Vatican City, Sep 20, 2004 (CNA) - Before praying the Angelus at Castelgandolfo on Sunday, Pope John Paul II shared his reflections on the presence of evil in the world today and God’s answer in the death of His Son on the Cross.
"In the face of evil, which shows itself in many forms in the world," he said, "man, afflicted and disconcerted, asks himself 'Why?' At this dawn of the third millennium, blessed by the Great Jubilee and rich in so many possibilities, mankind is marked by the disturbing spread of terrorism. The succession of atrocious attacks on human life upsets and worries consciences and provokes in believers the tormented question that occurs in the Psalms: 'Why, Lord? Up to what point?"
The Holy Father said that "God answered this anguishing question which comes from the scandal of evil, not with an explanation of principle, almost as if to justify it, but with the sacrifice of His own Son on the Cross. In the death of Jesus the apparent triumph of evil and the definitive victory of good come together; the darkest moment in history and the revelation of divine glory; the breaking point and the center of attraction and re-composition of the universe. 'I', said Jesus, 'when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself'."
The Pope concluded by stating that "the Cross of Christ is an icon of hope for all believers, because on it the saving plan of God's love was fulfilled. For this reason the liturgy several days ago invited us to celebrate the exaltation of the holy Cross, a feast from which every believer draws comfort and courage."
Newark, N.J., Sep 20, 2004 (CNA) - No Catholic may legitimately support abortion or embryonic stem-cell research. That was the conclusive message of a letter to the faithful, issued by Archbishop John J. Meyers of Newark Sept. 17.
Acknowledging that many Catholics may be wondering whether they can, in conscience, vote for candidates who support abortion or embryonic stem-cell research – which necessarily destroys the embryo – the archbishop explained the circumstances in which a Catholic could do so.
He also clarified a statement, issued by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, called "On Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion.”
The Vatican statement created some confusion among Catholic voters because of a short note at the end that says Catholics could, in good conscience, vote for candidates who supported abortion or embryonic stem-cell medical research "in the presence of proportionate reasons."
The archbishop clarified the meaning of the often-misunderstood term, “proportionate reasons.” Since the Church teaches that the direct killing of human life at any stage of development is wrong, a Catholic could only vote for a politician who supports these two life-ending procedures if all candidates are in favor of these two procedures on an equal scale, the archbishop explained.
A Catholic can also vote for a pro-abortion politician if the candidate with the superior position on these issues “is a supporter of objective evils of a gravity and magnitude” beyond the harm caused by these two procedures.
“Certainly policies on welfare, national security, the war in Iraq, Social Security or taxes, taken singly or in any combination, do not provide a proportionate reason to vote for a pro-abortion candidate,” said the archbishop.
Abortion and embryonic stem-cell research “are intrinsic and grave evils; no Catholic may legitimately support them,” he said. “In the context of contemporary American social life, abortion and embryo-destructive research are disproportionate evils. They are the gravest human rights abuses of our domestic politics and what slavery was to the time of Lincoln.
“Catholics are called by the Gospel of Life to protect the victims of these human rights abuses,” he concluded.
Vatican City, Sep 20, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II received the Letters of Credence of Nevine Simaika Halim Abadia, new ambassador of Egypt to the Holy See on Saturday and spoke of the role of religion in the creation of a culture of peace and the importance of inter-religious dialogue.
"As the Holy See continues to repeat in this turbulent age," said the Pope, "there can only be lasting peace in international relations when the desire for dialogue prevails over the logic of confrontation.”
“Whether this is in Iraq, where a return to civil peace seems so difficult to establish, or the Holy Land, unfortunately marred by an endless conflict that is fuelled by hatred and a reciprocal desire for vengeance or in other countries where terrorism has so cruelly struck the innocent, everywhere violence reveals its horror and its incapacity to resolve conflicts,” he continued.
“Once again,” stressed the Holy Father, “I remind the international community of its responsibilities to promote a return to reason and negotiation, the only possible solution for conflicts among human beings.”
The Holy Father then spoke about "the specific role in relations among nations" that Egypt occupies due to its culture, political tradition and strategic geographic position.
Citing the new ambassador's speech about the responsibilities of the State toward its citizens, the Pope recalled that one of them was "to guarantee equality of all before the law, as you said, referring to the role of women in Egyptian society, and to promote mutual respect and understanding among the different components of the Nations."
In building up peace, continued the Pope, religions play an important role. "They promote teachings that honor life as a sacred gift from God that man must respect and cherish. ... For this reason, they are called to denounce and reject violence as something contrary to its purpose which is to reconcile human beings with each other and with God.
Since the education of children and young people often falls within their jurisdiction, religions have an important responsibility to assume in the content of their teaching so that sectarian approaches are fought and rejected and, on the contrary, everything that allows for deeper discovery and respect for others is developed and encouraged."
John Paul II also recalled that the presence in Egypt of the University Al-Azhar "which plays an essential role in the Muslim world, is an opportunity for the continuation and the intensification of inter-religious dialogue, especially among Christians and Muslims." In this regard, the Pope affirmed that in addition to meetings of religious leaders it "is equally useful to stimulate respect for and desire of mutual knowledge on the level of people and communities of believers in cities and towns."
Lastly, the Holy Father greeted "the pastors and faithful of different rites that make up the Catholic community in Egypt. I would like all the faithful to be concerned with developing fraternal and constructive relations, putting together their specific richness and rendering homage to Catholic unity."
Vatican City, Sep 20, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II addressed the bishops of the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific at Castelgandolfo on Saturday who had just completed their "ad limina" visit, and urged them to spare no effort in taking pastoral initiatives to strengthen the pastoral life of their dioceses, form priests, and spread the faith.
In his speech in English and French, the Holy Father reminded the prelates that Jesus Christ "continues to turn His loving attention to the peoples of Oceania, drawing them to a still deeper faith and life in Him. ... Even where the life of the Church is filled with signs of growth, no effort can be spared in taking effective pastoral initiatives to make the Lord better known and loved."
"The vibrant pastoral life of your dioceses, which your reports clearly describe, is an uplifting sign for all. The joyful liturgical celebrations, the keen participation of the young in the mission of the Church, the flowering of vocations, and the palpable presence of faith in the civic life of your nations, all attest to God's infinite goodness to his Church."
John Paul II referred to the concerns expressed by the bishops: "The encroachment of secularism, particularly in the form of consumerism, and the long reach of the most insidious aspects of the media, which convey a deformed outlook on life, the family, religion and morality, unsettle the very foundations of traditional cultural values.”
“In the face of such challenges, the peoples of Oceania ... look to you, with great expectation, to be steadfast ministers of truth and audacious witnesses to Christ. They wish for you to be vigilant in seeking new ways to teach faith.”
The Pope indicated that "meeting with and listening to your closest collaborators - priests, religious and catechists - and direct contact with the poor, sick and elderly, will unite your people and enrich your teaching thanks to the concrete example that you offer of humble faith and service."
After highlighting that the bishops are "the primary formators of priests," the Holy Father asked them to carefully supervise seminaries and to propose programs of permanent formation "so that students may build their priestly identity and personality." In addition, he praised priests who left their parish ministry to serve in seminaries and he urged those who have abandoned their ministry for other reasons to return to God "Who is rich in mercy."
After recalling the evangelizing work of men and women religious in the region, the Pope said that "apostolic fruitfulness, generosity in love of the poor, and the ability to inspire vocations among the young depend upon this priority in the spiritual life."
After speaking about catechesis, in which many lay people participate, the Holy Father concluded by saying: "As general educational standards among your communities rise, it is imperative that your people grow in their understanding of the faith and their ability to express its liberating truth. In this regard, I am confident that you will give special consideration to the development of the chaplaincy at the University of the South Pacific where so many of your fine young men and women are being trained as future leaders of your communities."
Vatican City, Sep 20, 2004 (CNA) - The Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff made public today the calendar of celebrations to be presided over by Pope John Paul II from September 28 to December 31, 2004.
- Tuesday, 28: At 6 p.m. at the main altar in St. Peter's Basilica, Mass for the repose of the souls of the deceased Supreme Pontiffs Paul VI and John Paul I.
- Sunday, 3: 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time. At 10 a.m. in St. Peter's Square, beatification of the Servants of God Pierre Vigne, Joseph-Marie Cassant, Anna Katharina Emmerick, Maria Ludovica De Angelis and Charles of Austria.
- Sunday, 17: 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time. At 5:30 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, beginning of the Year of the Eucharist. Mass, Eucharistic adoration and benediction.
- Friday, 22: At 5:30 p.m., Mass for the beginning of the academic year of the ecclesiastic universities.
- Thursday, 11: At 11 a.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Mass for the repose of the souls of the cardinals and bishops who died throughout the year.
- Wednesday, 8: Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady. At 4 p.m. in Piazza di Spagna, homage to Our Lady on the 150th anniversary of the dogmatic definition of the Immaculate Conception.
- Tuesday, 14: At 5:30 p.m. in St. Peter's Basilica, Mass for university students at the Roman Athenaeums.
- Friday, 24: Vigil of the Solemnity of the Birth of Our Lord. Midnight Mass in St. Peter's Basilica.
- Saturday, 25: Solemnity of the Birth of Our Lord. "Urbi et Orbi" blessing at noon in St. Peter's Square.
- Friday, 31: At 6 p.m. in St. Peter's Basilica, Vespers and "Te Deum" of thanksgiving.
, Sep 20, 2004 (CNA) - DVD/VHS sales of the “The Passion of the Christ” continue to soar, despite a campaign that had 100 theologians sign a statement, condemning the Mel Gibson film for being anti-Semitic. About nine million DVDs were sold in the first three weeks of its release.
“Acknowledging that many people have responded positively to the film, we still find it lamentable that Christian leaders so easily pass over its anti-Jewish character in favor of what they perceive to be its positive aspects,” reads the theologians’ statement. “We also acknowledge that many who see the film are honestly unaware of its anti-Jewish elements,” it continues.
In a statement, Catholic League president William Donohue expressed his resentment of the theologians’ “arrogance” and seemingly condescending comments toward people who like the film.
“The success of ‘The Passion of the Christ’ conclusively demonstrates that the unethical campaign to censor the movie and malign the millions who love it has been an abject failure,” said Donohue.
Prior to the film’s release, the film’s critics tried to block the film, saying it would spark a series of anti-Semitic violence around the world. However, in their statement, the theologians admitted that anti-Semitic violence had, in fact, not occurred.
Donohue said this declaration “gives the rest of us a lot of satisfaction knowing just how wrong they’ve been all along.”
Denver, Colo., Sep 20, 2004 (CNA) - Hundreds of Catholic Charities professionals from across the United States will meet in Denver this week to help establish the agency’s social policy priorities and to learn how to sharpen their advocacy skills for the poor and the vulnerable, whom they serve.
Catholic Charities USA's 2004 Annual Gathering, Sept. 23-26, will feature a social policy legislative hearing. At the hearing, local Catholic Charities professionals will present the barriers they face in ensuring access to services for vulnerable families and suggest changes to federal programs and policies to better meet these needs.
These testimonies, presented to Catholic Charities USA's Social Policy Committee, will cover a range of topics, including health care, child welfare, housing, rural issues, immigration, trafficking, and emergency services. These testimonies will help form Catholic Charities USA's legislative agenda for next year.
"The hearing is an important opportunity for our members to share with us the legislative and regulatory changes needed to improve conditions for low-income and vulnerable people in our country," said Lisa Smith, director for health and welfare policy for Catholic Charities USA. "To help shape our national positions and priorities, we look to our local agencies to give us insight on how federal policy affects their communities."
Fr. Fred Kammer, SJ, will kick off the afternoon's testimony. The former president of Catholic Charities USA will discuss issues faced by Jesuits who are working to meet the needs in local communities; what the federal government could do to better those conditions; and how Catholic Charities USA through social policy advocacy efforts might address common concerns.
In addition to the legislative hearing, three advocacy workshops will be offered. They include: Effective Advocacy Partnerships with Your State Catholic Conference; An Introduction to Legislative Advocacy and What is Hot in Washington and Affecting Your Agency?
For program details, go to: www.catholiccharitiesusa.org/gathering/
Calcutta, India, Sep 20, 2004 (CNA) - A campaign on the devastating emotional, physical and spiritual effects of abortion drew women and men on the steps of the U.S. Customs House in downtown Charleston Sept. 18, reported The Post and Courier.
The National Silent No More Awareness Campaign seeks to make the public aware of the physical, emotional and spiritual devastation abortion can bring to women, men and their families. It was co-founded by Priest for Life and the National Organization of Episcopalians for Life.
"A lot of men don't speak out about abortion and the way it affects their life," Steven Grgach was quoted as saying from the steps Customs House.
The 26-year-old’s girlfriend became pregnant when he was 15 years old, and her parents forced him to pay for an abortion. He said the death of his child through abortion 11 years ago has caused him years of depression and suicide attempts. Grgach said he's still in the process of healing.
Grgach is like many people, both male and female, who suffer with guilt or shame after an abortion, said Teresa Byas, campaign coordinator, who only came to terms with her abortion, which she had in the 1970s, about six years ago.
The goals of the National Silent No More Awareness Campaign are to reach out to those who have had an abortion and to invite women and men to speak the truth about abortion's consequences in order to bring about healing.
For more information on the National Silent No More Awareness Campaign, call 1-800-707-NOEL.
Lima, Peru, Sep 20, 2004 (CNA) - The General Secretary of the Bishops Conference of Peru, Bishop Juan Jose Larrañeta, told reporters this week the Peruvian bishops just want to find out the truth about the attempt to besmirch the Archbishop of Lima, Cardinal Juan Luis Cripriani and the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Rino Passigato.
This week, a lawyer accused Bishop Jorge Carrion of Puno, and by implication the bishop emeritus of Chimbote, Bishop Luis Bambaren, of falsifying three letters that were delivered to the Vatican in 2001 by then Minister of Justice, Fernando Olivera, which accused Cardinal Cipriani and the Nuncio of ties to the corrupt government of former Prime Minister Alberto Fujimori.
After the Vatican declared the letters to be fakes, the Peruvian government was forced to apologize to Cardinal Cipriani and the Apostolic Nuncio and to launch an official investigation, since the incident sullied the State’s image.
In addition to accusing Bishop Bambaren of crimes against the public faith through document forgery, Attorney Mirtha Salinas also named as part of her lawsuit Juan Rojas Saavedra, a former employee of the Bishops Conference, and former Ambassador Augusto Dammert Leon, a collaborator of the Bishops Conference.
Bishop Bambaren, ex-president of the Conference, admitted to reporters that he made “a mistake” by not notifying Cardinal Cipriani at the time that the letters shown to him by Minister Olivera tied him to the mafia of ex-presidential adviser Vladimiro Montesinos, who is currently in prison. However, he denied any involvement in the forgeries.
Bishop Larrañeta stated that the “Church is uncomfortable” with the lawsuit but that “the only thing to do is respect the law, although this incident does not bode well for the Church.”
He said that as bishops the only thing to do is “wait for the results and see how the process of making a decision will unfold.”
He also added that on September 21, the Executive Committee of the Bishops Conference will meet to more fully analyze the accusations against the two bishops.
Bishop Larrañeta concluded by saying the Conference may issue an official statement on Tuesday “if it is deemed pertinent.”
Santiago, Chile, Sep 20, 2004 (CNA) - Presiding at an ecumenical recitation of the Te Deum on the country’s Independence Day, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz of Chile called on Chileans to work to restore trust.
During the ceremony at the Archdiocesan Cathedral, which was attended by government authorities and representatives of different denominations, the Cardinal pointed out that “the reporting of possible crimes, the revealing of information, true or false, regarding ongoing investigations by the courts and the rush to judgment by certain media outlets have suprised us with various scandals, whether they be true, apparent, or simply non-existent.
Cardinal Errazuriz argued that some media outlets “do not adequately transmit the reality” of the country and he warned that “the reality of certain scandalous actions and the continual reporting of the names of those blamed for such things, whether they are economic crimes, drug trafficking, the abuse of children, the trafficking and consumption of drugs, etc, ends up eroding trust.”
“Many Chileans wonder, who can we believe? Where are the honest people and the credible institutions that we can fully trust?” he underscored.
Cardinal Errazuriz insisted that Chileans want “to live in peace, but social peace demands a climate of trust. This is what we most want. Trust unites us together, strengthens relationships, helps us to work together and to ackowledge acts of kindness by others.”
Konigstein, Germany, Sep 20, 2004 (CNA) - During a visit to the international headquarters of Aid to the Church in Need, a collaborator with the Diocese of Guantanamo-Baracoa, Cuba, said the Church in Cuba needs help in order to “move ahead with evangelization” and that although the Church is “tolerated” by the government, she is facing a very difficult situation.
“In Cuba, the Catholic Church is tolerated, but it is barely possible to move ahead with evangelization,” said Elme Castillo, collaborator of Bishop Carlos Jesus Patricio Baladron-Valdes of Guantanamo-Baracoa.
According to Castillo, in Cuba the media “is controlled by the government and intensely promotes the official atheistic ideology of communism.”
Likewise, he stated that his diocese, like all others in Cuba, lacks almost any financial resources and depends on foreign help.
“The situation in the country, both for the people and for the Church, could not be worse than it is today,” he said, warning that after Castro “many people will be confused and there will be a power struggle, but we must trust in God and not in the structures of man.”
In 2003, Aid to the Church in Need sent over one million dollars to the Church in Cuba.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sep 20, 2004 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro published this week a voting guide for Catholics who will go to the ballot box on October 3 for municipal elections.
Based on Christian ethics and on the social teaching of the Church, the 12-point document of the Archdiocese led by Cardinal Eusebio Scheid exhorts Catholics to vote responsibly and denounces several of the most serious problems facing the country, such as unemployment, prostitution, drug use, and child labor exploitation.
The guide, which was sent to over 246 parishes, urges Brazilians to work to improve the living conditions for the country’s large poor population.
It also warns the faithful concerning candidates whose campaigns have become overly negative or bureaucratic and encourages the forming of “local committees to oversee the electoral process,” calling on voters to reject offers to buy their votes in exchange for personal favors or benefits.
The Archdiocese took the occasion of the release of the guide to defend an “integral formation of the human person, including his religious dimension,” and called for the implementation of a municipal law that permits religion to be taught in public schools.
The guide concludes with a call to the faithful to make the coming elections “a gesture of love for the city.”