Vatican City, Oct 12, 2005 (CNA) - During his general audience this afternoon at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI continued his weekly catechesis on the Psalms saying that the holy city of Jerusalem symbolized for ancient Israel, the ideas of security, stability, and God's presence among the people. For Christians today, he said, the Holy City of the Church is supported fully on the foundation of our Redeemer--Jesus Christ.
Speaking to some 50,000 listeners, the Pope spoke on Psalm 121, which tells of "the joy of reaching Jerusalem, the holy city upon which we wish peace."
He called Jerusalem, "a city 'bound firmly together,' symbol of security and stability, is the heart of the unity of the twelve tribes of Israel which converge upon the city as the center of their faith and their worship."
But Jerusalem, he said, "contains another important element, which is also a sign of God's presence in Israel: the 'thrones for judgment' of the house of David: the dynasty of David is reigning, an expression of divine action in history."
"Thus Jerusalem, the political capital," the Pope continued, "was also the highest judicial center where controversies were ultimately resolved. And so, leaving Sion, Jewish pilgrims returned to their villages pacified and with a greater sense of justice."
Psalm 121 goes on then to define the city, Benedict pointed out, in terms of its "religious and social function, showing that biblical religion is neither abstract nor intimate but is a ferment of justice and solidarity. Communion with God is necessarily followed by communion between brothers."
He also noted that the psalm ends with an invocation using the Jewish word 'shalom' or 'peace', which "alludes to the Messianic peace that contains within itself joy, prosperity, goodness and abundance, ... and anticipates St. Francis' greeting of 'peace and goodness'."
As he closed his teaching, the Pope called to mind St. Gregory the Great, who, in his "Homilies on Ezequiel," wrote that the holy city of Jerusalem "is already being built here in the customs of the saints. In a building, one stone supports another, ... and he who supports someone is in his turn supported by someone else. Thus, precisely thus, in the Holy Church each supports and is supported."
"There is a foundation", Benedict reminded the crowd in closing, "that supports the entire weight of the building, and that is our Redeemer, ... of Whom the Apostle writes: 'no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ'."
Vatican City, Oct 12, 2005 (CNA) - As bishops and delegates from ecclesial communities around the world continue to meet in Rome for the 11th General Synod of Bishops, one of this morning's major focuses was the role and attention which should be paid to the Church's young people, a group which the late John Paul II called, the future of the Church.
Brother Alvaro Rodriguez Echeverria F.S.C., President of the Union of Superiors General in Costa Rica told the group that, faced with immense cultural challenges today, the Church must give special attention to the young who, he said, seek a "mystical experience of union with Jesus."
Brother Echeverria said that the 'Instrumentum laboris', or the working document of the Synod, particularly "underlines the Church's hope in its young people."
"Young people today," he said, "living in globalized cultures marked by the incessant change of perspectives, and in a society ruined by so much economic insecurity and by the glorification of violence, find it difficult to articulate the story of their lives in a way that gives meaning, direction and purpose to their youthful dreams."
"Today more than yesterday, then, we need to satisfy the thirst and hunger felt by young people as they search for a mystical experience of union with Jesus. There is not doubt that He is a force attracting young people today. ... Drinking from the source that is the Eucharist, ... they also find the strength to discover in this world their own crucified brothers and sisters, those who suffer under the oppression of wars, of violence, of hunger. Those without a future."
"From this source and summit," the brother stressed, "they come away burning with a new passion, and with the strength of grace to participate in the Church's mission in society and in the world. ... The Eucharist is also the summit whence all (young people's) actions flow. In this way, the Eucharist is not unconnected to the social and political concern felt by Christ's disciples among the men and women of the world, especially among the poor."
Moyses Lauro de Azevedo Filho, who is Founder and Moderator General of the Shalom Catholic Community in Brazil highlighted Brother Echeverria's thoughts with an example from his own country.
"In the period of carnival, in Brazil, when youngsters are exposed to serious dangers," he recalled, "the Catholic Shalom Community promoted ... a moment of adoration before the Most Holy Sacrament."
"It was impressive", he told the Bishops, "to see what many consider impossible: one hundred thousand young people in deep adoring silence before the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. This was a prelude to Cologne. Even more impressive were the fruits of this and of other actions of this type: many conversions, a large number of confessions, commitment to the Church with a return to participation in Mass, an awakening of priestly vocations, and love and service to the poor.
"We discovered", he said, "that the best reply to the challenge of secularization is to present Christ with audacity!"
Vatican City, Oct 12, 2005 (CNA) - Bishops from around the world, currently meeting in Rome for the Synod of Bishops continued their discussion yesterday and today on the role of the Eucharist in the modern world. As has been one of the major themes thus far, the prelates discussed how Eucharistic reverence can be more of a visible sign to the world and also looked at means for ecumenical dialogue with separated Christian siblings.
Archbishop Oswald Thomas Colman Gomes of Colombo, Sri Lanka addressed the Fathers this morning saying: "We have to promote a visible demonstration of our faith in the Eucharistic Lord. And this has to be done more in deed than in word. Reference has already been made here to many abuses and aberrations in the celebration of the Eucharist and gross lack of reverence for the Most Blessed Sacrament. ... Particular reference has been made to secularism and relativism."
"It is unfortunate", he lamented, "that these are even creeping into Asia. While respecting common liturgical norms we need to make a deep study of the cultural patterns of the various worshippers and have them integrated to our liturgy."
Because "cultural patterns of people differ from continent to continent, and often from country to country," the Archbishop pointed out, "liturgists in these respective areas will have to make a study of these patterns and integrate the highest forms of adoration into the adoration of the Eucharist."
Archbishop Gomes also briefly addressed what he called, "the serious problem of Christian fundamentalism which affects our belief in the Eucharist."
"This Synod", he said, "has to address its mind to this danger. Else it would be like an effort to plant a beautiful tree - our faith in the Eucharist - when there is a dangerous virus attacking it."
Yesterday, during a time in which special delegates were allowed to address the Synod, Metropolitan Johannis Zizioulas of Pergamo, Greece, who brought a message of greeting from the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and the Church of Constantinople, said that "The invitation to our Church to send a fraternal delegate to this Synod is a gesture of great ecumenical significance. We respond to it with gratitude and love."
"We Orthodox", he said, "are deeply gratified by the fact that your Synod also regards the Eucharist as the source and summit of the life and mission of the Church. It is extremely important that Roman Catholics and Orthodox can say this with one voice."
While, he said, "There may still be things that separate our two Churches... we both believe that the Eucharist is the heart of the Church. It is on this basis that we can continue the official theological dialogue of our two Churches, which is now entering a new phase."
"Eucharistic ecclesiology" Metropolitan Zizioulas pointed out, "can guide us in our efforts to overcome a thousand years of separation. For it is a pity to hold the same conviction of the importance of the Eucharist but not be able to share it at the same table."
Likewise, the Rev. Filippo Vayltsev of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow stressed that, "The Eucharist is the central and most important point of the life of the Church and of every Christian."
Noting that preparation for communion in the Russian Orthodox Church includes strict fasting rules and compulsory confession, Rev. Vayltsev told the bishops that, "We would be very pleased if our experience of Eucharistic life, both past and present, proves useful and helpful to the Roman Catholic Church."
Vatican City, Oct 12, 2005 (CNA) - Speaking to 239 Bishops of the General Synod meeting this morning at the Vatican, Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney criticized recommendations to remove the discipline of mandatory celibacy for priests, saying that blaming the Church's current troubles on the practice would be a "serious error."
Throughout the course of the Synod, which began meeting last Monday, the Cardinal noted that many bishops "have spoken of the difficulties experienced by the Church throughout the world."
"Some of these are caused by our own mistakes," he admitted. "Vatican Council II brought great blessings and substantial gains, for example, continuing missionary expansion and the new movements and communities. But it was also followed by confusion, some decline, especially in the West, and pockets of collapse. Good intentions are not enough."
"My recommendations to the Synod on how to deal with these 'shadows'", he said, "presuppose the maintenance in the Latin Church of the ancient tradition and life-giving discipline of mandatory celibacy for the diocesan clergy as well as the religious orders."
"To loosen this tradition now", he stressed, "would be a serious error, which would provoke confusion in the mission areas and would not strengthen spiritual vitality in the First World. It would be a departure from the practice of the Lord Himself, bring significant practical disadvantages to the work of the Church, e.g. financial, and weaken the sign value of the priesthood; it would weaken, too, the witness to loving sacrifice, and to the reality of the Last Things, and the rewards of Heaven.
Many have blamed the practice of celibacy for the recent priestly sexual abuse scandal in the U.S.
Boston, Mass., Oct 12, 2005 (CNA) - A report in yesterday’s New York Times chronicled a team of scientists who are making strides to find medical cures through the use of embryonic stem cells. The hook? No human embryos necessary.
Scientists think that stem cells from early-stage human embryos have the potential to grow into almost any of the body’s organs or tissues. The problem is that to obtain the cells, a human life must be destroyed in the process--something which has been expressly forbidden by the Catholic Church and many pro-life groups.
According to the Times report, Dr. Rudolf Jaenisch of M.I.T. and Dr. George Daley of Harvard Medical School, are trying to create embryonic-cells without the embryos, and thereby more in line with Christian medical ethics.
The new method could allow scientists to create a small group of basic cells--independent of a human embryo which would only last for a total of a few weeks.
In addition to embryonic means, many pro-life groups point out that stem cells can be obtained from numerous sources in fully developed adults; again, a method which does not require the destruction of human life.
While the new idea has not been thoroughly probed by ethicists, the Times quoted Dr. Markus Grompe, director of the Oregon Stem Cell Center in Portland, who is excited about participating in the new research which, he says, allows him to do so without violating his moral principles.
"Virtually everyone in the stem cell field is interested in this," Dr. Grompe said. "Some feel it's the only ethical way. Others feel it is the only practical way." All agree, said the Times, "there has been an ethical impasse."
In addition, the BBC reported yesterday that another group of researchers, this time in Britain, have launched a test to see whether a patient’s own stem cells could be used in medical treatments.
Lead researcher Dr Anthony Mathur told the BBC that, "This is one of the biggest and most comprehensive trials of its kind in the world…Our studies will tell us if adult stem cells in bone marrow can repair damaged hearts and if so how these cells should be administered to patients."
The Catholic Church has no objection to stem cells which are obtained without killing a living embryo.
In a document released last summer on the issue of stem cell research, the Pennsylvania Catholic Bishops Conference said that, "The Church encourages the development of human understanding in this area in a manner that respects the sanctity of human life at every stage."
The bishops also cited the "Vatican Instruction on Respect for Human Life", which says that "no objective, even though noble in itself, such as a foreseeable advantage to science, to other human beings, or to society, can in any way justify experimentation on living human embryos or fetuses, whether viable or not, either inside or outside the mother's body."
Alexandria, Va., Oct 12, 2005 (CNA) - Catholic Charities USA has distributed more than $9.4 million to 50 local Catholic Charities and other Catholic organizations to date, in response to the needs of families affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
The organization has also made a long-term commitment to these families and is working to raise funds for community reconstruction, which may take up to five years.
"With evacuees now living in dozens of cities nationwide, Catholic Charities agencies from across the country are addressing the needs of evacuees that have come into their communities," said Fr. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA. "At the same time, our agencies are preparing to serve the victims' long-term emotional, financial, and other needs."
Catholic Charities USA, which was commissioned by the U.S. bishops to represent the Catholic community in times of domestic disaster, has raised more than $53 million to date to assist in what will be the network's largest disaster response effort in its history. However, it continues to work hard to raise the money that will be needed over the next three to five years to rebuild these communities.
Up to this point, 50 local Catholic Charities agencies and Catholic organizations have each received disaster relief grants from Catholic Charities USA, ranging from $6,000 to $3.9 million.
Relief efforts include providing victims with food, financial aid, clothing, shelter, gas and retail store cards, help with medical and prescription needs, clean-up assistance, crisis counseling, transportation, job placement, and temporary and long-term housing.
"Millions more in disaster funding will continue to go out in the weeks, months, and years to come as our agencies continue to provide whatever services are necessary to see our neighbors through this difficult time," said Fr. Snyder.
Spokane, Wash., Oct 12, 2005 (CNA) - The Diocese of Spokane intends to sell its headquarters and the home of Bishop William Skylstad to settle sexual-abuse claims, according to a plan filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court Monday.
Bishop Skylstad reportedly issued a statement from Rome this week, saying the plan deals justly with the claims of clergy sex abuse, while allowing the diocese to continue its ministry.
The issue of who owns parishes, schools and other Catholic property in the diocese and whether they can be sold to settle these claims has not been unresolved. The plan reportedly carries few specifics on the amount of money that would be available for victims.
Irondale, Ala., Oct 12, 2005 (CNA) - EWTN Global Catholic Network, the largest religious media house in the world, has launched free MP3 podcasts of selected programs on its Web site.
EWTN president Michael Warsaw said the network is pleased to offer this new service. "Throughout our 25 year history, EWTN has always embraced new technology to carry out its mission of evangelization," he said. "This new podcasting initiative compliments our existing audio and video streaming and enables us to spread the Gospel to an even wider audience."
According to a recent report, more than 22 million American adults own portable MP3 players and six million of them have downloaded podcasts from the Internet.
Podcast listeners typically download audio files from the Web onto a computer, transfer the files to a digital audio player, and listen when convenient. Often the audio files are posted online in a way that allows software on a person’s computer to detect and download new podcasts automatically.
The EWTN podcast will offer readings and the homily from the televised daily mass; daily installments of Open Line radio programs; and weekly installments of EWTN’s live programs, such as: Sunday Night Live, The Journey Home, Mother Angelica Live Classics, Threshold of Hope and EWTN Live.
In addition, each month EWTN will make an entire TV series, selected from those most popular on the network, available for a limited time. The first is the EWTN International Rosary.
EWTN’s podcast can be accessed at http://www.ewtn.com/podcast
, Oct 12, 2005 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Costa Rica issued a strong statement this week demanding authorities protect women who are victims of rape and to care for the children who are conceived in such circumstances with the same intensity.
In the statement entitled, "Rape and Abortion," Bishop Jose Francisco Ulloa Rojas, representing all the country’s bishops, referred to the recent cases of sexual assaults against minors "that have filled our country with sorrow and indignation" and underscored that "as the Church of the Lord, we share in the feelings of our people and, while we raise our voice against such abominable attacks, we call on the corresponding authorities not to let such crimes go unpunished."
After expressing the bishops’ solidarity with the families of the victims-one of whom became pregnant after the assault-Bishop Rojas reiterated to those who use such cases to push for the legalization of abortion that the "deliberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of his life is always morally wrong and can never be licit neither as an end nor as a means to a good end."
The bishop also notes that "it has not been clearly shown up to now that serious psychological trauma in a woman who has become pregnant involuntarily can be cured through abortion; rather, experience seems to indicate that abortion as a psychological remedy is much more harmful to the mother as the pain of the assault is combined with the unavoidable conflict of having carried out a murder. Abortion neither remedies the rape nor gives peace to the conscience, nor does it heal psychological wounds," the bishop said.
Likewise, he maintained "if in the worst case scenario the mother who conceived through rape continues to reject her child after he is born, prudence and proportionality seem to indicate that the best thing would be to legislate in favor of the helpless and the innocent and not in favor of accepting homicide as something legal."
Bishop Rojas also reminded Costa Ricans that it is their responsibility "as a united people, to provide all of the necessary material, medical, psychological and spiritual support for both the young girl and the innocent child she carries in her womb so that they can continue on with their lives."
Madrid, Spain, Oct 12, 2005 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Spain has reacted to the deaths of several Africans who attempted to illegally cross the border into the city of Ceuta, located on the northern tip of Africa in the Spanish-controlled territory, saying, "Nothing can justify killing those who seek to cross a border."
Released by the Bishops’ Committee on Immigration, the statement calls for "legitimate and proportionate" measures to prevent illegal entry through the Spanish-Moroccan border.
The bishops added that preventing illegal immigration even through legitimate means does not help immigrants solve their problems. The grave problems that lead to mass migrations, they said, "are generally of an economic nature and have their roots in the unjust distribution of wealth, development and well-being." "The solutions, which are never easy, must begin with the eradication of the causes," the bishops maintained, making a call as well to the international community for greater generosity and cooperation.
"As long as the solution does not address these problems at their roots, there will continue to be migratory movements, sometimes controlled, sometimes spontaneous, and sometimes born of desperation, as in the latest attempts, with tragic results," the bishops warned.
The Bishops’ Committee on Immigration offered its support and solidarity to those in need as well as their prayers for those killed and their families.
The bishops maintained that the recent deaths aggravate what is already a "desperate situation for thousands of African immigrants," who are attempting to illegally enter the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla in northern Africa.
Havana, Cuba, Oct 12, 2005 (CNA) - The Christian Liberation Movement (CLM), lead by Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya, issued a statement this week calling on all Cubans to "participate in the national dialogue" because "change and the path towards the future can only be undertaken by us Cubans" without exclusions.
"Nobody except the Cuban people themselves can create a plan of transition for Cuba. Nobody can take the place of the Cuban people in bringing about changes and in taking the lead role in her history, and nobody can deny the Cuban people the path towards a better, more free and more just society that the people themselves want and need now," the statement declares.
After noting that "we Cubans are all brothers and sisters" and have "a right to have rights," the CLM underscored that it would continue down "the path of non-violence" in its struggle for respect for human rights and freedom and for the right of the Cuban people to express what the they think without fear of harassment.
"We shall demand all of our rights, including those spelled out the current Constitution, such as the right to propose changes to the laws, as the Varela Project proposes," the statement reads.
The statement acknowledges that "no man is so evil that he cannot be saved" and that those love must love their enemies as well. At the same time, the CLM called on Cubans "not to submit to the power of hatred and lies out of fear or personal gain" and thus jeopardize "the freedom and dignity that God gives us as His children."
The group also called in international organizations such as the UN, and on all nations and peoples "to heed the call of this people."
"Cuba, our homeland, is our promised land. Therefore this is not a call to a mass exodus to other nearby countries, but rather to take the step in solidarity towards liberation, towards the conquest of all justice and rights for all, towards freedom, reconciliation, and peace among all Cubans," the statement concludes.
, Oct 12, 2005 (CNA) - The President of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro Quiroga, is inviting Catholics in that country to pray that human life be protected in the face of social unrest and the possible legalization of abortion.
"We have all received a special gift," the archbishop said. "The Creator, through our parents, has called us to life and has entrusted this gift to us. Therefore each human being has the serious responsibility to care for his or her life and to be vigilant for the respect of other’s lives."
Archbishop Castro noted that there seems to be no let up in Colombia to the "continuous attacks against human life, especially against the smallest and most indefensible. Inter-family violence continues sowing death and hatred among family members, out-law groups continue with their terrorist activities, legislators draft measures that would legalize acts in favor of a culture of death."
In response to the possible legalization of abortion, the archbishop emphasized that the "Supreme Court has a grave responsibility regarding human life and the defense of the weakest. I hope the ruling is positive."
He called on all Catholics and all people of good will to join in prayer "for those who must make this delicate decision."