Vatican City, Feb 9, 2005 (CNA) - According to the Holy See Press Office, “this morning the Holy Father presided at the concelebration of Ash Wednesday Mass in his hospital room.”
Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls said today that, “ashes blessed by the Holy Father were placed on him by the first of the concelebrants.”
John Paul II has been in the Gemelli Polyclinic hospital in Rome since last week following a bout with the flu. During the Ash Wednesday Mass Navarro-Valls noted, the Holy Father “invited his personal physician, Dr. Renato Buzzonetti and the other doctors caring for him to the rite."
Paris, France, Feb 9, 2005 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Jean Marie Lustiger, said today, “The Pope does not need to be like Arnold Schwarzenegger, the govenor of California, and look like Superman in order to govern the Church.”
In an interview for RTL Radio, the cardinal explained that the “work of the Pope is to put the words of Jesus Christ into practice.”
“He is showing and personally living what all Christians are called to live. And he is an example of something which, in my opinion, is understood by many people,” he added.
“The Pope is governing the Church, because the Church is not like the Paris Saint Germain soccer team, where the coach is fired because the results are not good.”
Regarding the possibility of papal retirement, Cardinal Lustiger stated, “There are very strict and precise norms, almost like a judicial code.”
The Pope’s illness, he continued, “is not harming his mental factulties.” “We have a man with physical difficulties leading the Church. He shows us that this weakness can be a sign of strength and this is part of the Christian message,” the cardinal said.
Vatican City, Feb 9, 2005 (CNA) - The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has denounced the book “Jesus: Symbol of God” by American Jesuit Fr. Roger Haight as containing "grave doctrinal errors,” reported John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter.
As a result, Fr. Haight has been prohibited from teaching Catholic theology "until his positions have been corrected so as to be in full conformity with the doctrine of the Church," said the notification from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The book was reviewed in 2000, and the Congregation for Catholic Education ordered him suspended from the Jesuit-run Weston School of Theology in Cambridge, Mass., soon after.
Fr. Haight is currently an adjunct professor at the non-Catholic Union Theological Seminary in New York, reported Allen.
The notification presents seven criticisms of the book but does not say the book contains "heresy." It also does not prevent the Jesuit from publishing.
Among the seven criticisms is that the book challenges that Christ existed as the divine Word of God prior to his incarnation as Jesus. In addition, the book presents Jesus as a human being who "mediated" the saving presence of God, as opposed to being truly divine and truly human.
Allen reported that Fr. Haight has described his book as an attempt to express traditional doctrines in a post-modern culture.
, Feb 9, 2005 (CNA) - Members of the Christian Defense Coalition presented themselves at Senator Hillary Clinton's office today to schedule a meeting to discuss the issues of abortion and abstinence.
The coalition decided to take the Democratic senator up on the willingness she expressed in a recent press report in the New York Times to discuss and explore “common ground” on the issue of abortion.
Clinton is on record for saying that: "We can all recognize that abortion in many ways represents a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women.”
“It is in that spirit of open dialogue that the Christian Defense Coalition is asking for a face-to-face meeting with you, focusing on abortion and abstinence,” read the letter, written and submitted to Clinton’s office by the coalition today.
The coalition has suggested a meeting in the next several weeks in Washington, D.C., that would include other national pro-life leaders and organizations.
“By including many voices within the pro-life community, it will give you the opportunity to hear a broad spectrum of thought on why abortion is the tragic taking of an innocent human life and why it is so damaging to women,” said the letter, signed by the coalition’s president, Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney.
The coalition has proposed that the meeting touch on abstinence education and legislation to obtain funding to study the emotional, psychological and physical impacts of abortion on women.
“It is truly our hope that you were sincere in your desire to reach out to people of faith and the pro-life community,” stated the letter. “It would be very disappointing and troubling to discover your recent statements were motivated only by political posturing.”
Vatican City, Feb 9, 2005 (CNA) - This morning at 10:30, Cardinal James Francis Stafford, major penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary, presided at Ash Wednesday Mass in St. Peter's Basilica in the place of the Holy Father who remains at the Gemelli hospital.
The celebration took the place of the traditional Wednesday general audience and included a rite of introduction, the liturgy of the Word and homily, the blessing and distribution of ashes, the Lord's prayer and concluding rites.
In his homily, Cardinal Stafford spoke of "the joy and honor of presiding this ceremony in the Holy Father's name. We feel his spiritual presence among us and we think of him with affection and ask the Lord to give him the graces necessary for the charism of his primacy in confirming our brothers in the unity of the faith."
Quoting today's first reading, he said that everyone is called "to the duty of conversion.”
“Conversion”, he continued, “is not an experience we can live alone: it is born principally ... from gathering for the liturgy." In the Gospel of Matthew, the Cardinal said, "Jesus indicates three ways to live conversion: almsgiving, that is, sharing; prayer, entrusting oneself to the Lord; and fasting, that is, the capacity to impose limits on oneself.”
For both fasting and prayer, Jesus insists on the interior aspect… True prayer ... must arise from a heart that has decided to convert."
Cardinal Stafford pointed out that the Apostle Paul "exhorted the Christians of Corinth to reconcile with God. Conversion is, in fact, reconciliation, vertical reconciliation with God ... to which must correspond horizontal conversion with one's brothers."
He said that, "as major penitentiary I experience every day the beauty of the Sacrament of Penance, a gift of grace, a gift of life."
"It is the book of our lives," added the Cardinal, "that must give witness to the world that reconciliation, that is, peace, is possible. But there will be no peace without the indispensable attention to the poor" and the responsibility for this "lies principally in our consumer societies."
Cardinal Stafford added that, "Lent this year, according to the Holy Father's invitation, emphasizes our essential rapport with the Eucharist. ... I would like to summarize in three points our Lenten commitment: 1.The liturgy of the Church ... is the first instrument of authentic evangelization. 2, On Sundays we rediscover the Eucharist; and 3, With the Eucharist we rediscover the rapport between liturgy and life" which demands "resolute witnessing to true values: the family, personal honesty, commitments deriving from marriage, priestly celibacy and religious life ... without which there is no true spirit of poverty."
Vatican City, Feb 9, 2005 (CNA) - This morning, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, opened the traditional preceding meetings for the World Day of the Sick, which will be celebrated on February 11th.
The 13th annual World Day of the Sick will take place this year at the Shrine of Mary Queen of the Apostles in Mvolye, Cameroon on the theme "Jesus Christ, Hope for Africa. Youth, Health and AIDS."
Archbishop Victor Tonye Bakot of Yaounde, Cameroon, president of the Cameroon Episcopal Conference, and President Paul Biya of Cameroon also addressed the assembly today.
Each day of the three-day meeting will look at the theme from a different perspective: pastoral, scientific-doctrinal and liturgical. Cardinal Lozano's talk was entitled "The Pastoral Ministry of Health. What Must Be.” Tomorrow, February 10, participants will examine the AIDS problem from both spiritual and scientific angles, and will trace the programs laid out by the Universal Church to accompany those who have AIDS.
On Friday, February 11, the liturgical feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and the World Day of the Sick, participants will visit Catholic hospitals in the area and gather at the shrine in the afternoon.
The Eucharistic celebration for the event will include the rite of the anointing of the sick.
Charlotte, N.C., Feb 9, 2005 (CNA) - The Catholic Church in the southern U.S. is flourishing and growing at an impressive rate. But its rebirth in the historical Protestant Bible Belt is not only about numbers in the pews, but the creation of a Catholic culture and a strict adherence to Catholic teachings, says a report by journalist Tim Padgett.
Catholics make up about 12 percent of the South’s population. While still quite low, Catholics saw growth of almost 30 percent in the 1990s, compared with less than 10 percent for Baptists, who make up the area’s largest denomination. Reported Padgett.
Padgett notes that Catholic Church was present in the south before the Civil War, but it virtually disappeared after the war. It aided the civil rights movement, but its numbers didn’t rebound until the 1980s, when northerners moved south chasing jobs in the technological industries and Hispanics immigrated to the area. From 1980 to 2000, the region’s Catholic population doubled, to more than 12 million.
Hispanic immigrants are the fastest-growing group in the south. In the Diocese of Charlotte, for example, Hispanics make up half the diocese’s 300,000 Catholics. Thousands of Vietnamese and Filipino Catholics are moving in as well.
The Catholic population in Charlotte is growing almost 10 percent a year, and the ratio of newly ordained priests to parishioners there is 1 to 7,000, more than seven times as high as Chicago’s.
St. Mark Parish in the Diocese of Charlotte, for example, which began with a handful of Catholic families eight years ago, now has 2,800 families and is awaiting the completion of its new church. Bishop Jugis blessed five new churches in the diocese last year alone.
Southern dioceses like Charlotte boast some of the highest numbers of priestly ordinations in the U.S. and attract clergy from the North.
Fr. Timothy Reid, 34, an Indiana native who serves as vicar at St. Mark Parish in Charlotte told Padgett he was drawn to the South and its orthodox spirit. “Here it’s more vibrant because we’re creating a Catholic culture almost from scratch,” he was quoted as saying.
Padgett reports that these southern Catholics, “influenced in no small degree by their morally hard-line Protestant neighbors, as well as the strong piety of Latin America,” are practicing a more conservative faith than Catholics in many other parts of the U.S.
Fr. Jay Scott Newman, pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Greenville, South Carolina, told Padgett that the Protestant influence has also led to something he calls “evangelical Catholicism,” which includes exuberant hymn singing, intense Bible study, spirited preaching and witnessing.
He also says cultural Catholics are not common in the south. “Here you’re not Catholic because your parents came from Italy or Slovakia. It’s because you believe what the church teaches you is absolutely true,” he was quoted as saying.
There is also a rising number of native converts. The adult catechumen class at Fr. Newman’s parish has more than 60 members compared with only a few less than 10 years ago.
Deacon Carlos Medina, 55, who arrived 10 years ago from Nicaragua told Padgett: “In 1983 U.S. bishops prophesied in a pastoral letter that Hispanic people would revive, maybe even save, the church in this country.”
“I think it came true,” he said.
, Feb 9, 2005 (CNA) - The Catholic League has accused Mayor Michael Bloomberg of supporting religious discrimination after news that his administration was going to challenge a two-year-old court ruling that allows a Christian group to hold Sunday services in a school gym.
The Bronx Household of Faith, an inner-city Christian church, won a ruling in federal district court in 2002 maintaining that it has a right to hold Sunday services in a New York City public school.
“All over the United States, public schools are utilized after school hours by every conceivable community group," said Catholic League president William Donohue. “Moreover, the courts have repeatedly said that religious groups cannot be discriminated against in having access to public facilities.”
Bloomberg’s decision to challenge the court ruling indicates his intention to “deny religious groups the same rights afforded secular groups,” said Donohue. “In the name of diversity, he wants to destroy the diversity that the Bronx Household of Faith brings to New York.”
Donohue warned that Bloomberg “risks alienating the ranks of the faithful even further” through this action. Donohue noted that Bloomberg has also lost popularity among religious groups for his support of same-sex marriage.
Phoenix, Ariz., Feb 9, 2005 (CNA) - Mark Hart, Vice President of Life Teen, a Catholic ministry aimed at sharing the Gospel with high school youth, recently denied allegations of sexual impropriety against their founder, Msgr. Dale Fushek.
The alleged events were said to have occurred two decades ago at St. Timothy’s Parish in Mesa, Arizona.
Msgr. Fushek, Life Teen associate Phil Baniewicz and Life Teen Inc. were all named in a civil lawsuit at the end of January.
Hart noted that, “The claims in this matter allege conduct by Monsignor and Phil that is completely inconsistent with the character of these men of God…” He also expressed hope that “the truth will bring healing and greater strength to Monsignor, Phil, LIFE TEEN Inc. and the party who has brought the current suit.”
Hart publicly addressed the issue on the group’s website assured supporters and young people involved in the worldwide program that no matter the legal outcome, “The bread and wine will still become Christ's Body upon your altar. Your Priests, Youth Ministers and [Life Teen leaders] are still committed to walking this spiritual walk with you.”
Hart asked for prayers for the organization and its staff and reiterated that, “the truth will absolutely set us free.”
Dutzow, Mo., Feb 9, 2005 (CNA) - The Office of Youth Ministry in the Archdiocese of St. Louis has always dreamed of having a Catholic summer camp. Now Greg Barker, who used to call himself a displaced youth minister, is helping to make that dream a reality.
Barker is now employed by Catholic Camps of America (CCA) who recently purchased the 130-acre Camp Rockyvine, located 40 minutes from St. Louis. Rockyvine sits in Missouri’s hilly wine country and overlooks the Missouri river, close to the small town of Dutzow.
“The camp is one of the first of its kind”, Barker told CNA, “a privately funded Catholic camp specifically geared for high school teenagers.”
He noted that CCA, which is working in conjunction with the Archdiocese of St. Louis, is “planning to develop a camp that is full of thrilling activity for any high school teenager.”
While it already boasts such facilities as a ropes course, mountain bike trails and bikes, sand volleyball courts, mountain boards and numerous trails, Barker is quick to point out that the ultimate purpose of the camp is to lead teens “closer to Christ and His Church.”
Funded primarily by the Archdiocese of St. Louis and Life Teen, an international Catholic youth ministry, Camp Rockyvine is modeled in many ways after the hugely successful Young Life camps.
Young Life, a protestant ministry for high school teens, Barker said, “has been doing top-notch camping for teens for over fifty years.”
Though Life Teen plans to use Camp Rockyvine as one of its three camp sites around the country, the camp itself will remain owned and operated by Catholic Camps of America, a non-profit company created by the Patrick & Cathryn Barron Charitable Foundation.
The Barrons, Barker said, who were long involved in the Young Life ministry, “have dreamed for many years of starting a camp for high school teens in the Catholic Church.”
The camp opened its doors for retreats last fall, but is still planning for big expansions. Barker, who admits that he’s never attended a youth camp before, is “humbly learning each day at the camp.”
Despite this fact, many are putting great hopes in Camp Rockyvine to be an integral ministry within the Archdiocese. They trust Barker’s love for the Church and what he calls “a big heart for teens.”
La Paz, Bolivia, Feb 9, 2005 (CNA) - Bishop Jesus Juarez Parraga, SDB, of El Alto, Bolivia, warned in a pastoral letter this week that the legitimate demands of the country’s different regions for autonomy should not divide the country.
The bishop decided to publish the letter after the Civic Committee of the Santa Cruz Region, which is usually in conflict with the Bolivian capital, threatened to declare autonomy. In response the government convened elections for regional governors, normally appointed by the president, to take place on June 12.
“In no way should the regional demands for autonomy break us apart as the Bolivian people,” Bishop Juarez said in his letter.
“It is true that we all want our demands to be heard and heeded, but they should always be presented with tolerance and in a spirit of dialogue,” he added.
Bishop Juarez called on both the government and on the civic committees not to provoke people with “false expectations that lead to even deeper divisions.”
Rome, Italy, Feb 9, 2005 (CNA) - Italian media has been fixated with the story of Michela Amadori, a renowned volleyball player who has decided to leave the sport and enter the cloister.
Sister Michela, as she is now called by her community of Discalced Carmelites in Rome, was thought to have a promising career in volleyball.
She says she is “totally happy” with her decision to enter the convent and thus leave behind her youth volleyball team, which made it to the junior World Volleyball Championships in 1997.
In 1998, when she moved to Rome to join a professional volleyball club, she decided to study theology, a subject that had always fascinated her.
Since that time, she says, she noticed her passion for volleyball began to compete with her profound religious longing. Therefore she decided to finish her theological studies while at the same time embarking on a serious discernment of her vocation.
Her discernment ended when at age 26 she decided to enter the cloister. “It is difficult to explain, it’s like falling in love: it’s impossible to explain with words,” Sister Michela told the Italian daily, “La Reppublica.”
She told the newspaper that like St. Therese of Lisieux, “I would like to help with the missions throughout the world.” She admitted that as a little girl she never thought about becoming a nun.
Santiago, Chile, Feb 9, 2005 (CNA) - Bishop Alejandro Goic of Rancagua, Chile, and president of the country’s Bishops Conference said this week that, “because of his nature, and despite the health problems he faces, Pope John Paul II will finish his pontificate.”
“Only the Pope can decide in conscience if he should retire,” the bishop said. “Knowing the nature of the Pope, I believe he will continue to the end, until God calls him. That is my impression,” he stated.
Bishop Goic acknowledged that John Paul II “is the supreme authority of the Church and if he, in conscience, judges his health to be so limiting that he cannot continue to govern the Church, it would be a very personal decision, as is pointed out in Canon Law.”
Bishop Goic underscored that despite his deteriorating health, the Pope’s mind and intellectual capacity remain totally lucid.