Vatican City, Oct 21, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II addressed via satellite from the Vatican this morning over a thousand priests from eighty countries gathered on the island of Malta to discuss the theme "Priests, forgers of saints for the new millennium: Following the footsteps of the Apostle Paul," and told them that they were called to be apostles of the Word and prophets of hope, inspired by the model of Mary.
The congress, organized by the Congregation for the Clergy began on October 18 and ends on October 23.
Pointing out that Malta is "an island that preserves the vivid memory of the passage of St. Paul," the Holy Father said that Christ was inviting the priests "to be His apostles, especially with holiness of life.”
“You must make the power of the word of truth of the Gospel resound, the word which can only profoundly change man's heart and give him peace,” said the Pope, “in this way, you will be credible teachers of the life of the Gospel and prophets of hope."
"In a troubled and divided world, marked by violence and conflicts, there are those who ask themselves if it is still possible to talk of hope,” said the Pope. “But precisely in this moment it is necessary to courageously present the true and complete hope of man which is Christ Our Lord."
The Holy Father pointed to Our Lady who "showed her complete availability to do God's will" in responding with her "fiat" to the message of the Archangel Gabriel, as a model to inspire priests. Before his death on the Cross, Jesus entrusted His mother to John: "From that day Mary became the mother of all creatures, especially your mother, to accompany you on your daily path. Go to her constantly in your ministry."
Philadelphia, Pa., Oct 21, 2004 (CNA) - President George W. Bush met with Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, this afternoon in Philadelphia. The president had requested the meeting.
The archdiocese released a statement saying that the meeting, which took place at Saint Joseph Parish, Downington, Chester County, “was private,” and therefore “the Archdiocese will not be issuing any additional statement regarding the meeting.”
The statement also notes that “Cardinal Rigali had indicated his willingness to meet with both presidential candidates.”
Philadelphia, Pa., Oct 21, 2004 (CNA) - The integration of Hispanic immigrants in the United States will not be possible without the commitment of the Catholic Church, said Bishop Jose Gomez to an audience of Catholic leaders in Philadelphia.
Everyone in the Church, not just bishops and priests, will have to work together to help Hispanics integrate into the U.S. Church and society, he said.
The auxiliary bishop of Denver and native Mexican delivered the opening address yesterday at the seventh annual Catholic Leadership Conference. The two-day event gathers representatives of the most important and influential Catholic ministries and organizations in the U.S. It provides an opportunity for Catholic leaders to reflect upon the most important social and ecclesiastic trends.
The theme of this year’s gathering is the challenge Hispanic immigration poses to the U.S. Church.
The bishop provided a demographic snapshot of the Hispanic community in the U.S. There are about 37 million Hispanics in the U.S. – almost 15 percent of the total population – and 60 percent of them are young. Since their birth rate is higher that any other group, the Hispanic community will continue to grow at a rate faster than any other ethnic group, even it the U.S. closed its borders, the bishop observed.
Politicians and intellectuals are warning against the "danger" of Hispanic immigration, the bishop noted.
“Every single wave of immigrants in our country came with their own share of doomsayers; and today it is not different with Hispanic immigrants,” said the bishop. However, he added, history has shown that immigrant groups have consistently brought further wealth and prosperity to the country.
“The fact that a fundamentally Catholic people is coming into this country may pose several challenges,” said the bishop, “but it is an opportunity and a moment of grace more than anything else.”
The bishop said he sees the pastoral concerns and the struggles of his fellow bishops in Southern states, “where Catholics are a tiny minority, and where Church structures have been completely overflowed by Hispanic immigrants.”
The bishop said the goal with the Hispanic community in the U.S., is not assimilation but integration, which supposes respect for the core values of the culture that is being integrated.
“Catholics do not value mere assimilation,” said the bishop. “We believe in integration, which we could describe as the social expression of communion.”
“Catholics have the universal vision that makes us understand that we are one people,” he said.
“Hispanic immigrants will help to reinforce certain cultural values like the emphasis on family and work, and the Christian character of American society,” he said, quoting Francis Fukuyama.
He provided the example of the San Juan Diego Center in Denver, which was created to provide a range of services to immigrants, namely Hispanics, from pastoral to educational.
The bishop also initiated a gathering of Hispanic Catholic business leaders earlier this year to look at the issue. The group will meet again in the spring to evaluate what has been done in terms of lay commitment during this period.
Rome, Italy, Oct 21, 2004 (CNA) - Who holds power and influence at the Vatican? One of the top Vatican journalists in Italy, Sandro Magister, provides his insights on the matter in his latest article, published in the Italian weekly L’Espresso.
A literal translation of Magister’s headline reads: “Who governs in the shadow of John Paul II: the quadrilateral Vatican.”
Magister names Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Pope’s personal secretary, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Angelo Cardinal Sodano, secretary of state, among the most influential. He also cites the pivotal role of Vatican spokesperson Joaquin Navarro-Valls.
But Magister goes beyond name-dropping and provides evidence and analysis of historic and behind-the-scenes activities to support his claims.
For instance, Magister says Church historians have never known the pope’s personal secretary to have such importance in papal affairs. He states that the list of new cardinals created in 2003 passed through Archbishop Dziwisz.
Cardinal Ratzinger is also the first prefect of the Congregation of the Faith to issue letters to the bishops of the world, beginning with “Dominus Iesus” in August 2000, Magister points out.
Those who have lost influence at the Vatican, according to Magister, include Giovanni Battista Cardinal Re, head of the Congregation of Bishops, and Camillo Cardinal Ruini
For whom should Vatican watchers be on the look-out? Magister says a rising force at the Vatican is Julian Cardinal Herranz Casado, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, canon lawyer and member of Opus Dei..
Read Magister’s full column in English, available Friday online, at:
Milwaukee, Wis., Oct 21, 2004 (CNA) - In a letter addressed to Theodore Cardinal McCarrick and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Milwaukee Archdiocese Priest Alliance said it does not believe excluding Catholic pro-abortion politicians from Holy Eucharist would be pastorally effective in promoting the intrinsic value of all human life.
The alliance, which consists of 124 diocesan and religious priests who minister in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, is calling on U.S. bishops to decide that “the final determination of worthiness for the Eucharist is to be made by the communicant–not the minister of Holy Communion.”
“We reaffirm our belief in the intrinsic value of human life– all life is sacred to us–from conception to natural death,” reads the Oct. 15 letter.
“We do not believe that coercive techniques: orders, sanctions, and harsh public statements serve the Catholic Church in our American culture,” they continued.
The priests said: “the Catholic Church in America will have to use the language of persuasion, not force, if it seeks to be credible to American Catholics and our entire society. We must work with the political system and parties that constitute our systems of governance.
“Hard statements and de facto excommunications of Catholic politicians will not bring about changes in Supreme Court decisions nor will they produce amendments to our Constitution.
The priests said they were grounding their appeal in the conclusions of Vatican II and requested “a return to the sound wisdom of the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin who proposed a ‘seamless garment’ approach to pro-life issues.
Vatican City, Oct 21, 2004 (CNA) - During his homily yesterday during the Mass for the dedication of the Blessed Columba Marmion Room for communications training for seminarians at the Pontifical Irish College in Rome, Archbishop John Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, said that proclaiming the Gospel creatively involves inspired techniques but is above all founded on personal holiness.
"How can we present creatively, imaginatively, compellingly the wonderful news about Jesus Christ and His plan for us if we do not communicate well?" asked the archbishop after quoting St. Paul, who, in his letter to the Ephesians, said he had been "entrusted with the special grace, not only of proclaiming to the pagans the infinite treasure of Christ, but also of explaining how the mystery is to be dispensed."
“Authentic communication,” said Archbishop Foley, “involves our own spiritual preparation, so that we may be viewed as authentic, credible witnesses of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
“There is no substitute for holiness in communicating the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said. “There are, however, techniques of communication. Jesus knew where and when to preach; used parables; He used symbolic actions - in fact, in the sacraments He left us outward signs which signify and confer grace, a created sharing in His own divine life."
"This evening," he concluded, "as we dedicate a room in honor of one of your most distinguished alumni, Blessed Columba Marmion, who certainly knew how to communicate through books and through preaching, ask his intercession that all of us - through personal holiness, profound learning and inspired techniques might be able to communicate effectively the truly good news of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
Blessed Columba Marmion O.S.B. (1858-1923), was the third abbot of Maredsous Abbey in Belgium and a noted spiritual author and retreat master. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 3, 2000.
Vatican City, Oct 21, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II this morning appointed Fr. Paul S. Coakley of the clergy of Wichita, U.S.A., and vice chancellor and administrator of the Church of the Magdalen, as bishop of Salina (area 69,087, population 325,112, Catholics 48,510, priests 80, religious 219), U.S.A.
Bishop-elect Coakley was born 1955 in Norfolk, U.S.A. and was ordained a priest in 1983. He succeeds Bishop George K. Fitzsimons whose resignation the Pope accepted upon having reached the age limit.
Rome, Italy, Oct 21, 2004 (CNA) - In an interview with the Italian newspaper, “Il Messagiero,” Italian journalist Vittorio Messori denounced anti-Catholicism in Europe as a substitution for anti-Semitism, but he expressed his hope that this “anti-Catholic fury” would help believers to rediscover their identity.
Referring to the Italian politician Rocco Buttiglione, who was prevented from becoming a European minister of justice because of his Catholic convictions, Messori pointed out that someone has said that Catholics, together with smokers and hunters, form one of the “three groups not protected by political correctness, and which therefore can be freely slandered.”
“Thank God anti-Semitism has ended. But it has been substituted in Western culture by anti-Catholicism,” he said. “Before, blacks, women, Jews and homosexuals were the object of sarcasm and criticism. Now, luckily, these groups cannot be attacked. But I don’t see why other groups have to be harmed.”
Now, he explained, “Despite the fact the Muslims are beheading people, nobody badmouths Islam.” On the other hand, attacks on Catholics earn public applause, even in “very mistaken” films such as “The Magdalene Sisters.” According to Messori, this “is all proof of what we said before: One can, in fact one should, cause harm to Catholics.
“The Buttiglione affair has taken place, unfortunately, in this atmosphere. An atmosphere in which, as we know, nobody makes a film about a Buddhist guru or a Muslim cleric who abuses children,” he said.
At the same time, Messori considers that believers “must be content with this anti-Catholic fury” and that “the anti-Catholicism of Western culture and of Islam is providential.”
“Christianity, and Catholicism in particular, needs an antagonist in order to rediscover its identity and its own strength,” he explained.
Today, “Catholics run the risk of becoming banal talk show hosts” willing “to dialogue with anyone, even with those who would cut off their own heads. Against this type of weak thinking are powerful truths. And when the powerful truths about gays or any other issue are spoken, they cause a scandal. But this is what Catholics need.”
“When the Church says neutral or banal things, of a pacifist nature, everyone bends the knee. However, when John Paul II exercises the papacy and goes outside the bounds of political correctness, as in the case of Cardinal Ratzinger’s document on the role of women in the Church, then a more or less hidden anti-clericalism explodes,” he concluded.
Madrid, Spain, Oct 21, 2004 (CNA) - The Spanish newspaper “La Razon” published a remarkable report this week claiming that terrorists from Al Qaeda now have their sights set on Iraqi Christian children, who are being threatened with death in order to get them to convert to Islam.
According to correspondent Fernando Perez Barber, who filed his report from Baghdad, “the international Islamic criminal group, Al Qaeda, is proposing to ‘use dynamite’ to force Christians out of Iraq.”
“Such is the frequency and reach of the attacks, kidnappings and briberies that it is no longer possible to continue to deny that the ‘Jihadists’ of Al Qaeda have made Chaldean-Assyrian Christians their targets of choice. In their impromptu meetings after religious services, the faithful have begun to realize that the Christian community is boxed in.”
The radicals have succeeded in terrorizing Christians through the “destruction of Christian-owned distilleries, the selective assassination of alcoholic beverage vendors, the threatening of women who do not wear the veil, and lastly, through the bombing of churches.”
Perez Barber recalled that towards the end of last year, terrorists left a bag of grenades in an elementary school in Mosul with a note that read, “Convert to Islam or you will be killed.”
Today, “some schools and many Chaldean-Assyrian churches have been under armed military guard ever since the threats started to give way to actual attacks.”
Nevertheless, he warned that neither the local police forces nor the US military has been able to prevent attacks on Christians from taking place.
“Over a dozen monasteries, churches and convents have been the object of attacks since last Christmas,” Perez Barber said. Last weekend, five churches in Baghdad were damaged, fewer people dare to attend religious services, and “hundreds of families have been forced to sell their belongings” and flee the country.
Pérez Barber says that “since the end of the Gulf War up to the US-lead invasion, the Christian population in the country has fallen to less than half of what it was, leaving it at around 800,000. And that number has continued to fall since the allied troops have occupied the country.”
Bogotá, Colombia, Oct 21, 2004 (CNA) - The Vice President of the Colombian Bishops Conference, Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro of Tunja, Colombia, called on the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) to withdraw its request that two towns be demilitarized as a condition for releasing hostages.
“Proposals such as these are not welcome by the government. Therefore, it is important to seek out alternatives and other ways to establishing a humanitarian agreement without giving up territory,” said Archbishop Castro. The FARC has been holding hostage some 70 politicians, soldiers and policemen, as well as three US contractors, for over two years.
The rebel group has called for a “humanitarian agreement” in order to release them but only with the condition that the government release some 500 rebel fighters who are being held in various prisons, and the group insists that the towns of San Vicente de Caguan and Cartagena del Chaira be demilitarized.
On Monday, the FARC’s spokesman, Raul Reyes, announced the group would accept a proposal by the Church to mediate discussions with the government. Archbishop Castro called the announcement a positive step forward.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct 21, 2004 (CNA) - In the midst of controversy surrounding proposed anti-life measures that would promote promiscuity among adolescents, Bishop Joaquin Piña, Bishop of Puerto Iguazú, Argentina, is calling on leaders to remember that sexual education is not supposed to be “education about genital activity, but rather about the values that shape men and women.”
According to the bishop, the response to the crisis among young people should be “to educate them in love, as we say,” because reproductive health plans and sexual education, that have been a failure around the world, “rather than achieving the results people hoped and claimed they would (less abortions, adolescent or unwanted pregnancies), have resulted in the opposite: more abortions and more adolescent pregnancies.”
Bishop Piña added, “If sexual education is not taught correctly, the results are the opposite of what they are supposed to be. If everything consisted of simply telling young people how the genitals function, then it’s logical they would say: Let’s try it out, and use condoms. But the fact is that with so many condoms that have been distributed, we have had more and more adolescent and unwanted pregnancies.”
“It is interesting that the polls say that everyone lists the family as the most important. Everyone wants to have a beautiful family, according to God’s will, rather than just living together,” but all that becomes diluted when it’s time to put it into practice.