Vatican City, Jan 10, 2005 (CNA) - This morning at 11 in the Regia Hall, John Paul II met with the members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See for an exchange of New Year's greetings and for his annual "state of the world" address.
Given in French, the Pope's speech was also made available in English, Spanish and Italian. His talk followed greetings by Ambassador Giovanni Galassi of San Marino, dean of the diplomatic corps.
In his welcome, the Pope had special words for the 37 new ambassadors who presented their Letters of Credence during the past year.
He added that his sentiments of joy at today's meeting "are overshadowed, unfortunately, by the enormous catastrophe which on December 26 struck different countries of Southeast Asia and as far as the coasts of East Africa.
It made for a painful ending of the year just past: a year troubled also by other natural calamities, such as the devastating cyclones in the Indian Ocean and the Antilles, and the plague of locusts which desolated vast regions of Northwest Africa.”
Other tragedies also cast a shadow on 2004, like the acts of barbarous terrorism which caused bloodshed in Iraq and other countries of the world, the savage attack in Madrid, the terrorist massacre in Beslan, the inhuman acts of violence inflicted on the people of Darfur, the atrocities perpetrated in the Great Lakes region of Africa."
The Holy Father told the diplomats that their presence "immediately sets before our eyes the great tableau of humanity with its grave and troubling problems and its great and undampened hopes.”
He said that “The Catholic Church, because of her universal nature, is always directly engaged in the great causes for which the men and women of our age struggle and hope."
He then quoted his Message for World Day of Peace 2005, saying its theme - "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good" - was the message he wished to leave them today because it "has a specific application to international relations, and it can be a guide to all in meeting the great challenges facing humanity today," principally the challenge of life, the challenge of food, the challenge of peace and that of freedom.
The Church’s Task to Promote Life
Regarding the challenge of life, Pope John Paul said: "The Church is called to proclaim 'the Gospel of Life'.”
He added that “the State has as its primary task precisely the safeguarding and promotion of human life. ... Conflicting views have been put forward regarding abortion, assisted procreation, the use of human embryonic stem cells for scientific research, and cloning.”
“The Church's position,” he said, “supported by reason and science, is clear: the human embryo is a subject identical to the human being which will be born at the term of its development. Consequently whatever violates the integrity and the dignity of the embryo is ethically inadmissible.”
“Similarly, any form of scientific research which treats the embryo merely as a laboratory specimen is unworthy of man."
There is also a challenge to the family, he said, noting that today "the family is often threatened by social and cultural pressures which tend to undermine its stability; but in some countries the family is also threatened by legislation which - at times directly - challenge its natural structure, which is and must necessarily be that of a union between a man and a woman founded on marriage."
The Challenge to Feed the Nations
On the challenge of food, the Pope stated: "This world, made wondrously fruitful by its Creator, possesses a sufficient quantity and variety of food for all its inhabitants, now and in the future. Yet the statistics on world hunger are dramatic: hundreds of millions of human beings are suffering from grave malnutrition, and each year millions of children die of hunger or its effects."
“Much has been done,” he added, "yet all this is not enough. An adequate response to this need, which is growing in scale and urgency, calls for a vast moral mobilization of public opinion; the same applies all the more to political leaders, especially in those countries enjoying a sufficient or even prosperous standard of living."
Peace- the “Dream of Every Generation”
Turning to the challenge of peace, the Holy Father pointed out that "peace is the dream of every generation. Yet how many wars and armed conflicts continue to take place - between States, ethnic groups, peoples and groups living in the same territory.”
“From one end of the world to the other, they are claiming countless innocent victims and spawning so many other evils!”
“In addition to these tragic evils”, he said, “there is the brutal, inhuman phenomenon of terrorism, a scourge which has taken on a global dimension unknown to previous generations.”
"Like my venerable predecessors," he affirmed, "I have spoken out countless times, in public statements - especially in my annual Message for the World Day of Peace - and through the Holy See's diplomatic activity, and I shall continue to do so, pointing out the paths to peace and urging that they be followed with courage and patience.
The arrogance of power must be countered with reason, force with dialogue, pointed weapons with outstretched hands, evil with good."
He said that "there are some encouraging signs that the great challenge of building peace can be met," especially in Africa and the Middle East, adding that "certainly an outstanding example of the possibility of peace can be seen in Europe: nations which were once fierce enemies locked in deadly wars are now members of the European Union."
"God loves mankind, and he wants peace for all men and women. We are asked to be active instruments of that peace, and to overcome evil with good."
“All Human Beings Born Free”
Pope John Paul then turned to the challenge of freedom, telling the diplomats: "All of you know how important this is to me, especially because of the history of my native people, yet it is also important to each of you. ... “
“Yet freedom is first and foremost a right of each individual.”
“As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights fittingly states in Article 1 - 'all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights'. Article 3 goes on to state that 'everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person'. Certainly the freedom of States is also sacred; they need to be free, above all so that they can carry out adequately their fundamental duty of safeguarding both the life and the freedom of their citizens in all their legitimate manifestations.”
"At the very heart of human freedom is the right to religious freedom, since it deals with man's most fundamental relationship: his relationship with God. ...”
“In many States, freedom of religion is a right which is not yet sufficiently or adequately recognized. ...”
“Consequently I repeat today an appeal which the Church has already made on numerous occasions: 'It is necessary that religious freedom be everywhere provided with an effective constitutional guarantee, and that respect be shown for the high duty and right of man freely to lead his religious life in society'.”
"There need be no fear that legitimate religious freedom would limit other freedoms or be injurious to the life of civil society. On the contrary: together with religious freedom, all other freedoms develop and thrive. ...”
“Neither should there be a fear that religious freedom, once granted to the Catholic Church, would intrude upon the realm of political freedom and the competencies proper to the State: the Church is able carefully to distinguish, as she must, what belongs to Caesar from what belongs to God."
Vatican City, Jan 10, 2005 (CNA) - This morning, the Pope received the Letters of Credence of the new ambassador from the Republic of Cuba, Raul Roa Kouri, to whom he gave assurances of his interest in efforts by Cuban authorities to further develop their achievements in the fields of health, education and culture in their different forms.
The Pope affirmed that "the Holy See considers that assuring these conditions of human existence means erecting some of the pillars of the house of peace.
This does not mean just the absence of war, but the possibility of all members of society benefiting from integral human promotion, in health and the harmonic growth of the body and the spirit."
John Paul II expressed the hope that "the obstacles preventing free communication and exchange between Cuba and a part of the international community" would soon be overcome, and that this would strengthen, "by means of open and respectful dialogue with everyone, the conditions necessary for true peace."
After highlighting the Cuban nation's spirit of solidarity in the face of natural catastrophes, conflicts and poverty, the Holy Father stressed that "in order for the Church's activity among the Cuban people to become more effective in promoting the common good, it would be appropriate for her - in an environment of true religious freedom - to maintain and increase the bonds of solidarity that already exist with other sister Churches who do not hesitate to give their generous support in various ways.”
“In particular” he said this could be done by “making priests and religious available to favor the work of the Catholic Church in Cuba, whose members are part of the Cuban people, living together in communion and harmony with the Apostolic See."
The Pope affirmed that divergences concerning the guidance and proposals of the Church, between those who profess the faith and those who do not, "must not give rise to any form of social conflict, but favor a broad-ranging and constructive dialogue."
On this subject, he recalled the areas in which the Church in Cuba "wishes to illuminate social reality, such as, for example, the extensive problems raised by the promotion of human dignity; consideration for the family situation and the education of young generations in a culture of peace, of life and of hope; the complex relationship between the economy and the values of the spirit; comprehensive attention to the human individual - aspects in which it is necessary to establish a dialogue with all groups that make up the Cuban people."
Vatican City, Jan 10, 2005 (CNA) - Made public today was the Holy Father's message for the 42nd World Day of Prayer for Vocations, to be held on April 17, fourth Sunday of Easter, on the theme: "Called to put out into the deep."
The text of the Message has been published in English, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and German.
In the Message, dated August 11, 2004, the Pope recollects Jesus' call to His disciples: "To let down their nets for a catch, which turned out to be a marvelous one. Jesus says to Peter: 'Duc in altum - Put out into the deep' ...”
“The command of Christ is particularly relevant in our time, when there is a widespread mentality which, in the face of difficulties, favors personal non-commitment. The first condition for 'putting out into the deep' is to cultivate a deep spirit of prayer nourished by a daily listening to the Word of God."
"Whoever opens his heart to Christ” he challenged, “will not only understand the mystery of his own existence, but also that of his own vocation; he will bear the abundant fruit of grace. ... Living the Gospel without adding to it, the Christian becomes always increasingly capable of loving in the way that Christ loved."
Addressing himself to adolescents and young people, John Paul II writes: "You find yourselves having to make important decisions for your future."
After recalling his numerous meetings with young people over the years he reiterates how he has "come to recognize more and more how strong is the attraction in young people to the values of the spirit, and how sincere is their desire for holiness.”
“Young people need Christ, but they also know that Christ chose to be in need of them."
"Dear young men and women! Trust Christ; listen attentively to His teachings, fix your eyes on His face, persevere in listening to His Word. Allow Him to focus your search and your aspirations, all your ideals and the desires of your heart."
The Holy Father then turns to parents, Christian educators, priests, consecrated people and catechists: "Be an example to (the young) of generous fidelity to Christ. ... Help them to discern their path, and to become true friends of Christ and His true disciples.”
“.... Do not forget that today too there is need of holy priests, of persons wholly consecrated to the service of God!"
"May an ardent prayer sustained by the motherly intercession of Mary, rise from every corner of the earth, to the heavenly Father to obtain 'laborers for His harvest'. May He give zealous and holy priests to every part of his flock."
The Message concludes with a prayer to Christ, High Priest, in which the Pope calls with renewed trust for young people to discover the full truth of their own vocation.
Vatican City, Jan 10, 2005 (CNA) - The Pope's Angelus reflections today, the feast of the Baptism of Jesus, highlighted this sacrament which he said the Evangelists considered as the start of Jesus' messianic ministry.
"Christ's mission, thus begun, was fulfilled in the paschal mystery in which, having died and risen, He took away the sin of the world."
"The mission of every Christian also begins with Baptism," said the Holy Father. "The rediscovery of Baptism, through appropriate itineraries of adult catechesis, is thus an important aspect of the new evangelization.”
“Renewing in a more mature fashion one's own adherence to the faith is the condition for a true and full participation in the Eucharistic celebration that is the summit of ecclesial life."
After praying the Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square, the Pope said "my thoughts turn this Sunday of the Lord's Baptism to all the children who were baptized in the course of the year. I embrace and bless them.”
“I also bless their godfathers and godmothers and, in a special way, the parents of the newly baptized, asking everyone to cultivate in them, through word and example, the seeds of divine life born in the sacrament of Baptism."
, Jan 10, 2005 (CNA) - The Maplewood Public School District is facing a lawsuit for having banned traditional Christmas music, including instrumentals, last month.
Groups, such as the Martin Luther King Gospel Choir and the Brass Ensemble, were banned from performing traditional Christmas songs and carols.
The lawsuit was filed by the Thomas More Law Center Friday on behalf of Michael Stratechuk and his two children, who are students in the New Jersey school district. The plaintiffs claim that the policy is unconstitutional.
The Law Center is arguing that the school district’s total ban on religious music conveys a government-sponsored message of hostility toward religion. It also argues that the ban denies students the opportunity to learn about and listen to music that has influenced the cultural and historic development of society.
“The constitution does not require our public schools to become religion–free zones,” said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Law Center. “Forcing students to strip all religious content from music is like asking them to study art history while excluding paintings from the Renaissance because they contain religious subjects.”
, Jan 10, 2005 (CNA) - The Diocese of Pittsburg issued an official warning about a quarterly magazine, called Thorns and Roses. The warning was reported in the Pittsburg Catholic.
The magazine is distributed in some Pittsburg-area churches as well as in other churches across the country. A Pittsburg-based group called, Padre Pio Spiritual Refuge Inc., publishes it, but the group is not an official ecclesiastical organization, cautioned Fr. Lawrence DiNardo, diocesan vicar for canonical services.
Furthermore, the magazine is associated with a former priest, Anthony Cipolla, who was "dismissed from the clerical state" by the Pope, said Fr. DiNardo, who also serves as the director of Pittsburg’s Department for Canon and Civil Law Services.
Bishop Donald Wuerl had banned Cipolla from ministry in 1988, following allegations of sexual abuse of a minor. Pope John Paul II laicized Cipolla in 2002.
Thorns and Roses contains material that is “certainly objectionable,” including attacks on Church hierarchy, Fr. DiNardo reportedly said. “Thorns and Roses does not have any imprimatur from the Church,” he added.
If people have a devotion to St. Padre Pio and wish to make a donation, they should make it to the Capuchin Franciscan Fathers, which is the primary organization that honors St. Padre Pio in the diocese, and not to Padre Pio Spiritual Refuge Inc., Fr. DiNardo urged.
, Jan 10, 2005 (CNA) - The Catholic high schools of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati are hoping to raise $100,000 by Jan. 30 – Catholic Schools Week – for the tsunami survivors in Asia, reported the Cincinnati Enquirer. The money will be sent to Catholic Relief Services.
Efforts to raise funds in elementary and high schools across Greater Cincinnati are off to a strong start.
Local teachers told the Cincinnati Enquirer that they are moved by the compassion and generosity the students have demonstrated for victims of the disaster. Students in low-income areas have donated their lunch money, part of their allowance or the money they got as Christmas gifts.
The newspaper also reported that 21 fifth-graders at St. Bernard School had collected 46 pounds of coins and bills in just three days and several schools have organized prayer services.
Fourth-grade teacher Alyssa Adkins at Delshire Elementary told her students she would match their donations. The students have already donated $107.
, Jan 10, 2005 (CNA) - Last night, parishoners at a North St. Louis Church overwhelmingly voted down a proposal to conform to Archdiocesan standards and come into compliance with Church law.
St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish voted 299-5 in favor of retaining full control of the parish, it’s operation, and assets from the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
The Parish currently operates under a structure in which the pastor is subject to the authority of the parish governing board. Archbishop Burke has pointed out that this structure is in violation of Canon Law.
In August, Burke removed the priests assigned to St. Stanislaus and moved Polish language masses to a nearby parish although many church members have continued to hold a weekly “prayer meeting.”
Archbishop Burke had given the parish until February 4th to bring the church’s civil structure into compliance with Church law, but last night’s vote seems indicative of what is to come.
Although it’s opponents claim otherwise, the office of the Archbishop maintains that the Archbishop is not interested in taking St. Stanislaus’ assets, only that the parish conform to Church law.
In November, the Vatican denied a hand-delivered appeal by the parish regarding the matter.
Archbishop Burke warned parish board members earlier this month that if they continue to reject the Church’s directive, they may face an interdict, which forbids them from receiving the sacraments as long as their rebellion continues.
Vatican City, Jan 10, 2005 (CNA) - Soon, the Vatican will present the works of Moses Maimonides, one of the most influential figures in modern Jewish thought to Israel for scholarly study.
With this gesture, the Vatican hopes to continue to bridge the divide between Jews and Christians worldwide.
Later this month, Pope John Paul II will receive a delegation of about 160 rabbis, cantors and American lay Jews who wish to thank the Pope for his years of good will and hard work toward bridging cultural and religious divides between the two faiths. There, they will discuss the display of the priceless artifacts for the first time in Israel.
The Vatican’s gesture is being viewed as a major step toward improved relations. According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, “The loaning of the manuscripts is also viewed as an offering to resolve other political and social disagreements in Israel, including Hebrew University's partial use of a convent since 1948 that the Vatican wants back, and property tax exemptions for religious institutions.”
Gary Krupp, who helped to make the loan happen, reported to the Sun-Sentinel that the benefit of this loan and future gestures like it “would be astronomical.”
Maimonides was a 12th century sage from Egypt known for, among other things, the first codification of Jewish law. His writings have greatly influenced both Jewish and Christian thought for centuries.
The one of a kind document, recorded by a scribe in the 1400’s is one of the few remaining records of Maimonides after Jewish opponents who considered him a heretic burned much of his original work.
During the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church safeguarded many of the major works of western thought, and retains many original documents within its archives.
The Maimonides manuscript is among at least three other medieval manuscripts, which could be on display at the Israel Museum as early as this May.
Krupp was happy to report to the Sun-Sentinel that the Vatican had maintained the documents perfectly.
Caracas, Venezuela, Jan 10, 2005 (CNA) - As the Venezuelan Bishops Conference convened for their 83rd Plenary Assembly, the Apostolic Nuncio to Venezuela, Archbishop Andre Dupuy, called on the bishops to be witnesses to “true hope” in the midst of the current crisis facing the country.
The archbishop recalled, “During more than four years I have shared together with you the joys, hopes, sadness and anguish of the people entrusted to you.” He also praised peaceful demonstrations, which “honor your people and democracy.”
“There are two dangers to true hope,” he continued. “Presumption and fatalism. The former led Peter to deny; the latter enveloped Judas in betrayal.”
“You and I are convinced that the Church’s duty is to be, for all, the messenger of true hope.”
Archbishop Dupuy later explained that “in a society marked by a crisis of difficult precedence, we need fidelity, clarity, and the courage of the Old Testament prophets, so that the Church continues to always be a spiritual and moral reference point.”
“A prophet is one who admonishes, one who unmasks,” he said. A prophet is not an “iconoclast of power, but rather if its abuses, when civil authority, instituted for the common good, goes astray in favor of an individual or single group.”
“If society and the State want the Church to be a sign and an agent of dialogue and reconciliation,” warned the archbishop, “they should recognize her and guarantee her the right to enlighten temporal realities on the basis of the Gospel, even when her judgment contradicts the opinions and particular interests of the former or the excesses of the latter.”
Archbishop Dupuy lastly encouraged the Venezuelan bishops to be “humble and realistic” in dealing with current events. “Let us avoid both discouragement and illusory optimism. Let us not close our eyes, let us be attentive so that our hope does not become acquiescence or violence.”
Madrid, Spain, Jan 10, 2005 (CNA) - Archbishop Fernando Sebastian of Pamplona and General Secretary of the Bishops Conference of Spain is warning that the possible legalization of homosexual “marriage” and its equivalency in rights with unions between a man and a woman will undermine the basic pillars of the family as well as those of Spanish society.
Archbishop Sebastian called on Spanish society to “defend” itself and to reject “through all legitimate means” the bill which the Government is pushing, which “in no way can be understood or justified as an act of service toward the common good.”
He also warned that Spain would suffer “a true epidemic of homosexuality” if the boundaries between “homo” and “hetero” are socially and politically dissolved and the idea of “the one is as good as the other” is strengthened.
The Archbishop of Pamplona pointed out that although they are equal in rights, men and women are not same, nor are homosexuals and heterosexuals. To deny this reality could be “a source of psychological problems and painful frustrations.”
In fact, according to Archbishop Sebastian, a person of the masculine or feminine sex “with feelings, sensitivities and tendencies towards someone of the same sex, whether they will it or not, is an ill-configured person, someone psychologically unsettled.” He added that homosexuals, “if they wish, can change their situation with proper direction.”
Lastly, he said it was urgent that parents, teachers, catechists and priests adequately guide the psychological development and maturation process of young people so that they “turn out okay.” “That is, that they end up with a personality that is fully masculine or fully feminine, in which the biological and the psychological are in harmony.”
“What remains is for us to do everything possible to eliminate this arbitrary and unjust law,” he concluded.
Madrid, Spain, Jan 10, 2005 (CNA) - The “State Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals and Bisexuals” in Spain announced on Sunday that it will launch a campaign against the Catholic Church in response to recent statements of the Spanish bishops criticizing a law that would legalize homosexual “marriage.”
“We will ask that nobody give a penny to the Catholic Church during the next tax-filing season,” said the group’s president, Beatriz Gimeno.
In the statement, the group announces it has been planning a campaign to call on citizens, “even those who are Christians,” to “civically punish” the Catholic Church by not checking the box on their tax returns that authorizes a portion of their taxes be given to the Church, and instead to give that money to “other social works.”
Gimeno claimed, “The well-intentioned message (of the Church) to reeducate homosexual persons, in order to correct supposed deviations or defects” is in reality “the ideological alibi for violent groups to attack gays, lesbians, transsexuals and bisexuals.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 10, 2005 (CNA) - In a message aimed at inviting Catholics to live fully the Year of the Eucharist, the Archbishop of Guadalajara, Mexico, Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iñiguez, called on Catholics to renew the practice of attending Mass every Sunday.
The cardinal pointed out in his message that, “As 2005 begins, I desire God’s blessings upon you all, and I remind you that the Year of the Eucharist has begun, as Pope John Paul II so declared at the end of the International Eucharistic Congress. Therefore, we believers must spread the knowledge and love of this great Mystery of the Eucharist.”
Cardinal Sandoval recalled that Guadalajara was the first city to host a National Eucharistic Congress in 1906.
“That this city has been the host of the first Congresses, national and international, is a sign of God’s plan that He wants it to be close to the Eucharist,” he added.
“In this Eucharistic year,” he continued, “based on the commitments derived from the International Congress, I wish to remind Catholics, first, that Sunday Mass is obligatory and is the principal source of devotion to the Most Holy Eucharist and the celebration of the Pascal Mystery of the Death and Resurrection of the Lord.”
The cardinal also pointed out that, “Frequent communion for all believers is a sign of the real presence of the Father as nourishment of Eternal Life; and when it is received by those who living in friendship with God, in his grace, confession before every reception of Communion is not required.”