Vatican City, Oct 30, 2003 (CNA) - While receiving 21 Filipino bishops in their Ad Limina visit, Pope John Paul highlighted the need for an “integral evangelization” aimed at permeating society with Christian values.
After noting that the Philippines “is home to the largest Catholic presence in Asia and is one of the most vibrant Catholic communities in the world,” the Pope said that “the pledge of the Church in the Philippines to engage in renewed integral evangelization demonstrates her desire to ensure that Christian faith and values permeate every aspect of society. ... Your Vision-Mission Statement ... clearly recognizes that an essential element of this process is witness”.
“Today's world is one that is constantly bombarded with words and information. For this reason and possibly more than at any time in recent history, the things Christians do speak louder than the things they say,” the Pontiff said. “Perhaps this is the reason that the life of Mother Teresa of Calcutta speaks to so many hearts. She put what she heard into action, spreading Christ's love to all those she encountered, always recognizing that 'it is not how much we do, but how much love we put into what we do' that matters,” he added.
Obstacles to overcome
The Pope affirmed that notwithstanding notable achievements in evangelization, “there still remain various obstacles, such as the participation of some Catholics in sects which witness only to the superstitious; the lack of familiarity with the teachings of the Church; the endorsement by some of anti-life attitudes which include the active promotion of birth control, abortion and the death penalty.”
“As concerned Christians and citizens of the world,” he continued, “we can never ignore the evil of corruption which is undermining the social and political development of so many peoples. In this regard, it must be made clear that no office of public service can ever be treated as private property or as a personal privilege”.
“To eliminate corruption,” the Pope added, “calls for the committed support of all citizens, the resolute determination of the authorities and a firm moral conscience. The Church has a major role here inasmuch as she is the primary agent for properly forming people's conscience.”
Dealing with the youth
John Paul II pointed out that “one way to ensure that a society engages actively and faithfully in integral evangelization is to give young people a proper formation early on in their faith and life journeys.” He complimented the bishops on their pastoral care to youth though summer camps, retreats, frequent youth Masses and youth formation offices.
“At the same time,” the Pope continued, “obstacles still exist to evangelization among young people,” including “illiteracy, the desire for material goods, a casual attitude towards human sexuality and the temptation to abuse drugs and alcohol.”
“You have mentioned your distress over the numbers of youth who have left the Catholic Church in favor of fundamentalist sects, many of which accentuate material riches over spiritual ones,” he added.
The Holy Father closed his remarks asking the bishops “to continue to encourage the clergy and religious who spend so much of their time and energy trying to develop creative and effective ways of spreading Christ's saving message and to thank all who today and in the past have contributed to evangelizing the Philippines”.
Vatican City, Oct 30, 2003 (CNA) - The Vatican Pontifical academies will hold their eighth joint public session on Thursday, November 6, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Vatican's New Synod Hall.
The joint session will be focused on the theme “The Martyrs and Monuments to their Memories, Living Stones in the Building of Europe.”
The Vatican has five Pontifical Academies, two of which have been created by Pope John Paul II.
The oldest are the “Cultorum Martyrum” Academy, which promotes historical accuracy and devotion to the martyrs; the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, which forms future Vatican diplomats and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, created by Pope Pious IX as a non-sectarian group of world scientists.
The two created by Pope John Paul are the Pontifical Academy for Life, aimed at defending the right to life with dignity from conception to natural death, and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, aimed at promoting the application of the social doctrine of the Church.
During this joint meeting there will be the awarding of the prize of the pontifical academies.
Washington D.C., Oct 30, 2003 (CNA) - Pro-life activists say U.S. President George Bush is still on-target when it comes to issues regarding the culture of life, despite a comment he made at a press conference Oct. 28 that the U.S. is not yet ready to ban all forms of abortion.
Carrie Gordon Earll, bioethics analyst at Focus on the Family, agrees and said she would have given a similar response had she been asked the same questions by the press.
"What we have is a country that has had legalized abortion for 30-plus years – about the lifetime of one generation," Earll explained. "It is going to take time and education and effort to get everyone to see that abortion is a bad thing – it's bad for women, it's bad for children, it's bad for the culture.
"But if you were to put it to referendum right now, for Congress or the public, we would probably not win a complete ban on all abortions," she speculated.
At the press conference, Bush said he plans to go ahead and sign a bill banning partial-birth abortion, which was recently passed by Congress.
Quebec City, Canada, Oct 30, 2003 (CNA) - Canada’s newest and youngest cardinal is confident Pope John Paul II will be able to continue in his ministry despite his ailing health.
Marc Cardinal Ouellet, archbishop of Quebec City, acknowledged at a news conference Oct. 28 that the Pope's “state of health is of concern” but he does not doubt that the Pope “will be able to do his job until the end,” reported the Canadian Press.
"He's still able to celebrate mass but you can feel that his strength is diminishing," said Ouellet, who became Canada’s third active cardinal at the ninth consistory in Rome Oct. 21.
The 59-year-old cardinal pointed out that the Pope’s assistants have increasingly had to finish prayers for him during religious ceremonies. The Pope also left a cardinals’ dinner before the end of the meal last week because of fatigue, he said.
Ouellet added that the Pope’s deteriorating health will make the 83-year-old pontiff “less and less able to play a public role”, which may place the Church in a “period of silence.
"But I don't believe the Church will be weakened by this," said Ouellet.
The Sulpician priest became the primate of Canada when he was named archbishop of Quebec City in 2001. He speaks five languages and has taught in seminaries in Colombia and in Edmonton, Alberta.
One of his primary goals as archbishop is to bring young Quebecers back to the faith. He is currently attending the annual plenary of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in Cap-de-la-Madeleine, Que.
, Oct 30, 2003 (CNA) - The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston is putting final touches on its new West Virginia Catholic Heritage Centre before the building’s inauguration and dedication tomorrow.
Bishop Bernard W. Schmitt will preside over the dedication and bless the three-storey centre, which was formerly an auto parts building. It was purchased by the diocese in February 2001 and underwent an intricate restoration process since then.
The building was remodeled to include space for diocesan offices and archives on the second floor, and museum-quality exhibits and a conference area on the third floor. The diocese plans to rent the first floor to a retail establishment.
The Centre Wheeling holds a special significance for the diocese – the first mass in West Virginia was celebrated just a few feet away from the heritage centre site.
Although work on the building is almost complete, it will be another year before the archives – which will include documents, artifacts, vintage vestments and chalices – are properly catalogued and ready for the public.
The heritage centre is located at 2000 Main St. in Centre Wheeling in Wheeling, West Virginia.
Caracas, Venezuela, Oct 30, 2003 (CNA) - Political and civil organization that make up the opposition in Venezuela held a rally this Wednesday in support of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in the country, which has been the subject of verbal attacks by top government officials.
Participants marched through the streets of the capital up to the Apostolic Nunciature of Venezuela where a statement of support was given to the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop André Dupuy.
Carlos Valero, one of the event’s organizers, said the opposition alliance held the rally in order to repudiate “the offensive campaign against the Catholic Church and Catholics,” adding that the majority of Venezuelans still have a democratic conscience “kept alive in large measure because of the work the Church has done in the country for many years. The government will not go unpunished if it thinks it can continue these attacks.”
Bogotá, Colombia, Oct 30, 2003 (CNA) - Church leaders on Colombia announced the imminent release of 7 tourists kidnapped in Nevada Mountains of Santa Marta by a leftist rebel group.
The announcement was made by Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro and Father Darío Echeverry, members of commission the Church organized to negotiate with the National Liberation Army (ELN), after consulting with President Alvaro Uribe.
“We have the green light, and the President has expressed his support,” said Fr. Echeverry.
The rebel ELN agreed with Church officials to gradually release all 7 of the tourists kidnapped as they hiked in the Lost City, an ancient archeological site located in the remote mountainous region of Santa Marta, north of Bogotá. “The Central Command of this illegal rebel group has decided to release the tourists beginning with a Spaniard at the beginning of next week,” announced Archbishop Alberto Giraldo of Medellín. They will be turned over to a delegation composed of Church officials and UN representatives.
The ELN also accepted the proposal by Church leaders to send a commission to assess the humanitarian crisis that exists in the Nevada Mountains region.
Madrid, Spain, Oct 30, 2003 (CNA) - In an interview with the Tarragona Daily in Spain, the Minister General of the Franciscan Order, Fr. José Rodríguez Carballo, said “a real danger exists that the Church could disappear from the Holy Land” and that “the Franciscans could wind up being custodians of a pile of stones.”
The 50-year old Franciscan told the paper, “We ask the nations that have always protected minorities to help protect us, because Christians are a minority in the Holy Land. If the Spanish Constitution includes a commitment to favor minorities, why doesn’t it favor the Christian minority in the Holy Land?”
“Spain has played an important role in preserving the Christian presence in the Holy Land, and we are proud of this. We ask the Spanish government to continue this policy because by preserving the Christian minority, dialogue is also protected and for that reason, peace as well,” said Fr. Rodríguez. He added that “if Christians are not here, not only will our values disappear, I really doubt that this region could ever live in peace.”
“Let’s not forget the Koran defends holy wars against the infidels, let’s not forget that in the Old Testament the law of retaliation is valid—an eye or an eye and a tooth for a tooth—but that all of this has been surpassed by the Gospel and by the commandment of love,” he said.
“Peace,” he continued, “is comes from justice and forgiveness, and therefore gives way to love. It never comes from hatred, revenge, or from an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth. In this region where religion plays a fundamental role in politics, we don’t realize that peace is not simply a question of bilateral accords.”
He went on to say, “Peace must be born, must grow and bear fruit, above all in the heart, so it can later be expressed in political accords that are respected. Hence the importance of Christian education of children obtained in the Franciscan schools of the Holy Land. In this way the friars become a bridge of communication between Islam and Judaism.”
The Minister General, who will meet soon with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and Israeli President Moshé Katsav, called upon pilgrims from around the world to travel to the Holy Land not only to visit the holy places, but also in solidarity with the Christians of Jerusalem and Bethlehem.