Archive of May 17, 2004

Charity must mark our opposition to same sex couples, says Archbishop of Boston

Boston, Mass., May 17, 2004 (CNA) - Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley of Boston issued a document on Saturday expressing "deep sadness" at the impending legal marriages of same-sex couples in Massachusetts, but cautioned Catholics not to react with "anger against or vilification of any group of people, especially our homosexual brothers and sisters."

Archbishop O’Malley’s statement reads as follows:  “It is with deep sadness that we will realize this Monday the creation of same-sex marriages here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The Catholic Church remains committed to the truth that marriage is a unique bond between a wife and a husband, a bond which is the bedrock and foundation of our families and society. Our stand for the defense of marriage is motivated by a deep conviction concerning the common good of all citizens. Marriage is given special protections and benefits in law because it is the institution which best provides for the procreation and the raising of children. The creation of a right to same-sex marriage in the end will not strengthen the institution of marriage within our society but only weaken it as marriage becomes only one life-style choice among many others. Our hope is that at some point in the very near future, our legislators will enact laws to protect the unique benefit to society that the marital bond creates and the good that this bond produces for children.”

The Archbishop’s statement then exhorted Catholics to an attitude of charity towards homosexually active members of society:  “At the same time, I remind all Catholics that our sadness at what has happened should not lead us into anger against or vilification of any group of people, especially our homosexual brothers and sisters. Our task as Christ’s disciples is to build a civilization of love. We must see each person as an irreplaceable gift from God. Each time we pray the Lord’s Prayer we begin “Our Father,” reminding us that as God’s children we are brothers and sisters of all. That does not mean that we must endorse everyone’s opinion or accept everyone’s behavior, but it does mean that we must care about each other, to be concerned about each other’s well-being, spiritual as well as material. As in all things, charity must mark us as a people of God and inform our actions.”

Meanwhile, gay and lesbian couples in Cambridge began filling out applications for marriage licenses at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, when Massachussetts became the first state in the country to allow them to marry. The couples were led down a series of wooden staircases at Cambridge City Hall that were decorated with white bridal organza.

The other 350 cities and towns in the state began taking applications for same-sex marriage licenses after the sun came up on Monday.

Marcia Hams, 57, of Cambridge and Susan Shepherd were the first to complete the application.  They said they had been asked, because of the length of their relationship, to be the first couple by a local gay rights organization. They were wed this morning by the City of Cambridge and became the first legally married homosexual couple in the United States.

Twelve of the state's 1,200 justices of the peace have resigned rather than perform same-sex marriages.

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Pope canonizes six new saints, including "Martyr of Life," Gianna Beretta Molla

Vatican City, May 17, 2004 (CNA) - On Sunday Pope John Paul II canonized six new saints for the Church, including Don Luigi Orione, founder of the Little Work of Divine Providence, and Gianna Beretta Molla, an Italian mother who refused to abort her fourth child even though it meant giving up her own life.

Before the more than 80,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the Holy Father reflected on the witness of each of one of the new saints and asked that their example might lead the faithful to rediscover the beauty of religious and family life.

Apostle of Charity 

Reflecting upon the legacy of Don Orione (1872-1940), priest and founder of the Little Work of Divine Providence and of the Congregation of the Little Missionary Sisters of Charity, the Pope said he was “a man completely given over to the cause of Christ and his Kingdom.  His apostolic ministry was marked by physical and moral sufferings, fatigue, difficulties, incomprehension, and obstacles of all kinds.”

The heart of this strategist of charity knew no bounds because it was open to the love of Christ.  Passion for Christ was the soul of his courageous life, the inner force of an altruism without reservations, the ever fresh source of an indestructible hope,” he said.

Moreover, the Pope recalled that his humble son of a stone paver proclaims that ‘only charity will save the world’ and repeats to all that ‘perfect happiness is only in the perfect surrender to God and to man, to all mankind’.”

Holiness in prayer

Concerning St. Annibale Maria di Francia (1851-1927), priest and founder of the Congregation of the Rogationist Fathers of the Heart of Jesus and of the Daughters of Divine Zeal, the Pope underscored that “the love of the Lord led him to dedicate his entire existence to the spiritual good of others.  In this sense, he experimented above all the urgency to fulfill the evangelical command” to pray for workers for the harvest.

He left the Rogationist Fathers and the Daughters of Divine Zeal the task of working with all their strength so that prayer for vocations might be ‘unceasing and universal’.”  Father Annibale Maria Di Francia makes the same invitation to the young people of our time, unifying it with his usual exhortation: ‘Fall in love with Jesus Christ’,” he recalled.

The Holy Father added that “this providential intuition has given rise to a great movement of prayer for vocations in the Church,” and he asked that the example of Fr. Annibale Maria “guide and support also in this our time such pastoral action.”

An Apostle of the Family

Regarding St. Joseph Manyanet y Vives (1833-1901), priest and founder of the Congregations of the Sons of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph and the Missionary Daughters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, the Pope said he was a “true apostle of the family.”

“Inspired by the school of Nazareth, he fulfilled his plan of personal holiness and dedicated himself, with heroic selflessness, to the mission that the Spirit entrusted to him. To this end he founded two religious congregations. A visible symbol of his apostolic yearning is also the temple of the Holy Family in Barcelona,” he said.

Witness of Mercy 

Speaking about St. Nimatullah Kassab Al-Hardini (1808-1858), priest of the Lebanese Maronite Order, the Pope called him a “man of prayer, in love with the Eucharist, which he loved to adore for long periods of time.”

He said St. Nimatullah is “an example for all the monks of the Lebanese Maronite Order, as well as for all his Lebanese brothers and for all Christians worldwide. He gave himself totally to the Lord in a life of great self-denial, showing that the love of God is the only true source of joy and happiness for man. He was determined to seek and to follow Christ, his teacher and Lord.”

Welcoming his brothers and sisters,” added the Pope, “he soothed and healed many wounds in the hearts of his contemporaries, witnessing to them the mercy of God. May his example shed light on our path, inspire in young people in particular a true desire for God and for holiness, to proclaim to our world the light of the Gospel!”

For the unity of the family

The Holy Father then spoke of St. Paola Elisabetta Cerioli (1816-1865), widow and religious, foundress of the Institute of the Sisters of the Holy Family and the Congregation of the Family of Bergamo.

The Pope said her “life was copious in good fruits.”  In contemplating the Holy Family, “Contemplating the Holy Family, Paola Elisabetta recognized that family communities remain solid when the bonds of kinship are supported and cemented by the sharing of the values of the faith and of Christian culture. To spread these values, the new saint founded the Institute of the Holy Family.”

She was convinced that children need a healthy and united family which is generous and stable, in order to grow secure and strong.  May God help Christian families to accept and witness in every circumstance the love of the merciful God,” he asked.

Pro-life holiness

One of the most moving moments of the ceremony was when the Pope spoke of St. Gianna Beretta Molla (1922-1962), an Italian mother who was a “simple but particularly significant messenger of Divine love.”

In the presence of her four children and her husband Pietro Molla—now 91 years old—the Pope recalled the witness of Gianna that moved the world when she gave up her own life to save her unborn child, Gianna Emmanuella.

“Shortly before her wedding, in a letter to her future husband, she wrote: ‘Love is the most beautiful sentiment that the Lord has placed in the spirit of men,” said the Pope.

“Following the example of Christ, who ‘having loved his own ... he loved them to the end’ (John 13:1) this holy mother of a family was heroically faithful to the commitment she took on the day of her marriage. The supreme sacrifice that sealed her life testifies that only the one who has the courage to give himself totally to God and to neighbor finds fulfillment,” said the Pope.

The Pope asked that “our age rediscover, through the example of Gianna Beretta Molla, the pure, chaste and fruitful beauty of conjugal love, lived out in response to the Divine call.” 

With the Sunday canonizations, the Pope has proclaimed 483 saints during his pontificate.

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Young, energetic Bishop of Grand Rapids died on Sunday

Grand Rapids, Mich., May 17, 2004 (CNA) - Kevin Britt, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids has died at the age of 59. Co-workers found Britt at his home Sunday morning after they became worried when he did not return several phone calls. He apparently died sometime during the weekend, said Ned McGrath, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Britt had canceled all his appointments last week because he hadn't been feeling well.

A Detroit native, Britt attended Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, earned a master's degree in religious studies from the University of Detroit, and a master of divinity degree from St. John's Provincial Seminary in Plymouth.  He also served as Personal Secretary to Cardinal Edmund Szoka  at the Vatican and to the Staff of the Economic Affairs of the Holy See. He then spent nearly a decade as an auxiliary bishop in Detroit before going to Grand Rapids.

He was named coadjutor bishop in Grand Rapids in 2002, where he served with the previous bishop, Robert Rose. In October 2003, Britt took full control of the diocese, which has 102 parishes and represents more than 160,000 Catholics in an 11-county area in southwest Michigan.

“A good shepherd has been called home to God,” said Cardinal Adam Maida, Archbishop of Detroit. “I first met Bishop Britt in Rome, when he served as Cardinal Szoka’s priest secretary,” said the Cardinal. “I came to know his great love for the Church, his commitment to the priesthood, and his evident love of God’s people.”

“Bishop Britt was very personable and self-giving. He had a healthy sense of the needs of

the people and the gifts the Church had to offer to them. He was the embodiment of his

episcopal (bishop) motto ‘kindness, mercy, love.’ It characterized his personality, as well

as his sense of priestly and episcopal ministry,” Cardinal Maida concluded.

Retired Auxiliary Bishop Joseph McKinney said he was stunned by the news of Britt's passing. "We felt we were very, very fortunate to have him," he said. "He didn't have a lazy bone in his body. He was well-received and people were happy to have him."

"We haven't faced something like this in our history that I can recall. A bishop who was very, very active and everything and was suddenly called," he said.

Like other clergy, Britt apologized for his diocese earlier this year after a report was released detailing church-related sexual abuse of minors since 1950.

"On behalf of the diocese, I apologize for the crimes of sexual abuse of minors that has occurred in the past," Britt said in February.

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Miracle in Brazil led to canonization of Gianna Beretta

Vatican City, May 17, 2004 (CNA) - More than 50,000 people packed into St. Peter’s Square yesterday to witness the canonization of a mother who sacrificed her life for the sake of her unborn child.

Early in her pregnancy, Gianna Beretta Molla discovered she had a tumor in her womb. She rejected cancer treatment because it would have required an abortion. She died in 1962, one week after giving birth to a healthy baby girl, at the age of 39.

The Italian doctor was the first married woman to become a saint in modern times, Vatican officials said.

"The extreme sacrifice that took away her life is evidence that only those who have the courage to give themselves totally to God and his brethren can fulfill themselves," said the Pope, referring to the new saint as a “significant messenger of divine love."

The miracle attributed to Molla, which enabled her to become a saint, involved a Brazilian woman, who lost all of her amniotic fluid in the third month of her pregnancy. She prayed to Molla and the child was born healthy. The new saint has also become an important role model for the pro-life movement.

Molla's husband, now 91, and her four children attended the canonization. The last born, Gianna Emanuela, is now a doctor.

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Mother Angelica named ‘Citizen of the Year’ by local broadcasters’ association

Orange Beach, Ala., May 17, 2004 (CNA) - Mother Angelica, founder of EWTN Global Catholic Network, was named the Alabama Broadcasters Association's Citizen of the Year.

At the annual convention, May 15, the organization’s director, Jerdan Bullard, said the award was “long overdue.”

The 81-year-old nun was unable to attend the event. EWTN news director Raymond Arroyo received the award on her behalf.

EWTN is in its 23rd year.

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“Christians have much to give in Hollywood”

Madrid, Spain, May 17, 2004 (CNA) - During the First International Symposium on “The educational role of cinema”, which is taking place in Valencia, Spain, American screenwriter Barbara Nicolosi, director of the “Act One: Writing for Hollywood” screenwriters school in Los Angeles, said “Christians have much to give to the film industry in Hollywood.”

Nicolosi explains that Christians can contribute with “the spirituality of the artist, the ethics of art and the film industry, in addition to whatever can help the human person develop.”

Film producers “are experiencing changes which four years ago were unthinkable” and “many productions are including issues of spirituality,” she said.

The “Act One” screenwriter’s school brings together 300 writers who work at all levels of the film industry in Hollywood and New York.  At the school, “we form, support and place in the industry a new generation of responsible Christian filmmakers,” said Nicolosi, emphasizing that the school’s principal goal is “to help Christian creators to introduce themselves to today’s society through film, the most powerful form of culture of our time.”

Andrea Piersanti, film director and president of the Luce de Roma Institute, said that after seeing the success around the world of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” there has been a “shout of satisfaction and freedom, the end of a nightmare.”

Among the speakers who will taking part in the Symposium will be film director Krysztof Zanussi, and Leon de Oro of the Venice Film Festival and President of Tor Films.

During the Symposium various films will be shown that show the impact positive messages in film can have on society, including “I Am Sam,” by Jessie Nelson, “The Color of Paradise,” by Majad Majidi, “Life as a Sexually Transmitted Disease,” by Krzysztof Zanussi, and “The Passion of the Christ” by Mel Gibson.

The Symposium is being organized by the St. Vincent the Martyr Catholic University of Valencia, and the opening ceremony was presided over by Archbishop Agustin Garcia-Gasco of Valencia.  The meeting is bringing together hundreds of people for conferences, discussions and film screenings.

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Pope Calls Catholics to imitate new saints in their devotion to Our Lady

Vatican City, May 17, 2004 (CNA) - This morning in St. Peter’s Square the Pope received the participants in yesterday’s canonization of five of the six new saints: Hannibal Maria Di Francia, Josep Manyanet y Vives, Nimatullah Kassab Al-Hardini, Paola Elisabetta Cerioli and Gianna Beretta Molla.

The Pope offered some brief reflections on the devotion that the new saints had to Our Lady.  “St. Hannibal Maria Di Francia,” he said, “was honored to have the name of Our Lady, whom he called ‘My mother,’ from his baptism. He nourished a tender and ardent devotion to her and he invoked her as Mother of the Church and Mother of vocations.”

St. Josep Manyanet “was an instrument chosen to promote the good of the family as well as the education of children and young people,” he said.

“Praying the rosary set the pace of St. Nimatullah Al-Hardini’s days from childhood.  Throughout his life he found in the Mother of God, the Immaculate Conception, the model of fidelity to Christ to whom he aspired,” said the Holy Father.

In reference to St. Paola Elisabetta Cerioli, wife and mother, John Paul II emphasized that “in the school of Mary she knew how to transform natural love into supernatural love, allowing God to enlarge her motherly heart.”

St. Gianna Beretta Molla, said the Pope “nourished a deep devotion to Our Lady. References to the Virgin were frequent in her letters to her husband – who is still alive - before marriage and in the subsequent years of her life, especially when she underwent surgery to remove a tumor, without endangering the life that she carried in her womb.”

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Interreligious Dialogue must continue without relativism, Pope says

Vatican City, May 17, 2004 (CNA) - During a meeting with members of the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue on Saturday May 15, Pope John Paul said that  dialogue with other denominations must continue to promote peace, but without relativism.

Las Saturday the council marked the 40th anniversary of its founding by Paul VI on May 19, 1964. The Pope noted that the decision by his predecessor to institute this dicastery came from – as Paul VI himself wrote - “the atmosphere of unity and hopefulness that clearly marked Vatican Council II.” During these 40 years, the Pope added, the work of the council has produced fruitful results in many dioceses as well as in Churches and Christian communities of different denominations.

“The importance of the work you do,” stated John Paul II, “has been noted by many organizations of other religions which have had in the past and continue to have fruitful contacts with your pontifical council, and share diverse initiatives with you. Such cooperation must be intensified, orienting attention to themes of common interest.”

The Pope added that “coming years will see the Church even more committed to respond to the great challenges of inter-religious dialogue.” He recalled that in his Apostolic Letter “Novo millennio ineunte” at the close of the Jubilee Year 2000, he wrote that the new millennium would see “increased cultural and religious pluralism.”  He added that what must be avoided in “promoting dialogue with the followers of other religions, (is) any kind of relativism and religious indifference.”

Again quoting his apostolic letter, John Paul said that inter-religious dialogue is important  for “creating a sure basis for peace. … The name of the one God must become increasingly what it is: a name of peace and a summons to peace.” In building foundations for peace, Christians must be “animated by love for all of mankind and for every man, seeking with courage the truth, and cultivating a prophetic thirst for justice and freedom.”

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Pope receives Lebanese president, prays for unity and peace in Middle East

Vatican City, May 17, 2004 (CNA) - The Holy Father received President Emile Lahoud of Lebanon on Saturday May 15, who was in Rome for Last Sunday’s canonization of Blessed Nimatullah Kassab Al-Hardini, a Maronite monk and the third Lebanese to be canonized.  St. Charbel, a Maronite monk and hermit, was canonized in 1977 and St. Rafqa, a Maronite nun, was canonized in 2001.

Recalling “the happy memories” of his trip to Lebanon in 1997, the Pope said he prays that “God will help all Lebanese to consolidate their nation’s unity, in harmony and respect for all those who comprise it and I hope that the canonization of a native son, Fr. Nimatullah Al-Hardini, will be for your fellow citizens an example of fraternal life. I also ask God to sustain the efforts by all men of good will in favor of peace, especially in the Middle East region, so very tried by unacceptable violence.”

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Olympic Games in Athens must be an occasion to promote world peace, Pope says

Vatican City, May 17, 2004 (CNA) - On Saturday morning the Holy Father received the mayor of Athens, Greece, Dora Bakoyiannis, accompanied by a delegation from the city.

“I hope,” said the Pope in brief greetings, “that the upcoming celebration of the Olympic games in your city may be an expression of fraternity for all participants and a message of peace and unity for the spectators around the world. With this spirit, I invoke divine blessings upon you and all those who are organizing this event.”

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Source of religious life is holiness, says Vatican prefect

Rome, Italy, May 17, 2004 (CNA) - Addressing the 800 superiors of major religious congregations gathered in Rome, the Prefect of the Congregation for Consecrated Life, Archbishop Franc Rode, said the source of consecrated life is holiness.

“We should listen to the call of our times by giving a true witness of life,” Archbishop Rode told the superiors gathered together for the Assembly of the International Union of Religious Superiors.

The Archbishop said the source of consecrated life is holiness and he underscored that the founders knew and desired to “respond to the concrete needs of the life of the Church.”

“They saw a problem in the Church and in the society of their day and they tried to resolve it.  They were convinced that with the grace of God they could do it,” he said.  “In the life of founders and their followers, difficulties spring up, they are confronted and they are overcome, and they are overcome with holy dynamism,” he added.

“Faith in the possibility to change” should also inspire consecrated life today, in which “decline” poses “important questions” about the future of many Congregations, especially in Europe, where the numbers are “tragic,” said the Archbishop.   

Likewise, Archbishop Rode referred to religious vows explaining that “with our lifestyle of poverty we counteract the current obsession with riches and comfort.  With obedience we counteract the obsession with absolute autonomy and freedom without limits.  With chastity we counteract the obsession with sexuality which leaves so many people today with a feeling of emptiness.”

“With our lifestyle we should say that God is our only treasure,” he concluded.

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