Archive of September 13, 2004

Bishops must lead U.S. Church toward renewal through holy witness

Vatican City, Sep 13, 2004 (CNA) - United States bishops must continue to lead the U.S. Church on the road toward authentic renewal in the aftermath of the sexual-abuse scandals by their authority, based on the model of the Good Shepherd, and their genuine witness to the Gospel, said Pope John Paul II.

The pontiff made these comments to a delegation of bishops from Pennsylvania and New Jersey, who had gathered for their regular visit to the Vatican, held every five years.

The Pope acknowledged that many of the bishops had expressed “their concern about the crisis of confidence in the Church’s leadership provoked by the recent sexual abuse scandals, the general call for accountability in the Church’s governance on every level and the relations between Bishops, clergy and the lay faithful.”

The sexual-abuse scandal was a call for authentic renewal in the U.S. Church, which will require a re-evaluation of its institutions in the light of the Gospel and a focus on personal conversion rather than on good administration, the Pope told the bishops.

“In the present circumstances of the Church in America, this [renewal] will entail a spiritual discernment and critique of certain styles of governance which, even in the name of a legitimate concern for good ‘administration’ and responsible oversight, can run the risk of distancing the pastor from the members of his flock, and obscuring his image as their father and brother in Christ,” said the Pope.

Bishops must be wary of creating a distance between them and their flock, said the pontiff. They must seek more collaboration with all faithful and aim at “fostering communion and mission,” he added.

“A commitment to creating better structures of participation, consultation and shared responsibility should not be misunderstood as a concession to a secular ‘democratic’model of governance,” said the Pope, “but as an intrinsic requirement of the exercise of episcopal authority and a necessary means of strengthening that authority”.

“Bishops need to be esteemed as successors of the Apostles not only in authority and sacred power, but above all by their apostolic life and witness,” he said.

“The painful period of self-examination provoked by the events of the past two years will bear spiritual fruit only if it leads the whole Catholic community in America to a deeper understanding of the Church’s authentic nature and mission, and a more intense commitment to making the Church in your country reflect, in every aspect of her life, the light of Christ’s grace and truth,” said the Pope.

The Pope concluded by restating his “profound conviction that the documents of the Second Vatican Council need to be carefully studied and taken to heart by all the faithful,” in order to bring about authentic renewal in the Church.

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John Paul II prays with U.S. bishops on Sept. 11

Vatican City, Sep 13, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II joined the bishops of Pennsylvania and New Jersey in praying for an end to terrorism on the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States. The bishops were in Rome Saturday for their scheduled meeting with the Pope, which is held every five years.

“I assure you of my closeness to the American people and I join you in praying for an end to the scourge of terrorism and the growth of the civilization of love,” he told them.

The dioceses in the state of Pennsylvania and New Jersey were particularly struck by the terrorist attacks of 2001. One plane had crashed in a Pennsylvania farm field; no one on the flight survived the crash. As well, many of those who worked in the towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, lived in New Jersey, located just across the Hudson River.

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Mary’s maternal love inspires us to open our hearts to the suffering of others, says Pope

Vatican City, Sep 13, 2004 (CNA) - In a message marking the occasion of the 17th International Meeting on Mariology, the Holy Father said that  "Mary, with a heart pierced by a sword of sorrow, encourages us to liven our faith in the One Who saved us, shedding His precious blood for all of mankind.”

“Her maternal love inspires us to open our hearts to the suffering of others, especially those who are searching for valid answers to the profound questions of life,” he continued.

The message was addressed to Bishop Lucio Soravito de Franceschi from Adria-Rovigo, Italy, where the meeting will take place from September 10 to 12.

The meeting, promoted by the Congregation of the Reparation Servants of Mary commemorates the 50 anniversary of the coronation of the image of Our Lady of Sorrows in Rovigo.

“The theme, 'Our Lady's gaze on the modern world,' invites us to consider the happy and distressing events of our age through the Virgin's eyes,” writes the Pope in the message dated September 8, feast of the Nativity of Our Lady.

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May Mary watch over mankind in this hour marked by violence, says Pope

Vatican City, Sep 13, 2004 (CNA) - During his address before Sunday’s Angelus prayer at Castelgandolfo, John Paul II, noting that "according to an ancient tradition, today is the feast of the name of Mary,” prayed that She “watch over mankind in this hour marked by shocking explosions of violence." said the Pope.

He said that her name is “indissolubly linked with that of Jesus” and it “was to her that the dying Jesus entrusted everyone as children.”

“May she especially watch over the new generations who are so anxious to build a future of hope for everyone,” he prayed. “I felt this great hope for a world of justice and peace in the children, young people and adults of Italian Catholic Action whom I met last Sunday in Loreto on the occasion of their national pilgrimage.”

“As I think of their witness,” the pope concluded, “I wish here to recall the three instructions I entrusted to Catholic Action in Loreto: 'contemplation' to walk on the path of holiness; 'communion' to promote the spirituality of unity; and 'mission' to be evangelical leaven in every place.”

“May Our Lady help Catholic Action to enthusiastically pursue their commitment to apostolic witness, always working in close contact with the hierarchy, and participating in a responsible way for parish and diocesan action.”

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Pope “deeply saddened” over death of Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria

Vatican City, Sep 13, 2004 (CNA) - This morning Pope John Paul II sent a telegram to the Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa expressing his sadness upon the death of Patriarch Petros VII of Alexandria in a plane crash, and remembering the “spiritual closeness” he shared with him:

“I was deeply saddened to learn of the tragic death of His Beatitude Petros VII, patriarch of the illustrious See of Alexandria, whom the Lord has called to Himself together with Their Excellencies Metropolitans Irinaios of Pelusium and Chrysostomos of Karthagena, Bishop Nektarios of Madagascar, the patriarchal vicars of Athens and Cyprus, and several associates and family members.”

“The tragic death of Patriarch Petros VII during a journey to the Holy Mountain is a source of great sorrow and grief for the Orthodox sister Churches of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, for the Bishop of Rome and in the Catholic Church and for all those who esteemed the late patriarch's ministry to the Church in Africa and his commitment to Christian unity.”

“I myself recall with gratitude our fraternal exchanges of letters, our spiritual closeness, the participation of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria in significant events like the 'World Day of Prayer for World Peace' in Assisi in 2002, and his constructive contribution to theological dialogue in the Orthodox Churches as a whole and with the international mixed commission.”

“I pray that the Lord will grant 'grace upon grace' to His faithful servant and will welcome him and his earthly traveling companions into the eternal light and peace reserved for God's righteous ones. At the same time I beseech the spirit of wisdom to guide and sustain the Patriarchate of Alexandria at this time of sadness.”

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Cooperation among peoples, religions, and cultures is urgent, says Cardinal

Vatican City, Sep 13, 2004 (CNA) - On Saturday September 11, Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, stressed the “pressing urgency” of cooperation among cultures towards the goal of world peace, during an event entitled “In Memory of Spetember 11 – Dialogue for Peace.”

The cardinal said that he was "deeply moved" to participate in an event that "brings us together in the name of dialogue for peace ... in memory of September 11, a date that tragically marked our memory and continues to mark our memory and our common history."

"September 11," he said, "represents the beginning of a new phase of cruelty and lack of humanity, characterized by the killing of innocent people. We were all horrified by the images of the children in Beslan. ... It seems that humanity has regressed by centuries or millennia in recent months and days."

After recalling the kidnapping of two young Italian volunteers in Baghdad, which "like that of so many other civilians, has no justification," he said: "We cannot accept this regression of humanity on the part of these cruel and heartless people, for whom men and women do not exist but are only objects to use and to kill without any respect for the sacred nature of human life.”

“We cannot become accustomed to this way of living, to this loss of the meaning of human life, of its sacredness and intangible nature.”

"This evening," he concluded, "we want to reaffirm that cooperation among peoples, religions and cultures is not just a secondary decision but a pressing urgency, a true necessity: we are all called to work together as a human family to achieve world peace."

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World’s largest shrine to St. Joseph celebrates 100 years

Montreal, Canada, Sep 13, 2004 (CNA) - The world’s largest shrine dedicated to St. Joseph is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

St. Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal will kick off its centennial celebrations Oct. 17 with a mass, celebrated by Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte, archbishop of Montreal, who will consecrate the basilica.

The basilica, which was begun in 1924 and completed in 1967, has never been consecrated. In 1954, Pope Pius XII raised the oratory to the status of Minor Basilica.

Visited by some two million people per year, the oratory is the most popular pilgrimage site in Montreal.

The rector, Fr. Jean-Pierre Aumont, CSC, has issued “a friendly and warm invitation…to come and discover or rediscover a unique place of spirituality, dialogue and peace, where nature, the sacred, history and culture come together in harmony.”

Centennial celebrations include several religious ceremonies, art exhibits, a theatrical production, music concerts, a family picnic and several pilgrimages, undertaken by the Canadian Armed Forces, the Knights of Columbus, the Scouts and Guides, and the Montreal police and fire departments among others.

Humble servant

The oratory was founded by Blessed Br. André Bessette, CSC. The humble Holy Cross brother had served for 40 years as the doorkeeper at Collège Notre-Dame, located just across the street from the present-day oratory.
He dreamed of building a shrine to St. Joseph on the slope of the hill, saying “St. Joseph needs a place.” He would often walk and pray on the slope of the mountain, dropping medals of St. Joseph into the soft soil and asking St. Joseph to provide a means for his congregation to purchase of piece of land.

In 1904, Br. André built a small wooden chapel on Mount Royal and lived in the tight quarters above it. Ten years later, the construction of the church began and the small chapel developed into an expansive site, which now includes a crypt church, a basilica, a votive chapel and a museum. Its grounds include a garden and a larger-than-life-sized Way of the Cross.

The oratory, with its many meeting rooms, is also the site of numerous religious conferences and events. It continues to be under the care of the Congregation of the Holy Cross.

Br. André was also renowned for healing physical ailments. Many miraculous cures took place, thanks to Br. André’s prayer and intercession with St. Joseph’s Oil, oil which he burned in front of a statue of St. Joseph. Many of the crutches and canes of the people who were healed are on display in the votive chapel. The Holy Cross brother always credited the healings to St. Joseph.

Br. André died in 1937 and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1982.

For more information on the centennial celebrations and on the oratory, go to:

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Shoot begins for film on the life of Pope John Paul II

Warsaw, Poland, Sep 13, 2004 (CNA) - An Italian production crew has begun shooting for a made-for-TV movie about the life of Pope John Paul II.

The film, shot in the pontiff’s native Poland, is an adaptation of an historical account by Italian writer Gian Franco Svidercoschi. Director Giacomo Battiato selected 32-year-old actor Piotr Adamczyk to play the Pope.

"Karol, the story of a man who became pope" will be broadcast in two 90-minute segments on Italian television. The movie will be completed by spring 2005, but no date has been set for the broadcast. The first part of the film is set during World War II and the second part is set in post-War Poland. Some scenes will be shot at the Vatican.

The shoot this past weekend consisted of scenes of a young Karol Wojtyla kayaking in Lake Dobczyce near Krakow, where he later served as bishop. The Pope has reportedly seen the screenplay.

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Holy See denounces death of Chinese bishop in prison and demands release of those under arrest

Vatican City, Sep 13, 2004 (CNA) - The Holy See’s Press Office has released an official statement denouncing the death of a 76 year-old Chinese bishop who had been imprisoned since the late 1990’s and demanding that all Catholic clerics under arrest by the Communist regime be released.

The Director of the Vatican’s Press Office, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, said the Holy See learned “that at the end of August 76 year-old Bishop Giovanni Gao Kexian of Yantai (Shandong province) died in prison.  The bishop’s body was turned over to family members by police.  Bishop Gao had been imprisoned since the late 1990’s and relatives had not received word from him for sometime.”

Navarro-Valls also said that “only now” has the Holy See learned that in the first of week of August police rounded up eight priests and two seminary students of the Baoding diocese in Hebei province. 

He also stated that Fathers Pablo An Jianzhao and Juan Bautista Zhang Zhenquan “have been condemned to a period of reeducation through forced labor.  The others might still be held in Quyang (Baoding), with the exception of three who do not belong to this diocese.”

According to reports the Holy See received on September 6, “23 members of the clergy of the Diocese of Baoding are being detained or deprived of their liberty.”

“Among them are Bishop Santiago Su Zhimin and his Auxiliary Bishop Francisco An Shuxin, who disappeared in September of 1997 and March of 1996 respectively, and are being detained without trial in a secret place.”

Navarro-Valls also denounced the arrest of the Diocesan administrator of the Archdiocese of Fuzhou, together with two priests and a seminarian.

 "The reasons for such repressive measures have not been made known to the Holy See. If the received news turns out to be true, we find ourselves once again faced with a grave violation of freedom of religion, which is a fundamental right of man," he said.

Lastly, the Vatican called for “respect for this right, sanctioned by the Universal Declaration of Human rights, and the Holy See trusts that the persons mentioned above will have their freedom reinstated and will be able to carry out their pastoral commitment in service to their respective Christian communities.”

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Bishop calls on Cubans to live authentic charity as they celebrate their patroness

Havana, Cuba, Sep 13, 2004 (CNA) - During his traditional radio address on the feast of Our Lady of Charity, Patroness of Cuba, Bishop Emilio Aranguren of Cienfuegos asked Cubans to live out the virtue of charity beginning with their own families.

In one of the few opportunities the Church has to access the media, Bishop Aranguren recalled that this year the Cuban bishops have proposed “reinvigorating family life through the values of the Gospel, declaring 2004 as the ‘Year of the Family’.”

“Our Lady of Charity, as Mother not only of the family at Nazareth, but also of the disciples of her Son and therefore of our families, as any good mother, would want to see her children united in harmony, helping each other in their needs, respecting each other’s differences, living in peace in order to benefit from a world and a society that are ever more fraternal and enhanced,” he said.

According to the bishop, the homage the “Mother of all Cubans” expects from her children goes beyond the flowers and the candles.  “Surely she would be more pleased if, together with that exterior homage of our love, we were to take more seriously the attention we give to our families, which is the best investment in life,” he added.

Bishop Aranguren proposed some concrete steps for all Cubans to live out the virtue of charity, such as helping those who are alone or estranged, letting go of resentments towards parents or family members, “and not counting wrongs.  This is not only good and beneficial for the growth of the person who receives it, but also of the one who gives it.”

Bishop Aranguren also said “work and television often rob us of precious time away from our families,” a complaint made particularly by young people.

“Perhaps the older members of the family or those who are sick need a word of encouragement, a short visit that helps mitigate loneliness or pain, a smile or a small gesture that manifests the tenderness of God,” he said.

The bishop also asked those who are ill to offer their “personal and very silent suffering for the living out of Christian values in their family members: children, grandchildren and others.  Offering up in silence bears abundant and unexpected fruit.”

Bishop Aranguren recalled that “Our Lady of Charity is the mother of all Cuban families because she also has helped our people in many ways,” a fact forever etched in the memory of countless Cubans throughout the years.

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Mexican bishops demand hazardous effects of morning after pill be made known

Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 13, 2004 (CNA) - Several Mexican bishops are demanding government officials inform the public regarding the abortifacient nature of the morning after pill, which is now for sale in the country’s pharmacies, and regarding the pill’s adverse effects on women’s health.

Bishop Rodrigo Aguilar Martinez of Matehuala and President of the Bishops Committee for the Family lamented that in “the plurality of ideas prevalent in society, truth ends up losing, as there is a lack of information in society regarding the harmful effects on the consumer of the pill.”

Bishop Aguilar said that considering the serious scientific studies that warn of the risks the pill poses, it is inconceivable that “nobody wants to admit the truth and adequately inform society.”

He lamented that government officials do not want to acknowledge facts that are scientifically supported and that show that emergency contraception is abortifacient and dangerous.

The bishop called on young people to promote a more noble understanding of sexuality, as “the fruit of love within the context of Christian marriage.”   The Catholic Church, he said, “will not change its position on the use of this pill.”

 For his part, Bishop Ramon Godinez Flores of Aguascalientes said dialogue with the country’s health officials will continue in order to prevent the commercialization of the pill, as its use is harmful to the unity of the family and leads to the death of the unborn.

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HLI salutes Portuguese Pro-life groups for fighting against Dutch abortion ship

Miami, Fla., Sep 13, 2004 (CNA) - Human Life International sent congratulations last week to the Portuguese pro-life group “Maternity and Life” for its intense efforts to prevent the Dutch abortion ship operated by “Women on Waves” from coming to Portugal, and for launching a lawsuit against one of the feminist organization’s leaders.

HLI’s president Father Thomas Euteneuer congratulated Maternity and Life and its director, Francisco Jose Coelho da Rocha, for working for the unborn and supporting the Portuguese government in its “rejection of the abortion extremists who entered their territorial waters.”

The abortion ship operated by Women on Waves was not able to dock in Portugal and pick up women who were to be later provided abortions in international waters because the Portuguese government refused to allow the ship entry.  Abortion is a crime in Portugal.

“Those who abuse unborn children have no respect for human life,” said Father Euteneuer, referring to Women on Waves founder, Rebecca Gomperts, who appeared on television “teaching” women who to take drugs similar to RU-486 in order induce abortion at home.

Maternity and Life presented a lawsuit against Gomperts for inciting illegal abortion, saying the consuming of the drugs is very dangerous for the life of the mother and her child, in cases where the child survives the attempted abortion.

While the abortion ship was anchored off the coast of Portugal, hundreds of volunteers protested holding signs that read, “Those who love do not kill.”

“We especially salute Dr. Paulo Portas, Portugal’s Defense Minister, for his rapid deployment of the Portuguese navy, which prevented the violation of its national sovereignty,” said Father Euteneur.

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