Archive of November 8, 2005

Pope reaffirms commitment to inter-religious cooperation, calls on all cultures, religions to respect rights and dignity of human person

Vatican City, Nov 8, 2005 (CNA) - As world religious leaders meet this week in Turkey for a conference seeking collaboration between the world’s three major monotheistic religions--Christianity, Judaism and Islam, Pope Benedict reaffirmed the Church’s commitment to “tirelessly” seek cooperation between peoples, cultures and faiths.

Representatives from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity announced the second international conference today, which is focusing on the theme: "Peace and Tolerance - Dialogue and Understanding in South East Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia."

The event, taking place in Istanbul from November 7th to 9th,  is being attended by His Holiness Bartholomew I, ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, Rabbi Arthur Schneider, president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation of New York, and is largely under the patronage of Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission.

Today’s Vatican communiqué announced that the conference will seek "to promote collaboration between the three great monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, in order to favor reciprocal respect and mutual acceptance, and to achieve peaceful coexistence in a world that has suffered so cruelly through wars and conflicts."

Pope Benedict XVI has chosen Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and of the Holy See Commission for Religious Relations with Jews, as his own representative.

According to the Vatican, Cardinal Kasper is being accompanied by secretary of the Jewish-relation commission, Fr. Norbert Hofmann S.D.B., and by Archbishop Antonio Maria Veglio, secretary of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.

The Holy Father sent a message to Cardinal Kasper, expressing his best wishes to the conference participants, as well as his "appreciation for their strong commitment to fostering understanding and cooperation between the followers of different religions."

The Pope wrote that, "The themes of peace and tolerance are of vital importance in a world where rigid attitudes so often give rise to misunderstanding and suffering and can even lead to deadly violence.”

“Dialogue is clearly indispensable”, he continued, “if solutions are to be found to the harmful conflicts and tensions that cause so much damage to society. Only through dialogue can there be hope that the world will become a place of peace and fraternity.”

"It is the duty of every person of good will, and especially of every believer,” he stressed, “to help build a peaceful society and to overcome the temptation towards aggressive and futile confrontation between different cultures and ethnic groups.”

The Pope further wrote that, “Each of the world's peoples has a responsibility to make its own particular contribution to peace and harmony by placing its spiritual and cultural heritage and its ethical values at the service of the human family throughout the world. This goal can only be achieved if at the heart of the economic, social and cultural development of each community is a proper respect for life and for the dignity of every human person.”

On this note, Benedict pointed out that "A healthy society always promotes respect for the inviolable and inalienable rights of all people," before quoting the Encyclical 'Evangelium vitae,' which says "'Without an objective moral grounding, not even democracy is capable of ensuring a stable peace.“

“In this sense,” the Pope said, “moral relativism undermines the workings of democracy, which by itself is not enough to guarantee tolerance and respect among peoples."

The Holy Father went on to highlight the importance of education in truth, and of fostering "reconciliation wherever there has been injury. Respect for the rights of others, bearing fruit in sincere and truthful dialogue, will indicate practical steps that can be taken."

"Every person of good will”, he wrote, “has a duty to work towards this goal. It is all the more urgent, however, for those who recognize in God the One who is Father of all, Whose mercy is freely offered to all, Who judges with justice and offers to all His life-giving friendship.”

“For Christians,” the Pope affirmed, “the Creator's generosity is visible in ... Christ, our peace and our true reconciliation."

Pope Benedict concluded his message by asking Cardinal Kasper to take the opportunity of the conference "to reaffirm the Catholic Church's strong commitment to work tirelessly for cooperation between peoples, cultures and religions."

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Vatican: three more to be beatified Sunday

Vatican City, Nov 8, 2005 (CNA) - The Vatican has announced that on Sunday, November 13th, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins C.M.F., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, will pronounce the Beatification of three Servants of God as they continue their road to Sainthood.

This past weekend, Italian-born, Eurosia Fabris, also known as “Mother Rosa” became the latest in a heavy stream of recent Beatifications.

By order of Pope Benedict, Cardinal Martins will read an Apostolic Letter, in which the Holy Father will proclaim Charles de Foucauld, (1858-1916); Maria Pia Mastena, (1881-1951); and Maria Crocifissa Curcio, (1877-1957) as Blessed.

Soon-to-be-Blessed, de Foucauld was known to be a particularly holy priest, while Pia Mastena was a virgin and foundress of the Institute of Sisters of the Holy Countenance and Maria Crocifissa Curcio, was a virgin and founder of the Carmelite Missionary Sisters of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus.

The Vatican noted that at the end of the Beatification Mass, Pope Benedict will arrive in St. Peter’s Basilica to venerate the relics of the new Blesseds, greet gathered pilgrims and give his apostolic blessing.

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In New Book George Weigel wishes to ‘recapture the remarkable spiritual intensity of April 2005’

Washington D.C., Nov 8, 2005 (CNA) - George Weigel, Catholic columnist and famous biographer of John Paul II, shared with CNA, on the papal transition, and the challenges Pope Benedict will face in the coming years, on the occasion of the release of his new book  “God’s choice.”  He is a senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

Your book is written deliberately too early to provide any historical report of the current Pontificate, what is the intention of the book?
I’m trying to do several things in “God’s Choice:” to recapture the remarkable spiritual intensity of April 2005, the month of John Paul’s death and benedict’s election; to paint a portrait of the world Church at the end of John Paul’s remarkable pontificate; to tell the story of the conclave, how its lightning-swift conclusion was reached and what that means; to offer a mini-biography of the new pope; and to suggest what might some of the great issues to which Benedict XVI will turn his hand.

You personally participated in the intense days of the death of Pope John Paul and the election of Pope Benedict, at which point and how you decided to write the book? What moved you internally?
I had agreed six years ago to write a book on the papal transition, and while I might have anticipated at least some of the global outpouring of affection and esteem for John Paul II at his death, no one could have anticipated the extraordinary atmosphere in Rome in April – a kind of outdoor, global retreat. That was a very moving experience, and I think it helped shape the writing of “God’s Choice.”
You knew the greatness of Pope John Paul's pontificate from close. Nevertheless, your book make a list of "pending issues" that Pope Benedict is inheriting. How would you summarize theses pending issues?
Europe is dying from spiritual boredom; Benedict XVI must try to re-ignite a sense of spiritual adventure in Europe before the lights go out for good. With Islam, Benedict has already shown that public Islamic condemnation of acts of violence in the name of God will be the new “threshold” to any serious dialogue; I’d suggest that the dialogue itself now be strategically reconceived as one in which Catholic try to support the work of those Islamic scholars, religious leaders, and activists who are trying, against great odds, to make a genuinely Islamic case for tolerance, civility, and the free society. The Holy See must also, in my view, rethink some of its “default” positions with respect to the U.N. and world politics in general; otherwise, the Holy See risks sounding like simply another non-governmental organization, rather than a voice of moral reason in a season of unreasonableness. Then there are serious “internal” questions to address: the structure of the Roman Curia, the criteria by which bishops are appointed (and, in some extreme cases, deposed), the ongoing reform of seminaries, an accelerated reform of consecrated life.
What do you think this challenges mean to the current pontificate as well as to rank-and-file Catholics?
There is enormous spiritual energy in the Church; Pope Benedict, I’m confident, will want to deal with some of the “internal” challenges I mentioned precisely so that the faith of the people of the Church can truly change the world.
Only God knows his own plans, but from a human analysis, Why do you think God would have chosen a Pope like Benedict for this particular moment of history? Benedict XVI’s will be a pontificate in dynamic continuity with the pontificate of John Paul II – so your questions really touches both popes. In both cases, od seemed to be raising up great witnesses – witnesses to the truth of Catholicism, witnesses to the power of Christian faith to bend history in a more humane direction.  
The first steps of the current pontificate, as you state in your book, have been sort of a surprise. Why do you think is that?
I’m not surprised so much as I think the mainstream media is surprised. The conventional story-line is that Benedict XVI would be a less compelling public personality than John Paul II. Ye in September and October Benedict was drawing larger audience crowds that any previous pope. He doesn’t have the electric public personality of John Paul II; but there are other ways for a religious figure to be compelling, and he’s demonstrating them. Of course, what remains to be tested is the new pope’s shrewdness as a judge of personalities and a manager – and possibly a reformer – of the present curial system. But we shouldn’t be surprised by surprises here, too.

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Bishop lauds reorganization of parishes

Winslow, Ariz., Nov 8, 2005 (CNA) - Bishop Richard Malone of Maine is pleased with the decision of his diocese to cluster parishes and involve more lay people in their administration.

During a meeting Saturday with more than 150 church members at St. John School, Bishop Malone said the idea should have been promoted years ago, reported the Bangor Daily News. He commended a planning group for its work on the parish re-orientation and collaborative ministry known as "New Evangelism."

The plan was designed to address the state's shifting demographics and the growing shortage of priests.
The bishop said the plan to turn over much of the management of parish functions to the laity would create renewed dedication among its members and free priests to concentrate on ministering Church sacraments and the spiritual needs of the faithful.

The diocese currently has 235,00 Catholics, 135 parishes, organized into 31 clusters, and 95 priests. The clusters will be reduced to 27 and served by 61 priests by the time the realignment plan is in place in 2010.

Clusters have existed in the diocese since the 1990s, but they were smaller than the new alignment and, in some cases, did not share priests. Each of the realigned clusters will have a minimum of one parish priest, including priests from religious orders.

Bishop Malone stressed that the plan does not call for the closing of churches. The bishop said church closures will be the decision of the parish’s lay managers.

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Vatican exhibition 'a moment of grace'

San Antonio, Texas, Nov 8, 2005 (CNA) - A Vatican exhibit, featuring more than 300 artifacts and art objects on the history of the popes, from St. Peter until now, has opened in the Archdiocese of San Antonio.

“Saint Peter and the Vatican: The Legacy of the Popes” are now on display at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center through Jan. 8, 2006, reported Today’s Catholic. It is the exhibit’s second of three North American stops. The first was in Montreal, Canada, from June to September.

The 15,000 square-foot exhibit presents objects that span nearly 2,000 years and emphasizes the Vatican’s impact on culture through the centuries. Many of these items have never left the Vatican or been on public view.

One of the more poignant pieces is a bronze cast of the hands of Pope John Paul II, which the late Pope had commissioned in 2000. Museum-goers can touch the bronze cast.

Never-seen-before objects include the mechanism that produced the white smoke heralding Pope Benedict XVI’s election and four items that comprise the new Pope’s first vestments, including a cassock, zucchetto, pectoral cross and shoes.

The two urns and two patens that were used during the last conclave to count the ballots are also on display. The cardinals’ ballots were set on a small gilded bronze plate and then slid into an urn adorned with sheep. A second urn, topped with a shepherd, was used to hold the ballots after they had been counted.

Other objects include tiaras, sketches, jewelry, vestments, sculptures and gifts to the popes from a number of world leaders and historic figures, including Napoleon and the Dalai Lama. All of the objects are on loan from different Vatican departments.

During a special press viewing last month, Archbishop Jose Gomez recalled Pope John Paul II’s visit to the diocese in 1987. He spoke of his eagerness for all to see the exhibit.

“Certainly, our 660,000 Catholics in the Archdiocese of San Antonio are fortunate to have been giving this opportunity to learn more about this remarkable succession of faith that is their heritage,” he said. “I especially hope that we will use this opportunity to teach our children about their Church.”

Among the speakers at the media briefing were Msgr. Robert Zagnoli, curator of the Vatican Museums; Archbishop Gomez; Mayor Phil Hardberger, and Rabbi Barry Block of Temple Beth-El.

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Phoenix celebrates ‘unity in diversity’

Phoenix, Ariz., Nov 8, 2005 (CNA) - The Diocese of Phoenix will celebrate unity in diversity this weekend with its eighth annual multicultural mass Nov. 12.

The Annual Cultural Diversity Mass, sponsored by the diocesen’s Office of Ethnic Ministries and the Cultural Diversity Team, will be held at St. Joan of Arc Parish and celebrated by Fr. Peter Liuzzi, O’.Carm.

More than 10 ethnic groups will be participating in the mass, which will feature the violins of Korea, drums of the Congo, guitars of Guatemala, choruses of Vietnam, and guitars of Mexico. Some participants will even wear their colorful traditional garments.

The celebration reinforces the U.S. bishops’ teachings on immigration and witnesses to the collaboration between groups within the diocese.

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Vatican responds to German press, says Pope had no knowledge of theologian’s confessional identity

Vatican City, Nov 8, 2005 (CNA) - Earlier today Vatican Press Director, Joaquin Navarro-Valls responded to certain German press reports, which suggest that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, had full-knowledge of theologian Klaus Berger’s dual membership in both Catholic and Protestant churches when he oversaw the Vatican’s office for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In a formal announcement, Navarro-Valls said that, the Vatican is now able to address the “discussion concerning the confessional identity of the exegete Klaus Berger of Heidelberg…”

Heidelberg, he wrote, “claims to be a Catholic and - according to what has now been made public - in 1968, participating in the Protestant Supper, became a 'member of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church,' the assertion has been made that 'Cardinal Ratzinger, who later became Pope,' had precise knowledge of 'the matter in its formal aspects' and 'raised no objections.'“

He said that "This assertion is false. Until the current discussion arose, no information beyond what was commonly known reached the cardinal, now Pope; there was no knowledge of a dual confessional identity.”

The press director said that because of this fact, “the cardinal had no reason to take up a position on the question of Mr. Berger's confessional identity and, indeed, he never pronounced himself on the subject."

“Obviously,” he continued, “the norms of Catholic canon law, which exclude dual membership of the Catholic Church and of a Protestant 'Landeskirche,' remain in full force without exception, and are therefore also valid in this case.”

“The Church cannot obtain any dispensation from this rule, not even in the Sacrament of Penance," Navarro-Valls wrote.

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Holy Land Archeologists uncover what may be earliest church in world, Vatican hails as ‘great discovery’

Jerusalem, Israel, Nov 8, 2005 (CNA) - Early reports from the Israel Antiquities Authority are suggesting that remains of a building uncovered on the Megiddo prison grounds, near Jerusalem, may be part of the oldest church in Christendom--and the world.

Workers discovered structural remains, an ancient table, thought to have been used as an altar, and a mosaic, as they began an expansion of the prison facility over a year ago.

The excavation site is close to Tel Megiddo, which is believed by some to be Armageddon, the place of the world’s final battle, mentioned in the New Testament book of Revelation.

Archeologists are speculating that the newly-discovered mosaic, one of the most exciting of the discoveries, may date from as early as the third or forth century. It contains the ancient Christian fish symbol and references to Jesus Christ.

Hebrew University expert Professor Leah Di Segni, told Haaretz Daily that, "I was told these [mosaic symbols] were Byzantine, but they seem much earlier than anything I have seen so far from the Byzantine period.”

Likewise, Yotam Tepper, head archaeologist on the dig, told the Associated Press that the building "is a very ancient structure, maybe the oldest in our area."

The dig has been ongoing over the past 18 months, but many of the most intriguing discoveries have taken place over the last 2 weeks.

Christianity was banned in the region around Tel Megiddo--then part of the Roman Empire--up until the forth century when it was legalized by the Emperor Constantine.

Tepper added that, "Normally, we have from this period in our region historical evidence from literature, not archaeological evidence…There is no structure you can compare it to. It is a very unique find."

Channel Two television, which first reported the story, quoted Pietro Sambi, Vatican ambassador to Israel, who praised the find as a "great discovery."

He said that, "Of course, all the Christians are convinced of the history of Jesus Christ…But is it extremely important to have archaeological proof of a church dedicated to him? Certainly."

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Catholic students work to end scourge of human trafficking

Steubenville, Ohio, Nov 8, 2005 (CNA) - Student’s at Ohio’s Franciscan University of Steubenville who had lobbied the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women last March, are joining a growing world community in raising their voices against the scourge of human trafficking.

On October 27th, a student group sponsored a talk by Dr. Laura Lederer, senior advisor on human trafficking to the US Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs, who told a standing-room only crowd that, worldwide, at least "600,000 victims of modern-day slavery are forced, defrauded, or coerced into labor or sexual exploitation."

"This”, she added, “is a conservative figure."

Last spring break, Lederer said, “we teamed up—the State Department and the group of [Franciscan University] students Professor Brian Scarnecchia brought to the UN—to pass a resolution on trafficking that everyone had said was doomed to fail."

Particularly in underdeveloped countries, she said that sales of child sex, exploitation of migrant workers and children being forced to be soldiers, are rampant offenses against human dignity which need to be fought.

She also noted that in the United States, specifically, human trafficking usually involves sexual slavery.

"Young women and children”, she said, numbering an estimated 14,000 in the U.S., “are lured into sex-trafficking rings with the promise of a valid job, more money, and a better life."

She told the group that "The US was one of the first countries in the world to pass an anti-trafficking law…We passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, which can be used as a model around the world for other countries."

Citing the State Department’s official position, Lederer told the students that, “Prostitution is inherently harmful for men, women, and children…Because it's intrinsically harmful, we are opposed to legalizing it and considering it a legitimate form of work."

As she concluded, Lederer encouragingly pointed out that the students "are joining a growing number of communities who are coming together to learn about human trafficking, to raise public awareness, and to stop this modern-day form of slavery."

The presentation was sponsored by the Franciscan University Student Association and the campus’s ‘Solidarity’ group, which focuses on social justice issues.

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More than half a million expected to protest new law on education in Spain

Madrid, Spain, Nov 8, 2005 (CNA) - The president of the Catholic Confederation of Parents in Spain, Luis Carbonel, announced this week more than half a million people are expected to participate in a November 12 march in protest of a new education law which ignores fundamental rights of parents.

In an internvew with the Spanish daily ABC, Carbonel said the protest is a grassroots effort and not an initiative of the conservative Popular Party or of the Spanish bishops.  He noted that there are even “several Islamic organizations that have signed up to participate.”

Carbonel reiterated that opposition to the proposed law is based in part on its attack on the rights of parents to choose which kind of education their kids will receive, which schools to send them to, and whether or not they should receive religious education.

“The State has attributed to itself a responsibility and a right over which it only has a subsidiary function.  The public authorities do not have the right to educate citizens but rather they ought to safeguard the freedom of parents to decide this matter for themselves in keeping with the constitution,” he said.

Carbonel criticized government officials for ignorning the opinions of experts and leaders in education who have expressed reservation about the new law.  He said the November 12 protest would be called off if the government were to withdraw the measure and present a different law based on consensus.

The bishops of the Spanish region of Catalonia issued a statement expressing their rejection of the new law, saying it does not grant sufficient respect to the fundamental rights which “any democratic and pluralistic society must guarantee” and “which go hand in hand with freedom of religion and of conscience.”  They encouraged citizens to carry out protests “in a peaceful and democratic fashion.”

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Archbishop calls on believers to bear witness in the midst of a politically correct society

Madrid, Spain, Nov 8, 2005 (CNA) - Archbishop Javier Martinez of Granada, Spain, called on Christians to “bear witness without timidity” to their communion with the Church even though in society and in the workplace it may not be “politically correct.”
In a pastoral letter, the archbishop warned that “the freedom to live in communion with the Church is again beginning to be dangerous” and he called attention to the number of Christians who are suffering “a sort of hidden, and sometimes explicit, persecution, just for the mere fact of being one.”
Archbishop Martinez said the situation is a call “to bear witness to ecclesial communion” and to “rediscover” one’s membership in the Church, because “whatever breaks and weakens that union is no good and comes from the evil one.”
Therefore he called on believers to “help to the Church” and to strive “to make her visible in daily life, in the workplace, in schools, in the world” by “witnessing without timidity” to their religious beliefs.
Citing St. Teresa of Avila, the archbishop said that for the Church, these are “difficult times,” but that this is a “sign of her vitality,” as “nobody in their right mind would persecute nor attack the dead.”
Archbishop Martinez also noted that to help the Church also means “to sustain her economically.”  For decades the Church has received economic assistance from the State as she has been at the service of a people with a specific tradition.  However, the archbishop said it was “possible” this situation could change in the future.
“Preserving the freedom of the Church can be difficult, even very difficult in the short term, and worse when we are not used to it. But it is the only way in the long run for the Church to carry out her mission,” the archbishop said, adding that Christians should not sell their faith “for a bowl of lentils.”

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