Vatican City, Dec 9, 2003 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II told a group of Polish seminarians on Tuesday that they must prepare for their future priestly duties with an intense prayer life.
The Pontiff welcomed the rector, priests, professors, religious and seminarians from the seminary of Radom, Poland, recalling his visit to the seminary in 1991 and speaking on the historical and spiritual legacies of which the seminarians today are heirs.
He noted that “in this year of formation you have the motto ‘Imitate what you will celebrate - ‘imitare quod tractibus’.”
“This is an invitation,” the Pope continued, “that each one of you seminarians, God willing, will hear during the liturgy of ordination. Usually this refers to the mysteries enclosed within the Eucharist and its celebration. In reality the deeper content of this call seems to come directly from Christ’s words: ‘Do this in memory of Me’. And ‘Christ’s memory’ is His entire earthly life, but above all, its paschal conclusion.”
He pointed out that their pastoral service “is constituted by a diversity of actions, of which, the Council says, the Eucharist is the source and summit. Whatever your service is, the invitation to imitate its deepest meaning is always current and just.”
“Humanly speaking, this is not an easy task to fulfill,” the Holy Father added. “In your lives today, and above all in the priesthood make sure there is always time for prayer.”
“Make every effort to prepare yourselves in the best possible way for your priestly duties through a solid study of doctrine, not only theological but also through other disciplines that will help you in your contacts with modern man, or by learning a pastoral praxis, but base this preparation on the solid foundation of prayer,” the Pope concluded.
Vatican City, Dec 9, 2003 (CNA) - Upon receiving the credentials of the new ambassador of the Republic of Paraguay, Marcos Martinez Mendieta, John Paul II called on Paraguayan authorities to bring education to the people.
The Pontiff recalled during his speech “the good relations between Paraguay and the Holy See, which are based on the deep Christian roots of the Paraguayan people.”
The Pope emphasized that Paraguay “is called to take an ever-more active part in the concert of nations, and in order to do so, must promote in a permanent way the greater and more adequate education of its citizens.”
In this sense, he expressed the desire that improvements in the educational system allow the “integral formation of the person to be available to everyone, preparing younger generations to fully assume their responsibilities as citizens capable of being protagonists in the nation’s development, while actively procuring the common good.”
After emphasizing “education in the true moral and spiritual values and promoting an authentic cultural movement that consolidates and spread these values,” the Holy Father referred to the need to propose again “these fundamental values, such as honesty, austerity, responsibility for the common good, solidarity, spirit of sacrifice and the culture of work, capacity for dialogue and the participation of everyone at all levels, which will ensure greater development for all members of the national community.”
The Holy Father said that “to promote the development of everyone in all fields” it is necessary to adopt “initiatives that truly increase the quality of life for all citizens, especially in the fields of health care, housing, and work conditions which are always inspired by ethical principles that take into account equality and the necessary contribution of everyone’s efforts and sacrifices.”
Paraguay used to have the highest literacy rate in South America at the beginning of the 20th Century. Nevertheless, a war with powerful neighbors Argentina and Brazil, and a sequence of corrupted governments has turned the once prosperous country in one of the poorest in the region.
Vatican City, Dec 9, 2003 (CNA) - Speaking to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square to celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, a holiday in Italy and in other Catholic countries, Pope John Paul II said the dogma of the Immaculate Conception can only be comprehended by the light of faith.
“If Christ is the day on which the sun never sets, Mary is the morning resplendent with beauty,” said the Pontiff, adding that “Mary, pre-chosen to be the Mother of the Word incarnate, is at the same time the first fruits of his redemptive work.”
Regarding the mystery of Mary, the Pope said “the human mind cannot pretend to understand such a great marvel and mystery. It is faith that reveals to us that the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin is the rock of salvation for all humanity which journeys on the earth. And it is faith also that reminds us that, because of her most unique condition, Mary is our infallible support in the difficult struggle against sin and its consequences.”
Later, as John Paul II traveled by pope mobile to the monument to the Immaculate Conception located near the Spanish Steps, he said, “We will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of that solemn act of the Church’s Magisterium.”
Washington D.C., Dec 9, 2003 (CNA) - The startling results of the latest survey on abortion in the United States show that women die of legal abortions in the U.S., and that abortion varies along racial lines, with three times more black babies being aborted than white babies. The survey also reports that almost half of all women who obtain abortions have obtained multiple abortions, with almost 17 percent of these women undergoing their fourth abortions in some regions.
The new study, reporting legal induced abortions obtained in the United States in the year 2000, was released by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) the day after Thanksgiving 2003.
“The survey contains some eye-opening findings you will not likely read in the mainstream press,” says Cathy Cleaver Ruse, Esq., the director of planning and information for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.
Cluse reports on some of the most striking findings by the CDC on the USCCB Web site. The highest number of reported legal induced abortions in 2000 occurred in New York City: 94,466. Florida and Texas had the second and third highest abortion numbers, 88,563 and 76,121 respectively. “California likely ranks among the top, but they won't tell,” she says.
Cluse points out that the survey includes data which is voluntarily reported by cities and states, and that some states don't report at all, making it impossible to have an accurate national picture.
For example, California, which in 1997 was responsible for 23 percent of all abortions nationwide, decided in 1998 to stop reporting on the number of abortions performed there, as did New Hampshire and Alaska, Cluse points out.
A startling fact in the report is legal abortions do not prevent women’s deaths. Fourteen women died as a result of complications from known legal induced abortion in 1998 and 1999. Data on deaths from 2000 is not yet available. “In fact, from 1973 to 1999, at least 327 women have died from legal induced abortion according to the study,” reports Cluse.
Abortion rates also change along racial lines. The CDC reported that "the abortion rate for black women was 3.1 times the rate for white women." In addition, "the abortion ratio for black women (503 per 1,000 per live births) was 3.0 times the ratio for white women (167 per 1,000 live births)."
“This means that black babies are aborted three times more frequently than white babies are,” explains Cluse.
Cluse also points out that “multiple abortions are the norm, not the exception.” According to the survey, 53 percent of women had an abortion for the first time in 2000. “That means 47 percent of women having abortions in 2000 were not having their first abortion,” she says.
In 2000, Maryland had the highest percentage of women having their fourth (or more) abortion: 16.7 percent. New York City had the second highest ratio, with 14.7 percent of women having at least their fourth abortion in 2000.
“What is lacking from the survey is any indication why these abortions occurred,” writes Cluse. “The report states simply that they were elective procedures.
“The abortion lobby dismisses the question of why, insisting that "who decides?" is all that matters. But ‘why’ does matter very much,” she continues. “Why did each of these women wake up one morning, get into a car or a cab, and take that fateful drive? This is perhaps the most important question of all.”
To read the full report, go to www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/drh/surv_abort.htm.
Providence, R.I., Dec 9, 2003 (CNA) - The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is hoping that a billboard of the Virgin Mary cradling a chicken carcass will convince people to become vegetarian.
The billboard, seen by motorists near exit 4 on Interstate 195 in East Providence, includes the phrase, "Go Vegetarian. It's an Immaculate Conception."
PETA said its message is designed to highlight that animals raised for food are mistreated and that vegetarianism combats the practice. The group said it chose Rhode Island to debut its campaign because the state has the highest percentage of Catholics in the United States.
Someone, apparently upset with the billboard, spray-painted "Shame!!" on it.
Sydney, Australia, Dec 9, 2003 (CNA) - A man, who claimed he had been abused by Catholic brothers, has been sentenced to a one-year jail term after an investigation revealed that his claim was false.
Justin Richardson received more than $100,000 in compensation from the Order of Saint John of God.
The 34-year-old claimed he was among more than 70 men who were sexually abused at the order's former Marylands School.
Police inquiries found he invented his claim of being sodomized by two of the brothers.
Richardson has repaid more than $30,000 of the original payout.
Mexico City, Mexico, Dec 9, 2003 (CNA) - Marking the second week of Advent, Bishop Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel of San Cristóbal de las Casas in Mexico said that “just as we decorate our homes for Christmas, so also should we prepare for the coming of the Savior into our hearts through sincere repentance, which leads to a good sacramental confession and a change in attitude.”
Commenting on the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Prepare the way of the Lord,” Bishop Arizmendi said that Advent is a moment to prepare for the coming of Jesus by removing obstacles and straightening our ways, so that salvation can come to all.”
In his homily, the Bishop recalled that “there are many things, both in family and personal life, and in society, that are not straight but rather ‘crooked,’ and they must be made right in order to bring about the changes we all desire.” As examples he cited corruption, deceit, fraud, tax-evasion, overcharging for services, divorce, marital infidelity and the abuse of sexuality.
Bishop Arizmendi also said that “many valleys need to be exalted; that is, there are gaps and empty spaces, deficiencies and disrespect,” and “there are mountains and hills that need to be laid low.” In other words, “pride and arrogance” that prevents peaceful coexistence.
The Mexican bishop challenged Catholics to make this Christmas meaningful for their families by examining what need to be changed in how we treat each other.
“Just as we plan for things to do while on vacation, we should also make plans for this season, such as reading the Bible, especially the passages related to the Savior’s birth. And if this is done as family together with the children, better yet,” he suggested.
“More important than a Christmas tree or decorations and gifts, put up a nice Nativity scene in your home, your business or your school. That is a practical way to remind ourselves of the reason for the season and a way to give witness to our faith in Jesus,” the Bishop concluded.
Havana, Cuba, Dec 9, 2003 (CNA) - Five medical students from the Institute of Medical Sciences in Havana are marking the Day of Medicine by sending a message of congratulations and gratitude to Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet.
Medical student Javier Gonzalez Rodriguez said “it is a crime to imprison a doctor only because he wishes life and peace for his people and his nation.”
Gonzalez said he was not afraid of government reprisals because “I want to live free, and Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, to whom we send a message of hope and solidarity on this day, is a good example of what a doctor should be.”
“I am also opposed to abortion, like Dr. Biscet, and I would like to see the regime in Havana once and for all stop destroying the dreams and hopes of millions of Cubans simply because they think and act like human beings,” he said.
Yaritza Gomez, another medical student, said December 3 was a great chance for all health workers to demand their rights be respected and that they not be impeded from freely leaving their country.