, May 31, 2004 (CNA) - Over the weekend, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, who is recovering from a car accident that took place on January 11 in Florida, wrote a message to people praying for him stressing his conviction that everyone has been called to do something for God.
Father Groeschel, director of the Office of Spiritual Development for the Archdiocese of New York, and founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal –a congregation pursuing radical poverty, evangelization and pro-life witness- had both legs, both arms and several ribs broken, when he was hit by a car while crossing the street.
He also sustained intracranial bleeding and suffered a heart attack, among other injuries. At the time, the priest's secretary said that it would "take a miracle" for the 70 year old priest to survive.
Fr. Groeschel wrote the following letter dated May 28:
“Having narrowly escaped death in three distinct medical situations, all related to the accident, in which the doctors had practically given up hope, I can say something that I think everyone needs to think about.
All of a sudden it dawns on me that God wants me to be here. I never thought much about that before, but I have to think about it now because otherwise I’d be in my grave.
People tell me that God sent me back because I had something to do for Him. But we all have something to do for Him. You and I exist out of an immense number of potential beings who might have been created, but who were not, so that God could be glorified and that we could do His will.
You have something to do, which has never been given to anyone else, you may not know what it is in this world, but you will find out what it is in the next.
The way to do the best is to try to follow God’s commandments to live faithfully by the message of the Gospel, to carry the cross and to trust that when your work is done He will call you home to His heavenly kingdom. That is our great hope. I do not understand how people can go through life without that hope.
Let us continue to pray for each other!
Vatican City, May 31, 2004 (CNA) - During a meeting with participants in the general chapter of the monastic family of Bethlehem, of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and of St. Bruno, Pope John Paul requested special prayers for peace in the Middle East.
In his address, the Pope assured the female religious that through a “humble and bold faithfulness, in the silence that characterizes your secluded lives, you are supported by the prayers of the Virgin Mary.”
“Through your contemplative life,” the Pope continued, “you raise the world up to God and remind the human beings of our time of the place of silence and prayer in their existence.”
The Holy Father requested that St. Bruno give them “the grace to remain vigilant in prayer, mounting a ‘holy and persevering guard, while awaiting the return of the Lord, to open to Him when He calls.’”
Showing his concern for the violence in the Holy Land, the Pope said: “I particularly invite your monastic family, which bears the name of Bethlehem birthplace of the Emmanuel, to intensify your prayers for the Middle East, beseeching the Lord to give the grace of peace and of reconciliation to all inhabitants of that region so tormented by violence.”
Vatican City, May 31, 2004 (CNA) - On Saturday evening, during the Vespers of Pentecost, Pope John Paul II reaffirmed that the new movements and lay communities are a blessing to the Church.
The Pope presided at the celebration of the first Vespers of the Solemnity of Pentecost before some 40,000 faithful from parishes, associations and ecclesial groups, especially members of the Movement for Renewal in the Spirit, at the special invitation of the Holy Father.
The Pontiff also greeted numerous young people who were participating in a prayer vigil at Lednica, Poland, and were connected to St, Peter’s Square through a radio and television link: “I pray with you, my dear friends, for the gift of the Holy Spirit. May the Consoler, the Holy Spirit, fill you with the love of Christ, to Whom you entrust your future.”
Addressing the members of Renewal in the Spirit, “one of the various expressions of the great family of the Catholic charismatic movement,” he said: “Thanks to the charismatic movement many Christians – men and women, children and adults – have rediscovered Pentecost as a living reality in their daily lives.”
“It is my hope that the spirituality of Pentecost may spread through the Church as a renewed impetus of prayer, of sanctity, of communion and of announcement,” said the Holy Father.
The Pope encouraged “the initiative known as the ‘Burning Bush,’ promoted by Renewal in the Spirit. It involves incessant adoration, day and night, before the Most Holy Sacrament; an invitation to the faithful to ‘return to the Cenacle’ so that, united in contemplation of the Eucharistic Mystery, they may intercede for the full unity of Christians and for the conversion of sinners.
“It is my heartfelt wish that this initiative may conduct many people to rediscover the gifts of the Spirit that have their source in the Pentecost,” he said.
“This evening’s celebration,” he continued, “reminds me of the memorable meeting with ecclesial groups and new communities on the vigil of Pentecost six years ago. That was an extraordinary epiphany of the unity of the Church, in the richness and variety of charisms which the Holy Spirit lavishly donates.”
And the Pope repeated the words he used on that occasion: “Ecclesial movements and new communities are a ‘providential response’ – one ‘activated by the Holy Spirit’ – to the modern-day question of new evangelization, for which ‘mature Christian personalities’ and ‘living Christian communities’ are necessary.”
“For this reason,” he concluded, “I also say to you: ‘Open yourselves meekly to the gifts of the Holy Spirit! Accept with gratitude and obedience the gifts that the Spirit does not cease to give! Do not forget that each charism is given for the common good, in other words for the benefit of the entire Church!’”
Chicago, Ill., May 31, 2004 (CNA) - In accordance with a directive from their archbishop, priests of the Archdiocese of Chicago denied Communion yesterday to a group of homosexual activists from the American Sash Movement, reported Reuters.
Francis Cardinal George sent a memo to his priests, ordering them not to offer Communion to homosexual activists.
In his message, the cardinal said the Church teaches that "genital homosexual relations are objectively morally sinful" and that Rainbow Sash members "give witness to their opposition to the Church and her teaching as they come to Communion."
Rainbow Sash members have been quietly protesting on Pentecost Sunday for several years. However, recent events swelled attendance this year, reported Reuters.
More than a dozen men and women activists – baptized Catholics – participated at the Sunday mass at Holy Name Cathedral. However, they only received blessings at Communion time.
Joe Murray, a spokesman for the American Sash Movement, said he had received messages of support from around the country in response to the cardinal's message, reported Reuters. Murray also reportedly said he was disappointed that the prelate had not kept his promise to continue a dialogue on the subject.
Vatican City, May 31, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul received students of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy -where future Vatican diplomats are formed - and said that the Holy See's representatives around the world must combine a spirit of dialogue and a deep fidelity to Jesus.
“May difficulties never hinder your generous commitment to Christ and His Church.”
The Pope noted that from the day they received the Holy Spirit, the Apostles “began to travel the world announcing the Good News. Since then, this announcement has never ceased to sound out among men: Christ, only-begotten of God is the Savior of man, of all men.”
“By maintaining contact with the Pope,” said John Paul II, “pontifical representatives are called to represent him before the ecclesial communities of the countries in which they work, before national governments and international organizations.”
The Holy Father said it was necessary that “the personnel of such missions have a capacity for dialogue, knowledge of various peoples, of their cultural and religious expressions, as well as of their legitimate expectations.”
“At the same time, an adequate theological and pastoral formation is indispensable, and above all a mature and total faithfulness to Christ. Only if you remain united to Him with prayer and the constant quest for His will, will your work be fruitful and will you feel fully realized in your priesthood,” affirmed the Pope.
John Paul II called on the priests “to keep alight in their minds and hearts the life-giving fire of the Holy Spirit, which in these days we ardently implore, and to be witnesses of peace and love wherever divine Providence may take you.”
Vatican City, May 31, 2004 (CNA) - Last Sunday, during the last Regina Coeli -the Marian prayer said only during the Easter season, which ends on Pentecost Sunday - Pope John Paul called the Catholic Church an instrument of unity for humanity.
“The Church today celebrates the Solemnity of Pentecost, recalling the prodigious effusion of the Holy Spirit upon Mary and the Apostles in the Cenacle,” said the Holy Father to the numerous pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
“Animated by the fire of the Spirit, the Apostles left the Cenacle and began to speak of Christ, Who died and rose again, to the faithful who had come to Jerusalem from all places, and each heard them speak in his own language.”
“With Pentecost … was born the Church: the mystical body of Christ distributed around the world.”
“The Church is made up of men and women of all races and cultures, united in faith and love for the Most Holy Trinity as a sign and instrument of the unity of the entire human race. Shaped by the Spirit to conform to Christ, new man, believers become His witnesses, sowers of hope, agents of mercy and peace,” said the Holy Father.
The Pope invoked the maternal intercession of Mary so “that the prodigies of Pentecost may be renewed in the Church and that all men and women may welcome the joyous news of salvation.”
Vatican City, May 31, 2004 (CNA) - Cardinal Renato Martino, President of the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace,” will travel to Uganda from May 31 to June 4 to visit, among other places, the cities of Gulu, Kalongo and Kitgum, where armed conflicts still persist.
The Cardinal will meet the authorities, “Justice and Peace” organizations, and representatives of religious and lay associations involved in social work, and he will visit refugee camps and hospitals for victims of the war which has lasted for 18 years.
On June 3, he is scheduled to preside at a Eucharistic celebration in Namugongo in honor of Ugandan martyrs, on the feast day of St. Charles Lwanga and his 21 companions, canonized by Paul VI in 1964.
Ottawa, Canada, May 31, 2004 (CNA) - The Canadian government announced that it intends to make the morning-after pill available without a prescription across the country.
Currently, the morning-after pill is available from a pharmacist without a prescription in only three provinces – British Columbia, Quebec and Saskatchewan.
Health Minister Pierre Pettigrew announced May 18 that the change is being made to help prevent unwanted pregnancies.
“The fact that the drug would be available ‘behind-the-counter’ means that women would have timely access to the drug and receive professional health advice regarding its use,’ Pettigrew said, reported Canwest News Service.
“Women facing an emergency need timely access to this type of therapy,” Pettigrew said.
However, the Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF), a joint project with the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Knights of Columbus, asked that the government reconsider its position.
In a letter to the health minister fall, COLF said: “Women have the right to know that what is described as ‘emergency contraception’ may in reality be a form of early abortion.
“Pregnancy begins with conception not implantation. It is thus inaccurate to refer to this pill as emergency contraception, given its potential to act as an abortifacient,” it said.
COLF added that women, and teens in particular, need counseling, support and information on how the pill works.
The Catholic Health Association of Canada also opposes the government’s decision, since it is contrary to Church teachings on contraception and abortion.
Campaign Life Coalition took a very direct in a news release, asking: “Has the government gone mad?”
“If conception has already taken place, this pill will prevent the child, who has been conceived, from implanting in the mother’s womb. This is not prevention of a pregnancy but an abortifacient and the death of the child. The drug companies stand to make a fortune on this,” said the pro-life group’s president, Jim Hughes.
Under current provincial rules, pharmacists are not required to dispense the drug if they object for moral reasons. However, it is not clear if this will still be the case once the drug is made available prescription-free across the country in the upcoming months.
Toronto, Canada, May 31, 2004 (CNA) - An aboriginal woman is considering legal action after she received the remains of her miscarried baby in the mail, reported the National Post.
Corrine Jeremiah miscarried shortly before her due date, March 30, at Thunder Bay Regional Hospital. She requested that the fetus be returned to her community at North Caribou Lake First Nation for burial.
However, her baby’s body was sent through the mail, more than five weeks after the miscarriage. The body was in the post office for six days before its contents were discovered in an advanced state of decay, reported the Post.
The young mother was reportedly “hysterical” when she discovered the box.
“We are calling for a full police investigation and a coroner’s inquest into this shocking incident,” said North Caribou Lake First Nation chief Zeb Kenequanash. “The family is also considering civil action against the Health Center, the Ontario Ministry of Health and other appropriate parties.
“It’s something that must be addressed,” Kenequanash said. “You can’t just ship a person, regardless of their age, through the mail.”
The Post reported that hospital procedure requires that a body be transported in a cooler and accompanied by a hospital official, with the parents consulted on all arrangements. Instead, the body was put in a box with stickers that said “room temperature” and “diagnostic specimen.”
The band’s social service administrator reportedly called the hospital and found out that there was a new worker at the hospital and she was the one who put the body in the mail.
Madrid, Spain, May 31, 2004 (CNA) - In an article published by the leftist Spanish newspaper “El País,” Manuel Martinez Sospedra, professor of law at the Cardinal Herrera University, said proposed legislation to allow the creation of “therapeutic children” is not only an attack on ethics but also on the Spanish constitution, and therefore, is “against the law."
“Apart from the ethical problems which the bill raises, it also raises problems, and of no small importance, from a constitutional perspective. And the former are not too distant from the latter, although they are distinct,” he pointed out.
According to Martinez Sospedra, the obtaining of “a child through artificial fertilization of the mother in order to harvest biological material needed to cure another person of an illness” is a practice which attacks the human person in his very dignity and is therefore incompatible with the “principles in the national and in the European constitutions,” which protect this value, hence the bill’s “illicit constitutionality.”
The therapeutic child, he continued, also called “medicinal babies,” constitutes “a means to an end: the curing of another.”
“For this reason what is being attacked is a human being in his very dignity, and in a completely radical way, because he is not being used for this or that aspect of his activity, but rather for his very being and very existence,” he added.
For the Spanish professor, “from a constitutional perspective the issue of therapeutic children leaves little room for doubt.”
“The system of laws embodied in the Constitution is a system of human rights,” which is reflected in the Universal Declaration and, soon, in the European constitution. “Since the Universal Declaration, the systems of law that have followed are based upon the same principle: human dignity, from which each and every fundamental right is derived,” he explained.
“Dignity consists in being of value in and of oneself, and not in relation to others, and therefore, in demanding and obtaining unconditional respect. Dignity is what separates us from the things of the world, which have value not in or of themselves, but in relation to others,” Martinez Sospedra said.
Lastly, Martinez Sospedra said that “from this constitutional illicitness, one is able to deduce that this practice lies completely outside the realm of democratic principles, for exactly the same reasons as the death penalty, torture and slavery. The therapeutic child is ‘against the law’ in the strongest sense of the word.”
Madrid, Spain, May 31, 2004 (CNA) - In order to mark the celebration of Lay Apostolate and Catholic Action Day on the feast of Pentecost, Bishop Jesus Garcia Burillo of Avila, Spain, called on the laity to be docile to the Holy Spirit in today’s world in order to overcome the idolatry of comfort.
“In today’s world, the Holy Spirit urges you to deeply live the virtue of hope, to overcome the idolatry of comfort, unrestrained consumerism, the exclusive demanding of one’s own rights, and the neglect of those most in need. Only faith in Jesus Christ, a faith and a life in conformity with Gospel values, can bring about a radical change in the current circumstances,” the bishop said.
In his pastoral letter entitled, “Builders of Hope,” Bishop Garcia Burillo expressed dismay that sometimes “God and moral values are not given importance and are sometimes even scorned and considered useless and obsolete.”
Likewise he pointed out that many people, “influenced by the cultural fads of the day, have embraced religious indifference, secularization, practical atheism, moral and ethical relativism. They live as if God did not exist.”
Nevertheless, “overcoming fear and all obstacles, we feel we are sent to the world” to “announce hope” to people. “We are urged on by the power of the Spirit to break down indifference, estrangement from God, and the agnosticism and disbelief which sometimes marks the lives of many people.”
San Juan, Puerto Rico, May 31, 2004 (CNA) - Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez of San Juan, Puerto Rico, has expressed his support of a law that would allow professional health care workers to refuse to perform abortions for reasons of conscience.
The Archdiocese’s delegate for Legislative Affairs, Anibal Colon, addressed the Puerto Rican parliament and explained that the majority of US states include “Protection of Conscience Laws” in their legislation, which are intended to ensure “justice for health care professionals and their collaborators.”
Colon said that according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “direct abortion, that is, desired as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law” and therefore formal cooperation in these abortions is a grave sin, canonically sanctioned by excommunication.
Colon asked that medical students also be covered by the measure.
The proposed law says that “just as all people have to right to believe in something, people also have the right not to believe,’ adding that “in the healthy balance of interests and rights, people should be protected from being obliged to go against their ethical convictions in the exercise of a duty or a profession.”