Vatican City, Oct 7, 2003 (CNA) - With the ancient city of Pompeii as the backdrop, Pope John Paul II reminded all Christians today of the necessity to announce the Gospel in today’s world and of their obligation to be builders and witnesses of peace.
The pope made his long-awaited pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Holy Rosary of Pompeii today after some media speculation that his ill health would prevent him. He arrived by helicopter in the early morning and addressed the crowd after reciting the Rosary for world peace.
“Today, as in the times of the ancient city of Pompeii, it is necessary to announce Christ to a society that continues to distance itself from Christian values and even lose its memory [of its Christian roots],” he emphasized in his speech. With the backdrop of the ancient Pompeii, he said, the proposal of the Rosary acquires a symbolic value of a renewed impetus in proposing the Christian faith in our times.
“The Holy Virgin has allowed me to return to this sanctuary and honor her,” said the 83-year-old pontiff. “Today’s visit crowns the Year of the Rosary. I thank the Lord for the fruits of this year, which has resulted in a significant reawakening of this simple yet profound prayer, which goes to the heart of the Christian faith and appears very adequate before the challenges of the third millennium and the urgent needs of the new evangelization.”
“What is the Rosary? It is a compendium of the Gospel. It makes us return continually to the principle scenes in the life of Christ, almost as if to make us “breathe” his mystery,” he continued. “The rosary is a privileged path of contemplation. It is the path of Mary. Who, more than Mary knows Christ and loves him?”
The Rosary, said the pope, is a prayer for world peace and one that brings personal peace to those who say it. “We have meditated the mysteries of light, as if to project the light of Christ on the conflicts, tensions and dramas on the five continents,” he said. “At the same time, with the tranquil rhythm of the repetition of the Hail Mary, the Rosary calms our spirit and opens it up to the grace that saves.”
He concluded by reminding all Christians of their obligation to be artisans of peace. “The obligation of all Christians, in collaboration with all men of good will, is to be builders and witnesses of peace.”
Pope John Paul visited Pompeii for the first time in October 1989, one year after his election.
According to Vatican sources, the Holy Father began talking about a return to the Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of the Rosary when he flew over Pompeii in a helicopter on his way to the island of Ischia in May 2002.
Despite increasing concerns about his health, the pontiff skipped only eight lines of his speech and looked alert and happy to be back at the Marian shrine after more than two decades.
Some 30,000 pilgrims packed the area, applauding and shouting "Long live the pope!"
The Holy father ended his visit by requesting the microphone to deliver some improvised words "pray for me here, now and always."
Philadelphia, Pa., Oct 7, 2003 (CNA) - Archbishop and cardinal-designate Justin Rigali arrived in Philadelphia yesterday in anticipation of his installation as the new spiritual leader of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia today. The former archbishop of St. Louis succeeds Anthony Joseph Cardinal Bevilacqua, who retired according to canon law.
Cardinal Bevilacqua was present to welcome Archbishop Rigali at the 2 p.m. installation mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. About 1,600 people, including five cardinals, 15 archbishops, 70 bishops and more than 500 priests are expected to attend.
St. Louis’ Catholics held a special farewell mass in honor of Archbishop Rigali at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis Oct. 5. There, the 68-year-old archbishop addressed the faithful, whom he had served for nine-and-a-half years, and affirmed the role of both the religious and the laity, saying that they are “all necessary for the Church to fulfil her mission.”
Archbishop Rigali underlined the important role of the family. He emphasized that the Church counts on the family to “transmit the faith to their children, to transmit the ideals of human sexuality, and Christian married love [and] to transmit the steam for the vocations to the priesthood and religious life.”
He also encouraged the community to continue their outreach to the poor and to protect children and the unborn.
Though the new archbishop of St. Louis has not yet been named, Archbishop Rigali invited the community to welcome the new archbishop warmly. He also urged them to renew their “fidelity to Jesus Christ and His gospel, to the teachings of the Church, and to the sacred practices of the Church, to the whole sacramental life of the Church, the Sunday eucharistic celebration, and eucharistic adoration, to liturgical and private prayer.”
Archbishop Rigali will be inducted in to the College of Cardinals in Rome Oct. 21. Of the 31 bishops to be named cardinal, he is the only one from the United States.
Santa Fe, Ariz., Oct 7, 2003 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Santa Fe’s 150th-anniversary celebrations Oct. 5 were marked by a spirit of prayer and a rich display of the rich reality of the southern U.S. diocese.
More than 1,200 people gathered for an afternoon mass of thanksgiving at St. Francis of Assisi Cathedral. Archbishop Michael Sheehan concelebrated the mass in English and Spanish. More than a dozen other bishops participated at the mass as well. Anticipating a big crowd, video monitors were set up outside.
The mass began with a procession of America’s oldest statue of the Virgin Mary – La Conquistadora, a 300-year-old statue, which is about 50 cm tall. Traditional religious dancers, called matachines, whose costume includes a fringed mask, followed the statue. A bagpiper then led a procession of more than 100 bishops, priests and deacons. The diocese’s Vietnamese community sang the offertory hymn, a liturgical reading was read in Tewa, a Pueblo Indian language and the congregation sang an African American Gospel song.
The Catholic faith in the region began in 1598 with the arrival of Spanish settlers and Franciscan friars. Pope Pius IX established the Diocese of Santa Fe, which then included the entire state of New Mexico as well as parts of Arizona and Colorado, in 1853. The pope named Archbishop Jean-Baptiste Lamy, a Frenchman, its first bishop. It became an archdiocese in 1875. The cathedral was built nine years later. Today, the archdiocesan territory takes in most of the state of New Mexico.
During the mass, Archbishop Sheehan blessed a new processional cross and a stained glass window of St. Francis of Assisi. He also rededicated the carved doors of the cathedral, which has new panels commemorating New Mexico’s history.
The Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, finally read the apostolic blessing sent by Pope John Paul II.
Caracas, Venezuela, Oct 7, 2003 (CNA) - The Bishops Conference of Venezuela issued an strong statement Monday condemning the raid by local police forces of the parish of Our Lady of Fatima in the Eastern region of Barquisimeto, in a supposed search for anti-government material and activity.
“We wish to express our strongest protest against the subjection of the parish facilities to these irregular procedures,” the bishops stated, demanding “an official investigation into the matter” as well.
The bishops also expressed their “concern about the seizure of equipment belonging to Globovisión by the National Telecommunications Commission on October 3, 2003, an act which limits Venezuelans’ right to know.”
The country’s bishops also expressed their solidarity with “the families of those employees of the oil industry who have lost their jobs,” demanding that “authorities responsible for preserving the rule of law look into these matters,” including recent acts of terrorism which have targeted various institutions such as the Church.
“We call on all the Catholic faithful to preserve unity and to reject the unjust and abusive attacks on the bishops of the Church, and we thank those who have shown their support,” the message concludes.
Archbishop Roberto Luckert of Coro pointed out that when the raid on the parish of Our Lady of Fatima was carried out, an elderly priest was present in the building “and they could have cared less. They showed up and went inside very abusively.” He also said that the priest residents of the parish continue to wait for an investigation to begin to explain these actions.
Archbishop Luckert also slammed the claim that anti-government material was kept at the parish. “The only thing that they were doing there was informing people about their rights, especially now that voting will take place soon.”
Auxiliary Bishop of Lara, José Luis Azuaje, told the media that during the raid no one was allowed to enter the parish. “We were very upset by that and we question the police procedure that was being employed.”
Police officers claimed to be searching for an explosive device and searched the entire church, parish offices and rectory, “where they forced 95 year-old Monsignor Joao, who is confined to a wheelchair, to leave his residence.”
Police agents also raided a local civic organization which has its office in the parish buildings. The organization is devoted to local community affairs and has recently collected signatures against the Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television and has encouraged voters to participate in upcoming national referendums on the Chavez government.
Mexico City, Mexico, Oct 7, 2003 (CNA) - Cardinal Norberto Rivera, Archbishop of Mexico City, cautioned the faithful against believing reports in tabloid publications on John Paul II’s health, saying the Pope continues to work for the Church.
“Are you not aware that Pope Juan Paul is ill? Everyone knows that. He has been ill for many years. Did you know that the Holy Father will die someday? He will die just like all of us,” the Cardinal said while celebrating Mass in the Archdiocese’s Cathedral.
“Even though he is ill, the Holy Father continues to work. Yesterday he met with the leader of the Anglican Church. Today he canonized these new saints. Tomorrow he will have his audiences. This week he will travel to Pompey, Lord willing. The Holy Father continues to work, he continues to guide our Church. Therefore there’s no place for worry, for anxiety and especially for tabloid sensationalism,” the Cardinal said.
He asked the faithful to continue “praying for the Holy Father so that he will complete the mission the Lord has entrusted to him. We are filled with joy at today’s celebration: the canonization of these new saints.”
Speaking to the media at the end of Mass, the Cardinal said “the most important and the only message that will fill the Pope with joy is that we love him, we love him here in Mexico and we have prayed for his health and we have prayed that he will continue in the mission God has given him.”
“We know the Pope has been ill for years. But instead of staying in bed, instead of worrying for himself, he continues to offer his live in service to the Gospel, he continues working every day,” the Cardinal said.
He also explained “that’s how we see it, and you yourselves can consult with your Vatican sources—everyday the Pope continues in his activities and he will do so as long as God grants him life and health.”
Cardinal Rivera lamented that “recently the media reported the Pope was near death, that his life was ending, that he was not leading the Church, and that is not true.”
“As I said, the Pope has been ill for many years. And yet he continues to work despite his illness, he continues in the mission God has given him. So to be making predictions about the future is a little out of place,” he warned.
Madrid, Spain, Oct 7, 2003 (CNA) - Conversion stories of prominent Catholic converts will be the theme of the VIII Path to Rome conference, which is sponsored by the Miles Iesu movement and will take place on October 11 and 12 in Avila, Spain.
Miles Iesu organizers explained the meeting will bring together people who have found “fulfillment in Rome,” that is, people from different religions and denominations who have found faith in Christ and finally converted to the Catholic Church.
Among the featured speakers will be Fr. Paul Vota, MJ, former member of a “New Age” sect, ex-Mormon Kathleen Clark, Antonio Carrera, who converted from being a Jehovah’s Witness, and A.M.K., a Muslim convert who lives in Spain.