Vatican City, May 9, 2005 (CNA) - On Friday, Pope Benedict XVI formally took possession of St. John Lateran Cathedral, confirming his position as Bishop of the Diocese of Rome.
Some forty cardinals, members of the diocesan episcopal council, canons of the Lateran Basilica and the council of pastor prefects concelebrated Mass at the Basilica with the Holy Father.
Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar general of the diocese of Rome, opened the celebration, expressing his joy as Rome received her new pastor. The Pope then sat in his “cathedra”, literally “chair” for the first time as the choir and congregation sang: "Joy, peace and life to you Benedict, bishop of Rome."
The Pope then received expressions of "obedience" from a representatives of the Roman Church, including, Cardinal Ruini in his capacity as archpriest of the basilica of St. John Lateran; Archbishop Luigi Moretti, vicegerent of the diocese; two priests; a permanent deacon and a deacon preparing for the priesthood.
He also received a male and a female religious, a layman and laywoman, as well as two young people who had received the rite of Confirmation.
In his homily, the Holy Father spoke of the Ascension of the Lord, which was celebrated in many places around the world Sunday, saying that Christ, "thanks to His being with the Father, is close to each of us forever.”
“Each of us”, he said, “can address Him as a friend, each of us can call on Him." Although "we can live with our backs turned to Him, He always awaits us, He is always close to us."
Pope Benedict said that the Risen Christ "has need of witnesses who have met Him, of men and women who have known Him intimately through the power of the Holy Spirit. ... The successors to the Apostles - that is, the bishops - have the public responsibility to ensure that the network of this testimony endures over time. ... And in this network of witnesses, a special task falls to Peter's Successor."
The Pope, he said, "must be aware that he is a weak and fragile man," in constant need of "purification and conversion. Yet he may also be aware that from the Lord comes the strength to confirm his brothers and sisters in the faith, and to keep them united in confessing the Crucified and Risen Christ."
He added that, "The bishop of Rome sits in his cathedra to bear witness to Christ. Thus the cathedra is the symbol of the 'potestas docendi,' that authority to teach which is an essential part of the mandate to bind and to loosen conferred by the Lord on Peter and, after him, on the Twelve."
Regarding this, Pope Benedict noted that, "where Holy Scripture is disjoined from the living voice of the Church, it falls prey to the disputes of experts."
"This authority to teach,” he said, “frightens many people, both within and outside the Church. They ask themselves whether it does not threaten freedom of belief, whether it is not a presumption that goes against freedom of thought.”
The Pope sought to put minds at rest saying, “It is not so. ... The Pope is not an absolute sovereign whose thoughts and will are law. Quite the contrary, the ministry of the Pope is a guarantee of obedience to Christ and to His Word.”
“He must not proclaim his own ideas,” Benedict added, “but constantly bind himself and the Church in obedience to God's Word in the face of all attempts to adapt that Word or to water it down, and in the face of all forms of opportunism."
The Pope stressed that this is what John Paul II did "when, in the face of all apparently benevolent attempts, in the face of erroneous interpretations of freedom, he unequivocally underlined the inviolability of the human being, the inviolability of human life from conception to natural death.”
“The freedom to kill is not true freedom, but a tyranny that reduces human beings to slavery."
The Holy Father said that, "The Pope is aware of being bound - in his important decisions - to the great community of the faith of all times, to the binding interpretations that have developed during the Church's pilgrim journey."
He has the responsibility to ensure that the Word of God "continues to be present in its greatness and to sound forth in its purity, so that it is not dismembered by constant changes in fashion."
Concluding his homily, the Pope assured members of the Roman diocese: "Now I am your bishop. Thank you for your generosity! Thank you for your kindness! Thank you for your patience! As Catholics we are all, in some way, also Romans."
Following the Mass, Pope Benedict traveled in an open car to the basilica of St. Mary Major to venerate the "Salus Populi Romani", an icon of the Virgin Mary, which is conserved in the Borghese Chapel.
This historic act of veneration by the new Pope represents what the Vatican calls, “an unbroken tradition of supplication by the people of Rome to the Mother of Salvation.”
Vatican City, May 9, 2005 (CNA) - Yesterday at noon in Rome, the Holy Father appeared at his study window to recite the traditional Regina Coeli prayer, and note two significant dates for the Church; the solemnity of the Ascension, celebrated Sunday in Italy and in many other countries; and the 39th World Day of Social Communications.
Speaking to throngs of faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict said that Jesus, "ascending into heaven, re-opened the path to our definitive homeland which is paradise.”
“Now,” he said, “with the power of His Spirit, He sustains us in our daily pilgrimage on earth."
The Pope said that, "after the Lord ascended into heaven, the disciples gathered in prayer in the Cenacle with the Mother of Jesus, invoking together the Holy Spirit. ... Every Christian community is reliving in these days this singular spiritual experience in preparation for the solemnity of Pentecost."
Turning his thoughts to this year’s celebration of the World Day of Social Communications, Pope Benedict noted the theme chosen last year by then Pope John Paul II: "The Communications Media: At the Service of Understanding Between Peoples."
He said that, "in the current era of images, the mass media are effectively an extraordinary resource in promoting solidarity and understanding in the human family. We recently had extraordinary proof of this on the occasion of the death and solemn funeral of my beloved predecessor John Paul II.”
The Pope noted that, "everything depends, however, on the way they are used," he stressed that "these important instruments of communications can promote reciprocal knowledge and dialogue or, on the contrary, feed prejudice and disdain among individuals and peoples: they can contribute to spreading peace or to fomenting violence.”
“This is why”, he said, “personal responsibility is always important: it is necessary for everyone to do their part to assure, in every form of communications, objectivity, respect for human dignity and attention to the common good.”
“In such a way this contributes to knocking down the walls of hostility that still divide mankind and to consolidating those bonds of friendship and love that are signs of the Kingdom of God in history," he added.
At the conclusion of the Regina Coeli prayer, the Pope greeted those gathered in Italian, English and Spanish.
He also greeted participants in the Spring Marathon - School Fest “which took place this morning in Rome, Trent and other Italian cities. I hope the formation of the younger generations is always at the center of attention of the ecclesial community and of public institutions."
Vatican City, May 9, 2005 (CNA) - On Friday, Pope Benedict XVI welcomed bishops from the Church in last year’s tsunami-ravaged Sri Lanka in his first "ad limina" visit since being elected Pope.
In his speech to them, he addressed "the devastating effects of the tsunami last December, which claimed a vast number of lives in Sri Lanka alone, and left hundreds of thousands homeless.”
He asked them to “Please accept my profound sympathy and that of Catholics everywhere for all who have endured such terrible losses."
Pope Benedict noted that, "the Christian community has a particular obligation to care for those children who have lost their parents as a result of the natural disaster," and said that "these most vulnerable members of society ... so often are simply forgotten or shamelessly exploited as soldiers, labourers, or innocent victims in the trafficking of human beings.”
“No effort should be spared,” he said, “to urge civil authorities and the international community to fight these abuses and to offer young children the legal protection they justly deserve."
The Holy Father said that, "even in the darkest moments of our lives, we know that God is never absent," and noted the "unprecedented generosity of the humanitarian response to the tsunami," commending the bishops "for the outstanding way in which the Church in Sri Lanka struggled to meet the material, moral, psychological and spiritual needs of the victims.”
“We can recognize further signs of God's goodness” he said, “in the partnership and collaboration of so many diverse elements of society in the relief effort. It was heartening to see members of different religious and ethnic groups in Sri Lanka and throughout the global community coming together to show their solidarity towards the afflicted and rediscovering the fraternal bonds that unite them.”
He shared with them his confidence “that you will find ways of building further on the fruits of this cooperation, especially by ensuring that aid is offered freely to all who are in need."
The Pope then noted the youth of the Church in Sri Lanka, stating that, “a third of the population of your country is under the age of fifteen.”
“This”, he said, “gives great hope for the future. Religious education in schools must therefore be a high priority. Whatever difficulties you may encounter in this area, do not be deterred from carrying out your responsibility.”
He added that, “Seminaries, likewise, require particular attention on the part of the bishops, and I urge you to be ever vigilant in maintaining a sound spiritual and theological formation for your seminarians.”
“They need to be inspired to exercise their future apostolate in a way that will attract others to follow Christ - the more holy, the more joyful and the more impassioned they are in their priestly ministry, the more fruitful it will be."
Vatican City, May 9, 2005 (CNA) - Earlier today, the Vatican announced that Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, would preside at the beatification Mass for Ascension Nicol Goni, virgin and co-foundress of the Dominican Missionary Sisters of the Rosary and Marianne Cope, virgin, of the Sisters of St. Francis, Syracuse, U.S.A.
The announcement comes from the Office of the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, and noted that Cardinal Martins “will read the Apostolic Letter with which the Supreme Pontiff has inscribed” the two women “in the book of Blesseds.”
The celebration will take place at the Vatican on May 14th, on the solemnity of Pentecost.
Rome, Italy, May 9, 2005 (CNA) - The Secretary for the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino, says a rediscovery of the Eucharist is needed as an answer to the spread of satanic practices. “The Church is concerned” about sacrileges and profanations committed against the Eucharist by satanic cults during so-called “black masses.”
During a convention on Eucharistic miracles taking place in Rome, Archbishop Sorrentino said, “The increasing occurrence of these rituals, which often conclude with true crimes or the torture of recruits, is alarming.”
“However,” he continued, “I am convinced that growth in Christian faith, prayer before the Eucharist and the testimonies of love that derive from it, are the best antidotes to this troubling phenomenon. There must be a rediscovery of the Eucharist, which is the center, fount and culmination of the faith.”
The convention, organized by the Legionaries of Christ, is focused on Eucharistic miracles that took place between 1200 and 1700 and which helped counter heretical movements of the day.
Minneapolis, Minn., May 9, 2005 (CNA) - Minnesota’s Archbishop Harry Flynn has decided to take a stand against what he sees as a protest by a national gay and lesbian organization against Church teaching.
In a letter sent this week to the Rainbow Sash Alliance, the Archbishop said that he would not allow rainbow-sash wearers to receive communion in the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, saying that, "It has become apparent to me that the wearing of the sash is more and more perceived as a protest against church teaching.”
The rainbow-sashers have opted to make this Sunday’s Pentecost celebration the center of a demonstration in a number of dioceses across the country.
Archbishop Flynn said in the letter to Brian McNeill, Minneapolis organizer of the Rainbow Sash Alliance that, "I am asking you to remove your sashes before you receive Holy Communion” and “I ask you to observe this sign of respect for the Eucharist not only in the Cathedral but in all our parishes. No one wearing the sash will be permitted to receive the Blessed Sacrament.''
McNeill said he was disappointed but that the group was determined to go up for communion, sashes and all. The group says that they “are publicly calling the Roman Catholic Church to a conversion of heart around the issues of human sexuality.''
The Church teaches that while the orientation to homosexuality is not itself sinful, acting on that orientation, is.
The Archbishop continued in his letter that: “The Vatican has communicated to me that it does indeed consider the wearing of the Rainbow Sash during reception of Communion to be unacceptable, a directive that I believe all Bishops will adhere to. “
"The criterion for reception of the Eucharist is the same for all — recipients must be in a state of Grace and free from Mortal sin. While the decision for that judgment rests with an individual Catholic's conscience, it has never been nor is it now acceptable for a communicant to use the reception of Communion as an act of protest,'' he said.
Mississauga, Canada, May 9, 2005 (CNA) - The governing body of the Anglican Church of Canada has decided to postpone a decision on performing same-sex marriages until 2007, and to conform to a request by the Anglican Consultative Council to give up its voting rights at the international level.
After a weekend meeting, the Council of the General Synod said it has been studying the issue of same-sex marriage. It noted that eight Canadian jurisdictions have legalized same-sex marriage, but it concluded that it wasn’t prepared to make a final decision, reported CBC.
Members of the synod voted 20-12 to attend the Anglican Consultative Council's meetings next month in England as observers, rather than as full participants.
The international church leaders had condemned the Canadian stand on homosexual issues at a meeting earlier this year.
The Episcopal Church, the Anglican church in the U.S., has also agreed to withdraw its participation at the Consultative Council.
Ottawa, Canada, May 9, 2005 (CNA) - Conflict and extreme poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa have created a “permissive environment” for new recruits to al-Qaeda's terrorist network, says a newly released report by the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS).
"The poor, young, disaffected and undereducated members of these communities have provided terrorist organizations with intelligence and logistical support for their activities," the report said.
The Canadian Press obtained a censored version of an August 2004 CSIS report under the Access to Information Act. It was marked "Secret/Canadian Eyes Only."
The document, titled “The Islamist Threat in Sub-Saharan Africa”, says poor Muslim Africans are receptive to the idea of global jihad.
The Canadian Press reported that the document names Sudan, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania as possible breeding grounds for violent extremism.
The document reportedly says that political instability in Sub-Saharan Africa makes people susceptible to the "proselytizing of extremist Islamic clergy."
Al-Qaeda's terrorist attacks in the West are "seen as relatively minor when compared to the depredations perpetrated by domestic terrorist groups operating in sub-Saharan Africa," the report said.
, May 9, 2005 (CNA) - The longtime editor of the international Jesuit magazine "America" has resigned after years of tension, sparking speculations about the reasons for his departure.
Fr. Thomas J. Reese’s resignation from the New York-based weekly is effective June 1. Fr. Drew Christiansen, a fellow Jesuit who was recruited as a writer and associate editor by Fr. Reese in 2002, will be the new editor.
The magazine's statement did not offer any explanations for Fr. Reese's departure.
However, the National Catholic Reporter, a liberal Catholic weekly, said he resigned at the request of the Jesuit order after “five years of pressure” from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The newspaper provided no source to support this claim.
According to the National Catholic Reporter, the Vatican had objected to several controversial articles published in the magazine, favoring condom use for AIDS prevention, homosexual priests, homosexual unions and other sensitive issues.
In recent weeks, America has published an essay favorable to homosexual priests and another, written by U.S. Rep. David R. Obey (D-Wis.), challenging then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger's view that the Church should refuse Communion to Catholic politicians who fail to follow Church teachings.
Before coming to “America”, Fr. Christiansen was a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. He is former director of the Office of International Justice and Peace, United States Catholic Conference (1991-1998) and served as counselor for international affairs for the U.S. bishops until December 2004.
He was also an associate professor of theology, University of Notre Dame (1986-1990); assistant professor of social ethics, Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley and Graduate Theological Union (1981-86) and director, Center for Ethics and Social Policy (1982-86).
He is author of more than 100 articles on moral theology, ethics and international affairs, just war and nonviolence, Catholic social teaching, and family care of the elderly. His most recent book is “Forgiveness in International Politics: An Alternative Road to Peace” (USCCB, 2004), co-authored with William Bole and Robert T. Hennemeyer.
Washington D.C., May 9, 2005 (CNA) - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and other religious organizations jointly filed a friend-of-the-court brief Friday, declaring that the U.S. Attorney General was correct in concluding that assisted suicide is not a legitimate medical practice under the Controlled Substances Act.
The organizations asked the United States Supreme Court to reverse a Ninth Circuit decision, which struck the Attorney General’s interpretation of the Act.
The high court is expected to render a decision on the case, Gonzales v. State of Oregon, next term.
“The Attorney General’s conclusion that there is a difference between assisting suicide and managing pain, and that the former is not a legitimate medical purpose within the meaning of the Controlled Substances Act, while the latter is, is not only eminently reasonable but also supported by longstanding medical practice and past interpretation of the Act,” the brief said.
“Enforcing the distinction leads to improvements in patient care. Blurring the distinction has been harmful to patients and has jeopardized their care.”
The brief noted that medicine by its very definition aims to prevent illness, to heal, and to alleviate pain. “Taking a human life accomplishes none of these objectives.”
“What virtually every state regards as a crime, indeed as a form of homicide, does not become ‘medicine’ simply because the perpetrator is a doctor, the patient is terminally ill, or one state has decided to rescind its own criminal penalties for the act.”
Other signatories to the brief include: the California Catholic Conference, Oregon Catholic Conference, Washington State Catholic Conference, Catholic Health Association of the United States, and Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
Havana, Cuba, May 9, 2005 (CNA) - In a Mass celebrated to mark the beginning of the pontificate of Benedict XVI, the Archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, said the new Pope will firmly guide the bark of Peter amidst the cultural and moral nihilism and rampant relativism of today’s world, which is in need of “clear ethical and human guideposts.”
The Cuban cardinal said Benedict XVI is a “passionate seeker of the truth” who will give “humanity the valuable service of clarifying and defining, in addition to firmly guiding the helm of the bark of Peter.”
“He will be a Pontiff who listens, who knows who to work as a team, who does not want to be left alone in the direction of the Church, although he will always have the last word,” he noted.
After wishing the Pope a “happy and fruitful” pontificate, the Archbishop of Havana stated that Benedict XVI “will be sanctified instructing, ruling and governing the Church that the Lord has entrusted to him.”
He recalled that during his first meeting with the Pope, Benedict XVI blessed Cuba, and that therefore “the constant and trusting prayer of the Church will never be lacking” in the country.
Regarding the Holy Father’s personality, Cardinal Ortega remarked that during the inaugural Mass, “I was pleasantly surprised by his humble presentation,” and therefore, he said, “simplicity and humility will surely mark his pontificate.”
Vatican City, May 9, 2005 (CNA) - The Vatican today released the schedule for liturgical celebrations due to be presided over by Pope Benedict for the months of May and June.
They include for May,
-Sunday 15: Pentecost Sunday. At 9.30 a.m. in the Vatican Basilica, priestly ordination of deacons of the diocese of Rome.
- Thursday 26: Solemnity of Corpus Christi. Mass at 7 p.m. in the square of St. John Lateran, followed by a procession to the basilica of St. Mary Major for Eucharistic blessing.
- Sunday 29: Pastoral visit to Bari, Italy, for the closure of the National Eucharistic Congress. Mass at 10 a.m.
For June, the schedule includes:
- Wednesday 29: Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles. Mass at 9.30 a.m. in the Vatican Basilica. Blessing and imposition of the pallium on metropolitan archbishops.
Madrid, Spain, May 9, 2005 (CNA) - The Bishops Conference of Spain published an official statement last week reminding Catholics that they are morally obliged not to vote in favor of an eventual law that will make homosexual unions equivalent to marriage, because it goes against reason and morality.
In an energetic statement from the Executive Committee of the conference, the bishops state that if the law were to be passed—it has already received the support of Spain’s House of Representatives—“it would lack in and of itself the character of true law, since it would be a contradiction of correct reason and the moral law,” its application would “not be binding upon anyone” and “each person could exercise the right to conscientious objection.”
The bishops state that it is their duty “to speak with clarity when Spain seeks to lead a regression in the development of society, with a legal measure that is without precedent and gravely damaging to the fundamental rights of marriage, the family, young people and teachers.”
The bishops underscored that “opposing immoral measures that go against reason is not to be against anyone, but rather to be in favor of love, truth and the wellbeing of each person.”
Homosexual “marriages,” they continued, “are in reality a legal falsification of marriage, just as damaging to the common good as counterfeit money is to the economy of a country.”
The bishops also expressed concern over the scandal brought to children who would be adopted by gay couples, adding that education of young people regarding true marriage would be difficult or impossible.
The bishops warned that “it is not true that this norm makes a certain right more extensive, because the union of two people of the same sex cannot be marriage. What it does is corrupt the institution of marriage.”
“Catholics, as well as all people of correct moral formation, cannot be indecisive or complacent about this law; rather, they must sharply and clearly oppose it,” the bishops stated.
“Concretely, they cannot vote in favor of this law, and in the application of a law that is not morally binding on anyone, each person has the right to conscientiously object,”