Vatican City, Mar 16, 2005 (CNA) - This morning, Pope John Paul II made a surprise appearance at the window of his Vatican apartment and gave numerous blessings to people gathered in St Peter's Square below.
The Pope returned to the Vatican Sunday following a tracheotomy surgery to ease his breathing.
Although the Vatican had announced that he would not be present for the traditional Wednesday audience, large numbers of faithful - mostly Polish pilgrims – gathered in the square hoping to catch a glimpse of the Holy Father.
The crowd erupted into applause as the Pope appeared at his window while images of John Paul II were relayed on two giant screens placed in St Peter's Square.
Washington D.C., Mar 16, 2005 (CNA) - The first conference to address judicial tyranny from a faith perspective is planned for next month in Washington, D.C.
The Confronting the Judicial War on Faith Conference will be held at the Washington Marriott, April 7-8.
Rick Scarborough, interim chairman of the Judeo-Christian Council for Constitutional Restoration, said the conference will take place against the backdrop of the ongoing effort of activist judges to prevent Americans from publicly acknowledging God, he said. It will also serve toward organizing a grassroots coalition to confront a run-away judiciary.
The conference will discuss the following themes: The Judicial Assault on Our Judeo-Christian Heritage, Judges: Abortion and Other Life Issues, Judicial Nominations, The Real Constitution, The Decline of Faith and What it Means for America, Remedies to Judicial Tyranny and Mobilizing the Grassroots.
"The Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments on public display of The Ten Commandments," Scarborough commented. "In its last session, we barely escaped a mandate of the 9th. Circuit Appeals Court prohibiting ‘one nation, under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance, as a violation of the First Amendment's Establishment clause.
"In the meantime, activist judges continue in their attempts to force homosexual marriage on the nation. And Senate Democrats continue to block votes on conservative judicial nominees," he continued.
Conference speakers include: House Majority Leader Tom De Lay, Ambassador Ray Flynn (former Ambassador to the Vatican), David C. Gibbs (Christian Law Association), Sam Casey (Christian Legal Society), Sen. Sam Brownback, Rabbi Daniel Lapin (Toward Tradition) Rev Earl Jackson and Patrick Reilly, (Cardinal Newman Society), Tony Perkins (Family Research Council).
Vatican City, Mar 16, 2005 (CNA) - Delegates began gathering at the Vatican today for a meeting which will explore the need for justice worldwide and examine the legacy of the groundbreaking encyclical Gaudium et Spes, written in 1965.
The three-day meeting promoted by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace began this afternoon on the theme "A Call to Justice. The Legacy of 'Gaudium et Spes' 40 Years Later." Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the council, is scheduled to make welcome remarks and Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano, will give the opening address.
Five prestigious Church figures will address five different dimensions of "Gaudium et Spes."
Cardinal Claudio Hummes, archbishop of Sao Paolo, Brazil, will address the document’s theological and ecclesial foundations; Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Sant'Egidio Community, will give a historical perspective; Rubens Ricupero, former director general of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, will speak on "The Call to Justice in the Political Order"; Guy Pognon of Benin will address "A Call to Justice in the Economic Order", and Helen Alvare, a docent at the Catholic University of America, will speak about the role of the family in the social order.
The conference will examine the scope of the social Magisterium of the second Vatican Council through reflections on the philosophical and theological foundations of Catholic social tradition, the mission of the Church in the social sphere, and the Church’s response to various questions of an economic, political and social nature.
Analysis of issues like globalization, poverty, consumerism, international peace, immigration, and terrorism will be accompanied by models of effective action against poverty, social sin, and various forms of suffering.
Vatican City, Mar 16, 2005 (CNA) - 15,000 young people around Rome are expected to descend upon St. John Lateran Basilica tomorrow in preparation for this summer’s 20th World Youth Day, to be held in Cologne, Germany.
The young people will gather for a traditional meeting of reflection and prayer on the Pope's Message for this World Youth Day: "We Have Come to Adore Him."
Cardinal Camillo Runi, vicar general for the diocese of Rome, will preside at the annual celebration, the schedule of which includes a talk on the Eucharist delivered by Daniel Ange, a French monk and founder of the "Jeunesse lumiere" movement.
Participants will also be treated to songs and witnesses, as well as a moment of Eucharistic adoration during which the central points of the Pope’s Message will be presented.
The Holy Father has also prepared a special letter, which will be read to the young people at the closing of Thursday’s meeting.
Vatican City, Mar 16, 2005 (CNA) - The Vatican announced today that the Holy Father's Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday this year, will be presented on Friday, March 18th in the Holy See Press Office.
According to the Vatican, members of the Congregation for the Clergy, Prefect, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, Secretary, Archbishop Csaba Ternyak, and Under-secretary, Msgr. Giovanni Carru, will all be present for the presentation of this year’s letter.
Washington D.C., Mar 16, 2005 (CNA) - The Committee for Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has launched a new effort to dispel myths about Roe v. Wade.
Brief informational cards, called “Roe Reality Checks,” will be distributed regularly to members of Congress and the media, each highlighting a basic fact about Roe v. Wade or its impact.
The cards are part of a broader educational campaign by the Pro-Life Committee called The Second Look Project, which presents basic factual information about abortion so people can reconsider the issue.
“Opinions on abortion are often based on mistaken perceptions or on emotions. The Second Look Project is innovative because it provides basic facts, and lets the facts speak for themselves,” said Cathy Cleaver Ruse, Esq., director of planning and information for the USCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.
The misinformation about Roe v. Wade was recently highlighted by a Harris poll describing Roe as “the U.S. Supreme Court decision making abortions up to three months of pregnancy legal.” Even with this substantial error, the poll showed Americans supporting Roe v. Wade by just 52 percent, with 47 percent opposed.
To view Roe Reality Check #1 visit www.secondlookproject.org
Washington D.C., Mar 16, 2005 (CNA) - Catholic lay and religious leaders announced the creation of a new non-profit organization to help the Church in the United States determine and implement best practices at the national, diocesan and parish levels.
The new Washington-based National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management (NLRCM) will consist of laity, religious and bishops working together to promote excellence and best practices in Church finances, management and human resources.
The NLRCM will be structured using the business roundtable model with members from academic, business and Church organizations across the country.
"Our mission is to facilitate a collaboration among Catholic leaders to promote excellence in the Church's organizational and management capabilities and to help reestablish the relationship of trust between the hierarchy and its parishioners," said Geoffrey T. Boisi, a founding leader.
“Lay people have the duty and the right to offer their gifts and talents in service of the Church,” he said, adding that the new group is “grounded in Church teaching.”
Boisi generated controversy in July 2003 when he invited the leadership of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to a discussion, organized under the theme "The Church in America: The Way Forward in the 21st Century."
The main speakers he invited were Catholic scholars who have dissenting positions toward the teachings of Pope John Paul II. The list included: Fr. Thomas J. Reese, SJ (editor of America Magazine,) Margaret O’Brien Steinfels (Commonweal Magazine,) Peter Steinfels (The New York Times) and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (Former Lieutenant Governor, State of Maryland.).
The controversy forced the leadership of the USCCB to call for another discussion, this time with theologians and scholars loyal to the teachings of Pope John Paul.
Boisi is also on record for claiming that the Church should be like Wal-Mart in listening to customers and lower level employees.
The NLRCM recently released a report on best practices in Church management. It notes that if the resources of every diocese in the United States were combined, the aggregate would have one million employees, with an operating budget of almost $100 billion, comparable in scope and size to the nation's largest corporations.
“The business and organizational challenges of an institution this size demand that the Church tap into the resources of the laity to identify the best talent, creativity and professional know-how available to help strengthen the Church so that it can better fulfill its mission,” stated the press release.
Front Royal, Va., Mar 16, 2005 (CNA) - Last week, twenty-one students from Virginia’s Christendom College traveled to Florida to join their voices in the fight for brain-damaged Terri Schiavo.
Schiavo, 41, is scheduled to have the feeding tube, which provides her with food and hydration removed this Friday. In February, Florida Judge George Greer ruled in favor of Michael Schiavo, Terri’s husband who has been trying to get the feeding tube removed for years.
Terri’s family and countless pro-life supporters have vowed to see the ruling overturned before the March 18th deadline.
After a sixteen-hour bus trip, the Christendom students joined hundreds more for a March 12th rally in front of Tampa’s Woodside Hospice, where Terri currently resides.
According to the college, many students were disappointed with the relatively small turnout for what many are calling the “Roe vs. Wade of euthanasia.”
Junior John Jalsevac, who wrote about the trip for Christendom’s newsletter, noted a fellow student who said to him, “I still cannot think or believe that Terri’s feeding tube is going to be removed on Friday. And even if they do remove it, surely someone will see her suffering and will stop it.”
Jalsevac said that, “Standing in front of Terri’s hospice, together with her family and friends, brought home the brutal reality that this was not so, that only some people feel as we do.”
The group also spent time distributing informational leaflets on car windows at local churches. There too, the students said, reactions were mixed.
Jalsevac said that many pastors asked them to leave their churches, while some parishioners simply voiced frustration at the continuing story. “It soon became painfully clear to us that, at the very least, the locals had almost completely given up on Terri and had chosen to forget her.”
Another student lamented, “This woman may very well die because of our country’s short attention span.”
Others however, remain hopeful. “The fact that there were so few of us”, said student Chrissy Walsh, “made that hope all the more powerful.”
A new bill which could give Terri’s parents access to a federal court to again argue for their daughter’s life is currently gaining strength in congress.
Schiavo’s supporters are holding their breaths, awaiting Friday’s quickly approaching deadline.
Steubenville, Ohio, Mar 16, 2005 (CNA) - After years of debate, and a twenty-year hiatus, Franciscan University of Steubenville recently announced that they would apply to be a division III member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
The Board of Trustees, who made the decision in February, and University President, Fr. Terrance Henry T.O.R., see the membership as a way to advance the University’s mission of spreading the Gospel.
Fr. Henry noted that the University’s existing club sports programs “have emphasized character development ahead of win-loss records and helped develop Christian values in student athletes both on and off the field, but students have shown a desire for a higher level of athletic competition and for the evangelistic opportunities NCAA participation would bring."
Ultimately, the school will compete in men's and women's basketball, men's baseball, men's and women's soccer, men's and women's tennis, men's and women's cross country, and women's volleyball.
Added Father Henry, "Because our sports program flows out of our vibrant Catholic mission, Franciscan University is in a unique position to respond to the Holy Father's call for the new evangelization in the athletic arena."
In January, CNA reported on Pope John Paul II’s consideration of sports as a “worthwhile educational instrument, especially for the young generations.”
The University noted that they have been in contact with Rev. Kevin Lixey LC, who directs the Vatican-based Office for Church and Sports, and that he “applauds the integration of sports and spirituality that has developed over the past two decades at the University.”
Fr. Lixey stated that the Church needs to “let people know that there are sportsmen who are also virtuous." The Church, he says, "is called upon without doubt to pay attention to sports, which certainly can be considered one of the nerve centers of contemporary culture and one of the frontiers for new evangelization."
Christopher Ledyard, Franciscan University’s Athletic Director said that NCAA membership would allow “Franciscan to provide a home to the serious Catholic student athlete who understands their faith in the context of athletics and desires to play in a system that will provide the discipline necessary for growth."
Currently, over half of the student body-over 1,000 students-participates in some kind of sport at the school--either club sports or intramurals.
Under the division III status, Franciscan University would not be able to recruit, nor offer scholarships for student athletes. Many believe that this fact will largely deter potential students who are only interested in athletics, not the overall mission of the school.
Long Island, N.Y., Mar 16, 2005 (CNA) - While Catholic elementary schools are struggling to remain open — two more have been slated for closure this June — Long Island's Catholic high schools are booming and fall enrollments continue to climb, reported Newsday.
In September, there will be about 13,400 students in the 11 high schools within the Diocese of Rockville Centre, an increase of more than nine percent over last year and more then 12 percent in the last eight years.
Most of the Catholic high schools have waiting lists for September’s freshman class. Kellenberg Memorial High School in Uniondale had a record 2,200 applications this fall and admitted 586 more students for its incoming freshman class than it had planned, reported the newspaper.
While the faith component and strong academics have always been the draw of Catholic schools, Newsday reported that the increased demand also comes from the perception that Catholic high schools, with their dress codes, discipline and emphasis on traditional values, offer a more structured environment, free from drugs and sexually suggestive clothing.
The diocese recently surveyed families with children in religious education programs and found that, due to cost, parents often chose public elementary school in order to save money and eventually pay the $6,000 annual tuition at a Catholic high school.
And this year’s numbers support this data. Forty percent of incoming ninth-graders in Catholic schools will come from public schools.
Parents who previously made the switch told Newsday that their kids are getting more individual attention than they did in public schools and are “blossoming” as a result.
Despite the enrollment increases in Catholic high schools, diocesan officials are worried about the long-term financial picture, reported Newsday. The diocese is providing $2.3 million in subsidies to its three high schools — a practice it does not expect it can keep up. It’s a predicament since increasing tuition would risk pricing out poor and working class families.
Montreal, Canada, Mar 16, 2005 (CNA) - An impressive exhibit of 2,000 years of papal history, from St. Peter to Pope John Paul II, will make its way to North America this summer.
“St. Peter and the Vatican: The Legacy of the Popes” will be on display from June 4 to Sept. 18 in the crypt of Montreal’s historic Notre Dame Basilica. This will be the tour’s only Canadian stop.
The three-month exhibit will feature more than 300 pieces of Vatican art, artifacts and documents. It is based on similar four-city tour of the United States in 2003-04, but organizers say 70 per cent of the pieces in the current exhibit have never traveled to North America.
The exhibit is organized chronologically into 12 thematic galleries. In the first gallery, visitors can read a welcome letter by Pope John Paul II and watch a video on the discovery of St. Peter’s tomb in 1968.
What follows is a reproduction of St. Peter’s tomb and another three galleries dedicated to the early Church. The exhibit then fast-forwards to the Renaissance period and includes a section devoted to the Sistine Chapel. There, visitors can learn how Michelangelo painted the chapel ceiling, with a representation of the chapel and the scaffolding.
The exhibit then explores the papacies of the modern times, from the 19th century to the present day.
The artwork includes the simple and colorful mosaics of Sts. Peter and Paul, from the 6th and 8th centuries. There is the mosaic, Bust of an Angel, attributed to 14th-century painter Giotto, and Bernini’s terracotta bust of Old Testament prophet Habakkuk.
One of the biggest draws is a 5th-century image of the face of Jesus on cloth, called the Mandylion of Edessa. The image, taken from the private quarters of the pontifical sacristy, is one of the most ancient representations of the face of Christ and is as renowned as the Shroud of Turin.
The exhibit also includes Vatican treasures, such as chalices of gold, embedded with diamonds, and the papal tiaras of Pope Pius VII (1800-1823) and Pope Pius IX (1846-1878). Pius IX received his tiara, which includes one of the largest emeralds in the world, from Napoleon in 1804.
The exhibit concludes with a gallery called Into the New Millennium, which pays tribute to the current pontiff. It features John Paul II’s pastoral staff and the cape he wore for the Jubilee Year. According to event organizers, this is the first time the pope’s silver staff has ever left the Vatican without him.
Visitors are also invited to touch a bronze cast of John Paul II’s hands, which the pope had commissioned in 2002. Organizers say the pope included the bronze cast as a sign of his greeting.
Tickets cost $15 for adults and $6 for children 6 to 11. Due to the great interest expressed in the exhibit, tickets are already on sale. For information, go to: www.vaticanmontreal.ca
Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 16, 2005 (CNA) - During the celebration of Charity Day, the Archbishop of Mexico, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, denounced the existence of a campaign “that seeks to justify the killing of the innocent” in the womb, as well as the elderly and handicapped children through euthanasia.
During his homily at the archdiocesan cathedral, the cardinal explained that just as pollution gives off a foul odor, so also in today’s society there are realities that “stink,” such as “growing violence, institutionalized deception, unacknowledged poverty, the using of women” and campaigns in favor of euthanasia and abortion that only result in the death of the innocent.
The archbishop pointed out that although man’s highest aspiration is to live, death and pain continue to be present throughout his existence, despite the advances in medicine.
He noted, however, that the Lord promises life, and therefore the account of the resurrection of Lazarus, whose death represents “humanity dead because of sin,” is only “a symbol and a proclamation of the true resurrection of Christ, which we will celebrate during Holy Week.”
Cardinal Rivera warned that what happens on a personal level “can also take place on a social level,” because “our society is a living organism” called by God “to live and to give life,” but it can become sick and die when the Lord is not made present by it’s members.
He added that Christians are called to support “projects that give life,” as well as authorities that work for the authentic development of their communities. The season of Lent that we are living culminates in the resurrection, “celebrating life,” the cardinal noted.
Asunción, Paraguay, Mar 16, 2005 (CNA) - Bishop Claudio Gimenez of Caacupe and President of the Bishops Conference of Paraguay said this week the true and only foundation for celibacy, especially in the New Testament, is the witness given by the Lord with his own life.
Making his statements during Sunday Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Miracles, Bishop Gimenez said he wanted to add his “two-cents worth” to the discussion surrounding celibacy, saying, “Jesus is the true and only priest and as such his is the ideal priestly life. That is how we ought to be, like Him. We tend towards such a great and lofty ideal, which we freely follow. Otherwise it’s not worth it.”
“If I become a priest and I have to force myself to accept celibacy, sooner or later I am going to have problems,” the bishop noted. He pointed out as well that celibacy is a valid option that is part of the norms of the Church in the West. “Jesus Christ is that biblical foundation. If anyone wants to look for something else, I think they will be wasting a lot of time. We aspire to be like Him, to live our priesthood like Him and to thus collaborate with Him in the building of his kingdom,” he concluded.
Tegucigalpa, Mar 16, 2005 (CNA) - In a statement released this week, the Bishops Conference of Honduras said the recent acts of violence taking place in the country are evidence that young people are becoming victims of an alarming genocide.
In a letter signed by Auxiliary Bishop Romulo Emiliani of San Pedro Sula, in northern Honduras, the bishops call on authorities to take immediate actions against the violence, saying society cannot remain in difference.
“To witness this tragedy which is becoming unstoppable and to say that nothing can be done is an anti-Christian and unpatriotic position,” they said.
The bishops agreed that an “alarming deterioration of the awareness of the value of life” is spreading, and that it was not normal that between 1998 and the beginning of 2005 more than 2,630 young people under the age of 23 have been killed.
Havana, Cuba, Mar 16, 2005 (CNA) - In an interview with the Associated Press, renowned Cuban activist Oswaldo Paya issued a request to the government of Cuba to grant him 15 minutes of airtime on Cuban television to explain his opinions about the upcoming elections in the Communist country.
Paya, who is leader of the Varela Project, which works for civil rights in Cuba, was responding to statements by the head of Congress in Cuba, Ricardo Alarcon, who said last week opposition activists would be allowed to run in congressional elections in April.
“I challenge them again. I bet they don’t have the courage to give me 15 minutes on the station which we the people pay for with our work, even though they (government representatives) talk after me for seven hours each,” Paya said in a statement released to reporters.
Likewise, Paya noted that Alarcon’s statements were not published inside Cuba, but rather reproduced in the international media. “Mr. Alarcon, who before said that his fellow countrymen live in fear of losing their privileges or employment if they express their opinions, should say so here and in a clear way so that all citizens will believe him,” Paya stated.
On the other hand, Ernesto Marini, one of Paya’s closest collaborators, was clear Paya has no intentions of announcing his own candidacy in the coming elections.
Because there are no political parties for the opposition in Cuba, candidates for local and federal offices, as well as for other government agencies, are nominated at the local level by residents and arbitrarily designated by an electoral government committee.