Vatican City, Apr 25, 2005 (CNA) - Setting the stage for what many hope will be a continuation of Pope John Paul II’s dialogue with world religions, Pope Benedict met this morning with members of various Christian Churches and ecclesial communities, as well as of non-Christian religious leaders who had come to Rome for yesterday’s inauguration Mass.
The new Holy Father told delegates of Orthodox Churches, Eastern Orthodox Churches and the ecclesial communities of the West, how "welcome" their presence was both at yesterday Mass in St. Peter's, and during the funeral for Pope John Paul II.
He told them that these acts "went well beyond a simple act of ecclesial courtesy. ... Your participation in the mourning of the Catholic Church for his death showed how true and how great is the common passion for unity."
"In greeting you,” Pope Benedict said, “I would like to thank the Lord, Who has blessed us with His mercy and has infused in us a sincere disposition to make His prayer - 'ut unum sint' - our prayer."
Speaking in French, the Pope stressed the need for true ecumenism, calling today’s meeting "significant as it permits the new bishop of Rome, pastor of the Catholic Church, to repeat to you, with simplicity, 'Duc in altum' (Put out into the deep)."
The Holy Father also wished to "reaffirm the irreversible commitment" undertaken at Vatican II and since, to stay "on the path towards full unity desired by Jesus for His disciples.”
“Your presence, dear brothers in Christ,” he said, “beyond what divides us and throws shadows over our full and visible communion, is a sign of sharing and support for the bishop of Rome, who can count on your support to follow" this path.
He then turned to those he called “dear friends from different religious traditions," and said in English: “I thank you sincerely for your presence at the solemn inauguration of my pontificate.”
The Pope expressed his particular gratitude to members of the Muslim community saying that, “I express my appreciation for the growth of dialogue between Muslims and Christians, both at the local and international level.”
He assured them “that the Church wants to continue building bridges of friendship with the followers of all religions, in order to seek the true good of every person and of society as a whole.”
"The world in which we live”, he added, “is often marked by conflicts, violence and war, but it earnestly longs for peace, peace which is above all a gift from God, peace for which we must pray without ceasing.”
He pointed out however, that, “peace is also a duty to which all peoples must be committed, especially those who profess to belong to religious traditions. Our efforts to come together and foster dialogue are a valuable contribution to building peace on solid foundations."
The 265th Pope concluded the ceremony by inviting all present, "to become together artisans of peace, of a reciprocal commitment to understanding, respect and love."
, Apr 25, 2005 (CNA) - In the wake of the recent death of Terri Schiavo and the new national discussion on living wills, Bishop Robert Morlino of the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin is trying to clarify the Church’s position on the wills and keep faithful out of mortal sin.
Bishop Morlino noted the question in his most recent Catholic Herald column that the Terri Schiavo case has raised “as to the human dignity of a person who is medically termed to be in a persistent or permanent vegetative state.”
He said, “I fear that the connotation is carried that a person is somehow reduced to a vegetable. The fact that a person is gravely ill and disabled could never make that person anything less than a person - such a person should never be treated as a vegetable.”
Noting that Schiavo was not terminally ill or necessarily close to death, the bishop said that, “Such a person has no "right to die" any more than any other person because there is no such right.”
“To intend suicide”, he stressed, “should one ever be found to be diagnosed as permanently unconscious is gravely immoral - to sign a living will ordering one's own death if one were diagnosed as permanently unconscious, but not terminally ill and not close to death, is a mortal sin in other words.”
Although many have claimed throughout the Schiavo ordeal that living wills could prevent the kind of scenario that the world watched in Florida, Bishop Morlino says that this is simply not the case.
“The fact that food and water are provided by artificial means does not mean that food and water are no longer food and water,” he added. “This is the clear teaching of our deceased Holy Father John Paul the Great. He taught us by his own death that a very weak and disabled human life ought to be treasured.”
Kalamazoo, Mich., Apr 25, 2005 (CNA) - Catholic schools outperform public schools, says education expert Myron Lieberman. Yet, the number of Catholic schools that are closing continues to increase.
Catholic officials in Kalamazoo announced last week that they will be closing St. Joseph School. This is the second school to close in the city in two years, reported the Kalamazoo Gazette.
The trend is the same, if not more severe, across the country. In the Archdiocese of Detroit 15 schools are closing this spring, the Archdiocese of St. Louis is closing 10 schools; Chicago is shutting 23 schools; and Newark, nine. They are mostly urban schools.
The urban schools had once catered to the large Catholic populations living in the city-centers. Most have moved out. In addition, costs have increased. Previously, the Catholic school system could rely on keeping costs down by pay the teaching religious sisters, brothers and priests a token salary. The majority of teachers are now laypeople.
The Catholic school system in the U.S. started in the 19th century. By 1960, 5.3 million children went to Catholic schools. In 2003-04, only 2.5 million children were enrolled in Catholic education. These numbers are largely in suburban Catholic schools, which reportedly continue to thrive.
Lieberman said Catholic schools outperform public schools for due to their structure, discipline, high expectations, sense of mission, and the emphasis on parent involvement.
"They do it with a lot less money than public schools ... and with comparable students," the chairman of the Education Policy Institute told the Kalamazoo Gazette.
Salem, Ore., Apr 25, 2005 (CNA) - Catholic should be wise and not put their leaders “in a box,” Fr. Gary Zerr told the Stateman Journal, referring to the newly inaugurated Pope Benedict XVI. The Pope has received harsh criticism in the last week due to the reputation that he had developed as a hardliner in his role as prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
"A true shepherd will not be classified so easily,” said the pastor of St. Edward Church in Keizer, Oregon. “A true shepherd will always surprise us.”
In interviews with the Statesman Journal, a number of parish priests expressed their views on the new Pope. Their comments were an effort to assuage any misgivings about the new Pope and urge some skeptical Catholics to keep an open heart and mind.
“At home in Germany he is known as a 'liberal' in the classical use of that term. To the world at large he is usually labeled as a 'conservative,'” said Fr. Zerr.
"Although we know so much about him, this pope will no doubt surprise us in many ways,” said Fr. Zerr.
Fr. James Coleman said he ignores labels people place on others, stating: "Our new pope is an excellent scholar and teacher of the faith. He is also known as a good listener and a concerned observer of events and trends.”
The pastor of St. Joseph Church in Salem spoke of the new Pope’s strong Christian roots in Germany. “Our new Holy Father knows and treasures that faith. … We can expect a clear and faithful voice, speaking the truth without fear, as did his predecessor.”
Fr. Coleman urged Catholics to trust in Providence. “I truly believe that the gathering and the decision of the cardinals was a prayerful one, guided by the Holy Spirit.”
Fr. George Wolf, pastor of Queen of Peace in Salem, said people should come to learn and understand Pope Benedict on “who he is in relationship with God's people now. I look forward to learning more about who he is as a person of deep faith in God.”
"He has literally changed hats from primarily being an administrator to a pastor,” Fr. Wolf observed. “Those who know him well comment about his sincere spirituality, intelligence, style, humility, and personableness. These qualities of who he is will serve him well as a pastor in the universal Church.”
Chicago, Ill., Apr 25, 2005 (CNA) - There is great pride in the German-American community that the current Pope is their fellow countryman. Parishioners at the German parish of St. Alphonsus in Chicago dedicated a special mass yesterday in honor of the new Pope, reported ABC Channel 7.
St. Alphonsus, founded in 1882 as a German parish, is one of the only parishes in the archdiocese that still celebrates mass in the German language.
In his homily, Fr. James Hurlbert noted that during the 20th century, there was hostility toward Germans because of their homeland's involvement in wars and atrocities. For many, the election of Cardinal Ratzinger is confirmation the world has forgiven.
"I think Germans from around the Chicago community will be gathering as they often do at the holidays, but in celebration of the fact that one of their countrymen or somebody who has emerged from their culture and language has been elected to be pope of the universal church," the pastor told ABC.
The archdiocese held a special mass Sunday evening at Holy Name Cathedral in honor of the new Pope.
Newport, R.I., Apr 25, 2005 (CNA) - A Newport building slated for condominiums may have housed the oldest Catholic Church in Rhode Island, says the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission.
Preservationists presented their evidence at a conference April 23, indicating that the building began as a school in 1808-09. Ten years later, the property was purchased to start St. Mary’s Parish.
Sometime after, the building was moved to Sherman Street. The building is being converted to condominiums. Preservationists said the building’s significant architectural features would be protected in the transformationl.
Essex, England, Apr 25, 2005 (CNA) - The British Catholic Action Group (CAG) is criticizing the BBC for ignoring its requests for a televised debate on the issue of abortion in light of the U.K.’s upcoming general elections.
In a statement today, the group said that they’re “disappointed that…the BBC has missed a real opportunity to demonstrate it is balanced on current morals issues such as abortion in the lead up to the general election.”
The C.A.G,’s National Coordinator John Gunn added that, "Whilst the BBC has covered many election issues, it has not in the public interest adequately raised the abortion issue even though a recent national poll showed that well over 50% of the population favour a reduction in the legal abortion limit.”
“Moral issues”, he said, “are very important in MP candidate selection but few candidates willingly or openly discuss these issues or let the public know how they will vote on life."
The group is also calling on UK’s Catholic Church leaders to become more vocal on life issues. Although they noted Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor’s recent public comments on abortion, they’re disappointed that as of late, the Church has been all but silent.
Chris Walsh, a spokesman for the group said that, "In any election year, abortion is a topic that needs to be debated both publicly and fairly. The future of 900,000 pre-born babies over the next parliament term lies in the balance. Church leaders, must not be silent on this, their leadership is required. There has not been a fair public televised debate on this issue."
Warsaw, Poland, Apr 25, 2005 (CNA) - City officials in Warsaw, Poland, have announced plans to open a museum and institute on the life and teachings of the late Pope John Paul II. Warsaw mayor Lech Kaczynski, who spoke with the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza, made the announcement on Saturday.
According to the mayor, the museum and institute will be housed in the Saksi Palace, which was built by the Germans during World War II.
At the beginning of his pontificate, Pope John Paul II celebrated a Mass at the palace, located in the Pilsudski barrio. More than a million Poles defied Communist authorities and came out to see the Pope.
“The rebuilt Saski Palace will be a prestigious building,” said Kaczynski. “It will be an ideal place for the Institute of Reflection” on the John Paul II, he added.
Madrid, Spain, Apr 25, 2005 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, says the pontificate of Benedict XVI will be characterized by “the Christian revitalization of the roots of Europe,” and he called the new Pontiff “the Pope of reconciliation and of peace.”
In a letter to the faithful to mark the beginning of the pontificate of Benedict XVI, the cardinal exhorted Catholics to respond “with an attitude of obedient communion” to his proposals for the future.
The Pope’s proposals, noted the cardinal, are based on “putting Christ above all things,” “living out the full spiritual richness of the Sacrament of the Eucharist,” and “offering the light of Christ, and not one’s own, through the work of evangelization, especially in dialogue with young people.”
Cardinal Rouco also emphasized in his letter that the Pope’s critics “have not been able to dampen or disturb this atmosphere of thankful appreciation and hopefulness for a new future of unity and peace.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 25, 2005 (CNA) - Bishop Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel of Chiapas, Mexico, says Pope Benedict XVI is the Pontiff “the Church needs” and those who criticize him “show their ignorance of the Catholic faith once again”
In a statement the bishop said criticism of the Pope is coming especially from those who want him “to authorize abortion, approve of homosexual unions, women priests, euthanasia, and the elimination of priestly celibacy.”
Bishop Arizmendi said such people do not know the Catholic faith and are incapable of “accepting the Gospel of Jesus,” and therefore they resort to labels such as conservative, hard-liner, orthodox, and others.
Bishop Arizmendi noted that Benedict XVI participated in the Second Vatican Council, and therefore “he will continue with the commitment to implement it.” He added that the Pope is conscious that “there are many things that sully the face of the Church and he has clearly denounced those.”
Regarding liberation theology, the bishop noted that the Holy Father “does not condemn the liberation that is in accord with the Gospel and the Magisterium of the Church; rather, he recommends it and requires it.” What the Pope rejects, he added, is “Marxist, materialist and atheistic liberation.”
Lastly, Bishop Arizmendi exhorted the faithful to accept the election of the new Pope with mature faith.
Rome, Italy, Apr 25, 2005 (CNA) - Responding to news on Friday that Spain’s Congress approved a law making homosexual unions equivalent to marriage and allowing the adoption of children by homosexual couples, the President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, warned that the family in Spain is being destroyed “brick by brick.”
“What is happening in Spain, with a limited majority, is the destruction of the family brick by brick,” the cardinal said in an interview with the Italian daily Corriere della Sera.
“Have they consulted with families in Spain? Have they done any in-depth studies?” the Colombian cardinal asked. “The family is a reciprocal gift between a man and a woman which demands faithfulness, exclusivity, openness to new life and to children,” he said.
The cardinal recalled that “a law is not right just because it is a law, but rather because it is good and does good.” If not, he noted, “a form of judicial positivism that makes no sense is created. You cannot impose evil things on people,” he added.
Cardinal Lopez Trujillo also called for conscientious objection to the application of the law. “Because it is an evil law, the Church urgently calls for the exercising of freedom of conscience and the duty to oppose.” All professional people required to apply the law must exercise “the same conscientious objection required of doctors and nurses against the crime of abortion.”