Lisbon, Portugal, Feb 14, 2005 (CNA) - Sister Lucia, the last surviving witness of the three children to whom the Virgin Mary appeared at Fatima, Portugal, died Sunday at the age of 97.
Her passing occurred on the 13th day of the month, which was always the day on which the historic apparitions of Mary took place.
According to the Portuguese news agency Lusa, Sister Maria Lucia of the Immaculate Heart, born in 1907 as Lucia de Jesus dos Santos, died of old age at the Carmelite convent of St. Teresa of Coimbra in central Portugal, at 5:25pm local time.
The local bishop, Antonio Cleto, will officiate at the funeral rites at the Cathedral of Coimbra. The bishop of Leiria-Fatima will also be present.
Sister Lucia will be buried at the same Carmelite convent that had been her home since 1948 and where she was visited by Pope John Paul II during one of his visits to Portugal.
Lucia was born on March 22, 1907, in a town near Fatima where, at the age of ten, she saw the Virgin Mary for the first time at Cova de Iria, while she was with her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Martos, who both died at a young age.
Lucia went to elementary school in the town of Vilar, near Oporto in northern Portugal, and in 1928 she moved to the Spanish town of Tui, where she lived for several years.
In 1946 she returned to Portugal and two years later entered the Carmelite convent of St. Teresa of Coimbra, where she made her first profession in 1949.
Pope John Paul II beatified Francisco and Jacinta Marto in 2000 in a celebration attended by more than 700,000 people. Their cause for canonization is currently under consideration.
Sister Lucia wrote two books, one entitled “Memories” and another entitled “Calls of the Message of Fatima.”
Vatican City, Feb 14, 2005 (CNA) - Yesterday, the Holy Father made his first public appearance since being released from Rome’s Gemelli hospital. He appeared at the window of his private study to pray the Angelus with thousands of people gathered below in St Peter's Square.
Prior to the prayer, which the Pope had expressed wishes last week to preside at, Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute of the Secretariat of State, read a text prepared by the Holy Father.
"I would like to thank you all," John Paul II wrote, "including those who are following us on radio and television, for your closeness, affection and, above all, your prayers during the days I spent in the Gemelli Polyclinic. I always feel the need for your help before the Lord, in order to carry out the mission that Jesus has entrusted to me."
After recalling the beginning of Lent with the imposition of ashes last Wednesday, the Pope affirmed that this liturgical time "reminds us of a fundamental truth: we do not enter eternal life without carrying our cross together with Christ. We do not achieve happiness and peace without courageously facing the interior struggle.”
“This struggle”, he noted, “is won with the arms of penitence: prayer, fasting and works of mercy. And all must be done secretly, without hypocrisy, in a spirit of sincere love towards God and our brothers and sisters."
Before closing, the Pope asked the faithful to pray for him and his collaborators in the Roman Curia during their week of spiritual exercises which begins this evening.
"In silence and meditation”, he said, “I will pray to the Lord for all the needs of the Church and of the world."
Archbishop Sandri concluded the time of the Angelus saying in the Pope's name: "As I continue to pray for peace in the Middle East, I make a heartfelt appeal for the liberation of the Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena, and of all those kidnapped in Iraq."
Before departing, the Holy Father pronounced his blessing and added, "I wish everyone a happy Sunday. Thank you."
Vatican City, Feb 14, 2005 (CNA) - Yesterday evening, at 6pm, the Holy Father and the papal household, entered into their annual spiritual retreat on the theme, "The Church at the service of the new and eternal covenant."
The Vatican announced that the spiritual exercises began in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel with Eucharistic exposition, the celebration of Vespers, an introductory meditation, adoration and Eucharistic benediction.
Bishop Renato Corti of Novara, Italy, is preaching the week-long retreat.
This being the Year of the Eucharist, the conclusion of the spiritual exercises will take place in the Vatican Basilica at 10 a.m. on Saturday, February 19 with a Eucharistic concelebration, followed by a period of adoration.
Members of the Roman Curia, the vicariate of Rome and employees of the Holy See are all invited to attend.
The Vatican also noted that all audiences, including the Wednesday general audience are suspended for the duration of the retreat.
Vatican City, Feb 14, 2005 (CNA) - On Saturday, the Vatican made public a message of thanks from the Holy Father given to Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, president of the Pontifical Council for the Health Care Ministry.
The message came on the occasion of Friday's celebration of the 13th World Day of the Sick, whose principal celebration took place in Yaounde, Cameroon from February 9 to 11. The Message to the cardinal, dated February 1st, was written in French.
The Pope expressed his thanks to the president of Cameroon for hosting this world day, and also greeted the bishops, priests, deacons and men and women religious and, "in particular, all the health care personnel because it is due to their generous commitment that the sick receive attention and assistance.”
He said that, “My thoughts join in a special way you, dear brothers and sisters, who are sick and who carry in your bodies the signs of suffering and fragility and you, their families, who are closest to them in their daily lives: I am close to you with my heartfelt affection."
"This year," the Holy Father continued, "the celebration of the World Day of the Sick takes place once again in Africa, a continent marked by many and serious problems, but also a continent rich in extraordinary human and spiritual resources, and animated by an intense desire for authentic peace and progress.”
Africa suffers because of the many sick people who, on her soil, silently invoke the solidarity of the entire world.”
“Dear brothers and sisters of Africa,” the John Paul concluded, “Jesus is 'a man Who knows suffering'. In this year consecrated to the Eucharist, I invite you to unite yourselves in your thoughts and in your heart to the sacrifice of the Mass, an endless source of hope for all of life's trials."
Vatican City, Feb 14, 2005 (CNA) - The theme of a letter released Saturday from Pope John Paul II to the bishops of France concerned relations between the Church and French civil authorities in the perspective of this year's 100th anniversary of the law of separation between Church and State in France.
The papal letter, addressed to Archbishop Jean-Pierre Ricard of Bordeaux, president of the Conference of Bishops of France, and all the bishops of France, focused on a discussion the Pope had with the bishops during their "ad limina" visits during 2003 and 2004
The Holy Father began the 3200-word document, begins by noting that the 1905 law, "which denounced the 1804 Concordat, was a painful and traumatic event for the Church in France," which ruled that the way of life in France "would be according to the principle of secularity" and "relegating the religious factor to the private sphere and not recognizing a place in society for religious life and the ecclesial institution."
John Paul II noted that, since 1920 "the French government itself has recognized in a certain manner the place for religion in social life."
Likewise, during the past century, there has been a dialogue between Church and State, in which diplomatic ties were re-established and an entente was signed in 1924, all of which has allowed "a certain number of difficulties to be overcome."
"The principle of secularity”, the Pope said, “to which your country is very attached, if it is well understood also belongs to the social doctrine of the Church. It recalls a just separation of powers, which echoes Christ's invitation to His disciples: 'Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's'. ...
“The Church has no vocation to administer temporal affairs, ... but at the same time it is important that everyone work in the general interest and for the common good."
"Christianity has played and still plays an important role in French society, be it in the political, philosophical, artistic or literary domains," John Paul II emphasized, pointing to great French theologians, pastors and educators.
"One cannot forget the important place of Christian values in building Europe and in the lives of the peoples of the continent. Christianity in great part formed the face of Europe and it is up to the men and women of today to build a European society on the values which presided at its birth and which are part of its richness."
France, the Holy Father continued, "can only rejoice" at having men and women "who draw upon the Gospel ... to serve their brothers in humanity, ...and to spread harmony, peace, justice, solidarity and good understanding among everyone."
He urged the bishops to focus on teaching the Church's social doctrine to the faithful, especially the young of today who are France’s future.
The Holy Father also turned to "the crisis of values and the lack of hope that one sees in France, and largely in the West," saying that, "this is part of an identity crisis modern societies are going through. ... The Church questions such a situation and hopes that religious, moral and spiritual values, which are part of France's patrimony, which have fashioned its identity and forged generations of persons from the first centuries of Christianity, do not fall into oblivion."
He invited France’s faithful to "draw from their spiritual and ecclesial life the strength to participate in public affairs" and urges collaboration, not antagonism or separation, between the religious and civil domains. He also told the bishops that, "by reason of your mission, you are called to intervene regularly in public debate on the great questions of society."
John Paul II also noted that he knew the bishops "are very attentive to the Church's presence in places where the great and formidable questions about human existence are asked," especially in hospitals, health centers and schools.
On education, he wrote that, "the State must guarantee to those families who wish it the possibility to have their children receive the catechesis they need."
The papal letter concluded by expressing the Pope’s "confidence in the future for a good understanding between all components of French society. ... May no one be afraid of the religious path of people and special groups! If it is lived in respect for a healthy secularity, it can only be the source of dynamism and the promotion of man."
, Feb 14, 2005 (CNA) - The United Nation’s recent Millennium Project Report openly advocates legalized abortion, says the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute in their latest issue of Friday Fax.
The report, released last month by the Secretary General's advisory body, argues that advances in “reproductive rights,” which in UN parlance refers to abortion, are necessary to achieve the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.
The report will be presented in September to member states at the Millennium Summit, which has been scheduled to review the UN’s five-year-old initiative.
The report states that "ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health...is essential to the attainment of many" Millennium Development Goals.
The report is supplemented by 13 task force reports, including a report on gender equality, which state the same thing. However, the Millennium Development Goals do not make any mention of reproductive rights; neither does the Millennium Declaration on which they are based.
The Millennium Project Report has been endorsed by major UN agencies, including UNICEF, whose outgoing head Carol Bellamy stated: "We could not support it more strongly."
The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) referred to the report's insistence on universal access to reproductive health as "critical" to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
Stockholm, Sweden, Feb 14, 2005 (CNA) - A pastor’s right to free speech was confirmed in Swedish law last week when a pastor, convicted of hate crimes for a sermon he gave denouncing homosexuals two years ago, was acquitted Feb. 11.
The Goeta Appeals Court said Aake Green was protected by the country's free speech laws, reported The Associated Press. The court ruled that it was not illegal for the pastor to offer a personal interpretation of the Bible and urge others to follow it.
In 2003, Green invited journalists to hear a sermon he was preaching. During the sermon, he reportedly said homosexuals were "a deep cancer tumor on all of society." He called homosexuality “sick” and compared it with pedophilia and bestiality. According to the AP, he warned that Sweden risked a natural disaster because of its leniency toward homosexuals.
The 63-year-old was the first clergyman to be convicted under Sweden's hate crimes laws last June. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail.
Sweden’s laws make it a crime to make inflammatory remarks against racial, religious or national groups. Homosexuals were included in the law in 2003. However, the court said this latest addition was not intended to “prevent arguments or discussions about homosexuality, not in churches or in other parts of society.”
In an AP interview Feb. 10, Green said his greatest concern was not the time he served in prison, but "the freedom to preach God's word."
Washington D.C., Feb 14, 2005 (CNA) - This Easter Sunday promises good Catholic programming with the broadcast of a moving one-hour special on the adult spiritual journey.
"Come to the Water: The Adult Journey to Baptism" will introduce viewers to some people who became Catholics through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) in the Archdiocese of Seattle last year.
The documentary follows people through the yearlong program of adult education and initiation into the Catholic community, culminating with their baptism by immersion at the Easter Vigil. It was taped on location at Seattle's St. James Cathedral.
The reasons these people chose to join the Catholic Church are varied, says Helen Oesterle, RCIA program director at St. James.
She said about 20 percent of the group were either marrying or married to a Catholic. "We also have people who come because a co-worker or friend is Catholic and they just started going to Mass with them," she said. Among them are former atheists, Buddhists, Jews and Protestants from various traditions.
Archbishop Alexander J. Brunett of Seattle says the emotion is intense as each one enters the baptistery.
"I take each of them by the hand and you can feel the different reaction," says Archbishop Brunett. "You can feel people who are actually shaking, you know, and so excited, and some of them so tense because this has got to be a very big moment; they've really worked toward this moment."
The program is scheduled to air Easter Sunday, March 27, at the discretion of ABC-TV affiliate stations. A list of stations and broadcasts will be available on the USCCB Web site (www.usccb.org) in mid-March.
The documentary was produced by New Group Media of South Bend, Indiana, for the USCCB’s Catholic Communication Campaign.
Last year, more than 150,000 Americans joined the Catholic Church on Holy Saturday through the RCIA.
Clearwater, Fla., Feb 14, 2005 (CNA) - The awakening of a Kansas woman from a 20-year coma has encouraged Terri Schindler Schiavo’s family in their fight to keep their daughter alive.
Sarah Scantlin fell into a coma after being hit by a drunk driver 20 years ago, but she has begun to speak and remember her past. Her brain was injured so badly that doctors first feared she would spend her life in a vegetative state. But a week ago, Scantlin began speaking and doctors have no explanation.
Terri’s parents, brother and sister hope the Florida courts will consider what happened to Scantlin, as well as a new brainwave test, and think of Terri.
"In light of the miraculous awakening of Miss Sarah Scantlin in Kansas and the success of the new brainwave test reported in the New York Times this week, my daughter deserves to have this test before she is starved to death by judicial decree," said Terri’s father, Bob Schindler, in a written statement issued Feb. 11.
The New York Times article said this new brainwave test could “have consequences for legal cases in which parties dispute the mental state of an unresponsive patient.”
Video tape aired on CNN Headline News of Scantlin with her mother is extremely similar to footage of Terri and her mother, available on the Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation Web site (www.terrisfight.org).
Terri’s parents plan to travel to Hutchinson, Kansas, to meet Sarah and her family.
St. Louis, Mo., Feb 14, 2005 (CNA) - In a letter published in the St. Louis Review on Friday, Archbishop Raymond Burke sought to clarify his stance in the ongoing struggle between the Archdiocese and a parish on the city’s north side.
According to the Archdiocese, the civil structure of St. Stanislaus Kostka Polish Parish is currently incorporated in a manner which is contrary to Canon Law.
As attempts on both sides at negotiation have looked grim, the parish board members now face denial of the sacraments as ordered in an interdict given by Archbishop Burke.
The “adamant resistance” on the part of the parish board members to the directives of the Archbishop reached all the way to the Vatican when a board member hand delivered an appeal to the Holy See asking for help.When the Vatican sided with the Archdiocese the board became “adamant in its resistance to the direction of the Holy See”, Burke noted.
The Archbishop clarified that he has “no desire to take the assets of the parish or to close the parish, contrary to what has been repeatedly said by members of the board of directors of the parish corporation and some other parishioners.” He added that, “Such statements are simply and completely untrue.”
In the statement given to the Review, the Archbishop noted that, “In the case of the interdict imposed upon the members of the board of directors of the civil corporation of St. Stanislaus Kostka, the archbishop of St. Louis has the authority to lift the censure and must lift the censure, as soon as the offending party has made known his or her repentance to the archbishop.”
Madrid, Spain, Feb 14, 2005 (CNA) - Speaking on behalf of the Bishops Conference of Spain, Father Juan Martinez Camino, secretary general of the body, said proposed reforms of the country’s laws on assisted reproduction would permit the conception of “medicinal babies” and consequently the death of many human embryos.
Speaking on Spanish TV, Father Martinez said the creation of health embryos to be used for the purposes of curing illnesses is the equivalent of “eugenics.”
“If I am producing eight embryos to cure a sick sibling…and I chose from them the ones that are healthy and are compatible, and I let one of them develop in a test tube and the rest I throw in the trash can, that is called eugenics,” he warned.
Father Martinez added that, “Trying to cure a sibling at the cost of five of his brothers or sisters who have had their right to life taken away is very grave for the future of humanity.”
He recalled that all embryos have a completely new genetic code, “and if you don’t throw it away in the trash, it develops and is a human being.”
“What is it? A dog, a mineral or a group of genes? It is a human body distinct from father and mother, and it has the right to life, and I can not sacrifice it for anything, even to save the world,” he added.
Konigstein, Germany, Feb 14, 2005 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops Conference of Venezuela, Archbishop Baltazar Porras Cardozo, is warning that “freedom is in danger, and not only religious freedom” in the South American country.
Speaking with representatives of Aid to the Church in Need, Archbishop Porras said that “normal channels of communication are being blocked” in the country and that fundamental institutions of the state “are losing their autonomy.”
According to the archbishop, the separation of powers in Venezuela “is a farce that is undermining democracy” and there is a fear the country may be following the path of Cuba.
Despite the current situation, he added, the Church will continue to be “faithful to her mission and will raise her voice in defense of the truth and of human rights.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 14, 2005 (CNA) - The organization Pro-Life Mexico is leading a march at the Santa Fe international bridge in order to convince Mexican women crossing into El Paso, Texas, not to go through with their intent to obtain abortions.
According to pro-life sources, many women from Mexico seek abortions in El Paso, where some 70 abortions take place each week. Most of those who arrive at clinics are adamant in their decision and only about 6 out of 70 individuals decide to forgo the abortion. In the state of Texas abortion is legal up to 21 weeks. Pro-Life Mexico offers emotional and economic help to women who are on the verge of obtaining abortions.