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Archive of December 5, 2003

Pope issues apostolic letter to mark 40th anniversary of Sacrosantum Concilium

Vatican City, Dec 5, 2003 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II signed his latest Apostolic Letter yesterday, December 4, marking the 40th anniversary of the Vatican II Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosantum Concilium.

In the 16-paragraph letter, the Holy Father says that the anniversary of Sacrosantum Concilium provides an opportunity to “rediscover the underlying themes of the liturgical renewal sought by the Council Fathers, verify in some way their acceptance and set our eyes on the future.”

In the first chapter entitled, “A look at the Conciliar Constitution,” the Pope says, “the liturgical life of the Church, in the perspective of Sacrosantum Concilium, assumes a cosmic and universal spirit, profoundly marking man’s time and space.”

The Pope later recalls the importance the Council gives to sacred music, “whose end is ‘the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful’,” and to sacred art, which allows “worship to shine forth through the decorum and beauty of liturgical art.”

The Pope also points out in the document that “40 years later, a review of progress thus far has become opportune” and therefore he raises important questions for the Church:

  • “Is the Liturgy lived out as the ‘source and summit’ of ecclesial life?”
  • “Has the rediscovery of the value of the Word of God, brought about by the liturgical reforms, brought forth positive results in our celebrations?”
  • “To what extent has the liturgy entered into the life of the faithful and set the pace for each community?”
  • “Is the liturgy understood as a path to sanctity, as the interior strength behind apostolic zeal and the Church’s missionary spirit?

The Pope also calls for a review of liturgical books, emphasizing that it should be based on “a principle of complete fidelity to Sacred Scripture and Tradition, authoritatively interpreted in particular by the Second Vatican Council.”  This fidelity, he adds, “demands commitment first of all” from the bishops.

Later the Pope recalls that Sacrosantum Concilium motivates the Christian community  “to intensify its prayer life not only through the Liturgy but also through “pious exercises” done in harmony with it and which in a sense flow from and lead to the Liturgy.

Challenges for the future

In the chapter entitled, “Perspectives,” the Pope says that “looking towards the future, the Liturgy must respond to various challenges.  In the course of these 40 years, in fact, society has undergone profound changes, some of which have sorely tried the Church’s work.  “Before us is a world in which, even in places of ancient Christian tradition, the signs of the Gospel are diminishing.  It’s time for a new evangelization.  The Liturgy is directly involved in a such a challenge.”

In the “renewed necessity for spirituality” which today’s world seeks, the Pope sees “proof of the fact that in the deepest recesses of man it is impossible to erase God.”  Therefore, adds the Pope, “the Liturgy offers the most profound and effective answer to this desire to encounter God, especially through the Eucharist.”

Therefore, “one aspect that needs to be cultivated with greater commitment in our communities is the experience of silence,” the Pope says.  “In a society where life has become increasing frantic, deafened by noise and caught up in the moment, the rediscovery of silence is vital,” he added.  For this reason, liturgical ministry, by introducing people to the different liturgical celebrations, should inspire a fondness for prayer.”  

In the letter’s conclusion, the Holy Father emphasizes that the promulgation of Sacrosantum Concilium “has marked an important period for the Church in the promotion and development of the Liturgy,” and he encourages the fostering, “at the dawn of this millennium, of a ‘liturgical spirituality’ which recognizes Christ as the first ‘liturgist’, who never ceases to work in the Church for the glory of God and the unity of the Holy Spirit.”

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New vocations depend on testimony of holiness, Pope says

Vatican City, Dec 5, 2003 (CNA) - In a message released on the occasion of the 41st World Day of Prayer for Vocations, Pope John Paul II said that holiness of those who have been called is key in attracting new vocations.

World Day of Prayer for Vocations is traditionally held on the fourth Sunday of Easter.

In the message the Pope expresses his joy that in “many local Churches prayer groups for vocations are formed.”  

“Yes! The vocation to the exclusive service to Christ in the Church is an invaluable gift of divine benevolence, a gift that must be asked for with insistence and confident humility,” he exclaims.

John Paul II emphasizes “the special value of prayer united to sacrifice and suffering.” “So many sick people in every part of the world unite their sorrows to the cross of Jesus in order to implore holy vocations!  They also accompany me spiritually in the petrine ministry that God entrusted to me and they make an inestimable contribution to the cause of the Gospel, although it is often never seen,” he adds.

The Pontiff explains that “at the center of all prayer initiatives is the Eucharist.  The sacrament of the Altar has a decisive value for the birth of vocations and for their perseverance, because those who are called can draw the strength to dedicate themselves completely to the proclaiming the Gospel from the redeeming sacrifice of Christ.” 

“It is good,” he adds, “that the celebration of the Eucharist is united to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.”

The Holy Father asks that “all Christian communities be ‘authentic schools of prayer,’ where they pray for progress in the vast field of apostolic work.  It is then necessary that the Church accompany those who God has called with constant spiritual care” so that they “may be faithful to their vocation and reach the highest possible level of evangelical perfection.”

“The strength of the testimony, which is capable of attracting other people and encouraging them to entrust their lives to Christ, depends on the holiness of those who are called.  This is the way to contrast the drop in vocations to consecrated life which threatens the existence of many apostolic works especially in mission countries.”

John Paul II concludes his message with a prayer in which he asks God through the intercession of Mary that vocations to the Church may never be lacking and that He help those who have received a call to follow through so that they “may respond with joy to the wonderful mission that you entrust them with for the good of the people and all of mankind.”

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There is a close relationship between hunger and peace, Pope says

Vatican City, Dec 5, 2003 (CNA) - Addressing  participants at the 32nd Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO,) Pope John Paul said that the world cannot be deaf to the plight of the hungry.

Speaking to the participants at the FAO summit, which is taking place in Rome from November 29 to December 10, the Pontiff expressed the “appreciation of the Catholic Church for the important service which FAO renders to humanity” and emphasized that “today this service is more urgently needed than ever.”

“Hunger and malnutrition,” he added, “aggravated by growing poverty, represent a grave threat to the peaceful coexistence of peoples and nations.  By its efforts to combat the nutritional insecurity which affects vast areas of our world, FAO makes a significant contribution to the advancement of world peace.”

The Pope said also that “given this close relationship between hunger and peace, it is clear that economic and political decisions and strategies must increasingly be guided by a commitment to global solidarity and respect for fundamental human rights, including the right to adequate nourishment.” 

“Human dignity itself is compromised wherever a narrow pragmatism detached from the objective demands of the moral law leads to decisions which benefit a fortunate few while ignoring the sufferings of large segments of the human family,” he said.

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Catholic-Jewish statement: we share moral responsibility to the World

Vatican City, Dec 5, 2003 (CNA) - An Israeli Delegation  and  the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews issued on Thursday a joint declaration stating the religious and moral value of the Holy Scriptures for both traditions.

The statement followed a meeting held in Jerusalem on December 1-3 on the theme, “The Relevance of Central Teachings of the Holy Scriptures which we share for Contemporary Society and the Education of Future Generations.”

Cardinal Jorge Mejia led the Holy See Delegation and Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen headed the Jewish Delegation. 

The statement expresses its “profound appreciation for the forthright statements emanating from the Holy See, condemning violence against innocents and denouncing the current resurgent manifestations of anti-Semitism.”

 “The presentations,” continues the text, “focused on the foundational teaching in the Holy Scriptures which we share, which declare the faith in the One Creator and Guide of the Universe who has formed all human beings in His Divine Image with free will.”  “Humankind,” the statement continues, “is thus one family with moral responsibility for one another.  Awareness for this reality leads to the religious and moral duty that may serve as a true charter for human rights and dignity in our modern world.”

The statement says that religious leaders and educators “have the special duty to instruct their communities to pursue the paths of peace for the well-being of society at large.” 

“We issue this appeal especially to the family of Abraham and we call upon all believers to put aside weapons of war and destruction,” says the document.

“As religious leaders, we share in the pain and sorrow of all who suffer in the Holy Land today,” and express “our fervent hope and prayers for an end to the trials and tribulations in the Land that is holy to us all,” the text also says.

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Episcopal diocese requests membership in Catholic Church

Seattle, Wash., Dec 5, 2003 (CNA) - An Episcopalian diocese approached the Vatican and requested to come into the Roman Catholic Church, Seattle Archbishop Alexander J. Brunett told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

"We were approached by a whole Episcopal diocese about coming into the Roman Catholic Church, as perhaps Anglican Rite Catholics," he said on his return from meetings in Rome. The Episcopal diocese refuses to recognize the consecration of the first openly homosexual bishop, Canon Gene Robinson, in the U.S. Brunett would not identify the diocese.

"I can't tell you how much anger I hear from Anglican bishops around the world," the archbishop added in the report. "It puts us on the spot. We don't have any disagreement with the Anglican Church. It is that this section of it, the Episcopal Church, has decided to separate itself from the Anglican Communion."

News of this request came as an announcement was made that the scheduled February meeting of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) in Seattle has been postponed.

Brunett, co-chair of the commission, who was to host the meeting, said the Nov. 2 consecration has created "a major problem" in relations between the two churches.

However, the dream of unity remains strong, he said at a news conference, because agreement on theological issues has remained "very close" and both sides "certainly work hard to cultivate that relationship," reported the Episcopal News Service.

American and Australian Anglicans  opposed to blessing homosexual unions have been in Rome discussing a possible reunion with the Roman Catholic Church while retaining Anglican customs and liturgy, according to the Rev. David Moyer, president of Forward in Faith in North America, reported ENS.

According to ENS, the Orthodox have also halted ecumenical relations with Anglicans. The Russian Orthodox announced Nov. 17 that it was suspending cooperation with the Episcopal Church. And the Oriental Orthodox Churches postponed a meeting with Anglicans, arguing that the dialogue "would be better served by waiting, at present, for the Anglican Communion to have time to take proper account of, and reflect upon, the consecration which has taken place. It is very much hoped by all participants that the work of the commission will be resumed at a time convenient to all."

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Catholic lawmakers must vote pro-life: Bishop Burke

Seattle, Wash., Dec 5, 2003 (CNA) - As practicing Catholics, Catholic lawmakers cannot support legislation that is "anti-life," said Bishop Raymond L. Burke in letters that he sent recently to Catholic politicians, reported the Journal Sentinel.

The bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin, urged Catholic legislators to change their voting patterns, which contradict the Church’s teachings on abortion and assisted suicide. Pope John Paul II appointed Bishop Burke, who served La Crosse for nine years, archbishop of St. Louis Tuesday.

If legislators were to continue to vote against the pro-life position, “I would simply have to ask them not to present themselves to receive the sacraments because they would not be Catholics in good standing," the bishop told the Journal Sentinel in an interview. "They can't promote any legislation, which would either continue or worsen the anti-life practices," he added.

"As a faithful member of the Catholic Church, you have an obligation to fulfill the duties of your office with regard not only to the laws of the state, but also with regard to the moral law," Burke wrote in a two-page letter sent to Sen. Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point).

Lassa recently voted against a bill that would have allowed health-care professionals to refuse to participate in procedures that violate their personal or spiritual beliefs.

In the letter, dated Aug. 29, Bishop Burke stressed that bishops have a duty to "enlighten the consciences of political leaders to the protection of life, especially political leaders who are Catholics.” He also cited a statement by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops entitled "Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics" and included a copy of the 26-page document, reported the Journal Sentinel.

Bishop Burke asked Lassa to study the statement and schedule a meeting with him to discuss it. Lassa told the newspaper that she never scheduled a meeting with Burke and was surprised to receive the letter from him.

Elected to the Assembly in 1998 and to the Senate in a special election in May, Lassa said she sometimes feels a conflict between her personal values and beliefs and the need to represent her constituents' views.

"When I was elected, I swore an oath to uphold the Constitution, and that means I have to represent all the people of all faiths in my district," Lassa was quoted as saying in the newspaper. "But I can't let my religion take precedence over my duties as a legislator.”

The subject of Catholics in politics has become a hot topic this past year. The U.S. bishops created a new committee to look at the issue after the Vatican issued a doctrinal note on the issue earlier this year. The committee submitted a report at the semi-annual meeting in Washington, D.C., this fall.

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Public universities go to battle in favor of same-sex benefits

Ann Arbor, Mich., Dec 5, 2003 (CNA) - The Thomas More Law Center has questioned the use of public funds by universities to advance the homosexual agenda after the ACLU, University of Michigan, and Wayne State University requested permission to file briefs in support of public funding of insurance benefits to same-sex partners.

Their requests were made in an effort to support the Ann Arbor Public Schools, which was sued by the Thomas More Law Center for providing insurance benefits to the same-sex partners of its employees.

The Center filed its lawsuit in September on behalf of 17 Michigan residents, claiming that providing insurance benefits to same-sex partners is an attempt to institutionalize same-sex marriage in violation of Michigan's Defense of Marriage Act.

The Act, passed in 1996, defines marriage as "inherently a unique relationship between a man and a woman," and maintains that the state "has a special interest in encouraging, supporting, and protecting that unique relationship."

"The people of Michigan should be outraged that their hard earned money paid out in taxes is being used to fund the homosexual agenda in their state,” said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Law Center in a press release issued yesterday. “Despite the clear will of the people of Michigan, today's cultural elites are determined to shove same-sex marriage down our throats and force taxpayers to pay for it."

"The Ann Arbor Public School's same-sex domestic partnership has all the trappings of marriage except the title,” Thompson continued. “It is an incremental strategy to legitimize same-sex marriages contrary to Michigan's Defense of Marriage Act, and we intend to stop it."

In addition to the ACLU, University of Michigan, and Wayne State University, the court heard requests yesterday from the Women's Law Association and the Washtenaw County Medical Society, all of which support the Ann Arbor Public Schools.

The lawsuit is just one of several efforts by the Center to defend traditional marriage and block homosexual activists from acquiring the benefits of marriage that would result in the de-facto legalization of same-sex marriage.

The Center has worked to stop transsexual marriage in Kansas, homosexual adoption in Nebraska, and is involved in major legal battles over the rights of students and faith-based organizations to reject homosexual demands for recognition of their lifestyles and unions.

The Law Center is a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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New Iraqi Patriarch concerned with Muslim fundamentalism

Rome, Italy, Dec 5, 2003 (CNA) - The new top Catholic leader of Iraq,  Emmanuel III Delly, recently elected Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, expressed yesterday his concern for the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Iraq.

Delly, 77, is the new head of Chaldean Catholics, an Eastern-rite Christian community loyal to Rome with some 1.5 million members around the world of which 800.000 live Iraq.

In his first major interview since his election, Emmanuel III told officials of the Catholic foundation “Aid to the Church in Need” that “these are difficult times for our country and the Chaldean Catholics. We are worried about the increase of fundamentalist Islam in Iraq. But we are saying to our people trust in God and He will not let you down.”

Inmmediately after the election, officials of Aid to the Church in Need spoke to the new Patriarch and all the Chaldean bishops to assess the needs of the Church and the people.

ACN is committed to helping the Churches to provide emergency aid – both pastoral and spiritual - amid reports of increasing poverty.

On Friday, Patriarch Emmanuel III celebrated a Mass in St. Peter Basilica in Rome to mark his new appointment.

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