Vatican City, Feb 3, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul presided on Monday, feast of the Presentation of the Lord, the VIII Day of Consecrated Life, during which he called on religious to renew every day their “‘yes’ to the God of Love.”
Thousands of members of institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life participated in the Mass in which the Holy Father led the blessing of the candles, participated in the initial procession and, after pronouncing the homily, led the thanksgiving to God for the gift of consecrated life.
“Those who have forever offered their lives to Christ for the coming of the Kingdom of God are called to renew their ‘yes’ to the special vocation they have received,” the Pope said during the homily.
The Pontiff highlighted the fact that Christ called religious “to model themselves ever more on Him, who for love was obedient, poor and chaste.” “Continue to dedicate yourselves with passion to announcing and promoting his kingdom, which is necessary today as it was in the past!,” he exclaimed.
John Paul II invited the religious to renew their faithfulness to God “with the same enthusiasm and generosity as when you first pronounced your vows. Every day repeat with joy and conviction your ‘yes’ to the God of Love.”
“In the intimacy of the monastery or alongside the poor and the marginalized, among the young or within ecclesial structures, in various apostolic activities or in mission lands, God wants you to remain faithful to his love and dedicated to the good of your brothers.”
“This is the precious contribution you can offer the Church so that the Gospel of hope may reach all the men and women of our time,” the Pope also said.
He concluded his homily by reminding religious that Mary “is the primary and most exalted model for all consecrated people. Let yourselves be guided by her. Trust in her assistance with humble confidence, especially in moments of trial.”
Vatican City, Feb 3, 2004 (CNA) - Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State, and Archbishop Leonardi Sandri, Substitute for General Affairs, presented to Pope John Paul II the first copy of the 2004 edition of the “Annuario Pontificio,” or Pontifical Yearbook, which this year reveals, among other figures, that half of the world’s Catholics live on the American continent.
The figures, based on data from 2002, indicate that there are 1,071,000,000 baptized Catholics in the world, who make up 17.2% of the world population.
Their distribution by continent is 50% in America, 26.1% in Europe, 12.8% in Africa, 10.3% in Asia and 0.8% in Oceania.
With respect to the population, the percentage of Catholics is: 62.4% in America, 40.5% in Europe, 26.8% in Oceania, 16.5% in Africa and 3% in Asia.
The number of people who dedicate themselves to pastoral activity is 4,217,572, distributed as follows: 4,605 bishops, 405,058 priests (of which 267,334 are diocesan), 30,097 permanent deacons, 54,828 male religious, 782,932 female religious (of which 51,371 are contemplative), 28,766 members of secular institutes, 143,745 lay missionaries and 2,767,451 catechists.
Compared to 2001, the total number of priests remained the same (405,067 in 2001). However, upon analyzing the number of religious and diocesan priests, an increase in the number of diocesan priests is noted (from 266,448 in 2001 to 267,334 in 2002) as well as a decrease in the number of religious priests (from 138,619 to 137,724).
The number of major seminarians is 112,982 (in 2001 there were 112,244), signaling an increase of 0.7%. There was an increase in the candidates to the priesthood in Africa (more than 5.8%) and America (more than 1.4%), while in Europe and Asia there was a slight decrease.
Vatican City, Feb 3, 2004 (CNA) - According to a report released by the Vatican Press Office, the Vatican website www.vatican.va has become the main outlet “for the diffusion of information from the Press Office on the activity of the Holy Father and the Holy See.”
According to data provided by the Holy See Internet Office, in 2003 there were almost 22 million hits to the Press Office's web site, with an average of 59,667 searches performed every day.
The words most often searched for were “Vatican,” “News,” “Information,” “Press service.”
In addition, in 2003 the Vatican Information Service reached the highest number of subscribers to date. More than 54% of subscribers receive the service in English, while 28.34% receive it in Spanish, 8.46% in French and 8.54% in Italian.
Rome, Italy, Feb 3, 2004 (CNA) - During a press conference which took place at a hotel near the Vatican, Bishop Bernard Fellay, leader of the traditionalist movement, “Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X”, started by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, attacked the ecumenical efforts of the Church and said dialogue with the Holy See was “at a stand still”.
Fellay, Superior General of the Fraternity, issued a letter addressed to select Cardinals in the Roman Curia and signed by him and the three other bishops who were excommunicated after being ordained by Lefebvre without Papal approval, which left the Fraternity in schism with the Catholic Church.
The letter was accompanied by a 50-page document called, “From Ecumenism to Silent Apostasy, 25 Years of a Pontificate,” in which Fellay expressed his evaluation of John Paul II’s papacy.
Fellay said the letter was sent to select Cardinals and not to the Pope—who that same afternoon at the Vatican presided at a ceremony honoring consecrated life—“because of the seriousness of the Holy Father’s state of health.”
Known for his rejection of Vatican II, especially liturgical changes and ecumenism, Fellay accused the Catholic Church of being not “a ship in a storm, but a ship with a whole in its side,” and he said ecumenism “has turned the Holy See, which is the Church, into a city of ruins,” because, he said, “the Church is more interested in Christian unity than in salvation.”
Fellay accused the Holy See of being “too soft” on dissent, and at the same time treating “in a tyrannical way” those who want to “return to traditional values,” that is, to those of the Lefebvrists.
Finally, Fellay told reporters that negotiations with the Vatican for reconciliation are “at a stand still,” despite the efforts of Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, President of the Ecclesia Dei Pontifical Commission, created by the Pope to foster the reconciliation of the Lefebvrists with the Church.
Cardinal Castrillón has reached out to the group through various gestures, but as result of the constant attacks on the Pope, he issued a letter on April 5, 2002, saying attacks on the Holy Father could not be justified under the mantle of “defense of tradition.”
“They constitute, in fact, a dangerous pretense to judge the Supreme Authority as well,” said the Cardinal, citing Vatican I, a council which the Lefebvrists accept as legitimate, which proclaimed that “nobody can bestow upon himself the right to judge the Holy See.”
At the end of the press conference, on a more conciliatory note, Fellay said, “We are not rejecting an agreement. But before we build a bridge, it is better we build a solid foundation, since Rome doesn’t not see the same problems the way we see them.”
St. Louis, Mo., Feb 3, 2004 (CNA) - Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis would refuse to give the leading Democratic presidential candidate the Eucharist because of the politician’s support of abortion rights.
In a story dated Jan. 30, the archbishop told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he might give Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry a blessing, but not Communion.
In his former Diocese of La Crosse in Wisconsin, Burke instructed diocesan priests to refuse Communion to Catholic legislators who vote pro-abortion.
Kerry, a Catholic, said he shares the Church's anti-abortion views as an article of faith, but as a public official, he does not feel it is appropriate to legislate personal religious beliefs for the rest of the country.
Rome, Italy, Feb 3, 2004 (CNA) - Fr. Aldo Brunacci, lauded for his efforts on behalf of at least 250 Jews, credited Pope Pius XII for the large number of Roman Jews saved during the German occupation, and predicted even more evidence will be found about the pontiff’s heroic actions in the future.
The 90-year-old priest from Assisi made this statement in the January issue of Inside the Vatican. In the article, titled “The Secret Letter,” Fr. Brunacci also confirms his earlier testimony that a letter his bishop, Giuseppe Nicolini, read to him during the Second World War – which urged clergy to ensure the safety of Jews – was indeed issued by Pope Pius XII.
Author Susan Zuccotti has challenged the letter in her controversial book “Under His Very Windows”. She argues that the Catholic rescue in Italy was accomplished without the support of Pius XII, who allegedly did "little or nothing" for the Jews. She suggests the bishop lied about the letter “to make his assistants believe that they were doing the pope's work.”
However, Fr. Brunacci denied Zuccotti’s claim and told Inside the Vatican that it was “impossible” that Bishop Nicolini lied to him.
“I saw it with my own eyes, in my bishop's hands, as he read it to me,” he told the English monthly magazine. “It was a letter from the Vatican asking the bishop to take measures to help protect the Jews. And we took those measures.
“Zuccotti doubts that Pius XII could have issued such an order because she is persuaded by the campaign launched against Pius in 1963,” Fr. Brunacci told Inside the Vatican. “But that campaign has been filled with slanders and calumnies.”
The priest warned not to take Zuccotti seriously, citing her unreliable source material.
Fr. Brunacci credits Pope Pius XII for the rescue of 85 percent of the Roman Jews during the German occupation. He predicts that this letter, which was sent out to many other dioceses in Italy, will emerge in the coming years, in addition to many new documents.
The priest recalled the gathering in St. Peter’s Square after the liberation of Rome. Hundreds of thousands came to cheer the pontiff, and many Jews were among them, he said.
, Feb 3, 2004 (CNA) - In a show of remarkable support in the wake of a clergy sexual-abuse scandal, more than 20,000 donations poured in for the Diocese of Allentown’s 2003 capital campaign, raising almost twice its $28-million goal for a total of $53.6 million, reported the Express-Times.
The generosity also demonstrated an awareness of the diocese’s need to strengthen its programs and ministries, said a diocese news release. The funds will go to parishes, Catholic schools, the education of ordained ministers, pastoral ministry, evangelization efforts and parish-based social services.
Parishes have already received more than $1 million.
The campaign, "Strengthening our Future in Faith," was the diocese’s third capital campaign and the first in almost 20 years, said the Express-Times.
Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 3, 2004 (CNA) - Speaking to reporters, Father Mariano Villalobos, coordinator of the Diocesan Billings Center of the Diocese of Durango, affirmed that “the morning after pill is indeed abortifacient.”
Fr. Villalobos, an expert in bioethics, emphasized that the Catholic Church has moral, religious and scientific arguments for classifying the morning after pill as abortifacient. The pill is being promoted by the Mexican Health Department as a non-abortifacient contraceptive method.
He also responded to those who accuse the Catholic Church of “distorting “the debate over contraception, saying that “no matter how much they try to define pregnancy as the implantation of a fertilized ovum in the wall of the uterus, scientific studies of genetics prove that a new life begins at the moment of fertilization.”
He also said that a fertilized ovum represents a new life because “the genome of a new human being has been completed.”
The leader of the Billings Center emphasized that scientific proof shows that one cannot speak of the “pre-embryo” as something distinct from the embryo—an argument used by abortion promoters—since the fertilized ovum, that is, the zygote or one-celled embryo, has a continuous, gradual and coordinated development without qualitative leaps.
In this sense, Fr. Villalobos pointed out that the effect of the “post-coitus hormonal contraception,” when it prevents implantation, is clearly abortifacient, in as much as it directly and voluntarily takes the life of a newly conceived human being.
Madrid, Spain, Feb 3, 2004 (CNA) - A Spanish doctor and the Movement for Life are organizing a peaceful rally called, “Fall in Love with Life,” which will take place in front of a prominent abortion center in the Spanish capital on February 14, Valentine’s Day.
According to organizers, 10,000 posters have been printed in order to get the attention of the country on the grave problem of abortion.
In 2001, the number of abortions that took place in Spain reached almost 70,000. In 2002 that figure was estimated to be 80,000.
Among the goals of the rally are the urging of public authorities to enforce current laws on abortion, provide support and assistance to pregnant women, especially providing daycare services and subsidies for maternity leave; make available exact and complete information on the reality of abortion for those who are contemplating abortion, distributed by independent groups and not by the abortion clinics themselves; and the prevention of tax-payer funds used for abortion.
Montreal, Canada, Feb 3, 2004 (CNA) - A rosary and a Bible were among the final items Canadian troops were offered before heading out on a mission to Afghanistan earlier this month.
More than 1,000 troops, who packed into Notre-Dame Basilica for a service before leaving for their mission, were offered the two religious items, reported the Canadian Press. The service is a tradition with French-speaking troops.
The Quebec-based soldiers will make up the bulk of the 2,000 Canadian contingency that started shipping out Jan. 20. They are expected to arrive in Kabul by mid-February.
Bishop Donald Theriault of the Military Ordinariate of Canada prayed for the soldiers’ safety. He urged them to find their own spiritual peace before departing to help bring lasting peace to Afghanistan, reported CP.