Rome, Italy, Jul 12, 2004 (CNA) - On Saturday, Pope John Paul’s spokesman, Joaquin Navarro Valls, announced that the Pontiff has decided to send a Vatican delegation to Russia to return the icon of Our Lady of Kazan.
The icon, which has been in the Vatican’s possession for more than 30 years, is one of the most revered images for Russian Orthodox Christians.
The idea of returning the icon to the Orthodox as a gesture of reconciliation had been under discussion since November last year.
John Paul had been hoping to return it himself and become the first Roman Catholic pontiff to visit Russia, but complaints from Russian Orthodox leaders that the Catholic Church is “poaching” in “Orthodox territory” have prevented the trip from taking place.
According to the new plans, the icon will be taken to Russia by a Vatican delegation –still to be named - on August 28, feast of the Dormition of Our Lady according to the Orthodox liturgical calendar.
Before returning it, there will be “an act of devotion, not necessarily public, ... an act of farewell which concludes the pilgrimage of the Madonna of Kazan to Rome.” Details about the ceremony will be made available shortly, said Navarro Valls.
The icon, revered as the “protector of Russia,” first appeared in Kazan in 1579 and hung in the Kazan Cathedral in Moscow's Red Square and the Kazan Cathedral in St. Petersburg before being taken to the West after the 1917 Communist revolution. A Catholic group bought the icon in the 1970s and later presented it to the Vatican.
With respect to relations between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches, the Director of the press office told journalists on Sunday that after the visit to Moscow of Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, they “have improved.”
“It is a long process, and the Pope hopes that the restitution of the icon will contribute to further steps forward. The signs of improvement in relations are reflected in bilateral conversations, in the mixed commissions to identify and resolve problems between the Churches in a climate of collaboration,” Navarro Valls concluded.
St. Louis, Mo., Jul 12, 2004 (CNA) - Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis is scheduled to meet with local Congressman William Lacy Clay today, reported the Associated Press.
The Democratic, pro-abortion senator has said Archbishop Burke has “gone too far” and is “delving into politics” in stating that pro-abortion Catholic politicians should not receive Communion and that voters who support them should go to confession before receiving the Eucharist.
According to the AP, Clay insinuated that the Catholic Church should lose its non-profit status. "Perhaps the Catholic Church should surrender their 501(c) status," he reportedly said.
Archbishop Burke sparked a national debate earlier this year, when he said he would deny Communion to pro-abortion Catholic Senator John Kerry.
Vatican City, Jul 12, 2004 (CNA) - Contrary to speculations that the Holy Father is writing a book or document during his vacation in Les Combes, northwest Italy, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, Director of the Holy See Press Office, who is accompanying Pope John Paul, said, “The Holy Father is not preparing any document during these days of rest.”
There has also been a hypothesis floating around that he is writing a book on totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. But of this Navarro-Valls said: “During these days no, perhaps it is already finished, but I have not seen him work on this project here.”
Navarro-Valls also said that the Pope’s vacation “is proceeding very well and, as has happened on other occasions, following some days of rest, he is better. The cool climate allows him to sleep better and the outings keep him in very good spirits.”
The Pontiff’s days are given over to restful activities, says Valls: “The Pope dedicates a lot of time to reading and to prayer, not only in the chapel, and to long conversations on various topics.”
Warsaw, Poland, Jul 12, 2004 (CNA) - The Polish Catholic news agency, KAI, has announced a new book by Pope John Paul II is currently “being edited” and that it will be based on an interview with Pope conducted by Fr. Jozef Tischner in 1984 on philosophical and existential questions.
The report includes statements by Fr. Pawel Ptasznik, director of Polish section of the Vatican Secretariat of State, who said the book “appears to by ready for publication.”
“It is a long process and it may not be published in the immediate future,” Fr. Ptasznik told KAI, adding that “regarding its content, I can only say that reports that it will focus on the problems of totalitarianism are not true.”
Fr. Ptasznik recalled that “it is well-known secret that some years ago, Fr. Jozef Tischner requested an interview with the Pope about philosophical and existential questions,” adding that “if I am not mistaken, the interview took place in the summer of 1984 and it was recorded.”
Fr. Tischner, a philosopher, theologian and author, was a close friend of the Pope and enjoyed long conversations with the Holy Father on such issues as human existence and freedom, as well as other philosophical questions. After a long battle with illness, he died in Krakow in June of 2000 at the age of 69.
Cleveland, Ohio, Jul 12, 2004 (CNA) - A lawsuit, filed by a Catholic professor against an Ohio community college, has freedom of speech for Catholics at stake.
An article in a recent issue of the Christian Science Monitor tells why philosophy professor James Tuttle filed suit June 30 against administrators at Lakeland Community College. The professor claims the college punished him because he disclosed his Catholic beliefs in the classroom.
Tuttle told the Christian Science Monitor that the lawsuit began after a student complained to college administrators in 2003.
As a result, Tuttle claims he received only one class assignment last fall, despite high rankings from students. When the college refused to assign him to his requested classes, he refused to teach at the school.
Jeffrey Brauer, Tuttle's attorney, says the college responded by “demoting, railroading, and terminating” the professor. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a five-year-old legal advocacy group, is representing Tuttle in court.
Many administrators wrongly believe that "a public institution must be cleansed of all religious influence to comply with the Constitution," says FIRE's David French.
Universities can't violate the right of professors to mention religion where it may be appropriate, as in a philosophy class, says Eugene Volokh, professor of law at the University of California at Los Angeles.
"It's understood that students are not impressionable youngsters. They're adults; they're engaged in a consultation with a professor," Volokh told the Christian Science Monitor.
Tuttle is currently driving a limousine for a living and continues to teach part time at another community college.
Winona, Minn., Jul 12, 2004 (CNA) - A Catholic university, located in the Diocese of Winona, issued a statement, declaring that it is free to choose who it will honor, regardless of the local bishop’s recent statement to the contrary, reported the Winona Daily News.
Bishop Bernard Harrington of Winona issued a statement, announcing that the U.S. bishops have decided that Catholic communities and institutions should not grant awards to or bestow honors on those who do not adhere to Catholic Church teaching, such as those who support abortion.
In response, the president of St. Mary’s University, Br. Louis DeThomasis, felt it was necessary to clarify the relationship between the university and the diocese.
The diocese doesn't own or control Saint Mary's University; rather, it is sponsored by the De La Salle Christian Brothers, Br. DeThomasis said.
He explained that the university’s board of trustees, not the diocese, determines who will receive university honors and recognitions.
Honorees are selected “from all walks of life and all faiths who merit recognition for deeds and accomplishments that manifest traits consistent with our identity and mission," he said.
Though the bishop is a member of the board, he is just one of 36 trustees, DeThomasis underlined.
Despite the university’s status as an institution independent of the diocese, DeThomasis said Saint Mary's is committed to teaching “the values and doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church.”
"Of course, we are a Roman Catholic institution of higher learning and we have to listen to not only the bishop of Winona, but to all the bishops of the U.S.," DeThomasis said.
Vatican City, Jul 12, 2004 (CNA) - The Holy Father spoke of the importance of silence in order to listen to the “voice of God,” during the recitation of the Angelus yesterday at his vacation site of Les Combes d’Introd, in the Valle d’Aosta, with 6,000 faithful.
“In this oasis of quiet,” said the Pope, “amidst the marvelous spectacle of nature, one easily senses the value of silence, today an increasingly rare good. The many opportunities for relationships and for information that modern society offers risk sometimes eliminating room for recollection, to the point of making people incapable of reflecting and praying.”
“In reality, only in silence can man succeed in listening, in the intimacy of his conscience, to the voice of God, which truly makes him free. And vacations can help us rediscover and cultivate this indispensable inner dimension of human existence.”
Saying that “the perfect model of listening to God” is Mary, to whom many shrines are dedicated in Valle d'Aosta, he blessed the statue of Our Lady of Gran Paradiso, a mountain in the area where he is vacationing, noting that the statue “had been restored 50 years after being placed on the peak of that majestic mountain.”“May Mary, whom we will celebrate in a few days as Queen of Mount Carmel, help us to see in the beauty of creation a reflection of divine glory, and encourage us to aim with all of our strength to the spiritual peak of holiness,” prayed the Pope.
Lima, Peru, Jul 12, 2004 (CNA) - In a strongly worded statement, the president of the Bishops Conference of Peru, Bishop Hugo Garaycoa Hawkins, is challenging Health Minister Pilar Mazzetti to a public debate concerning the morning after pill.
Bishop Hawkins brought the issue before the “National Accord,” a forum made up of representatives from all levels of society that works for reconciliation and development in the country.
“The Catholic Church is pleased that the National Accord forum has welcomed this proposal to dialogue about the effects of the Emergency Oral Contraceptive—known as the ‘morning after pill’—and the dangers it represents for human life,” the statement said.
The text also explains that the forum “decided that both sides would describe and present their documented evidence.”
“As this is an issue of interest to the public and of a scientific nature,” the statement says, “we suggest the debate take place in an academic environment such as the University of St. Mark, on a day and time agreed to by both parties.”
Bishop Hawkins also announced that “the results of this debate will be presented to the National Accord forum and be made available to the media.”
, Jul 12, 2004 (CNA) - As they wrapped up their General Assembly, the Bishops of Colombia issued a message calling attention to the moral and social crisis the country faces and which reveals a divorce between faith and daily life among believers.
The text, which was signed by Cardinal Pedro Rubiano Saenz, Archbishop of Bogota, points out that “there are marks of holiness in our country’s history and a great number of Colombians are faithful to the Lord,” but there also “exists in many a divorce between faith and daily life, between what many say they believe and what they do in practice.”
“There are so many who call themselves Christians but are not interested in following the Lord Jesus! This is reflected in the disorder affecting the country, due to lies, injustice, the lack of solidarity, and violence,” the statement said.
The statement continues, “The reason for our work during these days is this: when we look at the beginnings of the life of the Church we understand that the normal thing would be that after the proclamation of Jesus Christ and the celebration of the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist, there would follow a Christian way of living consistent with the life which the Lord Himself imparts to us.”
The authentic identity of the Christian, the statement explains, “is found in Christ Himself, from whom [the Christian] receives his name. A Christian is someone who has had a personal encounter with the risen Jesus Christ, and like Peter, the apostles and the first Christians, understands that he is a witness of the same Lord and Savior.”
“He has become his disciple and apostle. The Christian has learned from Christ Himself the love of the merciful Father and, therefore, experiences his relationship with God as one of sonship that surpasses all expectations and fulfills all longings. The authentic Christian understands that he is an active member of the Church, the great family of the children of God,” the statement adds.
In this sense, the statement recalls that “evangelization is the invitation to a simple and spontaneious conversion, which is permanent and full of hope, thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit, which animates and guides the action of the Church.”
And “in order that each person be reached through evangelization, the Church, the great family of the children of God, with the strength of the Holy Spirit, journeys together with each human being from the beginnings of his existence so that, starting with the grace of Baptism, he is brought to maturity in his life in Christ through Confirmation and nourished with the Life of the Lord, who gives Himself to each one in the Eucharist.”
The bishops acknowledge that “one of our very important concerns is the formation of evangelizers and catechists” whose efforts lead to a renewal in the life of faith and the formation of small Christian communities.
Therefore, they expressed their commitment to providing “very special attention to the catechetical and pastoral formation of adults, so that they have all of the means to be able to taste the grace that Jesus has given them through His Spirit and achieve a new and total conversion to the Lord and a commitment to reconciliation, forgiveness and peace for the whole country.”