Rome, Italy, Jul 15, 2005 (CNA) - In a column published Friday by the Italian online magazine L’Espresso Vatican analyst Sandro Magister notes that, three months after the beginning of his Pontificate, Benedict XVI has marked out his own style, although most of the mainstream media, as expected, continues to treat him with hostility.
According to Magister, among “progressive” Catholic intellectuals, there has been no delay in criticizing the new Pontiff.
“From the beaches of California, Jesuit Father Thomas Reese…has denounced the new Pope as an irreconcilable enemy of modernity”; while in Italy, Professor Achille Aridgo, “the guru of the Bologna school founded by Giuseppe Dossetti…said in an interview with La Repubblica, ‘I pray everyday to the Holy Spirit to keep the pope and Cardinal Ruini from persevering in their rationalist theology’,” Magister writes.
The Vatican analyst points out, however, that Benedict XVI has compensated by “conquering the masses.”
Instead of interrupting his homilies with applause, notes Magister, the masses follow the Pope’s homilies, “word for word, from the beginning to the end, with an attentiveness that surprises the experts. Mingling with the crowds attending one of the Pope’s Masses is enough to confirm it.”
Magister describes the new style of the Pope as “sober, but in contact with the masses.”
Benedict XVI “loves to write by hand, in German, with a miniscule script that is easily deciphered and transcribed by his two secretaries, Ingrid Stampa and Brigit Wansing, both Germans and members of the Schöenstatt movement.”
Magister also reveals other close associates of the Pope, including Carmela and Loredana, two consecrated women of the “Memores Domini,” a branch of the Italian movement “Communion and Liberation;” and German Father Georg Gaenswein, who until recently taught at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, operated by Opus Dei.
The Italian journalist also comments on the Pope’s efforts to improve relations with the Jews and the Orthodox. The entire column can be found at:
Vatican City, Jul 15, 2005 (CNA) - The Vatican has announced that Bishop Luigi Locati, Apostolic vicar of Isiolo (Kenya) was shot dead as he returned home from a parish center last night.
Both local police and the Vatican say they are still trying to find out why the 76-year old bishop--an Italian--was killed.
Bishop Locati was named head of the Diocese of Zica nine years ago and had presented his resignation two years ago having reached the official retirement age. He was still awaiting a successor.
Reports say the prelate died about an hour and a half after being shot in the northern town of Isiolo, about 155 miles from Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.
The Bishop had survived two previous attacks, including a home-made bomb placed at his residence less than a year ago.Kenyan police detained on Friday two men for questioning over the murder of the veteran Italian missionary.
The two were held and 18 rounds of ammunition recovered during investigations into Thursday evening's murder of Bishop Locati, senior police officer Robert Kipkemei Kitur said.Locati's death followed a week of clan violence in the lawless Marsabit district, just south of the Ethiopian border, in which at least 75 people were killed. But Kenyan churchman Martin Kivuva said he did not believe Locati was targeted as a result of the Marsabit bloodshed.
"Everything is possible, but people think the murder of Monsignor Locati was not connected with that violence," he told MISNA, an Italian missionary news wire.
Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, Jul 15, 2005 (CNA) - The United States first lady, Laura Bush, pledged $500,000 to support a Catholic program in Tanzania that provides support to HIV/AIDS patients and their families.
Tanzania was the second stop in the first lady’s three-nation goodwill tour of eastern and southern Africa, focused on education, HIV/AIDS and the advancement of women.
The program, called Pastoral Activities and for People with AIDS (PASADA), is run by the Archdiocese of Dar es Salaam. Bush took a 30-minute tour of PASADA’s facilities with Tanzanian first lady, Anna Mkapa, and greeted some of its clients who were waiting for treatment.
Bush said she was impressed with the program. "With such an organization, hope triumphs over suffering," she remarked.
The Tanzanian first lady lauded the program, saying: "You give a lease to life to parents so that their children do not have to be orphans … and the nation the workers who, trained at great expense, who would have otherwise died prematurely.”
Yesterday, Bush visited educational centers on the predominantly Muslim and semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar, before heading to Kigali to meet Rwandan first lady Jeanette Kagame and Britain’s first lady, Cherie Blair.
Just days earlier, hundreds of Muslims on Zanzibar protested the alleged desecration of the Koran by U.S. soldiers at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba.
Security for Bush’s tour of Tanzania was high as the U.S. embassy in Dar es Salaam was one of two U.S. diplomatic missions in Africa that was bombed by terrorists in 1998.
Cologne, Germany, Jul 15, 2005 (CNA) - Seminarians from around the world willing to register for a special meeting with Pope Benedict XVI during World Youth Day must register online, sources told CNA.
According to organizers of the event, there are two international gatherings of seminarians scheduled for WYD. The first will be a holy hour presided by the Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, which will be open to all seminarians, priests involved in their formation and young men interested in the priesthood. This event will take place on Wednesday afternoon, August 17.
The second meeting will be presided by Pope Benedict XVI and will take place on Friday, August 19 at 5pm at the Church of St. Pantaleon in Cologne.
In order to obtain one of the 5,000 passes to the event, seminarians must register online by July 31 at: http://www.wjt2005-seminaristen.de/index_e.htm
Hartford, Conn., Jul 15, 2005 (CNA) - The Episcopalian bishop of the Diocese of Connecticut has suspended a priest who disagreed with his support of an openly gay bishop.
Bishop Andrew Smith issued a decision Wednesday inhibiting Rev. Mark Hansen, pastor of the 200-member St. John’s Church in Bristol, for six months. Another five priests have been under the threat of inhibition since April.
The inhibition suspends Rev. Hansen’s priestly functions in the Diocese of Connecticut, but he still remains a priest. However, if the situation is not resolved in six months, Smith can remove him from the priesthood. The bishop has invited parishioners to a meeting Sunday to discuss the situation.
The Connecticut Six, as they have come to be known, had asked for a different bishop to provide oversight shortly after Bishop Smith voted for the ordination of the openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire in 2003.
In letters sent in March, Bishop Smith told the six that the diocesan standing committee had determined they had abandoned communion with the church.
The six parishes responded Wednesday that while they would welcome Bishop Smith at any time, their clergy and congregations "believe it would be inappropriate for him to preach or to preside over the Eucharist."
They assert that Bishop Smith has abandoned "scriptural authority and biblical norms."
Rev. Hansen believes his bishop has done “an end-run around due process” and he plans to take his case to the archbishop of Canterbury in England.
Fort Worth, Texas, Jul 15, 2005 (CNA) - It was a mix of happiness and sorrow at the ordination Wednesday of Fort Worth’s third bishop. Bishop Kevin Vann was installed as the new bishop only one day after the death of his predecessor, Bishop Joseph Delaney.
"Change for any of us is never easy," Bishop Vann said. "This is especially true for us with the death of Bishop Delaney. How we are beginning now had not been my plan, or that of Bishop Delaney, or many of us. But this is the moment the Lord has given us."
Bishop Delaney was ordained to the episcopate Sept. 13, 1981 and had served the 425,000-member diocese for nearly 24 years.
In May, Pope Benedict XVI had appointed Msgr. Vann of the Diocese of Springfield, Ill., to serve as coadjutor bishop of Fort Worth, but the monsignor was installed as bishop after Bishop Delaney died suddenly this week.
A wake for Bishop Delaney will be held Sunday at St. Patrick Cathedral at 7 p.m. The funeral mass will be celebrated Monday at 2 p.m.
About 3,000 worshippers gathered for the 54-year-old’s ordination at the Daniel-Meyer Coliseum at Texas Christian University, reported the Star-Telegram. Among them were more than 20 bishops, Bishop Vann's mother, Theresa, 76, and his father, William, 79.
City officials and area religious leaders also attended the three-hour event, as did parishioners from dozens of parishes and 30 members of a youth group. Prayers and Scripture reflected the cultural diversity of the diocese and were read in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.
Several parishioners told the newspaper that they hope the new bishop would emphasize the traditional teachings of the Church.
Last year, the monsignor had gained media attention when he said he would not give Communion to pro-choice Sen. Dick Durbin at his parish, Blessed Sacrament Church in Springfield, Ill., where he was also charged with the Hispanic ministry of the diocese.
Denver, Colo., Jul 15, 2005 (CNA) - Along side of the millions of Jews, horrifically murdered in the Nazi concentration camps of World War II, were an often overlooked segment of victims--Catholic priests. This is the backdrop for a new film by German director, Volker Schlödorff, called ‘The Ninth Day,’ a special viewing of which was held in Denver last evening.
The Chez Artiste theater on Denver’s south side was filled with supporters of Annunciation radio, who sponsored the premiere viewing. Also on hand for the event were Colorado Springs Bishop Michael Sheridan, concentration camp survivor Jack Goldman, one of the camp’s U.S. liberators, Dick Bayless, and religious history expert Dr. Seth Ward.
The film, based on a true story and one of the latest from award-winning Schlödorff, depicts the struggle of one Catholic priest against the Nazi regime and conflicting suggestions of how best to protect the Church--and his own life.
Following his release from the death camp of Dachau, German priest Henri Kremer learns that the Nazis are giving him nine days to convince his staunch Bishop to cooperate with their plans--and muster support from the Vatican, or else be returned to Dachau.
The film also addresses the role of Pope Pius XII in World War II.
Dr. Ward, professor of religious history at the University of Wyoming, noted that the central question, which was touched upon in the film, was whether Pope Pius should have been more vocal, or did he literally save millions of lives by keeping relatively silent?
The film puts the question in even starker light, noting a bishop in the Netherlands who caused 40,000 to be sent to death camps because of a pastoral letter decrying Nazism.
At its heart, he added, “the movie was about struggles between choosing different goods; saving self, family, the Church….”
Ward, a Jew himself, praised the Catholic Church for it’s work following the war.
He noted then Cardinal Ratzinger, who, in a homily just before becoming Pope Benedict XVI, “talked about the evils of totalitarianism and relativism.”
“It was a very strong statement,” he said, “about just this sort of thing.”
He paralleled situations today with that of Europe in the 1930’s and 40’s, saying that “human totalitarian groups don’t have the fear of God referred to in scripture…totalitarians don’t fear God and imprison everybody.”
Dachau survivor Goldman added that we must learn from our past, specifically referring to regions like Darfur, where “people are dying seemingly wantonly.” He also noted the many atrocities he witnessed toward Catholics in addition to his fellow Jews in the camp, even noting “an entire French monastery who were brought in.”
Mr. Bayless, one of the liberators of Dachau, noted that “more Catholic priests were put [there] than in any other camp…They didn’t have to kill too many people in Dachau because they died too fast, [due to the horrific conditions].”
After the showing, Bishop Sheridan told CNA that he “enjoyed the film…if that’s even an appropriate word.”
“I thought it was a wonderful film”, he said, “and appreciated its portrayal of human struggle.”
Washington D.C., Jul 15, 2005 (CNA) - The United States should press the government of Pakistan to repeal its blasphemy laws and to release a jailed Christian citizen facing blasphemy charges and death threats, says the Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom.
Yousaf Masih, a 60-year-old Pakistani Christian, was arrested June 28 on the grounds that he desecrated the Koran. Under Pakistan's blasphemy laws, the offense carries a mandatory life sentence. In similar cases, those acquitted of blasphemy have gone into hiding after being threatened with murder by religious extremists. One judge who handed down an acquittal for blasphemy was murdered.
"The U.S. government considers Pakistan an ally in the war on terror but these blasphemy laws are a form of state-sponsored terror against its own people," said the center’s director, Nina Shea, in a July 13 press release.
"The U.S. should immediately reconsider its plans to sell F-16s to Pakistan until these laws are repealed and those accused of blasphemy are released from prison,” she added.
The All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), a human rights group based in Pakistan, is assisting Masih in his defense. It reports that Masih faces immediate danger from other inmates who have beaten him and threatened to kill him.
Local Islamic organizations have held protest marches to demand the death penalty for Masih, prompting some local Christians to flee.
Masih told the APMA that in the course of his work as a janitor he was asked to burn discarded documents of which he had no knowledge and which he could not read because he is illiterate. Masih says he is being falsely blamed.
The initial charges were brought against Masih by his Muslim neighbors. If the case goes to court, Masih's testimony, under Pakistan's sharia law, could be given half the weight of his neighbors' because he is not Muslim.
"Pakistan's blasphemy laws violate due process and have been persistently used to persecute religious minorities, particularly Christians and Ahmadis, and to press personal grievances," said Shea. "These discriminatory laws should be abolished."
Some 80 Christians are now imprisoned for blasphemy in Pakistan, and 650 people, both Muslim and non-Muslim, have been falsely accused and arrested under the blasphemy laws since 1988.
The Center for Religious Freedom has recently published book, Radical Islam's Rules, which examines Pakistan's use of sharia law.
Cologne, Germany, Jul 15, 2005 (CNA) - Organizers of the upcoming World Youth Day in Cologne announced they expect some 16,000 handicapped individuals from various countries to attend the event and participate in the meetings with Pope Benedict XVI.
“All young people should equally participate together in such an important and defining event as World Youth Day,” WYD organizers said, adding that wheel chair ramps have been installed at the various venues, as well as other measures that will enable those who are hearing or visually impaired to fully participate in the meetings scheduled to take place in Cologne.
San Francisco, Calif., Jul 15, 2005 (CNA) - Frustrated by a flurry of popularity surrounding what he sees as a false idea of Jesus, Pope Benedict XVI, in his latest book since becoming pontiff, and the first to be published in English, is seeking to uncover and lead readers to the true “Jesus of the Gospels.”
Set to be released in October of this year, On the Way to Jesus Christ, is being published by San Francisco’s Ignatius Press.
According to the publisher, the Pope’s new book is “designed for the believer and the non-believer alike.”
It “unveils”, they say, “the true Jesus of the Gospels, the one who was crucified for His ‘unpopular’ ideas of so many years ago. The real Jesus and His real teachings still cause discomfort and unease today.”
In the book’s forward, Pope Benedict writes that, Jesus today, is often seen as someone who “demands nothing, never scolds, who accepts everyone and everything, who no longer does anything but affirm us: the perfect opposite of the Church, to the extent that she still dares to make demands and regulations.”
In his hard hitting, but honest and humble exploration, the Holy Father finds that the real Jesus of the Gospels “is quite different, demanding bold.”
The book, a series of meditations that Benedict wrote while still Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is one of four that Ignatius plans to release this year written by the new Pope.
The Pope’s first book since his election, Benedict and Today´s Europe, was published with an introduction from Italian intellectual Marcello Pare--President of the Italian Senate. Ignatius Press’s Fr. Joseph Fessio said that they plan to release this work in English later this year.
The release date for On the Way to Jesus Christ is set for October 3rd and will sell for $19.95 US. More information can be found at www.ignatius.com
Bethlehem, West Bank, Jul 15, 2005 (CNA) - In light of a recent firestorm over a New York Times editorial by Vienna’s Cardinal Christoph Schonborn discussing the Church’s stance on evolution, Dr. Michael Behe, professor at Lehigh University and one of the nations leading scholars on intelligent design told CNA that he thinks the Cardinal’s piece was a “much needed clarification” of the often misrepresented Church teaching.
Dr. Behe says he disagrees with critics who say that Cardinal Schonborn’s article was a break from the thinking of Pope John Paul II, who taught that many aspects of evolution are not in conflict with the Catholic Church.
Instead, Behe told CNA, “it’s a much needed clarification.”
“For years,“ he said, “Darwinists have been spinning John Paul’s words to their own benefit…interpreting it in ways he did not mean.”
While noting John Paul was certainly open to certain aspects of evolution like common ancestry, the professor said he was not, “open to the idea that evolution is random and unguided.”
Dr. Behe even alluded to Pope John Paul’s 1996 letter to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, in which he famously said that evolution may be more than just a theory.
Behe said that nothing is really wrong with the letter, but many evolution advocates frequently opt to pick and choose “headline-grabbing phrases”, from the document and ignore the rest.
In his article, Cardinal Schonborn stressed that “Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not. Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science.”Confusion of words
Dr. Behe noted that one of the major problems in the evolution debate, and a tremendous source of misunderstanding of the Church’s position, is that many see the ideas of intelligent design and creationism as synonymous, which, he says, they are not.
Creationism, he clarified, is the literal interpretation of the creation story in Genesis which suggests seven 24-hour days and an earth which is less than 10,000 years old. He said that this mode of thought starts with the Bible, and seeks to back it up in nature.
“The Catholic Church,” he noted, “has never [definitively] taught that.”
Intelligent design, on the other hand, Behe said, starts with the facts of nature, and seeks to understand what caused them.
In this context, the Church can reasonably accept evolution on certain terms as John Paul and Cardinal Schonborn agree, and as Washington DC’s Cardinal Theodore McCarrick said earlier this week, “as long as there is room for a creator.”
Cardinal Schonborn chose to look beyond the 1996 letter of the late John Paul II, and quoted a portion of a 1985 general audience, in which he said: “To speak of chance for a universe which presents such a complex organization in its elements and such marvelous finality in its life would be equivalent to giving up the search for an explanation of the world as it appears to us.”
“In fact, this would be equivalent to admitting effects without a cause. It would be to abdicate human intelligence, which would thus refuse to think and to seek a solution for its problems."
Madrid, Spain, Jul 15, 2005 (CNA) - An increasing number of newlyweds in Spain are deciding to turn their weddings and honeymoons into opportunities to reach out to those in need through “missionary honeymoons” or “gift registries” that benefit the needy.
The initiative consists of proposing that wedding guests deposit the money they would otherwise use to buy gifts into accounts that finance missionary and developmental projects in other parts of the world. The newlyweds then make their honeymoon at one of these places in order to participate in an apostolic work.
The new idea began 10 years ago with a couple identified as Javier and Charo and little by little has gained popularity among young couples, for whom “the family is an instrument in the service of society and the Church.” According to Rafa and Monica, another couple who participated in the program, “beginning our family life in this way is the best way to be an instrument of God at the service of all.”
Charo and Javier said it was a way “to begin our life together sharing that which was already fulfilling us individually.” They traveled to Mexico, first to the Yucatan and then to Guadalajara, where together with several friends, they built a school and helped children to attend.
Another case is that of Angel and Amparo, whose desire to live the sacrament of marriage by “helping others” led them to build a nutritional center and a school, and to purchase tools for a small town in Rwanda. They accomplished all of this with the help of their 200 wedding guests.
“The people of the town had a party in our honor, they gave us gifts which they had made and a precious card thanking us for everything. So in the end, 200 people celebrated our wedding with us in Spain and almost 300 in Rwanda,” Amparo said.
Santiago, Chile, Jul 15, 2005 (CNA) - As part of the activities surrounding the canonization of Chilean Father Alberto Hurtado, fourteen dioceses in Chile will take part in the “Social Weeks” in August in order to help address the different social problems facing the country.
The dioceses of Copiapó, La Serena, San Felipe, Melipilla, Rancagua, Talca, Chillán, Los Ángeles, Concepción, Temuco, Valdivia, Villarrica, Puerto Montt and Aysén will all participate in the program, which will feature panel discussions and forums on equality, social justice and solidarity among Chileans in light of the social teachings of the Church.
The canonization of Father Hurtado, and especially the work of Caritas Chile and other organizations, has made it possible for eleven new dioceses to join in the traditional celebration of the “Social Weeks.”