Vatican City, Sep 29, 2005 (CNA) - Speaking to the final group of Mexican bishops, in Rome for their 'ad limina' visit earlier today, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged prelates from the regions of Acapulco, Antequera and Yucatan to make the Gospel message and charity the cement which will build up "authentic human and community development" in that country.
In his address, the Pope stressed the centrality of the bishop's teaching mission, namely through the transmission the Gospel "with its moral and religious values." He highlighted the need to bear in mind "the various situations and aspirations arising from contemporary society, the situation of which the pastors must know well."
"It is important", he said, "that special efforts be made to explain properly the reasons for the Church's position, stressing that it is not a case of imposing on non-believers a vision based on faith, but of interpreting and defending the values rooted in the very nature of the human person'."
"At the same time," he continued, "the pastors of the Church in Mexico must pay special attention ... to the most unprotected groups and to the poor. ... From the Gospel, the appropriate response is to promote the solidarity and peace that make justice truly possible. For this reason the Church seeks effective collaboration in order to eradicate all forms of marginalization, orienting Christians to practice justice and peace. In this context, encourage those with greater resources to share them."
The prelates, Pope Benedict said, need "not only to alleviate the most serious needs, but to go to the roots thereof, proposing measures to give social, political and economic structures a fairer and more charitable configuration."
"In this way," he said, "charity will be at the service of culture, politics, economy and the family, and will become the cement for authentic human and community development."
Pastoral care and festive celebration
The Holy Father noted the joy and festivity which often characterize religious expression in Mexico, and explained that the bishops must "orient this particular feature, so common among the Mexican faithful, towards a solid and mature faith, one capable of forming a way of life in keeping with what is so joyfully professed. This will also intensify the growing missionary drive of Mexicans."
He also pointed out that in Mexico, "the genius of women is frequently apparent," and identified "one challenge of our times" as "changing people's mentality so that women are treated with full dignity in all fields, protecting their unique mission to be mothers and the first educators of their children."
Pope Benedict went on to stress that the pastoral care of young people "is an important task. ... Many of them have the false idea that taking on commitment and making definitive decisions means loss of freedom."
"On the contrary," he said, "they should be reminded that men and women become free when they unconditionally commit themselves to truth and goodness. Only thus is it possible to discover a meaning to life and to build something great and lasting, if they have Jesus Christ as the center of their lives."
The Holy Father closed his address by calling on the bishops "to go forward and act harmoniously, in a spirit of communion that has its peak and its never-ending source in the Eucharist." In this light, he mentioned the recent International Eucharistic Congress of Guadalajara, which, he said, "left a profound impression on the faithful, an impression which must be maintained as a treasure of shared and celebrated faith."
Vatican City, Sep 29, 2005 (CNA) - In a letter made public today by the Vatican, Pope Benedict praised the role of Consecrated men and women in the Church saying that, "there is no human or ecclesial field where they are not present, often silently but always active and creative."
The Holy Father wrote the letter to participants of the plenary assembly of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. It is addressed to Archbishop Franc Rode, prefect of the congregation.
In it, the Pope reflected on how, throughout the history of the Church, the Holy Spirit has enriched the faithful, not only with gifts of wisdom, prophecy and sanctity, but by "giving her ever new forms of evangelical life through the work of founders and foundresses who transmitted their charism to a family of spiritual sons and daughters."
He called monasteries and centers of spirituality "oases of contemplation and schools of prayer, of education in faith and of spiritual guidance." The Pope wrote that above all, consecrated men and women today "continue the great work of evangelization and of bearing witness on all continents."
Expressing thanks on behalf of the entire Church, Pope Benedict noted that, "at the beginning of the new millennium, consecrated life has formidable challenges before it, challenges it can face only in communion with all the people of God, with its pastors and its faithful."
Turning to more specific details of the plenary assembly, the Holy Father then went over the themes to be discussed.
"The first", he said, "concerns the exercise of authority, a precious and necessary service to ensure a truly fraternal life. ...Only if the superior lives in obedience to Christ and in sincere observance of the rule can the members of the community clearly see that their own obedience to the superior is not only not contrary to the freedom of the children of God, but brings it to maturity in conformity to Christ Who obeyed the will of the Father."
On the proposed second theme of the assembly, namely, criteria for the discernment and approval of new forms of consecrated life, the Pope highlighted the words of the Dogmatic Constitution "Lumen gentium" which, referring to charismas says: "Judgment as to their genuineness and proper use belongs to those who are appointed leaders in the Church, to whose special competence it belongs, not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to that which is good."
On the assembly's third theme, monastic life, Pope Benedict wrote that, "On the basis of situations that are contingent but that nonetheless call for specific, wise and incisive action, you aim to let you gaze range over the vast horizon (of monastic life), which has had and continues to have such significance in the history of the Church. You are seeking appropriate ways to relaunch, in the new millennium, the monastic experience of which the Church still has need today."
The Holy Father concluded his message, signed in Castelgandolfo on September 27, noting that the plenary assembly coincides with the 40th anniversary of the Conciliar Decree "Perfectae caritatis," on the renewal of religious life.
Lastly, he expressed his hope "that the fundamental indications given then by the council Fathers for the progress of consecrated life, may continue today to be a source of inspiration for those who commit their lives to the service of the Kingdom of God."
Vatican City, Sep 29, 2005 (CNA) - The Vatican announced today that Boris Tadic, president of the Republic of Serbia, who met with Pope Benedict XVI earlier today, has extended an invitation for Pope Benedict XVI to visit that country.
The announcement, released by Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls, said that, "In the course of the cordial meeting which lasted 25 minutes, President Tadic illustrated to the Pope the current situation in the Republic of Serbia. Talks concentrated particularly on the need to teach values to young people, especially in the scholastic field.
"President Tadic also invited the Holy Father to visit the Republic of Serbia. In thanking him for his invitation, Benedict XVI expressed the hope that such a visit may take place in the future."
No announcement has been made by the Vatican as to further plans for the proposed trip.
The historic meeting marked the first ever visit by a Serbian president to the Vatican.
Vatican City, Sep 29, 2005 (CNA) - The Vatican announced today that the Pope has chosen, "The Media: A Network for Communication, Communion and Cooperation" as the theme for the 40th World Communications Day to be held next year.
Archbishop John P. Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, said that, "this first theme chosen by the Holy Father Benedict XVI for a World Communications Day underlines his own appreciation of the ability of the communications media not only to make known needed information but also to promote fruitful cooperation."
World Communications Day, which is recognized in most countries, on the recommendation of the bishops of the world, is traditionally held on the Sunday before Pentecost. For 2006, it will fall on May 28th.
The Holy Father's yearly message for World Communications Day is published on Feast of St. Francis of Sales, patron of writers and journalists. That occasion will fall on January 24th of next year.
Washington D.C., Sep 29, 2005 (CNA) - After a somewhat tumultuous confirmation process, Judge John G. Roberts, a professed Catholic, is now confirmed as the 17th Supreme Court Chief Justice, replacing the late William Rehnquist, who died last summer.
A united Republican majority and split Democrat minority backed Roberts, who was originally tapped by President Bush to replace outgoing justice Sandra Day O’Connor earlier in the summer.
He was confirmed today by 77 Senators, or three-fourths majority of the 100-member Senate assembly this morning by the Senate. 22 Democrats opposed the nomination.
Watchers are anxious to see how the judge will decide cases on topics ranging from abortion and life issues to questions of religious freedom.
He will be sworn in this afternoon at the White House.
Washington D.C., Sep 29, 2005 (CNA) - Catholic organizations are urging Congress to enact legislation that will ensure that all low-income and newly impoverished hurricane victims can obtain needed medical coverage.
"With each day that passes, more lives are put at risk," said Michael Rodgers, the Catholic Health Association’s interim president and chief executive officer. "Congress should enact emergency legislation as soon as possible."
Catholic health and social services have joined with government agencies to bring assistance in the form of medical care, food, water, temporary shelter, and social services to survivors of the storms. At the same time, "more is required to see that the efforts can continue seamlessly," Rodgers said.
Leaders of Catholic Health Association, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Catholic Charities USA sent a letter to Charles Grassley (R-IA), Senate Finance Committee Chairman, and Max Baucus (D-MT), Ranking Member.
The letter calls for federal legislation to provide Medicaid coverage for all low-income survivors regardless of categorical eligibility; 100 percent federal Medicaid payments for eligible victims in every state; and the streamlining of Medicaid eligibility and enrollment procedures.
London, England, Sep 29, 2005 (CNA) - How long will it take before Western countries realize the severity of the situation for Christians in Sudan? That was one of the questions Sudanese Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir Wako had in his recent visit to England.
Criticizing western governments for failing to heed the Church’s warnings about the situation in Sudan, the archbishop of Khartoum said: “If I say that Christians are persecuted, that life is made difficult for us, how long is it going to take to get people to trust me? How many people realize that in speaking, I am putting my life at stake?”
The facade of peace in Sudan conceals the misery and injustice that continue to threaten the people, he said.
Even after this year’s peace agreement, there was very limited freedom of speech, that children were “brainwashed” at government-run schools, police and security had turned the country into a “security cage” and the Church was not allowed to own property, the cardinal said.
He went on to explain that non-Muslims were still under pressure to adhere to punitive Sharia law in the north of the country, that the government was pumping in resources to “islamize” the mainly non-Muslim south and that corruption and bad governance continued to threaten Sudan’s new-found and very fragile peace.
Speaking Sept. 24 to more than 300 benefactors at Aid to the Church in Need’s annual event at Westminster Cathedral, Cardinal Wako stressed the importance of adhering to the peace process, which follows 25 years of civil war between the north and the south of the country.
Phoenix, Ariz., Sep 29, 2005 (CNA) - The Vatican’s soon-to-be-released document, banning homosexuals from the priesthood, has caused an uproar in the press, but Catholic priests say it is a welcome document that properly addresses a serious issue in the Church.
The Congregation for Catholic Education prepared the document, which will likely be issued in the form of a standard ‘Instruction’ at the Synod of Bishops in October. It will be one of the first official documents of Pope Benedict’s pontificate.
In an interview with Matt C. Abbot, a catholic commentator, three of them shared their impressions on the Vatican initiative. Fr. Thomas J. Euteneuer, president of Human Life International, said the Church’s position on the issue is nothing new. “It is actually a re-statement of a clear position of the Church since the time of Pope John XXIII,” he pointed out in The American Daily.
He noted that the John Jay study on the clergy sex-abuse scandal in the U.S., found that 80 percent of clergy abuse involved adolescent males, “which means that the core of the problem is one of homosexuality, not strictly pedophilia,” he said.
“Thankfully the Church’s highest authority has recognized the problem and has now taken concrete steps to address it,” he stated.
“You can’t have it both ways,” he added. “Either you grab the problem by its root and yank it out of the soil of the priesthood or you keep asking the faithful to subsidize deviant behavior and the resulting legal liability. Benedict has made his choice, and we are the better for it.”
Fr. Richard Perozich of San Diego said history has shown that priests with a homosexual orientation maintain a homosexual self-image after ordination, act out, encourage others to do so and campaign for homosexual rights in all aspects of society.
“Since there is little motive for change for a practicing and promoting homosexual priest after ordination, one solution is not to ordain him before ordination or not to admit him to formation,” said the priest, who is currently ministering in Honduras as a Maryknoll priest associate.
“Ordination is not a right. Ordination is a privilege of service granted to men deemed mature enough in all aspects of their lives to be able to be faithful to that service,” Fr. Perozich told The American Daily.
Fr. Burns Seeley of the Chicago-based Society of St. John Cantius said it seems to him that the Vatican document should touch more on the principle of priestly chastity. “I think ‘Even if they are celibate…,’ should read, ‘Even if they are chaste…’” he told The American Daily.
Fr. Seeley understands the key point of the document to mean that homosexuals “are incapable of perceiving human nature as God as created it, consisting of male and female persons meant for mutual attraction, complementarity, and, God-willing, marriage and children.
“In other words, they do not see or experience objective reality,” he continued. “It follows that homosexual priests possess a serious handicap which makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to serve well as our Lord’s faithful ordained ministers.”
Rome, Italy, Sep 29, 2005 (CNA) - Two major American networks had the same idea at about the same time—both decided to produce a film about the life of Pope John Paul II. But, as Alan Riding of the New York Times reports, ABC and CBS are coming at the story in different ways.
Both films will tell the story largely as a flashback: ABC opens with John Paul praying at the Western Wall during a visit to Jerusalem in 2000; CBS looks backward and forward from the attempt on his life in 1981.
ABC's "Have No Fear: The Life of John Paul II" will run two hours. ABC recently completed shooting, and CBS is working through mid-October
A young-looking 42-year-old, the British actor Cary Elwes, plays Karol Wojtyla until his election as pope. Voight covers the 26-year papacy. Christopher Lee appears as Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, Poland's hard-line anti-Communist patriarch, and Ben Gazzara is Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, the Vatican's longtime secretary of state.
The ABC film, directed by Jeff Bleckner, has Thomas Kretschmann, 42, a Los Angeles-based East German native, playing Karol Wojtyla from his student days at the age of 19 to his death at 84, a transformation that in later scenes required makeup sessions lasting four hours. In this film, Bruno Ganz is Cardinal Wyszynski, while Joaquim de Almeida portrays El Salvador's slain archbishop, Óscar Arnulfo Romero.
"Ours does not avoid controversy," said Lorenzo Minoli, one of the executive producers of ABC's "Have No Fear." "We show the pope's confrontation with Romero over liberation theology. We deal with the sex scandals in the American church. We depict his youthful friendship with several young women and even show an innocent kiss while he is acting in a play. We show 'the human man' behind the pope."
And he added: "We are not making an Opus Dei movie. Others are."
CBS's mini-series version, with Jon Voight, has the working title of "Pope John Paul II" and will run four hours over two evenings.
Inevitably, the road for both productions led to Rome. And before Rome, while ABC did much of its filming in Vilnius, Lithuania, CBS covered a good part of John Paul's pre-Vatican life in Krakow, where he was archbishop before becoming pope in 1978.
Opus Dei is deeply involved in the CBS film. It is being co-produced by Lux Vide, a company based in Rome and led by Ettore Bernabei and his son Luca, members of Opus Dei who have close ties to the Vatican, which vetted their original script. The movie's consultant, Alberto Michelini, is also an Opus Dei member; his son, Jan, the director of the movie's second unit, was baptized by John Paul.
John Kent Harrison, the movie's director, said the script he received from Lux Vide was based on faith, not politics. "Opus Dei objected to having politics, but we came to an understanding," he explained. He also said there was no mention of the sexual abuse scandal in that script, "but I put in a scene."
The Opus Dei connection has given CBS privileged access. For instance, Karol Wojtyla's installation as archbishop was filmed in Wawel Cathedral in Krakow, where it actually took place in 1964. The filming was witnessed by the present archbishop, Stanislaw Dziwisz, who for 40 years was John Paul's secretary and closest friend. CBS was even allowed to collect digital images inside the Vatican, including the Sistine Chapel.
Both networks plan to broadcast their made-for-television movies this season, though no dates have been confirmed.
The whole shooting reminded vivid memories of the real John Paul II in Krakow, as "In Krakow, we had 500 extras for the pope's arrival in Warsaw in 1979," he said. "As Jon approached the crowd, you could see the hope on their faces, weeping, holding out babies, reaching for him, all sorts of emotions playing out. It all seemed very real."
Mr. Voight was reared as a Catholic and graduated from Catholic University in Washington. "It is a privilege and an honor to play this role, but it is also very daunting," he said between scenes. "It shows him as a moral force, his energy and spirit," Mr. Voight said. "I think it will be a film moving to many people."
Producers have no doubt there will be a lot of interest in the public to watch both productions on the late pope. Even though there has been already wide coverage of the funeral of Pope John Paul and the election of his successor Pope Benedict XVI.
Madrid, Spain, Sep 29, 2005 (CNA) - Left-wing politicians in Spain’s House of Representatives successfully voted down a measure this week that would have given a tax break of 100 euros per month to mothers with children under three years of age and who are unable to work outside the home for various reasons.
The proposed measure would have extended the tax breaks which are currently enjoyed by mothers who work to all mothers with children under three years of age.
Merce Pigem, a spokesman for one of the political parties that supported the measure, said that extending this assistance would have helped “alleviate the cost a family bears in having a child.” She added that although it would constitute “a significant amount for the State,” the measure would have been “an investment in families.”
She warned that rejection of the proposal “leaves other mothers who don’t work because they can’t find employment out in the cold.” Pigem noted that the tax breaks for mothers who do work were approved during the conservative Popular Party’s government, in order to encourage women not to abandon the workforce.
Havana, Cuba, Sep 29, 2005 (CNA) - During his induction into the Cuban Academy of Languages, the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Havana, Msgr. Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, noted the relationship Father Felix Varela had with Spain and the building of the Cuban nationality.
Msgr. Cespedes called Father Varela one of the “inventors of Cuban nationality” and underscored the ties that unite Spain and Cuba, which go beyond the realm of politics.
He explained that Father Varela argued for “the necessity of Cuba’s political independence with relation to the Spain of that time, which was in political decline both internally and in the colonies.” Nevertheless, Varela always maintained close ties with the “essence of Spain, the Spain that cannot be reduced to one or another political regime or to the situation of any given moment.”
Likewise, Msgr. Cespedes pointed out that during his participation as a representative at the Cortes of Cadiz, Father Varela was preparing a proposal to abolish slavery, but “the dissolution of the Cortes” and the return of Ferdinand VII prevented him from carrying it out.
Msgr. Cespedes is an essayist and writer and is considered one of the brightest intellectuals in Cuba. He is the third member of the clergy in history to join the Academy of Languages.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sep 29, 2005 (CNA) - On September 27, the special secretary for Women’s Policies, Nilceia Freire, sent a proposal to the Brazilian Congress that would legalize abortion in that country and allow them to be obtained at state-run health facilities.
If approved the measure would modify the Brazilian Penal Code and remove all references to abortion as a crime. It would allow abortion on demand up the 12th week and in cases of rape up to the 20th.
It would also allow abortion at any time for life of the mother, in cases of anencephaly, or if there is “incompatibility with life.”
Currently abortion is allowed in Brazil only for the life of the mother or in cases of rape. In cases of rape, women are not required to file a police report before obtaining an abortion, thanks to a measure signed into law last March by President Lula da Silva.
Bishop Odilio Scherer, Secretary General of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil, said the president’s actions were disappointing, as he had previously sent a letter to the bishops promising he would not sign any law that would constitute an attack on human life, in whatever stage. “We had hoped that the president would think hard and not present the proposal,” said Bishop Scherer, adding that now the bishops hope further laws endangering the lives of the unborn will not be implemented.
Madrid, Spain, Sep 29, 2005 (CNA) - A lower court judge in Spain has filed the first case of conscientious objection to a Federal Court against the country’s new law on homosexual “marriage” approved last June.
Judge Isabel Lopez Garcia-Nieto of Colmenar Viejo, on the outskirts of Madrid, sent a written request to the Federal Court in Madrid on September 14 requesting to be removed from involvement in two cases of homosexual “marriage.” Judge Lopez said her request was based on “legitimate conscientious objection.”
In her written request, the judge maintained that her conscientious objection should be respected because as a Catholic, she has a moral obligation to adhere to the Church’s teaching that such unions constitute “a flagrant denial of fundamental anthropological data and an authentic subversion of the most basic principles of social order.”
In addition to citing statements by the Bishops’ Conference of Spain, Judge Lopez also noted that Spain’s Constitutional Court has defended the right to conscientious objection. “Conscientious objection forms a part of the content of the fundamental right to ideological and religious freedom” recognized in the Spanish Constitution, she argued.
“My actions stem exclusively from the collision between the legal norm, which imposes an action, and the moral norm which opposes it. This moral norm is sustained by a system of thought that is consistent and sufficiently organic and sincere,” Lopez continued.
Her actions, she maintained, do not constitute “an anomaly with regards to the rule of law, but rather the legitimate exercise of ‘an autonomous constitutional right’.” “To deny me the right to conscientious objection would be discrimination and would contradict” the Spanish Constitution, she concluded.