Vatican City, Sep 22, 2004 (CNA) - In today’s weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope John Paul II emphasized the transformative power of Christ’s solidarity with humanity and the “courageous faith” with which He patiently accepted suffering, thus healing our wounded humanity and guiding us towards God’s beautiful plan.
The Pope spoke on the hymn of the second chapter of the first letter of St. Peter, "The voluntary passion of Christ, Servant of God," saying that it "presents the face of the suffering Christ to us" and recalls the prayer of the early Church. "He bore our sins in His body...so that we would live for justice, not for sin. Through His wounds, we have been healed."
"'He is the patient Christ," the Pope continued, "He who committed no sin, He who was reviled, did not ask vendetta. ... It is He, Christ, who starts on the bitter path of the passion, without opposing injustice and violence, without recriminations or complaint, but giving Himself and His painful situation to 'the One Who judges with justice'.
“It is not, therefore, a blind and passive resignation but a courageous faith, destined to be an example for all his disciples who will go down the dark path of trial and persecution.”
The Holy Father highlighted that Christ "is presented as the Savior, uniting himself to us in His human 'body'. ... He is and always will be the Son of God and His solidarity with us is radically transforming, liberating, purifying and saving."
"In this way," he concluded, "our poor humanity, wounded by the twisted and perverse ways of evil, is guided toward 'justice,' the beautiful plan of God. The last sentence of the hymn is particularly moving: 'By His wounds we have been healed.' We see here the great price Christ paid for our salvation."
Tucson, Ariz., Sep 22, 2004 (CNA) - The Diocese of Tucson may have filed for bankruptcy protection, but its Catholics are hardly bankrupt of their faith. Tucson Catholics are keeping their faith and are standing behind their bishop and his decision Monday to ensure the future of the diocese by filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Several parishioners told the Tucson Citizen that that they think Bishop Gerald Kicanas made the right decision and that they will continue to practice their faith and support the Church despite the current sexual-abuse scandal and allegations. Others said they now plan to make larger financial contributions to the diocese while some said this ordeal has made their faith grow stronger.
Parishioners have also taken the bishop up on his call to pray for the victims of sexual abuse and for healing in the diocese.
Bishop Kicanas had announced Monday that the diocese had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and had submitted a plan of reorganization to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Arizona.
In a letter to parishioners of the diocese, the bishop said the bankruptcy declaration represents "the best opportunity for healing and for the just and fair compensation of those who suffered sexual abuse by workers for the Church in our diocese."
He urged Catholics to be compassionate and “reach out to all those who have been abused by workers for the Church."
The bishop said he believes the reorganization plan “is the best way for the diocese to work constructively with all those who are victims.”
It "will establish an orderly way, under the supervision of the Bankruptcy Court, by which those who have been harmed can make a claim and have that claim evaluated for possible compensation," he said.
There are 22 pending suits, filed by 33 plaintiffs, of alleged abuse. The filing of Chapter 11 automatically imposes a stay on all litigation. Plaintiffs in the lawsuits become claimants in the Chapter 11 case.
In a letter to victims of abuse, the bishop said bankruptcy protection is not a way for the diocese to avoid its responsibility to them.
"On the contrary," the bishop writes, "I truly see the reorganization process and the reorganization plan that we have submitted as the only and best way that the diocese can address its responsibility to you.
"I think of you with concern and with a longing to restore your trust and heal your hurt,” he said. “I truly hope that you will understand what has motivated my decision.
"To each of you I extend my deepest personal sorrow, and I communicate to you the sorrow of all the people of the Church of the Diocese of Tucson."
The bishop's letters about the filing are posted on the diocesan Web site www.diocesetucson.org.
, Sep 22, 2004 (CNA) - Yesterday morning, in a address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Presidente George W. Bush announced his government's support for a "comprehensive ban on human cloning."
"Because we believe in human dignity, we should take seriously the protection of life from exploitation under any pretext,” said the President. “In this session, the U.N. will consider a resolution sponsored by Costa Rica calling for a comprehensive ban on human cloning.”
“I support that resolution and urge all governments to affirm a basic ethical principle: No human life should ever be produced or destroyed for the benefit of another”, said the President.
Vatican City, Sep 22, 2004 (CNA) - The consequences of the enlargement of the European Union for the Church's pastoral care for migrants in Europe was the theme of the meeting of the Commission for Migration and the European Directors for the Pastoral Care of Migrants of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE) in Mechelen, Belgium, from September 17-19.
During the three days the bishops present discussed the Council’s document on the Catholic Church’s pastoral care for migrants, 'Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi', a theological reflection by Fr. Beniamino Rossi, regional superior of the Scalabrini Fathers, on the policy of the European Union on asylum and refugees, and European Union migration policy and its consequences.
On Sunday September 19 the participants, who included Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, and representatives from 24 bishops’ conferences as well as Caritas, the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe, the Commission of Bishops' Conferences of the European Community and the International Catholic Migration Commission, drafted a concluding statement which included recommendations for European bishops on the issue.
, Sep 22, 2004 (CNA) - In his weekly e-letter, Deal Hudson, publisher of Crisis Magazine for more than 10 years, announced yesterday he is leaving his post to assume new responsibilities that will keep him associated with the magazine.
Hudson, who was the object of a personal attack from the weekly National Catholic Reporter about past misgivings, said in his e- mail, dated Sept. 21, that his resignation is a personal decision, influenced by the recent adverse publicity and the criticism that followed.
“The plain fact is, I'm tired of being a lightening rod,” he wrote. “And more importantly, this whole thing is causing great pain to my family.
“When all is said and done, I'm a husband and a father,” he continued. “I'm certainly not perfect, but I love my family dearly, and their well being is my first priority.”
He will begin as the director of the newly established Morley Institute as of Jan. 1. The two major functions of the institute are to provide continued funding for CRISIS magazine and to support several new projects, including a book, which Hudson will author, on how Catholics can get involved in politics.
Hudson assured readers that, despite his departure, not much will change in terms of the quality of the magazine.
Chicago, Ill., Sep 22, 2004 (CNA) - Catholic Citizens of Illinois (CCI) will launch a radio ad campaign next month, designed to motivate Catholics to go to the polls Nov. 2 and “vote their faith.”
CCI's aim is “to encourage Catholic voters not to leave their Catholic faith behind when they go into the voting booth, because their vote is a matter of life, or death,” says the organization’s press release.
A series of 30-second radio spots are slated to run in Illinois and in other Midwestern states, reaching an estimated 25 million listeners.
"More and more, Catholics in public life are becoming indistinguishable from other Americans, with growing support for abortion, divorce, euthanasia, and other societal ills," said CCI President Mary Anne Hackett.
"Even worse,” she continued, “a veil of ignorance has fallen over Catholic America, obscuring Catholic lay people's understanding of their faith and calling into question their responsibility to serve as witnesses to Christ in the midst of human society."
The self-described orthodox Catholic organization, founded in 1996, describes its campaign as a response to "Pope John Paul II's call for Catholic men and women to become engaged in the public defense of the faith,” reported IllinoisLeader.com.
The goal of the organization is to bring the voice of authentic Catholicism to the public square.
For more on CCI, go to www.catholiccitizens.org
Lima, Peru, Sep 22, 2004 (CNA) - The Bishops Conference of Peru published an official statement yesterday reaffirming unity among the country’s bishops and announcing it has hired a group of lawyers to join in calling on authorities to bring about “true justice” in the case of forged letters that ex-Justice Minister, Fernando Olivera, gave to the Vatican in an attempt to besmirch Peruvian Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani.
In reaction to charges by a State prosecutor leveled against Bishop Daniel Carrión of Puno and Bishop Emeritus Luis Bambaren of Chimbote, the Bishops Conference held a special meeting yesterday morning in Lima.
The Conference’s Press Office issued a statement in which the bishops “express a spirit of communion and unity in these difficult times for some members of the Episcopate, trusting in their innocence.”
Likewise, the statement said that “given that the charges have gone from the Prosecutor’s office to the courts, the bishops hope that the truth will shine forth. In the meantime, they have decided to ask a group of lawyers to study the case.”
The bishops also “called on the media and civil society to treat the issue with balance and to await the results of the judicial process.”
Madrid, Spain, Sep 22, 2004 (CNA) - Fr. Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, Secretary and Spokesman for the Bishops Conference of Spain, applauded the decision by Spain this week to join in an initiative to eradicate world hunger, even if that means “tightening our belts.”
The spokesman for the Spanish bishops called the government’s decision to contribute to the special program “excellent.” Spain joined Chile, France and Brazil, among other countries, in adopting UN measures that aim to alleviate poverty and hunger.
Fr. Martinez Camino said it was “very good news” that Spain, “with a level of development higher than that of half of the world, is involved in promoting greater justice that will enable development in other countries, even though it means we may have to tighten our belts”
Speaking with reporters before the commencement of a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Spanish Bishops Conference, Fr. Martinez Camino explained that the agreement reached at the UN Summit on World Hunger builds upon the work that the Catholic Church, as well as various other religious communities, has “always” carried out through the efforts of teachers, missionaries, and different Catholic organizations, in order to bring an end to “this drama that affects millions of people.”
Divorce Laws in Spain
Regarding the government approval of new laws on divorce, Fr. Martinez Camino stated that the revised measures “are not a good idea,” since to make divorce easy is to neglect the serious problem of the failure of countless marriages.
According to Fr. Martinez Camino, to make divorce easy “does not mean greater development nor greater liberty, but rather more problems.”
Moscow, Russia, Sep 22, 2004 (CNA) - A 24 year-old seminarian and member of the Neocatechumenate has purchased a disco in Moscow and said he intends to convert the building into a church.
According to the AVAN news agency and the publication, “Paraula,” Alejandro Sanchez Gamborino of Valencia, Spain, traveled to Russia in 1999 after “feeling a call from God to radically follow Him.”
The ex-disco will be the home of the future Parish of St. Olga and will provide a place for the liturgical celebrations which, according to Sanchez, “until now had to take place in homes or in halls provided by the Cathedral of Moscow.”
Sanchez Gamborino has begun a fund raising campaign to finance the rehabilitation of the building, “which has both exterior and interior damage, including satanic graffiti and other symbols on the walls.”
He said he has been surprised by the “numerous cases of people who were atheists during the Soviet regime, which carried out religious persecution for decades, and who have now converted to Christianity.”
Konigstein, Germany, Sep 22, 2004 (CNA) - Aid to the Church in Need has issued a report saying the Catholic Church in China is growing despite communist persecution and repression.
Reporting on the impressions of a delegation from Aid to the Church in Need which visited China, the organization based in Germany said, “Since the Cultural Revolution, in many regions of China there is no shortage of vocations, and the major and minor seminaries, as well as monasteries and convents, are not empty. And that, despite the fact that young people know how difficult it is to live the Catholic faith in China.”
Aid to the Church recalled that “since the communists assumed power in China in 1949, the local Church has suffered persecution. Because of the issue of whether or not the ordination of bishops should only be carried out by the Chinese Church, without the interference of Rome, disagreements between Catholics arose at the end of the 1950’s. Those who refused to obey government authorities began what is called the underground Church.”
“The one-child policy, imposed by Deng Xiao-Ping, led, especially in the cities, to a chronic lack of children. Those who had more than one child were exposed to harsh punishments, and this continues today. In some communities abortions took place. But, despite the one-child policy, the number of vocations is growing among young people in some dioceses,” the organization said.
The report also cited the testimony of a priest in China who said, “When I was young, I wanted to be a martyr,” adding that “during the Cultural Revolution of the 70’s, many priests were imprisoned, among them, myself. I wanted to be a priest and to pray in jail until death.”
“Now he is 40 years old. With God at his side, he encourages thousands of people to do great works: together they built churches, hospitals, orphanages and schools. His vocation has been an example for many young people,” the report said.
Experts from Aid to the Church confirm “the Church in China is growing.” “Today, the dividing line between ‘official’ and ‘underground’ parishes is blurring. China has around 12 million Catholics, representing about one percent of the country’s total population,” the report concluded.
, Sep 22, 2004 (CNA) - Salesian Father Jim Comino gave testimony of the dire situation in the Darfur region of Sudan during a recent visit to the national office of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Vienna, Austria, saying flatly that "We cannot leave them in the hands of their executors."
"More than 250,000 people rely on foreign aid," said Father Comino, who has been in charge of a youth formation center in Sudan's capital, Khartoum for many years. There are over a million refugees in Sudan's capital who have fled their homes in the south, only to live in conditions of abject poverty during the last ten years.
"The situation in the camps is unbelievably desperate," the Salesian said, "they make shelters with branches and sheets of plastic which will be washed away next time it rains. They lack even the bare necessities and especially medicine and food."
Father Camino, who has been able to access the normally inaccessinble refugee camps through his local connections, spoke of the suffering and uncertainty in the camps. "We saw a mother searching desperately for her little girl. They were hungry and she left her daughter in what she thought was a safe place to go one of the places where grain was being distributed. When she returned with the food the little girl had disappeared."
"The people will only return to their villages when they are certain that their lives are no longer in danger," he said, indicating that the situation is nowhere near to being resolved, "And even when they do decide to start a new life they will need foreign aid, so immense is the devastation caused by the militia in the western region of Sudan: more than 50.000 dead and more than one million have left their village."
"Even those who want to help the people fear the militia," he continued, "And every day hundreds of displaced persons unable to find a place at the international refugee camps are helped by Catholic Sisters in the parishes of Nyala and El Fasher."
"Giving these people a place to sleep, medicines and food involves personal risk. But we cannot leave them in the hands of their executioners," he said.
With the help of the Pontifical Mission Societies, medicines, oil, grain, powdered milk, soap and plastic sheeting were distributed among the needy in the region of Darfur.