Vatican City, Sep 28, 2005 (CNA) - Continuing his weekly reflections on the Psalms, Pope Benedict, in today's general audience, reflected on God's continuing intervention throughout the "sad and glorious events" of human history, and how He constantly reveals Himself as redeemer of His people.
Speaking to a crowd of almost 30,000 in St. Peter's Square, the Pope offered reflection on the first part of Psalm 134: "Praise the Lord, Who works marvels."
This passage, he said, "is a liturgical-style hymn, interwoven with allusions, evocations, and references to other biblical texts. ... It begins with a broad-ranging and impassioned call to praise the Lord," in His temple, "the communal and preferred site of prayer. There the presence of 'our God' is effectively felt; a 'good' and 'gracious' God, the God of the choice and the covenant."
The Holy Father said that the writer's invitation to praise the Lord is followed by the "proclamation of the faith," the substance of the entire hymn which reveals itself as being a proclamation of the greatness of the Lord as revealed in His marvelous works."
"Divine omnipotence is then shown to the entire world," he said.
However, the Pope pointed out, "it is above all another aspect of divine activity that is being celebrated in this profession of faith: the wonderful intervention in history, where the Creator reveals His face as redeemer of His people and sovereign of the world. The great events of Exodus are set out before the eyes of Israel gathered in prayer."
Here, he said, "divine love becomes concrete and almost tangible in history with all its sad and its glorious events. It is the task of liturgy to make the divine gifts ever present and effective, especially in the great Paschal celebration which lies at the roots of all other solemnities, and constitutes the supreme emblem of freedom and salvation."
Pope Benedict then challenged the faithful to personally take on the words written by the first-century Pope, St. Clement of Rome, in his Letter to the Corinthians: "O Lord, bring your face to shine upon us for goodness in peace. ... Bring harmony and peace to us and to all inhabitants of the earth.”
Following today's audience, the Pope greeted participants of an international congress being held in Lucca, Italy, on the theme: "The signs of the Spirit in the twentieth century. A historical re-reading: the witnesses' account."
He told them that, "Last century, marked by sad pages of history, was at the same time permeated by marvelous testimony of spiritual and charismatic awakening in all fields of human life and activity."
Likewise, the Pope congratulated the national coordinator of Renewal in the Spirit - who promoted the congress in collaboration with the superior general of the Oblates of the Holy Spirit, the founder of the Community of Sant'Egidio, and the founder of Focolari movement.
He expressed his hope "that the Holy Spirit will always find fruitful welcome in the hearts of believers, and that the 'culture of the Pentecost,' so necessary in our time, will become more widely spread."
Vatican City, Sep 28, 2005 (CNA) - On Thursday, members of Bishop's conferences throughout Europe will gather in Rome to discuss the direction of the Church, and new means of Evangelization in light of the Second Vatican Council, the closing of which celebrates its 40th anniversary this month.
The plenary assembly of the Presidents of Europe's Episcopal Conferences (CCEE) will open tomorrow's conference in the "Salesianum" center in Rome to reflect on the theme: "The Second Vatican Council and Europe. Future directions?"
Presidents of the 34 European Bishop's conferences will attend the meeting, scheduled to last until October 2, at the invitation of Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar general of His Holiness and president of the Italian Episcopal Conference.
The Vatican said that first day discussions will look at the theme of Vatican Council II and Europe on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the conclusion of the council sessions.
The prelates will seek to come up with basic guidelines for evangelization within the Bishop's conferences in the light of Vatican II recommendations.
Specifically, they will look at questions in the fields of vocations, school and university catechesis, the means of social communications and migration.
Likewise, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, archbishop of Westminster, England will open debate on present-day ecumenism and the forthcoming Third European Ecumenical Assembly. The Vatican noted that the bishops will be informed about the program for the first stage of the assembly, slated to take place in Rome on January 24-27, 2006.
In the second part of the Assembly, the conference presidents will focus on a number of events at the heart of their work, namely, World Youth Day in Cologne; the Italian referendum on fertility treatment; the debate in Spain on the family, and the question of euthanasia.
They will also tackle debate on the relationship between the Churches and the European Union, and the future of the process of European unification.
The plenary assembly will conclude on October 2nd, at St. Peter's Basilica with the opening Mass for the 11th General Synod of Bishops.
Washington D.C., Sep 28, 2005 (CNA) - When Bishops from around the world gather early next month for the 11th General Synod of Bishops, only two representatives from the U.S. will be present. One of them, Fr. Francis J. Moloney, an internationally recognized scripture scholar and professor at Catholic University of America, spoke with CNA Tuesday about his thoughts and hopes for this important event.
Fr. Moloney, an Australian native who was appointed to the International Theological Commission to the Holy See in 1984, was appointed, along with Carl Albert Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus as two of the few delegates from the English-speaking world.
The Synod of Bishops is a permanent institution set forth in 1965 by Pope Paul VI for the purpose of unity and discussion among the Church's shepherds throughout the world.
The bishops gather periodically to consult with the Pope and to discuss pastoral needs in the Church and how best to spread the Gospel message in the face of a changing world.
A Synod does not have the same sort of ecclesial authority as a Episcopal council in that it presents issues to the Holy Father but does not necessarily seek to solve them. According to Canon Law, there is no distinct ecclesial power given to the Synod and in the rare case where there is, it is up to the Pope to ratify any decisions made by the group.
Fr. Moloney told CNA said he was somewhat disappointed in the Instrumentum Laboris, document, which the Vatican released last July in preparation for the Synod.
The document, which lays out the theme for the Synod: “The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church," stresses the need for the Eucharist to be the center of Christian life but also addresses liturgical abuses in the liturgy.
Fr. Moloney said that he would like to see less about the practicals, the “rights and wrongs” of liturgy and more on the general sense of “what the Eucharist is.”
Acknowledging that the concerns of a theologian like himself are quite different than those of a bishop who needs to regulate practices in his diocese however, Fr. Moloney said that part of the beauty of a Synod is the wider interplay with bishops and consultants.
Hopefully, he said, “we will see a balance.”
As to his major concerns and desires for the Synod, the biblical scholar said that “I would like to see a greater sense of sensitivity, not just among the celebrants and ministers, but of the church as a whole” as to the meaning of the Eucharist.
“The Church,” he said, “is not just a body of believers brought together, but rather, a Eucharistic people.”
“My dream for the synod”, he stressed, “is that the focus of the Eucharist will be the grandeur of our lives.” And, he said, “they will hear it from me until they’re sick of it.”
Fr. Moloney added with a bit of humor that when the Vatican approached him and asked him to be one of two Americans from the U.S. present at the Synod, he had to confess, “I’m not an American…I’m Australian.”
Denver, Colo., Sep 28, 2005 (CNA) - Denver’s Archbishop Charles Chaput opened a new lecture series being sponsored by the Archdiocese to a packed house last evening as he reflected on the role and meaning of councils in the Church and the world and the unique vocation of bishops.
Archbishop Chaput’s timely lecture comes as the Church prepares to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council later this fall.
Speaking on the uniqueness of the Christian vocation, the Archbishop said that, “A man born of a Jewish mother is Jewish by virtue of his birth. He may be very religious, or lukewarm, or an atheist. But he’s still, in real sense, a Jew.”
“Being Catholic”, he said, “is a very different kind of experience. Baptism is necessary to being a Catholic. But it’s not enough as we grow in age. As Catholics, we become defined by what we believe, how we worship, and how actively we live our faith in public and in private.”
“It’s not possible”, Archbishop Chaput continued, “to be what some people call a ‘cultural’ Catholic. Catholic culture comes from an active Catholic faith. Unless we truly believe and practice our faith, ‘Catholic culture’ is just a dead skin of nostalgia and comfortable habits.”
Councils and the culture
The Archbishop recalled that in its history, the Church has held 21 different ecumenical councils, which are important not just for the Church, but for the whole world.
He summarized the common marks of an ecumenical council saying: “All are either called or confirmed by the Pope. All involve bishops and other persons entitled to vote from around the world. And all become part of the content of our faith once the Holy Father approves the results.”
On this, he quoted Blessed Pope John XXIII, who said that all “ecumenical councils, whenever they are assembled, are a solemn celebration of the union of Christ and His Church, and hence lead to the universal radiation of truth.”
The Archbishop went on to discuss the importance of the Second Vatican Council, which celebrates the 40th anniversary of it’s close this fall, saying that “all of us have been shaped by it”, and it will “probably continue to shape Catholics for decades to come.”
Summarizing the main aim of the council, he said that, “the Church in 1945 and the Church in 2005 has exactly the same goal: the proclamation of the Lord Jesus Christ for the conversion and salvation of the world, through the truth of the Catholic faith. The methods and structures may differ. The mission hasn’t changed.”
On this point, he explained the nature of the Church--a body composed of human beings, but aimed and focused on something higher.
“When people say, ‘we are the Church,’” the Archbishop stressed, “of course that’s true…
But a ‘community of faith’ or a ‘community of the faithful’ implies that there’s Someone and something we have the duty to be faithful to. We don’t invent the Catholic faith. Nor do we own it. We receive it; we live it in community; we witness it to others; and we pass it on fully -- as good stewards -- to our children. That’s what life in the Church means.”
Citing the Vatican II document, Lumen Gentium, Archbishop Chaput laid out a vision of what the Church truly is, and truly ought to be in the world--all the way from the roles of laity up to that of priests and the bishops.
Fathers of souls
The Archbishop closed his talk by touching on the vocation of bishops within the Church, a role which Vatican II says is “a call to serve rather than a call to power.”
“Bishops”, he said, “have the same need for redemption as the people to whom they belong. The only difference is that God will hold bishops even more accountable because of the leadership to which He ordained them, and because of the graces of office that they’ve received.”
Archbishop Chaput described this vision, borrowing from the wisdom of St. Ignatius of Antioch, as he said: “Every bishop is a successor to the apostles and a pastor of souls. Every bishop has the duty to safeguard the liturgical life of the local Church.”
“Every bishop”, he continued, “must proclaim the Gospel and teach the true Catholic faith in his diocese. Every bishop should give an example of personal sanctity in charity, humility and simplicity of life. Every bishop should help the poor and suffering. Every bishop has the obligation to sanctify, encourage, correct and govern the local People of God.”
“Above all,” he said, “every bishop needs to do these things with fatherly love and fraternal charity, because the Church is a family of faith. It’s not a political party or an impersonal institution. It’s a family – a family of faith…A good father will do almost anything, and bear almost anything, to keep his daughter or son in the family.”
In a time in which many criticize and many more misunderstand the Second Vatican Council, Archbishop Chaput said that, ultimately, “whether history judges Vatican II as a success or a failure finally depends on us -- bishops, clergy, religious and laypeople alike – and how zealously we live our faith; how deeply we believe; and how much apostolic courage we show to an unbelieving world that urgently needs Jesus Christ.”
Essex, England, Sep 28, 2005 (CNA) - The orthodox, independent Catholic Action Group (CAG) has denounced a recent report by the pro-abortion Catholics for Free Choice that inaccurately represents CAG’s three spokespersons. The report also labeled the CAG as conservative and right wing.
“If our message appears extreme, it is because modernist Catholics have become de-sensitized from the truths our Church has always taught,” the CAG said in a written statement.
“Whilst CAG is pro-life, apart from this, it is not politically or party motivated,” said CAG secretary Robert Williams. “A conservative or right wing label, only valid for politics is therefore inappropriate. We totally reject such labeling...we are simply orthodox.”
Williams questioned why the group has not been disciplined by the bishops if they are truly so out of line with the Catholic mainstream.
Recently, the CAG has campaigned against Joint Religious Education schools, issued a UK Voters Guide for Catholics and has promoted Catholic boycotts of CAFOD for its controversial HIV/AIDS-ABC policy and Comic Relief for its funding of pro-abortion organizations.
Dayton, Ohio, Sep 28, 2005 (CNA) - A seven-parish coalition in Dayton, known as the Catholic Urban Presence, has devised a new pastoral plan that includes parish mergers to ensure that the Catholic community continues and will flourish in the city.
The plan was necessary due to rapidly dwindling parish membership, school enrollment and funds.
It proposes to merge seven parishes and five schools into two "pastoral regions." Each pastoral region would ultimately become and function as a single parish, reports the Dayton Daily News.
One region would consist of Corpus Christi, Our Lady of Mercy and Queen of Martyrs; the other includes Holy Family, St. Agnes, St. Benedict and St. Mary.
The also develops several pastoral areas, including: worship, pastoral ministries and Catholic elementary education, transportation and accessibility (to church and school), the condition and future use of parish facilities, as well as parish administration and governance.
The plan could be implemented as early as July 2007.
Fr. John Krumm, chairman of the Catholic Urban Presence Planning Process, told the Dayton Daily that discussion and planning among parishioners and pastoral staff has been under way for three years.
The coalition will hold sessions this week to inform parishioners about the plan. They will be held Wednesday, from 3 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m., at Our Lady of Mercy Parish, and Thursday, from 9 to 11 a.m., 3 to 5 p.m., and 7 to 9 p.m., at St. Mary Church.
St. Louis, Mo., Sep 28, 2005 (CNA) - A Vatican committee began its nine-month evaluation process of the 229 seminaries in the United States. Its first stop Monday was at Aquinas Institute of Theology on the campus of St. Louis University.
The evaluations were called in response to the national sexual abuse scandal among clergy that broke three years ago.
The five-member committee includes a seminary professor, campus chaplain, parish pastor and director of religious studies. It is led by Bishop Michael Burbidge of Philadelphia.During the committee’s four-day stay in St. Louis, its members will follow a questionnaire that the Vatican prepared with each of the 25 seminarians, as well as recently ordained graduates, faculty and staff, reported the Saint Louis Post Dispatch.
One of the questions reportedly asks about evidence of homosexuality in the seminary.
At a press conference Monday, seminary rector Fr. Charles Bouchard supported the nationwide evaluation project. Seminaries had made several changes over the past 25 years that needed to be evaluated, he said reported the Post Dispatch. Those changes include a rigorous psychological evaluation, yearlong internship at a parish in another city for outside evaluation and regular assessments during study.
At Aquinas, Fr. Bouchard said admission personnel have tried to determine whether the seminary applicants have the capability to live a celibate life.
The committee will submit a report to the Vatican on each seminary at the end of spring, after which, the Vatican will supply a written evaluation to each bishop or seminary rector.
Asunción, Paraguay, Sep 28, 2005 (CNA) - In a statement released by two family committees of the Bishops’ Conference of Paraguay, the bishops of that country maintain that the so-called “ ‘gender perspective’ aims to strip human sexuality of its natural content and purpose in order to turn it into an arbitrary and subjective choice.”
The statement notes that the bishops proposed an alternative to a measure that seeks to legalize abortion in Paraguay but that was rejected.
“We know that other laws will follow that will open the doors to the recognition of homosexual unions, adoption by such couples, the legalization and indiscriminate acceptance of abortion, etc, and that distort the value of the natural family made up of husband, wife and children. These positions often form the basis for certain behaviors such as homosexuality, lesbianism, etc,” the bishops maintained.
“Let us be clear that our position is not against the affected person, but rather decidedly against the evil itself which is tormenting an increasing sector of society. Moreover, we reaffirm our commitment to provide attentive and personal care to those who are victims of physical and sexual abuse. We believe that the instigators should receive the punishment they deserve, according to the national laws and international agreements,” they continued.
The bishops also called for civil debate on upcoming laws on reproductive health, prenatal care, and anti-discrimination, and that personal attacks be avoided.
“Rather, may a collective national reflection be sought out at every moment, with the knowledge that in the end, the common good of all citizens is what is being pursued,” they concluded.
Madrid, Spain, Sep 28, 2005 (CNA) - For the fifth straight year, the Salesian Center for Catechetical Studies will offer a master’s program on “Catechetical and Youth Ministry” at the Center for Theological Studies in Seville, Spain.
According to officials at the Center, the program is in response to the need for formation in the area of youth ministry in order to address the needs and challenges that the new social and cultural contexts pose to Spanish young people.
The program will be taught by renowned professors and is open to all those involved in ministry who have an undergraduate degree.
Lima, Peru, Sep 28, 2005 (CNA) - The Latin American Bishops’ Council (CELAM) published on Tuesday the working document that will guide the preparations for the V General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops, which will take place in 2007. The complete text will be available at the official website for the conference, www.celam.info
The document is called “Towards the V Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean: Missionary Disciples of Jesus Christ so that our peoples may have life in Him. “I am the way, the truth and the life (Jn 14:6).” It is addressed to the bishops, collaborators, and Christian communities of Latin America and the Caribbean.
While presenting the document, the President of CELAM, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz of Santiago, Chile, noted the many “challenges at the beginning of the third millennium that mark our personal, family, pastoral, community and social life,” and he expressed his hope that out of a profound encounter with the Lord a response to many of these issues might be found.
He also emphasized that the working document is merely an invitation for the parties involved to share their experiences, reflections and charisms, which will all contribute to the drafting of a final document for the conference.
The working document is broken down into five chapters. Chapter one addresses the deepest desires of man in his humanity and in baptism. Chapter two reflects on the blessings the gospel has brought to Latin America. Chapter three focuses on the encounter with Christ and His invitation to be disciples and missionaries in communion with the Church. Chapter four deals with the challenges facing the Church in the new millennium. Chapter five refers to the urgency of Christ’s mission in the world today.
Cologne, Germany, Sep 28, 2005 (CNA) - The Kath.net news agency is reporting this week that the controversial Swiss organization “Dignitas”, which is dedicated to helping the terminally ill commit suicide, has established a sister association in Germany.
“Dignitas Germany” was founded in Hannover on September 26 and is connected with Dignitas in Switzerland, which boasts of having helped 453 people in that country, including 253 Germans, to “die freely.”
The secretary general of the organization, Ludwig Minelli, told the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper of Zurich that the group’s intention is to “spread this idea across Europe, so that people won’t have to go to Switzerland,” where assisted suicide is legally permitted. The presence of Dignitas in Germany could lead to the forced legalization of assisted suicide in that country, which up to now has prohibited the practice.
Politicians and doctors in Germany have protested the presence of Dignity and warned of the danger of accepting a movement that encourages simply getting rid of the elderly and the infirm.
According to Social Minister Ursula von Leyen, “Improved palliative care that would allow us to help people who are dying have less pain and more dignity is what we need.” Jörg-Dietrich Hoppe, President of the Federal Medical Board, said the medical establishment should always remember the phrase, “The patient has a right to a dignified death, but not to be killed.” He noted that German law prohibits assisted suicide and that the role of a doctor is to “treat pain and calm fears, thus making it possible for people to die naturally and with dignity.”