Vatican City, Dec 8, 2004 (CNA) - Appearing in a good form on Wednesday, Pope John Paul presided over the 150th Anniversary of the Immaculate Conception and consecrated the Church tu Mary.
The Pontiff reminded Catholics that the dogma proclaimed by Pope Pius IX is a central element of their faith.
The 84-year old Pope, flanked by lines of cardinals and bishops, highlighted the feast on its 150th anniversary and called for Catholics to renew their devotion to Mary for the "peace and salvation of all people".
"The Immaculate Conception is lighthouse for humanity in every time. At the start of the third millennium, it is the beacon to show us the way to believe and hope in God," the Pope told thousands of pilgrims gathered at St. Peter's square.
To you, Immaculate Virgin, chosen by God over all creature to be the advocate of grace and model of holiness for his people, I renew today in a special way the consecration of the whole Church," the Pope said.
The Pope, later on Wednesday, will continue the celebrations by traveling to central Rome for the traditional homage to the monument of the Inmaculate Conception erected by Pope Pius IX in the famous "Piazza Spagna," or Spanish square.
Pope Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854, and the Church has marked its 150th anniversary with an international Congress and a special concert led by soprano Montserrat Caballe.
Vatican City, Dec 8, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul condemned on Wednesday the bombing of two churches in Iraq, the latest in a series of attacks against the Christian community.
During the Mass he presided in honor of the 150 Anniversary of the dogma of the Immaculate Concpetion, the Holy Father said: "I ask the Lord for the intercession of the Immaculate Virgin, so that the dear Iraqi people can finally come to know a time of reconciliation and peace."
, Dec 8, 2004 (CNA) - Catholic League president William Donohue commended four major department stores in New York for wishing their Jewish patrons Happy Chanukah, but questions “why these stores, and others, have such a hard time wishing Christians Merry Christmas” when Christians represent the majority of the population.
Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue extended their Chanukah wishes in ads, appearing in yesterday’s New York Times.
“The latest Newsweek poll shows that 84 percent of Americans are Christian; Jews represent less than two percent,” said Donohue, noting that the Christian population in the U.S. is 12 percent greater than the percentage of Jews in Israel. Yet, he says, in the U.S., “it is Christmas, not Chanukah that is considered controversial to celebrate.”
Donohue points out that menorahs, for example, are allowed in places like New York City public schools, but nativity scenes are banned.
He commended the religious displays at Chicago’s Daley Plaza, which include Christian, Jewish and Islamic symbols.
“So Happy Chanukah to our Jewish brothers and sisters,” he said in a statement. “We look forward to the day when Merry Christmas rolls off people’s lips with the same degree of alacrity.”
San Diego, Calif., Dec 8, 2004 (CNA) - Two local congressmen have intervened in the 15-year battle to save the cross atop Mount Soledad in La Jolla, Ca. They say their proposition will keep the cross where it is.
Republican Reps. Randy "Duke" Cunningham and Duncan Hunter want the site – which includes more than 1,000 plaques honoring veterans – named a national war memorial. They added the veterans’ memorial designation as a rider to a voluminous spending bill that was approved last month by Congress. The bill is awaiting the signature of President George Bush.
Under the bill, the site would become part of the National Park Service and protected. However, it would be maintained by the Mount Soledad Memorial Association, which erected the cross as a tribute to veterans in 1954.
“That cross is not just a religious symbol. It's a symbol of coming of age and of remembrance," said Mark Slomka, pastor of Mount Soledad Presbyterian Church, which has been considered an alternate site for the cross.
A ballot measure, which asked voters to allow the sale of the land to the highest bidder, who would decide whether to destroy, keep or move the cross, was defeated in November.
"This is part of a cultural war. It's a matter of which direction this country is going to go in, and we think it's worth fighting for," said Charles LiMandri in a report to the Washington Post. LiMandri is a lawyer with the Thomas More Law Center, which has been fighting to preserve the cross.
Churches around San Diego are urging their congregations to pray for the cross to be saved. Rallies have been held, and some church members are fasting.
Cleveland, Ohio, Dec 8, 2004 (CNA) - An Ohio woman is waiting to hear from the Catholic Church’s international tribunal in Rome whether her husband has a lawful reason, according to the Catholic Code of Canon law, for leaving her and their four children.
MacFarlane feels she was abandoned for no just reason and the civil divorce system is hurting her family. A practicing Catholic, she turned to her Church and its code of laws.
In an attempt to save her marriage and protect her children from being forcibly removed from her home, MacFarlane took her case to the Diocese of Cleveland Tribunal.
MacFarlane believes that since her husband professes to be an obedient Catholic, there is the chance that he would stop his divorce if he was authoritatively advised by the Catholic Church that he is doing something unacceptable.
She asked the Cleveland Tribunal to determine whether her husband has “a lawful reason to leave” the marriage, according to canon 1153. However, the tribunal refused to investigate the case, so she appealed to the next higher court, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
The panel of three-judges in Cincinnati also rejected the petition. The case was then taken to the highest court, the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota.
If the Vatican Rota issues a decree, stating that MacFarlane’s husband does not have reason to leave the marriage and obtain a typical no-fault divorce, he could be restrained from using the civil courts to force his children to be removed from their mother. Also, he could be required to pay her long-term spousal support because she can’t get remarried.
MacFarlane’s attorney advised the civil court of the couple's de facto prenuptial agreement to follow the Code of Canon Law and the Vatican Rota’s decision could provide guidance to lower tribunals throughout the United States. This case could also establish principles bishops might use for new regional church legislation, protecting sacramental marriages.
MacFarlane invites others to ask bishops to help defend marriage from no-fault divorce at:
, Dec 8, 2004 (CNA) - A mock documentary about a Jewish man who tries to meet Pope John Paul II while dressed as the devil, was named best Canadian film Sunday at the Whistler Film Festival.
“Papal Chase” was directed by Kenny Hotz on a US$800 budget, reports the Hollywood Reporter.
The feature-length film was shot during the Pope's visit in Toronto for World Youth Day. Hotz never met the pontiff, but he was run over during the papal mass by a golf cart, targeted by police snipers and escorted off site by Vatican security.
Boston, Mass., Dec 8, 2004 (CNA) - Boston College and the Weston Jesuit School of Theology are discussing a merger, reported the Associated Press.
The merger with Weston, located in Harvard Square, would bring to a number of prominent theologians to Boston College. Weston, with a student population of about 240 students, is one of two Jesuit theology schools in the United States. Although it prepares Jesuit and Capuchin priests, half of its student body is lay people.
Boston College, also a Jesuit school, already has a large theology department, and a student body estimated to be 70 percent Catholic.
The presidents of the two Jesuit institutions, Fr. William P. Leahy and Fr. Robert Manning, described the merger talks as serious, but still at the initial stages. They expect to have a decision by June. The earliest move, however, would only be in September 2006.
Fr. Leahy said that if the merger takes place, Weston could move into St. William's Hall, which Boston College purchased this summer from the Archdiocese of Boston in the high-profile sale of the archdiocese’s Brighton estate.
Fr. Manning said Weston would sell its three buildings and 12,000 square feet of land in Cambridge, evaluated at $1.1 million.
The merger would require the approval of the schools’ boards and the superior general of the Society of Jesus.
Rome, Italy, Dec 8, 2004 (CNA) - The influential Jesuit magazine “La Civilitá Cattolica,” whose content is reviewed by the Vatican Secretary of State, has published an article by Father Angel Macchi, SJ, in the current edition in which Father Macchi offers very positive comments on the reelection of George W. Bush.
According to Father Macchi, economic recovery, as well as “the distancing from Kerry by some Catholic bishops because of the issue of abortion” aided in Bush’s reelection. In addition, “the extraordinary effort to bring as many voters to the polls as possible was crowned with success.”
The article also points to the “great cultural significance” of the referendums in 11 states defining marriage as the union between one man and one woman. “In these 11 states where the referendums were put to a vote, they were approved by an overwhelming majority both in Republican and Democrat states, thus disproving the idea of the ‘two Americas’ split in half on fundamental moral issues.”
Lima, Peru, Dec 8, 2004 (CNA) - Archbishop Estanislaw Rylko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, said this week during the II Assembly of the Christian Life Movement in Lima, Peru, that the Church needs radical commitment to the Gospel at the dawn of the Third Millennium.
Archbishop Rylko, who traveled to Lima to meet with delegates participating in the gathering of members of the movement founded by Peruvian layman Luis Fernando Figaro, stated, “The Church has entered this new millennium with the awareness of the gravity of the problems and challenges that await her, but she is also filled with hope.” He likewise recalled the words of Pope John Paul II: “One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit to our times is most certainly the flourishing of the ecclesial movements which, since the beginning of my pontificate, I have been singled out as a reason for hope for the Church.”
“Today,” the archbishop continued, “it is impossible to speak of the New Evangelization without making reference to the ecclesial movements.” “Already as bishop of Krakow, John Paul II discovered the enormous evangelizing potential of the movements and he continues to do so now as Pope. Not only does he encourage, sustain and promote them in the Church but at the same time he is very demanding with them and he lays out significant goals for them.”
Archbishop Rylko also pointed out that, “Today more than ever, the Christian formation of the laity is the most urgent task, a formation that begins with a profound conversion of heart.”
Christian formation, he added, “should always have a strong missionary aspect, as the Christian vocation is by its very nature a vocation to the apostolate. This is why the ecclesial maturity of the movements finds its fullest expression in the work of evangelization.”
The novelty of the movements
Archbishop Rylko also mentioned that one of the most serious problems in the area of evangelization is that of falling into a routine, which “strips the Christian proclamation and witness of their freshness and persuasive strength.”
In this sense, he pointed out that the ecclesial movements go beyond the traditional forms of the apostolate in order to develop and propose “new methods and forms”, which “are not limited to the parish environment” but rather penetrate the culture, media, economy and politics of our day.
“Where is the source of this evangelical impulse of the ecclesial movements?” the archbishop asked. “It is because of the teachings of the II Vatican Council that the awareness of the charismatic dimensions, whether of the Church herself or of the Christian life, has notably increased.”
London, England, Dec 8, 2004 (CNA) - The Anglican Archbishop of York, David Hope, told the newspaper “The Telegraph” on Sunday that because of the ordination of an actively homosexual bishop, the Anglican Church is “on the verge of implosion.”
Hope, considered the second most important man in the Anglican Church, said the “fundamental Christian message” of the Anglican Church “is in danger of being lost” because of the differences that have emerged surrounding the ordination of women and, especially, the ordination of active homosexuals.
According to Hope, the internal struggle of the Anglican Communion because of these moral issues “puts off both young and old people.”
According the Hope, the Anglican Communion should first concentrate on “urgent” issues such as “the Christian doctrine of creation, redemption and sanctification.”
“If you go to a hospice where they're working with the dying, they're not asking you whether you're in favor of women bishops or whether you're gay or any of this, that or the other. The important thing is that the work of the persons there actually engages."
Hope acknowledged in the interview that a homosexual relationship is unacceptable from the point of view of Christian tradition, and he said that he “and many other clergy found it a daily struggle to live in accordance with the gospels.”
David Hope will retire as Archbishop of York on January 15.
Lima, Peru, Dec 8, 2004 (CNA) - On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, 100 young people in Lima, Peru, made a promise to the Blessed Mother to live in chastity while they discern the state of life to which they are called.
The young people, ranging in age from 17 to 25, will be the leaders of a campaign encouraging young people to practice chastity while they discern their vocation, whether to marriage, priestly or religious life.
According to the promoters of the campaign, inspired by the successful “Pure by Choice” program launched last year in Colorado, “the young people were encouraged to make the commitment during preparation for the reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation.”
The young people participated in a series of retreats which focused on purity as a lifestyle choice that leads to happiness and is a means to achieving complete fulfillment in their lives.
During the ceremony which was led by Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani of Lima, more than 200 religious also renewed their vows.
Konigstein, Germany, Dec 8, 2004 (CNA) - A day After Faraj Rahho, the Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul, northern Iraq, watched his home go up in flames when “Mujahedin,” – Muslim fighters of the “holy war” –bombed the building, priests from Baghdad asked the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need to “pray for us and especially for Archbishop Rahho.”
An ACN contact in Iraq said: “The bishop and the priests are very shaken. The bishop just had to stand in front of his home and watch it burn.” Priets and faithful in Mosul have been warning of an escalation in violence and intimidation over the recent months, fearing that a Fallujah-style catastrophe could grip the city.
ACN’ head of projects for the Middle East, Marie-Ange Siebrecht said: “We can only pray for the people at this terrible time. We appeal to people to pray for the Christians of Mosul and the whole community throughout Iraq. We cannot imagine what the bishop and his people must be going through. We should not forget that Mosul is one of the most important Christian centers in Iraq with a very ancient and rich history.”
For several months, priests and faithful in Mosul have received death threats. A few months ago, the archbishop responded to the threats by removing one of his priests to a safe house, away from the city.
Denver, Colo., Dec 8, 2004 (CNA) - The Fellowship of Catholic University Students recently announced it’s seventh annual National Student Leadership Conference to be held in Denver this January.
Last year over 1300 young people traveled from around the country to hear talks by speakers such as professor and author Scott Hahn and Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.
According to Nikki Shasserre, Director of Public Relations for FOCUS, “the first conference began outside of Kansas City in January of 1999 with 25 students.”
This year, FOCUS plans to break previous records, projecting attendance well over last year’s 1300 students. Speakers for this year’s conference include FOCUS founder, Curtis Martin, author Matthew Kelly and professor Scott Hahn.
FOCUS operates on 26 campuses throughout the United States and is, according to Shasserre, “designed to help college students incorporate their faith into their daily lives. FOCUS brings the fullness of life and truth in the Catholic Church to college students and gives the tools to help them share this good news with their friends.”