Archive of May 18, 2004

Pope’s new book released

Vatican City, May 18, 2004 (CNA) - “Arise, Let us be going,” the latest book by Pope John Paul II, was released today to coincide with the Pope’s 84th birthday. It contains reflections on his life as a bishop and on the ministry of every bishop. John Paul II was ordained a bishop on September 28, 1958.

The book is 178 pages long, has an introduction, six chapters, notes, a list of quotations from the Bible and the Magisterium, and an index.

The Holy Father begins his book by recalling the day when he received a letter "ordering him to report to Warsaw."

The pope was on vacation at the time with a group of young companions (who called him “uncle” rather than “father” in order to prevent him from being discovered by the communist regime). He recounts how that day he made his way to the station, via rowboat and a truck loaded with bags of flour, so as to catch the next train to Warsaw.

Having learned of his nomination to the episcopacy by the Primate of Poland, the then Father Wojtyla communicated the news to his archbishop, prayed the Stations of the Cross and then returned to the Masuri Lake District where he had been rowing with his friends. The pope thought that it would be his last time to enjoy the lake country, yet he writes that he managed to return there each year until 1978.

After the chapter dedicated to his “Calling”, follow five other chapters: “The Work of a Bishop”, “Scientific and Pastoral Commitment”, the “The Fatherly Character of a Bishop” “Episcopal Collegiality” and finally “God and Courage”. The book covers his visits to parish communities, even to the ones furthest off the beaten track. He also writes about his encounters with Polish youth, especially university students and young married couples with children. The pope reflects also on the involvement of the laity and intellectuals in spreading the Gospel, how he always listened to his priests and how his door was always left wide open to talk about their problems and ideas.

John Paul II writes that he has never felt alone. He uses this personal testimony to rebut arguments of priests who say they need to marry to fill their void of solitude. The pope constantly rejects the thesis, while stating that the fatherly role of a bishop must apply even to the priests who have abandoned their vocation or gone wayward. This is so, the pope writes, because a bishop is also a “shepherd” - as in Christ’s parable of the Good Shepherd who, in caring for his flock, searches for the sheep he has lost and carries those who are tired and sick on his shoulders.

The pope refers to this parable often in his writing, reflecting that a shepherd “is there for his sheep and not the sheep for their shepherd.”

The pope concludes that a flock must be led by its shepherd in order to be helped and served. The idea of service is stressed time and again throughout the book. The Holy Father also looks critically on his years of service as a bishop, writing that he was perhaps not always “all that in charge”. He explains that this was partly due to his character, but also partly because he followed Christ’s example of a leader who serves rather than one who is served.

It was a duty of bishops to fight against communism, writes the Holy Father, especially when it restricted the religious freedom of the faithful. He writes about how he, as bishop, acted in the background, even when not reported, right up until the clash over the Church of Nova Huta. Nova Huta was built by the communists and the authorities refused to allow a church to be built in the city. Yet the faithful who worked there formed a parish, and with their bishop, Cardinal Wojtyla, celebrated Mass there every weekend even in the face of police aggression, until the authorities gave in and allowed a church to be built.

The pope, a priest from a working class family had risen to the episcopal seat of Krakow, a see traditionally occupied by prelates of noble heritage. The pope recalls his first official entrance as a priest into the castle-like Cathedral of Wawel, a place he had grown attached to since early childhood. In his book John Paul II painfully recalls seeing the Nazi flag fly above the building during the German Occupation in World War II. It was also there that the pope wanted to celebrated his first mass at the tomb of St. Leonard while filled with thoughts of his dear homeland.

The pope refers to Poland many times in his new book, not only in recollections of his past; John Paul II writes that he feels deeply and inseparable a part of his country and its history. He recalls, for example, the sanctuary where he made his retreat before being ordained bishop and where, he says, he returned as a pope to give thanks for a duty he felt he had to accept. The pope admits, “Maybe it’s not just me (who’s like this), but everyone in Poland.”

The pope recounts a few stories that predate the period to which the book is dedicated. He tells, for example, about the time when Kotlarczyk, the director of his old theater group said he was “wasting his talent” upon learning that he wanted to become a priest. The pope also tells about his love for literature as a student and young actor, when he spent hours reading Shakespeare and Molière.

He writes that he also had great fondness for philosophers such as St. Thomas Aquinas and Max Scheler when learning about metaphysics and phenomenology in his studies as a priest. Finally he tells us about his deep admiration for the Jewish convert and philosopher, Edith Stein, who later became a nun and martyr at Auschwitz, and whom he later canonized and declared patron of Europe.   

At the end of his book, the pope encourages his readers to stay “strong in their faith”. He says “the greatest defect of the apostles was their fear and lack of faith in their Master.”

“Indeed,” the pope writes, “we cannot turn our back on the truth nor stop telling others about it.”

“We need to bear witness to the truth, even at the risk of death, just like Jesus himself did.” And just like, we might say, John Paul II has done.

> With the contribution of AsiaNews

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Pope turns 84, Vatican creates e-mail adddress to greet him

Vatican City, May 18, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II turns 84 today and despite no official festivities are in order, the Vatican have made available an e-mail address to greet him:

[email protected]

Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls, in a statement made this morning to journalists, said: “For the Holy Father, today is an ordinary work day, above all one of thanksgiving. One special detail: the Holy Father has invited his closest collaborators in the Curia to lunch.”

“Birthday wishes have arrived from around the world, and not just from Catholics, for John Paul II. They have come from heads of State and government, Church officials and people in the world of politics, business and the arts, but above all from single individuals who wish to express their affection and gratitude to the Pope.”

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Boston Archbishop’s mansion sold in $100-million deal

Boston, Mass., May 18, 2004 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Boston has agreed to sell its archbishop’s residence and 43 acres surrounding it to Boston College for $99.4 million, reported RNS.

The deal was announced April 20. The sale will give the archdiocese the much-needed funds to help pay an $85-million settlement with victims of clergy sexual abuse.

In two years, the archdiocese also plans to sell another 3 acres of land for around $8 million.

Archbishop Sean O’Malley was saddened that the property had to be sold, but was pleased that the archdiocese settled on the offer proposed by the Jesuit-run college.

“It is good that we have been able to keep the property within the Catholic family,” the bishop was quoted as saying.

RNS also reported that the two parties tentatively agreed that if the archdiocese decides to sell St. John’s Seminary and chancery headquarters, the college could buy those remaining 18 acres for $60 million.

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Holy See signs new concordat with Portugal

Vatican City, May 18, 2004 (CNA) - This morning John Paul II received the prime minister of Portugal, Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, head of an official delegation that came to the Vatican for the signing of a new concordat between the Holy See and the Portuguese Republic. 

Also present during the meeting were Cardinal Jose da Cruz Policarpo, patriarch of Lisbon, Archbishop Alfio Rapisarda, apostolic nuncio, and members of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference.

In a speech, the Pope said that the signing of the agreement “confirms the sentiment of reciprocal consideration that inspires relations between the Holy See and Portugal.  While I express my profound appreciation for the concern that the government and the Assembly of the Portuguese Republic demonstrate for the Church’s mission which culminates with today’s signing, I hope that the new concordat may promote a greater understanding between the State authorities and the pastors of the Church for the common good of the nation.”

The concordat, signed this morning by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, secretary of State of the Holy See, and Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, the Portuguese prime minister, regulates matters of common of interest between the Church and the State. A communique on today’s ceremony notes that “the changes which have occurred between the signing of the original concordat on May 7, 1940 and the present one render inapplicable part of its content, especially the Missionary Accord.

The new concordat regulates the juridical position of the Catholic Church and its institutions. The State guarantees the Church the public and free exercise of its activities, especially with regard to worship, magisterium and ministry, as well as jurisdiction in ecclesiastical matters. It also recognizes religious freedom, especially with regard to personal beliefs, the right to assemble, public expression, teaching and charitable activity.”

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Drama of migration calls for dialogue says Pope to experts at Vatican summit

Vatican City, May 18, 2004 (CNA) - “Dialogue must characterize the behaviour” of believers in “a new world equilibrium” of “ethnic, cultural and religious pluralism,” said the Holy Father this morning.  His remarks come on the occasion of the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, whose participants he received this morning.

The Pope began his talk, entitled “Inter-cultural, Inter-religious and Ecumenical Dialogue in the Context of Migrations Today,” by highlighting the “massive migratory phenomenon which is sometimes marked by tragedies that shock consciences. From this phenomenon has come ethnic, cultural and religious pluralism which in general characterize national societies today.” He added that “if ‘globalization’ is the term that, more than any other, connotes modern historical evolution, then the word ‘dialogue’ must characterize the behavior, mental and pastoral, that we are all called to assume in view of a new world equilibrium. The consistent number of about 200 million migrants makes this even more urgent.”

“Every culture,” he went on, “has an approach to the mystery of man even in his religious dimension and that explains, as Vatican Council II says, why some elements of truth are found even outside the revealed message, even among those believers who worship elevated human values, though they do not know their source. We must approach all cultures with an attitude that is respectful of who is aware of not only having something to say and to give, but also of listening and receiving. … Thus, the need for inter-cultural dialogue.”

Turning to the question of inter-religious dialogue in a globalized world, the Holy Father noted that “integration among populations belonging to diverse cultures and religions is never without unknown factors and difficulties. This is true in particular for the immigration of Muslim believers, who pose specific problems. And it is necessary for pastors to assume, in this regard, precise responsibilities, promoting an ever more generous Gospel witness of Christians themselves.” He added that Churches must also “help the faithful to overcome prejudices.”

On the question of ecumenical dialogue, John Paul II said that “the ever more numerous presence of Christian immigrants not in full communion with the Catholic Church offers particular Churches new possibilities for fraternity and ecumenical dialogue, urging them to realize, far from irenicisms and proselytism, a greater understanding between Churches and ecclesial communities.”

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Vatican releases Pope's itinerary to Switzerland

Vatican City, May 18, 2004 (CNA) - The official program of the Holy Father’s apostolic trip to Bern, Switzerland, June 5 and 6, for a national gathering of Catholic Youth was made public yesterday.

John Paul II will leave Rome’s Fiumicino Airport at 9:45 a.m. on June 5, arriving at Payerne Airport in Berne at 11:30 a.m. After meeting with Joseph Deiss, president of the Helvetic Confederation, he will proceed to Bern and the Viktoriaheim residence, the house of the Sisters of Charity of the Holy Cross, for lunch. At 6:15 p.m., he will meet with young Swiss Catholics in the Ice Palace in the same city and later will retire for the night at the Viktoriaheim residence.

On Sunday, June 6 at 10:30 a.m., the Holy Father will celebrate Mass outdoors in Allmend, followed by the recitation of the Angelus. At 1:45 p.m., he will meet with bishops from the Swiss Episcopal Conference and with the cardinals and bishops in his entourage in the residence. At 5:15 p.m., he is scheduled to meet with members of the Association of former Swiss Guards. At 7 p.m., he will depart from Payerne Airport for Rome with arrival scheduled for 8:45 p.m.

This is the Pope’s fourth apostolic trip to Switzerland, following those in 1982, 1984, and 1985.

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Canadian Parish provides safe haven for Palestinian Christians

Ottawa, Canada, May 18, 2004 (CNA) - A parish has sent a petition with 10,000 signatures to the Canadian Parliament early last week, requesting that three Christian Palestinians, who have sought asylum in a Catholic church, be granted residency status on humanitarian grounds.

Member of Parliament Marlene Jennings presented the petition on behalf of the parishioners of Notre-Dame-de-Grace Parish in Montreal.

Nabih Ayoub, his wife, Therese, and his brother, Khalil, have been living in the Catholic church basement since Jan. 30. They moved there after they received notice from Citizenship and Immigration Canada that their application for refugee status was rejected and they would be deported to Lebanon. 

The three Melkite Catholics lived in a Palestinian refugee camp, called Ein el Hilweh, in southern Lebanon before coming to Canada.

In addition to providing housing and food the three seniors, parishioners have also taken political action. They organized a petition in all Montreal parishes and submitted a report to Citizenship and Immigration Canada last month, arguing that Nabih, 69, Therese, 62 and Khalil, 67, should not be deported.

Research conducted by parishioners shows that the Ayoubs would likely not find work in Lebanon because of their advanced age and because refugees only have legal access to some 70 trades in Lebanon. Without work, they would end up returning to a refugee camp, where housing is near impossible to find, since all of it is already occupied. Furthermore, they would not be allowed to bring construction materials into the camp to construct homes.

The report also includes photos of two Palestinian refugee camps, which show less-than-humane living conditions – dilapidated housing and raw sewage in the walkways.

“The evidence submitted by the parish shows that there was insufficient knowledge of the situation when the judgment to deport the refugees was made,” said parish council president Claire Doran.

The Ayoubs are grateful to the parish for granting them asylum.

“The people of this parish live the words of Christ: ‘When I was naked, you clothed me; when I was hungry, you gave me to eat’,” said Nabih. “These people are saints. This parish is truly Catholic.”

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Bishops remind Canadians of their duty to vote in upcoming elections

Ottawa, Canada, May 18, 2004 (CNA) - Canada’s Catholic bishops are reminding people of their duty to be engaged in political issues and to be out at the polling booths on Election Day.

Prime Minister Paul Martin is expected to announce an election by the end of May.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) issued its traditional pre-election message last month. “Election 2004: Responsibility and Discernment” urges Canadians to be active in politics all the time.

“Engagement in the political process is a constant civic duty, not only during electoral campaigns,” reads the statement.

The bishops’ statement was released after the Canadian government released data showing that voter participation is at an all-time low. At the last general elections in November 2000, only 61 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot – the lowest since Canada was granted its independence in 1867.

The bishops also pose 13 questions for politicians and citizens to ponder as the campaign season approaches. The questions focus on a variety of contentious issues mainly same-sex marriage and the right to life; but also ballistic missile defence, aboriginal rights, medicare and poverty.

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Archbishop of Toledo meets with Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem: is and old Sinagogue going back to Jewish cult?

Madrid, Spain, May 18, 2004 (CNA) - The Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Yona Metzger, met this week with Archbishop Antonio Cañizares of Toledo, Spain, during which both leaders reiterated their desire to continue advancing religous dialogue as a means of peace.

After greeting the Rabbi at the entrance of the Archdiocesan offices in Toledo and exchanging the “shalom” (peace in Hebrew), Archbisohp Cañizares met with Rabbi Metzger in his private office where they held a “very coridal” conversation, according to the Archdiocesan Press Office.

The Rabbi thanked Archbishop Cañizares for the “warm, friendly and fraternal reception” and he recalled “how in the past Toledo was a point of convergence for different faiths, the three faiths that come from the same inspiration.”

“We also spoke about what we could do in the future to ensure that the dialogue already taking place between Jews and Catholics could be extended to Muslims, because the future of humanity depends on this dialogue,” said the Rabbi.

Archbishop Cañizares expressed his gratitude for the visit and his “conviction that a meeting between the religions will bring all people to unity, and this coming together has a particular vision at this point in time: with common prayer and mutual acceptance and dialogue we will contribute to the eradication of the terrible scourge of terrorism around the world.”

Rabbi Metzger arrived at Toledo after visiting Cordoba and then Madrid, where he met with victims of the March 11 terrorist attacks and where he celebrated the Sabbath at the “Beth Yaacov” synagogue.

Unofficial sources said the visit by Rabbi Metzger to Toledo was motivated in part by the desire of the Jewish community to regain control of the Church of Santa Maria La Blanca, which at one time was a Jewish synagogue.  The same sources said the Upper Room in Jerusalem would be given in exchange to the Catholic Church.

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Chilean Mayor: “Enough lies—the Pill is abortifacient and will not be distributed”

Santiago, Chile, May 18, 2004 (CNA) - The Chilean Health Minister, Pedro Garcia, has given mayors in Chile an ultimatum, demanding they obey an order to distribute the morning after pill.  However Marta Ehlers, mayor of Lo Barnechea, is refusing to distribute the pill because of its abortifacient nature.

Although the Supreme Court of Chile prohibited the sale of the pill in 2001, Garcia has issued an order obliging mayors to make 35,000 dosages of the pill available in local clinics.

Health officials now say the pill should only be made available to women who have been raped, but the initial norm, sent out to mayors last April 15, required that it be distributed for practically any reason.

Since she first denounced the plan, Ehlers has become the target of attacks by those who support the policy.  Garcia called Ehlers a “rebel” mayor and threatened to cut off funding for the municipalities of those mayors who refused to make the pill available.

Ehlers told CNA that as mayor she believes she must defend life from the moment of conception and that she will not allow lies to obscure the truth about abortions.

“I believe life is the most essential right of the human person and as such is above the authority of the State.  The government can only recognize it and protect it, it cannot restrict or limit it in any way,” she said.

Because the pill prevents a newly conceived life from implanting itself in the wall of the uterus, the “effect is without a doubt abortifacient, and therefore I am opposed to the distribution of this drug by our local clinics,” she added.

“The Health Ministry is seeking to make abortion legal by decree in our country.  Since we have opposed this illegal and unconstitutional measure, they are threatening to take away our funding.  I think this is because of the weakness of their position on this issue and because of the government’s intention to sow division among mayors” who belong to pro-life groups “during this election season,” she added.

According to Ehlers, “as political authorities we represent the entire community and we follow the law in this country, which establishes legal and constitutional protection for the unborn, from the moment of conception.”

Elhers insists that “the defense of life comes first and foremost” and she called on Chileans “not to be fooled and to realize that the morning after pill is not a contraceptive, but a method of abortion.”

“Therefore I will continue in this struggle by expressing by energetic rejection of the measure imposed by the government.  Life has been given us by God and no human being has right to end it, no matter how,” she added.

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