Vatican City, Mar 29, 2004 (CNA) - Addressing the participants of a course on the “internal forum” organized by the Tribunal of the Apostolic Penitentiary, Pope John Paul II said on Saturday that frequent confession is a must to achieve personal holiness.
The Pontiff said that the fruit of the sacrament of reconciliation is not only the remission of sins: “It also performs an authentic ‘spiritual resurrection,’ restores the dignity and the good of the life of the children of God, the most precious of which is friendship with God.”
“It would be illusory to desire to reach holiness, according to the vocation that each one has received from God, without partaking frequently of this sacrament of conversion and sanctification,” that, together with the Eucharist, “accompanies the path of the Christian towards perfection,” he added.
“Penance, by its nature,” he explained, “involves purification, in both the acts of the penitent who lays bare his conscience because of the deep need to be pardoned and reborn, and in the effusion of sacramental grace that purifies and renews.”
The Pope stated that “Penance is a sacrament of enlightenment.” “Those who go to confession frequently and do so with the desire to make progress, know they have received in this sacrament, through pardon from God and grace from the Spirit, a precious light for the path of perfection.”
“From confession to confession,” the Pope added, “the faithful feel an ever deeper communion with the merciful Lord, up to fully identifying with Him, that one has in that perfect ‘life of Christ’ in which true holiness consists.”
The Holy Father underlined that this Sacrament “is also a gift for us priests who, called to exercise the sacramental ministry, also ask to have our sins pardoned. The joy of pardoning and being pardoned go hand in hand.”
“All confessors,” he concluded, “have the great responsibility to exercise this ministry with benevolence, wisdom and courage. Their duty is to make lovable and desirable this encounter which purifies and renews us on the path to Christian perfection and on our pilgrimage to our home.”
Rome, Italy, Mar 29, 2004 (CNA) - In an article entitled, "The Gulag Archipelago in Romania: The Story No One Has Told Before," the noted Vatican expert from L'Espresso, Sandro Magister, will release tomorrow an exclusive testimony of an Eastern Catholic priest who spent sixteen years in communist prisons "at the limits of the imagination."
The testimony was delivered at the presentation of the book, "Faith and Martyrdom: The Eastern Catholic Churches in Twentieth Century Europe,” which took place at the Vatican on Tuesday, March 23.
According to Magister, the account of Greek Catholic priest Tertulian Ioan Langa’s imprisonment "is both spiritual and very concrete - part Solzhenitsyn, part ancient martyrology. It unfolds between the mystery of iniquity, pressed to the limits of the imagination, and the mystery of grace, with the ‘Holy Providence’ that works through the hands of the unsuspecting jailers."
"At a time when the word 'martyrdom' is much abused, being applied as well to the 'shahid' Islamists who blow themselves up in order to commit massacres, this is a testimony that helps to recover the truth. It is absolutely not to be missed," Magister writes.
A portion of the testimony Magister will fully release tomorrow on his web page www.chiesa.espressonline.it/english says:
"I remember Holy Thursday of 1948. For two weeks, every day, they had beaten me with a rod on the soles of my feet, through my shoes: it seemed that lightning coursed through my spine and exploded in my brain. But they didn't ask me any questions. They were getting me ready, using the rod to soften me up for the interrogation. I was bound hand and foot and hung upside down, and my jailers stuffed into my mouth a sock that had already been long employed in the shoes and the mouths of other beneficiaries of socialist humanism."
"The sock had become the noise-reducer that prevented the sound from passing beyond the place of interrogation. But it was practically impossible to emit a single moan. Moreover, I had frozen psychologically: I was no longer capable of crying out or moving. My torturers interpreted this behavior as fanaticism on my part. And they continued with increasing fury, taking turns in torturing me. Night after night, day after day. They didn't ask me anything, because they weren't interested in answers, but in annihilating a person, something that was delayed in coming. And as the effort to annihilate my will and overshadow my mind was prolonged, so was the torture indefinitely prolonged. The battered shoes fell from my feet, piece by piece..."
Vatican City, Mar 29, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II centered his Angelus prayer on Sunday on the critical situation of children in the world who are victims of illness, hunger and violence.
The Pontiff stressed that many children suffer not only from malnutrition and “worrisome sanitary deprivations” but lack “even the minimum necessary for survival.” “In several places of the world,” he added, “especially the poorest countries, there are children and adolescents who are victims of a horrible form of violence: they are enlisted to fight in the so-called ‘forgotten conflicts’.”
“They undergo in fact a scandalous double aggression: they become both victims and at the same time protagonists of the war, overcome by the hatred of adults. Deprived of everything, they see their future threatened by a nightmare that is difficult to remove,” the Pope said.
“These little brothers and sisters of ours who suffer hunger, war and illness,” he continued, “are making an anguished appeal to the world of adults. May their silent cry of pain not go unheard! Jesus reminds us: ‘Whoever receives one such child in my name, receives me’.”
Vatican City, Mar 29, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II received in separate audiences the first group of US bishops on their Ad Limina visit.
The first group of the US episcopate belongs to the South-Eastern region, which includes dioceses in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.
On Monday, the Pontiff received Archbishop John Francis Donoghue of Atlanta, Bishop Robert Joseph Baker of Charleston, accompanied by Bishop Emeritus David Bernard Thompson, Bishop Peter Joseph Jugis of Charlotte, accompanied by Bishop Emeritus William George Curlin and Bishop Francis Joseph Gossman of Raleigh.
Vatican City, Mar 29, 2004 (CNA) - After reciting the Angelus on Sunday, Pope John Paul II recalled the ethnic clashes in Rwanda that ended in genocide and called the International community to prevent this tragedy from happening again.
“Ten years have passed since April 7, 1994, when in Rwanda serious clashes broke out between Hutu and Tutsi, culminating in genocide where hundred of thousands of people were barbarically killed,” the Pontiff said.
“Let us pray to the Lord that such a tragedy never happens again,” He added, and encouraged the people and civil and religious leaders of Rwanda, as well as the international community, to “not be discouraged” and to work to bring peace to the Great Lakes region.
Washington D.C., Mar 29, 2004 (CNA) - The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops applauded the Senate for passing the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, S. 1019, by a vote of 61-38 last week, and is now urging the President to swiftly sign the bill into law.
The bill, also known as "Laci and Conner's Law" in memory of Laci Peterson and her unborn child, was passed March 25. It recognizes an unborn child as a second victim in a violent federal crime against a pregnant woman. The Bush administration indicated its strong support for prompt enactment of the bill.
"We applaud the Senate for voting for justice for women and their children," said Cathy Cleaver Ruse, Esq., spokesperson for the U.S. Bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities. "No woman should ever be told she lost nothing when she loses her child to a brutal attacker," she said in the USCCB official statement.
The bill passed the House of Representatives three times; last Thursday’s action marked the first Senate vote on the bill.
The Senate voted down a substitute bill, supported by abortion advocates, that would have ignored the child as a second victim in violent federal crimes.
"We are grateful to the Senate for ignoring the offensive claims of the abortion lobby and its allies in Congress," Ruse said.
London, England, Mar 29, 2004 (CNA) - In an effort to bring Jesus to the people, churches in England are trying to bring the people to the cinema.
Convinced that Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of The Christ” is a strong evangelization tool, several English churches booked theaters and offered free tickets during the film’s first three days of release. Hundreds of people took the churches up on their offer.
Some churches in the Archbishop of Canterbury's diocese booked £20,000-worth of tickets.
The tickets for the 400-seat theater were offered to people "not already attending a church, or those who attend and wish to take a guest" in the hope that "more people would be connected to Jesus," reported the BBC.
Three Evangelical churches and two Anglican churches in Devon booked a screening April 10 to allow churchgoers to see the film together, reported the BBC.
San Francisco, Calif., Mar 29, 2004 (CNA) - A prayer rally in support of marriage and family will be held in San Francisco this week, the day before Palm Sunday, April 3. The rally is being organized by the San Francisco branch of Your Catholic Voice, in cooperation with the local archdiocese.
Organizers say the rally is for families and youth. They describe the rally as “a witness of faith and an expression of Catholic solidarity for those wishing to make a dignified and respectful public statement to promote, preserve and protect marriage as a union between a man and a woman, the foundation of our society.”
Archbishop William Levada of San Francisco and Ray Flynn, national president of Your Catholic Voice, will address the crowd. Flynn was also the former mayor of Boston and U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican.
The event will be held at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish, located on Filbert Street at Columbus Avenue. It will include all-night eucharistic adoration April 2, starting at 8 p.m., and mass April 3 at 9 a.m. It will be followed by a prayer rally and rosary procession through historic North Beach at 10 a.m.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Mar 29, 2004 (CNA) - An Argentinean discussion group is organizing a debate on Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” on March 30 between a Catholic priest and a Jewish rabbi.
The debate, sponsored by the Club Gente de Prensa, will inaugurate the group’s series of discussions for this year, and will feature Msgr. Luis Heriberto Rivas and Rabbi Angel Kreiman.
Msgr. Rivas is a priest of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires with degrees in Theology and Sacred Scripture. He is currently a professor in Sacred Scripture and has published numerous book and articles.
Rabbi Kreiman is Vice President of the World Association of Synagogues and author of the book, “The Church Dialogues With The Synagogue.”
Msgr. Rivas said it “is absolutely ridiculous to say [the film] is anti-Semitic,” adding that “if one wants to find anti-Semitism, its because he or she has it inside.” “We are all guilty [of the death of Jesus]. It’s a conspiracy of guilt, including even the disciples, given that one fled and another betrayed him,” he added.