Friday, April 6, 2012

Pope rips into dissident priests on celibacy

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI issued a blistering denunciation Thursday of priests who have questioned church teaching on celibacy and ordaining women, saying they were being selfish in disobeying his authority.
Benedict made the rare and explicit criticism from the altar of St. Peter's Basilica in his homily on Holy Thursday, when priests recall the promises they made when ordained.
In 2006, a group of Austrian priests launched the Pfarrer Initiative, a call to disobedience aimed at abolishing priestly celibacy and opening up the clergy to women to relieve the shortages of priests.
Last June, the group's members essentially threatened a schism, saying the Vatican's refusal to hear their complaints left them no choice but to "follow our conscience and act independently."
They issued a revised call to disobedience in which they said parishes would celebrate Eucharistic services without priests, that they would let women preach, and they pledged to speak out publicly and frequently for a female and a married priesthood.
The group now claims more than 300 Austrian priests and deacons as well as supporters in other countries, and its influence has grown to such an extent that top Austrian bishops met with Vatican officials in January to discuss how to handle them, Italian news reports said.
So far, neither the Vatican nor the archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn have publicly imposed any canonical penalties on them.
In his homily, Benedict said the dissidents claim to be motivated by concern for the church. But he suggested that in reality they were just making "a desperate push to do something to change the church in accordance with (their) own preferences and ideas."
"We would like to believe that the authors of this summons are motivated by concern for the church, that they are convinced that the slow pace of institutions has to be overcome by drastic measures, in order to open up new paths and to bring the Church up to date," he said. "But is disobedience really a way to do this?"
He said Jesus always followed true obedience to God's will, not "human caprice."
And he rejected the dissidents' idea that the church had been "fossilized" since the Second Vatican Council, saying that on the contrary, the growth of new religious movements in recent decades showed the vitality and true renewal of the church called for by the 1962-65 Vatican II.
Holy Thursday homilies are often a bit unusual in that the pope uses them to issue direct messages to priests. In 2006, for example, Benedict read a letter written by a cleric who was killed as he prayed in Turkey.
And on Holy Thursday in 2002, Pope John Paul II broke his silence over the explosion of the U.S. sex abuse scandal, denouncing the sins of priestly abusers and the "grave scandal" that was casting a "dark shadow of suspicion" over all priests.
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The Pfarrer Initiative is at www.pfarrer-initiative.at
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Cuba makes Good Friday a holiday at Pope's request

Huge Martian Dust Devil Churns in New Photo


A gigantic dust devil races across the surface of Mars in a stunning new photo snapped by a NASA spacecraft.
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) captured the 12 mile-high (20 kilometer) twister as it whirled its way through the Amazonis Planitia region of northern Mars on March 14. Despite its towering height, the dust devil is just 210 feet (64 meters) wide, researchers said.
The plume's shadow is also clearly visible in the new image, as are some topographic features on the Red Planet's complex surface.
Dust devils occur on both Earth and Mars. They are spinning columns of air, made visible by the dirt they suck off the ground. Unlike tornados, dust devils usually form on clear days when the ground soaks up heat from the sun. If conditions are right, heated air near the surface may begin to rotate as it rises through small pockets of cooler air just above it.
Just as on Earth, Martian winds are fueled by solar heating. Though Mars is now near aphelion — the time of Martian year when the Red Planet is farthest from the sun — it still receives enough solar energy to drive dust devils across its surface.
[Related: Amazing nebula photo looks like giant human head]

The new image was taken during Mars' late northern spring, two weeks short of the northern summer solstice— a time when the ground in the northern mid-latitudes is being heated most strongly by the sun, researchers said.
MRO has been examining Mars with six science instruments since arriving at the Red Planet in March 2006. The spacecraft continues to provide valuable insights into the planet's ancient environment and how processes such as wind, meteorite impacts and seasonal frosts are continuing to affect the surface of Mars today, NASA officials said.
[Related: How the moon affects when Easter is celebrated]
NASA launched MRO in September 2005. The $720 million mission is NASA's youngest Mars orbiter flight to date, but it has beamed more data to Earth than all other interplanetary missions combined.
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