Vatican City, Apr 27, 2005 (CNA) - Some 15,000 people were present this morning in St. Peter’s Square as Pope Benedict XVI gave the first General Audience of his new pontificate and explained some of the weight behind his use of the name ‘Benedict’.
At the outset of the audience, the Holy Father spoke of the "awe and gratitude to God” he is feeling as he begins his ministry as 265th Bishop of Rome.
He told the gathered throngs that God “surprised me more than anyone in calling me to succeed the Apostle Peter,” and noted the “interior trepidation before the greatness of the task and the responsibilities which have been entrusted to me.”
“However,” he said, “I draw serenity and joy from the certainty of God's help, that of His most Holy Mother the Virgin Mary, and of the patron saints. I also feel supported by the spiritual closeness of all the people of God whom, as I repeated last Sunday, I continue to ask to accompany me with persistent prayer."
The Holy Father also shed light on the much-speculated reasoning for his choice of papal names.
“I chose to call myself Benedict XVI”, he said, “ideally as a link to the venerated Pontiff, Benedict XV, who guided the Church through the turbulent times of the First World War. He was a true and courageous prophet of peace who struggled strenuously and bravely, first to avoid the drama of war and then to limit its terrible consequences.”
“In his footsteps I place my ministry, in the service of reconciliation and harmony between peoples, profoundly convinced that the great good of peace is above all a gift of God, a fragile and precious gift to be invoked, safeguarded and constructed, day after day and with everyone's contribution.”
"The name Benedict”, he continued, “also evokes the extraordinary figure of the great 'patriarch of western monasticism,' St. Benedict of Norcia, co-patron of Europe with Cyril and Methodius.”
He spoke of the “progressive expansion of the Benedictine Order which he founded”, which had an “enormous influence on the spread of Christianity throughout the European continent.”
“For this reason,” the Pope said, “St. Benedict is much venerated in Germany, and especially in Bavaria, my own land of origin; he constitutes a fundamental point of reference for the unity of Europe and a powerful call to the irrefutable Christian roots of European culture and civilization."
The Holy Father implored St. Benedict’s intercession "to hold firm Christ's central position in our lives. May he always be first in our thoughts and in all our activities!"
Pope Benedict, recalling the reflections on Christian virtues begun by Pope John Paul I, and continued by John Paul II at the beginning of his pontificate, announced that in coming weekly audiences he would resume "the comments prepared by John Paul II on the second part of the Psalms and Canticles, which are part of Vespers.”
“From next Wednesday,” he said, “I will begin precisely from where his catechesis was interrupted after the general audience of January 26."
The Holy Father greeted various groups gathered in Croatian, Slovenian and Polish and specially addressed the 1,000 faithful from the archdiocese of Spoleto-Norcia, Italy, who had come to Rome accompanied by Archbishop Riccardo Fontana. He also summarized his catechesis, given in Italian, briefly in English, French, Spanish and German.
Washington D.C., Apr 27, 2005 (CNA) - Last week in the nation’s capital, Democrats for Life of America (DFLA) announced legislation they plan to introduce which they say could reduce the number of abortions in America by 95 percent over the next 10 years.
The proposal, which the group calls the “95-10 initiative”, is “a comprehensive proposal of 15 different policy programs that, when fully funded and implemented in coordination with each other” will tackle many of the issues facing pregnant mothers.
Kristen Day, Executive Director of DFLA said that, “The 95-10 Initiative is our number one priority. While many talk about protecting life, we’re proposing a legitimate policy initiative that will actually reduce the number of abortions in America.”
She added that, “The 95-10 Initiative has been met favorably by both pro-life and pro-choice advocates and elected officials.”
Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) commented Thursday that, “The plan outlined today is a good first step to successfully reduce the rate of abortion by offering alternatives that promote family, promote adoption, and provide education and support for new mothers. I commend Democrats for Life of America for their efforts to bring this issue to the forefront of the agenda and for putting the care and support for newborns and new mothers above all else.”
Kurt Entsminger, President of CareNet said that the new proposal “embraces the women facing an unplanned pregnancy and offers her support and critical information about positive alternatives to abortion. Pregnancy resource centers are at the forefront of these efforts, and are the key players to help reach the goal of making abortion rare.”
The proposal, introduced at the Democratic National Committee Thursday comes after months of planning and research by its supporters.
Our party”, said former congressman and 9-11 commissioner Tim Roemer, “has made more progress on this issue in the last three months than we have in the last 10 years. Ours can be the party that reduces the number of abortions in this country.”
Minneapolis, Minn., Apr 27, 2005 (CNA) - When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger visited the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis in 1984, Father Lee Piche, then a 25-year old deacon who served at the cardinal’s Mass, says he remembers now Pope Benedict XVI for his kindness and his gentleness.
Fr. Piche recently told the St. Paul and Minneapolis Catholic Spirit, that he recalled the new Pope as “a very gentle, soft-spoken, self-effacing man — but very brilliant, very well-educated, so he brings a lot of gifts to the papacy.”
Father Michael Skluzacek, now rector of the Cathedral of St. Paul, then a staff member of St. John Vianney Seminary, which the cardinal visited in 1984, said that he was most struck by Ratzinger’s demeanor.
“He was so humble and gracious and friendly, and he smiled. And that’s why I was always a little confused when people spoke of him as such a tough man because my experience of him was that he’s a very gracious and friendly man.”
During his visit the then cardinal told the Archdiocese that the biggest challenge he saw facing the Church was showing what faith means “for us in our daily lives.”
Speaking on Moral Theology, Cardinal Ratzinger said: “We must show how faith and worship developed and that it is not something external to the problems of the world, but it is a necessity to solving the biggest problems of the world.”
Fr. Piche, for one, was left with a lasting impression of the man who would be the 265th Pope. “I remember being blown away by his grasp of history and theology and something to do with philosophy, too, as I recall. He’s like a professor type. That’s the way he impressed me — a man who loves learning and loves to teach.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 27, 2005 (CNA) - The Bishops Conference in Mexico (CEM) and the National Union of Parents (UNPF), energically expressed their opposition to the campaign promoted by the Secretary of Health (SSA), who under the excuse of fighting homophobia results on promoting homosexuality.
The president of the Bishops Conference’s Comission for Family Pastoral and Bishop of Matehuala, Msgr. Rodrigo Aguilar Martínez, warned that the campaign of the SSA strikes directly against natural law because it affirms that homosexuality is a valid option of life.
The Church rejects this initiative because it does not promote a straight sexuality, which implies the relationship between a man and a woman, he added.
On a dialogue held with a local source, Bishop Aguilar Martínez said that the equivalence to marriage that Spain has conferred to gay unions is a consequence of the ruling “relativism”, that affirms that absolute and universal values do not exist, which means that each one is free to do his or her will, without ever considering the involucration of a third party, as is the case of children adoption by same-sex couples.
On the other hand, UNFP announced that an international and nation-wide campaign will be launched if Frenk Mora, head representative of SSA, insists on promoting homosexualism, which is “anti-natural and abhorrent”.
UNFP president, Guillermo Bustamante Manilla, warned that the appointment of Frenk Mora to the General Secretariat of the World Health Organization (WHO) will have negative consequences. It even seems that he might be trying to content everybody in order to gain merits for the appointment.
SSA´s campaign begun last Monday broadcasting radial spots in seven cities. It was informed that in a short time, this will be expanded to twelve cities. The main goal is to reach the whole country.
Last March. Msgr. Aguilar explained that if, on one hand homophobia should be rejected, on the other hand, homosexuality should not be presented as a valid personal option, because it goes against natural law.
Toledo, Spain, Apr 27, 2005 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Toledo and Primate of Spain Msgr. Antonio Cañizares Llovera, pointed out that it is “a stereotype that many are not accepting Benedict XVI” as neither was “John Paul II”.
In an interview with Epoca Magazine, Msgr. Cañizares affirmed that “it is a stereotype that many are not admitting Benedict XVI, they did not admit John Paul II either. They are people that do not admit the Truth. And that is the foundation, Jesus Christ is the Truth and the Church labors and strives because of that. The New Pope –he added- will bring lots of hope and liberty to the Church”.
Concerning the task of the Church in the contemporary world, Archbishop Cañizares pointed out that “the Church should not look to what the world is doing, but to what God wants of her. That is what John Paul II’s pontificate was. It was not an original trace of a man who come from a far away land, from Poland. It was plainly, a man that was focused in the Church. He just followed the Vatican II Council, in his journey throughout the whole world”, and in regard to the new Pope, he affirmed that “ Benedict XVI will follow the same path. He will not start thinking: ‘Let´s see, what do I want to do with this Church’ as in a laboratory”.
Msgr. Cañizares fondly recalled some moments shared with the Holy Father. “I remember that before being appointed bishop of Avila, I had a scheduled interview with him. This was going to be on a Friday and the appointment took place the prior Tuesday. As soon as he knew, he asked his secretary to call me up, in order to meet me as soon as possible, thus giving ourselves the chance to spend a longer time together. In ten minutes we solved out the issue I had brought from Spain, and then,...he spent an hour and a half talking with me, as a friend, as a brother, as a father”, he added.
At the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Msgr. Cañizares had the opportunity to labor with the new Pope “in a closer way. To tell the truth, it has been a great gift having acquainted him, being with him. For me, his appointment is a gift from God”.
In regard to what can be expected as the contribution of this Pope to the society, the Archbishop of Toledo thinks that we can count on “following up the great contribution of John Paul II. He will help the Church to clarify intransigence. He will bring freedom to our society and to the greatness of mankind, of the human being. He will bring that religious profoundness. He will give a deeper sense to communion, and lead us to put all relativism aside. Benedict XVI is not one of those who look behind, but on the contrary, has a far reaching gaze into the future. He will not accept any renovation in the Church if it is not God’s renovation”, he added.
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Apr 27, 2005 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Santo Domingo, Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez, pointed out that "Pope Benedict XVI’s election means a moment of great hope for the Church”.
“The Holy Father, having known John Paul II so closely, and having been the man on whom he placed his total confidence in these 22 years as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, will guarantee total faithfulness to the Gospel” he assured.
The Purpurate pointed out to Fides Agency that the election of the Pontiff opens a series of expectancies, because he clearly said that he will work for the sake of Reconciliation. “The reason to choose his name indicates his will to commit himself to the reconciliation among the peoples, as Benedict XV did, who lived the days of World War I, and had to work hardly for reconciliation and peace”, he said.
Cardinal López Rodríguez showed his total confidence that, according to Vatican II, the path of dialogue and the ecumenical effort might be important missions of the Pontiff. “In the person of the new Pope –he added- everything fits properly, because he is a man of deep faith, a man of the Church, and a man who feels with the Church”.
Finally, Cardinal López Rodríguez exorted all dominicans to pray for the new Pope, because he is a “true gift that the Lord has granted us”.
Rome, Italy, Apr 27, 2005 (CNA) - According to the information provided to Fides Agency by the General Curia of the Company of Jesus, the tendency registered along the last 15 years was confirmed, showing a decreasing number of priests and brothers belonging to this religious Institute.
Fides informed that until January 1, 2005 there were 19,850 members of the Company, meaning 320 members less than the previous year.
Regarding their geographical distribution, there are 1321 jesuits in Africa, 3017 in Latin America, 3217 in North America, 4003 in Meridional Asia, 1053 in East Asia and Oceania, 773 in Central Europe, 2586 in Meridional Europe, 2125 in Western Europe and 1155 in Eastern Europe.
Fides also informed, that the larger number of postulants is registered in Asia and Oceania, followed by those in America, Europe and Africa.
Finally, Fides informed that an important part of the universal mission entrusted to the Company is carried out by the Roman Houses that depend directly from the General Father. Among them the Curia of the Company, Gregorian University, Biblical Institute, Oriental Institute, the Vatican Observatory, Vatican Radio, Catholic Civilization Magazine and other residences and formation houses.