Vatican City, Mar 1, 2004 (CNA) - In his Message for the 19th World Youth Day, published today, Pope John Paul II reminds young people that “only encountering Jesus will give full meaning to your life.” “Do not let yourselves be distracted in this search. Persevere in it because your full realization and happiness are at stake,” the Pope wrote in the message entitled “We want to see Jesus.”
In the text dated February 22, Feast of the Chair of Peter, the Holy Father reminds that “the desire to see God lives in the heart of every man and woman” and calls young people to “let yourselves look into Jesus’ eyes, so that the desire to see the light, to enjoy the splendor of Truth may grow in you.”
“Do you, dear young people, want to contemplate the beauty of this face? This is the question that I ask you on this World Youth Day, 2004,” which will be celebrated on April 4, Palm Sunday. “Do not answer in a hurry,” he continues.
“Before anything, think about it in silence. Let this ardent desire to see God, a desire sometimes suffocated by the noise of the world and the seductions of pleasure, emerge from the depths of your heart. Allow this desire to emerge and you will have the marvelous experience of encountering Jesus,” he added.
“If you learn how to discover Jesus in the Eucharist, you will know how to discover Him also in your brothers and sisters, especially in the poor. The Eucharist, received with love and adored with fervor, becomes a school of freedom and charity to carry out the commandment of love.”
See you at Cologne
After recalling that at the end of the Holy Year of Redemption in 1984 he presented young people with a large wooden cross that “has traveled to different countries since then in preparation for World Youth Days,” the Pope affirmed that “this year, on the 20th anniversary of this event, the cross will be solemnly welcomed in Berlin, and from there it will make a pilgrimage all over Germany, reaching Cologne next year” where World Youth Day will be celebrated.
“Your peers expect you to be witnesses to the One Whom you have found and who gives you life. In the reality of daily life, become fearless witnesses to a love that is stronger than death. It is up to you to accept this challenge!”
“Put your talents and your youthful ardor at the service of announcing the Good News. Be enthusiastic friends of Jesus who present the Lord to everyone who wants to see Him, especially to those who are far from Him. You should feel responsible for evangelizing your friends and all your peers,” he concluded.
Denver, Colo., Mar 1, 2004 (CNA) - Two days before the release of the national survey on sexual abuse of minors by clergy in the U.S. Church, the Archbishop of Denver issued a letter indicating the number of substantiated abuse cases in the diocese.
The Feb. 25 letter, signed by Archbishop Charles Chaput and Auxiliary Bishop Jose Gomez, also emphasized the diocese’s commitment to maintain a zero-tolerance policy regarding allegations of abuse.
The results of the unprecedented national survey, conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and released Feb. 27, indicated that 109,694 clergy served in the U.S. between 1950 and 2002. Of these, about four percent or 4,392 were accused of sexual abuse. The total number of abuse claims in that period was 10,667.
The letter, issued by the Archdiocese of Denver, offered the faithful here a better understanding of the prevalence of sexual abuse in the diocese and the ways in which the problems were being handled.
The letter indicated that 1,402 priests served the Archdiocese of Denver between 1950 and 2002. Of these, 647 were diocesan priests. In this period, allegations against seven priests (or about 1.1 percent of priests) were substantiated. These cases involved 21 victims.
"This is a painful statistic, but it reinforces our resolve to prevent this terrible sin in the future," said the letter.
Since 1950, the archdiocese paid $997,730 in counseling and settlement costs in connection with allegations of sexual abuse of minors.
"All of these funds have come from insurance," the bishops assured. "No Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal funds have been used for this purpose."
During the same period, 755 religious order priests served in the archdiocese. However, all allegations made against religious order priests were referred to the priest’s order for investigation.
"No priest with a record of sexual misconduct with children is in ministry in the Archdiocese of Denver," the bishops assured.
"We want to reconfirm that the Archdiocese of Denver does not and will not tolerate any abuse of a child by any member of the clergy or any Church employee," said the bishops. "It is important to note that any credible allegation against a priest, diocesan or religious, results in his immediate removal from ministry."
The letter also informed the faithful of the archdiocese’s policy that requires criminal background checks for all clergy, church employees and seminarians. In addition, "psychological screenings and careful formation in priestly chastity play a key role in our seminary training,"said the letter. "Safe environment programs will be an important element of our Church life into the future."
Last month the Archdiocese of Denver reported that it was found in full compliance with all of the provisions of the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, adopted by the USCCB in June of that year.
Washington D.C., Mar 1, 2004 (CNA) - Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” has become a box-office smash in the United States, bringing in 117.5 million dollars in its first five days, according to studio estimates Sunday. The film post the second-best five-day figures for a movie opening on Wednesday, behind last year's "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" at $124.1 million and ahead of "Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace" at $105.6 million.
“The Passion” was also the seventh-best three-day opening ever, behind "Spider-Man" at $114.8 million and such Hollywood blockbusters as "The Matrix Reloaded" and the first two "Harry Potter" movies.
Despite the sometimes vicious attacks by critics, Mel Gibson has begun considering his next Project which, according to his associates, may focus on the story of a martyr.
The success of the movie has rocked the film-making industry because of its limited marketing and exaggerated controversy. Film critics were especially polarized, with a little more than half praising the film and the rest mercilessly attacking Gibson’s work.
Nevertheless, turnout was massive at cinemas across the country and online forums such as Yahoo! were inundated with positive comments on the movie.
Sources with ICON Productions informed CNA that the response has been so positive that despite the attacks, Gibson is considering the possibility of making another movie that would promote Christian values.
This time it could be the story of a Jesuit martyr whose name was not revealed.
Vatican City, Mar 1, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II called on Catholics to transform Lent into a “a generous match of solidarity towards” the children.
In reflections that traditionally precede the Sunday Angelus prayer with the faithful in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope spoke of his Message for Lent 2004, “in which I wished to recall, in a special way, children, who are often the innocent victims of man’s evil deeds.” Noting that children were special for Christ, he said, “May this time of the liturgical year be transformed into a generous match of solidarity towards these little ones, especially those in the most grave danger and difficulties.”
The Pope said that in the Gospel of this first Sunday of Lent, Christ, “sustained by the Holy Spirit, withdrew to the desert where he remained for forty days. The Gospel account tells us of the three well-known temptations which are an echo of the old deception that Satan used to make our ancestors fall.”
“But Christ, the new Adam, overcame them, rejecting decisively His tempter: ‘It has been said; You shall not tempt the Lord your God’. Jesus’ victory over evil assures us that we will not yield at the moment of trial if we remain united to the Spirit,” he explained.
“Dear brothers and sisters, I ask you to pray for this intention. I also ask you to accompany me spiritually in the retreat that will start, as they do every year, this evening” in the Vatican, the Pope concluded.
Vatican City, Mar 1, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II called the international community to work on behalf of Haiti, shortly after former President Jean Bertrand Aristide fled the island.
After praying the Angelus with the pilgrims assembled in St. Peter’s Square, Pope John Paul remarked on “the worrisome and painful news that is coming to us from Haiti. In the face of such a situation I feel the duty to invite all Haitians to have the courage and humility to make those decisions that are necessary for the good of the country.”
“While I encourage the diplomatic work of the international community and I ask for a generous commitment on the part of humanitarian organizations, I send a special blessing for the beloved Haitian people,” he added.
Paris, France, Mar 1, 2004 (CNA) - In an interview published Friday by the French daily “Le Figaro”, Mel Gibson addressed criticism that “The Passion of the Christ” is “the gospel according to Mel,” saying the film is faithful to the Gospels.
“I don’t believe I have betrayed the Gospels, I believe I have been faithful to them,” said Gibson, adding, “The Gospels are true. I base my faith on the testimonies of these Gospels.”
Gibson said he wished to tell the story of the Passion without pretense so that everyone might understand that Jesus Christ “died for the sins of all men for all time.”
“Some people, especially in past eras, accused the Jews of killing Jesus Christ, but we are all brothers in guilt,” he said, underscoring as well that “the Vatican has condemned all forms of racism and anti-Semitism.”
Gibson reiterated that his desire to retell the life of Jesus began 12 years ago. “I had gotten to such a level of personal anxiety that it really was time for me to stop and question myself. That’s what happened, thanks to my faith and to the special attention I gave to the Passion, the heart of the Christian faith. That’s how I came back to life,” he explained.
Vatican City, Mar 1, 2004 (CNA) - The Holy See announced Pope John Paul II’s general prayer intention for March, which is devoted to indigenous populations.
His intention is: “That the land, culture and all the rights of the indigenous populations of the world may be respected, so that true harmony between them and those among whom they live may be attained.”
His mission intention is: “That, in Africa, cooperation between missionary Institutes and local Churches may grow, with respect for the variety of gifts.”
Birmingham, Ala., Mar 1, 2004 (CNA) - Six months after the ordination of their denomination’s first openly homosexual bishop, Alabama Episcopalians have voted for a resolution to reject same-sex marriage and the ordination of homosexual bishops.
At a special state diocese meeting, Feb. 28, officials voted 208-140 to adopt a resolution, declaring that "blessings of same-sex unions and ordinations of non-celibate unmarried persons are not part of the common life of this diocese," reported the Associated Press.
The resolution was in reference to the August ordination of New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, who has lived with his male partner for years. In a show of protest, five Alabama churches have held back contributions to the national church.
Alabama Bishop Henry N. Parsley told AP that the vote "expresses disagreement, but not division" with Robinson’s ordination. He added that there are no plans to split from the national church.
Cambridge, England, Mar 1, 2004 (CNA) - Harvard University will launch the largest privately funded embryonic stem-cell research project to date, reported the Boston Sunday Globe.
The Harvard Stem Cell Institute, which will be launched at a scientific conference April 23, will fundraise about $100 million.
Embryonic stem-cell research has been the center of much debate and controversy in government and in the scientific community since it requires the destruction of human embryos, a procedure condemned by the Catholic Church and pro-life organizations.
President George W. Bush’s policy of limiting federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research based on ethical considerations has not prevented several U.S. universities from moving ahead with the research and raising private funding.
The University of Wisconsin, the University of Minnesota and the University of California at San Francisco have been financing the research privately. In 2002,
Stanford University received a $12-million donation to conduct cancer research by creating human embryonic stem-cell lines. Last week, the governor of New Jersey said the state would give Rutgers University $6.5 million for embryonic stem-cell research.
Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 1, 2004 (CNA) - The president of the Mexican Bishops Conference, Bishop José Rábago, warned this weekend that the Catholic Church rejects assisted reproduction and considers it immoral.
“In vitro fertilization is most certainly considered immoral by the Church,” Bishop Martín told reporters at the conclusion of Mass in the Cathedral of León, Mexico.
“It’s not my teaching, there is a very clear document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which effectively deals with this subject and points out that it is to be considered immoral,” he explained.
Bishop Rábago underscored that the Church considers immoral artificial insemination either with the sperm of the husband or with that of another man.
“We can speak of two types of fertilization, one takes place with the sperm of a man who is not the husband of the woman, and in this case we are dealing with true adultery. But we can also speak of fertilization which takes place with the sperm of the husband, and this also has an immoral connotation.”
“The relation between man and woman as ordained in nature by God demands that reproduction be the result of a loving encounter between man and woman in the bonds of marriage,” added Bishop Rábago.
Although he pointed out the Church sympathizes with couples who are not able to bear children, Bishop Rábago stressed it is preferable to chose adoption in such cases.