Archive of November 26, 2003

Pope says America needs  “holy missionaries and holy ecclesiastical communities”

Vatican City, Nov 26, 2003 (CNA) - In a message sent to Cardinal Rodolfo Quezada Toruño, Archbishop of Guatemala and president of the second American Missionary Congress, Pope John Paul II said the Continent needs a new outpouring of holiness  to carry out the new evangelization.

The Congress, known as CAM2, is gathering together 3,000 delegates from all over the Americas from November 25-30 in Guatemala City. 

In the message, the Pope recalls his trip to the American continent in 2002 and the canonization of Pedro de San Jose de Betancourt.

 “The canonization of this extraordinary missionary was in a certain way,” writes the Pope, “a prelude to the present congress since its theme is ‘The Church in America, your life is mission.’ The renewed impulse to the mission ‘ad gentes’,” he continues, “demands holy missionaries and holy ecclesiastical communities in America and from America.”

 “The universal call to holiness is closely linked to the universal call to mission, which is a ‘fundamental presupposition and an irreplaceable condition for everyone in fulfilling the mission of salvation in the Church.”

“In the face of this universal call, we must be aware of our own responsibility to spread the Gospel,” writes the Pontiff, saying that millions of men and women who do not know Christ  “live in the hope, which is perhaps unconscious, of discovering the truth about man and God, about the path that leads to liberation from sin and death.  For these people who yearn or feel nostalgia for Christ’s beauty, the proclamation of the Good News is a vital and necessary duty.”

 “This congress is focused on that duty,” emphasizes the Holy Father, recalling that “all pastoral activity must be centered on Christian initiation and formation which represents a greater guarantee that local Churches in America develop effective projects of cooperation and missionary impetus, while helping to mature and reinforce the faith of those who have already become close to the Church and attracting those who are still far away.”

 “Your local Churches have the great responsibility of evangelizing the modern world,” he concludes. “Great is the fruit that they will be able to give to the new missionary age, ‘if all Christians, and missionaries and young churches in particular, respond with generosity and holiness to the calls and challenges of our time’.”

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Clash between good and evil continues in history, Pope says

Vatican City, Nov 26, 2003 (CNA) - Commenting on Psalm 109, “The Messiah, king and priest,” during Wednesday’s general audience, Pope John Paul II reminded Christians that the clash between good and evil continues in history.

Speaking about the Psalm that is read every Sunday during vespers, the Pontiff said that in its first part there is an “oracle by God directed to the sovereign of Jerusalem whom the psalmist calls ‘my Lord.’  The oracle proclaims the enthronement of the descendent of David ‘at the right hand’ of God.”

 “In the distance,” he continued, “hostile forces are seen, which are nevertheless offset by a victorious conquest.”  There is a “general contrast between the project of God who operates through His chosen people, and the plans of those who would like to affirm their hostile and abusive power.”

“Therefore,” he added, “there is the eternal clash between good and evil which occurs in the events of history, through which God manifests Himself and speaks to us.”

The Holy Father then referred to the second part of the Psalm which “contains a priestly prophesy in which King David is once again the protagonist.  Guaranteed by a solemn divine oath, royal dignity becomes one with priestly dignity.” 

“The reference to Melchizedek, priest-king of Salem, or Ancient Jerusalem, is therefore the way to justify the special priesthood of the king alongside the official levitical priesthood of the temple of Zion.”

“The Letter to the Hebrews,” he concluded, “begins with this prophesy: ‘You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek,’ in order to illustrate the special and perfect priesthood of Jesus Christ.”

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Christians must help those who suffer to find meaning in pain

Vatican City, Nov 26, 2003 (CNA) - In a message sent the Religious Association of Social and Health Care Institutes (ARIS) on the occasion of its 40th anniversary of its founding, Pope John Paul II recalled that it is a duty of Christians to help the those in pain to find meaning in suffering.

“Frequently,” writes the Pontiff, “it is difficult for those who live in situations of intense pain and sorrow to understand the meaning and significance of life.  It is therefore important that there is somebody by their side to support and help them, like the Good Samaritan.” 

“People like Mother Teresa,” the Pope continues, “who was recently beatified, bear witness in a simple yet specific way to the charity and compassion of Our Lord toward those who are suffering, the sick and ostracized, and the dying.  While they nurse their bodily wounds, they help them to encounter Christ who, through death, revealed the complete value of life in all its phases and conditions.”

The Pope concludes the message by expressing his appreciation for the association’s work in many countries, “especially in mission territories. You help young Churches to run homes for the sick and suffering and to prepare qualified health and pastoral care workers.  This collaboration among ecclesiastical communities in the North and South of the world must intensify.”

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II American Mission Congress begins in Guatemala

Guatemala City, Guatemala, Nov 26, 2003 (CNA) - More than 3,000 people are gathered together since Tuesday in Guatemala to open the II American Mission Congress (CAM 2), a unique Church event on this continent.

CAM 2 will begin this afternoon when visitors from 37 countries, cardinals, bishops, priests, religious and representatives of other continents, will proceed towards the John Paul II Auditorium with the popular devotional images of Christ and the Virgin of Guadalupe, which have been venerated in the dioceses of Central America during the Missionary Holy Year.   At three o’clock in the afternoon, Cardinal Crescencio Sepe, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, will preside at the inaugural ceremony of the Congress and read a message prepared by Pope John Paul II for the occasion. 

According to local press reports, the message expresses the Pope’s desire that the laity of the continent grown in Christian spirit and commit themselves will all of their strength to the work of evangelization.

Congress participants will have the chance to spend time in Eucharistic adoration, which will be taking place throughout the event.

The schedule for CAM 2, which will end on Sunday, November 30, includes two daily conferences on the challenges of missionary work.

Cardinal Sepe will offer the first conference on “The mission ad gentes today”, followed by Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, who will speak on “Poverty, Humility and Martyrdom as starting points for Mission Work.”

On Thursday, Father Joaquin Garcia, OSA, will speak on “Missions: Creation’s testimony” followed by Adelaida Suerio and a group of women from Peru who will speak on “Missions: announcing the fullness of the Gospel of Life to all.” 

On Friday, Bishop Francois Lapierre of Saint-Hyacinthe, Canada, will speak on “Missions and the challenges in today’s world,” and Bishop Victorino Girardi of Tiralan, Costa Rica, will speak on “Being a Missionary ‘ad gentes’ in the 21st Century.”

According to organizers, at the end of each conference time will be given for missionaries to share their testimonies, and the afternoons will be dedicated to group work sessions.  The day will end with Masses celebrated in the Cathedral, in parishes and deaneries of the diocese.  On Saturday, conclusions of the congress will be announced as well as important messages and information about CAM 3.

Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa of Santiago, Chile, and President of the Latin American Bishops Conference (CELAM) will preside at Mass.  That afternoon many participants of the Congress will attend the World Festival of Marian Songs.

On Sunday the Congress will conclude with a celebration in the National Stadium with some 5,000 faithful.  Cardinal Crescencio Sepe will preside at the closing Eucharist.

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Celibacy is precious gift that not everyone understands, says Mexican bishop

Mexico City, Mexico, Nov 26, 2003 (CNA) - During the ordination ceremony last week for his diocese, Bishop Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel of San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico, made a passionate defense of celibacy, calling it the complete giving of oneself to the priestly ministry and explaining that not everybody can understand it.

“People often say that celibacy, both for men and women, is at odds with the indigenous culture,” said the bishop in his homily.  “Perpetual celibacy for the Kingdom of heaven is at odds with every culture, including the Jewish, Greek, Roman, European and Mexican cultures.”

Before a large number of faithful who came to witness the ordination to the priesthood of Manuel Pérez Gómez, a descendent of the Tsotsil Indians, Bishop Arizmendi explained that celibacy “is a gift, a special grace that not everyone can understand or embrace.  It is a state of life which the Indians themselves greatly appreciate as a sign of complete giving in service to the community.”

“Jesus Christ chose to be celibate.  His mother remained a virgin. Both the apostle John and St. Paul, close collaborators of Jesus, did not marry.  St. Paul recommends virginity in order to be completely consecrated to the Lord, without divisions,” the bishop said.

Addressing the new priest, Bishop Arizmendi said, “Manuel, your vocation, therefore, is not to dominate others, nor to become rich, but rather to serve.” 

“Do not forget your people and your Tsotsil culture, which are of great value for the Church.  Our diocese desires to be faithful to its vocation to live in communion; in other words, common union,” he said.

Likewise he explained that “there are different cultures, different ways of thinking, different ways of living the faith and of evangelizing, but we wish to love each other as brothers and sisters, respecting our legitimate differences, and valuing each other as gifts for the Church.”

“Manuel, ask the Holy Spirit to keep you faithful to your vocation.  Ask Him to help you be more like Jesus, the Good Shepherd… And in order to be faithful to your mission, it is most important that you remain constant in prayer and faithful to the Liturgy of the Hours,” the bishop said.

Bishop Arizmendi also said that “Jesus Christ, the eternal high priest, has showed us how to be Christians, catechists, deacons, priests and bishops.  Jesus Christ expressed his vocation of service even to the point of dying for us on the cross and remaining with us in the sacraments, to continue living us his life through the Church.”

For this reason, “we have such a great need not only for deacons, but for priests first and foremost, since there are many parishes that have no priest, and others that have no deacons.”

The bishop also said “more sisters and consecrated women are needed, especially from the Indigenous population, so that the maternal aspects of God’s love can be made more present in communities.”

According to Bishop Arizmendi, in the current climate “we need to build bridges of communion rather than disqualifying people, groups or ecclesial movements, because the Holy Spirit leads the Church on the paths He chooses and they don’t always coincide with our own personal preferences.  Our diocese wants to be guided by this same Holy Spirit, in order to be faithful to the Gospel.”

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Radical “multiculturalism” is suicide for the West, says Vatican Cardinal

Madrid, Spain, Nov 26, 2003 (CNA) - During the opening of the Symposium on the Social Doctrine of the Church, organized by the Spanish Bishops Conference, Cardinal Paul Poupard, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, recalled the Christian roots of the European continent and warned about the suicidal nature of an exaggerated “multiculturalism.”

The Cardinal inaugurated the symposium, which has as its theme, “Human Rights—a Permanent Defense,” marking the 40th anniversary of the encyclical Pacem in Terris by John XXIII.

During the meeting, which concluded on Saturday, Cardinal Poupard said the encyclical was a “true spiritual testament” of Blessed John XXIII and he lamented that since the promulgation of the encyclical and despite the changes the world has seen in the last 40 years, “only one thing seems to have stayed the same since then: the permanent threat to peace.”

“The search for a cultural identity which is built in harmony becomes, therefore, a priority for there to be peace,” said the Cardinal.  “When the Holy Father tirelessly reminds us of the Christian roots of Europe, and mustering up strength in his frailty, he mobilized the Holy See to ensure that the future EU constitution include a reference to them, it is evident that he is not seeking special privileges for the Catholic Church.”

The Holy See, which has been a part of the building of Europe in the past and the present, “through its interventions in favor of all Europeans, seeks to safeguard [Europe’s] own historical identity,” he added.

“To not mention Christianity in the future EU Constitution,” warned the French Cardinal, “is a grave deficiency.”

“If nationalism and xenophobia leads Europe to suffocate to death, extreme multiculturalism is equivalent to automatic suicide.  Therefore it is very important that the future Constitution include an explicit reference to these roots,” said the Cardinal, amidst the applause of his listeners.

Is the Church an NGO?

Cardinal Poupard referred to an article in the current draft of the EU Constitution which grants equal status to churches and non-governmental organizations as “unfortunate,” saying the article “poses many juridical problems” since there is no distinction made between philosophical organizations, sects, alternative religious movements and mainline churches in Europe. 

The Cardinal concluded by appealing to the common historical memory.  “A people without memory are a people without hope.  I do not believe in a future Europe that abandons Christ in order to continue on its way alone.  Our memory is the hope of the future.”

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