Archive of March 18, 2004

Pope thanks Neocatechumenal Way for vocation formation

Vatican City, Mar 18, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul this morning welcomed authorities and seminarians of Rome’s “Redemptoris Mater” seminary, and described it as  “a new and meaningful experience, in view of the formation of priests for the new evangelization.” More than 30 “Redemptoris Mater” seminaries, whose students were formed in the Neocatechumenal Way, have been established worldwide.

The Pope said he thanked God for “the abundant good fruits” and “for the Neocatechumenal Way within which your vocations were born and grew.”

“In the past 16 years a great number of enthusiastic priests have come from your seminary,” he added, noting that they are “priests dedicated in part to the pastoral service in the diocese of Rome and in part to the mission in every corner of the world as ‘fidei donum’ priests.”

  “The common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial priesthood are in fact ordained one for the other and intimately linked, both participating, each in its own Way, in the one priesthood of Christ. They differ, however, essentially, and not just by degree,” said the Pope.

“By virtue of the Sacrament of Orders priests are configured in a special way to Jesus Christ as Head and Pastor of His people and they must – in the image of Christ – spend and give their entire life in service to this people,” he also said.

The Holy Father told the seminarians that when they are ordained they will belong “to the diocesan priesthood which has the bishop as the main reference point, and at the same time will (live) the deep bond that links you to the Neocatechumenal Way.”

Quoting their Statutes, he said: “Candidates to the priesthood find in participating in the Neocatechumenal Way a specific and fundamental element of the formational path and, at the same time, are prepared for the genuine priestly choice of serving the entire people of God, in the fraternal communion of the priesthood.”

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Actor Jim Caviezel reveals full details of his encounter with the Holy Father

, Mar 18, 2004 (CNA) - Peggy Noonan revealed today an exclusive account of the details of what happened on Monday at the Vatican when actor  James Caviezel, who plays Jesus in "The Passion of the Christ," met with Pope John Paul II.

Mr. Caviezel decided not to reveal the content of his conversation with the Holy Father, nevertheless, he talked  to Noonan briefly by phone from Rome, who  transcribed what the actor said.

This is Caviezel’s account of the encounter, as reported by the noted Wall Street Journal contributor.

“I walked into the room and I was laughing at myself--who am I, where I'm from, and now I'm going in and sitting here having this huge meeting. And there's the pope sitting there in a chair with a chair next to him and I am to sit in it. I had an opportunity to see him when I was a boy, but I didn't because I had to study for a Spanish test that I probably didn't study for anyway. But my family came back and they were overjoyed. That was in 1984, when the pope came to Vancouver, British Columbia.”

“I walked in and he just waved to me. It was in the Vatican, in a big room; I think it was the library. There were a lot of chambers that went in different places--a room off a room off a room, you know.”

“He smiled and waved. There were four of us, me and my wife and my mother-in-law and father-in-law. My wife was right to my right. She kneeled first and she kissed his hand. I kneeled down and kissed his hand, and then we talked.”

“Did you ever read the pope's Letter to the Artists of the World? I read it several times when I was a young actor. It was very important to me. It came out and I remember what he said is that part of the truth, right, is accepting--you can't just write about darkness and say 'This is the way it is,' because light always comes through. It must. If you went into a 40,000-foot warehouse, even if you just light a match the match pierces the darkness. It pierces even in the vast amount of darkness. As I see it, the movie is a light, it is a match.”

“So the first thing I began to talk about was his Letter to the Artists. I told him it gave me great strength in my life and my career. I thanked him. I said, 'Thank you.' The pope--this is a very holy man. He's seen the Nazis and the communists [and there were] people he knew that understand what a regime is like and what they do, and how they can take your freedom from you. He's seen it. This is the pope from Fatima. I think the guy's a mystic. He's a saint. I'm not impressed by celebrity--that word is bad when you're standing in front of a saint. But something moved me. I know he is a saint.”

“I wanted a blessing for my marriage and my family. The other thing I said--the point of the film, I always knew if it's gonna rock you have to have Mary. There are different Christian traditions and ways and views, but let the Holy Spirit do his work, I'm not denying the mother. What her son said on the cross, 'Mother behold your son, Son behold your mother'--it's one of the seven things Jesus said on the cross. He said it. You can't leave it out, so if you include it you have to develop it, you have to tell the story, to show it. He was giving his mother to the world. He gave his mother to John, to the world.”

“So the second thing I said to the pope is, 'You boldly put the M on your crest.' The Blessed Mother on his crest. She is the one I think who made the movie for her Son. I told [the pope], 'Your statement, your example.' She knew the great pain. We put her son to death for saying, 'Be a good person.' Well, he told the truth. The truth cuts like a sword. That's the sword right there, 'Be a good person.'”

"In the world we make good as evil and evil as good. But here's a guy [the pope] who doesn't do that. He carries a lot of crosses. I don't know how he functions. And there's politics everywhere--everywhere. But the church will survive. It'll be here when we're dust.”

“How long did I speak to [John Paul]? I can't really remember. It wasn't longer than five minutes with me and 10 minutes with my family. When I left I was happy. I just felt happiness. We all left together.”

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Moving testimonies from priests who attended to victims of Madrid bombings

Madrid, Spain, Mar 18, 2004 (CNA) - In response to an urgent call for help from Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela of Madrid, hundreds of priests and religious rushed to the scene of last week’s terrorist attacks in Madrid in order to help and console victims of the bombings.

“I remember an 18 year-old young man.  He was with his friend.  He no longer has a family.  His father died 8 years ago and he was living alone with his mother. On the 11th, she had the day off and decided to go shopping in Madrid.  At the Atocha station she was met with death.  He told me, ‘I’m all alone now. I only have my friends.’  I told him, ‘And you have a priest, too, who also loves you and prays for your mother.’  I gave him my address,” said Fr. Angel Camino of the Parish of San Manuel and San Benito.

”And this is perhaps the most tragic,” continues Fr. Camino.  “Maria de la Soledad was seated next to one of the backpacks filled with explosives.  She was identified by her fingerprints. She was totally blown to pieces, her sister tells me.  What a coincidence!  Her children were baptized in my parish and her funeral will be here at the express wishes of her husband and parents.  All I have done is listen and listen, offer consolation and be present through these small acts of love.  The reward has been infinitely greater.  I haven’t been turned away by hardly anyone.  Quite the contrary.  What a lesson of how love pain can be turned into love, of suffering offered up.”

Fr. Santiago Martín was present at the make-shift morgue set up to hold the bodies of those slain.  “It is very hard to describe the scene.  I have had a hard time sleeping, my chest is hurting and I am nervous.   The bodies were on the floor in white and black plastic bags, lined up like soldiers going to receive a medal:  the one God was going to give them in Heaven.”

“After I finished praying for the repose of their souls, I knelt down and found it very difficult not to weep.  Even now tears well up in my eyes.  Later we went to where more of the deceased were being held, according to the areas in which the victims were killed, blessing those bodies that were deprived of life.”

Soon after receiving word of the Archbishop’s request, Jesuit Fr. Alberto Lopez, 81, went to one of the places where victims were being treated.  “I remember speaking with a grieving young man, his eyes red from so many tears.  The remains of his pregnant wife of just three years had just been identified.  I was speechless, like a blank page,” he said.

“I was so moved by that young man who had lost his wife in the attacks,” said Fr. Juan Carlos Garcia.  “Although they advised him not to lift up the sheet that covered the body of his wife, he did so and broke down in tears and anger.  It was very difficult,” the priest said.

”I was moved and I approached him and asked if he wanted to pray the Our Father for his wife.  He tearfully agreed, and we prayed as our voices trembled.  I hugged him as we said goodbye and gave him my blessing.  Since then I have remembered him in all my Masses, that the Lord might console him, bless him and protect him,” he concluded.

Chaplains at the hospitals were the wounded were treated worked tirelessly to offer their assistance.  Fr. Jesus Herrero, chaplain of the Gregorio Marañon Hospital, recalled that he visited “an Ecuadorian who was under heavy sedation. When I told him I was the chaplain, he opened his eyes with joy and said, ‘Father, we must thank God for those who have survived and pray for those who didn’t.’ The strength of those wounded is remarkable.”

Fr. Fructuoso, chaplain at La Paz Hospital, said that “some of those wounded asked to go to confession and they and their family members were thankful for the spiritual assistance.  I concentrated on helping family members who came in search of their children.”

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Jesuit scholar describes dealing with ‘Passion’ controversy as a ‘pilgrimage’

Los Angeles, Calif., Mar 18, 2004 (CNA) - Fr. William J. Fulco, SJ, who was deeply involved in the production of “The Passion of the Christ”, got a little more than he bargained for when he agreed to translate the script into Aramaic. The film experience became a “real pilgrimage” that affirmed him in his priestly ministry.

According to a report issued by ABS-CBN Television, Mel Gibson called Fr. Fulco, while the priest was on a project in Jerusalem, and asked if he would be interested doing the Aramaic translation.

Once the translation was done, the Jesuit priest got the job of supervising the coaching of the actors in Latin. The writing team chose to use Latin over Greek “for artistic reasons,” said Fr. Fulco.

The professor of Mediterranean studies also became an adviser on archaeological, historical, theological and biblical matters and dealt with the individual religious issues of the multireligious cast.

Fr. Fulco was also on board when the claims were made that the script was anti-Semitic. He recounted how the controversy surrounding the film began with the concerns of the Jewish community that the script was anti-Semitic but it soon evolved. It questioned whether the Gospels were anti-Semitic and implied that Christianity, if strictly followed, is anti-Semitic.

The priest described the controversy as “a real pilgrimage, with a lot of self-doubt,” especially since he had taught for years at the University of Judaism and worked for the Israeli Department of Antiquities. He had also questioned whether he had been careless in his work with the script.

“The film is not anti-Semitic; we have not made a mistake,” he concluded, according to ABS-CBN. “It is a beautiful work of art.

“I gradually became more militant about it, and now I feel like I am doing something priestly, preaching the Gospel, and it seems when you preach the Gospel, it invites flak,” he said.

“It is not anti-Semitic; it is preaching Jesus crucified,” he added. “And Paul says in his letters that to preach Jesus crucified is a stumbling block and a scandal and that is not the wisdom of the world.”

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Latin America gears up for ‘The Passion’

Lima, Peru, Mar 18, 2004 (CNA) - Latin America is gearing up for the release of “The Passion of the Christ" in the region this week and ticket sales are well under way.

Twentieth Century Fox is expected to release the film gradually throughout the region. It began yesterday in Trinidad and Jamaica. It will release 500 prints of the film in Mexico tomorrow. Its last release will include 80 prints in Argentina, March 25. Three hundred prints are expected to be released in Brazil.

In Mexico, where about 90 percent of the population is Catholic, some theaters have already sold out entire screenings for previews to large Christian groups.

Archbishop Jose Ulises Macias Salcedo of Hermosillo said he will watch the film and has urged Mexican Catholics to watch it as well.

In Argentina, where the release is still one week away, almost all theaters have begun selling tickets.

In Peru, where Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne said “no one will be the same after seeing the film, Fox will release some 100 prints to meet demands.

A preview screening for the Episcopal Conference of Costa Rica is scheduled for today.

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China holds secret trial for church leaders

Beijing, China, Mar 18, 2004 (CNA) - After a secret trial March 16, three Chinese Christians are facing 10 years to life in prison for exposing a government crackdown against Christians to foreign organizations, reported the AFP.

The three underground church leaders were tried at the Intermediate Peoples Court of Hangzhou in the eastern Zhejiang province. According to the news source, court officials did not allow defendants’ family members to attend the trial, saying that it involved state security.

The trial came just days after China passed its first constitutional amendment to protect human rights.

Originally charged with "inciting the gathering of state secrets," Liu Fenggang, Xu Yonghai and Zhang Shengqi were brought to trial on amended charges of "providing intelligence to organizations outside of China," reported the AFP.

The men had told overseas groups of the suppression of Christians in the city of Hangzhou. More than a dozen churches in houses were destroyed there and at least 300 Christians were arrested; some were physically abused.

Hangzhou court officials have refused to comment. The court has not announced a verdict yet.

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