Vatican City, Dec 6, 2004 (CNA) - Receiving bishops from the U.S. completing their ad limina visit on Saturday, Pope John Paul II spoke about the bishop’s role in helping the lay faithful incorporate their role in the Church’s mission, emphasizing the need for lay people to integrate their faith into their everyday professional, political and cultural life, while fully respecting the “legitimate” separation of Church and state.
"Each bishop is called to acknowledge the 'essential and irreplaceable role of the laity in the Church's mission' and to enable them to carry out their proper apostolate, said the Holy Father, quoting "Christifideles Laici," to the 22 bishops from Louisville, Mobile and New Orleans.
He said that “a clear pastoral priority" of each bishop is to help the lay faithful "in understanding and embracing the 'munus regale', the kingly office, they received by their baptism incorporation into Christ."
"Lay men and women," said the Holy Father, "must be encouraged, through sound catechesis and continuing formation, to recognize the distinctive dignity and mission which they have received in Baptism and to embody in all their daily activities an integrated approach to life which finds its inspiration and strength from the Gospel.”
He went on to explain that “this means that the laity must be trained to distinguish clearly between their rights and duties as members of the Church and those which they have as members of human society.”
They must also be “encouraged to combine the two harmoniously, recognizing (as stated in "Lumen Gentium) that 'in every temporal affair they are to be guided by their Christian conscience, since there is no human activity - even of the temporal order - that can be withdrawn from God's dominion'."
The Pope underscored that "a clear and authoritative reaffirmation of these fundamental principles of the lay apostolate will help to overcome the serious pastoral problems created by a growing failure to understand the Church's binding obligation to remind the faithful of their duty in conscience to act in accordance with her authoritative teaching.”
He highlighed the “urgent need for a comprehensive catechesis on the lay apostolate which will necessarily highlight the importance of a properly formed conscience, the intrinsic relationship between freedom and moral truth, and the grave duty incumbent upon each Christian to work to renew and perfect the temporal order in accordance with the values of God's Kingdom.”
“While fully respecting the legitimate separation of Church and State in American life,” said the the Holy Father, “such a catechesis must also make clear that for the faithful Christian there can be no separation between the faith which is to be believed and put into practice and a commitment to full and responsible participation in professional, political and cultural life."
He encouraged the bishops "to foster among the laity a shared sense of responsibility for the life and mission of the Church" which, when "rooted in the principles of a sound ecclesiology," will ensure genuine collaboration "without the danger of distorting this relationship by the uncritical importation of categories and structures drawn from secular life."
The pope concluded by thanking "the countless men and women who strive each day to bring the light of the Gospel to their homes, workplaces and to the whole of society."
, Dec 6, 2004 (CNA) - The nation's largest settlement for victims of sexual abuse by clergy was agreed upon Dec. 2. The settlement, which involved the Diocese of Orange and 87 victims, was welcomed by the bishop, parishioners and the victims.
"I am at peace with the settlement," Bishop Tod D. Brown of Orange reportedly said after Sunday mass at Holy Family Cathedral. "The victims will be fairly compensated and, at the same time, our diocese will be able to continue our mission of service."
The bishop said he was moved by those victims who embraced him after the settlement was announced and accepted his personal apology for the misconduct of priests and lay people. Some victims said they want to return to the Church, he said.
"We welcome all those who wish to return, welcome them back warmly into our community," he said, according to a report by the Associated Press. "Let us pray for that important goal of forgiveness and reconciliation with these victims who through no fault of their own became tragic figures in the history of our church."
The bishop said he would only disclose the details of the settlement once it is finalized this week. However, the AP has reported that attorneys involved in the negotiations have said privately that the diocese and its insurers will pay $100 million to 87 victims.
The settlement in Orange exceeds the previous record of $85 million awarded to 552 victims of clergy abuse in Boston in 2003. There is no doubt that this case may serve as a model in settling other claims in the state.
Thirty of the plaintiffs in the Orange County case settlement also have claims against the Los Angeles Archdiocese, reported the Los Angeles Times. Those cases predate 1976, when the Orange County diocese was created from the Los Angeles territory.
The cases were filed last year under a special state law that gave alleged victims of childhood sexual abuse one year to sue no matter how old the case.
Some church officials have argued the law unfairly targeted Catholic dioceses, forcing them to defend old claims involving witnesses who may be now dead or files that have been discarded.
Several California dioceses have sought to have the law declared unconstitutional.
, Dec 6, 2004 (CNA) - Anne Holmes classic children’s novel, “I Am David,” of a 12- year-old refugee fleeing a totalitarian era Bulgaria in the 1950’s has been made into a movie and has been lauded for the Christian values it transmits to young people.
“It is easily the best film for "tweens" since Holes,” wrote Roger Moore, movie critic for the Orlando Sentinel, of the film that deals with themes such as learning to hope, and to trust in others after having been raised to do precisely the opposite in order to survive.
The value and responisbility of life is dealt with; in one scene, the question "What's the point of staying alive?" is asked in a scene in a labour camp."Because if you're alive, you can change things," responds David’s older friend and fellow camp prisoner, played by Jim Caviezel.
I Am David , which featured in the Global Peace Film Festival in Orlando in 2003, also illumines the plight of the many refugee children in the world today, a theme the movie’s publicity emphasizes.
See the movie’s website at http://www.iamdavidmovie.com
Doha, Qatar, Dec 6, 2004 (CNA) - International pro-family leaders issued a declaration Dec. 3, urging governments around the world to protect the family by upholding, preserving and defending the institution of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
The Doha Declaration is the result of a two-day conference, which gathered representatives of governments and members of civil society from different religious backgrounds, in Doha, Qatar, Nov. 29-30.
The Doha International Conference for the Family was held in commemoration of the 10th Anniversary of the United Nation’s International Year of the Family.
The declaration reaffirms that the family is the natural and fundamental unit of society, as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and it is entitled to the widest possible protection and assistance by society and the State.
It goes further in stating that the family is the fundamental agent for sustainable social, economic and cultural development, based on the data compiled for the conference from academic, scientific and sociological studies.
Governments must affirm the importance of faith, as well as religious and ethical beliefs, in maintaining family stability and social progress, says the document.
While several states continue to move toward the greater secularization of the school system, the declaration states that parents “have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children and the liberty to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.”
It also calls on governments to strengthen policies and programs that will enable families to break the cycle of poverty; encourage and support the family to provide care for older persons and persons with disabilities; strengthen the stability of marriage and remedy abusive family situations.
The conference also announced the creation of an international Institute for Study of the Family.
, Dec 6, 2004 (CNA) - An abstinence education organization says a recent report by Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA) demonstrates how fearful abstinence opponents are of the positive results of the abstinence education movement.
Waxman said in a report, Dec. 1, that abstinence programs are driven by ideology. He specifically mentioned to two teen programs, created by Project Reality.
"The motivation behind these attacks is the fact that abstinence programs are being supported by the Bush administration and are growing in number because of their cost-effective impact,” claims Libby Gray, director of Project Reality.
“This upsets groups who have been exclusively receiving federal funding for contraception promotion and education in the past," she said.
The Bush administration has supported increased funding for abstinence education since it has realized the positive benefits of the abstinence movement, says Gray. The program, she says, has proven that it is the most cost-effective way of guaranteeing adolescent health through the reduction of teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and emotional effects of early sexual activity.
Project Reality stands behind its two main abstinence programs for teens that were referenced in Waxman’s report. It says Game Plan and Navigator present information that is medically accurate and compiled by national health organizations.
Project Reality charges that much of the content of the sex-education programs that Waxman's report recommends – such as those funded under the Clinton administration called “Be Proud! Be Responsible” and “Focus on Kids” – is never scrutinized and assumes that most teens will become sexually active.
None of these "comprehensive sex-education" programs have been shown to lower rates of sexually transmitted diseases, HIV, or pregnancy, says Gray.
"It's no secret that sex education groups who opposed President Bush's support of increased funding for abstinence programs are upset by the irrefutable fact that abstinence is the safest, healthiest lifestyle for teens," Gray says.
“Groups such as Planned Parenthood, SIECUS and other promoters of the type of sex education advocated by Waxman's report are out of step with the mainstream American teen and parent," states Gray.
, Dec 6, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop John F. Kinney of St. Cloud, Minnesota, had dreamed of joining the circus as a child. His life took a different path, but his love and respect for circus performers have always remained.
So much so that he has extended his stay in Rome for an Ad Limina visit to celebrate mass at St. Peter's Basilica next week with an international group carnival, circus and auto-racing performers and their chaplains.
The group will celebrate mass each day in a different language during the week of Dec. 13. Bishop Kinney will give the homily during the English mass.
While the bishop has never served as a circus chaplain, he has served as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' liaison to the group for three years.
He says the performers' ability to bring joy to others shows the importance of their work.
Vatican City, Dec 6, 2004 (CNA) - In a conference on Saturday devoted to reflection on the recently-published Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Pope John Paul II urged that the Church’s social doctrine be known in a complete manner, not with undue emphasis on only one aspect or another, and that the laity use it as a reference for family, professional, and civic responsibilities.
The Pope said that "there is still much to do so that the rich contribution of Church doctrine may be a coherent criterion of wisdom and an inspiring and convincing force of the social action of Catholics."
"For this reason it is very important," he stressed, "to make the social doctrine of the Church known in a precise, clear and complete way in order to avoid that only one aspect or another is emphasized, according to one's sensitivity and preconceived ideas so that one ends up by losing the unitary consideration and using it in a manipulative fashion.”
“In addition,” he said, “it is necessary to educate people to use this doctrine as a stimulating point of reference for family, professional and civil responsibilities, assuming it as a shared criterion of personal and communitarian choices and activities in continuity with the beautiful witness ... of humble and great Christians who have passionately lived for the cause of man in light of the Gospel."
The Holy Father underscored that the great questions that afflict humanity "in an ever-more 'global' and 'interdependent' context, must be confronted with a clear vision of man and his personal and social vocation on the common foundation of natural law."
"The social doctrine of the Church," he concluded, "highlights the basic values of an ordered and solidary human coexistence with the light of Revelation, freeing these values from obscurities and ambiguities. Lay Christians, open to the action of God's grace, are the lively instruments so that values effectively permeate history."
Kiev, Ukraine, Dec 6, 2004 (CNA) - The Interconfession Council of Christian Youth in Ukraine made an appeal to the Ukrainian people on Friday to keep praying and fasting for the resolution of the current situation in the country, stressing that unity and peace in Ukraine depends on the people’s faithfulness to the Commandments of Christ.
Expressing their concern about the danger of separatism in Ukraine, the Christian youth issued a reminder to all Ukrainians of each person’s responsibility for their own words, behavior and actions.
They stated that the fundamental dignity of human life and the importance of the freedom of choice requires seeking mutual understanding for the sake of reconciliation.
Guatemala City, Guatemala, Dec 6, 2004 (CNA) - A popular Catholic recording artist from the US took home one of the top five awards at the 20th World Festival of Marian Songs in Guatemala.
The festival, which took place on November 29, brings together Catholic artists from around the world to perform a Marian song. Each artist represents his or her country and performs the song before a packed theatre and an international panel of judges.
Popular Catholic singer and songwriter Nancy Krebs, of Severn, Maryland, traveled to Guatemala representing the United States of America and performed her hit song “Queen of Apostles,” which she sang in English and Spanish. Krebs was chosen to be among the top five finalists, all of whom received an award.
“The World Festival of Marian Songs ranks at the very top of life’s experiences,” said Krebs. “The news of my being chosen as the representative of the United States with the #1 song ‘Queen of Apostles’ was wonderful news for me to receive; the greatest honor was the opportunity to sing for the Blessed Mother on the world stage—but to be chosen to represent my country was awesome,” she added.
More information about Nancy Krebs and her music can be found at www.nancykrebs.com
Valencia, Fla., Dec 6, 2004 (CNA) - In his traditional weekly letter, Archbishop Agustin Garcia-Gasco of Valencia, Spain, called on Catholics to “awaken their sleeping consciences” in response to “essential” questions such as the defense of live, love, God, freedom and marriage, among others.
The archbishop warns in his letter, “We no longer know how to defend the right to life of each human being from the moment of conception to the last moment of his or her existence.” He also observed that there is even hesitation “to defend the family based on marriage as the foundation of a civilized society with aspirations for the future,” and at the same time, many “question whether religion is beneficial for people and for the building of a modern and progressive society.”
In response to those who claim that “we only have the majority left as a criterion for truth,” Archbishop Garcia-Gasco recalled that “the great ethical issues of humanity do not depend on the majority,” as the history of the 20th century has shown, with “too many cruel examples.”
The archbishop exhorted Catholics of the need to “awaken our sleeping consciences,” but he recalled as well that this “does not depend on our personal tastes or whims, but rather it stems from a grasp of reality,” and consequently, “it is not dependent on the majority.”
“When consciences are in the dark,” he warned, “when people are not educated towards a properly formed conscience, it is difficult to live in freedom.”
“The stubborn rejection of the teaching of religion in schools, the omission of our Christian roots, the attempt to lock the Church up in the sacristy, the manipulation of the Christian message—isn’t the intention here to keep one’s conscience asleep? Who is it that is interested in young people losing sight of the evident certainties that make peace and true democracy possible?” he asked.
The archbishop also underscored in his letter that in order to awaken consciences, the best thing is “draw close to the light of the Gospel, which provides marvelous perspectives to human reason in this area.”
The Gospel “offers certainties for defending life fearlessly, with joy; it helps us understand the beauty of marriage and the family; it drives out fear and channels true religious sentiments,” he added.
Christian faith “is a treasure for society and culture,” the archbishop argued. Without it, “our horizon is darkened,” he concluded.
Caracas, Venezuela, Dec 6, 2004 (CNA) - The Venezuelan police force prevented a Church representative from carrying out a specifically humanitarian effort last week at the embassy of El Salvador in the capital city of Caracas.
According to the Venezuelan Bishops Conference, “The Bishops Committee on Justice and Peace, Caritas of Venezuela, and the Committee for the Families of the Victims of the February and March Events of 1989, at the request of the family members of retired police officers Henry Vivas and Lazaro Forero, met at the embassy of El Salvador, located in Chuao, in order to carry out a humanitarian mission aimed at providing comfort and reassurance to the wives and children of these Venezuelan citizens.”
Bishop Jorge Villasmil, representing the Bishops Conference, and other representatives were prevented from entering the embassy by officers of the National Guard, who told them “access to the diplomatic headquarters was restricted.”
According to the Conference, “the only intention of the parties present was to verify the personal well being of Officers Vivas and Forero and to respond to the strictly humanitarian request made by their families.”
For this reason, the bishops asked “Venezuelan authorities that all investigations of an administrative, civil or criminal manner that take place in the country strictly adhere to the minimum judicial guarantees established in the Constitution and in the international instruments protecting human rights.”
Havana, Cuba, Dec 6, 2004 (CNA) - Thanks to an effort by a group of Catholics, hundreds of Cubans gathered together in churches throughout the country on the last Sunday of November in order to pray for unity in the nation.
A lay association inspired by the Cuban writer Jose Marti started the special prayer crusade last May. Each final Sunday of the month, Cubans who are interested gather together in their local churches to pray for unity.
Moises Leonardo Rodriguez, one of the crusade organizers, said on the last Sunday of November more than 300 people participated in the crusade.
In the city of Santiago de las Vegas, for example, Catholics prayed and walked seven blocks to place flowers at a statue of Jose Marti.
Another 45 individuals who offered prayers for unity in Cuba at the Church of our Lady of Charity in Havana placed flowers at a monument in honor of the eight medical students who were shot on November 27, 1871.
Quito, Ecuador, Dec 6, 2004 (CNA) - A judge in Ecuador ruled in favor of a petition filed by a group of lawyers against the morning after pill, saying the drug cannot be sold in the country until its abortifacient nature has been disproved.
Federal Judge Francisco Alvear said the pill could not be distributed or sold in Ecuador. The petition against the drug was filed by Jose Fernando Rosero, representing the group Lawyers for Life.
In his ruling, Alvear called the right to life “the cornerstone” of judicial order, and he said that ruling extends to all drugs that contain the same chemical compounds and attack human life.