Vatican City, Sep 27, 2005 (CNA) - Monday afternoon, Pope Benedict XVI bid his official farewells to religious and civil authorities in the southern Italian town of Castelgandolfo as he makes his way back to Rome and to the Vatican.
The Pope has spent the majority of his summer operating out of the ancient papal summer residence south of Rome, although he has made frequent returns to the Vatican throughout the summer.
As he prepared to leave, the Holy Father thanked and said goodbye to Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano (the diocese in which Castelgandolfo is located), local religious communities, civil authorities, and the numerous security personnel who have protected him during his stay in the town.
"Before returning to the Vatican," Pope Benedict said, "I feel the need to express my gratitude to those who, over these summer months, have welcomed me and striven to make my stay a peaceful one."
He then addressed a special greeting to the Christian community in Castelgandolfo and to the diocese of Albano as a whole. In this, he included their respective religious communities, and expressed hope that "they always work together to spread the love and joy of Christ everywhere."
Likewise the pontiff thanked the town mayor, representatives of the local authorities "and the civic community which I have felt so close over this period." He also noted that "the traditional hospitality of the inhabitants of Castelgandolfo is well known."
Lastly, Pope Benedict thanked the medical personnel and staff of the Vatican Governorate, who had been operating at the residence, as well as members of the Italian police forces, the Vatican Gendarmerie and the Pontifical Swiss Guard, who, as he said, "have ensured me and my collaborators a peaceful and tranquil sojourn in this beautiful place."
Antioch, Turkey, Sep 27, 2005 (CNA) - "The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI welcomed with joy the news of the first Encounter of Civilizations, celebrated in Antioch from September 25 to 30. He sent his warm greetings to the organizers of the conference, assuring them of his prayers so that the participants could deepen these values recognizing the centrality of the person and promotes the mutual understanding, respect and peace, in their determination to celebrate the cultural and spiritual heritage of each one."
This message was send, on behalf of Pope Benedict, by Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano, to the numerous religious and political leaders, experts and ambassadors of more than 40 countries gathered in Turkey.
The message of the pope was read last Sunday in the inauguration of that event. After emphasizing that the city of Antioch was "a testimony of the succession of various civilizations," Benedict XVI pointed to the fact that, "we can’t forget the lessons of the past, as we are confronted to today’s challenges."
"It is something urgent in an era of globalization, in which the danger that the fundamental human values can be sacrificed in the name of progress or lost because of destructive secular ideologies."
In that context, Benedict XVI reminded the importance of the "primacy of dignity of the person, always at the heart of any real civilization." For that the pope encouraged "finding the ways and structures that assure the unconditional respect of all human life, in all his wealth."
"That all may have access to a worthy life, that the youth would be educated in the truth with noble ideals, that communication flourishes and that religious freedom may be protected including those of minorities. The reconciliation and peace message of the Gospel doesn’t limit to a people, but it goes beyond ethnic and cultural boundaries."
The pope recalled the special tie that unites the city of Antioch to the followers of Christ, were for the first time they were called Christians.
Among the participants are Ali Bardakoglu, the head of Religious Affairs Directorate; Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew; Armenian Patriarch Mutafian; Izak Haleva, the chief rabbi of Jews in Turkey; Yusuf Cetin, the acting patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Turkey; Paul Yazigi, Antioch Greek Orthodox acting patriarch; and ambassadors of 45 countries are among the dignitaries who will participate in the meeting.
Maynooth, Ireland, Sep 27, 2005 (CNA) - The Catholic Bishops of Northern Ireland meeting yesterday in Maynooth, on the eve of the September General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, issued the following statement in response to today’s announcement of complete decommissioning on the part of the IRA by the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) and the two independent witnesses, Rev Harold Good and Fr. Alec Reid.
"We welcome the confirmation by the IICD and the two independent Church witnesses that the IRA has honored the commitments set out in its statement of 28th July 2005. This represents an immensely significant confidence-building measure in favor of a more peaceful and stable society in Northern Ireland. Today’s announcement is a vindication of the efforts undertaken by all those who have, over the years, courageously worked to replace violence with dialogue.
"We hope that all who exercise leadership will continue to affirm the political process as the means to resolve any remaining issues in the search for peace. We call on all other paramilitary groups to affirm their commitment to exclusively peaceful and democratic means.
"While we acknowledge today’s long awaited achievement, we are mindful of all those who have suffered as a result of violence, and we keep them in our prayers."
The Bishops announcement comes after a long awaited decision from the IRA, on July 28 2005 to end the armed struggle. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) was founded in 1916, with the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922, the IRA became the stronghold of intransigent opposition to Ireland's dominion status and to the separation of Northern Ireland.
In 1994 hopes for peace were raised when the IRA declared a cease-fire. Its legal political arm (Sinn Féin) began participating in talks with Britain in 1995.Following the IRA's announcement of a new cease-fire in July, 1997. Talks that convened in September of that year and resulted in an accord (Apr., 1998) that provided for a new Northern Ireland Assembly comprised of Protestants and Catholics, and greater cooperation between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, the Good Friday agreement was signed subsequently.
, Sep 27, 2005 (CNA) - New Orleans Archbishop Alfred Hughes, currently operating out of the chancery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has sent a letter to displaced members of the Archdiocese, now scattered throughout the country. He has asked that news outlets distribute the letter where members of the Archdiocese can read it.
The text of Archbishop Hughes’ letter follows below:
Greetings in the Lord Jesus to all of you.
It has been nearly a month since we have had the comfort of our own homes and the familiarity of our own archdiocese. As the archbishop of New Orleans, and a fellow evacuee, I share in your sufferings, hold you in prayer and want to serve you in your needs. We who are evacuees from the Archdiocese of New Orleans owe great gratitude to the host dioceses who have welcomed and assisted us. I am particularly grateful to Bishop Muench and the Diocese of Baton Rouge for the extraordinary way in which they have received more than 200,000 New Orleanians and facilitated the development of a central administration in exile for the archdiocese.
Hurricane Katrina has caused enormous suffering in the overwhelming loss of life, loss of homes, churches, schools and way of life. Our first concern has been for people: their rescue, their basic physical needs, medical care and communications with loved ones. I rejoice in the extraordinary work that Catholic Charities of New Orleans is accomplishing in conjunction with Catholic Community Services of Baton Rouge and other relief agencies. We've also worked to return as many parishes and schools as possible to service.
At the present time, all of the churches and schools in St. Charles, St. John, Washington and almost all of St. Tammany have resumed activity. This marks a move toward bringing Catholic life in those areas to some degree of normalcy. By early October, I expect most portions of Jefferson Parish also to resume activity. I am grateful to the pastors, the school officials and principals and all those who have helped with the efforts to resume pastoral and educational service. It is also reassuring to know that a significant number of our Catholic school students are either back to school or about to return to school either in their original communities or in the communities in which they are now residing.
Obviously, the challenges facing significant portions of Orleans, St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes will require a much longer recovery process. I will be meeting soon with the deans of these areas to address this. It is my hope that pastors in these most affected areas will continue to seek out their dispersed parishioners and serve them in their needs. I am grateful to our priests who have aided in search and rescue and have accepted special ministries consoling the bereaved, serving evacuees in cities where there is a large concentration of New Orleanians and helping personnel in our own archdiocese.
One of the significant difficulties I, together with pastors and archdiocesan personnel, face is finding the best way to communicate with so many evacuees scattered throughout the United States. To help facilitate communications, I invite you to access our Internet Web site for continually updated information (www.archdiocese-no.org). Even if you do not have the capability of direct access, perhaps this will be possible through someone that you know.
It is my hope that we will soon be able to celebrate Mass in St. Louis Cathedral. This will then be a sign of the resurrection of the church in New Orleans.
Although it is necessary for the immediate future to continue to guide the church from Baton Rouge, we are seeking every possible way to be pastorally present in those communities that have resumed some normal activity as well as those communities that are displaced.
Being exiled from our homes and workplaces is not easy. Even as we express appreciation for the provision of a home away from home, I share with you the challenges of exile. Like the Jews of old, we long for a return to our holy city. I pray for you. I ask you to pray for me. I believe that God calls us to move from being victims to victors in Christ Jesus."
Chicago, Ill., Sep 27, 2005 (CNA) - 11 priests of the Archdiocese of Chicago have been officially removed from public ministry and have reached the conclusion of an investigation which determined that the men engaged in sexual misconduct with minors more 20 years ago.
The priests are part of an original group of 14 who were suspected of sexual impropriety and have undergone an investigation conducted by the Archdiocese and the Holy See.
Since the original findings two years ago, one of the priests has died, and two are still pending trial. Cardinal Francis George, according to the Archdiocese, has determined that sufficient evidence of the misconduct exists in the rest of the cases and has officially barred them from publicly practicing their priestly faculties.
Archdiocesan spokesman Jimmy Lago said that in making his determinations, Cardinal George "reviewed all of the material collected in the cases, listened to the opinions of the advocates for the priests and sought advice from his own canonical advisors as well as from assessors who are canon lawyers independent of the Archdiocese."
"In each of the eleven cases," he said, "Cardinal George has determined, based on the information presented, that sexual misconduct did occur."
Lago added that the allegations were "reported to the civil authorities, and parishes were notified when the priests were withdrawn" two years ago. "The Holy See", he said, "agreed to review the cases, even though the activity fell outside of the statute of limitations in Canon Law."
Each of the 11 now, in accord with Archdiocesan policies, are barred from "engaging in any public ministry, presenting himself as a priest or acting as an agent of the Archdiocese of Chicago."
The priests will not, as some have suggested, be removed from the priesthood itself. This is due to the indelible and permanent nature of the sacrament of Holy Orders given to priests at their ordination.
Cardinal George’s decision comes in light of new policies adopted by the U.S. Catholic Bishops at their meeting in Dallas three years ago--held at the height of the priestly sexual scandal.
Tucson, Ariz., Sep 27, 2005 (CNA) - After filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and emerging from it only one year later, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson says his diocesan church is "purified and humbled, yet more resolved to carry on Christ's work." In addition, the process has taught him many important lessons.
In an interview with the Arizona Daily Star after the bankruptcy case was settled last week, the bishop admitted that giving up all of the diocese's extra property to pay for settlements was a sacrifice, but one the diocese had to make.
"The biggest struggle we are facing now is we are a growing diocese … and bereft of any property to construct new churches," Bishop Kicanas told the Star.
"Any time a mission diocese has to surrender significant assets is a challenge. But it needed to be done, it's appropriate that it be done, and now it will be my responsibility with the people of the diocese to find the assets necessary to continue the work of the Church," he was quoted as saying.
Writing more recently about the end of the diocese's Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in the Sept. 26 issue of America magazine, the bishop said churches need to brush up on their bookkeeping and administration skills and put an end to the old "ma and pa management."
"We have learned painfully the problems that can result from poor record-keeping and sloppy administration," the bishop said. "Parishes and dioceses need to report their financial status to the community clearly and comprehensively, yet sometimes they do not."
As well, he said, the process convinced him that "greater attention needs to be given to priests." Diocesan priests need to work and pray together more, and hold each other accountable, he said.
Lima, Ohio, Sep 27, 2005 (CNA) - National and international leaders of the Serra Club, a group dedicated to promoting priestly vocations, gathered for a convention last weekend.
Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo celebrated the mass Saturday evening for the three-day Serra Club Great Lakes Regional Convention, held at the Veterans Memorial Civic Center.
During his homily, the bishop shed some light and cast some fears on the issue of current priest shortage in the Catholic Church.
According to limanews.com, he said it is easy for people to worry that Catholicism is on the downswing in an era of increased secularism, but he pointed to the words in the Gospel of Luke-"The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few"-and said they were still true today.
There exists a strong base of good people in the Church, of laborers that include priests and other clergy, he reportedly said. There will always be a need for priests, but there will always be a harvest, too.
"A vocation is never just what we do, it’s who we are," he was quoted as saying.
Bishop Blair encouraged the Serra Club in its mission of promoting and inviting new men to consider the priesthood.
Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 27, 2005 (CNA) - Cardinal Justin Rigali accepted an apology Friday from The Philadelphia Inquirer for a misleading story and false headline, which ran on the front page of the newspaper that same day.
The newspaper’s editor, Amanda Bennett, issued a statement by mid-morning, saying that the article on Cardinal Rigali’s "views of the grand jury report on sexual abuse by priests incorrectly summarized his statements."
The article was topped with the headline "Don't read report, Rigali says". But Bennett admitted that the archbishop of Philadelphia did not say citizens should not read the report, only that the report was "slanted" and "graphic."
"I appreciate the forthright manner in which the Inquirer handled this matter," the cardinal said in a written statement. "I accept their apology and reiterate the fact that I never said that Catholics should not read the report. I only said that it was not of value for families.
"I also take this opportunity to reiterate my heartfelt and sincere apologies to the victims of clergy sexual abuse and my continued prayers for healing," he said.
Cardinal Rigali was interviewed Wednesday in response to District Attorney Lynne Abraham’s grand jury report, which accuses past leaders of the archdiocese of covering up years of sexual abuse by priests.
The day the 418-page report was issued, the cardinal held a news conference to challenge its findings. He has prepared a letter discussing the grand jury report that will be in all Philadelphia parishes on Sunday.
Lima, Peru, Sep 27, 2005 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Lima, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani, said this week priests are called to be "experts in charity" and clarified that when they fail in their mission, they deserve understanding but should not be taken as examples.
Speaking on his radio program "Dialogue of Faith," the cardinal noted that having success, sex, fame, love or power is not love. "These ‘loves’ decay sooner or later because they are not love. They are possession, domination, egoism, power, abuse, both in man and woman no matter what age or condition. I say the same thing about priests," he said.
Nevertheless, he clarified, "There is something that is very united to love and that is faithfulness. Faithfulness of the married, of the single person, of the priest, of the religious, of the elderly, of the young. Faithfulness, loyalty to commitment; to the mission one has been given in this world. We cannot teach people that love is simply sexual pleasure, success in the world, prestige and money. To sell it like this, as a product surrounded by marketing, harms our young people gravely. In reality love consists more of surrender, donation, renunciation, sacrifice and patience."
"The priest who has not discovered love is a failure; he should have never become a priest because if the priest is anything, he is a specialist in love. Why? Because he has united himself with God, who is Love," the cardinal continued.
At the same time, Cardinal Cipriani emphasized that priests who have been unfaithful in their vocation should be offered "words of encouragement," but that their actions cannot be condoned or characterized as a search for love. "In the Church, we prefer to address these matters discreetly and in private, but when people make such trivial comments about ‘priests who have discovered love,’ we must be very clear."
"I make a big distinction between a weakness in someone who can fail, who can have his difficult moments, who perhaps because of complicated family circumstances may grow weak and fall. They have our care, our love, our commitment. But I distinguish him from the traitor; the traitor is someone else. The traitor is someone who affirms his own error and tries to impose it on everyone else as if it were a value," the cardinal said.
"It’s the difference between Peter and Judas. Peter falls, Peter denies, but he weeps, he recognizes his fault. He betrays but later recovers and becomes the first Pope. Judas does the same-he betrays, he sells Christ, but he is overcome by pride and discouragement, and he thinks there is no hope, his life is lost and he kills himself. Let us not take the road of Judas, but rather that of Peter!" the cardinal exclaimed.
"We are not a club of perfect men, but neither should we let people change the meaning of life. We may have weakness and failures, but if one vows to love his wife, or her husband, it’s for life. If one vows to love God in the priestly commitment, it is for life as well."
Rome, Italy, Sep 27, 2005 (CNA) - Italy’s Minister of Health, Francesco Storace, has ordered the suspension of all experiments with the abortion pill known as RU-486 which have been taking place at the Santa Ana Hospital in Turin.
In a press release, Storace said the experiments would be suspended except in cases of women who are already hospitalized. But even these could only be resumed once government norms have been rigorously implemented.
Storace pointed out that the decision to halt the use of the drug was made after some irregularities were discovered in the experimentation, including the case of "a patient who suffered a partial expulsion with hemorrhaging and was not hospitalized at the time."
Despite opposition by the Church and some political groups, experiments with the drug began on September 9 in order to determine the effectiveness of the pill in producing an abortion.
RU-486 has caused a number of deaths in the United States since its legalization in 2000, especially among 18 year-old women. More than 400 women have reported complications with the use of the drug.
Augsburg, Minn., Sep 27, 2005 (CNA) - German President Horst Köhler warned this week about the negative consequences of pushing faith out of society and he exhorted Christian churches "not to renounce the right to religious education," according to the Kath.net news agency.
Amidst the commemoration of the 450th anniversary of the Augsburg peace, the German president noted that "the Churches should not be forced out of the places in which they have made enormous contributions throughout the centuries" through the carrying out of their mission.
After warning about the dangers and negative social consequences of the "relativization of all values and behaviors," President Köhler exhorted the Churches to not renounce their right to religious education. "It is precisely the young people who are today searching for a renewal of the spiritual dimension, as was clearly shown during World Youth Day Cologne."