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WORLD YOUTH DAY:

AVOIDING THE VOID

Full marks to Cardinal Edward Clancy. In last Wednesday's Online Catholics, he identified with great clarity what young Australians have to gain from hosting World Youth Day 2008. An experience of God that will fill the spiritual void created by "pleasure, self-indulgence ... and the things that money can buy".
 
The young, he said, are "especially vulnerable" to suicide and accidents involving alcohol. The night before, disgraced NSW Opposition Leader John Brogden had provided a perfect and near tragic illustration of Clancy's point, with the shock of his apparent suicide attempt. Brogden was sometimes described as a "devout Catholic", but his spiritual formation was seemingly not robust enough to protect him against the secularism Clancy was referring to. When his life came off the rails, he faced a void, not God.
 
Cardinal Pell also talks about World Youth Day as a moment of intense spiritual experience, but not in such a single-minded manner. He told the Rome-based electronic news agency Zenit that "as long as the event remains Christocentric, a religious pilgrimage and it's not distracted away into other things, it will continue to work". But in the very next breath he says it's also an opportunity to show how great we are: "Sydney is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and has been voted as such too by the world on occasion." He goes on to suggest that it's largely about replicating the triumph of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. And then Sunday's Catholic Weekly led with auxiliary Bishop Anthony Fisher's call for a reappearance of the "army" of volunteers that came out for the Olympics.
 
THE HUMAN COST
 
John Brogden's self-harm caused a large amount of soul-searching about the role of media and public pressure in pushing a leader to the edge. A few weeks earlier, the defiant Redfern parishioners attempting to preserve the style of ministry of the late Fr Ted Kennedy must have feared their activism had somehow played a part in causing the serious ill-health of current parish priest Fr Gerry Prindiville.
 
Like Brogden, Prindiville had - in their view - indulged in a fair amount of inexcusable behaviour. He had dismantled many of the religious practices and symbols that existed in the parish. Conceivably, being constantly forced to account for his actions took its toll on Prindiville's health. In late July, he was seriously ill in Calvary Hospital, Canberra, with a pulmonary embolism (blood clot on the lung). Eventually, on 22 August, the editor of the group's Church Mouse Journal wrote, convincingly: "We are happy to report that the health of Fr Gerry continues to improve".
 
THE ECOZOIC ERA
 
At the end of August, 35 religious from various congregations gathered at the Holy Cross Monastery, Templestowe, in Melbourne for a seminar titled "Radical Living in the Ecozoic Era". This new space in time was identified by veteran Passionist eco-theologian Fr Thomas Berry. It represents a paradigm shift away from anthropocentrism, towards "intimacy" with the earth. The Edmund Rice Online website of the ministries associated with the Christian Brothers reports that six brothers were there, and that their interest in Ecozoic Studies is fundamental to their Edmund Rice Earth Charter Project.
 
Berry speaks of an era of "new religious sensitivities". He says that the "redemption-oriented religions in their traditional forms have fulfilled a significant part of their historical mission", and that "cosmologically oriented religion" is the way into the future.
 
Teilhard de Chardin is the figure responsible for the watershed in thought that most influenced Berry, who is a past President of the American Teilhard Association. Pope Benedict XVI is yet to share is his thoughts on the Ecozoic Era, the National Catholic Reporter's offered a hint last month in a commentary in which he talked up the Pope's ecumenical credentials. He said that, in 1965, Cardinal Ratzinger criticised the text of the landmark Vatican document Gaudium et Spes for "relying too much on the optimism of Teilhard, and not enough on Luther's consciousness of the Cross and of sin".

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