Rome, Italy, Sep 15, 2005 (CNA) - The Turkish Government official invited Pope Benedict XVI to visit the Muslim country next year, although the original proposal of the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I, was to invite the pope to celebrate the Orthodox feast of Saint Andrew in November of this year.
According to a press release from the Turkish Foreign Affairs Ministry, the Turkish president Ahmet Necdet Sezer, “invited Pope Benedict XVI to make an official visit to Turkey in 2006” to “reinforce the dialogue between religions in a global context.” The Vatican did not answer yet to this invitation.
The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, which holds his see in Istanbul, recently invited the Holy Father to visit Turkey on November 30th , to participate to the celebration of the Feast of Saint Andrew, patron saint of the Orthodox Church. Bartholomew I is at the head of more than 200 million Orthodox Christians.
The President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Walter Kasper, announced last week the Pope’s intention to travel to Turkey, and assured he waited for the government’s official invitation to further prepare this trip.
It is now a tradition, that the Vatican sends a delegation to Turkey to participate to this celebration, in return the Orthodox Church sends a delegation to Rome for the Feast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul on June 29th.
Pope Benedict would be the second pope to travel to Turkey. His predecessor John Paul II, visited the country in 1979, shortly after his election as Pope.
Vatican City, Sep 15, 2005 (CNA) - Israel's two chief rabbis met Pope Benedict XVI today to mark the 40th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, a document which emerged from the Second Vatican Council and which redefined Catholic-Jewish relations. The document denounces anti-Semitism and repudiates the charge that blames Jews as a people for Christ's death.
"Today,” Benedict XVI has asserted, “we must continue in the search of ways to fulfill the task of which I have spoken in my recent visit to the Synagogue of Cologne, to pass the torch of hope that God gave to the Hebrew as well as to the Christians, with the aid of God, we can construct a more just and pacific world in which all the men have equal citizenship".
The Pope then remembered the Holy Land and the "challenges" that local ecclesial communities "must face" and that "peace and religion must proceed together".
The Pontiff also has foretold that the diplomatic relations between Israel and the Holy See "will lead us to more solid and stable cooperation."
Israel's two chief rabbis urged Pope Benedict XVI to speak out against the desecration of synagogues and other forms of anti-Semitism during a meeting Thursday.
The rabbis also asked the pontiff to urge priests, bishops and cardinals around the world to set aside one day of the year to preach the teachings of a landmark Vatican document on relations with Jews that repudiated all forms of anti-Semitism.
The pope said he would try to respond "in a positive way" to the rabbis' request, Israel's ambassador to the Holy See told a news conference after the meeting.
Oded Ben-Hur, the Israel ambassador to the Vatican, said Wednesday that Israel needs the Vatican's support at "this very dire hour" now that it has completed its withdrawal from Gaza.
Pope Benedict has made improving Catholic-Jewish relations one of the top priorities of his pontificate. Last month in Cologne, he was only the second Pope to enter a synagogue when he met with the Jewish German community there and denounced anti-Semitism and terror.
Vatican City, Sep 15, 2005 (CNA) - Earlier today, Pope Benedict XVI met with visiting Mexican bishops and challenged them to help change their country's social structure, bringing it "more into line with the dignity of individuals and their fundamental rights."
The prelates, who were in Rome for their 'ad limina' visit, came from the ecclesiastical areas of Monterrey, Morelia and San Luis Potosi in central and north east Mexico.
During the Pope's address, he stressed that, "Catholics, who still constitute the majority of the population, are called to participate in this task, discovering their commitment to their faith and the unitary meaning of their presence in the world. Otherwise, the 'split between the faith which many profess and their daily lives deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age'."
He lamented that this social structure had broken down in many important areas, particularly, the lack of "healthy forms of coexistence and the management of public affairs." The Holy Father also noted the increase of "corruption, impunity, infiltration of drug trafficking and organized crime," all of which "leads to various forms of violence, indifference and contempt for the inviolable value of life. On this matter, the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation 'Ecclesia in America' clearly criticizes the 'social sins' of our times."
"In Mexico too," he continued, "people frequently live in situations of poverty. Nonetheless, many faithful display a faith in God, a religious sense accompanied by expressions rich in humanity, hospitality, fraternity and solidarity. These values are being endangered by migration abroad, where many work in precarious conditions, unprotected and struggling to face a cultural context very different from their own social and religious practices."
The Holy Father emphasized that "human mobility is a pastoral priority in cooperative relations with the Churches of North America," explaining that "beyond economic and social factors, an appreciable unity exists, rooted in a shared faith and favoring a fraternal and solidary communion. This is the result of the various forms the presence and encounter with the living Christ have taken, and continue to take, in the history of America."
The Pope noted the difficulty for many of the baptized to belong to a church community in the midst of a culture which often runs counter to Catholic teaching and thought. He said that these people are "influenced by innumerable proposals for ways of thinking and acting, are indifferent to the values of the Gospel, and are even drawn towards forms of behavior that run counter to the Christian vision of life."
Hope for the lost
"All this," he said however, "united with the activity of sects and new religious groups in America, far from leaving you indifferent, must stimulate your particular Churches to offer the faithful more personalized religious care, strengthening the structures of communion and proposing a purified form of popular religiosity, in order to revive the faith of all Catholics. One pressing task is to form, responsibly, the faith of Catholics, so as to help them live in the world joyfully and courageously."
The Holy Father closed his address saying that "all this implies, in practical pastoral care, the need to revise our mentality ... and to broaden our horizons, ... in order to respond to the great questions facing mankind today. As a missionary Church, we are all called to understand the challenges that postmodern culture presents to the new evangelization of the continent. The Church's dialogue with the culture of our time is vital, both for the Church and for the world."
Washington D.C., Sep 15, 2005 (CNA) - On Wednesday, Catholic school leaders and educators from around the nation met in Washington DC for a conference exploring the challenges and hopes for Catholic education--specifically in primary and high school years--in the face of a changing world.
Archbishop J. Michael Miller, Secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education, spoke on the Holy See’s Teachings on Catholic Education
Catholic schools are places of evangelization and the Church has the right to teach the Gospel message and bring to perfection the human person within his or her earthly dimension, said Archbishop Miller Wednesday at the national Catholic education conference at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
The Church clearly teaches that parents are the first educators of their children, and the vast majority of parents share this responsibility with schools, he said. Elementary education is an extension of parental education, and schools are extensions of the home, he stated.
At the same time, the duty of education is an ecclesial responsibility, he said, and the Church is bound as a mother to give her children the spirit of Christ through education.
Archbishop Miller offered a quick survey of Church documents on Catholic education since the Second Vatican Council, including Lay Catholics in Schools (1982), The Religious Dimension of Education in the Catholic School (1988), and The Catholic School at the Threshold of the Third Millennium (1990) and The Role of Consecrated Persons in Catholic Education (2003).
The archbishop identified five characteristics of a Catholic school. It promotes sound Christian anthropology; it emphasizes parental involvement and the community; it has a supernatural vision; the Catholic worldview is imbued in all courses across the curriculum; teachers embrace their work as more than a profession, but as a vocation.
In addition, the school should have a sacramental understanding of itself and celebrate the sacramental life of the Church. Students must learn the living truth of the Gospel and the relationship between faith, culture, and life.
During a panel discussion, speaker John Convey remarked on the low enrolment in Catholic schools. In the 1960s, Catholic schools reached their zenith in terms of numbers, he said. But this dramatically changed due to decreasing birthrates, Roe v. Wade, and contraception.
Catholic schools, he said, have to face three obvious challenges: operating with limited financial resources, especially inner-city schools; developing a strong Catholic identity, and establishing strong school leadership and administrative teams.
New Orleans, La., Sep 15, 2005 (CNA) - The archbishop of New Orleans renewed his request for prayers and support for archdiocesan efforts to help those displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
Archbishop Alfred Hughes said the archdiocese has set up a Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund to provide for basic assistance to displaced persons and for those who are responding to the needs of the displaced.
The fund will also help with rebuilding of the archdiocese’s churches, parishes, schools, and other community service facilities, and with providing services during this long reconstruction process.
To make a contribution, go to www.archdiocese-no.org, call (225) 242-0100, ext. 144, or mail a check to:
Archdiocese of New Orleans
Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund
1800 S. Acadian Thruway
Baton Rouge, LA 70808
San Francisco, Calif., Sep 15, 2005 (CNA) - A federal court judge ruled Wednesday that the words “under God” render the pledge of allegiance unconstitutional.
District Judge Lawrence Karlton said that the phrase violates a student’s right to be ``free from a coercive requirement to affirm God.''
The judge said he was bound by precedent set in 2002 when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it was unconstitutional to recite the pledge in public schools.
California’s Michael Newdow, a professed atheist, had brought both cases before the court--this time on behalf of three unnamed sets of parents.
Judge Karlton added that he would sign a restraining order to prevent the pledge from being said in Elk Grove Unified, Rio Linda and Elverta Joint Elementary school districts. All are in Sacramento County, where the plaintiffs' children attend school.
Karen England of the Capital Resource Institute responded to the ruling saying "This federal court decision highlights the crucial importance of our president carefully selecting what type of judges are appointed to the bench.”
“Many judges are bent on rewriting the Constitution to suit their own extremist ideology. And this does a great disservice to everyone in our country, including our school children who will be most affected by Karlton's ruling."
"The founders of our country”, she added, “realized the importance of acknowledging a Creator God who gives us inalienable rights that cannot be taken away by a human government. Stripping away all reference to God in the public square puts us on uncertain footing regarding our inalienable rights.”
Arlington, Va., Sep 15, 2005 (CNA) - Tragedy once again struck the battered Torres family as Susan Anne Catherine Torres, born prematurely following a three month struggle to keep her 26-year old mother Susan Torres alive, died Monday of heart failure.
The baby was born on August 2nd following a tumultuous struggle which gripped the hearts of many. Susan suffered a stroke on Mother’s Day of this year caused when severe and undiagnosed cancer spread to her brain.
The devout Catholic was kept alive at a Washington DC hospital in an effort to bring the baby in her womb to term.
Susan died on August 3rd, the day after her daughter was born.
Justin Torres, Susan’s brother in law and spokesman for the family said in a statement that, "After the efforts of this summer to bring her into the world, this is obviously a devastating loss."
"We wish”, he said, “to thank all the people who sustained us in prayer over the past 17 weeks. It was our fondest wish that we could have been able to share Susan’s homecoming with the world."
Upon hearing the news, Arlington’s Bishop Paul S. Loverde, said: "At this painful moment of redoubled loss, we commend Jason and the entire Torres family to the Lord in prayer.
“Confident that Susan Anne Catherine Torres is already reunited with her mother,” he continued, “we thank the Lord for their witness and for the gift of their courageous lives. May the Lord draw close to the Torres family at this time and provide them with comfort and peace where words fail."
Brussels, Belgium, Sep 15, 2005 (CNA) - China’s refusal to let four Catholic bishops travel to Rome for a synod shows the country’s poor state of human rights and damages EU-China relations, said EU Assembly Leader Hans-Gert Poettering.
The leader of the Christian Democratic group in the European Parliament asked Beijing Tuesday to reconsider its travel ban on the four bishops and allow them to attend the Oct. 2-23 synod at the Vatican, Associated Press. The four bishops represented both the official and unofficial churches in China.
In response to the Vatican’s invitation, China government officials said the bishops’ old age and poor health prevented them from going to Rome.
Relations between China and the Vatican became difficult in 1951, shortly after the Communist Party took power, when the Chinese government forced Catholics there to cut ties with the Vatican. This move created an official, state-sanctioned church, which today numbers about four million.
But the Cardinal Kung Foundation, a U.S.-based religious monitoring group, says another 12 million people have gone underground to form the unofficial church loyal to Rome.
Rome, Italy, Sep 15, 2005 (CNA) - In statements picked up by the Europa Press news agency, the Prefect for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, said it was not possible to set a timetable for how long it would take for the beatification of John Paul II.
Referring to the process of beatification initiated by the Diocese of Rome, Cardinal Saraiva noted, “It is not possible to foresee how long the diocesan phase will take.”
“Any supposed miracle will have to be examined by doctors, who must tell us if there is a medical or scientific explanation,” the cardinal explained. “If there is no explanation, then the matter will go to the Congregation and we will have to determine if the unexplainable event took place because of a prayer for the intercession of John Paul II.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 15, 2005 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera, called on Mexicans this week to seek national reconciliation, which he said could be achieved before the end of the current government’s term.
According to the Notimex news agency, the cardinal emphasized, “Now that we have entered the transition period, it’s best for all political parties that we move forward as a people.” “There are many viewpoints from which I think all the parties would benefit in advancing, in order for there to be better fiscal policy and a better future in energy matters, both in electricity as well as in oil, gas and others,” he added.
Cardinal Rivera also addressed the issue of structural reform in the country, saying that in his opinion it is necessary, even though the chances of getting it approved depend on the different political factions. Moreover, he noted the apparent lack of interest in such reforms on the part of the Fox administration.
“It is very difficult,” he continued, “to achieve agreement because there is no parliamentarian system” that would balance the power between the president and parliament. “It would be terrible see 2006 come with things being the same as they are today and with a candidate winning the presidency with only 12% of the electorate,” the cardinal added.
Cardinal Rivera also criticized the relationship between the Church and the State and noted the lack of true religious freedom in the country.
La Paz, Bolivia, Sep 15, 2005 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, Cardinal Julio Terrazas Sandoval, exhorted Bolivians this week to practice reconciliation, saying, “God is the one who forgives our faults because in Him there is neither vengeance nor spite.”
The cardinal called on Bolivians to ask themselves why spite and hatred could be so prevalent in their country. “Bolivia is a country so full of signs of faith, of Christian signs, but why then this culture of hate, of spite, of not wanting to forget?” he questioned.
The cardinal also exhorted presidential candidates not to fall into dirty campaigning, in order to prevent confrontation between Bolivians. “We don’t need to air people’s dirty laundry and thus create a culture of division,” he said.
Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 15, 2005 (CNA) - The director of communications for the Archdiocese of Mexico City, Hugo Valdemar Romero, said this week there is concern in the archdiocese over the difference between the number of priests and the number of Catholics.
“The Church is very concerned that there aren’t enough priests to sustain the work of evangelization needed in Mexico,” Valdemar told the Notimex news agency.
Regarding data which shows a decrease in the number of Catholics in Mexico, Valdemar said, “It is not surprising to see the numbers drop a few percentage points,” but he noted that the general number of Catholics has been growing in relation to the growth of the population.
Likewise, he stated that despite a slight increase in priestly vocations, that number has not kept up with the growth in population. “We still have the same number of priests as 20 years ago,” Valdemar said.