Vatican City, Jan 21, 2004 (CNA) - During his Wednesday’s general audience, Pope John Paul recalled that this week is dedicated to prayer and reflection for Christian unity on the theme, “I leave you my peace,” and said that Christians have a responsibility in responding to the world’s yearn for peace.
Describing the theme, taken from Jesus’ words at the Last Supper, the Pope said that “in a certain way, it is a spiritual testament.”
John Paul said also that “the world yearns for peace, needs peace, today like yesterday, but it often seeks it with improper means, even to the point of resorting to force or by the balance of opposing powers.”
“In these situations man lives with a troubled heart in fear and uncertainty. Christ's peace, however, reconciles souls, purifies hearts and brings about conversion,” he added.
“The theme of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was proposed this year by a ecumenical group from the city of Aleppo, Syria,” he said, adding: “This brings to mind the pilgrimage that I had the joy of making to Damascus. That encounter still represents a sign of hope for the ecumenical path.”
“Deep spirituality is ever more necessary,” he continued, “not only for those who are directly involved in ecumenical work but for all Christians. The cause of unity concerns all believers, called to form part of the one people of those redeemed by the blood of Christ on the Cross.”
“It is heartening that the search for unity among Christians is expanding more and more thanks to opportune initiatives that interest different aspects of ecumenical commitment.”
Among the “signs of hope,” he mentioned the “increase in fraternal charity and the progress made in theological dialogue with various Churches and ecclesial communities,” which has brought about “important accords on topics which were very controversial in the past.
“Keeping in mind these positive signs, we should not be discouraged in the face of the old and new difficulties that we encounter, but we must confront them with patience and understanding, always counting on divine help.”
“The Pope concluded by assuring those present that “peace and unity among Christians, who can offer a decisive contribution so that humanity will overcome the reasons for division and conflict, comes from reciprocal charity and love. Together with prayer, dear brothers and sisters, let us feel strongly stimulated to make an effort to be authentic ‘peace workers’ in the environments in which we live.”
After the audience, a brief liturgical celebration took place during which prayers were recited for Christ's Church in the East and West, for the Pope and pastors of all Christian communities, for peace and the leaders of nations and international organizations so that their actions would be guided in solidarity, justice and respect for creation, and for those who suffer due to war, injustice and oppression.
Also, on the occasion of the memorial liturgy of St. Agnes, the Pope blessed two lambs whose wool will be used to make the palliums that will be imposed on the metropolitan archbishops on the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles on June 29.
Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2004 (CNA) - Religious leaders of all faiths, elected officials, leaders of right-to-life organizations and pro-lifers from across the country will assemble in the nation’s capitol for the annual March For Life, tomorrow, which this year will turn 30.
It has been thirty years since the March For Life began. The march was initially held in Jan. 22, 1974, on the first anniversary of the infamous Supreme Court Roe vs. Wade decision.
Norma McCorvey, who was Jane Roe, had signed the affidavit that was sent to the Supreme Court in 1973. McCorvey is now a pro-life speaker with "Roe No More" Ministries, a convert to Catholicism, and march supporter.
The march will begin with a rally at noon in the Ellipse, behind the White House, followed by a walk up Constitution Avenue and ending at the Supreme Court Building. Marchers will show support for the right to life and for pro-life legislation designed to reverse the Roe vs. Wade decision.
Chicago, Ill., Jan 21, 2004 (CNA) - Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago have been battling a drop in student enrollment for years and are looking for new ways to improve the situation for students and families.
An annual report released Jan. 14 by the archdiocese showed 5,488 fewer students were enrolled in their elementary and high schools this academic year, a decrease of 4.7 percent from 2002-03.
Student enrolment in elementary schools was worse than high schools, dropping 5.1 percent. High school enrollment only dropped 3.5 percent.
The decrease in student enrollment varied according to the area. Overall, Chicago schools had an average 5.2 percent drop. Some elementary schools outside of Chicago had drops of as much as 14 percent.
The drop has led to the closure of one high school and in the last two years alone, and Catholic school officials have said more schools will likely close this year, reported the Daily Herald.
The archdiocese says the tough economy – and not scandals of recent years – has made it difficult for parents to pay tuition. In exit interviews, families gave financial difficulties or a move from the area as the reason for removing their child from Catholic school.
The average annual tuition is $5,774 for high schools and $2,912 for elementary schools.
An improvement in the economy could help, but the archdiocese is also considering offering greater assistance to students and families through more scholarships and government grants. The archdiocese has also considered increasing financial aid to students and working to increase contributions from parishioners.
, Jan 21, 2004 (CNA) - A two-day gathering of some of the world's highest-level Catholic and Jewish leaders resulted in a call for general religious peace, a commitment to increase understanding between the two groups and a pledge to take a stand against increased anti-Semitism in Europe.
Participants called the first World Symposium of Catholic Cardinals and Jewish Leaders, held in New York City Jan. 19-20, “the highest level talks in the troubled history of Catholics and Jews,” reported Reuters. The meeting took place just days after the Pope met with Israel’s two chief rabbis.
“The participants expressed consternation at continuing expressions of hatred in the world, and noted with concern the recent rise of anti-Semitic manifestations," said a statement issued by conference participants.
The gathering was sponsored by the World Jewish Congress, which wants to improve Jewish-Christian relations and build on the advances made in that relationship over the last 25 years by Pope John Paul II, reported Reuters.
The group agreed to meet again in coming years and to encourage dialogue between the two groups within their local communities.
A dozen cardinals and six chief rabbis were in attendance. Among the Catholic leaders were cardinals Jean-Marie Lustiger of Paris; Francis George of Chicago; George Marie Cottier, Theologian of the Pontifical House; Alexandre Do Nascimento of Luanda of Angola and Ivan Dias of Bombay. Among the Jewish leaders were rabbis Henry Sobel of Brazil; Jacob Bleieh of Ukraine and Pinchus Goldschmidt of Moscow.