Vatican City, Sep 16, 2004 (CNA) - This morning at Castelgandolfo, Pope John Paul II received 130 French-, Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking bishops from Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas and exhorted them to be models of Christian life, guardians of faith and to evangelize tirelessly in their “often tried” communities.
In his speech in French, to the bishops who participated in a formation seminar promoted by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Pope expressed his joy "at the vitality of your churches. In all cultures, they are called to show the communion of the one Church of Christ, in fidelity to the Magisterium.
“Your first concern,” said the Holy Father, “is to be diligent guardians of the integrity of the faith and the unity of the Church. Called to follow Christ, strive to increase communion with the Roman Pontiff and with other bishops, especially within the same Episcopal conference and ecclesiastic province.”
"Be models," he said, "for the Christian community, drawing the strength to be servants of the Gospel from a spiritual life, an intense sacramental life and permanent formation."
"In order to guide the faithful to true sanctity and to express Christian hope, may each one of you make St. Paul's outlook your own: 'Evangelizing is not a reason for pride but a duty that is imposed on me. Woe to me if I do not announce the Gospel!"
John Paul II asked the bishops, who he recognized were returning to their "often tried" communities, to assure their faithful that he was praying for them and for their intentions.
He concluded with a message for the priests of the bishops’ respective dioceses: "Tell your pastors that the Church counts on them to be witnesses with their word and their life. May Our Lady, Queen of Missions, help you in the service that has been entrusted to you."
Chicago, Ill., Sep 16, 2004 (CNA) - Loyola University Chicago, a Jesuit institution, has ignored a request by Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago, that they cancel this year’s granting of the Saint Robert Bellarmine award to avowed pro-abortionist Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
In a statement issued on September 15 the university affirmed that the award will go to Attorney General Madigan who “has indeed distinguished herself as a public servant.”
The statement then goes on to insist on the university’s Catholic identity and emphasises it’s “many efforts to nurture our students’ faith.”
The university’s decision, however, ignores not only Cardinal George’s request but also the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ July 2004 statement on Catholics in Political Life which states that: “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”
Boston, Mass., Sep 16, 2004 (CNA) - In a final attempt to keep their parishes open, parishioners continue to occupy two Boston churches slated for closure, reported the Boston Globe.
Earlier this year, Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley decided to close 82 of the archdiocese's 357 parishes, saying the closings are necessary because of changing demographics, a dwindling number of priests, and fewer churchgoing Catholics.
However, some parishioners are unhappy about the archbishop’s decision and have taken radical action to keep their churches open.
The archdiocese planned to close two parishes yesterday, St. Anselm in Sudbury and St. James in Medford, which would have brought the number of parishes closures to 23 since July 25. But parishioners at St. Anselm began occupying the church in anticipation of its scheduled closing at noon yesterday. Parishioners have occupied another church, St. Albert the Great in Weymouth, since Aug. 29, said the Globe.
Two other parishes have reportedly filed civil suits, and many have filed canonical appeals. At least one parish has even appealed to the Pope after Archbishop O’Malley rejected the initial appeal, reported the Globe.
Archbishop O'Malley appealed to Catholics on Boston Catholic Television Sept. 14, to understand why parishes must close and “to make greater sacrifices” for the good of the archdiocese.
In the interview, the archbishop defended his decision to close parishes, but said he understood some parishioners were unhappy. He made no reference to the occupied churches.
The bishop said he was pleased that many parishes have closed quietly, saying: ''In so many parishes, with the excellent leadership of their priests, people have come to understand the painful reality we're going through and embrace it with hope . . . that out of this will come a stronger church."
Archdiocesan spokesman Fr. Christopher J. Coyne told the Globe that the archdiocese is trying to arrange for a mediator to begin communications between the occupied churches and the archdiocese.
Tucson, Ariz., Sep 16, 2004 (CNA) - Illegal immigrants from Mexico continue to make the journey into the United States because of their faith, says a recent report in the Tucson Citizen.
The conflict that exists between Mexican illegal immigrants and U.S. law is partly a function of faith, explained Ruben Davalos, director of evangelism and Hispanic ministry with the Diocese of Tucson.
Religion is deeply ingrained in the Mexican culture and Mexican immigrants do not consider crossing the border as a sin or as a break away from biblical law, he explained.
The report comments on how the typical Mexican immigrant carries with him a Bible, medals and images of saints, and votive candles. Candles are found along the trails that lead into the U.S.; some of them are found still burning, says the report.
For Mexicans, religion offers solace in the face of economic difficulties and a life lived under corrupt government, said Davalos.
The report also included testimony of some immigrants’ trust in God and their belief in His guidance and protection.
Wes Bramhall, president of Arizonans for Immigration Control, told the Citizen that he empathizes with the immigrants but said that the laws of the land must be maintained. Bramhall’s group promotes public awareness of the cost of illegal immigration.
, Sep 16, 2004 (CNA) - A Catholic community network, which has helped more than 3,000 women with pregnancies and parenting, celebrated its 15th anniversary Sept. 14.
Catholic Family Services' Caring Network provides counseling, helps with adoptions, offers assistance in obtaining prenatal care and proper nutrition and offers childbirth-preparation and parenting classes.
The main speaker at the anniversary event witnessed to how the Caring Network changed her life. Misty Larthridge spoke about how, 12 years ago as a scared single mother pregnant with her second child and considering suicide, she received care and counseling at the center, reported The Kalamazoo Gazette.
Her experience there inspired Larthridge to change her mind. She got a part-time job and went back to school. She earned a bachelor's degree at Spring Arbor University and is currently working on a master's degree in counseling, said the newspaper.
Larthridge is now an outreach worker for transitional housing at the YWCA in Kalamazoo. She is also married and has four sons. She said the program helped restore her dignity.
The event Tuesday also marked a decade since the William and Katherine Van Domelen Center, which houses the program, opened. Bill Van Domelen, the center's benefactor, was among the 100 who attended. He donated an initial $1 million to construct the building and assist with operational costs.
Since the program started, it has assisted 3,400 women in the Kalamazoo area.
The program's Warmline gives emotional support and guidance 24 hours a day to pregnant women and young mothers. It also offers a post-partum-depression support service and provides baby clothes, diapers and furniture.
Since 1996, Caring Network has operated four apartment units next to the Van Domelen Center for expectant or young mothers. The network started a new family-literacy program this year called "Read Me a Story."
Chicago, Ill., Sep 16, 2004 (CNA) - As many as 10 parishes may close in the Archdiocese of Chicago this year. The archbishop, Frances Cardinal George, approved the closures and the auxiliary bishop sent a letter informing parishes of their possible closure in a letter Sept. 12.
The closures, which were considered necessary due to changing demographics, lack of finances and low mass attendance, were approved after nearly two years of consultation with parishioners. Some parishes counted as few as 87 families on their rolls.
Parish closures do not necessarily mean church sales. Some parishes will merge with others. St. Agatha’s Parish, Blessed Sacrament, Presentation and Our Lady of Lourdes will likely become one parish cluster, but the churches will continue to be used. In another situation, St. Malachy, a primarily African- American parish, will merge with Precious Blood, a Hispanic parish.
In Austin, St. Martin de Porres will be home to St. Angela and Our Lady Help of Christians. Church officials say that while churches are closing, all schools will remain open and continue to provide social services and senior activities.
While church officials admit it will be difficult for some parishioners, they say the new organization is necessary, given fewer resources. The closures, they say, are necessary in order to continue effective ministry and outreach.
, Sep 16, 2004 (CNA) - The more than 80 homeless people who occupied a church in central Bogota this Tuesday decided to leave the church after reaching an agreement with government officials.
Father Dario Echeverry, pastor of the Church of National Hope, was the mediator between the government and the group of homeless, and he reported that officials agreed to postpone the expulsion of the homeless from the area known as El Cartucho and to find them temporary housing.
Konigstein, Germany, Sep 16, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop Jaime Vieira Rocha of Caico, Brazil, warned this week that sects in the country are redoubling their efforts to influence national, regional and local politics.
The bishop made his statements during a recent visit to the international headquarters of the Catholic association Aid to the Church in Need.
Bishop Rocha, whose diocese is in the state of Rio Grande do Norte in northeastern Brazil, said a prominent regional politician, “who is a member of the Assembly of God, prefers to subsidize projects proposed by local authorities who are predominantly members of that sect.”
Moreover, he cited the case of another sect, the “Universal Church of the Kingdom of God,” which has over 500 individuals running for office in upcoming local elections.
According to the bishop, in order to address these situations, “the Catholic Church should reinforce its presence in public life and make people aware that the Church is close to them.” In addition he emphasized the need for Catholics to have a greater social commitment.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sep 16, 2004 (CNA) - During his weekly television program, “Keys for and a Better World,” Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata, Argentina, said “teaching is not only a job or a profession. It is all this, without a doubt, but it is much more.”
In his comments the archbishop underscored the work of those teachers who “heroically carry out their work as a vocation.”
He also recalled that teachers have “the vocation to educate, and to educate means to bring out a child’s or an adolescent’s potentiality in order to achieve what we want him or her to be: a good man or woman and, in the case of Catholic education, a good Christian.”
“We all remember some teacher whose memory has profoundly marked our personality,” he said, and Jesus Christ is the “Teacher par excellence.”
“There are 41 instances in the gospels in which Jesus is referred to as Teacher,” he explained.
“What a great patron teachers of this earth have!” the archbishop said, and he asked the “Teacher par excellence to abundantly bless the teachers of Argentina.”
Abuja, Nigeria, Sep 16, 2004 (CNA) - Presiding at the Te Deum for the 194th anniversary of Cochabamba, Bolivia, Archbishop Tito Solari of Cochabamba warned this week that those who are corrupt do not know God and have not heard His message.
“Corruption is a terrible evil with consequences especially for the poor. And whoever robs those who can’t defend themselves has not known God nor received his message of love,” the archbishop said during the ceremony, which was attended by President Carlos Mesa, several cabinet members and some local officials.
Archbishop Solari recalled that the nature of God is love and those who call themselves disciples or claim to believe in Him should demonstrate it by their actions.
Service, respect, honesty, care for others, are the fruits of the unconditional love of God in people, said the archbishop. “Corruption is the opposite, it is the direct denial of this love, the appropriation of goods that are not our own, it is robbery, and it harms the needy, the poor and those who cannot defend themselves. How sad, what a pity, what harm we cause people because of corruption,” he said.
Likewise, he pointed out that corruption is a cancer whose cure can be found in the love of God and in the change of heart which translates into an education with authentic Christian values, capable of a revolutionizing the old ways of thinking and acting. “This is the only way towards progress in the third millennium, there is no other,” he said.
He also recalled that consumerism, unemployment, the breakdown of the family and other problems have unleashed a climate of insecurity around the world. “By addressing the causes, we can deal with the effects. Insecurity in the world is called terrorism, here it has another name, but the basis of it all is the same, the lack of attention to those most in need,” he pointed out.