Vatican City, May 20, 2005 (CNA) - Following a screening yesterday of the new film, “Karol, A Man Who Became Pope”, Pope Benedict XVI decried Nazism and communism, saying that “We have the duty to remind ourselves and others…what forms of unprecedented violence can be reached by scorn for human beings and violation of their rights.”
The film, which is based on a script written by Italian journalist Gian Franco Svidercoschi, spans the life of the late John Paul II up until his election as Holy Father.
The late Pope experienced first hand the horrors of Nazism, growing up in World War II-ravaged Poland, and fought through the first part of his papacy to abolish communism.
Pope Benedict, who delivered an address after the showing, noted that the first half of the film "highlighted what happened in Poland under Nazi occupation," and referred to the "repression of the Polish people and the genocide of the Jews.”
“These were atrocious crimes”, he said, “which demonstrate all the evil contained in Nazi ideology. Shaken by so much pain and so much violence, the young Karol decided to transform his own life, responding to the divine call to the priesthood."
The Holy Father recalled scenes in the film which, "in their crudity, give rise to an instinctive feeling of horror in viewers, bringing them to reflect on the depths of iniquity that can be hidden in the human soul.”
“At the same time,” he noted, “evoking such aberrations cannot but give rise in all right-thinking people to a commitment to do all they can to ensure that such acts of inhuman barbarity are never repeated again."
The Pope said that, "May 8, 1945 marked the end of that immense tragedy that sowed destruction and death in Europe and the world at a level never known before. ... Every time a totalitarian ideology crushes man underfoot, all humanity is seriously threatened.”
"Memories”, he added, “must not pale with the passing of time, rather they should remain as a strict lesson for our own and future generations. We have the duty to remind ourselves and others, especially the young, what forms of unprecedented violence can be reached by scorn for human beings and violation of their rights."
The Pope reflected on the “providential divine plan…that on the Chair of Peter a Polish Pope was succeeded by a citizen of Germany, where the Nazi regime affirmed itself with particular virulence, before attacking its neighbors, in particular Poland?”
“Both these Popes”, he said, “in their youth - though on different sides and in different situations - were forced to experience the barbarism of the Second World War and the senseless violence of man against man, of peoples against peoples."
Benedict XVI said that, "nothing can improve in the world, if evil is not overcome; and evil can be overcome only through forgiveness.”
“May the shared and sincere condemnation of Nazism and of atheist Communism”, he urged, “serve as a commitment for everyone in building reconciliation and peace on the basis of forgiveness."
Washington D.C., May 20, 2005 (CNA) - Speaking this morning at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, President George Bush thanked Catholics for the contributions they had made to American society—especially in the defense of its most vulnerable members.
“Catholics”, he said, “have made sacrifices throughout American history because they understand that freedom is a divine gift that carries with it serious responsibilities.”
“Among the greatest of these responsibilities”, the president added, “is protecting the most vulnerable members of our society.”
He recalled that this defense of human life “was the message that Pope John Paul II proclaimed so tirelessly throughout his own life, and it explains the remarkable outpouring of love for His Holiness at the funeral mass that Laura and I were privileged to attend in Rome.”
The president encouraged attendees to continue along the path of morality on which, the United States was founded and called on faithful to help build a culture of life “where the strong protect the weak.”
The second annual breakfast, which featured Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput and San Antonio Archbishop Jose Gomez, drew an estimated 2,000 participants from around the country.
“This morning”, president Bush told the crowd, “we first thank God for the shared blessings of American liberty. Catholics have always known that a society built on respect for the religious beliefs of others would be a land where they could achieve and prosper.”
Quebec City, Canada, May 20, 2005 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI plans to make his first papal trip to Canada in 2008, “if God is willing.”
Organizers of the 49th International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec City announced that they are hopeful the new pontiff will attend and celebrate the closing mass.
The Congress will coincide with the city’s 400th anniversary and the 350th anniversary of the appointment of Blessed François-de-Laval as North America’s first bishop.
"I have a close relationship with him and I think he will come," Marc Cardinal Ouellet said Thursday. "Really. I am positive about that. He will come."
The archbishop of Quebec said he invited the Pope to the closing of the congress when he was in Rome for the papal conclave.
The Pope said he would be there, if God is willing, Cardinal Ouellet reported.
The Knights of Columbus are donating $1 million to help organize the event.
Washington D.C., May 20, 2005 (CNA) - This morning at the 2nd annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, held in Washington, Denver’s Archbishop Charles Chaput urged Catholics and Christians to make their voices heard in government and public life.
“Catholics”, he said, “see politics as part of the history of salvation. For us, no one is a minor actor in that drama. Each person is important. And one of the most important duties we have is to use our gifts in every way possible for the glory of God and for the common good.”
He added that, “That’s why Catholics and other Christians have always taken an active role in public life. What we believe about God shapes how we think about men and women. It also shapes what we do about promoting human dignity.”
The Archbishop, who was joined by President George Bush, San Antonio Archbishop Jose Gomez and an estimated 2,000 other participants in what is said to be the only major event of its kind.
Archbishop Chaput, who was criticized during the recent presidential election for adding his own voice to the public square, said that, “If God is the center of our lives, then of course that fact will influence our behavior, including our political decisions. That’s natural and healthy.”
“What’s unnatural and unhealthy”, he said, “is the kind of public square where religious faith is seen as unwelcome and dangerous. But that seems to be exactly what some people want: a public square stripped of God and stripped of religious faith.”
Archbishop Chaput chided what he sees as a false idea of religious pluralism, saying that often, people are afraid of being “too Catholic” and offending others.
That, he said, is “not democracy. Democracy and pluralism depend on people of conviction fighting for what they believe through public debate – peacefully, legally, charitably and justly; but also vigorously and without excuses.”
“Divorcing our personal convictions from our public choices and actions is not ‘good manners,’” he said. “On the contrary, it can be a very serious kind of theft from the moral treasury of the nation, because the most precious thing anyone can bring to any political conversation is an honest witness to what he or she really believes.”
Calling on all members of society, from politicians to average folks, the Archbishop said that the Church is Christ’s—not ours.
“Only God is God, and only Jesus is Lord,” he said in closing. “When our actions finally follow our words, then so will our nation, and so will the world.”
Washington D.C., May 20, 2005 (CNA) - Joining President George Bush, Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, and an estimated 2,000 attendees at this morning’s National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, Archbishop Jose Gomez called on Catholics “to live our faith in Jesus Christ fully, faithfully -- and without excuses.”
The San Antonio Archbishop, who was the main celebrant for this morning’s Mass, reflected in his homily on a reading from the book of Sirach, which says that, “A faithful friend is a sturdy (strong) shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure”.
He spoke of the friendship of Christ, who chose to “lay down His life for His friends” and called especially on public leaders to imitate this love.
“For all of us in public leadership,” he said, “the first reading today should make us very uneasy. What kind of friendship do we give to other people? What kind of friends do we draw to ourselves? And do our public actions and private choices add up to the kind of behavior that leads anyone else to love and fear God?”
He added that, “If we claim to believe in the sanctity of human life, do our actions toward the unborn, the sick and the elderly prove that? If we claim to be concerned for the poor, what are we doing to show it? If we claim to respect family life, are we willing to strengthen the institution of marriage?”
Archbishop Gomez stressed that true love is always rooted in truth.
“The crowds”, he said, “gather around Jesus in the Gospel today not because He has an easy message, but because they know He tells the truth without compromises. They may not like to hear it, but He speaks what they need to hear.”
The Archbishop urged Catholics to remember their Catholic faith “that nurtured and shaped us”, asking “What does it profit any one of us to succeed at anything, if we forget the Lord who made us?”
Vatican City, May 20, 2005 (CNA) - The Vatican announced today that Pope Benedict would celebrate Mass for the solemnity of Corpus Christi, on May 26th at 7pm in front of St. John Lateran Basilica.
Following Mass, the Pope will preside at a Eucharistic Procession from the basilica, along Via Merulana, to the Basilica of St. Mary Major.
The announcement, from the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, added that the procession would be led by scouts, confraternities and sodalities, Eucharistic associations, representatives of parishes, Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, religious, priests, pastors, chaplains and prelates of His Holiness, bishops, archbishops and cardinals.
Seminarians, Roman parishioners and members of various ecclesial associations and movements will follow the Blessed Sacrament along the Via Merulana.
Vatican City, May 20, 2005 (CNA) - Yesterday evening, Pope Benedict XVI participated in a ceremony honoring his brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, who was decorated by Helmut Turk, Austrian ambassador to the Holy See.
Msgr. Ratzinger was honored with the "Osterreichisches Ehrenkreuz fur Wissenschaft und Kunst, Erste Klasse" (Austrian First Class Cross of Honor for Science and Art).
Heinz Fischer, president of Austria, initially assigned the medal to Msgr. Ratzinger in December of 2004 for his close cultural and priestly ties with the Republic of Austria.
Vatican City, May 20, 2005 (CNA) - Earlier this morning, Pope Benedict met with students from the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, accompanied by their president, Archbishop Justo Mullor, encouraging them to have holiness and the salvation of souls they meet on their journey as the fundamental goal of their lives.
The Pope called on the future Vatican diplomats to cultivate "the two constitutive and complementary dimensions of the Church: communion and mission, unity and evangelical passion," and asked them to reinforce their "sensus Ecclesiae," so as to take on "an ecclesial form in your entire personality, in your minds and in your hearts."
He told the students that, "While you are in the academy, seek to become fully 'Roman' in an ecclesial sense, in other words, sure and faithful in your adherence to the Magisterium and to the pastoral guidance of Peter's Successor.”
“At the same time,” he urged, “cultivate missionary zeal, with eagerness to cooperate in spreading the Gospel to the farthest confines of the world."
Pope Benedict said that in order to undertake their future roles adequately, the students need "a firm cultural formation, including knowledge of languages, history and law, with a judicious openness to different cultures."
He also stressed that they need to have, as "the fundamental goal of your lives, holiness and salvation of the souls you will meet on your journey.”
“To this end,” he added, “tirelessly seek to be exemplary priests, animated by constant and intense prayer, cultivating intimacy with Christ. Be priests according to Christ's heart and you will carry our your ministry with success and apostolic fruits. Never allow yourselves to be tempted by the logic of career advancement and power."
Austin, Texas, May 20, 2005 (CNA) - The Catholic bishops of Texas launched a statewide effort, urging lawmakers to vote for an expanded school voucher program.
The House education committee passed a voucher proposal Wednesday for a 12-year $69-million pilot program, authored by Rep. Linda Harper-Brown (R-Irving). It has been sent to the House, where it must be considered before the session ends May 30.
Last week, as part of the statewide effort, Archbishop Jose Gomez of San Antonio wrote to a number of Bexar County lawmakers, some of them Catholic.
“I wish to express my personal expectation for your official support of a program that will concentrate its benefits on urban, at-risk children; a program that would make educational opportunities available to the poor, and that would strengthen the system of quality education for all,” the archbishop wrote.
“I really hope that you consider the parental choice initiative a critical one for the future of Texas, and that you support it actively in these closing days of the legislative session,” he concluded.
One lawmaker told Express-News that he viewed the archbishop’s letter as a threat, but
Deacon Pat Rodgers, communications director for the Archdiocese of San Antonio, said that was not the archbishop’s intention.
Supporters say the voucher program is to provide high-quality education for students from low-income families. They also say the vouchers would provide competition to public schools and force greater accountability in the public system.
The bill would also reauthorize the Texas Education Agency. Without passage of the bill, the agency would cease to exist.
Washington D.C., May 20, 2005 (CNA) - More than three-quarters of Americans, 77 percent, oppose cloning of human embryos for medical research, and 84 percent oppose cloning to provide children to infertile couples.
This is among the findings of a new poll, commissioned by the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
Only 15 percent of respondents said they support cloning for medical purposes and only 10 percent support it to produce children for couples.
The poll, which included a sample of more than 1,000 people, was conducted by International Communications Research, May 6-11.
The United Nations in March approved a declaration urging nations to ban all forms of human cloning. A complete ban has been approved twice by the U.S. House of Representatives, and endorsed by President George W. Bush, but the Senate has taken no action. The new poll shows widespread support for such a ban.
, May 20, 2005 (CNA) - An Internet-based organization, funded by George Soros, made a slanderous attack against Catholics on its Web site yesterday.
As part of its campaign protesting Republican efforts to change the filibuster rules governing federal court appointees, MoveOnPac.org posted a picture of a smiling Pope Benedict XVI holding a gavel outside the U.S. Supreme Court. Above the picture, it read: “God already has a job. He does not need one on the Supreme Court. Protect the Supreme Court rules.”
The image has since been removed, but Catholic League president William Donohue expressed his concern and disdain for the Web site’s tactics.
“Of all the anti-Catholic canards ever expounded in American history, none is more infamous than the one that accuses the Vatican of steering U.S. public policy. And this is exactly what Soros is doing now,” Donohue said.
“Simply because Catholics and Protestants have come together to protest de facto discrimination against Christian pro-life judges by some Democrats, Soros thinks he has a right to fan the flames of anti-Catholic bigotry,” he stated.
Lima, Peru, May 20, 2005 (CNA) - A study carried by the Chilean research firm Latinobarometro revealed that the Church continues to be the most trustworthy and respected institution for 75% of Latin Americans, ahead of politicians, journalists, businessmen, policemen and judges.
Marta Lagos, director of Latinobarometro, said the poll shows that despite the decline of the number of Catholics on the continent from 80% in 1995 to 71% in 2004, the Church continues to be “the moral leader and source of legitimacy” for people, as well as “the strongest reference point for each of the Latin American societies.” Evidence can be found in the fact that in nine years the percentage of people who say they trust the Church has grown from 67 to 75%.
The study took place in 2004 in seventeen countries of Latin America.
Lagos says the Church in Latin America has experienced “a relatively mild decline” if compared with Europe, “where Catholics have now become a minority in many countries.”
Nevertheless, according to the poll, the number of evangelicals in Latin America has grown from 3% in 1995 to 13% in 2004, while the number of those who do not identify themselves with any religion rose from 4 to 8% in the same period of time.
The study shows that the countries with the highest Catholic populations in Latin America include Ecuador and Paraguay with 84%, followed by Venezuela with 83%, Argentina and Colombia with 81%, Mexico with 78% and Peru with 77%. The country with the lowest Catholic population is Uruguay with 51%, and of these only 42% consider themselves practicing Catholics.
Asunción, Paraguay, May 20, 2005 (CNA) - Pro-life leaders in Paraguay are denouncing a new bill that would promote homosexuality and in some cases abortion. Under the guise of assisting minors who are victims of abuse and protecting so-called sexual autonomy, the bill is slated for debate next week.
Nestar de Stark and Maria Celia Meyer of the Federation of Pro-life and Family Associations warned the bill seeks to define “sexual autonomy” as “sexual choice,” in an attempt to make one’s natural sexual state non-determinant.
“It refers to a choice of gender, where one’s natural sexual state is not a relevant fact. It states that one can define one’s sexuality according to what one thinks and likes; this leads to very grave moral relativism,” Meyer said.
The bill also would establish that the “perspective of gender,” with all of its interpretations, be included in the training and educational programs for police officers, teachers, judges and others. “They are seeking that this concept of gender perspective be introduced as a fundamental component and point of reference in the education of children, teenagers, young people and officials in general,” warned Stark.
The Association suggests that sexual autonomy be correctly defined that the necessary guarantees be established for defending the life of each person, so that abortion does not become just another “choice” in one’s sexuality.
Mexico City, Mexico, May 20, 2005 (CNA) - The Mexican Bishops Conference criticized a bill put forth this week by the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) that would legalize euthanasia, saying it would not respect the sacred value of each human life.
The secretary of the Bishops Committee on Family Ministry said that if euthanasia were legalized, “justice would be become relative and confidence in doctors would be compromised by involving them in acts of death.”
He added that so-called assisted suicide is always a form of homicide “because one cannot take one’s own life or the life of others under the guise of respecting personal autonomy.”
The secretary called on all people of good will “to strongly oppose the effort to legalize this terrible crime.”
The bill proposed by the PRD would decriminalize euthanasia, making those with terminal illnesses especially vulnerable.