Vatican City, Sep 16, 2005 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI energetically denounced the latest attacks in Iraq, which have left more than 100 dead, and he expressed his hope that harmony would soon be restored to the country.
In a telegram sent in his name by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Pontiff expressed his sincere condolences, prayers and hopes that “all believers in the one God would unite in rejecting all forms of violence and collaborate in the restoring of harmony to the troubled Iraqi land.”
In the message, which was addressed to the Apostolic Nuncio in Iraq, Archbishop Fernando Filoni, Pope Benedict expressed his sorrow at the massacre of numerous pilgrims who were gathered at a Shiite mosque for a religious commemoration. After entrusting the victims to divine mercy, the Holy Father assured the Iraqi people of his prayers that “a climate of reconciliation and of mutual trust” would finally be established in the country.
New Haven, Conn., Sep 16, 2005 (CNA) - The national office of the Knights of Columbus has announced that the group plans to immediately appeal a decision, given earlier this week by a California judge, that the words “under God” render the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional.
The Knights were among the defendants in the case of Newdow vs. Congress of the United States, et al--the decision of which has angered religious groups nationwide.
District Judge Lawrence Karlton said in his Wednesday decision that the phrase violates a student’s right to be ``free from a coercive requirement to affirm God.''
The ruling effects three school districts in Sacramento county, California.
Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson said that "if freedom of religion in America means anything at all, it means that it's just as constitutional to recite the Pledge of Allegiance – complete with the words 'under God' – as it is to read aloud the Declaration of Independence.”
He said that, “They both express the same truth: that our fundamental rights come from God, our creator, and not from government. To suggest that the language of the First Amendment prohibits the simple statement of that truth is to stand the Constitution on its head."
The Knights of Columbus say that they were instrumental in persuading congress to insert the words, “under God” into the pledge in 1954. Their request to be defendants in the Newdow case this year was granted by the court.
The 1.7 million member Knights of Columbus are being represented in the case by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
Denver, Colo., Sep 16, 2005 (CNA) -
A unique program in the Archdiocese of Denver commenced a new year of classes this week in an effort to lead Catholic lay people into a deeper understanding and appreciation for sacred scripture.
The Denver Biblical School, now in its 24th year of existence, hit record enrollment this year with 648 students enrolled in the 4-year program--311 of whom are starting their first year.
Tim Gray, the program’s director told the Denver Catholic Register that “We have a high-quality program…The teachers are dynamic and unique…The program”, he said, “not only makes the Bible come alive, but makes it relevant to the lives of people.”
Rather than taking a theme based, or piece by piece approach to the scriptures, students travel through every book of the Bible, looking at their historical context and significance, and seeking to understand how the Word is still active today.
Biblical school representatives told CNA that the classes also contain a small-group component, in which students can build Christian fellowship and dig into the meaning of the scriptures with others.
18 classes around the archdiocese, and as far away as Colorado Springs, are currently meeting, and using a curriculum which has been recognized around the country.
The school has also been seing an increase in younger students eager to study the scriptures. Young, dynamic teachers, the school said, are drawing new students eager to fulfill the call of “New Evangelization” set forth by the late John Paul II.
The school noted that one class, in the northern Colorado town of Greeley, is even hosting some high school students.
Added Wei Hsien Wan, one of the school’s instructors: “the call to evangelization is for young and old alike--we want to open up the scriptures to all of the faithful.”
Lansing, Mich., Sep 16, 2005 (CNA) - A court decision that Michigan’s partial-birth abortion ban is unconstitutional is “a setback for women, for unborn children and the protection of human life” and means the fight to end partial-birth abortions must continue, said Sr. Monica Kostielney, RSM, president and CEO of the Michigan Catholic Conference
Judge Denise Hood issued the ruling Wednesday. The conference, which serves as the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Michigan, hopes the Attorney General will appeal the decision to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court.
“The Michigan Catholic Conference disagrees with the judge's decision that the Legal Birth Definition Act presents an 'undue burden' and is unconstitutionally vague,” said Sr. Kostielney. “We look forward to the Sixth Circuit Court upholding the state law based on the adequate health protection as previously ruled in the Taft decision.”
Berlin, Germany, Sep 16, 2005 (CNA) - Ecumenical cooperation in Germany has experienced “a bitter setback” after it was made public last Thursday that German Protestants rejected a joint project to revise the standard German translation of the Bible with the Catholic Church, reported Vatican Radio.
German Catholics and Protestants produced the current standard German Bible in the 1980s and have since been using it in ecumenical services.
But the Vatican expressed the intention to revise the standard German Bible, issuing directives requiring the revision to conform to the Latin translation of the Bible. The Protestants, instead, prefer translation to conform to the original Hebrew and Greek biblical texts.
"This directive has criteria that the Protestant side cannot accept," said Lutheran Bishop Wolfgang Huber, chairperson of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany, according to Reuters.
Cardinal Karl Lehmann, president of the German Catholic Bishops, admitted that the dispute has placed a "considerable strain" on relations between German Protestants and Catholics, reported Reuters.
The bishop of Mainz reportedly lamented that Protestants did not trust the Catholics to produce an accurate translation.
According to the international news agency, translation problems in the English and German versions of the Bible can pose grave challenges as other countries use them as references when translating the Bible into their own languages.
Pittsburgh, Pa., Sep 16, 2005 (CNA) - Being a single woman in need and pregnant can be scary, but for more than 100 years the Christ Child Society has been there to help, offering financial and practical assistance.
Pittsburgh Catholic.org featured a story on the volunteer organization, which assists women and children in 16 states and the District of Columbia, and has grown to 7,000 members since its founding in 1887.
Mary Virginia Merrick, a native of Washington, D.C., founded the organization. Born into a prominent family, Merrick suffered a serious fall in her teens, leaving her confined to a wheelchair.
Rather than withdrawing from life, the young Catholic decided to dedicate her energies to helping needy children. “Nothing is ever too much to do for a child,” Merrick is famous for saying.
She sewed clothing for infants and one Christmas, learning of a needy mother, encouraged friends to help prepare a layette. This was the beginning of the organization’s focus on layettes, which include all that mothers would need for newborns or infants, including diapers, sleepers, bottles, blankets, etc. Over the years, the society has donated innumerable layettes for new infants and developed complementary programs for children.
Now deceased, Merrick recently gained Vatican recognition when the Congregation for the Saints named her a Servant of God, the first step toward canonization, two years ago.Acting locally
The Pittsburgh chapter is one of the 40 chapters of the Christ Child Society. It dates back 13 years and was formed after Bishop Donald Wuerl recognized it as an official diocesan organization with permission to operate under the auspices of the diocese.
Currently, its 80 volunteers give their time to the “Adopt a Cottage” program at the Holy Family Institute in Emsworth, reported Pittsburgh Catholic.org. They help with the program’s education and recreation efforts, playing games with the boys, hosting picnics, celebrating birthdays, and taking them on outings.
Pittsburgh’s Christ Child Society members also maintain the Angel’s Closet at their headquarters in the former St. Augustine high school building.
The Angel’s Closet is stocked with new winter coats and gloves for kids, which they purchase at reduced prices off-season. In 11 years, they have distributed more than 2,600 sets of clothing.
They have also donated about 2,000 complete layettes for young women at the Roselia Center, a home for single mothers, and expanded their outreach to Mercy Hospital.
The Pittsburgh chapter plans to hold its eighth annual Red Wagon Fare Oct. 8 at 10 a.m. at the Pittsburgh Field Club in Fox Chapel. The day will include lunch, an auction and music by the Sweet Adelines’ Raze Quartet. For tickets, call (412) 963-9033.
St. Cloud, Minn., Sep 16, 2005 (CNA) - Bishop John Kinney of St. Cloud, Minnesota, has invited the faithful of his diocese to participate in finding creative solutions to deal with the priest shortage.
"There are not enough priests available for us to continue as we have in the past," diocese planning director Jane Marrin told the St. Cloud Times.
There are currently 82 priests serving the diocese’s 137 parishes. Fourteen of these priests are older than 70; 21 are between 60 and 70 years old.
Currently, the diocese has 17 seminarians, and it expects to ordain 10 new priests in the next four years. Only one priest was ordained this year.
Up until now, the diocese has been dealing with the priest shortage by combining parishes and bringing priests, who were serving in rural areas, into the urban centers. St. Cloud, like many dioceses, has experienced demographic shifts and many parishioners have moved from rural to urban areas. Still, other long-term solutions must be found.
The bishop has therefore launched a process, called “Re-visioning Church”, and has asked pastors, lay leaders and parishioners to recommend new ways to staff the 15 parishes in the city of St. Cloud.
Marrin describes the process as “an exciting opportunity to engage all of the faithful in strengthening our parish communities.”
At meetings in parishes in September and October, parishioners will become educated about ministerial staffing issues. It will also help parishioners deal with their concerns about staffing and fears of parish closures, and provide them an opportunity to give diocesan official feedback.
During the masses of Oct. 29-30, parishioners will be asked to write their reflections or questions about potential changes.
All parish responses will be gathered and reviewed by a parish planning group, which will then make recommendations to the bishop about potential pastoral staffing changes. The bishop will announce all final decisions.
Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 16, 2005 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Mexico has announced the launching of a campaign to encourage Mexicans to vote in the upcoming elections in 2006.
The campaign, called “Faith and Politics,” aims to raise awareness among Mexicans of the importance of participating in the democratic process “for the common good in justice and peace.”
Archbishop Sergio Obeso Rivera of Xalapa, president of the Bishops’ Committee on Social Issues, explained that the Church in Mexico cannot “tell our people which candidate or party they must vote for, but we do feel obliged to enunciate a general criteria so that each person can consider and evaluate it, leaving the ultimate decision, and I insist on this point, on who to vote for up to the individual.”Inspired by a pastoral letter on politics published by the Mexican bishops in 2000, the Faith and Politics campaign is divided into four modules: The response of Christians to the demands of our time: the common good; Citizen participation: the path towards building the common good; Our participation (as bishops and priests) in the electoral process: choosing on the basis of the common good; and Our participation on the basis of our commitments as citizens: deciding on the basis of the common good.
The executive secretary of the Committee on Social Issues, Father Jose Antonio Sandoval, explained that the workshops that will be part of the campaign are tools for teaching and encouraging participation in a democratic culture, beyond just the issue of getting out to vote.
Rome, Italy, Sep 16, 2005 (CNA) - The president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Cardinal Julian Herranz, called on legislators and judges this week to be creative in finding ways to defend individual rights without violating the principles that favor the family founded upon marriage.
In an interview with the Italian daily La Repubblica, the Spanish cardinal said, “The family cannot be confused with a ‘pact’ applied to civil unions,” referring to a proposal in Italy to grant them legal recognition.
Civil unions are already recognized in France, Norway, Sweden, Holland, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Croatia, Iceland, and Germany. In Poland and Ireland proposals to legalize such unions are being debated.
According to the cardinal, lawmakers have the duty to defend the common good, “and this applies to all nations.And the common good is achieved by constantly working to strengthen the institutions upon which society is based, among which first and foremost are marriage and the family,” he emphasized.
“Thus, all laws that favor the family based upon marriage are good. Other laws that seek to weaken marriage and the family are not,” the cardinal warned.
He cited John Paul II’s repeated cautions against granting civil unions a status equal to marriage, and he recalled an address by Pope Benedict XVI in June of this year in which the Pope said that acceptance of various alternatives to marriage devalue the institution of marriage.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sep 16, 2005 (CNA) - Bishop Jorge Luis Lona of San Luis, Argentina, reminded Catholics this week that “God does not forgive us if we do not forgive each other,” and he noted that if resentment dominates our lives, “we isolate ourselves from his merciful love.”
“This does not mean that God becomes angry with us because we allow ourselves to be dominated by anger. Man’s destiny is to become like God, according to the model of Christ,” he added.
Bishop Lona pointed out that the one who seeks God’s forgiveness is called to forgive as well. “It’s not to say that nothing happened. It’s saying that something bad has happened and that our forgiveness is an invocation of the Almighty to receive the miraculous forgiveness that wipes away guilt and brings new life,” he noted.
Through prayer, Bishop Lona said, “it is always possible to forgive that person who has hurt us, even if he or she has not asked for forgiveness or if we have been terribly hurt.”
Vatican City, Sep 16, 2005 (CNA) - Meeting with Biblical scholars at his Castelgandolfo summer residence earlier today, Pope Benedict said that the Church must live off and be constantly renewed by the Word of God in the holy scriptures. He also encouraged scripture study in which reading and prayer are inextricably linked--a practice which he believes, will lead to a new spiritual springtime.
The Pope received participants of a congress which is currently meeting in Rome on the theme, "Holy Scripture in the Life of the Church."
The international meeting, which stretches from September 14th through the 18th, is being jointly sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Catholic Biblical Federation (FBC). It also celebrates the 40th anniversary of the promulgation of Vatican Council II's Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation "Dei Verbum."
During this morning's meeting, the Pope expressed his thanks to the FBC for "its activities, the biblical pastoral activity it promotes, its faithful adherence to the indications of the Magisterium, and its openness to ecumenical collaboration in the biblical field." He also expressed "profound joy" that the congress is hosting fraternal delegates from Churches and ecclesial communities of the East and the West, as well as representatives from many other prominent world religions.
The Holy Father also recalled his own role, as a young theologian, in the shaping and preparation of the "Dei Verbum" document, stressing that "the Church does not live off herself but off the Gospel, and its from the Gospel that, always and anew, she draws guidance for her journey."
"This is a fact that all Christians must take up and apply to themselves", he said; "only those who first dispose themselves to listen to the Word can then begin to announce it."
"Church and Word of God," he continued, "are inseparably linked. The Church lives off the Word of God, and the Word of God rings out in the Church, in her teaching and in all her life."
The Pope said he was thankful for a renewed appreciation of this fact, saying that "in recent times, thanks also to the effect of the Dogmatic Constitution 'Dei Verbum,' the fundamental importance of the Word of God has been more profoundly re-evaluated. This has led to renewal in the life of the Church, especially in preaching, catechesis, theology, spirituality, and in the very ecumenical journey itself. The Church must forever renew and rejuvenate herself, and the Word of God, which never ages or expires, is the privileged means to this end."
In his concluding remarks Pope Benedict encouraged a renewed practice of "the ancient tradition of 'Lectio divina.'"
This "assiduous study of Holy Scripture," he said, "accompanied by prayer, initiates that intimate exchange in which, reading, we listen to God Who speaks and, praying, we reply to him with faithful openness of heart. If effectively promoted, this practice will, I am convinced, bring a new spiritual springtime. As a fixed point in biblical pastoral activity, 'Lectio divina' should, then, be further encouraged, also by the use of new methods, carefully studied and in keeping with the times."
Vatican City, Sep 16, 2005 (CNA) - Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano gave his speech earlier today to the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN). The Vatican being a permanent observer to the UN, is entitled to express itself at the world summit taking place this week. This event is of particular significance, because it is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the institution.
Cardinal Sodano first expressed the salutations of Pope Benedict, and said he wished to give through this speech an echo for all the Catholics in the world .
He referred to the UN as “an institution that is more and more necessary. In 60 years of existence, it has managed to realize a lot at the service of humanity.”
“Nevertheless,” he added “it has shown signs of wearing, and needs a renewal in order to face the challenges of today. It is not a super government, but has to answer to the real expectations of the whole population.” He regretted that “a lot of resolution were adopted, but not respected.”
He reiterated the Vatican’s Commitment for development and expressed his concerns for the problem of debt for poor countries. He called on the institution to “be attentive to the expectations of the people, rather than to the equilibrium of powers” and for a “ renewed sense of responsibility for developed countries, in their duty to fight corruption, and to give equal opportunity.”
Cardinal Sodano wished to clarify the ambiguity in using the term “reproductive health”, that is insinuating a right to abortion, and advocated for the more simple expression of “women and children’s health.”
He concluded his speech reminding the special contribution of the Holy See to the United Nations outlining that “Although the Vatican mainly fulfills a spiritual mission, it is especially from that, that stems her duty to be present in the life of Nations and her commitment to foster justice et solidarity among men.” He again expressed the backing of the Holy See to the goals and objectives of this summit.
He finally quoted late Pope John Paul II, in a trip to Chile in 1987: “Los pobres no pueden esperar.” The Poor can not wait.