Vatican City, Jan 24, 2005 (CNA) - This morning, the Pope received the first group of Spanish prelates who have just completed their "ad limina" visit.
In his address, the Pope highlighted that Spain "is a country of profound Christian roots.
He told them that, “The Church in your nation has a glorious history of generosity and sacrifice, of robust spirituality and altruism, and has offered the universal Church numerous sons and daughters outstanding for their practice of heroic virtues or for their witness as martyrs.”
I myself have had the joy of canonizing and beatifying numerous sons and daughters of Spain. ... The living Christian roots of Spain, as I highlighted in my last pastoral visit in May 2003, cannot be pulled up, rather they must continue to nourish the harmonious development of society."
John Paul II noted that in their five-yearly reports the bishops had highlighted their concern for the vitality of the Church as well as the challenges and difficulties they have to face.
Over the last few years, he said, "many things have changed in the social, economic and religious field, at times giving rise to religious indifference and a kind of moral relativism; these influence Christian practice and consequently affect social structures themselves."
Referring to the social sphere, the Holy Father noted that "a lay-inspired mentality is also spreading, an ideology that leads - with a greater or lesser degree of awareness - to the restriction of religious liberty, even promoting scorn or ignorance of religious matters, relegating faith to the private sphere and opposing its public expression.”
This does not form part of the most noble Spanish tradition, because the mark left by the Catholic faith in the life and culture of the Spanish is too deep for them to fall prey to the temptation to silence it."
Furthermore, he went on, "young people have the right, from the very beginning of the formative process, to be educated in the faith.”
The integral education of the youngest cannot ignore religious education, even in schools, when the parents ask for it, with an academic evaluation in keeping with its importance. For their part, the public authorities have the duty to guarantee this right to parents and to ensure the actual conditions for its effective practice, as laid down in the 1979 Partial Accords between Spain and the Holy See, which are currently in force."
The Pope went on to talk about the religious situation, in which, according to the bishops' reports, there is "serious concern for the vitality of the Church in Spain, while at the same time various challenges and difficulties arise.”
Attentive to the problems and the expectations of the faithful faced with this new situation,” the Pope told them, “you as pastors feel called to remain united in order to make the presence of the Lord more palpable among men and women, using the pastoral initiatives most appropriate to the new realities."
After underlining the need for the Sacraments "in the development of Christian life" and the importance of pastors celebrating them "with dignity and decorum," John Paul II called for "pastoral activity that promotes a more assiduous participation of the faithful in the Sunday Eucharist, which must be experienced not just as a precept, but rather as a requirement profoundly inscribed in each Christian's life."
Referring to the bishops' concern for priests and seminarians, the Pope affirmed that priests "are in the front line of evangelization," that they have special need of "your care and pastoral closeness," and that "they must recall that, in the first instance, they are men of God and, for that reason, cannot disregard their spiritual life and permanent formation.”
“... Among the many activities that fill the day of each priest, the most important is the celebration of the Eucharist."
The Pope said that "one living hope is the increase of priestly vocations" and that "no fear must be felt in proposing this to young people, then accompanying them at a human and spiritual level in order for them to discern their vocational option."
"The Catholic faithful - who are called to seek the Kingdom of God by concerning themselves with worldly reality, ordering it according to divine will - are called to be valiant witnesses of their faith in the various fields of public life. ... The young, future of the Church and of society, must be the special object of your pastoral concerns."
Vatican City, Jan 24, 2005 (CNA) - The Pope made public today his message for the 39th Day of Social Communications which is due to be held on May 8, 2005, on the theme: "The Communications Media: at the service of understanding among peoples."
The event will be held on the Feast of St. Francis of Sales, patron saint of journalists.
Extracts from the message - which was published in Italian, English, French, German, Spanish and Portuguese - are given below:
"The theme chosen for the 2005 World Communications Day - "The Communications Media: at the service of understanding among peoples" - addresses an urgent need: to promote the unity of the human family."
"One important way of achieving this end is through education. The media can teach billions of people about other parts of the world and other cultures. ... Accurate knowledge promotes understanding, dispels prejudice, and awakens the desire to learn more. ...”
When others are portrayed in hostile terms, seeds of conflict are sown. ... Instead of building unity and understanding, the media can be used to demonize other social, ethnic and religious groups, fomenting fear and hatred.”
Those responsible for the style and content of what is communicated have a grave duty to ensure that this does not happen. Indeed, the media have enormous potential for promoting peace and building bridges between peoples."
"If such a contribution to peace-making is one of the significant ways the media can bring people together, its influence in favor of the swift mobilization of aid in response to natural disasters is another.”
It was heartening to see how quickly the international community responded to the recent tsunami that claimed countless victims."
"The Second Vatican Council reminded us: 'If the media are to be correctly employed, it is essential that all who use them know the principles of the moral order and apply them faithfully.”
“The fundamental ethical principle is this: 'The human person and the human community are the end and measure of the use of the media of social communication; communication should be by persons to persons for the integral development of persons.' In the first place, then, the communicators themselves need to put into practice in their own lives the values and attitudes they are called to instill in others.”
Above all, this must include a genuine commitment to the common good - a good that is not confined by the narrow interests of a particular group or nation but embraces the needs and interests of all."
"My prayer on this year's World Communications Day is that the men and women of the media will play their part in breaking down the dividing walls of hostility in our world, walls that separate peoples and nations from one another, feeding misunderstanding and mistrust."
Vatican City, Jan 24, 2005 (CNA) - Today at the Vatican, John Paul II received the Letters of Credence of Monique Patricia Antoinette Frank, the new ambassador to the Holy See from the Netherlands.
Addressing her in French, the Pope underscored how the world needs "to build a future of peace among men" and "to consolidate a stable international order, guaranteed by a better sharing of resources at an international level and policies actively aimed at development."
There must also be "dialogue among the different peoples that comprise a nation" which is aimed at reciprocal respect, he said
The Pope pointed out that, as part of the Church's contribution to this process, "I once again took the initiative, almost three years ago, of gathering together in Assisi the leaders of the great religions of the world so as to show together our common will for peace; I called them to a deeper dialogue among all religions, and I asked them in particular absolutely to renounce any legitimization of recourse to violence for religious motives and, even more, to explicitly condemn this.”
Since then, the Holy See has worked to promote, at all levels, an authentic inter-religious dialogue, inviting all Christians, in all societies where they live, to act in this same spirit, as artisans of peace and dialogue, notably among the faithful of other religions with whom they live."
The Holy Father echoed the ambassador's words about "the important part your country plays in the fight against hunger and poverty in the world and its commitment in favor of development and health assistance to populations especially exposed to the drama of pandemics such as AIDS."
He also recalled the position of the Holy See on this question, which "considers it necessary ... to combat this illness in a responsible way, increasing prevention especially through education with regard to the sacred value of life, and formation in the correct practice of sexuality, which involves chastity and fidelity."
Noting that "the Netherlands has just assumed the presidency of the European Union, at a time when it is welcoming new countries," he said "the Holy See has always followed and encouraged the European project as a constructive contribution to peace on the continent itself, but also beyond."
"For several years now," affirmed John Paul II, "Dutch society, marked by the phenomenon of secularization, has been engaged in new policies in legislative matters concerning the beginning and the end of human life.”
The Holy See has never failed to make its clear position known and to invite the Catholics of the Netherlands always to bear witness to their attachment to absolute respect for the human person, from conception to natural death."
Vatican City, Jan 24, 2005 (CNA) - The Holy Father today received the rector, students, former students and superiors of the diocesan seminary of Rome, the "Almo Collegio Capranica," on the occasion of the feast day of their patroness, St Agnes.
The "Almo Collegio" forms students to the priesthood for Rome, other Italian dioceses and the rest of the world.
"In order to achieve correct discernment," the Pope said, "it is essential to hold an intense and trusting dialogue at various levels, with superiors and fellow students. Constant attention to the expectations of the Church and of the world, and especially of the poor, are also necessary."
The Holy Father asked the seminarians to combine their theological studies with meditation on the Word of God and to maintain "an intense personal dialogue with Jesus, our divine Master.”
May the Eucharist be, above all, the point of reference for your lives”, he said. “May it become in everyday life the source of grace from which your actions derive, and the apex of perfection to which you constantly tend."
After recalling that he visited the "Almo Collegio" 25 years ago, John Paul II indicated that in order to commemorate that date the seminary had recently organized a congress on the theology of the priesthood and on the "historical forms that, from the beginning, have characterized the formative itinerary of your institute.”
“May this important anniversary," the Holy Father concluded, "be a further stimulus for you to grow in communion with Peter's Successor and in love for the Church."
Vatican City, Jan 24, 2005 (CNA) - Following the news of the death of the Italian warrant officer Simone Cola in Nasiriya, Iraq, Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano, in the Pope's name, sent a letter of condolence to Bishop Salvatore Boccaccio of Frosinone-Veroli-Ferentino, Italy.
Given below is the text of the telegram.
"Having learned the tragic news of the death of warrant officer Simone Cola, killed in Nasiriya, the Supreme Pontiff wishes to express, to the parents and relatives all, his heartfelt condolences for such a grievous loss to the community and the entire country.
"While giving assurances of his fervent prayers for the young victim, who fell while on a mission of peace, His Holiness invokes heavenly consolation upon all those weeping such a dramatic death, especially his wife Alessandra, and daughter Giorgia, and imparts the comfort of an apostolic blessing."
Vatican City, Jan 24, 2005 (CNA) - Before praying the midday Angelus today, the Pope reminded the thousands of faithful gathered in St Peter's Square that "the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is being held over these days.”
“It will end,” he said, “as it usually does in Rome, with the celebration of Vespers, on January 25 in the Basilica of St Paul's Outside-the-Walls.”
I will be spiritually present at that liturgy in which representatives from other Churches and Christian confessions will also participate, and which will be presided by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity."
John Paul II invited Christian communities "to experience with intensity this annual spiritual appointment which, in a certain way, gives us a pre-taste of the joy of full communion, at least in the aspiration and the choral invocation.”
Indeed, there is an ever growing awareness that unity is in the first place a gift of God, to be tirelessly implored with humility and truth."
"May Mary Most Holy, Mother of the Church,” the Pope prayed, “help us to overcome all obstacles and obtain this gift as soon as possible.”
I make a heartfelt plea to all the faithful, especially the young, to extend their ecumenical commitment throughout the year and everywhere to become instruments and witnesses of the full communion invoked by Christ at the Last Supper."
After the Marian prayer, the Holy Father recalled that today in Rome is the Day for Catholic Schools, which has as its theme "Church, family and school: together for education."
He said, "In order to renew this commitment directors, teachers, parents and students of the Catholic schools of Rome are present in St Peter's Square, together with pastoral leaders of the diocese. I greet them with affection and gratitude, and in the hope that the precious service offered by Catholic schools may always be appreciated and supported by the ecclesial and civil communities."
Denver, Colo., Jan 24, 2005 (CNA) - Archbishop Charles Chaput, speaking to a standing room only crowd at Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Denver on Saturday called the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, “a day of hope” for the faithful.
The Respect Life Mass was held on the 32nd anniversary of the legalization of abortion in the United States.
Calling to mind St. Vincent, whose feast day was Saturday, the Archbishop told the congregation that, “because of your kindness and persistence, the Lord will bless your efforts as He did St. Vincent’s.”
St. Vincent is remembered for converting his persecutors.
The Archbishop also discussed what he called the “two daughters of hope”-- anger and courage.
“If you don’t have anger at the evils of the world,” he said, “you’ll have no hope to change them.”
“It’s difficult for us”, he continued, “to move from anger to courage to hope alone; that’s why we’re here together today.”
Because of this great gift of our Lord, we can have confidence in our works”, he said.
The Mass was followed by an informal procession to a pro-life rally, sponsored by the Colorado Right to Life, on the western steps of the Colorado state capital blocks away.
Boulder, Colo., Jan 24, 2005 (CNA) - Friday night, over 200 people packed into Sacred Heart of Mary Church, just south of Boulder, Colorado to mourn those who had been killed by abortion.
The event was then concluded Sunday, when the Church buried the cremated remains of nearly 500 aborted babies, most of which were given to the parish by nearby Crist Mortuary.
“I’m amazed and overwhelmed at the support of the people who came out”, said Susan LaVelle, who, since 1996 has been organizing the burial of aborted babies at a designated memorial wall on the eastern edge the parish’s cemetery.
She says that those buried now number over 5,000.
On Thursday of last week, the parish, after performing the burials in relative silence, decided to go public. “We want people to know there’s a place to grieve”, LaVelle said.
“Our wall here at Sacred Heart of Mary was built to be a place to remember”, she commented. “Not only a place to remember, but to mourn, to grieve, to find hope.”
George Ketchel, youth minister at the parish told CNA that the wall has provided a great deal of healing to many. “That’s why they decided to go public”, he said.
Going public however, has many afraid that the burials may cease.
On Thursday, Dr. Warren Hern, who runs the Boulder Abortion Clinic, where the aborted remains originated, blasted the parish.
“I am appalled that the Catholic Church again has shown its willingness to exploit the private grief and pain of women seeking legal abortions in order to advance its political goals”, he said in a statement.
LaVelle commented at a press conference following the burial that she is “amazed and surprised” at the reaction of the abortion clinic and others to Sacred Heart’s actions.
“When [the aborted babies] were just being thrown away, no one cared”, she said. “Now, when we give them the dignity they deserve, everyone is appalled.”
The Archdiocese of Denver has expressed its support for the parish. Spokesman Sergio Gutierrez said Friday that, "this discussion clarifies the distinction between people who believe in the sanctity of life and those who don't. What is their view? To discard unborn children and then worry where they end up."
State representative Debbie Stanford, present Sunday morning, commented that as she understood Colorado state law, since the babies are defined as “medical waste”, the parish was doing nothing illegal. The only way Sacred Heart of Mary’s burial could be considered illegal, she said, is if the state decided to define the remains as human beings.
She continued that, “if the abortion clinic wants to redefine when life begins, then they can challenge [Sacred Heart].”
Late Saturday, the Boulder Abortion Clinic reclaimed at least a few hundred aborted babies from the church citing breaches of contract with Crist Mortuary.
Nevertheless, there were still between three and five hundred cremated babies to be buried during Sunday’s tear-filled ceremony.
LaVelle complied with the request because she was unsure of who had legal custody of the babies but called her return of almost half of them, “the most painful delivery I’ve ever made.”
Though critics, including over half a dozen protesters who lined the road near the church Sunday morning, claimed the church was making a political statement by going public days before the 32nd anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, LaVelle maintained that they were doing nothing of the sort.
“The wall was built to replace a feeling, not ever as a political statement”, she said at the Friday night vigil.
Quebec City, Canada, Jan 24, 2005 (CNA) - Canada’s top cleric is calling for a “genuine debate” on the federal government’s proposed same-sex marriage legislation and warns that such a law “threatens to unleash nothing less than a cultural upheaval whose negative consequences are still impossible to predict.
“As a Canadian citizen and as the Primate of Canada, I feel it is my duty to express my concern and disagreement and that of a great number of Canadians, who have asked me to step forward to give public voice to their opinion about the meaning and the consequences of this proposed change,” said Marc Cardinal Ouellet in an open letter, issued Jan. 22.The letter, titled “Marriage and Society: For a Free and Enlightened Vote in Parliament,” was printed in the province-wide daily Le Devoir and launched on the Archdiocese of Quebec Web site Saturday.
Prime Minister Paul Martin’s Liberal government is expected to table a bill on same-sex marriage in February.
In its Dec. 9 opinion, the Supreme Court of Canada stated that same-sex marriage would be in line with the Constitution.
“Contrary to an interpretation that has become widespread in the media, the Supreme Court’s judgment does not have force of law and has involved no change in the current legal framework,” wrote the archbishop of Quebec.
“It is Parliament that must decide about this matter,” Cardinal Ouellet insisted.
The cardinal argued that same-sex marriage would “alter the institution of marriage by ignoring two of its essential finalities: the procreation and education of children, within the context of the love of a man and a woman, guarantee the future of society.
“The union of persons of the same sex cannot make this essential contribution to society, because it lacks this properly conjugal complementarity that defines the institution of marriage,” the Sulpician explained.
“Trying to bring two such different things under the same legal category is to fail to recognize that they are in fact different and is, indeed, falsifying the meaning of words, which exist to designate objective reality, and not tailor this reality to our desires,” he said.
The cardinal recognized that children are raised in a variety of family situations, but said most Canadians maintain that children benefit most when raised by a father and a mother.
Cardinal Ouellet insisted that the future of children must remain a priority in this debate.
“It is not the competence of the law to assert that another model of the couple would provide just as valid a support for the child’s growth process,” he stated. “To make such an assertion would be tantamount to discriminating between one category of children who have the right to be raised by a mother and a father and another category of children who do not,” he argued.
“At the risk of being judged ‘politically incorrect,’ we need to recall that the bill under discussion is offensive to the moral and religious sensibility of a great number of citizens, both Catholic and non-Catholic,” he wrote.
The cardinal said he was encouraged by the strong reaction of the people against the bill. He called it “a sign that common sense still has a good chance to prevail and that the right decision for politicians under the circumstances is to confirm the traditional definition of marriage.”
Rome, Italy, Jan 24, 2005 (CNA) - The Legionaries of Christ have elected Father Alvaro Corcuera Martinez del Rio to be general director of the order after Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the order and its director since 1941 turned down his reelection.
Upon his election, the Mexican Father Corcuera said, “I wish to express my desire to remain faithful to the charism of the congregation and to the person of the founder, and to continue his work at the service of the Church.”
Father Corcuera has been rector of the Legionaries’ Center for Higher Studies in Rome, their international major seminary since 1987 and has worked closely with Father Maciel on numerous projects.
Father Maciel cited concerns about his age as his reason for declining the absolute majority vote. The 84-year old priest also expressed his desire to see the congregation flourish during his lifetime under the leadership of his successor.
According to the Legionaries, the general chapter also reelected Father Luis Garza Medina as vicar general, and elected the general council, the general procurator and the general administrator who are Spain, the United States, Ireland, Mexico and Chile, respectively.
Washington D.C., Jan 24, 2005 (CNA) - Pro-life groups hope that the new executive director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) will bring the organization back to its original values of caring for children’s health, reported the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman was appointed to the position by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. She begins her five-year term May 1.
Veneman succeeds Carol Bellamy, who led UNICEF into the areas of sex education for children and support for abortion. Under her leadership, UNICEF also supported the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), which provides contraceptives, abortifacients and material support for forced abortions in China.
A leading British medical journal, The Lancet, recently reported that six million children continue to die each year of preventable causes, mostly of malnutrition, even as "cost-effective interventions are available for all major causes of child mortality." The journal effectively blamed these appalling results on “Bellamy's unwillingness to engage with child survival."
Veneman said Jan. 18 that she doesn’t believe reproductive health and education for girls are relevant issues to UNICEF’s mission.
"I don't come with any agenda with regard to those or any other social issues,” she said. "I come with an agenda of helping children, particularly in areas of education and health and to address issues of hunger and malnutrition."
Veneman is the fifth American to be the head of UNICEF. She was nominated for the post by President George Bush. As UNICEF's largest donor, the United States makes the nomination for the spot.
, Jan 24, 2005 (CNA) - The president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, told the RCN Radio Network in Colombia last week that the Church does not approve of the use of condoms because their use “implies sexually immoral conduct.”
Speaking from Rome, the cardinal lamented the confusion caused by the incorrect interpretation of statements by the Secretary of the Spanish Bishops Conference, Father Juan Antonio Martinez Camino.
Cardinal Lopez Trujillo read the clarification of the Spanish bishops on air and he reiterated that the “poor interpretation spread throughout the media,” adding as well that, “The statement should be understood in the sense of the teaching that holds that the use of condoms implies sexually immoral conduct.”
Likewise, he recalled that, “The Church collaborates effectively and meaningfully in the prevention of AIDS, promoting the education of persons in faithful conjugal love that is open to life.”