Vatican City, Jun 4, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II received President George W. Bush for the third time on Friday morning at the Vatican, and in an unusually long address commended him for promoting values in America, but pressed for a peaceful solution to the conflict in Iraq and the Middle East.
Their previous encounters took place at Castelgandolfo on July 23, 2001 following the G8 summit in Genoa, Italy, and on May 28, 2002 in Rome.
In his address to the American president, his wife and the delegation accompanying them, the Holy Father thanked him "for wishing to meet with me again, in spite of the difficulties presented by your own many commitments during this present visit to Europe and Italy, and by my own departure tomorrow morning for a meeting with young people in Switzerland."
The Pope noted that the president's trip is "to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War and to honor the memory of the many American soldiers who gave their lives for their country and for the freedom of the peoples of Europe. I join you in recalling the sacrifice of those valiant dead and in asking the Lord that the mistakes of the past, which gave raise to appalling tragedies, may never again be repeated. Today I too think back with great emotion on the many Polish soldiers who died for the freedom of Europe."
John Paul II also noted that this year marks the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the United States under President Reagan. "I send my regards to President Reagan and to Mrs. Reagan, who is so attentive to him in his illness."
"Your visit to Rome," said the Pope, "takes place at a moment of great concern for the continuing situation of grave unrest in the Middle East, both in Iraq and in the Holy Land. You are very familiar with the unequivocal position of the Holy See in this regard, expressed in numerous documents, through direct and indirect contacts, and in the many diplomatic efforts which have been made since you visited me" in 2001.
"It is the evident desire of everyone that this situation now be normalized as quickly as possible with the active participation of the international community and, in particular, the United Nations Organization, in order to ensure a speedy return of Iraq's sovereignty, in conditions of security for all its people,” said the Pope.
“The recent appointment of a Head of State in Iraq and the formation of an interim Iraqi government are an encouraging step towards the attainment of this goal,” he continued.
“May a similar hope for peace also be rekindled in the Holy Land and lead to new negotiations, dictated by a sincere and determined commitment to dialogue, between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority," said the Holy Father.
John Paul II stated that "the threat of international terrorism remains a source of constant concern. It has seriously affected normal and peaceful relations between States and peoples since the tragic date of 11 September 2001, which I have not hesitated to call 'a dark day in the history of humanity'.”
Referring to the manner in which some Iraqi prisoners have been treated, the Pope said, “In the past few weeks other deplorable events have come to light which have troubled the civic and religious conscience of all, and made more difficult a serene and resolute commitment to shared human values: in the absence of such a commitment neither war nor terrorism will ever be overcome.”
May God grant strength and success to all those who do not cease to hope and work for understanding between peoples, in respect for the security and rights of all nations and of every man and woman," he prayed.
He told the president that he appreciated his "commitment to the promotion of moral values in American society, particularly with regard to respect for life and the family."
In conclusion the Holy Father said that "a fuller and deeper understanding between the United States of America and Europe will surely play a decisive role in resolving the great problems which I have mentioned."
Vatican City, Jun 4, 2004 (CNA) - Addressing the Bishops from Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and western Texas today, the Holy Father today reaffirmed the observation of Pope Paul VI, that 'the split between the Gospel and culture is undoubtedly the drama of our time.'
The Pope received the bishops on the occasion of their "ad limina" visit and told them he wished to reflect "on the pressing task you face of the evangelization of culture."
He stated that “the split between Gospel and culture is manifest today as a 'crisis of meaning'.”
“Ambiguous moral positions, the distortion of reason by particular interest groups, and the absolutizing of the subjective, are just some examples of a perspective of life which fails to seek truth itself and abandons the search for the ultimate goal and meaning of human existence," said the Pope.
The Holy Father underscored that "some today view Christianity as weighed down by structures and failing to respond to people's spiritual needs. Yet, far from being something merely institutional, the living center of your preaching of the Gospel is the encounter with our Lord himself."
The Pope then exhorted the bishops: "It is clear then that all your activities must be directed towards the proclamation of Christ. Indeed, your duty of personal integrity renders contradictory any separation between mission and life.”
“I urge you therefore to be close to your priests and people”, said the Pope. “Inspired by the great Pastors who have gone before us, like Saint Charles Borromeo, your visiting and careful listening to your brother priests and the faithful, and your direct contact with the marginalized, will be 'quasi anima episcopalis regiminis'."
John Paul II noted that "in the wake of increasing secularism and fragmentation of knowledge, 'new forms of poverty' have arisen, particularly in cultures which enjoy material well-being, that reflect a 'despair at the lack of meaning in life'.”
“Distrust of the human being's great capacity for knowledge, the acceptance of 'partial and provisional truths', and the senseless pursuit of novelty, all point to the ever more difficult task of conveying to people - especially the young - an understanding of the very foundation and purpose of human life," said the Pope.
Pointing to "the wondrous array of charisms" proper to Religious Institutes, he said that their commitment to "the apostolate of 'intellectual charity," that is, "promotion of excellence in schools, commitment to scholarship, and articulation of the relationship between faith and culture" is "particularly important in cultures undermined by secularism."
On the "prophetic mission of the laity," the Pope said that "over the last forty or so years, while political attention to human subjectivity has focused on individual rights, in the public domain there has been a growing reluctance to acknowledge that all men and women receive their essential and common dignity from God and with it the capacity to move towards truth and goodness.”
The Holy Father continued: “Detached from this vision of the fundamental unity and purpose of the whole human family, rights are at times reduced to self-centered demands: the growth of prostitution and pornography in the name of adult choice, the acceptance of abortion in the name of women's rights, the approval of same sex unions in the name of homosexual rights.”
"In the face of such erroneous yet pervasive thinking" he concluded, "you must do everything possible to encourage the laity in their 'special responsibility' for 'evangelizing culture ... and promoting Christian values in society and public life'."
Vatican City, Jun 4, 2004 (CNA) - President George W. Bush presented the Medal of Freedom to Pope John Paul II during their meeting at the Vatican today.
In his remarks, Bush said he was bringing "greetings from our country, where you are respected, admired and greatly loved."
"I also bring a message from my government that says to you, sir, we will work for human liberty and human dignity, in order to spread peace and compassion; that we appreciate the strong symbol of freedom that you have stood for, and we recognize the power of freedom to change societies and to change the world," said the president.
"Perhaps the best way I can express my country's gratitude to you, and our respect to you”–President Bush continued- “is to present to you the Medal of Freedom from America."
The president also read the citation attached to the Medal, which says: "A devoted servant of God, His Holiness Pope John Paul II has championed the cause of the poor, the weak, the hungry, and the outcast. He has defended the unique dignity of every life, and the goodness of all life. Through his faith and moral conviction, he has given courage to others to be not afraid in overcoming injustice and oppression. His principled stand for peace and freedom has inspired millions and helped to topple communism and tyranny. The United States honors this son of Poland who became the Bishop of Rome and a hero of our time."
Pope John Paul responded by saying: "I am very grateful, Mr. President, for this thoughtful gesture. May the desire for freedom, peace, a more humane world symbolized by this medal inspire men and women of goodwill in every time and place. God bless America."
Washington D.C., Jun 4, 2004 (CNA) - Catholic University of America has blocked a student from starting a chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) on campus, expressing concern about the organization's advocacy of abortion.
University officials also said the NAACP would "cause redundancy" with other groups that already exist on campus for African American students.
William Jawando, a senior who will enter the university's law school in the fall, said he spent months trying to get an NAACP chapter approved. He received a reply in April from university officials, who said allowing the NAACP on campus would not be consistent with the mission of the university or of the Catholic Church.
The NAACP's abortion rights advocacy "was a factor in the considerations,” said the university’s director of public affairs, Victor Nakas, “because we steadfastly uphold the teachings of the Catholic Church and would apply that rule to any student group."
Jawando, a 21-year-old Washington native, said he told university officials that the group would not engage in any pro-choice activities but it didn’t make any difference in their decision.
Nakas said the primary reason Jawando's request was denied was that the university has two organizations that represent African American students, who accounted for 386 of the university's 5,740 undergraduate and graduate students last fall.
Washington D.C., Jun 4, 2004 (CNA) - Population Research International (PRI) has joined with other pro-life groups to form a new worldwide pro-life organization, called Family Life International.
The new organization emerged out of an “urgent need for a truly global pro-life, pro-family organization,” says a statement issued by PRI president X yesterday.
Family Life International (FLI) will now include other pro-life groups in the Caribbean, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States, South Africa, Australia and Latin America.
Steve W. Mosher, who serves as president of PRI will also serve as the president of FLI. He said the new merger “means PRI’s reach will be greater than ever.”
The new organization will allow the pro-life movement to be more effective internationally and be better positioned to “undertake global offensives,” such as cutting funding to the UNFPA and restricting the use of abortifacient drugs, such as the morning-after pill and Norplant, he said.
“With the (recent) addition of our new PRI office in Latin America, will be able to confront the Culture of Death on five continents,” he said.
Relying on the adage that strength comes in numbers, the group expects to be more effective in advocating and teaching about marriage, natural family planning and chastity.
FLI also hopes to model the successes of some of its member countries in convincing their governments to pass legislation that protects the unborn, the elderly and the disabled, and opposes pornography.
Newark, N.J., Jun 4, 2004 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Newark has decided to close or merge some of its 170 Catholic schools in the next few due to declining enrolments, which have led to higher tuition. School enrolment in the archdiocese is down from about 100,000 students several decades ago, reported Newsday.
The archdiocese’s New Energies Task Force for Schools studied how the schools can better educate their 56,000 students. It also set guidelines for a minimum enrolment of 200 to 225 students for each K-8 school, a balanced budget and a "Catholic and Christ-centered program."
The archdiocese announced its plan in the latest issue of the archdiocesan newspaper, the Catholic Advocate, just two weeks after it provided a list of parishes, which could be closed or merged. The schools report did not list specific schools slated for closure.
Last year, the archdiocese spent nearly $4 million of its $29-million budget subsidizing churches and schools.
Montreal, Canada, Jun 4, 2004 (CNA) - One of North America’s oldest Catholic high schools has launched its 150th anniversary celebrations.
Villa Maria High School, located just west of downtown Montreal, was founded by the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame in 1854.
The school has grown tremendously since its founding. The first graduating class in 1860 had three students and there were about 50 students in the whole school. Villa Maria was run entirely by the CND sisters as a boarding school and all students studied in both English and French.
In 1975, Villa Maria became “an independent school” with a board of directors, and the sisters’ presence in the school slowly decreased over time. Currently, the only CND on staff is Sr. Arlita Matte, the directress general.
Today, Villa Maria is a private Catholic girls’ day school. It has separate English and French sectors, and its total enrolment is 1,100. The school plans to begin constructing an expansion in the fall, which will include an auditorium, a media center, a centralized library and science laboratories.
Lt.-Gov. Lise Thibault was the guest of honor at the ceremonies, held April 30, to launch the anniversary year. The entire student body, as well as the staff, was present. The school band played pieces from Bach and the graduating class sang “Ave Maria” and Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”
A number of other events are planned for the next academic year to mark the important milestone, including a mass with the archbishop of Montreal, Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte.
Montreal, Canada, Jun 4, 2004 (CNA) - The Sisters of Charity of Montreal, commonly known as the Grey Nuns, have sold their downtown motherhouse to Concordia University for CAD$18 million.
The sisters made the announcement at a June1 press conference, held at the university.
The decision to sell was motivated by the community’s continuing decline in vocations.
There are currently 250 sisters, whose average age is 82, living in the motherhouse, which was built to accommodate up to 1,000 people. Overall, there are 574 Grey Nuns in the province of Quebec; their average age is 77.
The property, which is prime downtown real estate, could easily have been sold for much more. But Sr. Aurore Larkin, SGM, said it was important for the sisters to sell their property to an organization which they believe is in line with their educational mission and one which would preserve the historical landmark, including the chapel, which was designated a historical site by the provincial government in the 1970s.
“Concordia University’s commitment to accessibility to all ages and backgrounds forms a natural alliance with the Grey Nuns,” the superior general told The Gazette. “It honors the mission of St. Marguerite d’Youville (the foundress) – a woman who opened her arms to all, regardless of gender, race or religious beliefs.”
Concordia intends to convert the 1871 convent into a fine arts complex. The university, whose student population numbers more than 30,000, will only move into the motherhouse over 15 years, beginning in 2007.
The move will take place in stages. Concordia will take over the west wing in 2007, the central section and the chapel in 2011, the north wing in 2018 and the south wing in 2022. The sisters will continue to live in the motherhouse throughout the move.
Most of the congregation’s artifacts have already been moved to the foundation house in Old Montreal. However, the tomb of St. Marguerite d’Youville is still in the motherhouse chapel. A date has not yet been set for the transfer of her remains.
Doing the right thing
Sr. Larkin explained that the congregational leadership received a mandate at the last general chapter in 2001 to assess the congregation’s properties and to sell the motherhouse, which was too large and expensive for the dwindling and aging community to maintain.
“This is a very emotional time for us,” the superior general told the Catholic Times. “But we have moved ahead knowing that we’re doing the right thing.”
Sr. Larkin said the sale does not mean an end to the sisters’ mission. They will continue their ministry, she said, it will just happen somewhere else.
The Sisters of Charity was founded by Marguerite d’Youville, a 28-year-old widow with two sons, in Montreal in 1737. She ministered to the poor, vagrants, drunkards and the sick, operating Montreal’s largest hospital at the time. The congregation soon expanded to the rest of Canada, the United States and Brazil. St. Marguerite d’Youville died in 1771. She was beatified by Pope John XXIII in 1959 and canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1990.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Jun 4, 2004 (CNA) - Cardinal Eusebio Scheid of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, said this week the media have in important role to play in combating the spread of religious sects in the country, according to sources from Aid to the Church in Need in Brazil.
ACN’s General Secretary in Brazil, Antonia Willemsen, presented a report on the subject this week, explaining that Cardinal Scheid emphasized the value of the media as an “effective weapon” against sectarian groups, especially the “Universal Church of the Kingdom of God.”
The report also highlighted the work of Cathedral Radio, founded by Cardinal Eugenio de Araujo Sales in Rio de Janeiro, and called for support for Catholic media as one of the priorities of ACN.
“These religious sects have concentrated on their media presence in Rio and Sao Paulo--in the rest of Brazil they have a much greater presence. Their growth is quick and dangerous at the same time,” said Willemsen.
In particular, he added, the “Universal Church of the Kingdom of God has been preaching the prosperity gospel: give us your money, homes and possessions and you will receive double in return.”
Santiago, Chile, Jun 4, 2004 (CNA) - The Secretary General of the Bishops Conference of Chile, Bishop Manuel Camilo Vial, expressed his support this week for the decision of the country’s Supreme Court to deny a judge custody of her three daughters after the woman left her husband for a lesbian lover.
The case of Judge Karen Atala attracted the attention of Chilean public opinion when she requested custody of her three children after separating from her husband and entering into a homosexual relationship.
Lower courts had sided with Atala, opening the door for her to gain custody and for the legal adoption of minors by homosexual couples.
The decision was appealed to the Supreme Court, which ruled on Tuesday against the lower court and granting full custody of the three children to the father.
Homosexual groups are using the case to promote new “rights,” saying they will appeal the decision to the Inter American Court for Human Rights.
Bishop Vial said he was “absolutely in agreement” with the Supreme Court ruling, and he pointed out that the high court focused on “the situation of the minors during the time the mother was in the home versus the current situation. They concluded that the signs indicated that the children’s lives were being inadequately influenced.”
Bishop Vial added that the seeking of the highest good for children “is the purpose of the decision that was made, and I think that it is also the value of the Supreme Court’s ruling.”