Archive of September 19, 2005

Vatican reveals Pope John Paul II lasts words: “Let me go to the house of the Father.”

Rome, Italy, Sep 19, 2005 (CNA) - Let me go to the house of the Father.” These were Pope John Paul II’s last words, mumbled in polish with a weak voice, six hours before reaching the house of the father.

The Vatican already revealed many of the details in a meticulously written report, but the 220-page volume provides more description of John Paul II's decline. It went on sale at the Vatican in recent days, the Holy See's publishing house, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, said Saturday.

The book, published as a supplement to the Vatican's official journal, has entries in chronological order, starting with Jan. 31, the day the Vatican's press office announced that the pope's audiences were being suspended because he had flu symptoms. It chronicles John Paul II's symptoms, care and response to treatment during two hospitalizations and then during his last days in his Vatican City apartment.

Six hours before his death, John Paul said in Polish, "with a very weak voice and with mumbled words, 'Let me go to the house of the Father,"' the report said.

Following the second hospitalization, which included Feb. 24 throat surgery to insert a breathing tube, John Paul's convalescence was hampered by "very difficult swallowing," laborious attempts to utter words, "nutritional deficit and marked weakness," the account says.

Through his moving attempt to give the “Urbi et Orbi” blessing the last Sunday of Easter, which triggered the applause of the faithful gathered on Saint Peter’s Square, John Paul II- who after his second hospitalization suffered a “nutritional deficit and weaknesses”- came back to appear at the window of his room Wednesday, march 30th to give the blessing. This appearance “was the last public station of his own Via Crucis”, says the document.

The account is particularly elaborate about John Paul's turn for the worse on the morning of March 31 at his private chapel when he was "hit by a shaking chill, followed by a sharp rise in temperature" to 39.4 C (103 F).Then very grave septic shock set in, with cardio-circulatory collapse, due to a diagnosed infection of the urinary tract," the account said.

The official account is quite close to one offered last month by John Paul's longtime personal secretary, now Krakow Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz. He told an Italian TV interviewer that a nun who was near the pontiff heard him say: "Let me go to the Lord."

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Grace of the Eucharist is secret to holy priests, says Pope

Vatican City, Sep 19, 2005 (CNA) - Before his noontime Angelus prayer at the papal Castelgandolfo summer residence yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI said that the key to holy priests and to a sanctified Church lies in the celebration of the Eucharist.

As the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)  begins a probe into seminary formation programs across the country, and smoke continues to rise from the priestly sexual abuse scandal, the Holy Father's words yesterday paint a fitting roadmap toward the shaping of faithful priests.

"The secret of the sanctification" of priests, the Pope said, lies in the Eucharist. "By virtue of Holy Orders, a priest receives the gift and the duty to repeat sacramentally the gestures and words by which, at the Last Supper, Christ instituted the memorial of His Easter. In his hands he renews this great miracle of love, which he is called to witness and announce ever more faithfully."

"A priest", Pope Benedict continued, "must above all adore and contemplate the Eucharist, starting from the very moment in which he celebrates it. We well know that the validity of the Sacrament does not depend upon the sanctity of the celebrant, but its effectiveness, both for him and for others, will be all the greater the more he experiences it with profound faith, ardent love and a fervent spirit of prayer."

The Pope highlighted certain historical examples of "saintly ministers of the altar," such as St. John Chrysostome, known as "'Eucharistic doctor' for the vastness and depth of his doctrine on the Most Holy Sacrament." He also recalled St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina who, in celebrating Mass, "relived the mystery of Calvary with such fervor as to arouse everyone's faith and devotion. Even the stigmata which God gave him were an expression of his intimate conformation to the crucified Christ."

"Nor, thinking of priests who love the Eucharist, can we forget St. Jean Marie Vianney, a humble pastor of Ars in France at the time of the French Revolution. With the sanctity of his life and his pastoral zeal," Benedict said, "he managed to make that small village a model Christian community, animated by the Word of God and by the Sacraments."

In conclusion, the Pope implored prayer for priests throughout the world saying "that from this Year of the Eucharist, they may draw the fruit of a renewed Love for the Sacrament they celebrate. Through the intercession of the Virgin Mother of God, may they always live and bear witness to the mystery that is put in their hands for the saving of the world."

The Year of the Eucharist, instituted by the late John Paul II, will conclude early next month with a synod of bishops from around the world.

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Pope challenges new bishops to humbly trust God, be 'teachers of the faith'

Vatican City, Sep 19, 2005 (CNA) - Earlier today, Pope Benedict XVI met with a group of recently ordained bishops who have just completed a period of prayer and reflection over their upcoming duties and new roles. He called on them to be teachers of the faith, and to announce to people the profound good news of the Gospel--a reason, he said, for which to live.

In his address to the bishops, all of whom have been ordained within the last 12 months, the Pope said that "this meeting is part of initiatives for the permanent formation of bishops. ... If many reasons call for a commitment to an aggiornamento on the part of bishops, then it is all the more appropriate that they should have, at the very start of their mission, the opportunity to pass an adequate period of reflection upon the challenges and problems awaiting them."

"Taking your first steps in your episcopal role," he told them, "you have already become aware of the necessity for a humble trust in God and for the apostolic courage that is born of faith and of a bishop's sense of responsibility."

"Among your duties," he stressed, "I would like to underline that of being teachers of the faith. The announcement of the Gospel lies at the origin of the Church and of her development in the world, as well as being at the roots of the expansion of faith among the faithful. ... As successors to the Apostles, you are 'doctores fidei,' true doctors who, with the same authority as Christ, announce to the people a faith in which to believe and which to live."

The Pope said that "Responding to God requires an interior journey that brings the believer to the encounter with the Lord. ... This calls for interior life, silence, and vigilance, attitudes that I invite you not only to experience in person, but also to propose to your faithful, organizing appropriate initiatives ... to help them discover the primacy of spiritual life."

The Holy Father also recalled his presentation of the new Compendium, or summary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church during the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul earlier this summer, and told the bishops that, "Today, symbolically, I give each of you these two fundamental documents of the Church's faith, that they may be a point of reference in your teaching and a sign of our communion of faith."

He invited the new prelates to stay close to the priests and catechists of their dioceses, and, referring to the Year of the Eucharist, now coming to an end, the Pope exhorted them to ensure that it "leaves in the hearts of the faithful the desire to root their lives ever more in the Eucharist."

"All bishops should take particular care over the participation of the faithful in Sunday Mass," he said, "in which the Word of life rings out, and where Christ Himself is present in the species of bread and wine. Moreover, Mass enables the faithful to nourish the community which is also part of the faith."

Calling them his brethren, the Holy Father concluded his address telling the bishops to "have great trust in grace, and know how to infuse this trust in your collaborators, that the precious pearl of faith may shine forth always, treasured, defended and transmitted in all its purity."

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Vatican official calls for renewal of U.N., supports 'Peacebuilding Commission'

Vatican City, Sep 19, 2005 (CNA) - On Friday, the final day of a high-level United Nations summit held in New York, Vatican Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano told participants that the aging U.N. needs to be renewed to face the "challenges of the present day" and called for new peacekeeping initiatives to be implemented.

The Cardinal addressed the Plenary Meeting of the 60th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations, which brought together some 170 national leaders and heads of state from around the globe from September 14th through the 16th.

Cardinal Sodano, who delivered his address in French, said that the UN "is an institution that is ever more necessary for the peace and progress of the whole of humanity." Nonetheless, he added, "time has taken its toll upon this agency, as upon every human undertaking." Therefore, it "needs to be renewed, in response to the great challenges of the present day."

He emphasized how the juridical framework of the United Nations Statute "must be complemented by the necessary international juridical instruments for disarmament and the control of arms, for the fight against terrorism and international crime and for effective cooperation between the United Nations and regional agencies, in order to resolve situations of conflict."

Turing to the much-needed issue of peacekeeping, the secretary of State said that the Holy See "is in favor of the creation of an agency to restore peace to countries that have suffered armed conflicts. The Holy See, in other words, is in favor of the 'Peacebuilding Commission,' intended to design and implement an ambitious strategy to overcome those elements of ethnic rivalry which give rise to conflicts and which could re-ignite them in the future."

The Cardinal also called for what he called profound reflection on "the problem of the use of force to disarm the aggressor," calling on States to discuss the application and practical consequences of the principle of "responsibility to protect," in order to solve, in "the most opportune" way, situations "in which national authorities either cannot or will not protect their own populations, in the face of internal or external threats."

Despite "promising gestures" from various governments, Cardinal Sodano continued, "much work remains to be done in order to achieve greater economic and financial solidarity," with many of the world's poorest nations.

"This must include", he said, "a solution to the debt problem of the poorest countries and of average-income countries with serious foreign debt problems."

The Cardinal concluded saying that the Vatican "reaffirms its full support for the objectives of this summit and undertakes to do what it can to help the summit produce the desired fruits rapidly so that an era of peace and social justice may quickly follow. The words spoken by the late Pope John Paul II ... in 1987 have lost none of their relevance: 'the poor cannot wait!'."

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Missouri judge blocks new anti-abortion laws

Jefferson City, Mo., Sep 19, 2005 (CNA) - On Friday, a federal judge in Missouri blocked two new abortion laws which would have regulated the state’s abortion clinics and beefed up parental consent standards, just one day after they were signed by the governor.

U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey said that the law would threaten "immediate and irreparable harm" to the Springfield Healthcare Center, which had ceased performing abortions in order to comply with the new law.

Judge Laughrey argued that the center was the only abortion provider in the Springfield area, and therefore needed to remain open.

The first of the now frozen laws would require abortion providers to have privileges at a local hospital--something that Michelle Collins, director of the Springfield Healthcare Center, doesn’t have.

The second would allow lawsuits to come against anyone who would "intentionally cause, aid or assist" an abortion for a minor without consent of a parent.

While Judge Laughrey’s decision temporarily halts the new laws, it does not strike them down. Their legality will continue to be discussed now, pending a final decision.

The governor’s office however, is hopeful that the laws will be given the green light following judicial review.

Jessica Robinson, a spokeswoman for Governor Matt Blunt, is quoted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as saying that: "We stand by this good pro-life law that will reduce the number of abortions in our state and look forward to debating its merits before the court."

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US parishes welcome more cultural groups, conference urges more inclusion

Arlington, Va., Sep 19, 2005 (CNA) - Multicultural parishes are becoming increasingly common across America, and they are no longer just an urban phenomenon. Parishes in rural towns are becoming more and more multicultural, and this new trend was evident last week at a national conference in Arlington

"It’s now very hard to find any part of the country without multiculturalism in their midst," Fr. Robert Schreiter, theology professor at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, told the Arlington Herald.

Ten bishops, 45 diocesan directors of multicultural ministry, and others ministering to cultural communities in their dioceses gathered Sept. 7-9 for the Convening of the Office for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees Networks.

The three-day conference, held at the Sheraton National Hotel in Arlington, included small group discussions and workshops.

While there is an increasing number of Hispanics across the country, there are also many other people who come from Africa and Asia.

Bishop Gerald Barnes of San Bernardino, California, observed that many people today are fearful about other cultures. While addressing the crowd, the chairman of the USCCB committee on migration urged people to reach out and get to know people of other cultures.

He also warned against reducing members of ethnic groups to their cultural expressions. There is much more to ethnic community groups than their food, music, dance and traditional costume.

Members of the dominant culture must invite them to the fullness of the local church, and include them in more than feast day processions or international festivals, the bishop said. They must be included in all aspects of parish life, such as adult faith formation, religious education and stewardship, he said.

The bishop also reflected on the unity and universality expressed in the word “catholic.”

“Society is trying to divide us as it is, but we are Catholic,” he was quoted as saying. He suggested forming alliances between dioceses to support each other and share resources.

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Symposium to consider future staffing of parishes

Los Angeles, Calif., Sep 19, 2005 (CNA) - Diocesan and parish leaders will reflect on the future staffing of parishes at a national symposium this week. "Enhancing The Mission" will be held Sept. 21-23 at the Hilton Los Angeles Airport Hotel.

The three-day event is expected to draw diocesan and parish leaders from many western dioceses, Bishop Gerald Wilkerson told The Tidings. The auxiliary bishop of the San Fernando region has headed the Task Force on Alternate Parish Leadership for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Officials from the National Pastoral Life Center, New York, will open the conference along with Cardinal Roger Mahony. Participants will also share and reflect on seven presentations on the following themes: parish and pastor; parish leadership; lay leadership of the parish; leadership in a parish without a resident pastor; specific models of parish staffing; training models; integration and implementation in the diocese.

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Places of worship keep National Day of Prayer for Katrina victims

Washington D.C., Sep 19, 2005 (CNA) - Americans across the country joined Friday in a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for victims of Hurricane Katrina. President George W. Bush called for the special day of prayer.

Interdenominational services were held in state Capitols and especially in the Gulf Coast region and Texas, where many of those displaced by the hurricane have sought refuge. 

Bush attended a service with other religious and political leaders at the National Cathedral in Washington.

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Camden, N.J., held a 40-minute service. Fr. Michael Mannion told the assembly that Katrina taught people who and what are important, reported the Associated Press.

“They learned that it's each other who are important," he was quoted as saying.

Cantor Seth Warner of New Orleans, his wife and four-month-old son, who were displaced by the hurricane, planned to attend a prayer service at Temple Beth-El in San Antonio.

"I think God is in the soul of those who have been heroes, God is in the midst of those who risked their lives for others, God is in the hearts and minds of those who have given up something so that others can have a little bit, too," he told the AP.

While many places of worship around the country participated, the AP reported that several didn’t, saying they had already held such services.

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Bishop hopeful appeal will make partial-birth abortions illegal

Lansing, Mich., Sep 19, 2005 (CNA) - Bishop Walter Hurley is hopeful appeals to higher courts will reinstate the Michigan Legal Birth Definition Act.

The bishop of Grand Rapids made the comment after news that Lansing-Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox intends to appeal a federal court decision that the state law banning partial-birth abortions is unconstitutional.

Bishop Hurley said he doesn't understand how the judge or anyone can support partial-birth abortion, which he describes as “particularly brutal,” reported journalist Walter Hurley.

The bishop also warned that legalizing partial-birth abortion doesn’t make it moral.

The governor vetoed the Michigan Birth Definition Act, but 460,000 people signed petitions to reintroduce the bill, Hurley reported. The bill was approved a second time by the legislature, and it may still become law if high courts decide it is constitutional. 

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Peruvian bishops demand truthfulness from authorities about abortion pill

Lima, Peru, Sep 19, 2005 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Peru has issued a statement demanding the country’s Ministry of Health make public the international scientific information that has not discounted the potential abortifacient nature of the morning-after pill. Likewise the bishops denounced an effort to keep Catholics from participating in public debate on the issue.

Released by the Conference’s executive committee, the statement warned that health authorities are being deceptive by claiming that the scientific debate has been settled when the international scientific community has not disproved the pill’s anti-implantation mechanism, which would make it abortifacient.

A review of current scientific studies shows that the pill’s anti-implantation effect has not been disproved; rather, it is a part of the effectiveness of the misnamed “emergency oral contraception.”

 The bishops questioned the publication by the Health Ministry of only seven scientific studies to justify the distribution and sale of the drug in a country where abortion is illegal, and they said the information lacks transparency and objectivity.

“We are witnesses that crucial scientific information is being repeatedly and systematically concealed, with serious studies that demonstrate the third, anti-implantation effect of Levonorgestrel, the main ingredient of the pill, being ignored,” the bishops stated.

They noted that the Committee on Bioethics of the Bishops’ Conference sent a report to the Health Ministry that analyzed the seven studies cited by officials as well as sixteen other more rigorous studies that officials ignored.

“We reject as discriminatory the statements that characterize people who profess religious beliefs as opposed to science.  In the case of the morning-after pill, those who defend it are the ones who are opposed to considering all of the data that scientific research currently offers,” the bishops said.

Officials, called to serve those who elected them, must not give in to special-interest groups “pressuring them not to provide all of the information that citizens have a right to know,” they concluded.

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Catholic Church calls for confidentiality in negotiations with rebels

, Sep 19, 2005 (CNA) - A spokesman for the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia called for confidentiality in the proposals to achieve the liberation of hostages after the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) rejected a proposal to enter into dialogue with the government and the Catholic Church.

The secretary of the Reconciliation Commission of the Catholic Church, Father Dario Echeverria, said, “The FARC must be consulted beforehand so that these proposals do not die,” and he argued that “it must be done confidentially, in absolute secrecy so that the proposals can be hammered out and their workability studied and so that we don’t create false hopes and disillusion, especially among family members.”

In response to the FARC’s rejection to enter into dialogue, the Colombian government announced it would attempt to rescue several Colombian personalities, police officers, soldiers, and three US citizens currently being held hostage by the rebel group.

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Socialists push to have referendum on legalization of abortion in Portugal

Lisbon, Portugal, Sep 19, 2005 (CNA) - A new law that would legalize abortion in Portugal up to the seventh week of pregnancy could be the subject of a national referendum if a proposal by country’s Socialist Party is approved.

Socialist party lawmakers said the legalization of abortion “is a question of honor for socialism” and said their proposal could be debated and voted on by the Portuguese parliament on September 28, well before the presidential elections of January 2006.

The opposition Popular Party said the proposal is unconstitutional because a similar one was brought before parliament and rejected by President Jorge Sampaio last March, and parliamentary rules prevent it from being brought up twice during the same legislative session.

Portuguese law currently allows abortion up to the twelfth week of pregnancy only in cases of rape or if it threatens the  life or psychiatric health of the mother.  Illegal abortions are punishable by up to three years in prison.

The Socialists’ proposal would allow abortion on demand up to the tenth week, and up to the sixteenth week for the life of the mother.  It would also reduce the prison term for obtaining abortions for other reasons to two years.

A national referendum on a similar proposal was voted down in 1999.

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Laicism should mean neutrality, not exclusion says French archbishop

Madrid, Spain, Sep 19, 2005 (CNA) - Reflecting on laicism and religion in France, Archbishop Andre Lacrampe of Besançon and president of the National Council for Solidarity, said laicism implies neutrality and not exclusion or ignorance by the State in regards to the Church.

“The profound meaning of laicism in France means that the State is neutral with respect to the Church, but its neutrality does not mean ignorance or exclusion, but rather non-interference in Church matters,” the archbishop said during a presentation at the 14th Conference on the Church’s Social Doctrine, held in Madrid and organized by the Bishops’ Conference of Spain.

During his conference, Archbishop Lacrampe analyzed “French laicism and the evolution of relations between France and the Church during the last 100 years.”

He distinguished between “laicism as a concrete socio-political regimen” and “laicism as a philosophical system closed to any spiritual dimension.”

The Conference, commemorating the 40th anniversary of the document Gaudium et spes of the Second Vatican Council, took place at a moment when laicist tendencies are gaining influence in Spain in an attempt to restrict the presence of the Church to the private sector.

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