Vatican City, Oct 19, 2005 (CNA) - Today, as Pope Benedict XVI reached the exact 6-month mark since his election to the papacy, he told an audience of 40,000 gathered in St. Peter’s Square, that the Christian God is not one who condemns, but one who constantly offers forgiveness and mercy.
The Pope continued his ongoing catechesis on the Psalms today, this time speaking on Psalm 129, best known by its opening: "out of the depths I cry to thee."
He pointed out that it is "one of the best-known and most loved psalms of the Christian tradition."
He recalled that Psalm 129 is known as the "De profundis," and explained that "it is, in the first place, a song of divine mercy and of reconciliation between the sinner and the Lord."
"It opens", he said, "with a voice arising from the depths of evil and guilt. ... then continues over three stages dedicated to the subject of sin and forgiveness."
The Pope commented on the verses: "If thou, O Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared." To this, he said: "It is significant that fear, an attitude of respect mixed with love, is generated not by punishment but by forgiveness."
"More than God's anger," he stressed, "it is His generous and disarming magnanimity that should provoke our holy fear. In fact, God is not an implacable sovereign who condemns the guilty, but a loving Father Whom we must love, not out of fear of punishment, but for His goodness and readiness to forgive."
In the second part of the psalm, he pointed out that "watchfulness and hope blossom in the penitent psalmist's heart, along with the certainty that God will pronounce a liberating word and cancel out sin."
In the third part, "the personal salvation that the psalmist had originally implored, is extended to the whole community" and " takes root in the historical faith of the people of the Covenant, 'redeemed' by the Lord, not only from Egyptian oppression, but also 'from all iniquities'."
In this way, Benedict went on, "from the dark gorge of sin the supplication of the 'De profundis' reaches God's luminous horizon, dominated by 'mercy and redemption,' two of the great characteristics of the God of love."
As he concluded his teaching, the Holy Father quoted St. Ambrose who, writing on the psalm in his Tractate on Penance, says: "Never lose hope in divine forgiveness, however great your sin. With God there can always be a change of heart, if you acknowledge your offence."
Following the audience, the Pope greeted pilgrims in several languages, before blessing a statue of St. Mariana de Jesus Paredes y Flores (1618 - 1645), the "lily of Quito" and first saint of Ecuador. She was canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1950.
Her statue now rests in a niche on the outside of St. Peter's Basilica, along with numerous other saints, whose statues have recently been erected.
Pittsburgh, Pa., Oct 19, 2005 (CNA) - A new group founded to protect freedom of religion in the U.S. is staging an unusual campaign--one to get atheism recognized as a religion. Its symbol? Nothing.
The Pennsylvania-based group, Defending Freedom Of Religion, Inc. was founded in hopes of stopping acts like removing Ten Commandment Plaques from public places, returning prayer to public schools tackling other acts which they say infringe on the rights of the faithful.
The group says that one of its major objectives is getting "nothing" recognized as the official symbol of atheism.
Ken Whitaker, founder of DFOR, said that, "The separation of church and state is an impossible ideal. If you remove all religious symbols, and replace them all with Atheism's symbol [nothing], you are establishing Atheism as our official state religion."
The group argues that the answer is allowing all religious symbols to coexist alongside of each other. They said that the nation must "not ‘prohibit the free exercise thereof’ of any religion.
"Let's place a traditional Nativity scene on the courthouse steps," the group suggested in a recent statement," and a menorah, and other symbols from other religions, and let's reserve a big empty spot for the Atheists."
"The Atheists", they quipped, "can look at their empty spot and know that their symbol is there for all to see. But they can't force our spot to be empty."
The Supreme Court recently decided two cases, one in Kentucky and one in Texas regarding Ten Commandments displays in public places.
They decided that the Texas display was acceptable because it represented law within a greater historical context, but ruled that the Kentucky display was predominantly religious in nature, and had to be removed.
Harrisburg, Pa., Oct 19, 2005 (CNA) - As a federal judge tries to determine whether a tiny Pennsylvania school district has the legal right to teach intelligent design alongside evolution theories, one scientific expert in the field is arguing that the role of a creator creates a real, viable alternative to some evolution theories which exclude the possibility.
Michael Behe, a biochemistry professor at Pennsylvania’s Lehigh University is one of the leading minds in the field of Intelligent Design--which states that the active hand of a creator was present in and throughout the process of the creation of the universe.
11 parents in Dover, PA are suing the tiny local school district citing that intelligent design is merely thinly veiled religion which has no place in public school biology courses.
As the trial hits its forth week, the defense called Mr. Behe, author of the popular Darwin’s Black Box (1996), as their first expert witness.
According to a report in the New York Times, when asked whether intelligent design is religion, or "based on any religious beliefs," Mr. Behe replied, "No, it isn't…It is based entirely on observable, physical evidence from nature."
He used the example of bacterial flagellum, or what he called "the outboard motor bacteria use to swim" to illustrate his point.
He showed that what appears to be like a "rotary motor" attached to a "drive shaft", which pushes a tiny propeller, leads to the inevitable conclusion that the design suggests "a purposeful arrangement of parts."
Behe said that Intelligent Design constituted science because it makes testable claims.
He clarified however, that the theory says nothing, and requires no knowledge of the nature or identity of the designer.
He testified that while he, himself a Catholic, understands that designer to be God, he reached that conclusion based on "theological, philosophical and historical facts", not on science.
He also pointed out that while evolution should be continue to be taught in schools because it is "widely used in science" and "many aspects are well substantiated," Intelligent Design challenges only part of the theory, namely that of natural selection.
The Catholic Church teaches that while many aspects of evolution are fine, those branches which suggest an unguided, unplanned, process conflict with the Church’s trust of the active hand in the world.
Denver, Colo., Oct 19, 2005 (CNA) - In his most recent column in the Denver Catholic Register, Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput clarified the Catholic Church’s oft misunderstood teaching on the death penalty, saying that in almost all cases today, it goes beyond necessity, and into undignified excess.
He compared the Church’s teaching on the death penalty to that on acts like abortion, genocide and euthanasia, saying that in the comparison, there is an inequality.
"The death penalty", he wrote, "is not intrinsically evil [like abortion and euthanasia are]. Both Scripture and long Christian tradition acknowledge the legitimacy of capital punishment under certain circumstances. The Church cannot repudiate that without repudiating her own identity."
"Catholic teaching on euthanasia, the death penalty, war, genocide and abortion", the archbishop said, "are rooted in the same concern for the sanctity of the human person. But these different issues do not all have the same gravity or moral content. They are not equivalent."
He used war as an applicable example, noting that there are cases in which acts of war are morally legitimate--similar to the death penalty.
However, he pointed out, what the Church’s teaching on the death penalty involves is, "a call to set aside unnecessary violence, including violence by the state, in the name of human dignity and building a culture of life."
"In the wake of the bloodiest century in history," Archbishop Chaput said, "the Church invites us to recover our own humanity by choosing God’s higher road of restraint and mercy instead of state-sanctioned killing that implicates all of us as citizens."
He cited the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states that if "non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor [i.e., the convicted murderer], authority [should] limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person" (2267).
Likewise, he quoted John Paul II, who points out in his Gospel of Life, that "the nature and extent of the punishment [for capital crimes] must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not to go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity; in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society."
The late Pope noted that "today however, as a result of steady improvements to the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent."
The Archbishop stressed that "In modern industrialized states, killing convicted murderers adds nothing to anyone’s safety. It is an excess."
He said that "for John Paul II, the punishment of any crime should not only seek to redress wrong and protect society. It should also encourage the possibility of repentance, restitution and rehabilitation on the part of the criminal. Execution removes that hope."
As the Church recognizes Respect Life Month, being celebrated throughout October, Archbishop Chaput ended his piece with strong words: "Choosing against the death penalty is choosing in favor of life."
"We need to end the death penalty," he said, "and we need to do it soon."
, Oct 19, 2005 (CNA) - Important demographic shifts that include growth and expansion in New York and surrounding area have pushed the Archdiocese of New York to create a major reorganization plan for parishes, schools and other church organizations. The archdiocese has nearly completed the first draft of the plan.
A 50-person representative panel, comprising priests, nuns, parishioners, business leaders and community members, is expected to review the plans and offer feedback. Some advisers to Cardinal Edward Egan will first view the plans. The archbishop has identified the reorganization as his top priority, archdiocesan spokesperson Joseph Zwilling told The Journal News.
The demographic shifts have made the reorganization necessary. In some areas, like Manhattan for example, there are near-empty churches, while other parishes in growing counties are out of space. With the growth, there is also a decreasing number of priests.
It's expected that some churches and schools will be closed, while others will merge. Priests may be reassigned, some forming pastoral teams that will minister to several parishes.
People involved in the process are aware that the closing of parishes and schools is a very sensitive issue for communities and will tread with great compassion.
Lawrence McCrudden, a lay member of the panel, told The Journal News that while some parishes will close there hasn’t been any mention of selling the church buildings. Rather, they will likely be leased since the archdiocese is not sure whether they will be needed again in the future.
Washington D.C., Oct 19, 2005 (CNA) - Congress should pursue comprehensive immigration reform legislation that respects human rights and dignity and reject cuts in legal immigration and punitive, piecemeal measures, says Bishop Gerald Barnes, chairman of the Migration Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The bishop of San Bernardino specifically called on lawmakers to support the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act, introduced in the Senate by Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and in the House by Reps. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and Luis Gutierrez (D-IL).
"While we support the right of nations to control their borders, we note that, for much of the last decade, Congress has enacted one harsh, overly-punitive immigration control measure after another, yet the problems in our immigration system have grown during that period," said Bishop Barnes in a letter to every member of the U.S. House and Senate.
"We believe the enactment of comprehensive immigration reforms, such as those that are contained in the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act of 2005, is the best prescription for an immigration system which is broken and needs repair," Bishop Barnes said on behalf of the bishops’ conference.
Bishop Barnes highlighted the bill’s provisions that are in line with the bishops’ immigration policy priorities, outlined in "Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope", a pastoral letter issued jointly in 2003 with bishops of Mexico:
The bill would establish a program to permit foreign-born workers to enter the United States and work in a safe, orderly, and legal manner, and allow undocumented workers, currently residing in and contributing to U.S. society, the opportunity to earn permanent residency over time.
The bill would also help to reduce the long waiting times for family reunification for immediate family members, including spouses and children. Finally, it includes a number of provisions designed to improve the ability of the U.S. government to strengthen the enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws without violating basic human dignity.
Beijing, China, Oct 19, 2005 (CNA) - A Chinese bishop prevented by his government from attending the Synod of Bishops in Rome this month hopes diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Beijing could be re-established.
His message of greeting to the synod was read aloud Tuesday in the synod hall by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican's secretary of state.
In the short message, which was written in Latin, the bishop said he was sorry he couldn't attend the meeting and expressed hope that the Vatican and China could re-establish diplomatic relations, said synod spokesman Fr. John Bartunek.
Pope Benedict XVI invited four Chinese bishops to attend the synod, but none was allowed by the Chinese government to come.
China forced its Catholics to cut ties with the Vatican in 1951, shortly after the officially atheist Communist Party took power. There exists an official, government-recognized church, which controls the churches and appoints its own bishops. The Pope is recognized only as a spiritual leader.
Millions of Chinese, however, are said to belong to an unofficial "underground" church that is loyal to Rome.
Montreal, Canada, Oct 19, 2005 (CNA) - An international symposium will consider what will happen to the growing number of empty churches in the West. The four-day conference, titled "What Future for Which Churches?" will open today in Montreal, Canada.
North American and European researchers will gather Oct. 19-22 at UQAM (University of Quebec in Montreal) to discuss solutions to questions of heritage, use and ownership (public, private, or public-private partnership) of religious buildings.
Organizers say the conference is necessary given the drastic decrease in church attendance in the West.
A number of scholars will present the European experience, particularly in France, Belgium, England, Germany and the Scandinavian countries. American speakers will discuss the massive church closures in Boston and church preservation projects in the eastern U.S. Canadian researchers will address ownership systems.
Participants will also debate the role of government in caring for churches, particularly churches deemed religious heritage buildings.
The conference is sponsored by UQAM’s Canada Research Chair on Urban Heritage, the Quebec Religious Heritage Foundation, the Montreal Heritage Council and Concordia University.
For more information, go to: www.churchesfuture.ca
Brussels, Belgium, Oct 19, 2005 (CNA) - According to a new grammar rule in the Netherlands and Belgium, the name "Christ" will soon be written with a lower-case "c", as stipulated by an orthography reform published last Friday.
According to the Kath.net agency, the new spelling rules also will stipulate that the Dutch word for "jews" (joden) be spelled with a capital "J" when referring to nationality and with a lower-case "j" when referring to the religion. The changes will be mandatory starting in August 2006.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct 19, 2005 (CNA) - The Apostolic Administrator of Resistencia, Argentina, Bishop Carmelo Giaquinta, said this week he was disgusted by the inappropriate words and actions of President Nestor Kirchner at the Basilica of Our Lady of Lujan.
Recently during the inauguration of the first phase of restoration of the church, Kirchner took the opportunity to ask the Argentine people for help and to say, among other things, that "many genocides and terrible things have been done using the faith and using God. It would be hypocritical for me to deny having spoken out about certain attitudes of my own Church."
Bishop Giaquinta said he read about the President’s comments in the newspapers and that he felt "very disgusted. Not only by what the President said, but by the improper role he was given at the church."
During an interview with the newspaper Norte, the bishop noted that the Church respects the role of political parties in a democracy, but that the Church does not act like one because the term "party" means "part" while the term "Catholic" means "universal."
Likewise, Bishop Giaquinta wondered if by asking for help Kirchner was referring to the help the Church can give as transmitter of the truth of the Gospel, "because if he was asking for a different kind of help, such as the help he might receive from a political party, he would be making a serious mistake."
The Church, he continued, offers her prayers that "the Lord will grant him light and strength to lead the country on the path to reconciliation, justice and progress." He clarified that in his last homily on authority, he was not alluding to anyone in specific, because the homily "is a catechesis for the Christian people." "If that teaching (of the Gospel) applies to any particular current event, so much for the better. The words of Jesus always fit well, whether we’re talking about events that are current or events that are not so current," he stated.
Lastly, he emphasized that while the relations between Church and State throughout history have always been difficult, there is no "divorce or marriage" between the two, because "man is in the middle as a citizen on the one hand, and often a member of the Church on the other." "Autonomy and collaboration," as Vatican II taught, is what is best, he explained.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct 19, 2005 (CNA) - In conjunction with the Pontifical Lateran University of Rome, the Catholic University of Argentina will hold a seminar on October 25-28 on work and education in Social Doctrine of the Church.
Some of the themes that will be addressed in the seminar include changes in the world of work, the economic and political doctrines of work, the subjective and objective dimensions of work, the role of the State, business and civil society in the promotion of employment, and the social doctrine as fertile ground for dialogue in education.
The seminar will be attended by the President of the Bishops’ Committee on Social Ministry, Bishop Carmelo Giaquinta, and the President of the Bishops’ Committee on Catholic Education, Bishop Roberto Rodriguez, and others.
Madrid, Spain, Oct 19, 2005 (CNA) - More than a hundred experts on church law will gather at the University of Navarre in Spain to analyze and discuss the new Instruction Dignitas connubii, in force since last January, which all diocesan tribunals must apply when dealing with cases of marriage annulment.
The gathering will take place at the prestigious university operated by the Opus Dei on October 24-26.
Among those attending will be Father Frans Daneels of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome, Father Santiago Panizo Orallo, Dean of the Spanish Rota, and Msgr. Joaquin Llobell, professor at the Holy Cross University in Roma.
Professor Rafael Rodriguez-Ocaña, who is leading the gathering, said the purpose is "to make known the most important developments in the area of church law. Therefore, we are inviting experts who have participated in the drafting of these norms or who are especially related to the material."
He said the issue was chosen because of its timeliness and because "the function of justice carried out by the diocesan tribunals is of much importance to the Church, especially in reference to marriage annulments."
Madrid, Spain, Oct 19, 2005 (CNA) - The discovery made by in the United States to extract embryonic cells without destroying the embryo would not arouse the ethical objections that usually occur in this field, according to an article published by the Garcia Morente Foundation, on their website analisisdigital.com
According to the article, the results of two public investigation published in the Nature review, have been welcomed with great enthusiasm in the whole world.“ In the United States, the possibility that public funding might be destined to embryonic stem cell research is at stake, if it is demonstrated that this technique, differing from ‘conventional’ therapeutic cloning doesn’t suppose the assassination of an embryo.”
“The fist of these investigations, as states the review a few days ago, consists in introducing, in the ovule, an egg with a modified gene, in order that the remaining cell, loses its capacity to develop and therefore differs from a normal embryo.”
“Doctor Robert Lanza-he follows-and a team of the Advanced Cell Techology company presented an other investigation that consists in extracting a cell of the eight first that forms in the new being, and to implant the seven other in the uterus.”
If indeed in both investigations the experiment was carried out with rats, “Lanza announced that research on human beings already started. It does work, he says, the kids that are born through this technique would rely on a bank of personalized stem cells.” The scientists affirm that “if health problems develop, would it be a heart disease, diabetes, including if they grow bald and need hair cells, theses cells would be there.”
Likewise, a future application would be the possibility to “obtain these stem cells from the umbilical cordon, once the baby is born. But Lanza proclaimed that “there is a human tragedy out there that continues claiming the health and lives of millions, meanwhile we confide in applying our investigation to the human being.
There is a lot of people than simply don’t have the time to wait that we obtain these functions,” referring to the millions of frozen embryos that remain in the hospitals and which future is uncertain.”
“The investigation line opened by Lanza-the article continues- harvested major critics, from the fact that the cells extracted could develop and form a new embryo to the objection that it supposes a unjustifiable manipulation of a human being.”
According to digital edition of Nature, various senators have welcomed with interest these findings. Nevertheless, other experts like the chief of the stem cell program at the University of Health and Science in Portland, Oregon, has warned of the “danger that an ‘impaired embryo’ could be yielded, that “would be condemned to die soon.”
On the other hand, Princeton professor of jurisprudence, Robert P. George, member of the Presidents council for Bioethics, declared to the Washington Post, that "Nobody should be speaking too quickly here on either side. The way to find out is to do the careful studies to figure out exactly what you've got here. It's not a spiritual question. We're not looking for a soul. The question is, 'Does it have the [biological basis] for self-construction and self-organization, or is it a fundamentally disordered growth?' "
Krakow, Poland, Oct 19, 2005 (CNA) - The archbishop of Krakow( Poland), and former personal Secretary of pope John Paul II, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, revealed in the Italian Catholic daily Avvenire, that an audio recording of the former pontiff existed. Alhtough he said he didn’t have the strength to listen to it yet.
In an interview realized on October 18, day on which the election of John Paul II is remembered, and which is being celebrate in Poland as “Pope day,” the archbishop of Krakow revealed that “ little before entering the operating room at the Policlinico Gemelli, on February 24, in order to practice the tracheotomy, John Paul II recorded a message on our demand.“
“ It was,” revealed Archbishop Dsziwisz, “ his last message, since from that moment, his state of exhaustion only allowed him to pronounce a few sentences.”
The archbishop of Krakow, nevertheless, confessed that “ I haven’t found the strength to listen to it yet.”