this Sunday’s liturgy, we can see different aspects of this salvation proclaimed by God; they appear as signposts to guide us on our mission. First of all, the happiness promised by God is presented as justice. Advent is a time when we strive to open our hearts to receive the Saviour, who alone is just and the sole Judge able to give to each his or her due. Here as elsewhere, countless men and women thirst for respect, for justice, for equality, yet see no positive signs on the horizon. These are the ones to whom he comes to bring the gift of his justice (cf. Jer 33:15). He comes to enrich our personal and collective histories, our dashed hopes and our sterile yearnings. And he sends us to proclaim, especially to those oppressed by the powerful of this world or weighed down by the burden of their sins, that “Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it shall be called, ‘The Lord is our righteousness’” (Jer 33:16). Yes, God is righteousness; God is justice. This, then, is why we Christians are called in the world to work for a peace founded on justice.
The salvation of God which we await is also flavoured with love. In preparing for the mystery of Christmas, we relive the pilgrimage which prepared God’s people to receive the Son, who came to reveal that God is not only righteousness, but also and above all love (cf. 1 Jn 4:8). In every place, even and especially in those places where violence, hatred, injustice and persecution hold sway, Christians are called to give witness to this God who is love. In encouraging the priests, consecrated men and woman, and committed laity who, in this country live, at times heroically, the Christian virtues, I realize that the distance between this demanding ideal and our Christian witness is at times great. For this reason I echo the prayer of Saint Paul: “Brothers and sisters, may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all men and women” (1 Th 3:12). Thus what the pagans said of the early Christians will always remain before us like a beacon: “See how they love one another, how they truly love one another” (Tertullian, Apology, 39, 7).
Finally, the salvation proclaimed by God has an invincible power which will make it ultimately prevail. After announcing to his disciples the terrible signs that will precede his coming, Jesus concludes: “When these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Lk 21:28). If Saint Paul can speak of a love which “grows and overflows”, it is because Christian witness reflects that irresistible power spoken of in the Gospel. It is amid unprecedented devastation that Jesus wishes to show his great power, his incomparable glory (cf. Lk 21:27) and the power of that love which stops at nothing, even before the falling of the heavens, the conflagration of the world or the tumult of the seas. God is stronger than all else. This conviction gives to the believer serenity, courage and the strength to persevere in good amid the greatest hardships. Even when the powers of Hell are unleashed, Christians must rise to the summons, their heads held high, and be ready to brave blows in this battle over which God will have the last word. And that word will be love [and peace]!
To all those who make unjust use of the weapons of this world, I make this appeal: lay down these instruments of death! Arm yourselves instead with righteousness, with love and mercy, the authentic guarantors of peace. As followers of Christ, dear priests, religious and lay pastoral workers, here in this country, with its suggestive name, situated in the heart of Africa and called to discover the Lord as the true centre of all that is good, your vocation is to incarnate the very heart of God in the midst of your fellow citizens. May the Lord deign to “strengthen your hearts in holiness, that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints” (1 Th 3:13). [Reconciliation. Forgiveness. Love. Peace.] Amen.
PASTORAL RESPONSE TO PORNOGRAPHY
“A clean heart create for me God.” (Ps 51:12)
As pastors of the Catholic Church, we offer this statement to give a word of hope and healing to those who have been harmed by pornography and to raise awareness of its pervasiveness and harms.
In the confessional and in our daily ministry and work with families, we have seen the corrosive damage caused by pornography-children whose innocence is stolen; men and women who feel great guilt and shame for viewing pornography occasionally or habitually; spouses who feel betrayed and traumatized; and men, women and children exploited by the pornography industry. While the production and use of pornography has always been a problem, in recent years its impact has grown exponentially, in large part due to the Internet and mobile technology. Some have even described it as a public health crisis. Everyone, in some way, is affected by increased pornography use in society. We all suffer negative consequences from its distorted view of the human person and sexuality. As bishops, we are called to proclaim anew the abundant mercy and healing of God found in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, and through his Church.
The audience of this statement is broad because pornography affects so many people’s lives and requires a collaborative, concentrated effort by all of us to counter its harms. The statement itself is addressed primarily to parents, clergy, diocesan and parish leaders, educators, mental health professionals, and all those in positions to help protect children from pornography and heal the men, women, and young people who have been harmed by its use. We also hope the statement will be helpful for men, women, and young people who themselves view pornography, whether occasionally or habitually, or who have been victimized by pornography. Finally, we speak to religious allies and all people of good will who want to work together toward a culture of purity that upholds the dignity of every person and the sacredness of human sexuality.
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POPE FRANCIS ON MINISTRY AND LIFE OF PRIESTS
Pope Francis on Friday (20-11-2015) spoke to a conference marking the 50th anniversary of Vatican II’s decrees on the ministry and life of priests and on priestly training, noting priests’ role as coming from the community and being for the community.
The conference on Presbyterorum ordinis and Optatam totius was organized by the Congregation for the Clergy, and Pope Francis began his Nov. 20 address calling the two decrees “a seed, which the Council sowed in the life of the Church,” and which have “become a vigorous plant.”
He noted the importance of the Congregation for the Clergy having competence over seminary formation (an innovation of Benedict XVI), because “in this way the dicastery can start to deal with the live and ministry of priests from the moment of their entrance into seminary, working to ensure that vocations are promoted and cared for, and may blossom into the lives of holy priests. The path of sanctity of a priest begins in seminary!”
Pope Francis began his address, delivered in the Vatican’s Sala Regia, from “ the relationship between priests and other people … given that the vocation to the priesthood is a gift that God gives to some for the good of all.”
He reflected on Presbyterorum ordinis’ use of a text from the Letter to the Hebrews: “Priests, who are taken from among men and ordained for men in the things that belong to God in order to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins, nevertheless live on earth with other men as brothers amid brothers,” and urged: “Let us consider these three moments: ‘taken from among men’, ‘ordained for men’, and ‘present among other men’.”
A priest, Pope Francis said, “is a man who is born in a certain human context: there he learns the primary values, absorbs the spirituality of the people, grows accustomed to relations.”
“Priests also have a history, they are not ‘mushrooms’ which sprout up suddenly in the cathedral on the day of their ordination.”
“It is important for formators and priests themselves to remember this and to know how to take into account this personal history along the path of formation … this means that one cannot become a priest, believing that one has been formed in a laboratory, no; he starts in the family with the ‘handing on’ of the faith and with all the experiences of the family.” He added that each vocation is personalized, “because it is the concrete person who is called to discipleship and the priesthood.”
The Pope added that the family, the domestic Church, is the “center of pastoral work” and the “firest and fundamental place of human formation, which can germinate in young people the desire for a life concieved as a vocational path, to be trod with commitment and generosity.”
“A good priest, therefore, is first of all a man with his own humanity, who knows his own history, with its riches and its wounds, who has learned to make peace with this, achieving the fundamental serenity proper to one of the Lord’s disciples. Human formation is therefore a necessity for priests, so that they learn not to be dominate by their limits, but rather to put their talents to use.”
A priest is “a man at peace” who diffuses serenity, “even at strenuous moments, transmitting the beauty of a relationship with the Lord.”
“We priests are apostles of joy: we announce the Gospel, which is the quintessential ‘good news’; we certainly do not give strength to the Gospel … but we can favour or hinder the encounter between the Gospel and people. Our humanity is the ‘earthen vessel’ in which we conserve God’s treasure, a vessel we must take care of, so as to transmit well its precious contents.”
The Pope urged priests against “loosing their roots”: a priest “always remains a man of the people and the culture that have produced him; our roots help us to remember who we are and to where Christ has called us. We priests do not fall from above but are instead called by God, who takes us ‘from among men’, to ‘ordain us for men’.”
The second point, Pope Francis stated, is ‘for men’: “This is fundamental point in the life and ministry of priests. Responding to God’s call, we become priests to serve our brothers and sisters. The images of Christ we take as a point of reference for our ministry as priests are clear: he is the ‘high priest’, at the same time close to God and close to man; he is the ‘servant’, who washes the feet and makes himself close to the weakest; and he is the ‘good shepherd’, who always cares for his flock.”
These three images, the Pope reflected, show that “we are not priests for ourselves, and our own sanctification is closely linked to that of our people, our anointment with theirs. You have been anointed for your people. Knowing and remembering that we are ordained for the people, the holy people of God, helps priests not to think of themselves, to be authoritative, not authoritarian; firm but not hard; joyful but not superficial: in short, pastors, not functionaries.”
He recalled that “St. Ambrose, in the fourth century, said: ‘Where there is mercy, there is the spirit of the Lord; where there is rigidity there are only his ministers’. The minister without the Lord becomes rigid, and this is a peril for the people of God. Pastors, not functionaries.”
The mission of priests benefit “the people of God and all humanity,” Pope Francis said, adding that “human formation, as well as intellectual and spiritual formation, flow naturally into pastoral formation, providing tools, virtues, and personal dispositions. When all this harmonizes and blends with a genuine missionary zeal, along the path of a lifetime, the priest can fulfil the mission entrusted by Christ to his Church.”
“Finally, what is born with the people must stay with the people. The priests is always ‘among other men’: he is not a professional of pastoral ministry or evangelisation, who arrives and does what he has to do – perhaps well, but as if it were a profession like any other – before then going away and living a life apart. One becomes a priest in order to stay in the midst of the people,” he said.
Pope Francis then reflected on the particular ministry of bishops, saying that one can often hear priests complaining that he called his bishop with a problem, and “the secretary, the secretary told me he is very busy … he cannot see me for three months.”
In response to such a situation, Pope Francis had two pieces of advice for bishops: have time for your priests, and spend time in your diocese.
“A bishop is always busy, thanks be to God, but if you, a bishop, receive a call from a priest and cannot take it because you have so much work, at least pick up the phone and call him and say: ‘Is it urgent? Not urgent? Well, come this day …’, so that you feel close. There are bishops who seem to move away from priests … Proximity, at least one phone call! This is the love of a father, fraternity.”
His second point for bishops, spend time in your diocese, he demonstrated by caricaturing a bishop saying, “No, I have a conference in that city and then I have a trip to America, and then …” But Pope Francis reminded them that “look, the decree of residence of Trent is still valid! And if you do not like to remain in the diocese, resign, and travel the world doing another very good apostolate. But if you’re the bishop of that diocese, have residence there. These two things, proximity and residence. But this is for us bishops! One becomes a priest in order to say in the midst of the people.”
“The good that priests can do arises above all from their closeness and their tender love for people. They are not philanthropists or functionaries, but fathers and brothers. The fatherhood of a priest does so much good,” Pope Francis said.
He reflected on how priests are called to make concrete God’s love for the people, and turned to Confession.
“Always you can find ways to give absolution. This is good. But sometimes, you cannot absolve. There are priests who say: ‘No, this I cannot absolve, go away’. This is not the way. If you cannot give absolution, explain and say: ‘God loves you very much, God wishes you well. To come to God there are so many ways. I cannot give you absolution, but I give you a blessing. But return, always return here, for whenever you return I will give you a blessing as a sign that God loves you’. And the man or the woman goes away full of joy because they have found an icon of the Father, who never refuses; in one way or another, they have been embraced.”
The Pope then offered as an examination of conscience for priests, to ask “Where is my heart? Among the people, praying with and for the people, involved in their joys and sufferings, or rather among the things of the world, worldly affairs, my private space?”
He concluded his address by calling the conference to offer its work to the Church as a useful reflection on Vatican II’s words on the priesthood, “contributing to the formation of priests … configured always to the Lord.”
PRAYING FOR THE DEAD – WHERE IT IS IN THE BIBLE
Mere reason suggests there must be a purgatory. So many people seem to be good, but not so greatly good that they should be for Heaven at once. Again, not nearly all are so evil as to deserve Hell. So there should be a means of purification and paying the debt of temporal punishment for those not for Hell, nor for Heaven at once.
For many Catholics in English-speaking lands, belief in the ability of the living to help the dead through prayer and sacrifices often falls prey to cultural suspicion about the Church’s belief in Purgatory because most English-speaking Catholics live in countries whose culture is primarily Protestant. As a rule, Protestant Christians believe neither in Purgatory nor in the living person’s ability to be of assistance to the deceased. This is because at the time of the Protestant Reformation, among numerous other texts, Martin Luther removed from the Bible that section which teaches that there is great value in praying for the dead.
The text reads, “He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the Resurrection in mind; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be absolved from their sin” (2 Mac 12:43-6). This text from Maccabbees, which Protestant bibles do not contain, conveys the scriptural basis for the Church’s belief that some of those who have died who will be saved have not yet achieved heaven (i.e. they are in Purgatory), and that the living can provide help for those souls by performing prayers and sacrifices.
Catholic faith holds that we can indeed continue to care, help and express generosity toward people even after they have died through prayer. Because the Book of Maccabbees ranks among those texts that Luther been [sic] edited out of the scriptural canon, Protestantism is bereft of this consoling ingredient of our Christian patrimony. In Christian lands that are primarily Protestant, the Protestant sense of the futility of praying for the dead has easily entered into the popular consciousness, regrettably causing even some Catholics to question the practice. It behooves pastors not only to clarify this belief for their flocks, but to encourage the growth of the Catholic observance of praying for the dead and in particular, of offering Masses of the dead.
It must be acknowledged that the Church has a very limited understanding of the specifics related to Purgatory, yet Church teaching on the existence of Purgatory is made clear in the Catechism of the Catholic Church , articles 1030-32, which begins with “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven (1030). The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned (1031) .
Ancient Christians believed in the practice of praying for the dead. Many locations in the ancient catacombs reveal passages marked into the walls reminding the living to pray for the dead. St Monica begged her son, St Augustine, to pray for her after her own death. In 1439, the Second Council of Florence acknowledged that some souls must still expiate for past sins after their death and they do so in Purgatory. The 16th-century Council of Trent, legislated “that purgatory exists, and that the souls detained therein are helped by the suffrages of the faithful, but especially by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar”.
Catholic faith is unambiguous in its belief that those who die without mortal sin but with many of life’s imperfections still unhealed will experience a time of perfect healing from sin and brokenness and a time for whatever expiation from sin the merciful God requires of a soul before that soul may enter Heaven. Further, the Church has been clarifying for centuries that prayers, sacrifices and most particularly, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, are of assistance to those souls who are in Purgatory.
Several extracts from the Mass reveal the Church as she understands her ability to be of help to the dead. In the First Eucharistic Prayer at Mass we pray: “Remember also, Lord, your servants N. and N., who have gone before us with the sign of faith and rest in the sleep of peace. Grant them, O Lord, we pray, and all who sleep in Christ, a place of refreshment, light, and peace. (Through Christ our Lord. Amen)” The Second Eucharistic Prayer reads: “Remember also our brothers and sisters who have fallen asleep in the hope of the Resurrection and all who have died in your mercy: welcome them into the light of your face”. When Eucharistic Prayer 3 is used in Masses for the Dead, the following is prayed: “To our departed brothers and sisters and to all who were pleasing to you at their passing from this life, give kind admittance to your kingdom. There we hope to enjoy forever the fullness of your glory through Christ our Lord through whom you bestow on the world all that is good”. Each of these liturgical prayers officially acknowledges that some of the dead who will be saved are not yet in Heaven and that the Church’s prayers are helpful to them.
The understanding then, that prayers, sacrifices and particularly the offering of the Mass helps the souls in Purgatory, prompts one to ask why in the world a Catholic would choose to memorialize a deceased person by making a gift of flowers or a charitable contribution to an agency instead of arranging to have the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass offered for that person’s soul. Certainly flowers provide solace for the survivors, and the Church urges all toward acts of charity, so these are good and holy gestures that should not be eliminated. But they should not run competition with the pious practice of having Masses offered for the dead as well. The greatest favor anyone can make to a deceased person is to have the Mass offered for them; nothing surpasses this in efficacy.
The Catholic Church always Commemorate the feast of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls day) on November 2, it is especially important to recall the Church’s teaching that there is indeed a Purgatory in which the souls of the saved but imperfect are awaiting the fulfillment of their purification and healing, and that these souls can be greatly helped by the prayers, sacrifices and Masses offered by the living. This is an aspect of the Catholic patrimony that must not be forgotten or de-emphasized. Justice demands that our brothers and sisters in the faith who have died find in us faithful friends who acknowledge that It is indeed a good and pious thing to pray for the dead.
May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God always rest in peace. Amen
WHY CATHOLICS PRAY FOR THE DEAD – A VIEW
“But regarding the fact that the dead rise again, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the burning bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, and the God of Jacob ‘? “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living; you are greatly mistaken.” (MARK 12:26-27)
Catholics believe, as you rightly said, that through faith we have been immersed and “inserted” in Christ; therefore,
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (GALATIANS 2:20)
Precisely because Christ lives in me and I in him, I believe that I shall never die. I have passed from death into life.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. (JOHN 5:24)
Catholic believe that all who believe in Christ are ONE WITH Him. We are all ONE (Unum) WITH (Cum) Christ. Cum + Unun = Communion! We are the ONE BODY of Christ with Christ Himself as the HEAD.
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)
Therefore Catholics believe that the Body of Christ that meets for worship includes all who have been baptized into Christ and are members of His Body. These form the COMMUNION OF SAINTS. This is why their Worship IN and WITH Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit far surpasses that of Moses on Sinai!!!
You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.” But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel. (HEBREWS 12:18-24)
Go back and read these words again. Catholics take God’s Word in the Bible seriously.
Now listen to this also. These are Jesus’ own words. You should be good at debunking Jesus on what He says to Martha:
Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” (JOHN 11:24-27)
This is why if you took a little time with a little humility to listen and not presume to know more than Catholics about their own beliefs and practices, you might discover why the Lord’s Supper (Eucharistia, Anamnesis, Communion, Mass) is the most important and SUPREME act of WORSHIP. Just listen to Jesus’ own words,
“I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. “For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. “This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.” These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum. Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” (JOHN 6:51-60)
My brother, does this sound like those who have bodily died in Christ are not spiritually alive in Him? They are dead in the flesh but alive in the spirit. They are alive in Christ. They are not spirits wandering and lingering all over the place but ALIVE IN CHRIST!! Notice also that Jesus Himself was put to death in the flesh (as his body l lay dead for three days in the tomb) but was made alive in the spirit so that He could descend into Hell and proclaim freedom to those dead since Noah!!
“For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water” (1 Peter 3:18-20)
Where are the Saints? They are with the Lord. This is glorious. In fact the Apostle Paul believes that death in the flesh meant “going to be with the Lord”.
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If it is to be life in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” (Philippians 1:21-23)
Where is Christ? Is the Lord dead? Where are those who have believed in His, suffered for Him and patiently endured with Him? When they die, where are they? Apart from the Catholic Church, try and pose these same questions to fifty different protestant churches and any of the remaining thousands of groups, and you will get fifty different answers and thousands other conflicting responses – all claiming to be speaking faithfully from the Bible ALONE! It is no news therefore that a protestant disagrees with a Catholic. This is because, among themselves, they have all never agreed on ONE SINGLE thing except that they all don’t want to be Catholic!
The Book of Revelation is written symbolic futuristic (apocalyptic) in genre but actualistic (for present) in meaning says of the saints,
“After this I looked, and there was an enormous crowd—no one could count all the people! They were from every race, tribe, nation, and language, and they stood in front of the throne and of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. 10 They called out in a loud voice: “Salvation comes from our God, who sits on the throne, and from the Lamb!” 11 All the angels stood around the throne, the elders, and the four living creatures. Then they threw themselves face downward in front of the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Praise, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, honor, power, and might belong to our God forever and ever! Amen!” One of the elders asked me, “Who are these people dressed in white robes, and where do they come from?” “I don’t know, sir. You do,” I answered. He said to me, “These are the people who have come safely through the terrible persecution. They have washed their robes and made them white with the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9-14)
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth;
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son Our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into Hell; the third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.
Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth?
Do you believe in Jesus Christ, His only son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead?
Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting?
Do you believe in God?
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
Do you believe in Jesus Christ?
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of the Father, and will come again to judge the living and the dead.
Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.
Some even don’t know what they believe!!!!!!!!!!!!!
By: Rev. Fr. John Kofi Takyi
READINGS FOR NINE LESSONS & CAROLS
1st Lesson – Genesis 3:8-15, 17,19
2nd Lesson – Genesis 22: 15-18
3rd Lesson – Isaiah 9: 2, 6-7
4th Lesson – Micah 5: 2-4
5th Lesson – Matthew 1: 18-23
6th Lesson – Luke 2:1-7
7th Lesson – Luke 2:8-20
8th Lesson – Matthew 2: 1-12
9th Lesson – John 1: 1-14
God bless you.
WHY JESUS CHRIST IS THE FOUNDER OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
Christ established one Church with one set of beliefs (Eph. 4:4–5). He did not establish numerous churches with contradictory beliefs. To see which is the true Church, we must look for the one that has an unbroken historical link to the Church of the New Testament. Catholics are able to show such a link. They trace their leaders, the bishops, back through time, bishop by bishop, all the way to the apostles, and they show that the pope is the lineal successor to Peter, who was the first bishop of Rome. The same thing is true of Catholic beliefs and practices. Take any one you wish, and you can trace it back. This is just what John Henry Newman did in his book An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine.
He looked at Christian beliefs through the ages. Starting with the nineteenth century (he was writing in 1844), he worked backward century by century, seeing if Catholic beliefs existing at any particular time could be traced to beliefs existing a century before. Back and back he went, until he got to New Testament times. What he demonstrated is that there is a real continuity of beliefs, that the Catholic Church has existed from day one of Church history, that it is in fact the Church established by Christ.
Newman was not a Catholic when he started the book, but his research convinced him of the truth of the Catholic faith, and as the book was finished he converted. Fundamentalist leaders make no effort to trace their version of Christianity century by century. They claim the Christianity existing in New Testament times was like today’s Protestant Fundamentalism in all essentials.
According to modern Fundamentalists, the original Christian Church was doctrinally the same as today’s Fundamentalist churches. When Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity in A.D. 313, pagans flocked to the Church in hopes of secular preferment, but the Church could not assimilate so many. It soon compromised its principles and became paganized by adopting pagan beliefs and practices. It developed the doctrines with which the Catholic Church is identified today. Simply put, it apostatized and became the Catholic Church. Meanwhile, true Christians (Fundamentalists) did not change their beliefs but were forced to remain in hiding until the Reformation.
The trouble with this history is that there are no historical facts whatsoever to back it up. Distinctively Catholic beliefs—the papacy, priesthood, invocation of saints, sacraments, veneration of Mary, salvation by something besides “faith alone,” purgatory—were evident long before the fourth century, before Constantine. They were believed by Christians before this supposed “paganization” took place. Another difficulty is that there are no historical records—none at all—which imply an underground Fundamentalist church existed from the early fourth century to the Reformation. In those years there were many schisms and heresies, most now vanished, but present-day Fundamentalists cannot find among them their missing Fundamentalist church. There were no groups that believed in all or even most, of the doctrines espoused by the Protestant Reformers (e.g. sola scriptura, salvation by “faith alone,” and an invisible church). No wonder Fundamentalist writers dislike discussing Church history!
Since the Christian Church was to exist historically and be like a city set on a mountain for all to see (Matt. 5:14), it had to be visible and easily identifiable. A church that exists only in the hearts of believers is not visible and is more like the candle hidden under the bushel basket (Matt. 5:15). But any visible church would necessarily be an institutional church that would need an earthly head. It would need an authority to which Christians could turn for the final resolution of doctrinal and disciplinary disputes. Christ appointed Peter and his successors to that position.
Christ designated Peter head of the Church when he said, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church” (Matt. 16:18). Fundamentalists, desiring to avoid the natural sense of the passage, say “rock” refers not to Peter, but to his profession of faith or to Christ himself. But Peter’s profession of faith is two sentences away and can’t be what is meant. Similarly, the reference can’t be to Christ. The fact that he is elsewhere, by a quite different metaphor, called the cornerstone (Eph. 2:20, 1 Pet. 2:4–8) does not mean Peter was not appointed the earthly foundation. The apostles were also described as foundation stones in a sense (Eph. 2:20, Rev. 21:14), meaning that Christ is not the only person the Bible speaks of as being the Church’s foundation. In one sense the foundation was Christ, in another it was the apostles, and in another it was Peter. In Matthew 16:18 Christ has Peter in mind. He himself would be the Church’s invisible foundation since he was returning to heaven, from where he would invisibly rule the Church. He needed to leave behind a visible authority, one people could locate when searching for religious truth. That visible authority is the papacy.
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COMMUNIQUÉ OF THE PLENARY ASSEMBLY OF THE GHANA CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE HELD AT BOLGATANGA, UPPER EAST REGION, FROM 6TH TO 14TH NOVEMBER, 2015 ON THE THEME:
“THE LAITY IN THE CONTEXT OF THE NEW EVANGELISATION”
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
“May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:13).
We, the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference, have held our Plenary Assembly in Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region, also known as the “Sunshine” Region of Ghana, from November 6–14, 2015 under the theme “The Laity in the Context of the New Evangelization” and we wish to share with you some of our reflections on the theme. But first, let us give thanks to God for His abundant graces and blessings upon our land and our Church. We recall with grateful hearts the recent successful Synod of Bishops in Rome on the Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and the Contemporary World and the historic two-day Pro-Life Conference in Accra which highlighted the need to defend and promote the sanctity and dignity of life at all times.
Let us praise God for these blessings on the Church and the fact that our country Ghana, even in the midst of some significant challenges, continues to enjoy peace, stability and good will among nations. We therefore call on all Catholics and citizens of our nation to join us to thank God and beseech His blessings for the Church and our nation especially in these times when we begin preparations for our presidential and parliamentary elections next year.
Vocation and Mission of the Laity in the New Evangelisation
Constituting more than 98% of the Church’s population, the Laity are “All the faithful except those in Holy Orders and those who belong to a religious state sanctioned by the Church” (Lumen Gentium (LG) 31, Christifideles Laici (CL) 9). “The Church is not truly established and does not fully live, nor is it a perfect sign of Christ, unless there is a genuine laity existing and working alongside the hierarchy” (Ad Gentes (AG) 21). That is why the Laity should show active enthusiasm and support for the Bishops’ teachings, especially on temporal matters which is their proper domain.
The vocation of the Lay Faithful in the New Evangelisation is to give a coherent and authentic Christian testimony in the world. It includes the special role of “… so illuminating and ordering all temporal things that they grow in accordance with Christ and for the glory of the Creator and Redeemer” (LG 32). Grounded in their baptism and confirmation and in their charisms, the Laity are the ones who “make the Church present and active in those places and circumstances where it is only through them that the Church can be the salt of the earth” (LG 33). Since they live in the midst of the world and its concerns, the Laity engage in temporal and secular affairs to bring the Gospel into the family, work, profession, trade and commerce, politics, government, mass media, science, culture, national and international relations, etc. It was to raise this awareness, among other reasons, that we organised the 2nd National Pastoral Congress in Sunyani in 2014. We urge all Catholics to study the recommendations and Guidelines of the Congress and put them into practice.
One apostolate that is the prerogative of the Lay Faithful is the Family. They are called to witness to the sanctity of family life and to give a living witness to marriage and family life in the contemporary world. This irreplaceable role of parents in the family cannot be overemphasised because the Christian home constitutes the first school of virtue. It is in this respect that the Christian family becomes the domestic Church.
The Laity and the Year of Mercy
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has declared December 8, 2015 to November 20, 2016 as the Year of Mercy. The Church in Ghana will climax this year on October 16, 2016 during the annual plenary of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference to be held in Tamale. In this Extraordinary Jubilee Year, we invite all our Lay Faithful to reflect on the mercy of God and endeavour to make the Church a credible sign of mercy as “Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life” (Misericordiae Vultus (MV) 10). God reveals His love to the men and women of the world through the Church and so it is the Church’s primary task “to introduce everyone to the great mystery of God’s mercy.” It is the task of our Laity as well as the Priests and Religious to use this Year of Mercy to forgive all wrongs and injuries at all levels of the Church and society. Societies must collaborate with one another, families and friends must come together in bonds of charity and peace. We strongly urge all Priests to fix days and times during the week to give the Laity an opportunity to avail themselves of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Challenges and Prospects of Laity Formation Today
As a Church, we do not fail to recognise that many Catholics are today inadequately instructed in the faith. It seems that the parish and our institutions are unable to do enough, generally speaking, to promote the faith, theological formation and the deepening of the spirituality of the Laity. Many of the Laity fail to make themselves available for these instructions in their respective parishes and institutions where these formation programmes are available. And yet, for the Laity to play their proper roles in the New Evangelization, only attending Holy Mass and receiving the other sacraments are not enough. In addition to these necessities, they need a significant spiritual and doctrinal formation and a better understanding of the Church’s Social Teachings. There is the urgent need, therefore, on the part of both the Laity and the Clergy as well as all teachers of the faith to address themselves to a well-organised formation and education programme to meet the needs, especially, of the Lay Faithful. To fulfil this duty the Clergy, Pastoral and Laity Councils and the Lay Associations need to come together to budget for and to raise the funds for all formation programmes and activities of the Laity in all our communities.
Adequate Christian formation of the Ghanaian Laity
Parishes and outstations must have a systematic formation programme for Lay formation. We strongly encourage all parishes to intensify the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Parishes should work with our Pastoral-Catechetical centres and Catholic Educational Institutions to continually find new ways and new methods of deepening the biblical, doctrinal and catechetical knowledge of the Laity. The respective centres of formation should work with the Laity Councils and Parishes to help the Laity develop love for Sacred Scripture, Church doctrine, Catholic Social Teachings and the Catechism of the Church. Dioceses, parishes, lay associations need also to reinvigorate biblical apostolate among the Faithful. Parishes must be made attractive and have recreational facilities for children and youth as well as qualified personnel for faith formation of the youth. Through daily participation in the Eucharist, and parish life, the Laity take on the apostolate of spreading the Gospel which becomes personal, continual and incisive.
Parish Priests and their Assistants have an important role to support and facilitate the formation of the Laity for the New Evangelization and should show special interest in this apostolate. They should help form Laity who have the missionary zeal to introduce innovative ideas for Lay programmes and implementation.
Lay Associations and Laity Formation
The Catholic Church recognises and approves associations of the Lay Faithful. These societies and associations constitute an important element in the life and mission of the Church. They are expected to strive to promote a more perfect life among members, foster public worship, and learn Christian doctrine. They should continue to animate the temporal order with the Christian spirit. We call on all Lay Associations to dedicate a significant amount of time of meetings to biblical, doctrinal and catechetical formation of their members. Further, societies in the Church should note that, we condemn the commercialisation of religion in no uncertain terms. We therefore urge them and all Catholic Faithful to guard against using any society in the Church for personal financial gains or giving in to the “gospel of prosperity” without the cross.
The Laity and Current Socio-Economic Situation in Ghana
In discussing the role of the laity in the Church’s New Evangelisation, we cannot fail to address ourselves to the numerous socio-economic challenges that confront present-day Ghana. These challenges and situations are the context for evangelization by the Laity in the temporal world in the spirit of Christ. It is the unique role of the laity to direct temporal affairs according to God’s will; being the leaven in the world, manifesting Christ to all in unity with their Priests and Bishops; engaged in their special vocation to make the Church present in the world; transforming the Church to become the “salt of the earth… and light of the world” (Cf. Mt 5:13,14); enjoying a principal role in secular society to spread the spirit of Christ and infuse culture and human works with moral value.
The Laity and Urbanisation
The increasing urbanization of Ghana has brought in its wake the problem of “streetism”. In effect, children who should be in the classrooms are found loitering and/or hawking on the streets of our towns and cities. With increased urbanisation, the practice of prostitution is on the ascendancy while the HIV/AIDS pandemic is still rampant in some parts of the country, particularly, in cities. There are cases of armed robbery attacks in our cities. Even though statistics show that such cases have gone down, we think that there is still more room for improvement in this area. The problems relating to urbanisation also include the fact that urban poverty has increased over the last few years compared with rural poverty. These problems relating to urbanisation may seem daunting but we are guided by faith and hope that united as one people we can surely surmount these formidable challenges. A section Laity is in positions where they can improve the situation. These are called to see such duties as a charge from God.
The Laity and Unemployment
In Ghana today, unemployment constitutes perhaps the biggest social issue confronting our country, a situation which has been worsened by the turning out of many unskilled graduates from our schools. The secondary and tertiary education has not been able to turn out the relevant middle level skilled human resources needed for the industrialization of the country even as large numbers of people, including school drop-outs, continue to throng our cities for non-existing jobs, ending up as head porters or “Kayaye” and “shoe-shine boys and girls”. This army of unemployed youth often engages in undesirable immoral behaviours like prostitution and armed robbery. To stem this tide of affairs, we recommend that the State turn some of the community secondary schools currently under construction into Community Vocational and Technical schools and continue to equip and resource the existing Vocational and Technical Institutes in the country. Parents Guardians should also encourage their wards to enrol in these schools.
While the idea of Technical Universities is good, care must be taken not to rush the proposal through without doing the necessary due diligence to ensure that the aim of the exercise will be achieved. Perhaps, the proposed Long-Term Development plan is a great opportunity to get this policy and programme articulation right. The Laity who are policy makers on education delivery are called upon to work with their co-workers to make Christ’s love felt here.
The Laity and Poverty
Poverty is a direct consequence of unemployment. Every Ghanaian must be alarmed at the abject poverty that stares at us everywhere in the cities, towns and villages. We regret to say that various poverty-reduction interventions such as the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP), Youth Enterprise Support (YES) and the like, though commendable, have not yielded the desired results. It is our strong conviction that policies and strategies aimed at reducing poverty must be pragmatic, realistic and home-grown. Over-reliance on donor-driven or directed programmes must be cut to the barest minimum. The resolve of the global community to bring extreme poverty to an end must challenge Ghana to work hard to achieve the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at an earlier timeline before 2030. We urge our Laity to educate themselves and be abreast of the contents of the bail-out package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). All the Laity who are employers and business men and women are called by Jesus to help the poor and the needy as much as they can.
The Laity and National Health Delivery
We acknowledge that some attempts have been made to improve the health care delivery system in Ghana with the establishment of some Community-Based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) compounds and the building of more health care infrastructure in some parts of the country. We are, however, concerned about the long delays in the payment of health insurance claims to health care facilities, a situation which is gradually leading to the collapse of many of such facilities. We call for an immediate and urgent review of the National Health Insurance Scheme not only to save it from imminent collapse but to position it to serve its intended purpose because we think that this health policy is far better than the cash and carry system of the past.
We also note with sadness and worry the alarming rate of strike actions and lock-outs by health care givers including doctors, nurses and paramedics, and encourage policy makers to do all they can to resolve these issues once and for all. The key to most of these issues, we believe, is the prompt payment of salaries and the formalisation of the Conditions of Service for Health Workers. “I was sick and you visited me” (Mt 25:36) is Jesus’ invitation to all the Laity to do what is necessary to save the National Health Insurance Scheme.
The Laity and Care of the Environment
Closely linked to the health of the nation is the issue of the care of the environment. Time and again, we have spoken about the need to take good care of the environment on which we depend. We regret to note once again the persistent pollution of our water bodies, the littering of plastic waste everywhere, the careless felling of trees in our forests and savannah area and the rampant illegal mining (galamsey) operations in our towns and villages. We call on our Laity and indeed all Ghanaians to rise up against this indiscriminate destruction of our environment and water bodies. The authorities charged with protecting our natural resources should be up and doing.
We welcome the idea of the National Sanitation Day on every first Saturday of the month as laudable and commendable and appeal to all Catholics and all Ghanaians to actively participate in this exercise as a Christian duty and a civic responsibility. We urge all Ghanaians to acquire the habit, not only to clean up our surroundings but most importantly let us all learn how not to make our environment dirty in the first place.
We also strongly recommend the recent encyclical of Pope Francis on the care of creation called “Laudato Si’ ” to our Catholic faithful and all Ghanaians because it provides a good resource for all, but most especially, policy makers on the care of our environment. We can certainly do with more education on the care of the environment. All the Laity who are charged with the protection of the environment should know that the environment is God’s handiwork. To protect it is being faithful to God.
The Laity, Bribery and Corruption
The twin evils of bribery and corruption have now overwhelmed our Ghanaian society and the recent exposure of alleged judicial corruption by Mr. Anas Aremeyaw Anas and his Tiger Eye PI team has left all of us in no doubt that every fabric of our Ghanaian society today is pervasively corrupt. While we commend Anas and his team for this exposure, we reiterate our call for justice to be done in this and all other cases and we do express our confidence in the Chief Justice and the Judicial Council to bring this matter to a fitting conclusion and to reform our judiciary. Once again, we appeal to all Religious Bodies, to our Government, all the people of Ghana and all who dwell in our land to reflect soberly and sincerely on the canker of bribery and corruption and to accept that this is a weakness that is destroying Ghana and repent accordingly.
We appeal to all Catholics, other Christians and all who call on the name of God to bear good witness to their faith by resisting bribery and corruption knowing that there is reward for honesty and integrity. We urge all Ghanaians to join us to pray the Prayer Against Bribery and Corruption daily. While we appeal to all Ghanaians to refuse to give or take bribes, we also believe that all those who engage in acts of bribery and corruption must be made to face the consequences of their actions.
The Laity, Politics and Elections in Ghana
We bemoan the sudden surge in election-related violence in our body politic and call on all political leaders, activists and supporters to refrain from such misconduct. Inter-party and intra-party violence, particularly those witnessed in some parties, are threatening Ghana’s peace and democracy. These unfortunate happenings do not reflect the peaceful and non-violent nature of Ghanaians. We urge politicians to beware of their pronouncements and activities. We believe in the ability of the security agencies to deal swiftly with all reported cases without fear or favour. In the run-up to the 2016 Elections, care must be taken not to allow political activities to degenerate into chaos and violence.
We consider chieftaincy as a noble legacy of our traditions and cultures and expect our chiefs to be fathers to all their subjects, irrespective of the latter’s political affiliations, religious beliefs and economic standing. Chiefs who feel that their vocation lies in active politics can always give up their official traditional position to do partisan politics as the Constitution of Ghana demands. That is why we condemn in no uncertain terms the involvement of some chiefs in partisan politics and call on them to respect the laws of the land and refrain from such acts.
We also condemn the phenomenon of vote-buying and occultism creeping into our national politics, where voters are induced to swear to vote in a particular way, and call on politicians and the Ghanaian electorate to desist from such acts.
On the Voters’ Register and the call for its replacement or revision, we wish to commend the Electoral Commission (EC) for some of the steps it has taken so far to involve all major stakeholders in finding an acceptable solution to the issue. We reiterate our call that all who are involved in this process must be open, honest and truthful in their approach to this exercise. At the same time, the EC must be given the chance and the space to handle the issue dispassionately and objectively in the best interest of the nation.
According to our electoral laws, minors and foreigners should not register for electoral purposes in Ghana. We also propose that in the name of transparency the Electoral Commission display the current voters’ register on its website so that all Ghanaians can check the list of voters and know where their names are located.
On the way forward for a credible voters’ register for future elections, we are of the view that the National Identification Authority (NIA) must be resourced to deliver on its mandate to register all persons, Ghanaians and non-Ghanaians, living in the country and to compile a reliable database which can be used by the Electoral Commission to compile a credible Voters’ Register. At the same time, the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) must be adequately resourced with personnel and logistics to educate the citizenry on the rights and requirements of voters. We cannot repeat enough our call for an early release of the programme for the upcoming elections which must be the product of the consultations of all stakeholders including the political parties themselves.
The Laity and Ghana’s Education
We reiterate our earlier unchanging position that it is the inalienable right of parents and guardians to choose schools for their wards. We reaffirm our conviction that it is not the right of a computer, programmed by a prone-to-corruption human being, to choose schools for our students. This is why we continue to appeal to Government to abolish the Computerised School Selection and Placement System (CSSPS) and replace it with a more workable and transparent version. We will come out with details of the new proposal soon.
Unit schools have been pivotal in quality education delivery in Ghana. However, successive policies in educational reforms in recent times have systematically sidelined the Educational Units making them ineffective. Because of this the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference and other Religious Bodies have for many years engaged the State to come out with clear policies with regard to the Partnership Agreement which has always existed between the Religious Bodies and the State in Education delivery. That is why we call on Government to be transparent in the on-going policy considerations on education reforms. We also urge that action be expedited on the formalization of the Partnership Agreement on Education, submitted by the Religious and other Bodies whose schools are in the public system. We call on the Laity to see the benefits of the Unit Schools and to commit themselves to their effective management as the contribution of Religious Bodies towards quality education delivery in Ghana.
The Laity and Public Financial Management
We are seriously concerned about reports of huge budget over-runs by some sectors, increasing public debt, huge arrears of statutory payments by Government, among many other issues, of poor public financial management. We know that some of these are the result of the absence of a prioritised national development plan which should inform national budget allocations. Others may stem from weaknesses in public sector financial management systems. We hope that the on-going comprehensive public sector reforms will take these into consideration for good financial governance. We pray that national budgets will be instruments for social protection, the elimination of extreme poverty and the promotion of citizens’ well-being.
The history of Catholic evangelization is replete with the missionary zeal of lay people especially teacher-catechists who collaborated with the early missionaries in planting the Catholic faith, in most of the dioceses in Ghana. In fact, most parishes in Ghana were originally started by Lay People using their homes as centres of prayers. These Lay Catechists would travel many miles with missionary priests on foot as interpreters and teachers of the faith to surrounding villages to plant churches. The Laity in the era of the New Evangelization need to rekindle this missionary zeal in the Church, in political and economic governance, in the legal and medical professions etc. In this way the Laity permeate all the areas where they have been sent by Christ with the Christian spirit of love, justice and peace. As you Laity take up their proper role in Church and society we wish to encourage you with the words of Cardinal St. Henry Newmann “We want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold, and what they do not, who know their creed so well, that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it. We want an intelligent, well-instructed laity…” (Cardinal Newman, 1851).
Further, St Paul reminds us Priests, Religious and the Laity “You are the people of God; he loved you and chose you for his own. So then you must put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Be helpful to one another, forgive one another … as God has forgiven you” (Col. 3:12-13).
God bless our homeland Ghana and make our nation great and strong! Thank you.
MOST REV. JOSEPH OSEI-BONSU
(BISHOP OF KONONGO-MAMPONG &
PRESIDENT, GHANA CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE)
Latin Mass Concert (Christmas in Latin)