Vatican City, Jun 15, 2005 (CNA) - During today's general audience, held this morning in a rain-soaked St. Peter's Square, Pope Benedict XVI recalled that God does not remain indifferent to the cry of His people, neither does He disappoint their hope.
The Holy Father spoke to the 32,000 people who had gathered to hear him on the subject of Psalm 122--"Our trust is in the Lord"--and explained that this psalm describes "the faithful who raises his eyes to the Lord and awaits a divine response, in order to see a loving gesture, a benevolent gaze. The psalmist uses an image, that of the servant and the slave girl looking to the hand of their master, awaiting a liberating decision."
The Holy Father continued: "The psalm is a plea in which the voice of one member of the faithful joins that of the entire community. The hope is expressed that the hands of the Lord will open to scatter forth gifts of justice and freedom."
Pope Benedict highlighted the importance of God's loving gaze, which appears in the second half of the psalm, "characterized by the cry: 'Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us!' This is a continuation of the end of the first part of the psalm, which emphasizes the idea of awaiting confidently: 'till He shows mercy upon us’.”
"The faithful need God's intervention because they are in a dire situation, suffering scorn and disdain at the hands of the rich and arrogant. For this reason, the just have entrusted their cause to the Lord, Who does not remain indifferent to their imploring eyes, Who does not ignore their plea, Who does not disappoint their hope."
At the end of his speech, the Holy Father recalled St. Ambrose’s words: “Christ is all for us. If you need to heal your wounds, He is the medicine; if you are burning in fever, He is the water spring; if you feel oppressed by iniquity, He is justice; if you need help, He is the strength; if you fear death, He is life; if you long for heaven, He is the Way; if you need to come out of darkness, He is the light; if you hunger, He is the bread”. The Holy Father then joined the faithful at the singing of the Pater Noster and imparted to them His apostolic blessing.
Rome, Italy, Jun 15, 2005 (CNA) - Church officials and leaders in Italy have welcomed the results of a failed referendum that could have lifted the country’s restrictions on in vitro fertilization and embryonic research. The referendum June 12-13 was invalidated due to low voter turnout (25.9 percent). A turnout of more than 50 percent was required to make the vote valid.
Church leaders and, in particular, Camillo Cardinal Ruini, president of the Italian bishops’ conference, had urged Catholics to boycott the referendum.
Cardinal Ruini said he did not see the result as a victory for Catholicism, but as a sign that Italians are not prepared to discard all restraints on artificial human reproduction, reported CWNews.
"What really won was the moral conscience of our people and the future of man himself," the cardinal said Monday in an interview on Canale 5.
Cardinal Georges Cottier, the theologian of the pontifical household, told the media that few people voted because the questions and issues were complex and many voters did not understand their options. Others probably took advantage of the good weather that weekend and headed for the seashore or the mountains, he speculated.
Cardinal Cottier said Catholic activists and political leaders must work quickly to gain public recognition that an embryo is a human person, worthy of legal protection.
Cardinal Cottier insisted that the bishops were not engaged in partisan politics. Rather, he said, they had understaken a "major teaching effort" to acquaint people with the issues at stake.
The president of Italy’s Catholic Action said the referendum “gave voice to the will of the people.” Alici told the Fides news service: "Scientific research is necessary, but it must have ethical limits; not everything is lawful."
Some Italian leaders now way the results of the referendum may put Italy’s permissive abortion law up for revision.
Italian Regional Affairs Minister Enrico La Loggia told La Stampa that the referendum proved that Italy is “more attentive to the values of the Catholic tradition" than previously thought.
“These principles for the protection of life that are being affirmed today must be taken into account," he said in an article published Tuesday.
While the minister said the revision would likely not take place in the immediate future, he was open to starting a reflection on the matter.
San Francisco, Calif., Jun 15, 2005 (CNA) - As the new prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop William Levada will be challenged to “take more unpopular stands than he did as a U.S. bishop,” says Catholic analyst Deal Hudson.
Archbishop Levada was named to the post last month by Pope Benedict XVI. He will begin in August and he is the first U.S. bishop to hold such a high-ranking Vatican position.
In an article titled “Does the New Vatican Watchdog Have Any Teeth?”, Hudson outlines the archbishop’s track record and says he is “hopeful” about the appointment.
Hudson says that while the archbishop’s “record on the sex-abuse issue is not stellar” and his compromise with the city of San Francisco in 1997 over benefits for gay partners caused controversy, the archbishop has been faithful in theological matters and has the credentials for his new Vatican post.
Hudson says the proof is in his theological reflections, writings and public stands. The former editor of Crisis magazine points out that the new prefect helped lead the fight against physician-assisted suicide when he was the bishop of Portland. In San Francisco, he opposed same-sex marriage. The archbishop has also spoken out on issues related to Catholic politicians, dissent and Catholic doctrine.
On Catholic politicians, the archbishop authored the text, “Reflections on Catholics in Political Life and the Reception of Holy Communion.”
"A Catholic, to be in full communion with the faith of the Church, must accept this teaching about the evil of abortion and euthanasia,” he wrote about Catholic politicians.
Hudson also points out that Archbishop Levada's relationship with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is more than 30 years old. He was first assigned to the staff of the congregation in 1976, five years after he completed his doctorate at the Gregorian University. He served there until 1982, when Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was named prefect. In 1987, as bishop of Portland, he was the only U.S. bishop named to the congregation’s editorial board of the Catechism. He was also was appointed to serve on the congregation in November 2000 as archbishop of San Francisco.
Tampa, Fla., Jun 15, 2005 (CNA) - The medical examiner's office plans to release its autopsy report on Terri Schiavo today. Her parents and siblings hope the report will shed light on the cause of the collapse that left her severely brain-damaged 15 years ago, reported the Associated Press.
The 41-year-old woman died March 31, nearly two weeks after her feeding tube was removed under a court order, which was obtained by her husband.
Her death ended a decade-long legal battle between her husband, Michael Schiavo, and her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler. Schiavo argued that his wife did not want to be kept alive artificially, while her parents argued that she was not in a vegetative state and could improve with therapy. They wanted legal custody of their daughter.
Testimony in a 1992 civil trial indicated that her heart stopped probably because of a severe chemical imbalance caused by an eating disorder. However, her parents and siblings do not believe she had an eating disorder and have accused Schiavo of abusing his wife, a charge he denies.
Washington D.C., Jun 15, 2005 (CNA) - A New Jersey Appellate Court ruled yesterday that the state Constitution does not include same-sex couples in its definition of marriage.
"The right to marry has always been understood in law and tradition to apply only to couples of different genders. A change in that basic understanding would not lift a restriction on the right, but would work a fundamental transformation of marriage into an arrangement that could never have been within the intent of the Framers of the 1947 Constitution," the court said.
Pat Trueman, senior legal counsel for Family Research Council, called the ruling “an outright rejection of judicial activism and a positive development in the law.”
Founded in 1983, the Family Research Council is a recognized national leader in championing the cause for family and traditional marriage. It filed an amicus brief in support of the New Jersey Department of Health and Human Services.
Family Research Coucil president Tony Perkins said the decision "strengthens the legal battle against same-sex marriage,” but a federal marriage amendment is still very much needed.
San Francisco, Calif., Jun 15, 2005 (CNA) - A ruling this week by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld an earlier decision that Holocaust survivors can continue their claims against the Vatican for the restitution of funds plundered from former Yugoslavia during the Second World War.
The majority of the victims of genocide in Croatia during World War II were Orthodox Christian Serbs. More than 500,000 of them were liquidated by the Croatian Ustasha, with the backing of some Catholic clerics. These funds have been referred to as the Ustasha or Croatian treasury.
According to a report by Matt Abbott, the San Francisco court denied a Vatican petition for reconsideration and a request for an extraordinary en banc hearing. It also issued an amended opinion which indicated the Italian Peace Treaty of 1947 did not preclude the lawsuit because the Vatican was not a signatory to the treaty.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jun 15, 2005 (CNA) - During a visit to Argentina, the President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Cardinal Paul Poupard, said the mission of Catholic universities is not to merely produce graduates, but rather to help students seek out the truth.
In a speech at the Catholic University of Argentina on the challenges that today’s culture poses for education, the cardinal emphasized that the importance of the Catholic university does not boil down to enabling its graduates to enter the workforce, but rather it should be a place for seeking out the truth in communion between teachers and students, and for the formation and growth of individuals.
According to the Argentinean daily La Nacion, Cardinal Poupard said that to speak about the truth in contemporary culture constitutes an annoyance in an atmosphere characterized by nihilism, and he criticized universities for turning away from the classical questions about human existence--God, the meaning of life, death, and justice, as presented in literature, history and ethics—in favor of satisfying the demand for job opportunities in the marketplace.
The cardinal also expressed his fear about “living in world dominated by soul-less experts and at the mercy of specialists who know almost everything about very little and almost nothing about everything else, about the things that are most important.”
Madrid, Spain, Jun 15, 2005 (CNA) - The Committee on Migrations of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference has released a document expressing concern for immigrants in the country and for “the sad events, although isolated, of recent confrontations between immigrants and natives and between immigrants themselves.”
The bishops noted the “important change in Spain during the last decade and especially during recent years, due to the phenomenon of immigration. It is a change both in number and in diversity.”
Immigrants have been pouring into Spain from Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, Magreb, Eastern Europe and the Far East.
In their statement, the bishops also note that many immigrants “come or try to come to Spain in precarious situations of exploitation and danger.”
The bishops expressed their commitment to creating “Christian communities made up of members of distinct cultures and nationalities” characterized by mutual respect, unity, and the sharing of talents.
“In this way the Church will contribute to the creation of a just, peaceful and fraternal society, respectful of diversity, welcoming to the stranger, in solidarity with the less fortunate and thankful for the service that our brother and sister immigrants provide to this society,” they concluded.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jun 15, 2005 (CNA) - The Apostolic Administrator of Resistencia, Argentina, Msgr. Carmelo Giaquinta, said this week, “It is difficult to say we are a culturally Christian people” because despite the massive expressions of devotion, the country is submerged in “unsolvable problems” due to neglect of the faith in daily life.
Msgr. Giaquinta noted that Argentina could be called culturally Christian if “one were to go by the massive pilgrimages” to the country’s different Catholic shrines, but not if one considers the protests that cause harm and injury to others in the name of “defending our fundamental rights.”
“It’s not my purpose here to judge every single act of protest,” he stated. Nevertheless, he explained that the faithful need to “find other ways of protesting that are more in tune with the Christian faith and do not cause harm to others.”
Likewise, Msgr. Giaquinta criticized those who sit by and watch the moral deterioration of society and do nothing about it. He noted that the “Catholic majority” gets all upset when it is said that television airs the programs that the people want to see. And yet, “nobody is capable of picking up the phone and complaining to the channel directors.”
Argentina is in need of political, educational, social and judicial reform, he said, but above all, “There is a need for profound moral renewal regarding the social comportment of all citizens and social groups,” because without it, everything else is useless.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 15, 2005 (CNA) - Bishop Jose Guadalupe Martin Rabago of Leon and president of the Bishops’ Conference of Mexico said this week that while the number of Catholics leaving the faith is worrisome, much more so is the number of Mexicans who say they are “indifferent” about God.
Bishop Martin’s comments came in response to a study carried out by the National Institute of Statistics, Geography and Computer Science which concluded that 3.5% of the population in the year 2000 said they were not religious, up from 1.6% in 1970, and the number of non-Catholics has increased threefold—from 3.8% in 1970 to 12% in 2000.
Bishop Martin said he was concerned not only about Catholics who join sects but also about the growing number “of those who say they are simply indifferent; that is, those who live as if God was not important in their lives and deep down are saying, ‘God? For what? God is a useless hypothesis’.”
He noted that it is “common that Catholics join a sect, and then become disillusioned and end up believing in nothing. They remain in a state of skepticism and general disillusionment, which is of great concern to the Church.”
Religious indifference is becoming commonplace in other parts of Latin America as well, he added, citing the cases of Brazil and Colombia, where there have been significant drops in the number of practicing Catholics.