Vatican City, Apr 20, 2004 (CNA) - In a brief address to the participants at the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, Pope John Paul II said that the Holy Scriptures are a source of light for human behavior.
Addressing the group of Biblical scholars headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Pontiff noted that the members of the Commission have gathered once again “to study more deeply a very important topic: the relation between the Bible and morals.”
“This is a theme that regards not only believers, but in a certain sense every person of good will. In fact, through the Bible, God speaks and reveals Himself and indicates the solid basis and certain orientation for human behavior,” the Pope said
He went on to say that “knowing God, the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, recognizing His infinite goodness, knowing with a grateful and sincere soul that ‘all good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights’, discovering in the gifts that God has given us the duties that He has entrusted to us, acting in full awareness of our responsibilities in His regards – these are some of the fundamental behaviors of Biblical morality.”
“The duty of your common commitment,” said the Pope in closing, “is to facilitate for the Christian people access to this treasure.”
Vatican City, Apr 20, 2004 (CNA) - Next Sunday, April 25, Pope John Paul II will proclaim six new Blessed, including a Polish prince turned priest and a mystic Portuguese laywoman.
The future blessed are:
· Augusto Czartoryski (1858-1893), a young Polish prince who met St. John Bosco, founder of the Salesians in Paris, and decided to become a priest of the Salesians.
· Laura Montoya (1874-1949), a Colombian virgin, foundress of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of Mary Immaculate and of St. Catherine of Siena, who devoted her life to the evangelization of the native populations of the Colombian jungle.
· Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala (1878-1963), Mexican virgin, co-foundress of the Handmaids of St. Margaret Mary and of the Poor, who a few days before her marriage, felt the call to serve the sick.
· Nemesia Valle (1847-1916), Italian virgin, of the Congregation of Charity, known as the “Angel of Tortona” for her endless charity and her constant prayer: Every day she discovers what she must lose or acquire: "Jesus strip me of myself, let me be wrapped in you. Jesus I live for you, and I die for you…"
· Eusebia Palomino Yenes (1899-1935), Spanish virgin, of the Institute of Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (Salesians) who offered her life to God for the end of religious persecution in Spain.
· Alexandrina Maria da Costa (1904-1955), Portuguese lay woman, of the Union of Salesian Cooperators who at age 14 jumped from a window to escape a rapist; she was injured in the fall, paralyzed, and was bed-ridden for the rest of her life. She became a Mystic and visionary. The last 13 years of her life she ate nothing, living solely off daily Communion.
Vatican City, Apr 20, 2004 (CNA) - The Pontifical Council for the Laity will mark the 20th anniversary of the handing over of the Cross to young people by Pope John Paul II on Thursday, April 22.
The event will take place at the San Lorenzo International Youth Center in Rome, and will include speeches, a round table discussion, the projection of the video “The Pilgrim Cross” and a concluding talk by Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.
Fr. Francis Kohn, head of the youth section of this council which organizes World Youth Day, will also address the assembly.
, Apr 20, 2004 (CNA) - The Thomas More Law Center is one of three Christian-based public interest law firms that is representing five parties in an attempt to protect New York’s marriage laws.
These parties have filed motions, seeking to intervene in three cases now pending in the State of New York. The three cases were filed against public officials for not issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
Private citizens brought the lawsuits against the public officials. The homosexual-rights organizations ACLU, the LAMBDA Legal Defense Fund, and a private attorney represent them. One case involves Daniel O’Donnell, brother of actress and homosexual activist Rosie O’Donnell.
The decision to intervene was made after New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer expressed reservations about the constitutionality of New York laws barring same-sex marriage.
Three of the five parties seeking to intervene are senators Ruben Diaz Sr., Raymond Meir and Assemblyman Dan Hooker. Their objective is to defend New York’s existing laws and ensure that the state legislature – and not the courts – addresses this matter.
Diaz and Meir are also co-sponsors of state legislation that bars recognition of same-sex marriages.
The cases in which the Thomas More Law Center is seeking to intervene include: Hernandez v. Robles, Shields v. Madigan (Rockland County), and Samuels v. New York.
Liberty Counsel and the AFA Center for Law and Policy are the two other Christian-based public interest law firms representing intervening parties.
Madrid, Spain, Apr 20, 2004 (CNA) - During a conference of the Association of Religious News Journalists, the Minister General of the Friars Minors, Fr. José Rodríguez of Spain, said neither "opcional" celibacy nor the ordination of women are real solutions to the crisis of vocations and the shortage of priests.
The 50 year-old Franciscian, who will lead the Friars Minors for the next five years, said the Church could allow diocesan clergy to marry, but “this would not resolve the problem (of the shortage of vocations), as we have seen in other countries and in other religious denominations.”
Likewise he underscored that the Catholic Church, “since its foundation by Jesus Christ, has never admitted women to Holy Orders,” and he recalled that this was the same reality for “the protestant churches until only very recently.”
Fr. Rodríguez said the countries from which the Friars Minors are receiving the most vocations are Poland, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Korea, Vietnam, and Rwanda.
In Rwanda “the death of two franscicans, one from Rwanda and one from Korea, has produced the curious phenomenon of an increase in vocations.”
Milwaukee, Wis., Apr 20, 2004 (CNA) - Two U.S. dioceses have announced new parish reorganization plans to deal with the shortage of priests and a sharp decline in the number of Sunday worshippers.
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has decided to merge two parishes in Ripon and two in Thiensville. Four parishes in Milwaukee will also become two parishes; they will each have a priest, but their four schools will remain, reported the Associated Press.
Milwaukee’s five-year plan will include training for priests, deacons and lay people that will help them adjust to having deacons and lay people take on a greater role. The archdiocese has also developed the position of "administrator of pastoral services" in order to relieve priests of many administrative duties.
The number of Milwaukee’s active priests is expected to decline about 20 percent by 2009. The archdiocese has already had to deal with priest shortage in the past. In 1997, it responded by merging or closing more than 40 parishes.
Church attendance also dropped from about 60 percent in 1988 to 36 percent in 2002, reported the AP.
Due to a declining number of clergy in Vermont, Church leaders there will also be meeting to determine the fate of their parishes. The first of 10 meetings will be held in Rutland tomorrow to decide how to consolidate the state’s 131 Catholic parishes.
The Diocese of Burlington estimates that the number of active Vermont priests will drop to 55 in the next decade, down from more than 150 a half-century ago.
Boston, Mass., Apr 20, 2004 (CNA) - In an attempt to maintain quality education and keep enrollment up, Catholic schools in Boston have taken to marketing and large-scale capital campaigns.
Years ago, Catholic schools relied on archdiocesan appeals and collections. Priests and nuns were teachers, which kept labor costs and tuition down. But decreases in the number of religious and demographic shifts have changed all that.
Now, enrollment can go up to $8,000, which is difficult for most families to manage. Most young Catholics attend public schools.
Marian High School in Framingham, which becomes independent of the archdiocese in September, is gearing up for its capital campaign, reported the Boston Globe. The Archdiocese of Boston intends to consolidate and close schools where attendance is in decline.
Joseph Flynn, Marian’s director of development, has updated alumni databases and formed committees to get graduates more involved in fundraising, reported the Globe. The school also created a "road show" to try to convince parents to transfer their children from public school.
Catholic schools received tips for campaign success at last week’s the National Catholic Educational Association convention, reported the Globe.
Santiago, Chile, Apr 20, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop Cristian Claro of Puerto Montt, Chile, criticized this week the decision of the Chilean government to distribute the morning after pill, and he proposed that those who do not want to have their child should give her up to institutions or families willing to care for her and love her.
The bishop underscored that women who are pregnant, even because of rape or incest, would be committing a grave error if they took the abortion pill. “To take the pill is an act of injustice and violence, because it is an attack on an innocent human bieng,” he said in an interview with a Chilean radio station.
Bishop Caro said women should give their unwanted babies up for adoption rather than taking the pill. “Give that child to an institution willing to care for her, but do not collaborate in putting her to death,” said the bishop, adding that the Catholic Church operates several organziations that are able to take care of the newborn.
Guatemala City, Guatemala, Apr 20, 2004 (CNA) - Cardinal Rodolfo Quezada Toruño, President of the Guatemalan Bishops Conference, is warning that social unrest could result if a "poltical" consensus on the problem of poverty is not achieved.
The Cardinal called on President Oscar Berger to consider the growing demands of those who are suffering from the economic, employment and social crisis, or “we will suffer an unprecedented outbreak of social unrest.”
Cardinal Toruño added that “nothing would be better in these difficult moments than an open dialogue with all sectors of society to build a consensus, which is what we need to the most, so that the grave social problems we face, including fical problems, can be solved effectively.”
The bishops of Guatemala, he said, believe this to be absolutely necessary, not only for the president, but for the entire government, the congress and all sectores of society, “so that we can together come out of this crisis, if we consider ourselves true citizens of the same country.”
“The bishops are not experts in economic and social affairs, but we do have the eyes of shepherds and we are very concerned about the sufferings of our people because of unemployment,” he underscored. Therefore, “we call on all sectors of society to reflection so that in some way we can cooperate in resolving this problem which our country faces.”
Aukland, New Zealand, Apr 20, 2004 (CNA) - The same-sex marriage debate has moved on to New Zealand and the Catholic Church there is readied for the battle.
The New Zealand Church already began to take action with a letter sent to the country’s members of Parliament last week. In the letter, dated April 16, Bishop Peter Cullinane of Palmerston North said the Church believed same-sex unions were immoral and that it would oppose laws recognizing same-sex marriage, even if penalized under new legislation, reported the New Zealand Herald.
The Civil Union Bill would create civil unions – a new legal status for same-sex and heterosexual couples – and grant same-sex and common law couples rights similar to marriage that they did not have. However, the bill, which is currently being drafted, would not change laws on marriage. Civil unions already exist in Vermont (U.S.A.) and Quebec (Canada).
Treating marriage as unique is not unjust or discriminatory but “just acknowledging reality,” the bishop had told National Radio.
The Church does not believe same-sex couples should have children, said Bishop Cullinane.
Members of Parliament will have a conscience vote on the Civil Unions Bill and the Omnibus Bill, which would amend up to 100 other laws that give rights only to marriages sanctioned by the state and Church.
Both bills would be necessary to give same-sex unions legal recognition.