Vatican City, Jun 10, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II has declared a Year of the Eucharist for the Universal Church. It will begin with the Eucharistic Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, in October 2004 and end with the Synod of bishops at the Vatican in October 2005. The theme of the synod will be “The Eucharist: source and summit of the life and mission of the Church."
The Pope made the announcement today, on the feast of Corpus Christi, during the mass celebrated at St. John Lateran Basilica in Rome. Following the mass, the Blessed Sacrament was carried in a procession to the basilica of St. Mary Major.
“I wanted to dedicate the first encyclical of the new millennium to the Eucharist, and I am pleased to announce to you now a special Year of the Eucharist,” he told those assembled at St. John Lateran.
“There is an intimate relationship between celebrating the Eucharist and announcing Christ,” said the Pope.
Entering into communion with Christ through the Eucharist signifies becoming missionaries of the Eucharist, he said. “In a certain sense, that means making the Eucharist contemporary in every era, until the Lord comes again,” he added.
“Dear brothers and sisters, let us relive this wonderful reality on today’s solemnity of Corpus Christi, on which the Church not only celebrates the Eucharist, but carries it solemnly in procession, announcing publicly that the sacrifice of Christ is for the salvation of the whole world,” he said.
“Christ, ‘living bread descended from heaven,’ is the only one who can satisfy the hunger of man in every time and in every part of the world,” said the pontiff. However, Christ does not want to do this alone, the Pope said. He wants to involve his disciples.
In the mass, through ordained ministers, Christ gives his Body and his Blood for all of mankind, he said. “And those who nourish themselves at his altar, become living instruments of his presence of love, mercy and peace.”
The Pope also encouraged the faithful to entrust themselves to Mary. “Looking to Mary, we can understand better the transforming power of the Eucharist,” said the pontiff. “Being attentive to her, we will find in the mystery of the Eucharist the courage and the strength to follow Christ, the Good Shepherd, and to serve him in others.”
Fort Lewis, Wash., Jun 10, 2004 (CNA) - A Catholic priest is in critical but stable condition after being hurt by a roadside bomb in Iraq.
Fr. Tim Vakoc is believed to be the first military chaplain wounded in the war in the Middle East, a spokesman for Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., said June 8.
The 44-year-old priest suffered significant injuries to his head and left eye. Doctors have been keeping him in a chemically induced coma to allow his brain to heal.
The Minnesota native was wounded May 30, after having celebrated mass for soldiers in the field. He and his assistant, Spc. Nathan Copas, were returning to the Mosul Airfield when their convoy was attacked. Copas was not wounded.
Vakoc is the chaplain for the 44th Corps Support Battalion from Fort Lewis since 2002.
He was deployed to Iraq in November with the unit, whose mission is to provide logistical support to the Fort Lewis-based units, working across northern Iraq.
Richmond, Va., Jun 10, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop Francis DiLorenzo is expected to be back in his office today after having been admitted to hospital Tuesday.
The 62-year-old bishop of the Diocese of Richmond underwent a series of tests at Bon Secours Maryview Medical Center in Portsmouth June 8 because he felt dizzy and lightheaded, Dana Erby, a secretary at the diocese, told The Associated Press.
A doctor admitted him as a precaution and a number of tests were ordered, which showed nothing wrong, she reportedly said. The bishop was released the same day.
Bishop DiLorenzo, who was installed as bishop of Richmond less than a month ago, had a minor heart attack three years ago. He has been on a diet since then to lose weight and now weighs about 300 pounds.
Washington D.C., Jun 10, 2004 (CNA) - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops launched a campaign to assist the Catholic Church in Haiti after floods and landslides devastated the poverty-stricken Caribbean country.
The floods, which hit Haiti and the Dominican Republic two weeks ago, erased entire villages. The situation should be met with an outpouring of solidarity and charity, said Bishop John R. Manz in a press release issued yesterday. The auxiliary bishop of Chicago serves as the chairman of the bishops' Committee on the Church in Latin America.
Daniel Lizárraga, executive director of the USCCB Secretariat for the Church in Latin America, was in Haiti and met with the Catholic bishops' conference there. He said the devastation is terrible and only compounds the existent problems caused by political unrest and poverty.
Lizárraga assured conference officials that, in addition to humanitarian aid, the USCCB would assist in meeting the pastoral needs of the Church in Haiti at this time.
"In these situations, victims of natural disasters seek spiritual solace from the Church in addition to physical and material aid,” stated Lizárraga. “We hope to support the pastoral efforts that provide a sense of hope at this time of tragedy and suffering."
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Lima, Peru, Jun 10, 2004 (CNA) - A bold Peruvian congresswoman took the occasion of a visit by UN Human Rights official Paul Hunt to scold the United Nations for giving more funds to feminist lobby groups than to the poor and those most in need.
Hunt is on a tour of Latin America to promote the new concepts of health of the World Health Organization and the policies of reproductive health, which is a euphemism for legalized abortion.
During a visit to the Peruvian congress, Congresswoman Elvira de la Puente provided Hunt with statistics on the number of physical and mentally handicapped in Peru and the scanty funds they receive from the Peruvian government, as well as the great need for medicine, care, prevention and education in this specific area.
De La Puente pointed to three decrees signed in 2002 by the Foreign Relations Minister which indicated that the UN Population Fund would finance radical feminist groups with thousands of dollars to promote contraception, sterilization and “sexual and reproductive rights.”
She added that these agreements instruct feminist organizations to “organize luncheons, meetings, and newspaper and magazine columns to make the government implement repoductuvie health policies.”
De La Puente said the tactics go well beyond the mere providing of information to young people. “These are ‘professionals’ who are pushing sterilization and permanent forms of contraception,” she denounced.
“Instead of finanicing feminist groups whose idealogy is known to all and who promote sterilization and ‘safe abortion’,” the funds should be given to address real needs, she said. “Perhaps there is a way to suggest to the United Nations that the millions of dollars they are giving to us be set aside for those who are most in need” and require emergency assistance,” she added.
The Pan American Organization of Health’s representative in Peru, Manuel Peña, who was traveling with Hunt, tried to stop De La Puente, alleging that with the funds, the UN is promoting “a reproductive health policy” in order to reduce adolescent pregnancies in Peru, which are at 20%.
De La Puente fired back that the millions of dollars spent since the government of Alberto Fujimori in the area of “reproductive and sexual heath” have been used to promote contraception.
“And despite having applied even irreversible methods such as tubal ligations and vasectomies, the percentage of adolescent mothers has continued to rise,” she added.
The Peruvian congresswoman denounced that the problem is that these programs aim to terminate pregnancies by promoting the legalization of “safe abortion” and they do not invest in “education and in the formation of young people’s intellectual capacity to control their sexual lives.”
San Sebastian, Spain, Jun 10, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop Juan Maria Uriarte of San Sebastian has terminated Fr. Juan Cruz Mendizabal’s tenure as the diocese’s director of Youth Ministry after he celebrated the closing Mass for a controversial conference for homosexuals last month.
According to the Spanish newspaper “La Razon,” the conference—which was attended by only 60 people—took place in San Sebastian April 16-18 under the title, “Christianity and Homosexuality” and was organized by gay and lesbian groups in the Basque province.
During the conference, participants condemned the Church’s interpretation of biblical texts on homosexuality and they demanded the Church “ask for forgiveness for justifying the dehumanization of homosexuals,” as a condition for entering into dialogue with the Church.
Fr. Mendizabal, who headed up the diocese’s youth ministry for several years, celebrated a Mass to close the conference and organized a concert by the Christian band Egun Sentia.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Jun 10, 2004 (CNA) - In a pastoral letter in preparation for upcoming elections in October, Archbishop Eurico dos Santos Veloso of Juiz de Fora, Brazil, is calling on priests and those involved in ministry to stay out of political campaigns and on the faithful to “responsibly vote with their conscience.”
The Archbishop explained that “there needs to be a proper distinction between the role of the Church and the role of each of the faithful as citizens,” and he recalled that “the Holy Father John Paul II, speaking with the Brazilian bishops in 1980, said very clearly that the Church has no intention of getting involved in politics, nor does she aspire to participate in the administration of temporal affairs.”
“Her specific contribution will be that of strengthening the spiritual and moral foundation of society, making it possible that all activity in the area of the common good take place in conformity and in tune with the directives and requirements of human and Christian ethics,” the Archbishop added.
”Bishops,” he continued, “priests and religious should not get involved in the concrete problems of society or in partisan political activity, as the Holy Father has insisted on various occasions.”
Archbishop Eurico dos Santos reaffirmed that “priests and religious, especially during religious celebrations, should not publicly express opinions or positions in favor political parties, candidates or concrete government proposals or programs in the socio-economic sphere.”
On the other hand, the Archbishop reminded the faithful of their “obligation to responsibly participate” in elections, “as a duty of Christian conscience,” and that they should vote “only for those candidates who are truly committed to the common good, who do not make promises they cannot keep…and who demonstrate they are capable and competent for the job.”
”One cannot vote for candidates who are liars and are known to be corrupt, whose campaigns are reduced to criticizing and attacking other candidates, and who take positions that are against Christian morals in the area of life (abortion), freedom of education, social justice and religious freedom,” the Archbishop added.