Vatican City, Nov 7, 2005 (CNA) - On Saturday, Pope Benedict met with a group of Austrian Bishops and, addressing the growing problem of secularization in Europe, challenged them to teach the Gospel clearly and without fear, utilizing tools like the Catechism and its new compendium.
The prelates were members of the Austrian Bishop's Conference who have just concluded their "ad limina" visit.
The Pope addressed them in German, saying that the five-yearly “ad limina” visits, made by all bishops, serve "to consolidate the bonds with Peter's Successor," and express "the communion of the Universal Church."
"Over the last few months," he told them, "we have had the opportunity to experience the vitality of the Church in all its freshness and its missionary vitality, especially during 20th World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany.”
“Even when such energy is not visible,” the Holy Father went on, “we know that the Lord is with us as He promised, and that He dominates all time 'for ever and ever'."
The Pope then turned his attention to particular issues calling for attention in various Austrian dioceses, and highlighted how, "thanks to the presence of the Risen Lord, we can face reality fearlessly and optimistically, yet without losing our capacity to call things by their name, objectively and without seeking to obscure their real nature."
The Pope specifically identified "secularization," as, “a painful fact that is becoming ever more present in Europe and that has not failed to penetrate Catholic Austria.”
“People”, he lamented, “no longer identify themselves with the teachings of the Church, and this is accompanied by a decline in the certainty of the faith and in reverence for the law of God.”
“I know this situation worries you,” the Pope told the bishops, and assured them that he shared their “disquiet.”
“With you, I ask myself what can we do? Has God given us a solution to solve the problems of the Church in our time, that we may face the challenges of this third millennium with courage?"
"There can be no doubt”, he stressed, “that what is needed is clear, courageous and enthusiastic witness to faith in Jesus Christ, Who is alive and present in His Church, and in Whom alone human beings find their true happiness.”
“At the same time,” he said however, “we must adopt 'missionary measures,' both great and small, in order to invert the current negative tendency."
He likewise stressed that “it is the bishop's primary duty to bear witness to the faith. 'I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God,' said the Apostle Paul in Ephesus.”
“It is true that we must act delicately,” Benedict said, “but this must not prevent us from presenting the divine message clearly, even on those subjects that do not enjoy widespread approval, or that give rise to protest or even derision, especially in the field of the truth of faith and moral teaching."
While acknowledging that, "at times, those who direct this mission fear that people may move away if they are spoken to clearly,” he clarified that, “experience has generally shown that the opposite happens. ... Catholic teaching presented incompletely is self-contradictory and cannot be fruitful in the long term."
The Pope then invited Austrian prelates to intensify their pastoral care of youth and, in their catechesis, to use both the Catechism of the Catholic Church and its newly published Compendium.
He recommended that it be explained and illustrated in "in all parishes, associations and movements," and become "habitual reading" in families.
To balance his concern, the Pope also mentioned positive endeavors being done in the Austrian Church.
These include, he said: "the Central European Catholic Day, which is a magnificent expression of Catholic faith on the continent;" the return to the practice of Eucharistic adoration; the groups that meet to recite the Rosary; and the "good collaboration between civil authorities and the Church."
In closing, he encouraged the bishops, saying that despite the tremendous rise of secularization, "There are many areas where the flame of Christian zeal can be re-ignited."
Vatican City, Nov 7, 2005 (CNA) - Pope Benedict announced this morning that a new document will soon be produced, marking the next step in an ongoing dialogue between Lutherans and Catholics seeking to find common ground.
Earlier today, the Pope met with Bishop Mark Hanson, president of the World Lutheran Federation, who was accompanied by a delegation from the group.
In his address to them, given in English, Pope Benedict affirmed that one of the results of the "fruitful dialogue" between the Catholic Church and the World Lutheran Federation is "the Joint Declaration on Justification, which constitutes a significant milestone on our common path to full visible unity.”
“This is an important achievement,” he said. “In order to build on this accomplishment, we must accept that differences remain regarding the central question of justification; these need to be addressed, together with the ways in which God's grace is communicated in and through the Church."
The Pope recalled his recent visit to Cologne, Germany for World Youth Day, and expressed the hope that "the future progress of our dialogue ... will not only be placed in a context of 'institutional' questions, but will take into account the true source of all ministry in the Church.”
“In fact,” he said, “the mission of the Church is to witness to the truth of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. Word and witness go together."
The Pope also announced that "The International Lutheran-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity will soon complete its fourth phase of dialogue and publish its findings in a document on the apostolicity of the Church.”
“We are all aware”, he said, “that our fraternal dialogue is challenged not just by the need to verify the reception of these shared formulations of doctrine in our respective communions, but even more so today by a general climate of uncertainty regarding Christian truths and ethical principles which formerly went unquestioned.”
In certain cases, the Pope said, this fraternal patrimony “is being undermined by changed hermeneutical approaches" to the interpretation of Scripture.
Benedict XVI also indicated that the ecumenical path "will continue to encounter difficulties and will demand patient dialogue. I draw much encouragement, however, from the solid tradition of serious study and exchange which has characterized Catholic-Lutheran relations over the years."
"As we prepare to mark the five-hundredth anniversary of the events of 1517, we should intensify our efforts to understand more deeply what we have in common and what divides us, as well as the gifts we have to offer each other."
Paris, France, Nov 7, 2005 (CNA) - Archbishop Jean-Pierre Ricard, president of the French bishops conference, along with the French episcopate, published Saturday, a formal declaration regarding the continuing violence that is currently spreading through France.
“The French Bishops express their vivid concern in front of this violence and the subsequent destructions,” he said, echoing the full assembly of French bishops gathered this week in Lourdes, in their plenary assembly.
“These events manage to produce a climate of mutual suspicion among various components of the population,” continued the archbishop.
Moreover, he tried to explore the cause of such events: “We must ask ourselves what could be the cause of such a spiral of violence in the most recent urban neighborhoods. Recent urbanization, difficulties for the youth facing unemployment, the instability in family life, are often mentioned.”
“But we deem that repression and the incitation to collective fear are not answers to these dramatic tensions in our society.”
Finally, he issued a message fostering the work of religious communities. “We wish to underline particularly the work that is being done daily by numerous associations and institutions in order to create a social link and fraternity.”
“We know how precious is the presence of little religious communities in these urban areas,” he concluded.
Biloxi, Miss., Nov 7, 2005 (CNA) - More than two months after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita rocked the U.S. Gulf Coast, faithful at St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Biloxi, Mississippi are starting to put their lives back together.
On Sunday, parishioners gathered in their church--which was gutted in the hurricanes--to take part in an emotional Mass celebrated by Biloxi Bishop Thomas J. Rodi.
Faithful sat on folding chairs in the ruined church and listened to the Bishop, along with their pastor, Fr. John Kelly, who offered a message of hope in the midst of their suffering.
According to Mississippi’s Sun-Herald newspaper, the Bishop told the congregation that, "This is a dark time for all of us…But as we come together, still coping, the Lord stands with us."
The church, built in 1963, is among scores of others in the area which are slowly coming back to life as residents return home and pool resources.
On October 2nd, New Orleans’ Archbishop Alfred Hughes celebrated Mass in the city’s historic St. Louis Cathedral--one of the first major acts of liturgical life returning to the stricken area.
Following Sunday’s Mass, Bishop Lodi told the Sun-Herald: 5"I've never seen so many smiling faces inside a ruined church.”
Grand Rapids, Mich., Nov 7, 2005 (CNA) - A major reorganization plan in the Diocese of Grand Rapids will diocesan headquarters downtown, merge or close some Catholic schools, share of parish resources and reduce the number of masses to cope with the priest shortage.
These measures are part of a 12-point plan Bishop Walter Hurley sent to all priests Thursday, calling for collaboration.
The diocese also plans to issue statements to all parishes for funds due to the diocesan fund, Catholic Services Appeal. Parishes that have not met their targets are expected to do so in fairness to those that have, reported journalist Charles Honey.
Bishop Hurley said moving the central offices from Burton Street to a diocese-owned office building north of St. Andrew's Cathedral would demonstrate that the Catholic Church is "very much an integral part of the life and culture of Western Michigan."
"That's where things are happening, so we want to be there," Bishop Hurley said of the downtown core.
Catholic philanthropist Peter Wege gave the downtown building to the diocese last year. It is located close to Catholic Central High School, St. Andrew's Elementary School, Saint Mary's Health Care and the bishop's residence.
The move would consolidate 37 staff members, currently scattered in three buildings on the Burton Street campus. The diocese moved its offices to Burton Street from downtown in the early 1980s, after St. Joseph Seminary closed.
Major questions are yet to be answered, including what to do with the Burton Street buildings, Bishop Hurley reportedly said. A final decision will be made in July, after the completion of the diocesan management study.
Dayton, Ohio, Nov 7, 2005 (CNA) - In the ongoing national dialogue on the future of Catholic schools, local leaders in the Dayton Deanery also gathered last month to discuss the future of Catholic schools in their region.
The Dayton Deanery has 20 elementary schools and three high schools. Demographic shifts in the deanery, including the movement of people from one neighborhood to another and a lower birth rate, require Catholic schools to restructure in order to maintain their viability. According to a report by Lenore Christopher, school leaders seem to be very optimistic about the future.
"We are facing change, but we have an opportunity to live it out in the fullness of our faith," Anne Battes, deputy superintendent of Catholic schools, reportedly said.
Nearly 100 participants — pastors, principals, business and parish leaders — met at the University of Dayton Arena Oct. 20.They were divided into small groups and were asked to consider the strengths and weaknesses of four scenarios, prepared by a local think tank on Catholic education, and to offer recommendations.
The goal is to eventually put together a plan of action to present to the archbishop.
The first scenario would maintain the current configuration of schools but reduce the number of elementary schools due to declining enrolment. It would partner elementary schools with secondary schools, align academic programs and share resources.
The second scenario would unite several elementary schools in a geographic region, and each united school would have multiple campuses.
The third scenario would create a unified kindergarten through the Grade 12 system in a geographic region, linking a secondary school with a united elementary school.
The fourth scenario would also create a unified kindergarten through the 12th-grade system of Catholic schools but for the entire deanery. It would use information technology to link with Catholic universities and other resources nationally and internationally. The system would use the strengths and weaknesses of the traditional educational model while creating virtual classrooms.
Participants did not twig to any particular scenario, but said the first two would not resolve existing problems. They agreed that the scenarios needed further consideration. Another meeting is scheduled for January.
Rome, Italy, Nov 7, 2005 (CNA) - According to the director of the Inter-religious Council in Russia, Roman Silantyev, in the last fifteen years two million Russian-born Muslims have converted to Christianity, while only 2,500 Russians have converted to Islam.
In an interview published by the magazine Itogi, Silantyev said, “This phenomenon of Christianization is due not so much to the positive results of a successful missionary campaign as to the influence of Russian culture and its Christian roots.”
The Kath.net news agency indicated that the converts are mainly individuals who were born into a Muslim family but did not necessary practice the faith. “On the other hand, those who really follow Muslim values and regularly attend a mosque rarely abandon their religion,” Silantyev noted.
Terrorism is another reason for the increase in conversions, he added. “After each terrorist attack, thousands and even hundreds of thousands become Christians,” resulting in an almost 50% drop in the Muslim population in certain regions.
Madrid, Spain, Nov 7, 2005 (CNA) - The list of family and educational associations that are joining together on November 12 in Madrid to protest a new educational law, which is scheduled to be up for vote soon in the Spanish parliament, continues to grow, as word announcing the protest has spread across that country.
The rejection by Parliament of amendments to the bill submitted by pro-family congressmen drove several organizations, including a Federation for men and women religious involved in education, to announce their support for the march.
Leaders of the diverse associations, representing almost 1.5 million students and 60,000 teachers in over 2,000 schools, called on parents, teachers and students to participate in the November 12 protest. “Education should not become an instrument of the government in power to transform society; rather it should be placed at the service of families,” they said.
According to a survey of the schools carried out by the Spanish Confederation of Educational Centers, 99% of school personnel are in agreement with the protest and 80% planned to attend the protest.
In a statement the Confederation called on the Spanish government to reconsider the law, saying it was “dictatorial” and “unintelligent” for persons in authority to ignore the opposition to the law of those who would be charged with implementing it.
The Spanish Federation of Large Families also announced it would join the protest, saying “the future of our children is at stake” and that “the state is meddling in an affair that belongs to families.”
Portland, Ore., Nov 7, 2005 (CNA) - A Portland urologist and surgeon has been named the new president of the 1,000-member Catholic Medical Association (CMA).
Dr. Tom Pitre received his medical degree from the State University of New York in Brooklyn in 1970. He has served as president of the Oregon Urological Society, president of the Good Samaritan Hospital medical staff and as a delegate to the Oregon Medical Association.
“We physicians need to educate ourselves about the issues and about the teachings of the Church so we can apply them,” said Pitre in reference to the multiple ethical issues in the medical practice, such as embryonic stem-cell research, abortion, cloning and euthanasia, according to a report by journalist Ed Langlois. The CMA seeks to educate doctors on these matters in light of Catholic teaching.
“Even in Catholic medical schools, students don’t get taught this stuff,” said Pitre, a 60-year-old parishioner of St. Mary Cathedral.
For example, he said, most Catholic doctors know it is immoral to refer a woman for an abortion. But what about using vaccines derived from aborted fetuses?
He sees Oregon’s assisted-suicide law as a moral misstep by society and a tragic assault on the doctor-patient relationship, which is guided by the dictum in the Hippocratic Oath: “do no harm.”
According to Langlois, Pitre presented a paper in June during a national ethics symposium at the University of Portland on stem-cell research, cloning and human embryos.
“The rules for debate in our pluralistic society presuppose moral relativism, human autonomy and utilitarianism,” he told the symposium. “With these cultural presuppositions there is little room for moral arguments in the public forum but it is the moral principles involved that are what make these technological achievements the critical crossroad for our society today.”
In 2000, Pitre reportedly criticized advances in gene technology as driven by inclinations similar to the eugenics movement and the Nazi regime. He said the Church is one of few forces pointing out how dangerous it is to devalue life.
Pitre is married and is a Benedictine Oblate, a layperson devoted to the teachings of St. Benedict with faithful adherence to a particular monastery.
Vatican City, Nov 7, 2005 (CNA) - On Sunday, in the cathedral of Vicenza, Italy, Third Order lay Franciscan, Eurosia Fabris, also known as “Mother Rosa”, was pronounced Blessed, thus completing her next major step on the path to sainthood.
Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins C.M.F., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, performed the rite for beatification in the name of Pope Benedict and according to new norms laid out by the Holy Father.
Eurosia Fabris was the mother of nine children, three of them became priests.
Despite the lack of financial means during her life, the newly Blessed Fabris (1866-1932) spent much of her life helping the poor and providing a home to children orphaned by World War I.
She was the daughter of agricultural workers, and left school after just two years of primary education in order to help her parents at their work in the home and the fields.
Despite her lack of formal education, she learned to read and write, one of her favorite books being "Eternal Maxims" by St. Alphonsus Liguori. She married Carlo Barban, a widower with three daughters, by whom she had nine children--three of whom became priests.
Her cause for beatification was taken up in 1975, and in 2004, a miracle was officially recognized as having come through her intervention; she is said to have healed a sick woman thought by doctors to be beyond recovery.
Bishop Cesare Nosiglia of Vicenza, who co-presided with Cardinal Martins in the Beatification said in his homily, that "Mother Rosa represents a model of sanctity accessible to everyone…”
He said that “as a wife and mother she lived, with the commitment of evangelical simplicity, ... a daily family life, accepting its pains and suffering in the constant search for the will of God."
The bishop also noted that the many religious vocations which came out of Blessed Fabris’ family would today, be considered as a cause for concern in many households.
For Eurosia, however, "the joy of seeing her children take the path of consecrated life ... was a source of consolation," he said.
Vatican City, Nov 7, 2005 (CNA) - On Sunday, Pope Benedict joined thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly Angelus prayer, at which, he stressed the centrality of the Holy Scriptures--passed down and safeguarded by the Magesterium--for the life and strength of the Church.
As the Catholic Church celebrates the 40th anniversary of the conclusion of the second Vatican Council this fall, the Pope specifically recalled the November 18, 1965 approval of the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, also known as 'Dei Verbum.'
He said that it, more than any other, “constitutes one of the mainstays of the entire conciliar edifice.”
“This document”, he told the crowd from his study window, “deals with the Revelation and its transmission, with the inspiration and interpretation of Holy Scripture, and with its fundamental importance in the life of the Church."
"The Apostles and their successors, the bishops," the Pope continued, "are the depositories of the message, entrusted by Jesus to His Church that it might be passed on intact to all generations.”
He continued, saying that, “Holy Scripture of the Old and New Testaments, as well as sacred Tradition, contain that message, the understanding of which develops in the Church with the assistance of the Holy Spirit.”
“It is this Tradition”, he said, “that makes the entire canon of Holy Books known, rendering them correctly understandable and effective so that God, Who spoke to the patriarchs and the prophets, does not cease to speak to the Church and, through her, to the world."
The Pope highlighted how, "the Church does not live off herself but off the Gospel, and from the Gospel draws constant guidance for her journey."
He added that, "' Dei Verbum' gave a powerful boost to the evaluation of the Word of God, whence derived a profound renewal of the life of the ecclesial community, especially in preaching, catechesis, theology, spirituality and ecumenical relations."
"The Word of God,” the Pope continued, “through the action of the Holy Spirit, guides believers towards the fullness of truth.
“Among the many fruits of this biblical springtime," the Holy Father stressed the spread of the ancient practice of 'lectio divina,' or the 'spiritual reading' of Holy Scripture.
“This,” he explained, "consists in dwelling at length over a biblical text, reading and re-reading it, ... that it may serve as nourishment for meditation and contemplation, irrigating real life with vital lymph.”
“In order for 'lectio divina' to be effective,” he said however, “mind and heart must be illuminated by the Holy Spirit, in other words by the very Inspirer of Holy Scripture, and they must adopt an attitude of 'religious listening'."
The Holy Father told the crowd that this perspective was "the attitude typical of Most Holy Mary," as in the image of the annunciation when "she welcomed the heavenly messenger while intent on meditating upon Holy Scripture."
"Let us pray” he thus concluded, “that, like Mary, the Church may be a docile handmaiden of the Divine Word, ever proclaiming it with firm faith so that 'the whole world may believe, by believing it may hope, and by hoping it may love'."