Vatican City, Nov 26, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II called on the Church in the United States to establish a National Day of Prayer for Vocations today in addressing a group of North American bishops, who were in Rome for their Ad Limina visit.
Bishops must be concerned about providing for the future, he told the bishops of the dioceses of Dubuque, Kansas City, Omaha and St. Louis.
"No one can deny that the decline in priestly vocations represents a stark challenge for the Church in the United States, and one that cannot be ignored or put off,” the pontiff told them. “The response to this challenge must be insistent prayer, according to the Lord's command.
“I would propose for your consideration that the Catholic community in your country annually set aside a national day of prayer for priestly vocations,” he said.
Concern for the future, said the Pope, also involves attention to seminary training, which must include “formation in prudent leadership and selfless dedication to the flock.” As well, there must be sound continuing education for clergy, he said.
The pontiff focused his reflections on the role of the bishop as the leader of his local church and on his relationship with his brother-priests, whom the Pope called the bishop’s “closest co-workers in the apostolate.”
He said the fellowship uniting bishops and their priests comes from "the grace of Holy Orders and the one mission entrusted by the Risen Lord to the Apostles and their successors in the Church."
Through mutual trust and confidence, dialogue, a spirit of unity and a common missionary spirit, the bishop must cultivate “a sense of co-responsibility for the governance of the local Church” among his priests, the Pope said.
Bishops should also encourage and coordinate the pastoral work in parishes and institutions that make up the local Church, the Holy Father said.
The bishop has an indispensable role to play in the renewal of the local Church by encouraging the revitalization of parish communities and by proposing a unified pastoral plan that can inspire and direct clergy and laity, said the Pope.
“The entire Christian community needs to be encouraged to move from 'mass to mission', in the pursuit of holiness and the service of the new evangelization," he said, and it is the role of the bishops to lead in the movement.
Vatican City, Nov 26, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II called on all nations this morning to ensure that prisoners are guaranteed their basic human rights and that alternative penalties to prison be sought and developed to include programs of “human, professional and spiritual formation.”
The Pope delivered this message to directors of prison administrations from the 45 countries that adhere to the Council of Europe. They were in Rome to discuss how European prison can better respond to the needs of inmates.
“In every civil nation there must be shared concern for preserving the inalienable rights of every human being,” he told them, recalling that the European value for human dignity is rooted in Christianity.
“You must correct eventual laws and norms which hinder (these rights), especially when it is a matter of the right to life and to health, the right to culture, to work, to the exercise of freedom of thought and to the profession of one's own faith,” he instructed.
The Holy Father called for a move toward more rehabilitation in the prison system and for an end to the harsh physical, emotional and mental treatment that most prisoners experience today. He also called for better training for those who work in the penal system.
"Measures that are simply repressive or punitive, to which one normally has recourse today, are inadequate for reaching the objective of an authentic recuperation of inmates,” he said.
“It is necessary to abolish those physical and moral treatments that are harmful to human dignity, and to commit yourselves to better qualifying professionally the role of those who work within penal institutes."
He spoke of the work of prison chaplains, whose duty, he said, "is a delicate task and in many ways irreplaceable." He also noted the important role of volunteer institutions and associations, dedicated to the welfare of prisoners and to their reinsertion into society.
He warned, however, that respect for the human dignity of prisoners “must not occur to the detriment of concern for society.
“For this reason, citizens must be defended, even with those forms of deterrence that are represented by penalties that serve as examples,” he said.
“But the dutiful application of justice to defend citizens and public order must not contrast with the due attention to the rights of prisoners and to rehabilitating them; on the contrary, this is a question of two aspects that must be integrated,” he insisted.
“Prevention and repression, detention and rehabilitation, are complementary acts,” he concluded.
Rome, Italy, Nov 26, 2004 (CNA) - It was an Italian Thanksgiving yesterday for about a dozen United States bishops, who are in Rome this week for their Ad Limina visit.
Bishops from Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska had Thanksgiving dinner at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, where many of them studied for the priesthood.
The Ad Limina visit was filled with several important moments for the bishops. Highlights included mass at the tombs of Sts. Peter and Paul. There, they celebrated their connection, through apostolic succession, to the early Church Fathers.
Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis described the mass at the Church of St. Paul Nov. 24 as emotional.
"This is an important mass," Archbishop Burke told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "It's not often that you have mass at the tombs of Sts. Peter and Paul. It's very moving, very inspiring.” The archbishop said that the bishops brought with them the intentions of their dioceses.
Archbishop Jerome Hanus of Dubuque, Iowa, gave the homily on the theme of martyrdom. He said Pope John Paul has challenged bishops “to be martyrs and witnesses to the moral law,” following the examples of bishops who have gone before them and who have been canonized.
A special intention was also said for the Catholic Church in Vietnam.
At the end of mass, the bishops spent time in prayer by the remains of St. Paul.
The bishops also celebrated mass at St. Peter's Basilica Nov. 22. They visited St. Mary Major the following day. They are expected to visit St. John Lateran today.
The four churches are considered to be the most important pilgrimage sites for Catholics in Rome.
Brisbane, Australia, Nov 26, 2004 (CNA) - Parishioners baptized at St. Mary’s Parish in the Archdiocese of Brisbane in the last decade should contact the church and check whether or not the church actually recognizes their baptism, said Fr. Adrian Farrelly, the archdiocese’s tribunal judicial vicar.
Two days ago, Archbishop John Bathersby of Brisbane stated that children baptized at the South Brisbane church using non-traditional words – "creator, liberator and sustainer" instead of "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" – would have to be re-baptized.
"The canonical advice I received is that the baptisms are invalid and that re-baptism would be needed," Archbishop Bathersby said. "The words of Scripture can't be adjusted to suit our own taste. The next thing we'll be getting rid of Christ himself.
“Leading people to believe that they are baptized into Christ when they are not is the greatest injustice of all," he added.
According to Catholic teachings, only explicitly Trinitarian baptism – "in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit" – is valid. Hundreds of children were baptized at St Mary's in the past decade with the use of non-traditional words.
The "creator, liberator and sustainer" formula became popular among New Age- influenced Catholic communities, more interested in a broad Christian, rather than Catholic, identity.
But the Church's regional tribunal in Brisbane says the priests have invalidated some ceremonies in which these words were used, especially the baptisms.
"They simply haven't received baptism,” said Fr. Farrelly. “They've gone through a ceremony, and they may well think that it's baptism, but the fact of the matter is that it isn't.”
This has upset many parishioners. The two priests at St. Mary's, Fr. Peter Kennedy and Fr. Terry Fitzpatrick, declined to comment.
However, in an earlier report, filed by News.com.au, Fr. Kennedy, 67, said he was taken aback by the archbishop's statement and said the archbishop was wrong, “but he is the archbishop.”
The priest, who has served for 46 years, defended the use of the non-traditional words, which although not Scripture-based, are based on the doctrine of the Trinity, he said.
"It's fundamentalism to argue that the actual words are all-important," he said. "That's the trouble with the Church; under the present Pope you're not allowed to have different opinions," Fr. Kennedy said.
A more recent report indicates that the two priests have already reverted to the traditional reference to the Holy Trinity.
Fr. Farrelly says the problem of the hundreds of unbaptized Brisbane Catholics is a serious matter. "For all sorts of good reasons, at times, people will decide, well, we can do it this way or that way,” he said.
“But when you're dealing with the spiritual lives of people, there is a need to have a quality assurance that one is giving to the people what it is they're asking. The words that you use are important."
Fr. Farrelly suggests that parents, whose children received baptism in the last 10 years at St. Mary’s make an appointment with a priest and ask to have their child baptized according to the way the Church says it must be done.
“Otherwise the person isn't baptized,” he said, “and baptism's the doorway into everything else that happens within the Church.”
, Nov 26, 2004 (CNA) - The Malta Union of Professional Psychologists will offer a unique perspective to the abortion debate with a conference focused on the unborn child next month.
The professional association will hold its sixth biennial Malta Conference of Psychology, this time addressing the issue of the “Psychology of the Unborn Child,” Dec. 3.
The president of Malta, Edward Fenech Adami, will give the opening address at the one-day conference, held at Pope John Paul II Hall.
The keynote speech is titled “The importance of prenatal environmental influences for the behavioral development of the child.” It will be delivered by Bea Van den Bergh, a professor from the department of psychology at the Catholic University of Leuven.
The conference will include three panel discussions. The themes are: Challenges for the Unborn Child: The Impact of Various Factors on the Well Being of the Unborn Child; Preventive Measures, and Ethical Issues, Legal Rights, and the “Feminist” Perspective.
The conference is intended for professionals from the fields of health, social welfare, education, psychology, school counseling, midwifery and social work. Members of the general public are also invited to participate.
Dublin, Ireland, Nov 26, 2004 (CNA) - An African missionary was killed yesterday during a robbery at his home in Kenya, reported RTE Irish News.
Fr. John Hannon, a religious of the Society of African Missions, was beaten to death at his parish house at Matasia, Ngong, about 25 km from Nairobi. He was 65 years old.
Fr. Hannon served in Africa for 36 years. He was ordained Dec. 18, 1967. From 1968 to 1993, he ministered in the Archdiocese of Lagos, Nigeria. There, he opened and developed parish centers in the growing suburbs of the city.
He was then reassigned to Kenya, where he served for10 years. He spent the last four years in Matasia.
, Nov 26, 2004 (CNA) - Archbishop John Vlazny of Portland, Oregon, met with about 125 parishioners from St. Clare Parish earlier this week for a 90-minute question-and-answer evening on some of the Church’s moral teachings.
The archbishop had accepted an invitation to speak at the parish, which more than 100 parishioners had extended in a September letter. The letter requested a meeting to clarify questions that had been raised by two columns the archbishop wrote in the Catholic Sentinel, the archdiocesan newspaper.
In the first letter, published May 7, Archbishop Vlazny said he would not refuse Communion to Catholics who publicly disagree with Church teaching. Instead, he asked Catholics to refrain if they found themselves at serious odds with the Church, such as voting for a pro-abortion candidate and endorsing same-sex marriage.
The questions from parishioners included a range of topics, including homosexuality, Communion, the clergy-sex abuse crisis, the role of conscience, what it means to be in public disagreement with the Church, reported The Oregonian.
The archbishop explained to parishioners that for Catholics to be in Communion means they are in agreement on major Church teachings. He said that Catholics who refrain from Communion could still come to Church and pray with the community.
According to the report, one parishioner said he believes the Church will eventually change its teaching on homosexuality and asked if he could, in good conscience, disagree with the Church as long as it’s not public.
The archbishop answered the question by explaining that the Church teaching on chastity applied to both heterosexuals and homosexuals. Both groups violate it when they have sex outside of marriage, a relationship that the church sees as existing between a man and a woman and open to the procreation of a child, he explained.
“Our prayer will not be that it will change," he reportedly said of whatever teaching a dissenting Catholic might object to. "But we will pray that you will change."
, Nov 26, 2004 (CNA) - It’s a powerful tool that is changing communities and changing hearts; it’s the rosary. Its popularity has increased over recent years, especially since Pope John Paul II called the Year of the Rosary in October 2003.
The Pope has spoken often on the importance of praying the rosary, urging Catholics to meditate on the mysteries in order to grow in faith, understanding and holiness. While the prayer which is most recited is the Hail Mary, the rosary is a meditation on Scripture and on the different points of Christ’s life.
The faithful have found the rosary to bring them personal peace and to lead them to social action. The devotion to the rosary is common among Catholic communities, so that most parishes have prayer groups, dedicated to it.
Others find solace and strength in praying the rosary on their own, either in their homes, on their lunch breaks or on the public bus on their way to work.
For the past 60 years, Arlene Shramek has started her day by reading the Bible and praying the rosary.
"When you commune with God, you do have a radiance that takes you through the day," the 95-year-old told Press & Sun-Bulletin.
The rosary has often been invoked to convert hearts and influence social change. In the mid-1900s, Catholics around the world began to pray the rosary for the fall of communism in Russia and Europe.
More recently, the rosary has been invoked for an end to abortion. It is not unusual for pro-life groups to gather close to abortion clinics and pray for the conversion of abortion physicians. In May, for example, Bishop James M. Moynihan of Syracuse joined 125 pro-lifers in the recitation of the rosary near an abortion clinic.
"It does bring about a relationship that you have with the Lord," Mary Wright of Endicott told the Press & Sun. "Prayer is what strengthens us and tells us who the Son of God is and what he has planned for us, and what the fruits will be."
Santiago, Chile, Nov 26, 2004 (CNA) - While participating in the General Assembly of the Bishops Conference of Chile, the Conference’s president, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz, insisted that the country’s government facilitate the civil registration of religions weddings and he lamented the petitions for divorce in the country.
Speaking to the daily “La Tercera,” the Cardinal said he was not surprised by the first official statistics on divorce in Chile. Last Thursday, when a new law granting divorce took effect, 52 petitions were filed.
“I expected them. It’s always this way. There are people who wait and then a large number is presented. What is surprising is that these are not from just the first month, but rather many times a large number is maintained. This is way it is in many countries,” he lamented.
During their assembly, the Chilean bishops are analyzing the issue of divorce and preparing a pastoral letter on the family which will call on Catholics to protect this institution.
Regarding the new law that allows for divorce in Chile and for Chileans to register their religious wedding as the only bond in the country, the Cardinal insisted that the process of registration be facilitated.
“We need to reflect on the law regarding the Civil Registry, which dates back to 1930 and therefore does not take into account today’s responsibilities. I hope the government understands it needs to update some parts of the law to reflect today’s situation,” the Cardinal said. A few days ago he issued a statement outlining the obstacles that law poses for those who wish to register their civil marriage.
Madrid, Spain, Nov 26, 2004 (CNA) - The Institute on Family Policy in Spain denounced a new version of a Spain’s divorce law being proposed by the government, saying the measure would hinder efforts to bring about marital reconciliation by eliminating the time of separation required before a divorce could be filed.
This Friday the government is expected to approve the draft of the new measure which, although it does not introduce substantial modifications to the previous version of the law, it does present “cosmetic,” regressive and anti-family changes which are not supported by many family institutions, said the Institute.
In Spain 20% of marriages are reconciled during the time of separation prior to divorce, and therefore the fear is that the new measure will substantially increase the number of broken families in Spain.
The President of the Institute, Eduardo Hertfelder, warned that “the government is going to impose the dictatorship of break-ups because by eliminating the time of separation which existed up to now, married couples will not have enough time to reconcile with each other.”
Moreover, he pointed out that with this law, the marriage would become a matter completely under the control of one of the spouses, thus denying the other any right to defend the maintaining of the bond.
The Institute reported that empirical evidence shows that in the all of the countries where no-fault divorce is legal, the number of ruptured marriages is 2 to 7.5 times more than before the legal change.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 26, 2004 (CNA) - In response to the lack of interest on the part of television producers to improve the quality of TV programs in Argentina, the Virtual School for Parents (VSP) will begin a campaign on December 8 to ask people to turn their televisions off as a sign of protest.
The initiative by the VSP is aimed at making Argentineans realize the influence they can have as consumers on producers and commercial sponsors regarding the quality and content of TV programs
Eduardo Cattaneo, director of the VSP, said, “If we really used our power so that they stopped making fun of our intelligence and our right to be informed and to be healthily entertained, all of these monopolies which are swimming in money would be careful not to offend this great majority.”
In order make the campaign effective, organizers are exhorting the public to communicate to the TV stations the reasons for their decision to keep the television off that day and to call and write the producers and commercial sponsors.
As an alterative to watching television, the initiative proposes taking up a book, talking or playing with one’s children, visiting a friend or going to Mass.
, Nov 26, 2004 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Bogota, Colombia, Cardinal Pedro Rubiano Saenz, called on Colombians this week not to reject the gestures by 450 paramilitary soldiers who have begun to demobilize and lay down their arms in parts of the war-torn country.
The Cardinal said that in the context of the reconciliation process and the search for peace taking place in Colombia, “the members of the illegal military organization ‘United Self Defense of Colombia’ are making a positive gesture towards Colombian society by demobilizing.”
In this sense, he added that with this decision, paramilitary members “are indicating that they not only want to repair the damage but also restore their dignity as Colombians.”
It is estimated some 450 paramilitary soldiers will lay down their weapons and formally demobilize in ceremony on Thursday in northern Colombia.
The gesture is taking place one year after the first disarmament by the United Self Defense of Colombia.
Several of the more than 800 paramilitary members who returned to civil life last year will be sharing their testimonies during the event.
Mexico City, Mexico, Nov 26, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel of San Cristobal de las Casas said this week the spread of juvenile gangs is an “extremely worrisome” phenomenon.
Several areas in the southern Mexican region of Chiapas have experienced a wave of violence due to the presence of gangs, which have spread into the area from Central America.
Referring to a violent confrontation between two gangs which took place last Saturday, Bishop Arizmendi said, “All acts of violence are a concern for everyone, and we must see how we can attack the roots of violence in our families, our churches, the media and other organizations.”
Bishop Arizmendi pointed out that gang violence “cannot be attacked only by having more police officers, but rather by better educating in values in our families, schools and churches.”
“I hope that not only authorities will pay more attention to this problem, but all citizens as well, because the bad thing about this is that some Mexican young people are being infected by this lifestyle, and if we add to that the use of drugs, we’re talking about the possibility of serious problems,” he concluded.