Vatican City, Dec 15, 2004 (CNA) - During the annual Mass for university students and faculty members from Roman and other European universities with Pope John Paul II yesterday evening in St. Peter’s Basilica, the Pope reiterated that the full truth about man can be reached by looking at “Christ’s gaze of love,” and not only by science.
"As 'sentinels of the morning',” said the Pope to the university students, “you wish to be vigilant - today, during these weeks of Advent, and throughout life - to be ready to welcome the Lord Who comes."
"Dear university students," he said, "we are in the year of the Eucharist and, in preparation for World Youth Day, you have been reflecting on the theme 'Eucharist and the Truth about Man'. This is a demanding theme. In fact, before the Eucharistic mystery, we are moved to verify the truth about our faith, our hope and our love.”
He said that “we cannot remain indifferent when Christ says: 'I am the living bread, come down from heaven'. Into our minds comes the question He asked: 'Do you believe it is I? Do you really believe?' In light of His words: 'Whoever eats this bread will have eternal life', we cannot not ask ourselves about the meaning and value of our daily lives."
In the face of the greatest love, that of Christ "Who sacrificed Himself for the life of the world", said the Holy Father, we must ask ourselves: "Is my humanity, my existence filled with the love of God and love for my neighbor? Or is it rather imprisoned in the oppressive cycle of selfishness?"
The Holy Father said that the search for "truth about man is not reached only by the means that science offers us," but also "thanks to Christ's gaze filled with love.”
“It is He, the Lord,” he continued, “Who comes to us in the mystery of the Eucharist. Never stop looking for Him and you will discover in His eyes an attractive reflection of the goodness and beauty that He Himself has placed in our hearts with the gift of His Spirit."
The Pope concluded by recalling that "during Advent, a prayerful time of waiting which prepares us for Christmas, Mary, the Virgin of Hope, is especially present. I entrust you to her so that you prepare yourselves to receive Christ who comes to establish His kingdom of love, justice and peace."
Washington D.C., Dec 15, 2004 (CNA) - A pro-abortion association, whose members include Planned Parenthood, announced plans Dec. 13 to file a federal lawsuit against the pro-life conscience protection in the newly enacted federal spending bill, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2005.
The National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA) plans to attack the provision, known as the Hyde-Weldon Conscience Protection Amendment, which prohibits discrimination against health care providers who choose not to provide or participate in abortions.
"This lawsuit is the height of hypocrisy: a 'pro-choice' group is suing so that health care providers will have no choice but to participate in abortion," said Cathy Cleaver Ruse, Esq., director of planning and information for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.
"Over a million abortions are done every year by willing abortion providers in this country – now the abortion lobby wants Catholic and other health care providers with moral objections to be forced into the practice of abortion," she said.
, Dec 15, 2004 (CNA) - In a Top Ten list of issues, about which Catholic investors in 2004 are most concerned, abortion takes first place, says a new survey conducted by Christian Brothers Investment Services, Inc. (CBIS).
In second place is environmental justice, pornography production and universal access to health care are tied for third, military weapons contractors comes in fourth, and fetal tissue/embryonic stem-cell research is in fifth place. The CBIS is the leading U.S. investment manager, which serves Catholic institutions exclusively. It manages $3.5 billion in assets.
A similar survey in 2001 abortion came out in the top spot as well. However, sweatshops were second, military weapon contractors were third and universal access to health care was fourth. Embryonic stem-cell research was also ranked fifth three years ago. And the production of pornography was tenth.
Two new issues emerged in the Top Ten list this year: environmental justice (in second) and violence in the mainstream media, which came in sixth. Responsible operations in developing countries came in seventh. The concern over sweatshops plummeted to eighth place. The distribution of sexually explicit entertainment and pornography in the mainstream media came ninth, and affordable AIDS drugs in developing countries took the tenth spot.
CBIS executive vice president Francis Coleman says the poll helps the company “ensure that our socially responsible investing policy is aligned with the views of our participants.”
As well, 82 percent of those polled believe shareholder advocacy, also referred to as “active ownership.”
Active ownership aims to change corporate behavior through shareholder activism in the form of proxy voting, dialogue and/or filing shareholder resolutions with corporations.
The survey also found solid backing among the Catholic investors for what CBIS refers to as "principled purchasing," a strategy that restricts and excludes investments in certain companies generating goods or services – such as tobacco and pornography –that conflict with Catholic values.
The 2004 survey polled 151 Catholic institutional investors, including dioceses, religious orders, hospitals and educational facilities.
Chicago, Ill., Dec 15, 2004 (CNA) - New Catholic schools are opening and flourishing in the Archdiocese of Chicago, thanks to committed parents and the investments of Catholic businesspeople.
Catholic schools across the country have been closing in recent decades, but parishes and parents are hoping that this new model of Catholic education can reverse that trend. In fact, the signs are hopeful. According to the National Catholic Education Association, 34 new Catholic schools opened in the U.S. in 2003-04.
Chicago Business reported on this new trend in a recent publication. The report features two new schools in Chicago are independent initiatives, founded by private investors.
Mortgage banker John T. Calk, 37, started East Lake Academy in Lake Forest three years ago with 13 children from six families. Its first building was financed by donations from those families. Now, there are 60 students from pre-kindergarten through sixth grade, and plans call for a high school.
John DeRoche, 45, started White Pines Academy in 1996 in his basement with 10 children from six families. Today, there are 130 students, pre-K through eighth grade, in leased space in Lemont. He envisions a school for 1,500, including a high school.
He and his board bought 32-acres in Lemont for $1.5 million to build a high school for 1,500 students. They're just a little short of the fund-raising mark needed for financing the campus' first building, budgeted at $6 million.
Both schools follow a curriculum developed by the Legionnaires of Christ. Annual tuition is about $5,600.
Other Catholic schools have developed in the city's oldest parishes, revived by young families who moved into new downtown housing. In this new model, these parish-based schools are not financially dependent on the parish. Instead, parents pay tuition, as much as $5,800, and organize fund-raisers.
The city's oldest parish opened a school this past fall with a pre-K class. Old St. Mary’s School and will add one grade each year, through eighth grade.
The school came about because a parent proposed the idea. Parents agreed that it would be tuition-funded. Parishioners also donated $400,000 to renovate space, and pledged another $150,000.
Along the same model, Immaculate Conception Parish reopened its grade school in 2000 with 19 students; there are now 132 from 14 parishes. The school had been closed in 1980, but in the late 1990s, the parish raised money to convert it back into classrooms. The parish subsidized the school for the first few years, but now the school is self-sufficient.
Vatican City, Dec 15, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II received a Christmas tree from the Archbishop and faithful of the autonomous Italian province of Trento this morning during his weekly General Audience in which he said that the long-awaited for Messiah is the righteous King who is the source of hope for the poor and oppressed.
The Christmas tree, he said, "is a gift of your autonomous province. Thank you! Thank you especially to those who made possible this Christmas gift which will remind visitors and pilgrims of the birth of Christ, light of the world." The tree will be placed in St. Peter’s Square.
John Paul II said that in the second part of Psalm 71, "Reign of a Righteous King,” “the decisive element which identifies the figure of the Messianic King is above all his justice and love for the poor who consider him a point of reference and a source of hope since he is the visible representative of their only defender and patron, God."
"The Lord," he continued, "is the 'savior-redeemer' Who works visibly through the Messiah-king, safeguarding 'the life and blood' of the poor, His protected ones.”
The Pope said that “'life' and 'blood' are the basic reality of the person and the representation of the rights and dignity of every human being, rights that are often violated by those in power in this world."
The Pope indicated that "humanity, putting aside and eliminating all divisions, will set out toward this sovereign of justice, fulfilling in this way the great promise made by the Lord to Abraham: 'And in him, shall every tribe of the earth be blessed'."
"The Christian tradition," he concluded, "has seen in this image of the Messiah and King a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Virgin Mary, the long-awaited Savior."
Beirut, Lebanon, Dec 15, 2004 (CNA) - The situation in the Arab world has reached a point at which the further subjugation and persecution of Christians in Muslim countries, and the loss of freedom of Christians in Lebanon, where they number 40% of the population, looms large, says Habib C. Malik, professor of history and cultural studies at the Lebanese American University in Beirut, Lebanon.
In the latest edition of the online newsletter, bitterlemons-international, Malik points out that there have been historically two different narratives of the experience of Christians in the Arab world since the rise of Islam: on the one hand is the narrative of subjugation, experienced by 90% of Christians in the region, and on the other, that of freedom, experienced by Lebanese Christians.
Malik points to the Copts of Egypt who are marginalized and “perceived as a convenient scapegoat,” for both “an authoritarian government and radical Islamist groups,” Sudanese Christians who have suffered a 20 year civil war because of a government wishing to impose Islamic law on them, Iraqi Christians fleeing their homeland everyday due to the constant threat of Islamist militants, and Syria and the Holy Land where Christians are almost completely marginalized, as examples of the 90% of Christians who’s historical experience continues to be that of subjugation.
However, “in Lebanon, following 15 years of war that resulted in open-ended Syrian domination, the Christians, who number close to 40 percent of the population, have seen their freedoms steadily erode, their numbers dwindle, and their political influence shrivel,” says Malik.
“The future of Christian Arabs hangs in the balance today,” he says “the majority, which initially was offered order in place of freedom, is now being handed insecurity everywhere throughout the Arab world. Those few who risked everything to embrace freedom face, at best, an uncertain course as pressures mount to deprive them of what is left of their hard-won liberties.”
Malik warns that “the future will remain bleak for Christian Arabs if their plight continues to be neglected by the rest of the world.”
He lists three factors that will deteremine this bleak future: “if the so-called war on terror falters and fanaticism gains the upper hand against moderate forces in the Muslim world.”
“If something remotely resembling democracy does not strike root in a pacified Iraq.”
“And,” he concludes, “if the line of freedom's erosion is not held in Lebanon, where a homegrown exception to the freedom-starved regional norm managed to flourish in the face of overwhelming odds.”
London, England, Dec 15, 2004 (CNA) - A senior adviser to the Archbishop of Canterbury has issued a warning that the Church of England will fragment over homosexual clergy and other matters, and that Christianity in Britain will be driven underground.
In a private document, leaked to the London Times, Jayne Ozanne questions the faith of the Church of England and observes that it seems to have forgotten the meaning of Christian discipleship.
Her paper was presented to the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and the Archbishop of York David Hope at a closed-door meeting of the Archbishops’ Council yesterday. Ozanne has been one of the 19 members of the church's policymaking body since it was created in 1999.
"I see a time of great persecution coming, which will drive Christianity all but underground in the West. I believe that this will primarily take the form of a social and economic persecution, where Christians will be ridiculed for their faith and pressurized into making it a purely private matter," she wrote.
While the established church will self-destruct, "fragmenting into various divisions over a range of internal issues", she said, a new Church in England will take root, consisting of non-denominational cell groups throughout the country.
Philip Giddings, one of the church's most senior laymen, a political scientist and lecturer at Reading University, backed Ozanne’s reflections, saying that it “needs to be taken seriously.”
Giddings, who describes himself as a celibate homosexual, said he agrees that there is a “real possibility” that Christians will face the kind of persecution Ozanne predicts, and that the church will have to face the challenges of fragmentation.
Ozanne's paper, he said, should be seen in the context of the divisions between the orthodox and liberal wings of the church worldwide.
Havana, Cuba, Dec 15, 2004 (CNA) - This Sunday hundreds of Cubans participated in an emotional Mass to mark the re-inauguration of the Hermitage of the Immaculate, Cuba's oldest functioning church, in Havana's Guanabacoa district.
The small church was originally the chapel of an old cemetery in the Cuban capital and was dedicated in 1641 to Mary Immaculate with church approval even though the dogma of the Immaculate Conception would not be proclaimed until 200 years later.
The chapel had fallen into disuse after the Communist revolution and was on the verge of collapse until the Church was able to secure authorization from the government as well as obtain a significant donation from the German charititable organization Adveniat.
This Sunday, December 12, Monsignor Ramon Suarez Polcari, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Havana, celebrated Mass at the chapel with hundreds of attending.
Referring to the restoration of the chapel, Msgr. Suarez stated, "Our thanks goes to the generous Catholic community in Germany," and he clarified that the restoration took place "without any official government support."
During his homily Msgr. Polcari also pointed out that "the greatest sin is to separate oneself from God, to do things as if we were gods on our own."
He also called on Catholic Cubans "to feel pride in belonging to the Church." "This is the Church of which we take pride in being her children which we glory in as children of God, full of patience and hope, capable of doing great things, like Mary did in her submission to God," he concluded.
Madrid, Spain, Dec 15, 2004 (CNA) - More than two thousand people participated in a march for life this past Saturday near the Ministry of Health in Madrid in order to make known to the country's leaders their rejection of abortion, their support for pregnant women and their respect for human life from conception to natural death.
The march was organized by the group Doctors for Life.
According to spokesmen for the association, the march was a success "despite the boycott by some in the mainstream media, who even falsely announced a few days ago that the event had been cancelled."
The protesters, made up in large part of families and young people, carried signs and voiced chants calling for respect for life and denouncing the government's pro-abortion stance. Many people who passed by the demonstration in their cars honked their horns in an expression of support.
The march included a courageous talk given by two women who had gone through abortions and who called on citizens to support women and help them avoid going through such an experience.
Dr. Juan Francisco Jimenez, a leading member of Doctors for Life, said, "The enthusiastic and large turnout among young people is a sign of social vitality and nothing can keep one from seeing that Spain is pro-life and not pro-death."
Jesus Poveda, leader of Spain's Pro-Life Movement, stated, "There is an unstoppable resurgence of social sensitivity to defending life which goes beyond political ideologies."
Lastly, the president of Doctors for Life, Enrique Jaureguizar, said the march was convened to ask the government to reverse the law on abortion and to pass legislation that protects pregnant mothers, so that abortion is not the only choice they are given.
Doctors for Life is an association of the Autonomous University of Madrid and is dedicated to "the defense of the most fundamental right of the human being: the right to life."
Mexico City, Mexico, Dec 15, 2004 (CNA) - Cardinal Norberto Rivera, Archbishop of Mexico City, is calling on Mexicans to financially assist the Church to continue building a shrine dedicated to St. Juan Diego, which is to be located near the Basilica of Guadalupe.
Cardinal Rivera lamented that some media have "invented" the story that construction has been suspended for economic reasons and he pointed out that the delay was due to the government failing to provide the necessary documentation to begin construction.
"Without the paperwork which federal authorities finally sent to us last week, we were liable to disappoint so many people who want to see a church in this place," he explained.
The cardinal revealed that after the Christmas holidays, the groundwork for construction of the church will continue forward. He warned however that the church would be built "as the people contribute. Its not like we have all the money to finance the construction. Catholic churches have always been built through the contributions of the faithful." Therefore he renewed his call for Catholics to contribute economically to the project.
The shrine dedicated to St. Juan Diego, the Indian to whom the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared, could be completed in two years.
Sydney, Australia, Dec 15, 2004 (CNA) - The morals which the “sexual revolution” considered to be “taboos” exist for a reason, Health Minister Tony Abbott told “The Australian.”
According to Abbott, even radical feminist leaders “are beginning to regret the dark consequences of sexual freedom.”
With 100,000 abortions per year and a divorce rate of 37%, Australia has decided to introduce legal changes to stop the destruction of the family. Among other things, the country has just approved a law that only accepts marriage between a man and a woman. The legislation excludes any other type of “union” and disregards the “unnatural marriages” that take place in other countries.
“The legacy of a permissive society, broken families, mental illnesses, suggests that the old ‘social taboos’ were somewhat right,” Abbott said.
, Dec 15, 2004 (CNA) - The Latin America Bishops Conference (CELAM) is planning a gathering of the bishops of the region to discuss how to promote social responsibility in the business world.
The gathering, which will take place in April of 2005 in Costa Rica, will bring together the bishops charged with social ministries and with Catholic Charities in order to discuss methods for encouraging Latin American Catholic entrepreneurs to participate in the social development of their own countries.
“A socially responsible business is a very powerful tool for converting savage globalization into globalization with a human face and is a benefit for all members of society,” CELAM said.
The meeting will address pastoral plans for the Church in the region, keeping in mind the experiences of the North America.