Vatican City, May 4, 2005 (CNA) - Some 13,000 pilgrims turned out for Pope Benedict XVI’s Wednesday audience today in which he chided temptations to overemphasize power, prestige, and what he called the “comfortable life.”
In the audience, he resumed his catechesis on the Psalms and Canticles, which was begun by the late John Paul II.
The Pope spoke about Psalm 120, "the keeper of Israel," explaining that it forms part of the "'songs of ascent,” or the “pilgrimage towards the meeting with the Lord in the Temple of Zion."
He pointed out that the name of God is used as "the keeper, ever alert, watchful and considerate, the 'sentinel' who keeps watch over his people to protect them from all risks and dangers."
Here, Pope Benedict, speaking off-the-cuff challenged those gathered, saying that, power, prestige and the comfortable life are sometimes considered "the high points of our lives." In reality, he said, they are not so "because true life comes from the Lord."
The Holy Father continued, pointing to the psalmist, who "raises his 'eyes to the hills,' in other words to the heights where Jerusalem stands. From there comes help, because there the Lord dwells in His holy temple."
He noted that the Psalm, which emphasizes trust, illustrates "through the image of the custodian and of the sentinel who watch over and protect. ... Another symbol, that of the 'shade'," evokes "the pillar of cloud" that guided the people of Israel in the Sinai Desert "to lead them along the way."
"After the vigil and the shade," Pope Benedict said, "comes the third symbol, that of the Lord who is 'on the right hand' of His follower.”
He told the crowd that, “This is the certainty of not being abandoned in moments of trial, of the assault of evil, of persecution."
Psalm 120, the Pope said, closes "with a concise declaration of trust: God will protect us with love at all times, protecting our lives from all evil. All our activities - as summed up in the two contrasting verbs of 'going out' and 'coming in' - are always under the Lord's attentive gaze; as are all our acts and all our time 'from this time forth and for evermore'."
Vatican City, May 4, 2005 (CNA) - In his efforts to make events at the Vatican less “Pope-centered”, Pope Benedict XVI has decided that he will not preside at beatifications, reported the Honolulu Advertiser.
In effect, the Vatican is returning to the tradition of having cardinals—not the Pope—preside over beatifications.
The news came in relation to the beatification of American Mother Marianne Cope, which was rescheduled by the Vatican to May 15.
Sr. Mary Laurence Hanley of the New York-based Sisters of the Third Franciscan Order of Syracuse confirmed that the Pope would not preside over the beatification ceremony. About 40 people from Hawaii and 90 others from Syracuse will attend the beatification.
"The idea of the Holy Father doing beatifications started 40 years ago but it was traditional for cardinals to do it. I think reverting back to tradition is good," Sr. Hanley told the Honolulu Advertiser.
The Pope, however, may meet with the pilgrims traveling to Rome for the beatification and venerate the relics of those being beatified, said Sr. Hanley, who led the process for Mother Marianne’s beatification.
Mother Marianne, born as Barbara Koob, served the patients at Kalaupapa for 35 years until her death in 1918 at age 80. In December 2004, Pope John Paul II accepted a report of a miracle attributed to Mother Marianne's intervention. Her beatification was announced Feb. 23
Denver, Colo., May 4, 2005 (CNA) - In light of Friday’s release of Ridley Scott’s new film about the Crusades, Kingdom of Heaven, Denver’s Archbishop Charles Chaput is challenging Christians to reclaim their lost memories.
In his weekly column, the Archbishop chided the loss of Christian identity and history from the American and European culture, and noted the new film, which, as the New York Times puts it, portrays Muslims as “bent on coexistence until Christian extremists ruin everything.”
He said that, “By influencing our choices here and now, memory encourages a certain shape to the future — and discourages others. That’s why every new ideology and generation of social engineers seeks to rewrite the past. Whoever controls the memory of a culture also has power over its future.”
He added that Christians have a duty to prevent the loss of “the real facts of history” and thereby prevent God being “scrubbed out” of America’s future.
While humbly facing the legitimate evils, which were done by Christians in the Crusades, Archbishop Chaput pointed out that they need to be viewed within their historical context, noting also the genuine “faith, nobility, heroism and self sacrifice.”
The Archbishop pointed out that, “Lasting reconciliation between aggrieved parties always begins with an honest, mutual examination of past sins. This requires an accurate historical record.”
“As Christians,” he said, “we need to repent of our own many sins and acknowledge the sins — sometimes, terrible sins — committed by Christians in the past. We also need to invite, by our example and by our commitment to telling the truth, the repentance of others who have sinned against Christians — sometimes, terribly — over the centuries.”
“Unfortunately, over the past few decades,” he said, “the confession of sins has often seemed like a Christian monologue. That isn’t just. It isn’t honest. And it doesn’t serve charity, because charity is always wedded to truth.”
Los Angeles, Calif., May 4, 2005 (CNA) - With anticipation of English director Ridley Scott’s new film, Kingdom of Heaven steadily growing, the skepticism of many scholars of the middle ages is also growing.
Hollywood observers are predicting that the film will be one of the summer’s biggest blockbusters with a cost of over $150 million and an all-star cast including Orlando Bloom of Lord of the Rings fame.
A recent New York Times review said that Muslims in the film “are portrayed as bent on coexistence until Christian extremists ruin everything. And even when the Christians are defeated, the Muslims give them safe conduct to return to Europe.”
Robert Spencer, however, in a column in Front Page Magazine noted that the film, “is being touted as ‘a fascinating history lesson.’ Fascinating, maybe”, he said, “but only as evidence of the lengths to which modern Westerners are willing to go to delude themselves.”
One leading scholar, Professor Jonathan Riley-Smith, author of A Short History of the Crusades, called the movie “rubbish,” and pointed out that, “it’s not historically accurate at all.”
He said that Scott’s film “depicts the Muslims as sophisticated and civilized, and the Crusaders are all brutes and barbarians. It has nothing to do with reality.”
He also blasts one particular plot line saying, “there was never a confraternity of Muslims, Jews and Christians. That is utter nonsense.”
Likewise, Professor Jonathan Philips, who wrote The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople, criticized the film’s representation of the Knights Templar, saying that portraying “the Templars as ‘baddies’ is only sustainable from the Muslim perspective, and ‘baddies’ is the wrong way to show it anyway. They are the biggest threat to the Muslims and many end up being killed because their sworn vocation is to defend the Holy Land.”
Spencer added in his column that Kingdom of Heaven takes no “notice of the historical realities of Christians and Jews who lived under Muslim rule.
“They were never treated as equals”, he said, “or accorded full rights as citizens, and always suffered under various forms of institutionalized discrimination and harassment.”
Despite firm criticism however, director Scott is convinced he’s portrayed all sides equally in the film.
“When you see the film, you see balance,” he said.
Buffalo, N.Y., May 4, 2005 (CNA) - On Saturday, Buffalo firefighter Donald Herbert, who has been in what many might call a persistent vegetative state for nearly ten years, suddenly began to talk.
In December of 1995, Herbert suffered severe brain damage when a roof collapsed on him while fighting a fire. Since then, he has been unable to carry on any meaningful conversation, recognize loved ones or see.
On Saturday, he began asking the nursing home staff where his wife and children were. When asked by a relative how he felt, Herbert replied, “I feel great.”
Advocates of Terri Schiavo, who died of a court-ordered starvation in March, are pointing to the Herbert case as evidence that she should have been given a chance to live.
Yesterday, The Buffalo News cited University of Buffalo professor Dr. Michael A. Meyer who said that although rare, cases like Herbert’s are encouraging.
"After that many years,” he said, “it's unusual to see that dramatic a change, but we do hear about it anecdotally."
Family members are thrilled, but cautious while doctors are anxious to follow Herbert’s progress in the coming weeks.
Palm Beach, Fla., May 4, 2005 (CNA) - A pro-life group said a judge’s decision, allowing a 13-year-old to have an abortion, is “absurd and very harmful abuse.”
Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge Ronald Alvarez ruled Monday that a 13-year-old girl has the constitutional right to have an abortion. He ordered the young girl's custodians or attorneys to drive her to the abortion clinic.
The teenage girl is a ward of the Florida Department of Children and Families. Her legal guardian fought in court to stop the procedure. One of her lawyers is the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida.
"Judge Alvarez created rights for a 13-year-old girl who is far too young to make such decisions and understand the repercussions, both physical and emotional, of terminating her pregnancy," said Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council.
"The ACLU and Judge Alvarez seem to believe children know best when it comes to abortion even though they legally cannot determine whether they are ready for a body piercing, tattoo or even a tanning booth until they have reached the age of 18 in some states,” Perkins continued.
“This is an absurd and very harmful abuse by the ACLU and Judge Alvarez to advance their own political agendas regardless of who will get hurt in the process."
Amarillo, Texas, May 4, 2005 (CNA) - The creation of a new men’s community, dedicated to pro-life work, has been confirmed.
Bishop John Yanta of Amarillo has given Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, permission to found a new pro-life community of men in his diocese. The community will be dedicated to the formation and training of priests, deacons, brothers and seminarians, who will devote themselves fully to the proclamation of the Gospel of Life.
Bishop Yanta is not new to Priests for Life. He has served on the nonprofit organization’s Episcopal Board of Advisors since 1998.
“It has been a dream of mine for over a decade to form a community that can accept seminarians who want to devote their entire ministry to the defense of the unborn," said Fr. Pavone. "While it is true that a few religious orders have pro-life work as a dimension of their activities, the Church has no 'institutional' society of men whose primary charism is to protect innocent human life from the tragedy of abortion and euthanasia.
Bishop Yanta has already offered several vacant buildings, which once served as a Christian Brothers High School, with boarding facilities, a chapel, gym, and spacious grounds, rent-free as a center for the new Society of Apostolic Life.
Priests for Life will continue to exist as a nonprofit organization, with Fr. Pavone as its director. However, in order to launch the new community, Fr. Pavone has officially become a priest of the Diocese of Amarillo.
Washington D.C., May 4, 2005 (CNA) - Pharmacists for Life has issued a statement, confirming that the morning-after pill causes abortions and does not simply “prevent pregnancy” as some pharmaceutical companies claim.
Gynetics Inc. recently won government permission to advertize and sell "morning-after pills." The maker of the PREVEN kit based in Somerville, N.J., claims that these pills work to prevent pregnancy by acting before pregnancy occurs.
However, what the company has done “is redefine pregnancy as beginning after successful implantation of the embryo in the woman's uterus, which normally occurs seven to 10 days after fertilization,” noted Pharmacists for Life.
“Life begins at fertilization--at the time of the fusion of an egg and sperm--not after implantation,” the pro-life group emphasized, pointing out that one of the major actions of the morning-after kit is to interfere with and prevent proper implantation.
“Make no mistake: this is an abortifacient mechanism of action rather than a contraceptive one,” the group said.
Pharmacists for Life also warned about the adverse side effects of the morning-after pill, which is simply a large dose of birth control chemicals.
Birth control pills, at regular dosage levels, have always been known to cause side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, headaches, high blood pressure, changes in cholesterol levels, changes in menstrual flow patterns and, for some who have severe reactions, strokes and even death from blood clots and heart attacks.
Morning-after pills are increased amounts of these chemicals--usually eight times the normal dose over a 24-hour period.
The pharmacists stated that studies have not yet been done to determine the long-term effects of the morning-after pill on women and their offspring.
Albany, N.Y., May 4, 2005 (CNA) - The decades-old debate over whether the new terms B.C.E. (before common era) and C.E. (common era) should replace the traditional B.C. (before Christ) and A.D. (anno Domini, i.e., “in the year of the Lord”) has once again surfaced.
Educators and historians have introduced the new terms since the 1990s. Some non-Christian scholars agree with the change.
"When Jews or Muslims have to put Christ in the middle of our calendar ... that's difficult for us," said Steven M. Brown, dean of the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City.
New York’s public school students are learning the new terms through their textbooks and worksheets, but they are not part of the state's official curriculum, said Education Department spokesman Jonathan Burman.
"The standard textbooks primarily used in New York use the terms A.D. and B.C.," Burman stated.
Candace de Russy, a national writer on education and Catholic issues and a trustee for the State University of New York, doesn't believe that the new terms are neutral.
"The use of B.C.E. and C.E. is not mere verbal tweaking; rather it is integral to the leftist language police -- a concerted attack on the religious foundation of our social and political order," she told The Associated Press.
In 2000, the Southern Baptist Convention condemned the new terms as "the result of the secularization, anti-supernaturalism, religious pluralism, and political correctness pervasive in our society."
Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 4, 2005 (CNA) - The Ordinary of the Military in Argentina, Bishop Antonio Juan Baseotto, explained that he is still in the position to which the Holy See had assigned him, despite the fact that President Kirchner and some of his Ministers do not say the same.
"Of course, I am", was the Bishop’s answer to a question from the press at Ezeiza airport before leaving for Europe.
On the other hand, the Minister of Defense, José Pampuro, said that the conflict is in the process of being solved “for good” at the office for Worship. "There is nothing else that I can say” he mentioned.
Bishop Baseotto said that he had not been called to the Vatican and that he wants to have this matter cleared up as soon as possible. He also mentioned he had received a letter from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before he was elected Pope, supporting his view.
When asked if he would retract himself from what he said about the Minister of Health, Ginés González García, Bishop Baseotto affirmed “no; firstly, because I never said what has been quoted, it was a wrong interpretation. What I did was to quote a passage from the Gospel that says that it is better for one who scandalize to have that happen to him” (to have a millstone tied around their neck and to be thrown into the sea).
Before saying that he wants to do “whatever God may want for him”, he pointed out that he wants the relation between the Church and the Government to be improved, and added “It is quite a time now that I have no relationship with the government. The Vatican is the only one authorized to change the Ordinary of the Military. That is how it is, I cannot have things changed".