Vatican City, Sep 23, 2005 (CNA) - Speaking to visiting Mexican bishops earlier today at the Vatican, Pope Benedict stressed the need for strengthening the family and building up of an authentic culture of life in that country, respectful of the humanity of all its citizens.
The Holy Father said in his address to the prelates that, "Faced with growing laicism that seeks to reduce the religious life of citizens to the private sphere, with no social or public expression, the Church knows very well that the Christian message reinforces and illuminates the basic principles of all coexistence."
In this context, the Pope pointed out how the family as an institution "needs special support, because in Mexico, as in other countries, its vitality and fundamental role are declining, not only because of cultural changes, but also because of the phenomenon of emigration, which brings serious difficulties of various kinds, especially for women, children and young people."
Pope Benedict also addressed the problem of drug trafficking, noting "the continuous efforts made up to now by the State and by various social organizations" to combat it.
"It must not be forgotten", he said, "that one of the roots of the problem is great economic inequality, which prevents the just development of a large part of the population. ... It is urgent for everyone to unite their efforts to eradicate this evil through the spread of authentic human values and the construction of a real culture of life. The Church offers her full collaboration in this field."
The Pope also recognized the importance of the country's indigenous people, "who for centuries have struggled to uphold their ancestral values and traditions." He echoed John Paul II's words on his trip to Mexico in 2002 to canonize the indigenous St. Juan Diego: "Mexico needs its indigenous peoples and these peoples need Mexico!"
"In fact," he added, "today more than ever it is necessary to favor their integration, while respecting their customs and their ways of organizing their communities; this enables them to develop their own culture and to open themselves, without losing their identity, to the challenges of a globalized world."
Benedict XVI concluded his address by speaking of the forthcoming elections in 2006, "which represent an opportunity and a challenge to consolidate the significant progress made in democratizing the country. It is to be hoped that the electoral process contributes to a continued strengthening of the democratic order, firmly orienting it towards policies inspired by the common good and by the integral promotion of all citizens, with special care for the weakest and most unprotected. Mexican bishops referred to this in their message before the start of the electoral process. The title of that message, 'Strengthen democracy by rebuilding civic trust,' well indicates the needs of the present time."
Vatican City, Sep 23, 2005 (CNA) - In a meeting today with Luis Felipe Bravo Mena, Mexico's new ambassador to the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI stressed the need for religious freedom in democratic states and said that favorable progress had been made in relations between that Mexico and the Holy See.
The Pope received the diplomat's Letters of Credence earlier today at the Vatican and said that that "since 1992, when diplomatic relations were established between Mexico and the Holy See, notable progress has been made, in a climate of mutual respect and collaboration that has benefited both parties."
He said that "this encourages us to continue working, each with their own autonomy and respective competencies, bearing in mind the main objective: the integral promotion of people, who are children of the nation and, the great majority of them, children of the Catholic Church."
Pope Benedict also spoke on the Church's view of democracy saying that "a democratic lay State is what safeguards the religious practices of its citizens, without preference or denial. In fact, the Church believes that in modern democratic societies full religious freedom can and must exist. In a lay State, it is the citizens who, in exercising their freedom, give a particular religious meaning to social life."
"Furthermore," he said, "a modern State must serve and protect the freedom of its citizens and the religious practices they chose, without restriction or coercion."
The Pope concluded his address with a note on the forthcoming elections in 2006, "which represent an opportunity and a challenge to consolidate the significant progress made in democratizing the country."
"It is to be hoped", he said, "that the electoral process contributes to a continued strengthening of the democratic order, firmly orienting it towards policies inspired by the common good and by the integral promotion of all citizens, with special care for the weakest and most unprotected. Mexican bishops referred to this in their message before the start of the electoral process. The title of that message, 'Strengthen democracy by rebuilding civic trust,' well indicates the needs of the present time."
Vatican City, Sep 23, 2005 (CNA) - Earlier this morning, Pope Benedict held audience with visiting Mexican bishops, in Rome for their "ad limina" visits, and reminded them that the peoples of multiple cultures and traditions who coexist in their cities must be accommodated with special pastoral care, giving particular attention to the poor and marginalized.
The prelates came from the Mexican metropolitan sees of Jalapa, Mexico, Puebla and Tlalnepantla, and from their suffragan dioceses.
The central region of Mexico, the Pope said in his address, "is the area where the ancient indigenous people settled, and where the Church's missionary activity began, later extending to the other areas."
After highlighting that "multiple cultures and traditions" coexist in the cities, he also indicated how life there is complicated "for the various social classes to whom diocesan pastoral activity must be directed without discrimination, giving priority to those who find themselves in situations of great poverty, solitude and marginalization."
The Pope stressed that "All these social groups present a continuous challenge for pastoral care, which must also be planned to accommodate those brothers and sisters who, in ever greater numbers, emigrate from the country to the city in search of a more dignified life."
He told the bishops that their pastoral ministry "must be directed to everyone, both to the faithful who participate actively in the life of the diocesan community, and to people who have distanced themselves and are searching for the meaning of their own lives." Further, he encouraged the prelates to "propose the Word of God" in "a form and a language appropriate to our time."
"In modern society, which shows such visible signs of secularism," he said, "we must not fall prey to discouragement, or to a lack of enthusiasm in our pastoral projects. Remember that the Spirit will give you the strength necessary. Trust in Him Who is 'the Lord and Giver of life'."
The Holy Father challenged the bishops to dedicate their "greatest attention and energy to priests," encouraging them to remain close to each of their pastors, maintaining relationships of "priestly friendship with them in the manner of the Good Shepherd."
"Help them", the Pope said, "to be men of assiduous prayer, both in contemplative silence ... and in the devout daily celebration of the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours. ... A priest's prayer is a requirement of his pastoral ministry."
He also told them to "Concern yourselves with the particular situation of each priest, encouraging them to proceed with joy and hope along the road of priestly sanctity, offering them the help they need and fomenting fraternity among them. May none of them lack the means necessary to live their sublime vocation and ministry. Take also particular care over the formation of seminarians and enthusiastically promote vocational pastoral care."
"Faced with a changing and complex panorama such as the present one," the Pope added, the bishops should not lose hope.
"The planning and implementation of pastoral programs must reflect ... trust in the loving presence of God in the world. This will help lay Catholics to face growing secularism and to participate responsibly in temporal affairs, illuminated by the Church's Social Doctrine."
Vatican City, Sep 23, 2005 (CNA) - Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican's permanent observer to the United Nations is currently in New York for the U.N. conference: "Facilitating the Entry-into-Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)," at which, he told participants yesterday that states must clear the way to ending "forever the testing of nuclear weapons."
In his address, the Archbishop pointed that, at the last CTBT meeting in 2003, "168 States had signed and 104 States had ratified the treaty. Today ... 176 States have signed and 125 have ratified. It is clear that the treaty is growing in impact. The growth of the CTBT shows that the great majority of States wants to move toward a nuclear weapons-free world."
He said that "The goal of the CTBT - to put an end forever to the testing of nuclear weapons - should be the aim of every State. ... Yet the movement to CTBT entry-into-force is impeded by the lack of universality.
"The Holy See", he said, "adds its voice in appealing to the States whose ratification is necessary for the entry-into-force of the treaty."
The Archbishop pointed out that next year will mark the tenth anniversary of the CTBT. He also recalled that the 2003 conference had reaffirmed the importance of implementing the treaty which favors systematic efforts toward nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.
"However," he lamented, "the persisting blockage impedes progress of the world community."
"Nuclear deterrence, as an ongoing reality after the Cold War, becomes more and more untenable even if it were in the name of collective security," he said. "Indeed, it is threatening the existence of peoples in several parts of the world and it may end up being used as a convenient pretext in building up nuclear capacity."
The response to these "growing dangers," the U.N. observer said, is to increase "our resolve to build a body of international law to sustain a nuclear weapons-free world. The CTBT, once in effect, would be a pillar of international law."
"Courage and vision", he stressed, "are required to move forward. Although the century opened with a burst of global terrorism, this threat must not be allowed to dilute the precepts of international humanitarian law, which is founded on the key principles of limitation and proportionality."
The conference is being held in New York City from September 21st to the 23rd.
Washington D.C., Sep 23, 2005 (CNA) - The nomination of Judge John G. Roberts--a Catholic--to Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee and will now head to the full U.S. Senate.
Roberts has been at the center of a heated debate over the role of personal faith in public life. Many have accused certain Senators of trying to apply an unconstitutional “religious litmus test” on Roberts and dragging the country back into a period of bigotry against Catholics.
While some democrats have feared that Roberts will try to overturn abortion laws and oppose them on other life issues held by the Catholic Church, others have voiced their support for the judge, who has never let on what his personal convictions on the abortion subject are.
It is now expected that Roberts will be confirmed to the position although some are still holding on to their opposition pending a vote of the full Senate.
Senate minority leader Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who had been vocally skeptical in the scrutinizing process announced that he would support for the nomination.
Attention now largely turns to President Bush’s upcoming nomination to fill the position of retiring Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor, whom Roberts was slated to replace before the surprising death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist last
Washington D.C., Sep 23, 2005 (CNA) - In an interview with the Washington Times regarding the Vatican’s new document which will reportedly bar homosexual men from seminaries, Fr. Joseph Fessio, head of Ignatius Press and provost at Ave Maria University, said that a deep seeded sexual ethics problem lies at the root of the Church’s decision, and of the sex abuse scandal which has come to light in recent years.
"Both the present Holy Father and many Catholic scholars and commentators”, he told the Times, “have realized the sexual-abuse crisis was a sign of something much deeper and more widespread.”
Fr. Fessio pointed to a directive issued by Pope John XXIII in 1961 which said that ordination "should be barred to those who are afflicted with evil tendencies to homosexuality or pederasty, since for them the common life and the priestly ministry would constitute serious dangers."
That directive, he said, has been largely ignored or watered down in subsequent decades.
"There emerged a justification,” he noted, “a whole philosophy saying same-sex attraction is one of God's gifts."
"That's what was so insidious. Now in our present culture -- which is obsessed with sex -- the church must make sure its own ministers are not contaminated by this secularized worldview," he said.
A 2004 fact finding report showed that some 81 percent of the priestly abuse cases involved boys or young men.
Opponents and several gay-rights activist organizations have expressed outrage at the document which is expected to be released in the near future by the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education.
The document reportedly contains no change in Catholic teaching which has consistently held that homosexual men--even celibates--should not be ordained, and that homosexual tendencies point to a deeper disorder.
Likewise, the document is said to encourage already-ordained homosexual priests to make a renewed commitment to living a chaste life.
Washington D.C., Sep 23, 2005 (CNA) - A national Catholic advocacy organization says Roman Catholics for the Freedom to Marry is a dissident group that should not be allowed to describe itself as Catholic.
The group held a press conference yesterday, condemning the decision of Archbishop Sean O’Malley of Boston to urge Catholics to sign a petition in favor of a state constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage. The group is organized as a project under the multifaith Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry.
"Such liberal groups should not be taken seriously by faithful Catholics who follow the teachings of the Church,” said Fidelis president Joseph Cella. “The Catholic Church's teaching on marriage pre-dates the Church itself, and cannot be changed based on the political preferences of the day.
"These people are destructive dissidents who should not be allowed to use the title 'Roman Catholic' in their identity,” Cella continued. He said Fidelis is asking Archbishop O'Malley to consider ordering this group to cease referring to itself as Roman Catholic.
“These groups are peddling an agenda that presumes that Catholic teaching on marriage is open for change," Cella stated.
In June, Pope Benedict XVI reiterated the Church’s teaching on marriage, saying: "The various forms of the dissolution of matrimony today, like free unions, trial marriages and going up to pseudo-matrimonies by people of the same sex, are rather expressions of an anarchic freedom that wrongly passes for true freedom of man."
Chicago, Ill., Sep 23, 2005 (CNA) - The mission of the Catholic Church in the United States is to evangelize and to use its role as a worldwide institution to help the country connect more authentically with the rest of the world, Cardinal Francis George, OMI, told a 500-member crowd at the Church of St. Mary.
The archbishop of Chicago spoke on the role of the Church in the U.S. at the Lake Forest parish at the invitation of its pastor, Fr. Michael McGovern.
A former missionary, the cardinal frankly spoke of the Church’s mission to lead others to conversion.
"The Church has a mission," he said, citing Mt 28:19: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
However, he conceded, the Church encounters three obstacles: the personal failings or resistance in its members; the ecclesial failures including bishop's tragic failures associated with the priest-sex scandal; and the cultural factors against Catholicism.
Speaking about the sex-abuse scandal, he said the Church is working hard to protect children and prevent abuse. Seminaries are being examined to make sure their programs weed out potential abusers.
The Church’s mission is also to help create a more just and charitable world, “a little bit more like the Kingdom of God," he said. From his work as a missionary, he said he discovered that the Church is a source of hope around the world.
The Church can help bring about a more just world because of its emphasis on community rather than radical individuality, which is so prevalent in U.S. society, he said.
He said he learned that people do not resent the U.S. for being "equal, rich and free" but because "we are, in their estimation, too often deaf and blind," he said.
Boston, Mass., Sep 23, 2005 (CNA) - A year-round parish-based meal center for the poor and hungry of Lawrence is a go after Fr. Paul O’Brien managed to coordinate a major funding campaign that raised $900,000.
At a news conference yesterday, Archbishop Sean O'Malley of Boston pledged to pick up the remaining costs, estimated at $500,000, from the sale of closing parishes, reported the Boston Globe.
The pastor of St. Patrick Church, one of the poorest parishes in the region, got a little help from his friends for the campaign — former Harvard University housemate, comedian Conan O’Brien, and Cincinnati Reds first baseman Sean Casey.
Funds to the tune of $450,000 came from the sale of edgy T-shirts. They are sold through a Web site, labelsareforjars.org. The T-shirts carry pejorative labels on the front, like addict or homeless, and on the back simply have the Web site address. They come in mason jars that can be used to collect donations. The T-shirts are also sold at Newbury Comics, and by area students.
The other half was raised from foundations and major donors.
The 5,600-square-foot Cor Unum meal center will be built on the parish parking lot and serve up to 750 hot meals a day. The construction is expected to cost about $1.4 million and be completed by spring.
The annual operating budge is estimated at $200,000, and the parish is now raising money for that.
The idea for the meal center came from the parish, which has been feeding hundreds of people through a food pantry for years.
Fr. O'Brien told the Globe that one in five families in Lawrence lives in poverty and that 3 in 4 children are at risk of hunger. The city, once dominated by textile mills, has long had a large immigrant population. In recent years, immigrants come from the Dominican Republic, Vietnam and Cambodia.
Castellon, Spain, Sep 23, 2005 (CNA) - Bishop Juan Antonio Reig Pla of Segorbe-Castellón, Spain, said this week the legal challenge brought by the Popular Party against Spain’s new gay marriage law would clarify if the new law is constitutional.
Speaking to local media, the bishop said the decision by the Popular Party to challenge the law “will clarify for Spaniards something that is very important because if affects the life of marriage and the family.”
“We are all interested in knowing that we have a way to regulate the personal rights laid out in the Constitution, and thus the ruling of the Constitutional Court interests us in order to live with certainty about what our juridical statutes are,” said Bishop Reig Pla.
Valencia, Fla., Sep 23, 2005 (CNA) - The Caritas office in Valencia, Spain, announced this week it will begin offering formation classes in October to train volunteers who will work with the mentally ill, the homeless and with victims of AIDS.
According to the AVAN news agency, volunteers who complete the program will be able to provide support to those who are being cared for at the various Caritas centers.
Caritas officials said volunteers were needed to help provide care to the mentally ill and to AIDS victims in different cities in the region of Valencia.
In addition, “the chronically and terminally ill that are hospitalized are also in need of care,” they said.
In order to be a Caritas volunteer one must be “legally an adult, have a minimum formation and sensitivity for social problems, and be responsible and available.”
The training sessions will be from October 17 to November 30; January 16 to February 22; May 8 to June 14. Classes will be held at the Caritas offices in Valencia, Mondays and Wednesdays from 7-9pm.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sep 23, 2005 (CNA) - Archbishop Domingo Castagna of Corrientes, Argentina, called on Christians this week to spread good and live exemplary lives in response to the scandals and foolishness in today’s society and culture.
When the spiritual and cultural well being of the people is given first priority in society, “the air will begin to clear,” the bishop stated.
In addition Bishop Castagna stated, “The Lord looks for mankind to do his work. He does not want man to become drowsy in his lazy outlook on life. He understands that people will not work if no one hires them, and therefore He continues to hire them even at dusk.”
“Perhaps the lack of quiet reflection cultivated in the family and in the school has led to a marked lack of conscience which tends to dangerously spread. One example, perhaps a little superficial and insignificant, is the lack of discipline on the public roadways both by pedestrians and drivers,” the bishop added.
Education as a transcendent task, he continued, faces grave challenges in today’s world. Violence and sex represent an unstoppable wave that benefits from the complicity of powerful and influential figures. “It’s not a question of illegally repressing them, but rather of deactivating them in each heart” through a healthy education, the bishop maintained.
“From the careful and respectful vigilance of parents, teachers and pastors, to the moral and cultural improvement of the mass media, everyone necessarily contributes to the purification and perfection of the atmosphere in society. Thus a real humanism based on God’s plan, achieved by Christ, can be established,” he concluded.