Vatican City, Jul 6, 2005 (CNA) - In his general audience earlier today in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged nearly 15,000 listeners to realize that all are children of God the Father who, in light of Christ, “can now be invoked as 'Abba,'…in a spontaneous and loving relationship."
The Holy Father focused today’s scripture catechesis on the canticle in St. Paul's Letter to the Ephesians (1, 3-14), "God the Savior,” calling it “a prayer of blessing addressed to God the Father" that outlines "the various stages of the plan of salvation achieved through the action of Christ."
The Pope stressed the fact that, "The Father first chooses us that we might walk holy and blameless in love, then destines us to be His children; He also redeems us and forgives our sins, and makes the mystery of salvation in Christ fully known to us; finally He gives us the eternal inheritance, offering us a guarantee in the gift of the Holy Spirit until the final resurrection."
Benedict then discussed a sort of Catholic idea of predestination saying that the Father "choose[s] the believers, a free and gratuitous initiative of God.”
“In principle, then,” he continued, “'before the foundation of the world,' in the eternity of God, divine grace was ready to enter into action. The content of this call is 'sanctity,' in other words participation in the transcendent purity of the divine Being and in His intimate essence of 'charity,' 'God is love'."
"Following this course,” he said, “we move towards the next stage, which has also been contemplated in the divine plan for all eternity: our 'predestination' as children of God.”
Perhaps reaching the crux of his argument the Pope noted that, “Elsewhere in his writings, St. Paul exalts this sublime condition of being children, which implies brotherhood with Christ - the Son par excellence, 'first-born among many brothers' - and intimacy with the heavenly Father - Who can now be invoked as 'Abba,' Father, in a spontaneous and loving relationship."
The Holy Father concluded today’s teaching by referring to St. Ambrose, who wrote that God is above all rich in mercy because in Christ "He redeemed everyone and, as architect of nature, transformed us who by the nature of flesh were children of rage and subject to punishment, that we should be children of peace and of charity."
Vatican City, Jul 6, 2005 (CNA) - Following his general audience this morning at the Vatican, Pope Benedict greeted a group of delegates from the Italian diocese of Spoleto-Norcia who came bearing the “Torch of Peace”, a powerful symbol which the Pope hopes will encourage a greater “witness to Christian values in Europe.”
Archbishop Riccardo Fontana led the group carrying the Benedictine Torch which the Pope called "an important symbol…that has now reached its 30th anniversary."
The Holy Father spoke about the torch’s departure from Moscow earlier this year "after having been welcomed by a representative of the Patriarch Alexis II," and its travels through Germany, at the monastery of Ottobeuren and at Marktl am Inn, Pope Benedict’s hometown.
The Pope told the pilgrims that, "As a symbol of peace, the torch today rests near the tombs of the Apostles, and will later continue its journey to Norcia. May this important initiative encourage an ever more generous commitment to bear witness to Christian values in Europe."
Afterwards, the Holy Father addressed a group of pilgrims from Poland, expressing his shared joy "for the opening last week of the cause of beatification of the Servant of God, the much-loved Pope John Paul II. To your prayers I entrust the progress of this cause."
Vatican City, Jul 6, 2005 (CNA) - Speaking on the newly released Compendium to the Catechism of the Catholic Church Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI stressed the need for Catholics to lovingly embrace the whole of the faith.
"Dear brothers and sisters”, he said, “how necessary it is today at the dawn of the third millennium for the entire Catholic community to proclaim, teach and witness to the entire truth of Catholic faith, doctrine and morals in a unanimous and harmonious manner!"
The Holy Father added that the Compendium’s completion happened to fall in conjunction with the announcement of John Paul II’s beatification process “by divine providence.”
The late pontiff commissioned the Compendium in …to complement the dense, but groundbreaking Catechism of the Catholic Church, compiled in large part by Benedict XVI, who was then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
In 1987, John Paul told a gathering of the U.S. bishops that, "It is sometimes reported that a large number of Catholics today do not adhere to the teaching of the Catholic Church on a number of questions, notably sexual and conjugal morality, divorce and remarriage.”
“It is sometimes claimed”, he said, “that dissent from the magisterium is totally compatible with being a 'good Catholic,' and poses no obstacle to the reception of the Sacraments. This is a grave error that challenges the teaching of the Bishops in the United States and elsewhere. "
Vatican City, Jul 6, 2005 (CNA) - John Paul II’s longtime personal secretary, Archbishop Stanislao Dziwisz of Krakow, confirmed this week the late Pontiff had written a letter to Ali Agca, the Turkish gunman who attempted to assassinate him in 1981, but never ended up sending it.
The news was reported in Poland by the newspaper Rzecpospolita and was confirmed by Archbishop Dziwisz. According to the paper, in the letter—written in Italian—John Paul II asked Agca: “Why did you shoot me, if we both believe in the only God?”
The new archbishop of Krakow confirmed the existence of the letter, which will be given to the postulator of John Paul II’s cause for beatification. “The archive is closed to third parties and will remain so until all of the material has been catalogued, which will require several years,” he said.
London, England, Jul 6, 2005 (CNA) - A Catholic group in the U.K. aiming to preserve authentic Catholic teaching is expressing outage at proposals throughout the U.K. to establish schools allowing joint religious and sexual education for Catholics and Anglicans.
John Gunn, Catholic Action Group‘s National Coordinator said today that, “Catholics as well as Anglicans in the United Kingdom should have a right to be taught their full faith and not a watered down version which is a complete compromise to another denomination.”
The group noted that despite opposition, the Catholic Dioceses of Wrexham and Liverpool have both approved measures allowing for the joint schools.
Supporters of the schools say that the mixed education would allow for students to explore the Catholic and Anglican faiths as well as other religions and gain a higher respect for all.
However, according to Robert Williams, the group’s secretary-himself an Anglican convert: “We and other groups have made direct representations to Rome on this important issue. Rome knows that parents expect their children to be properly educated in their faith.”
“They will hopefully put a stop to this non-sense,” he added.
Catholic Action Group noted that while a number of joint education Catholic-Anglican schools have existed in the U.K. since the 1980’s, permission for the schools was only granted with the understanding that religious education would be separate.
Cologne, Germany, Jul 6, 2005 (CNA) - On Friday, Catholics around the world will begin the final forty-day countdown before the 11th annual World Youth Day celebration, and the official WYD pilgrimage cross will begin its final push toward the German city of Cologne.
The eyes of the world will be on Cologne next month as Pope Benedict takes part in the celebration--his first major event since his election as pontiff, and one which many think will shape the direction of his papacy.
A number of young people accompanied by their bishops are scheduled to carry the pilgrimage cross, relay-style, during the final stage of its European journey, called “Kreuzspuren” (in the footsteps of the Cross) from Dresden, Germany to Cologne.
The group plans to travel the last 750 km in a spirit of the Three Wise Men who traveled to honor the infant Jesus in Bethlehem, the remains of whom are preserved in the Cathedral of Cologne.
The cross is scheduled to travel almost exclusively on old pilgrimage paths. According to the Fides news service, from Dresden to Vacha the young pilgrims will travel by way of the Via Regia, and from Vacha to Colonia they will take the St Elisabeth Way and the St James Way, which if continued upon, would lead all the way to Compostela in Spain.
The 11th annual World Youth Day will commence on August 11th and continue through the 21st.
Vatican City, Jul 6, 2005 (CNA) - The New York Times reported this week that many former critics of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger are warming up to the man once called the “Vatican’s pit bull,” since his becoming Pope Benedict XVI last spring.
“Supporters and skeptics alike”, wrote Ian Fischer, “say Benedict is revealing himself as a man more complicated, subtle and personally warm than many had expected from his years as the Vatican's defender of the faith.”
The article noted that while Pope Benedict hasn’t backed down on crucial issues of Catholic teaching like homosexuality, contraception and abortion, making him extremely appealing to orthodox Catholics, more dissenting Catholics have been surprised by the Holy Father’s softness and emphasis on God’s love.
Rev. Keith F. Pecklers, a Jesuit professor at the Rome’s Gregorian Pontifical University told the Times, "I have been pleasantly surprised by what we have seen thus far…What strikes me is that he is clearly a man of deep prayer and spirituality. He is very intelligent, a good theologian. And he is very humble. He clearly does not want to call attention to himself."
Fischer juxtaposed Pope Benedict with his predecessor, John Paul II, who was world-renowned for his powerful stage presence. “His manner is gentle,” he wrote, “even shy, his voice quiet and his reasoning clear, the focus less on him and his strong views than on the church and its teaching.”
Even Oriana Fallaci, an Italian wroter told The Wall Street Journal recently that he appreciates the intelligence and clarity of Pope Benedict’s writings. "I am an atheist,” he said, “and if an atheist and a pope think the same thing, there must be some truth there."
While some, like Florida resident, Teresa La Peruta, 59, admittedly did not like the Pope at first, largely for her, because of his strong stance on fertility laws, she too admitted after a recent audience in the Vatican that "He is beginning to win me over."
According to the times, when La Peruta said this, the Pope had just donned an Italian firefighter’s hat and accepted an invitation to talk with a terminally ill nun on the cell phone of a man in a wheel chair.
Still others, like papal biographer George Weigel, simply see the man who Joseph Ratzinger (the Pope’s given name) has always been. "I have known this man for a very long time,” he told the Times, “and what I am seeing, frankly, is the man I have always known."
"It's the attractiveness of a man who knows exactly who he is, who, like John Paul II, is a genuine Christian radical, and who can explain the depth of Christian faith in a kind of winsome way."
Kingston, Canada, Jul 6, 2005 (CNA) - In the wake of an invalid ceremony on Saturday in which a French woman declared herself a Catholic priest, Kingston, Ontario Archbishop Anthony Meagher is warning 9 women who plan to make a similar move this month that "To attempt an ordination this way is to step outside the church.''
According to the Catholic Register, an association of some 14 groups calling themselves “Roman Catholic Womenpriests,” are planning to ordain 9 women to the priesthood in a ceremony on a boat in the middle of the St. Lawrence River near Gananoque, Ont.
Although Archbishop Meagher thinks that although "There is no doubt ... there has to be more involvement of women in leadership and in decision-making'' in the Church…he thinks that “there are more effective ways to protest.''
The women are planning the ceremony to straddle the Ontario, New York border so as to avoid jurisdiction from the Archdiocese.
In light of the French ordination, Vincent Feroldi, a spokesman for Lyon’s Archbishop Philippe Barbarin said that no decree of excommunication would necessary in a technical sense, because of the fundamental violation of Church law the woman’s actions constitute.
Some say that a similar form of automatic excommunication would result should the 9 women follow through with their plans this month.
, Jul 6, 2005 (CNA) - The Secretary General of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, Bishop Fabian Marlanda, reiterated this week the Church’s opposition to the adoption of children by gay couples, because the child’s right to have a father and a mother supersedes the demands of homosexuals.
Bishop Marulanda said that while the Church teaches that no one should be suffer discrimination and that homosexuals should be respected, “marriage is for the union of a man and a woman. It is even more grave that these homosexual couples seek to adopt children who are already enduring great trauma.”
“In this sense, for the Church it is much more important to defend the right of the child to have a home and a family than the right of homosexuals to have adopted children,” the bishop stated.
Rome, Italy, Jul 6, 2005 (CNA) - During a press conference on World Youth Day 2005, which will take place in Germany in August, Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne said the mission of young people attending would be “to show the face of Christ to the world.”
“You must come like the Wise Men. Bring others with you, don’t come alone. If we gather in His name, Jesus will be among us. We must show the face of Christ to the world,” the cardinal said during the press conference organized by Vatican Radio.
Cardinal Meisner recalled that John Paul II had told him of his desire that one of the first World Youth Days of the third millennium be held in Cologne and that he chose Germany as a sign of hope.
The cardinal said there are currently 400,000 young people registered to attend WYD but organizers expect that number to swell to 800,000. As of now 7000 priests and 700 bishops from around the world are expected to travel to Cologne as well.
He also revealed that Pope Benedict XVI would visit the Synagogue of Cologne on August 19 as a “clear symbol” of rapprochement between Catholics and Jews. This will be the only papal event outside of WYD.
According to Cardinal Meisner, “The Holocaust is still an open wound for Germans. The Jews are not just another people for us, they are our brothers and sisters and we must act so that nothing like that ever happens again.”
This visit will make Benedict XVI the second Pontiff to visit a Jewish temple after John Paul II, who visited the Synagogue of Rome in 1986 at the invitation of Rome’s chief Rabbi, Elio Toaff.
The Nazi army destroyed the Synagogue of Cologne during the Kristallnact of 1938.
Madrid, Spain, Jul 6, 2005 (CNA) - Bishop Jose Sanchez Gonzalez of Sigüenza-Guadalajara, Spain, said this week opposition to same-sex marriage is not tantamount to discrimination against homosexuals, but rather the favoring of the institutions of marriage and the family.
In a statement, Bishop Sanchez Gonzalez clarified that same-sex couples are not denied marriage because they are homosexuals, “but rather because they are two men or two women and not a man and a woman.”
Marriage, he said, is “the life-long union in love and fidelity of a man and a woman, open to the transmission of life and the raising of children.” Therefore, “only a man and a woman can have the right to contract marriage,” unless some legitimate impediment exists.
The bishop explained that homosexuals have “the perfect right, and they are correct to do so, to demand the same treatment that others get in as much as their dignity and fundamental rights are concerned and to fight against any discrimination in this respect.” Nevertheless, “they cannot demand that the nature of things be changed, such as with the case of marriage or the right to adopt minors.”
Likewise, he recalled that legislators must respect the institution of marriage because of its precedence over the state. The bishop also expressed his hope that the pro-family demonstrations of June 18 will have a lasting impact on the country.