Vatican City, Sep 6, 2005 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI is to declare five people saints next month as he will preside over his first saint-making ceremony, canonizing the five in St. Peter's Square on October 23, Vatican Radio reported Monday. Among them are an Archbishop, a Chilean priest, one lay brother and two priests founders of religious orders.
Among the five is Josef Bilczewski, the Polish archbishop of Lviv, Ukraine, who was greatly admired by Catholics, Orthodox and Jews alike during World War I, Vatican Radio said. Also being canonized is a priest from Lviv, Rev. Zygmunt Gorazdowski, who founded the Congregation for the Sisters of St. Joseph to care for the sick and poor. A Chilean Jesuit, the Rev. Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga, and Italians Felice da Nicosia, a Franciscan lay brother who lived in the 1700s, and the Rev. Gaetano Cantanoso, who founded a religious order, will also be canonized.
Houston, Texas, Sep 6, 2005 (CNA) - Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza issued a message of hope to hurricane survivors Sunday at a special mass and a service, urging them to lean on their faith during these trying times.
The archbishop of Galveston-Houston, where thousands of people have sought refuge since Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Gulf Coast last week, took part in a special multi-faith service at the Astrodome and celebrated a noon mass, specifically for hurricane survivors.
Even non-Catholic evacuees came to the mass, seeking comfort and a message of hope. Ronald Montegut, a non-Catholic, attended the mass with the archbishop. After listening to his homily and the choir, the 30-year-old told the Houston Chronicle that he was moved to tears.
Earlier that day, the archbishop joined Sheikh Mustafa Mahmoud of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, Rabbi David Rosen of Congregation Beth Yeshurun and the Rev. William A. Lawson, former pastor of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, at the Astrodome in addressing the hurricane survivors.
"We are strong people of faith, and I know you can, you will, conquer all of these things," Archbishop Fiorenza told the people.
Emelda Miller of New Orleans told the Chronicle that the service reminded her that God has not forgotten them.
Faith and church communities have played a significant role in helping evacuees overcome their grief and shock and in restoring their sense of hope and dignity. And, it seems, Christians are not paying any heed to denominational boundaries.
Barbara Dowling, a Catholic, has been welcomed by the Houston's First Baptist Church. Though skeptical about going to there at first, she told the Chronicle that she has found both help and comfort there.
London, England, Sep 6, 2005 (CNA) - Catholic Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, the head of the Catholic Church in England, vowed for a increased protection of Christians in Iraq.
In a letter to Foreign Secretary Jack Straw sent last Friday, he warned the foreign secretary of “devastating consequences” if the right of Christians in Iraq are not protected. He urged him to intervene in the drafting of the future constitution to uphold religious freedom, following the same call issued by Pope Benedict in a recent declaration.
Christian leaders in Iraq fear that the charter could open the way for the imposition of sharia law which, could deprive Christians and other minorities of their rights.
They are alarmed about article 2(a) in the proposed constitution, which states: "No law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam."
Many fear that if Islam became the sole source of legislation in Iraq, Christians could face restrictions on church repairs or building, and Christian women could be forced to wear the veil.
About three per cent of the population, 650,000 people, in Iraq are baptized Christians.
Assisi, Italy, Sep 6, 2005 (CNA) - Full and visible unity among all of Christ’s disciples is “particularly urgent in our time”, and it calls for Christians to grow deeper in their spirituality and in their mutual love for each other, said Pope Benedict XVI Sunday in a message to a meeting of Orthodox and Catholic scholars in Assisi, Italy.
The ninth Inter-Christian Symposium opened Sept. 4 and will run until tomorrow. The theme is "The Eucharist in the eastern and western traditions, with particular reference to ecumenical dialogue."
Archbishop Yannis Spiteris OFM Cap, of Corfu, Greece, introduced the theme, and 12 scholars—six Orthodox and six Catholic—were to expound on it over the next few days.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, read the Pope’s message Sunday at the start of the four-day event.
"The symposium represents a joyful opportunity for fraternal exchange, in which important themes from the heritage of shared faith may be reflected upon and given profound consideration,” the Pope wrote.
This year’s theme "is highly significant for the life of Christians and for the achievement of full communion among all the disciples of Christ,” he continued.
The Pope appealed to all Christians to “intensify prayer, study and dialogue with the aim of resolving the differences that still remain.”
"Achieving the full communion of Christians must be the objective of all those who profess faith in the Church,” said the Pope, whether in daily Christian life or in theological research.
The inter-Christian symposia began in 1992. Since then, it has been held on alternate years in Greece and in Italy.
Pope Benedict XVI has made Christian unity a priority of his pontificate. He has made several appeals for unity since his inauguration in April, including on his first foreign trip to Cologne, Germany, Aug. 18-21, where he met with religious leaders.
The Catholic and Orthodox churches split in 1054 over several questions, including the issue of the primacy of the Pope. According to a report by the Associated Press, theological dialogue was interrupted four years ago, but in June both sides announced that talks would resume.
The symposium was organized by the Franciscan Institute of Spirituality at the Pontifical Antonianum University and the theology department of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece.
Atchison, Kan., Sep 6, 2005 (CNA) - The ancient Rule of St. Benedict stresses the idea of hospitality and charges its communities with the task of welcoming guests "as Christ Himself." In this spirit, Kansas's Benedictine College has announced that it will waive tuition costs and begin welcoming students from private institutions displaced by last week's Hurricane Katrina.
“We want to open our doors to these students and allow them the opportunity to continue their education during this time of crisis,” said Benedictine's president, Stephen D. Minnis. “Waiving tuition is the least we can do."
Father Brendan Rolling, OSB, Director of Mission for the small college is hopeful that many students will respond to the invitation.
“We want to open our home to our brothers and sisters in Christ in their time of need," he said. "‘Hope does not disappoint,’ is from Romans 5:5 and is the theme of our college this year. So, our hopes and prayers are with those who have experienced such great loss in this tragedy.”
Maria Miller, a senior at Benedictine is proud of what her college is doing. “This is who Benedictine is, we are hospitality,” she said. “What better way for us to show that than by welcoming those students to our campus. You make college your home, whether you are from the area or not, and they lost everything. I hope we are able to give them some amount of comfort.”
Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged the U.S. Gulf Coast, displaced hundreds of thousands of residents particularly from the New Orleans area, which is expected to be paralyzed for months to come. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) announced that many Catholic schools across the country--from elementary to high school--are also waiving tuition and welcoming students who are far from their homes, and working on plans to provide everything from lunch plans to backpacks and school supplies.
Vatican City, Sep 6, 2005 (CNA) - Earlier today, Pope Benedict XVI sent a message expressing his condolences and prayers to Bishop Manfred Scheuer of Innsbruck, Austria following a tragic cable car accident at a ski resort in that region which killed nine people Monday--many of them children.
The message was sent by way of Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano and assured the Holy Father's prayers as well as wishes for a speedy recovery to the injured.
An overhead helicopter accidentally dropped a concrete slab on the cable car, which was headed up a mountain in the ski resort of Soelden in Austria's Tyrol region. Several people were injured; some still in critical condition. Austrian and German authorities are still trying to determine whether the accident was mechanical or human error.
Vatican City, Sep 6, 2005 (CNA) - The Holy See has announced that the twentieth international conference, sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Heath Care Ministry, and scheduled to be held at the Vatican this November, will explore the broad theme of "the human genome."
The human genome, which is defined as the full compliment of genetic material inherited from one's parents, constitutes "a very broad topic and to a large extent subject to new research and discovery," according to Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, president of the pontifical council.
In a written overview on the conference, the Cardinal wrote that specialists in the field from around the world will explore the theme "according to our usual method. We will begin", he wrote, "with a vision of the genome in the light of the Word of God, and from this we will develop our exploration of it in three stages: reality, illumination, action."
"In the first part of our conference", he said, "we will consider the current reality of genetics, genomic studies and post-genomic studies; chromosome aberrations and congenital disorders; ... genetic predisposition to cancer; ... medical care for patients with these diseases and their families; judgment, error and negligence in genetic aspects of maternal fetal medicine; ... human genetics and its international juridical status; genetic research and international cooperation."
The second part of the conference, Cardinal Barragan added, will focus on "the historical process of human genetics; ... the ethics of medical genetics; the path of liberal eugenics and the ethics of medical consultancy in the field of genetics." He said that participants will give special attention to "the application of the knowledge of human genetics according to Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism, as well as genetics according to the thought of post-modernity."
In the conference's last part, he said, "we will examine genetics and the new culture, the pastoral vision of genetic research, medical genetics and ethical committees in hospitals, law and genetics, ... education and the updating of pastoral workers in the field of genetics, and the prevention of genetic diseases from the point of view of pastoral care."
Human genetics have been at the center of heated debate in the scientific and religious world as leaders grapple with responsible use of scientific advances. The Catholic Church has spoken strongly against issues of cloning, stem cell research and others which many say will have tremendous ethical ramifications.
The pontifical conference will be held at the Vatican from November 17th to the 19th of this year.
Houston, Texas, Sep 6, 2005 (CNA) - Amid the ruin and devastation left by Hurricane Katrina, faith still abounds and faith communities work to offer comfort and hope.
Fr. Richard Wagner in Rayne, two hours west of New Orleans, is trying to do just that. The Josephite Father says the evacuees who have come to his parish are not concerned with the possessions that they lost in the floodwaters, reported NPR. Their concern is for the well being of families and friends, whom they have not yet been able to find since the storm.
Rural Louisianans have opened their homes, churches, centers and stadiums to host these needy strangers from the city, offering them food, money and clothing, Fr. Wagner reported. Louisianans are learning about each other, the priest said, pointing to the positive side of things.
In addition, rural Louisiana many change somewhat as many evacuees are considering remaining where circumstances have now planted them, wondering why they would ever return to New Orleans, said Fr. Wagner.
Rose McNeely, who is now being sheltered at the Astrodome in Houston with another 16,000 refugees, has made that very decision. She told Reuters that she has interpreted the floods and her subsequent move from New Orleans as a sign from God that she should not return to her native city.
Others have embraced the personal graces that have flowed since the disaster. Joseph Brant told Reuters the ordeal was a test that ended up dispelling his lifelong distrust of white people and setting his life on a new course.
Berlin, Germany, Sep 6, 2005 (CNA) - In an interview with the German magazine Neuen Bildpost, the Archbishop of Berlin, Cardinal Georg Sterzinsky, said that despite widespread rejection in today’s culture, the Church must continue to affirm that sexual relations are meant for marriage.
“Today,” he continued, “it has become difficult to make people understand the implications of sexual relations and at the same time affirm with conviction that pre-marital relations do not suit man’s nature.” He noted as well that the Church does not look down upon sexual union but rather highly values it. “By its very nature, this sexual union is a expression of the higher love that can be given and of the deepest physical and spiritual unity. Therefore, it is not possible to ‘try before you buy’ nor to aspire to have a physical and spiritual union just ‘to try it out’.”
Regarding divorce, the cardinal recalled that the fact that “the marriage bond remains until death is not a determination of the Church, but rather it comes from God, and thus the Church cannot abolish the indissolubility of marriage, not even out of compassion for those who may be suffering in marriage, precisely because of the Church’s understanding of it. The Church reminds such individuals that marriage remains blessed by God and that each spouse who strives to live the love of self-donation is given as a grace the strength to remain faithful to the other.”
Regarding celibacy, Cardinal Sterzinsky noted that “the special value given to celibacy is not the result of devaluing or showing contempt for the body. It’s not a negation of the body, but rather a vision from the faith: marriage is provisional and finite.” The Christian can reach communion with God in an immediate way and without the need for marriage, if he or she is called to that and receives that specific grace. “Christians can anticipate the definitive Kingdom of God and freely assume a life of celibacy as a sign of the Kingdom of God. The importance of marriage should not be diminished because of the importance of celibate life, as each one is a specific vocation,” the cardinal stated.
Lima, Peru, Sep 6, 2005 (CNA) - A non-governmental organization in Lima has secured a court injunction against the Peruvian government over the distribution of the morning-after pill in the country. A Civil Court in Lima granted the injunction in response to a petition filed by the “Association for the Struggle Against Corruption Without Compromise.”
The ruling means health authorities must suspend distribution of the morning-after pill in the country until it is determined that it is not abortifacient.
The injunction directs Peruvian Health Minister Pilar Mazzetti to refrain from distributing the pill until “the implementation of an adequate policy informing people of the abortifacient effects of the drug and of the implications for women’s health is guaranteed.”
Jose Luis Garrido-Lecca, president of the Anti-Corruption group, said he was satisfied by the ruling, as there are numerous scientific studies which prove the pill is abortifacient. He noted that other countries have implemented similar measures against the drug.
Officials from the Health Ministry said they would appeal the ruling.
In August of last year, thousands of Peruvians gathered in front of the Ministry of Justice to demand the government prohibit the pill as a violation of the country’s constitution, which protects life from the moment of conception.
, Sep 6, 2005 (CNA) - On Monday King Juan Carlos I of Spain invited Pope Benedict to visit his country to participate in the World Meeting of Families, which will be held in 2006 in Valencia. The Spanish monarchs, who met in audience with the Pontiff at Castel Gandolfo, characterized it as “relaxed and cordial” and said they found Pope Benedict XVI to be “open, sympathetic, lively and affectionate.” “He is more reserved than the former Pope, but he has a great sense of humor,” Queen Sofia commented after the audience.
The 30-minute meeting began with the Pope greeting the monarchs, accompanied by Archbishop James Harvey, Prefect of the Papal Household, at the doors of the Library of the Pontifical Palace. The Spanish royal couple spoke with the Pope in Italian, although Queen Sofia told reporters she briefly addressed him in German as well.
The conversation at one point turned to WYD in Cologne, at which the Pontiff said the presence of a large delegation from Spain “was much noted.” “You can tell who the Spanish are right away,” the Pope joked.
“It was a wonderful visit, in which we found the Pope to be open and sympathetic,” the royal couple said.
Although this was their first official visit with him as Pope, the Spanish monarchs were in attendance at Benedict XVI’s inaugural Mass on April 24.
Bogotá, Colombia, Sep 6, 2005 (CNA) - In an interview with the Colombian daily El Tiempo, the President of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro of Tunja, explained the Church’s proposal for a pre-dialogue with the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) that would clarify certain aspects of the humanitarian accord and a possible cease fire.
Archbishop Castro said the proposal was not “backed by any treaty” and that it consists of “an invitation to the FARC and the ELN, and not to the government, to accept entering into talks with the government concerning one point: a cease fire.”
The need for a pre-dialogue
The proposal of a pre-dialogue was made by the Church in Colombia two weeks ago and until now has been met with no response from either group. According to the Archbishop of Tunja, “The only thing that is clear is that the pre-dialogue has not been immediately rejected—which is positive because that means they are considering it, even if that means they end up rejecting it. So this by itself is progress,” he said.
On the other hand, Archbishop Castro emphasized that the rebel groups are the ones who must make “ a change of direction” and not the government, as they are the ones “who are doing wrong. Society rejects them, the international community does not accept them and they have lost enormous opportunities to recover their image. And if they make the decision to accept a cease fire, they will open the doors to being heard positively.”
Madrid, Spain, Sep 6, 2005 (CNA) - The President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, has arrived in Valencia, Spain, this week to continue preparations for the Fifth World Meeting of Families, which will take place in that country July 4-9, 2006.
The cardinal is scheduled to meet for two days with the various committees that are organizing the event.
This is the second visit to Valencia in less than three months for the Colombian cardinal. On June 14 he scouted several possible sites for the Mass which will be celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI. He called the Meeting “an enormous challenge, but the confidence we have in Valencia and in Spain is enormous as well.”
More than 100,000 pamphlets on the World Meeting of Families were distributed by young people from Valencia during World Youth Day in Cologne, as well as in 20 different localities in France and Germany.
In Tenerife where he presided this week at the ordination of that diocese’s new bishop, the Apostolic Nuncio in Spain, Archbishop Manuel Monteiro, said, “It is very likely that Benedict XVI will travel to Spain next year for the World Meeting of Families, which will take place in Valencia.”