Vatican City, Jan 26, 2004 (CNA) - During a meeting with a group of French bishop on Saturday, Pope John Paul II stressed the need to strengthen priestly identity as the only way to reverse the alarming decline of vocations in the regions of Toulouse and Montpellier.
The Pontiff told the French bishops, “I easily understand how you can feel demoralized in the face of this situation, but I invite you to hope and to an ever more resolute commitment in favor of the priesthood.”
He noted that “the crisis the Church is going through is in large part due to the repercussions of social changes, new forms of behavior, the loss of moral and religious values and a widespread consumeristic attitude.”
The Pope urged the bishops to clarify and then communicate the image of a priest as a man who sees the priesthood as “great and beautiful” and demonstrates “enthusiasm for the mission of the Church.”
A priest's calling is to serve his fellow man and it is here that he will find “joy and equilibrium,” he added.
A risk for priests in modern society, said the Holy Father, is that “of neglecting their spiritual life or allowing it to become weak. The heavier the burden, the more important it is to be close to the Lord in order to find in Him the grace necessary for their pastoral service and their welcome by the faithful.”
John Paul II then spoke of the “essential dimension” of priestly life, “celibacy and chastity,” saying this is a much-misunderstood concept and too often is seen as an “impediment” to service. “I invite priests to be diligent in the face of worldly seductions and to regularly make an examination of conscience in order to live ever more deeply in fidelity to their commitment which conforms them to Christ, chaste and totally dedicated to the Father.”
Young priests must be accompanied, he said, and suggested having them accompanied by older, wiser priests and perhaps even “appropriate psychological and spiritual aids.”
“Growing de-Christianization is the major challenge at the moment,” the Holy Father said in concluding remarks, “and I ask you to underscore this, mobilizing all the priests of your diocese in this regard.”
What is urgent is “the evangelization of a world that not only does not know the basic aspects of Christian dogma, but has in great part lost even the memory of the cultural elements of Christianity,” he concluded.
Vatican City, Jan 26, 2004 (CNA) - In a message released on Saturday on the occasion of the 38th World Communications Day –to be celebrated on May 23, 2004--Pope John Paul II evaluated the impact of media, especially TV, on the family, and highlighted the critical role of parents.
The message entitled, “The Media and the Family: A Risk and a Richness,” acknowledges that “thanks to the unprecedented expansion of the communications market in recent decades, many families throughout the world, even those of quite modest means, now have access in their own homes to immense and varied media resources.”
“Yet,” the document continues, “these same media also have the capacity to do grave harm to families by presenting an inadequate or even deformed outlook on life, on the family, on religion and on morality.”
Regarding the way media portray the family, the document says that, sometimes, marriage and family life are depicted “in a sensitive manner, realistic but also sympathetic, that celebrates virtues like love, fidelity, forgiveness, and generous self-giving for others.”
Nevertheless, “on the other hand, the family and family life are all too often inadequately portrayed in the media. Infidelity, sexual activity outside of marriage, and the absence of a moral and spiritual vision of the marriage covenant are depicted uncritically, while positive support is at times given to divorce, contraception, abortion and homosexuality.”
The text recalls that public authorities “have a serious duty to uphold marriage and the family,” but insists that parents, “as the primary and most important educators of their children, are also the first to teach them about the media.”
“The media are welcomed daily as a familiar guest in many homes and families. On this World Communications Day I encourage professional communicators and families alike to acknowledge this unique privilege and the accountability which it entails,” the document concludes.
Read the full document: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/document.php?n=23
Vatican City, Jan 26, 2004 (CNA) - Addressing the crowds gathered on Sunday in St. Peter's Square to pray the Angelus, Pope John Paul II called again for Christian unity and released doves for world peace.
“Today, feast of the conversion of the Apostle Paul, concludes the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity during which, in every corner of the world, Christians prayed together for the full realization of their unity according to the will of the Lord, ‘that they may be one’.”
“Christian unity has been a constant concern of my pontificate and continues to be a demanding priority of my ministry.” Christ’s wish “is an imperative that obliges us, the strength that sustains us, a salutary rebuke for our lethargy and narrow-mindedness,” he added.
John Paul II was then joined at his study window by two young people from “Catholic Action,” who read a message of affection to the Pope, thanking him for his commitment to world peace and then, joined by the Holy Father, they released two white doves, one of whom refused to fly away and sat calmly on the window sill.
In off-the cuff-remarks, a visibly delighted Pope thanked the young people for their words and told them he too loved them.
Vatican City, Jan 26, 2004 (CNA) - After praying the Angelus on Sunday, Pope John Paul II received in the Clementine Hall a group from the Artistic and Cultural Formation Center, which works with poor and underprivileged youths.
After watching a brief break-dance performance, the Pontiff recalled that “in man, the artist, the image of the Creator is reflected.” “I say this also so that all artists present here are conscious that this reflection of God implies a great responsibility,” he added.
“Above all,” he continued, “responsibility for one's self and for one's own talent,” received by God, must “not be wasted but developed” in order “to serve one's neighbor and society with it.”
The Pope said that “the second dimension of the responsibility of artists” is “the commitment to shape the spirit of societies and peoples.” “In this perspective,” he affirmed, “the third dimension of responsibility is discovered: Artists are responsible not only for the aesthetic dimension of the world and of life but also of the moral dimension.”
“If artists are not guided by good in creativity, or even worse, are lead toward evil, they are not worthy of the title of artist,” he concluded.
Ann Arbor, Mich., Jan 26, 2004 (CNA) - In the first legislative initiative of its kind, South Dakota State Representative Matt McCaulley introduced a bill Jan. 23, that will make abortion a crime unless it is necessary to save a mother’s life.
House Bill 1191, which already has the support of a majority in the state house and senate, directly attacks the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, which gave women a constitutional right to abort their babies.
“Roe v. Wade was an exercise of raw judicial power, not based on any reasonable interpretation of the Constitutional text,” said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, which is supporting McCaulley by providing legal assistance.
“The Roe decision carries the same moral implications as the Dredd Scott decision that upheld slavery by regarding a segment of our population as non-persons. The Court was wrong then, and the court is wrong now,” he continued. Thompson acknowledged the likely court battle that would ensue if the legislation were passed.
The bill provides for exceptions to protect the life of the mother if birth or continued pregnancy constitutes a clear and immediate threat of death to the mother or serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function. It would make abortion punishable by law for up to 5 years in state prison.
Support for the legislation has been building during the past few days, with 47 representatives and 18 state senators co-sponsoring the bill. With the sponsors alone, the legislature has the majority votes needed to pass the bill. Once approved, the legislation would ultimately be sent to South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds, who has previously vowed to protect life under all circumstances.
Minneapolis, Minn., Jan 26, 2004 (CNA) - Minnesota Public Radio confirmed Jan. 23 that it is selling WMNN 1330 AM Minneapolis to a subsidiary of the leading operator of community Catholic radio stations.
Catholic Radio Update reported that Starboard Media purchased WMNN for $6.75 million. The new signal will be superior to the two smaller signals Starboard currently has serving the metropolitan area. The new WMNN will also accompany the new studios constructed by Starboard in the Twin Cities.
Two weeks earlier Starboard agreed to buy WAUR 930 AM Chicago from the old Catholic Radio Network for $3.5 million.
Starboard Network™ was founded in 2000 to establish community Catholic radio that gives people a greater understanding of their faith and helps them find answers to life’s challenges. The station’s mandate includes helping people bridge the gap between their faith and everyday life.
Currently, Starboard Network has 14 stations, including four stations in the top 25 markets. It also syndicates programming to affiliated stations throughout the U.S. and provides live streaming audio via the Web at www.relevantradio.com.
As of Jan. 25, there are 128 Catholic radio stations in the U.S.; only 79 are on the air.
Rome, Italy, Jan 26, 2004 (CNA) - A journalist for the National Catholic Reporter in Rome said next month’s release of Mel Gibson’s film on the Passion of Christ will present an opportune “teaching moment”, and he hopes the U.S. Church is preparing itself to respond to the questions and reactions that it will spark.
In his weekly column “Word from Rome”, John Allen said the film will have a significant impact, especially on youth. Allen saw the film at a press screening at the Vatican Jan. 22.
“Viewers will want to talk about what they see; they will want to discuss what happens in the movie, why, and what to make of it,” he wrote.
“I hope youth groups and small faith communities and Bible study groups and Catholic schools are preparing ways for people to come together, and not just the usual suspects, but people who ordinarily have little contact with the Church but who will feel the need to talk.
“In terms of pastoral response, whether one likes Mel Gibson or approves of ‘The Passion’ really isn’t the point,” wrote the former Catholic high school teacher. “The controversy has all but guaranteed that people will see the film, and thus it represents a ‘teaching moment.’”
Rome, Italy, Jan 26, 2004 (CNA) - The controversy about the Pope’s words in reaction to Mel Gibson’s film is “a wake-up call about the dangers of reliance on anonymous sources, a fact of reporting life in the Vatican,” said Catholic journalist John Allen.
In his weekly column “Word from Rome”, Allen said the “he said, she said” saga in the press over the Pope’s comments makes reporters “look like naïfs who have been spun every which way, or worse yet, like willing partners in someone's dishonesty.”
Allen said officials at the Vatican “rarely speak on the record,” so Vatican reporters are constantly dealing with unnamed sources. “This incident,” wrote Allen, “undoubtedly has raised the bar on caution for all of us.”
But those who come out looking the worst in the whole affair is the Vatican, Allen said.
“Even if officials were acting for the noblest of motives, they have stretched the meaning of words, on and off the record, to their breaking point,” wrote Allen. “Aside from the obvious moralism that it’s wrong to deceive, such confusion can only enhance perceptions that the aging John Paul II is incapable of controlling his own staff, that ‘no one is in charge’ and the Church is adrift. These impressions are not healthy in a time when the Church’s public image, especially in the United States, has already taken a beating on other grounds.”
“No one can have ironclad certainty about what the pope said,” wrote Allen.
Allen added that his original source for his breaking story continues to insist that the Pope did, in fact, make that remark. “On the other hand,” said Allen, “there is no [official] confirmation of the remark.”