Rome, Italy, Aug 15, 2005 (CNA) - In his first interview since being elected to the papacy, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the joy of being Christian in the midst of the world and of the importance of renewing the faith in Europe through experiences such as World Youth Day Cologne.
The interview, conducted in German on the eve of World Youth Day, was partially broadcast Sunday night and will be aired in its entirety by Vatican Radio on Monday.
The Pope expressed his hope that WYD would “provide a new impulse to an old continent (Europe),” and he said the event “would be substantially an encounter between young Catholics from all over the world and also with those young people who are not Catholic but who desire to know if they can find among us an answer to their questions.”
“Ecumenical dialogue as such is not the principal theme (of WYD),” the Holy Father explained, but he did note that an ecumenical dimension would be present “in the encounters between young people: the young people do not only speak with the Pope, they speak with each other.”
Nevertheless, the Pope said he was eager to meet with Evangelical leaders in Germany. “I will meet with our Evangelical brothers: we won’t have much time because the schedule is very tight, but it will be enough for us to reflect on how we wish to move ahead,” he explained.
The crisis in Europe
Referring to the hundreds of thousands of young people expected at the gathering, Benedict said, "I would like to show them how beautiful it is to be Christian, because the widespread idea which continues to exist is that Christianity is composed of laws and bans which one has to keep and, hence, is something toilsome and burdensome.”
He said that leads many to think life is freer without the Church.
"I want to make clear that it is not a burden to be carried with great love and realization, but is like having wings. It is wonderful to be a Christian with this knowledge that it gives us a great breadth, a large community," Benedict said.
The Pontiff also warned that Europe is in crisis because it is denying its values founded upon Christianity. “This civilization, with its dangers and its hope, can be ‘tamed’ and led to all of its grandeur only if it learns to recognize the sources of its strength,” which according to the Pope, is found it its Christian origins.
Vatican City, Aug 15, 2005 (CNA) - Presiding at the recitation of the Angelus this Sunday at Castel Gandolfo, Pope Benedict XVI called on the world to pray for the success of World Youth Day. The Pontiff’s reflection during the prayer centered on the testimonies of the various saints and martyrs celebrated in recent days, from St. Lawrence to St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein).
“I invite all of the baptized and, in a special way, the young people who are participating in World Youth Day to look to these brilliant examples of evangelical heroism,” the Pope said.
“Upon them all I invoke the protection of all of these saints, in particular St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, who spent several years of her life precisely in the Carmelite convent in Cologne,” he added.
In conclusion, the Pope addressed each of the language groups present, asking for prayers for WYD.
To the English-speaking pilgrims, he said, “I invite you to join me during these days in praying for the success of the coming World Youth Day in Cologne”.
San Francisco, Calif., Aug 15, 2005 (CNA) - Nearly 2,300 well-wishers turned out Saturday night to bid farewell to San Francisco Archbishop William Levada as he heads to Rome to become head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a post formerly held by Pope Benedict XVI.
Mayor Gavin Newsom presented the Archbishop with a trolley bell to remember the city by and encouraged him to think of the “city by the bay” whenever he hears the bells of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Other tributes included videotaped messages from President George W. Bush and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger during the $150 a plate charity farewell dinner, which raised funds for the Alliance of Mission District Catholic Schools.
The 69 year old prelate will replace then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, and become the highest-ranking American ever to hold a position in the Vatican.
In his new position, Archbishop Levada will be responsible for the safeguarding of Catholic doctrine and teaching, as handed down by the apostles nearly 2,000 years ago.
The Archbishop recently decided to waive the diplomatic immunity he now enjoys as a Vatican prefect, and testify in the sexual abuse lawsuits pending in the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon, where he formerly served as ordinary.
He told reporters before Saturday’s dinner however, that he thought most Catholics were pleased with the way the Archdiocese of San Francisco handled their own abuse charges.
"On the whole,” the Associated Press quoted Archbishop Levada as saying, “I can leave San Francisco with a good conscience."
Denver, Colo., Aug 15, 2005 (CNA) - This week, some 600 young people from Denver, Colorado will complete the overseas trek to join an estimated 800,000 youth from around the world--as well as Pope Benedict XVI--for the 20th World Youth Day.
The city is still awash with memories of Pope John Paul II’s 1993 visit for that year’s World Youth Day celebration held in Denver, a moment which many say, lit the fire for the Archdiocese of Denver to become one of the strongest and most well-respected in the country.
John Paul instituted the worldwide event in 1984 in his native Poland as a profound way to reach out to the youth of the planet with the message of the Gospel.
Pope Benedict commented during his inauguration ceremony last spring that, "If we look at these young people who were gathered around the late Pope, and as a result, around Christ, whose cause the Pope espoused, something just as comforting could be seen: it is not true that young people think only of consumerism and pleasure. It is not true that they are materialistic and self-centered.”
“Just the opposite is true,” he said. “Young people want great things. They want an end to injustice. They want inequalities to be overcome and all peoples to have their share in the earth's goods. They want freedom for the oppressed. They want great things, good things."
While most admit that the new pope has big shoes to fill, many are convinced that Benedict is up to the challenge.
Karen Wasinger, a youth minister from the Shrine of St. Anne parish near Denver, told the Denver Post that, "I think Pope Benedict's really looking to continue the call upon young people to be the light of Christ."
Likewise, Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George is excited to see the new pope’s impact on the young people. He told the Chicago Tribune that, "He's shown himself in crowds to be such a humble man, such an authentic man…Young people will respond well to that. They respond well to authenticity, and he is who he is. There is nothing there that is not utterly truthful."
While 15-year old Neyhelly Ochoa, from the Chicago suburb of Melrose Park, is disappointed that she won’t get to see John Paul II at this year’s WYD, she told the Tribune that, "I still think it's going to be really cool. We all loved John Paul and he taught us so many different things…Now, we have a new pope and I want to give him a chance. I want to see how he acts on this trip with the young people and what he tells us to do."
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops estimates that 24,000 young people from the U.S. will be in Cologne.
Denver’s 19-year old Philip Oldham plans to be front and center for what many see as a defining moment in Benedict’s young papacy.
The Holy Father has said that he wants be a unifier for the Church, and Oldham told the Denver Post that he’s “excited to see how he does it.”
"As a cardinal, he was a strict enforcer of dogma,” Oldham pointed out. “He put a nix on things coming through that didn't line up with Catholic dogma." But, he added, this is a prime chance for the new pontiff to light a fire in the hearts of Catholic youth.
"Some people just think, 'We're going to Germany,' not 'We're going to see the pope.' We need to keep focused on the reason we are there, and that's Jesus," he said.
, Aug 15, 2005 (CNA) - William Donahue, president of the New York-based Catholic League for religious and civil liberties is calling for a restructuring of the U.S. Supreme Court, saying that “it should be unconstitutional for the court to overturn an act of Congress unless it is a unanimous decision.”
Donahue released the strong statement in preparation for his part in the “Justice Sunday II” event in Nashville, Tennessee Sunday.
In it, he said that, “Putting strict constructionists on the Supreme Court may help thwart the forces of judicial activism, but it isn’t enough. What is needed is structural reform: the Supreme Court needs to be revamped, and that is why we need a constitutional amendment.”
Donahue cited Chief Justice John Marshall, who established the Judicial Review and well-known New York University philosopher Sidney Hook as examples of others who had supported his idea.
“When judges”, he continued, “invent rights to privacy that allow for abortion-on-demand, they are exercising extra-constitutional authority. When judges pronounce that equal protection before the law means that it is okay for two men to get married, they are exercising extra-constitutional authority. When judges declare that the concept of eminent domain means that the government has the right to grab private property so that developers can make a fast buck, they are exercising extra-constitutional authority.”
“That”, Donahue said, “is why we need to go beyond Roberts: we need to restructure the high court.”
Donahue’s comments come in the midst of a nationwide debate over President Bush’s judicial nominee, Judge John Roberts. Many accuse the U.S. Senate of illicitly applying a “religious litmus test” to Roberts because of hostility to his Catholic faith.
“Certainly”, the statement noted, quoting Thomas Jefferson, “there is not a word in the constitution which has given that power to [the Supreme Court] more than to the executive or legislative branches.”
“Jefferson was right,” Donahue said. “The time has come to restore the three branches of government as co-equals and put an end to judicial tyranny.”
Cologne, Germany, Aug 15, 2005 (CNA) - Young people from all over the world have registered for World Youth Day (WYD) in Cologne, Germany, this week. The top five countries represented in the registrations are European.
WYD organizers have released the latest numbers, which reveal that about one-quarter of all registered participants are from Italy.
A little less than 400,000 Catholic youth have registered for the international event, set to take place Aug. 16-21, and 100,000 Italians have registered.
German youth come in second with about 80,000 and French youth have about 70,000 registrations. Then comes Poland and Spain.
The United States comes in sixth with about 23,000 young people registered and Canada seventh with almost 7,000.
While some are surprised that the biggest number of registrations does not belong to Germany, some organizers have pointed out that there are 30,000 people volunteering at WYD — most of them are German youth. Many more are expected to participate at the last minute.
Cologne, Germany, Aug 15, 2005 (CNA) - Thousands of young people from around the world are pouring into Cologne, Germany, today for the start of World Youth Day (WYD) 2005 Aug. 16.
However, many pilgrims are not arriving directly from their home countries. They have decided to make a detour and take the opportunity once in Europe to visit important pilgrimage sites, such as the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France, St. Peter’s in Rome or the Shrine of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy.
About 1,000 WYD pilgrims spent their days leading up to WYD with the ecumenical Taize community in Taize, France. Another 3,000 young people from around the world were at the spirituality centre in Taize at the same time, following a separate weeklong retreat program.
The community, consisting of less than 200 brothers, is renowned the world over for its simple chants and meditative prayer. It was founded by Br. Roger in the mid-1940s.
Vera Denton and her two brothers from the Diocese of Mobile, Alabama, visited Rome and Assisi before stopping in Taize for one week on their way to Cologne. The 22-year-old architecture student at Notre Dame University said she believes Taize “demonstrates the possibilities that can come out of ecumenical gatherings.”
Vera had begun an ecumenical youth group in Dauphin Island two years ago, where she lived with her family before going off to university. “I think it’s easier to break barriers and build [Christian] unity with young people,” she said. Her two brothers, Nicholas, 18, and Gabriel, 16, continue to attend the ecumenical youth group.
About 100 young Puerto Ricans from the Diocese of Caguas also stopped in Taize with their bishop before heading to Cologne.
“Our bishop and vicar general wanted us to have this ecumenical experience, so we can understand ecumenism and embrace it,” said Jose Emilio Mercado Fontanes, who was on his way to his first WYD. The 23-year-old recently graduated with a teaching degree.
In preparation for WYD, the bishop of Caguas would often speak about ecumenism and ecumenical relations, a growing need in Puerto Rico, said Fontanes.
A Claretian priest traveling with the group, Fr. Luis, told CNA that Protestant sects have grown significantly in Puerto Rico. Currently, practicing Catholics make up only 26 percent of the Puerto Rican population. Only 30 years ago or so, the entire population professed the Catholic faith, he said.
Puerto Ricans “are a divided people,” said Fontanes, referring to church affiliation. “But we are trying to unite. Every year we have an ecumenical event called Encuentro Artistico Juveniles, and many people turn out.”
Fontanes said his experience in Taize helped him to deepen his understanding of communion. It provided his group with ideas of how to reach out to people of different Christian denominations more effectively, he said.
Fontanes said he wanted to attend WYD to experience the universality of the Church and, after having spent two days Christians from around the world in Taize, he felt his WYD experience was off to a good start.
Madrid, Spain, Aug 15, 2005 (CNA) - The General Council of the Judiciary in Spain has said it will ask the Ministry of Justice to force the general director of Registrars and Notaries, Pilar Blanco-Morales, to retract the “very serious comments” she made against two justices of the peace who challenged the constitutionality of the country’s new law on homosexual “marriage.”
At the beginning of August, Blanco-Morales called the actions by the two officials of Denia (Alicante) and Telde (Canary Islands) “unstable,” “profoundly anti-democratic” and said they were driven by “ideological purposes.”
The Council described it as “very serious” that a Socialist official of the Ministry of Justice would accuse the justices of favoring a political party (referring to the opposition party “Partido Popular”) and “refusing to carry out a law validly approved by Parliament,” just because they questioned its constitutionality.
After meeting last Friday, when her statements still had not been retracted, the General Council expressed “its strongest rejection” of the comments by Blanco-Morales and said they were “reprehensible in and of themselves, and especially if they are coming from a high official of the Ministry of Justice who ought to show due respect for judges and courts.”
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug 15, 2005 (CNA) - The Apostolic Administrator of Resistencia, Argentina, Bishop Carmelo Giaquinta, said this week “the social doctrine of the Church is not an ideology,” but rather “a light that helps us see clearly the nucleus, which is mankind, of all social problems.”
“The social doctrine of the Church is not an ideology, which always runs the risk of making one particular way of viewing things absolute, of enslaving man,” he said. Neither is it a government program nor “a platform for a political party fighting to obtain power,” the bishop added.
Rather, the social doctrine of the Church allows for the relativization of all ideologies, “keeping them within democratic channels.”
Bishop Giaquinta called on Catholics to be careful that the Church’s social teachings are not twisted for political or partisan gain and that emphasis not be placed on some of them while others are completely ignored. The faithful “should not be fooled into believing there is a ‘Catholic’ political party,” he said.
“The Church grants no such recognition to any political party or public authority,” Bishop Giaquinta stated.
He reminded Catholics of the need to study the Church’s social teachings in order to be able to apply them in today’s society. “The study of the social teachings presupposes a method, an effort. The worse thing that could happen would be for this Compendium (of the Church’s social doctrine) to just collect dust on the library shelves,” he said in conclusion.