Vatican City, Sep 14, 2005 (CNA) - In his general audience today, held at St. Peter's Square, Pope Benedict XVI told gathered pilgrims that the relationship between the Temple, the Ark of the Covenant and God's people in the Old Testament can provide Catholics with a window into their place in the Church in the new covenant and even in the Mass.
This morning's catechesis focused on Psalm 131; the "divine promises made to King David." The Holy Father noted that, according to many scholars, this psalm was sung "during the transportation of the Ark of the Covenant, the sign of the divine presence among the people of Israel", while the nation wandered through the wilderness in preparation to enter the promised land.
This hymn, Pope Benedict went on, "seems to imply a liturgical dimension. It was probably used during processions, in the presence of priests and faithful, and with the participation of a chorus."
In the psalm, King David solemnly vows "not to set foot in the royal palace of Jerusalem, nor to sleep peacefully, if he has not first found a resting place for the Ark of the Covenant." The Pope said that, "At the very center of social life there must, then, be a presence that evokes the mystery of the transcendent God. God and man walk together in history, and the role of the temple is to provide a visible sign of this communion."
The psalm proceeds, he said, "with a joyful celebration which includes, on the one hand, the adoring people, in other words the liturgical assembly, and on the other, the Lord Who returns and is again present and active in the symbol of the ark located in Sion. The heart of the liturgy is in this intersection between priests and faithful on one side, and the Lord and His might on the other."
The Pope also explains that this psalm points beyond itself to Christ, who would come generations later. He noted the psalm's appeal for help on behalf of the sovereign in the trials of life, in which "it is easy to perceive a messianic dimension. ... In fact, the term 'anointed one' translates the Hebrew word 'Messiah'. The gaze of the worshipper thus extends beyond the affairs of the kingdom of Judea and projects itself towards the expectation of the perfect 'Anointed One,' the Messiah."
Vatican City, Sep 14, 2005 (CNA) - At the conclusion of his general audience today at St. Peter's Square, Pope Benedict XVI bestowed his blessing upon a statue of St. Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei, which has recently found a home in a niche outside of St. Peter's Basilica.
The marble statue, which is about five meters high, was placed on the external wall of the left transept of the basilica, which is known as the arm of St. Joseph. It is near the entrance to the sacristy.
The late John Paul II, who canonized St. Josemaria in October of 2002, allocated the niches in this area of the basilica specifically for sculptures of saints and of founders of religious orders.
The statue of St. Josemaria was created by the Italian sculptor Romano Cosci and is now at home alongside other statues of similar dimensions. Among them are those of St. Gregory the Illuminator, apostle of Armenia, of the Carmelite St. Teresa of Jesus of the Andes, and of St. Marcellin Champagnat, founder of the Marist Brothers. Cosci spent about a year on the statue which now joins some 150 others around the massive Basilica.
Before Pope Benedict arrived to give the blessing, moving speeches were given by Bishop Javier Echeverria, prelate of Opus Dei, Cardinal Francesco Marchisano, archpriest of the Vatican Basilica, and Romano Cosci, the statue's sculptor. The speeches were separated with hymns sung by the "Cappella Giulia" Choir led by Msgr. Pablo Colino.
Washington D.C., Sep 14, 2005 (CNA) - It would be best if homosexual men would not apply for the Catholic priesthood and if they were not accepted into a seminary, Archbishop Edwin O’Brien said Monday.
A delegation of Vatican officials is currently in the United States conducting an evaluation of all seminaries across the country. The Vatican ordered the seminary review three years ago in response to the clergy sex-abuse scandal, which has led to more than 11,000 abuse claims. Last year a study found that most of the alleged abuse victims since 1950 were adolescent boys.
Archbishop O’Brien was named to oversee the Vatican visit.
According to an Associated Press report, the archbishop said homosexual candidates for the priesthood struggle to remain celibate
"There are some priests, I don't think there are many, some ordained people with same-sex attractions and they've done very well [remaining celibate]," the archbishop was quoted as saying.
"But generally speaking, in my experience, the pressures are strong in an all-male atmosphere," said the archbishop for the Military Services in Washington, D.C. "And if there have been past failings, the Church really must stay on the safe side. ... The same-sex attractions have gotten us into some legal problems."
He reportedly told the National Catholic Register that "anyone who has engaged in homosexual activity, or has strong homosexual inclinations, would be best not to apply to a seminary and not to be accepted into a seminary," even if they had been celibate for a decade or more.
The Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education is reportedly drawing up guidelines about accepting candidates to the priesthood, and the document is expected include whether gay men should be admitted.
Washington D.C., Sep 14, 2005 (CNA) - Priests from across the United States are volunteering to provide pastoral assistance to the people in the areas struck by Hurricane Katrina. Dioceses also are offering liturgical items, such as chalices and processional crosses, to replace those destroyed by the hurricane.
Offers of assistance started coming in soon after the storm hit, said the U.S. bishops' Office for Priestly Life and Ministry in Washington, which has been coordinating the priest-volunteers.
The Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa, for example, offered two priests to work outside the diocese and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee said it could assign up to 12 priests.
In addition, priests in dioceses to which thousands of people have been evacuated, such as Salt Lake City and Phoenix, have been released from regular assignment to help displaced people. In Phoenix, the diocese has set up four-hour shifts of priests to help evacuees in the Phoenix Coliseum.
Dioceses also are offering housing for the displaced priests both in rectories and retirement centers.
Abuja, Nigeria, Sep 14, 2005 (CNA) - The Vatican daily, Osservatore Romano, has accused former Italian premier Romano Prodi of undermining marriage and the moral framework of society by proposing that cohabiting couples be granted the same legal rights and benefits as married couples.
Prodi added Monday he would not exclude same-sex couples from these benefits, but he denied that his proposal-a move that would create civil unions-was related to same-sex marriage.
The Vatican newspaper said Prodi is sacrificing family values for the sake of election considerations. The leader of Italian Parliament’s centre-left opposition is expected to run in the upcoming presidential elections.
The former European Commission chief argued that-given the rising number of long-term, cohabiting couples-a law protecting their legal rights was long overdue, reported ANSA. The number of unmarried couples living together in Italy doubled from 227,000 in 1994 to 555,000 in 2003.
"There are people who have lived together for years, who have children and have problems over inheritance, housing and pension issues. We are talking about millions of people affected by such problems and we must do something about it," Prodi was quoted as saying.
The legislation he is supporting is similar to France's Civil Solidarity Pact (PACS).
Other centre-left parties support his stance, but it has generated a strong reaction from the Italian public, which is mostly Catholic, and the centre-right governing coalition.
"We must be very clear, the family is only that which is recognized by the Constitution, as that this must be protected and strengthened," Deputy Minister of Industry Adolfo Urso told AGI in Milano Monday.
"The recognition of individual rights for cohabiting partners is another matter, one that we are working on. The two things cannot be put on the same footing, we want to protect, or rather strengthen the traditional family, which is an entirely separate matter to the legal recognition of de-facto civil unions," Urso continued.
Critics have also compared Prodi to Spanish Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who legalized same-sex marriage in Spain.
There are currently nine bills before Italian Parliament on the issue but the opposition of many Catholic lawmakers has stalled progress.
Italy is one of three countries in the 25-member European Union that does not grant legal rights to cohabiting couples.
Washington D.C., Sep 14, 2005 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops have urged the Bush Administration to make the United Nations World Summit, which begins today in New York, an occasion "to adopt new initiatives that will enable poor countries, particularly in Africa, to break the cycle of poverty" and to work toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
Leaders of more than 170 nations will meet at U.N. headquarters in New York, Sept. 14-16.
In a letter last week to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Bishop John Ricard, chairman of the bishops’ International Policy Committee, said working against poverty must be a priority for the United States at this summit meeting.
"I urge the United States to give high priority to strengthening implementation of the global compact between rich and poor countries to achieve the human development and poverty eradication goals agreed to in the United Nations Millennium Declaration," Bishop Ricard wrote.
The Millennium Development Goals are outlined in the U.N. Millennium Declaration, which was adopted in September 2000. Leaders of more than 180 nations signed the declaration, which stated specific development goals to be achieved by 2015.
The goals include halving extreme poverty and hunger; assuring that all boys and girls complete primary education; halting and reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other major diseases; and reducing sharply maternal and child mortality.
While the bishops commended President George Bush on his initiatives to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa and offer some debt relief, they said much more needs to be done to help the poorest countries.
"An enormous task still lies ahead, and that task can be best accomplished by effective international cooperation in which the U.S. demonstrates clear leadership," wrote the bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee.
"We urge continued United States leadership in this effort primarily because of the moral obligation that we all share for the well-being of every human person, but also because replacing despair with hope in poor nations will lead to a more secure world for all of us," he said.
Washington D.C., Sep 14, 2005 (CNA) - While he continues to shy away from expressing his own views on the subject, much of yesterday’s Senate questioning of Supreme Court Chief Justice nominee John Roberts focused on the abortion debate and the judge’s own opinion of Roe vs. Wade ruling as law.
The nominee admitted that the 1972 law is a "settled precedent", but avoided specifics which could clue watchers into the possibility of his desire to overturn it.
Judge Robert’s Catholic faith has also weighed heavily into the debate since earlier in the summer; a practice which many see as applying an unfair and unconstitutional religious "litmus test" on the judge.
The Washington-based Culture of Life Foundation heavily criticized Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) yesterday for what they see as a disdainful line of questioning centered around Judge Robert’s Catholic faith.
Foundation President Austin Ruse condemned the senator for her "attempt to place Judge Robert's Catholicism at the center of his confirmation hearings [yesterday] afternoon."
"Using the context of John Kennedy's Catholicism," Ruse said, "Senator Feinstein asked Judge Roberts if he believed in an absolute separation of Church and state. In her questions and comments Senator Feinstein invoked those terrible debates in America about whether Catholics could have a role in the public square."
"Senator Feinstein's questioning", he added, "is an unconscionable dredging up of a dark time in America. And her questioning comes perilously close to a religious test for pubic office. She owes Judge Roberts and all Americans an apology."
Nomination hearings for Judge Roberts continue today in Washington.
Montreal, Canada, Sep 14, 2005 (CNA) - Montreal will play host to the Canada’s annual pro-life conference in mid-November.
The theme for this year’s conference, held Nov. 17-19 at St. Joseph’s Oratory, is "Source of Hope: The Province of Quebec and Canada at the Crossroads."
The national conference has been organized for the last 27 years. The last time it was held in Montreal was nearly 20 years ago.
Jim Hughes, president of Campaign Life Coalition, said organizers chose the province of Quebec for this year’s venue for two reasons: first, because of its recent history as a society that is generally pro-abortion and pro-same-sex union. But second, because of a belief among some pro-life leaders that Quebec may emerge in the not-too-distant future as a leader in pro-life issues.
The late Gilles Grondin, founder of Campagne Québec-Vie, would say: "The problem began in Quebec but the seeds of the solution would come from Quebec as well," Hughes told the Catholic News Agency.
"When the renewal comes, it is possible that Quebec will show leadership for the rest of the country," Hughes added. Organizers are expecting between 300 and 500 participants, he said.
The opening session of the conference will reflect the multi-faith dimension of the pro-life movement in Canada. It will feature different faith perspectives on life and family from Archbishop-emeritus Adam Exner of Vancouver, Rabbi Reuven Bulka of Ottawa and Bruce Clemenger, president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, among others.
Weekend sessions will include how the media reports on life issues, the impact of abortion on women, euthanasia and its impact on palliative care, the family and marriage in Canada, Pope John Paul II and his Gospel of Life, the role of politicians in service of life and family, embryonic stem-cell research and new reproductive technologies, and the culture of death in Canada.
Registration for the full weekend is $125.
The conference will be hosted by Campagne Québec-Vie. It is sponsored by LifeCanada and Campaign Life Coalition.
For more information or registration, call 1-800-730-5358.
Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 14, 2005 (CNA) - Bishop Jose Guadalupe Martin Rabago of Leon, President of the Mexican Bishops’ Conference, said this week Mexico needs leaders that will reach out to the poor and not allow the country’s resources to be swallowed up by the rich while so many are living in destitution.
He said Mexico needs people "honestly committed to helping to create an environment that will allow economic conditions to be improved. In this sense, we need people who will favor economic growth so that more and better paying jobs will be created."
"The word service means understanding politics as a way of putting the common good above the good of an individual or small group. And in the history of politics in this country this is something we have not totally achieved," Bishop Rabago noted.
In Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera said during Mass last Sunday that the Church is prohibited by Canon Law from supporting candidates or political parties but not from expressing their opinions on the issues.
After Mass, the cardinal stated that the Catholic bishops "will never get involved in partisan politics, but we will help to form consciences, to help Mexico progress forward."
Vatican City, Sep 14, 2005 (CNA) - Vatican Radio announced it would air a special radio program on the life of Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday, September 25.
The program, done in a radio-theater format, focuses on the childhood and youth of the Pope and is based on his autobiographical work, "My Life," which he wrote as a cardinal.
The script for the program was written by Franco Bucarelli, who was inspired to pen the script after he read the Pope’s book. The story will be accompanied by interviews with friends and bishops who are close to Benedict XVI.
Rome, Italy, Sep 14, 2005 (CNA) - The EFE news agency published reports this week that between March and July of this year, more than seven thousand women have been subjected to sterilizations and-in the case of pregnancies-forced abortions as part of an aggressive family planning campaign pushed by the Chinese government.
The independent Chinese press reported that forced sterilizations have taken place in Linyi, a small town located in region of Yinan, in the eastern coastal province of Shandong, one of the most populated of the country with almost 100 million inhabitants. Previously Time magazine published a similar report, calling the situation "one of the most brutal sterilization campaigns of recent years."
According to reports, Chinese authorities carried out a preliminary inspection of families in Linyi, in order to force those women who were pregnant to have abortions and later sterilize those who had already had one child as permitted by law.
At the same time, The Guardian published a chilling article outlining how a Chinese company uses aborted fetuses and the skin of executed prisoners in the manufacturing of cosmetic products.
Although The Guardian did not name the company, Forum Libertas of Spain noted that the last year alone, China executed more than three thousand people.
An official from the company in question admitted, "We still carry out many investigations in a traditional way, using skin from executed prisoners or aborted fetuses." The "material" is acquired by biotechnology companies located in the northern province of Heilongjiang, which provide it to manufacturers in the country.
"We have just begun to export these products, and our foreign clients are surprised that China is able to manufacture human collagen at five percent of what it costs in the West." The skin of executed prisoners used to be cheaper before, but today "you have to pay a fee to the court" that condemned them to death, the official said.
Valencia, Fla., Sep 14, 2005 (CNA) - Father Eugenio Laguarda, known as "the resurrected priest" for having survived an attempted execution during the religious persecution in Spain, died this week at the age of 94 in Valencia, where he was laid to rest.
According to the AVAN news agency, Father Eugenio Laguarda died at his home in Bonrepos, where he had been residing after "retiring from all activities" and after working for 28 years as a pastor in the town of Villar and as chaplain at the Arau de Vilalona Hospital.
Father Laguarda was known as "the resurrected priest" for having survived torture and a gunshot wound to the head during the Spanish Civil War.
In 1936, while traveling to Valencia disguised as a mechanic, he was detained after identifying himself as a priest.
According to the Archdiocese of Valencia’s newspaper Paraula, the witnesses present at his torture and interrogation said that Father Laguarda was repeated knocked to the ground and "when he could no longer stand, they fired at his head and used a stethoscope to assure that he was dead, and then they threw his body into a ravine."
In an interview granted by Father Laguarda in 1999, he told how "the bullet entered under the left eye and became lodged in a lung, where it remained for many years until it was removed."
During the torture, "I commended myself to the Virgin Mary and I prayed to her out loud," he said.
When his torturers abandoned him, he "rose up on his own" and climbed back up to the road, where he was picked up by a bus.
Paraula reported that those responsible for the crime were condemned to death, but the sentence was abolished after Laguarda sent a letter to the judge asking for their life to be spared.