Rome, Italy, Nov 15, 2005 (CNA) - Pope Benedict said he shared the Italian Bishops concern over the current shortage of priests in a message he sent as they gathered these days in Assisi for their General Assembly.
Among the other challenges the Church is facing today he outlined the formation of priests and the presence of the Church in the field of health. Pope Benedict reminded the bishops that "the Church needs priests today that are fully conscious of the gift of grace that is given through ordination and of the mission that is entrusted to them. It is vital that priests work in the name of Christ and live in intimate communion with Him."
The Holy Father shared in his message the concern that Italian Bishops have regarding the diminishing number of priests and the progressive rising of the average age of priests. It is urgent and necessary to increase pastoral vocations and to define the formation proposal that guarantees a human, intellectual and spiritual preparation."
Regarding the theme of health, Benedict XVI said that illness represents an essential dimension of the human experience that questions the mission of the Church and the consciences of the believers. Our Lord Jesus Christ wished to accompany the proclamation of salvation with many healings of people that have suffered."
"The way in which we confront illness and suffering manifests the dignity and the sense of human existence as well," the Pope said, recalling the exemplary testimony of Pope John Paul II. The Church is called to be united with the sick, primarily helping to see sickness and death not as a negation of humanity but as pathway that leads us through the death and resurrection of Jesus, to true and eternal life.
Vatican City, Nov 15, 2005 (CNA) - Yesterday morning, the Italian parliament commemorated a visit made by the late John Paul II three years ago to the body and with various government leaders.
During the celebration, a plaque was unveiled to remember the late Pope's meeting with Italian deputies and senators, held on November 14, 2002. On that occasion, John Paul invoked divine blessings on the government.In response, John Paul’s predicessor, Pope Benedict XVI sent a special Message to Pier Ferdinando Casini, president of the Italian Chamber of Deputies to mark the occasion.
Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State read the message in the place of the Pope during the ceremony."The visit of my beloved predecessor to the Italian parliament," wrote the Pope, "was without precedent, and was made possible through the consolidation of a serene vision of relations between Church and State…”Benedict said that “in the awareness - as the Pontiff said in his address - of the 'highly positive results' which over the course of time these relations have brought both to the Church and to the Italian nation."
The message continued: "On this happy anniversary, then, all that remains to me to do is to express the hope that this spirit of sincere and loyal collaboration may become ever deeper.” “In assuring the Holy See's constant commitment to this end,” he said, “I would like once more to stress that the Church - in Italy, in all other countries, and in the various international organizations - does not intend to claim any privilege for herself, but only to secure the opportunity to carry out her mission, with respect for the legitimate lay nature of the State.” “This,” he pointed out, “if well understood, does not contrast with the Christian message, rather it is indebted thereto, as scholars of the history of civilizations know well.
"Pope Benedict concluded his message by calling on members of parliament to remember John Paul II, "drawing real inspiration from his teachings and promoting the formation of the human person, culture, the family, schools and full and dignified employment, with careful attention for the weakest and for old and new forms of poverty."
Vatican City, Nov 15, 2005 (CNA) - This morning, Vatican officials held a press conference to discuss the upcoming International Conference on the Human Genome, presented, in large part, by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry.
Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, together with, Bishop Jose L. Redrado O.H., and Fr. Felice Ruffini M.I., respectively secretary and under-secretary of the pontifical council; Maria Luisa Di Pietro, associate professor of bioethics at Rome's Sacred Heart Catholic University, and Fr. Angelo Serra S.J., professor emeritus of human genetics at the same university, presented the conference to reporters.
The 20th international conference is slated to be held at the Vatican from November 17th to the 19th , 2005, and will explore the theme of the human genome.Cardinal Lozano told those gathered that the conference will begin "by considering the genome as a structural element that organizes the human body into its individual and hereditary dimensions; it comprehends the entirety of the genes, but goes further to embrace all the other elements that, with the genes, constitute the original energy, developing throughout an entire existence and representing the key mystery of human life.
"This subject, he said, "is very broad and is to a large extent subject to new research and discoveries," but our aim is to discuss it "from the specific perspective of health," stressing its therapeutic aspects.The Cardinal also noted that the conference would unite "scientific, philosophical and theological reflections to orient the rest of the conference towards the theme of life. …”“From this starting point,” he said, “our journey will be divided into three stages: reality, illumination, action.
"Going on to describe the individual components, Cardinal Lozano explained: "In the first part of our conference we will consider the current reality of genetics, genomic studies and post-genomic studies; chromosome aberrations and congenital disorders; ... genetic predisposition to cancer…” He said that this will also encompass ideas of “medical care for patients with these diseases and their families; judgment, error and negligence in genetic aspects of maternal fetal medicine; ... human genetics and its international juridical status; genetic research and international cooperation.
"He said that during the second part of the conference, discussions will center on "the historical process of human genetics; ... the ethics of medical genetics; the path of liberal eugenics and the ethics of medical consultancy in the field of genetics." Careful attention will also be given to "the application of the knowledge of human genetics according to Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism, as well as genetics according to the ideas of post-modernity."During the last stage of the conference, Cardinal Lozano said that "we will examine genetics and the new culture, the pastoral vision of genetic research, medical genetics and ethical committees in hospitals, law and genetics, ... education and the updating of pastoral workers in the field of genetics, and the prevention of genetic diseases from the point of view of pastoral care.
"The Cardinal closed by boasting the high-caliber attendees slated for the conference. He said that top experts from various scientific and theological fields, hailing from 17 different countries, including Italy, United Kingdom, Greece, France, Burkina Faso, U.S.A., Iceland, Switzerland, Holland, Colombia, Germany, Spain, India, Japan, Slovakia, Cuba and Mexico, will be in attendance.
Washington D.C., Nov 15, 2005 (CNA) - Despite the difficult situation for the priesthood in the last few years, morale among priests in the United States is high, Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane told members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Monday at the opening of their plenary session.
The USCCB president cited statistics that more than 90 percent of U.S. priests report satisfaction with their lives as priests. In addition, 90 percent of the priests interviewed said they would make the choice of priesthood again, if they had it to do all over. “Faith and God's grace are the main energy behind our priests' good morale and their sense of service,” he said.
Still, he emphasized, priests must be continuously supported and sustained in their ministry by their bishops, priestly groups and the laity.“Our Catholic teaching consistently speaks of priests as our closest collaborators and co-workers in the Lord's vineyard. Yet we Bishops need to recognize honestly that many priests do not sense that this is true,” he said.
He pointed to studies in which more than half of the priests interviewed said the way in which the sex-abuse crisis was handled has affected their view of Church leadership negatively. “Only 42 percent believe they will be dealt with fairly if they are accused; 58 percent do not. Only 27 percent believe that accused priests have been treated fairly; the vast majority does not,” he said.Bishops must use the Church’s instruments of consultation and collaboration, as well as develop personal contact with their priests to demonstrate that they unequivocally “share in the same mission and are united sacramentally in one priesthood.”
He also urged his fellow bishops to always “act fairly and justly” and presume innocence when calling to account those priests who have been accused of abuse or of misusing their priestly ministry. “We need to exercise the God-given authority we have in a way that does not place bishop and priests on either side of a divide,” he said. “The challenge, of course, is to succeed in being both father and brother to our priests.”Priests must also continue to support and sustain each other.
The bishop noted that there are several movements that exist that encourage fraternity and spiritual sharing among priests. About 54 percent of priests have participated in a support group for priests in the past two years and about 63 percent have met with a spiritual director in the past year, the bishop said.“Along with my brother bishops, I encourage this mutual support as an essential element in the life of priests today. …Those means of support, especially spiritual direction, are essential for a healthy priestly life and for the priest’s own growth in his particular call to holiness.
”The support offered by the laity to their parish priests continues to have a positive effect on priest morale as well, said Bishop Skylstad. Where pastors have sought the advice and collaboration of their parishioners, they have experienced a healthy morale. The bishop said 9 in 10 Catholics agree that parish priests do a good job.“I strongly encourage this kind of collaboration between priests and people, because in working together in this way priests come to experience not only the importance of appropriate means of accountability to the communities they serve but also the realization that not every burden rests entirely on their shoulders,” he said.Finally, the bishop said, bishops themselves must support each other and strengthen their affective collegiality in order to better lead their own dioceses and work collaboratively. “There is no question, Brothers, that these past few years have taken a great toll on us. We need to give more attention to our relationships with and support of one another,” even our senior bishops.
Washington D.C., Nov 15, 2005 (CNA) - How should bishops approach Catholic politicians who do not uphold Church teaching? And should these politicians receive Communion? These are some of the questions Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and his task force on Catholic politicians will try to answer this week during the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ plenary meeting in Washington.
This issue has been an ongoing concern for the bishops and hotly debated in the press.Cardinal McCarrick is leading the task force, which will seek advice on this at meetings with Catholic Democrats and Republicans, who were recommended by their local bishops.
Other topics that the bishops will discuss at the plenary include: the financial and legal challenges resulting from clergy sex-abuse scandals; the current Vatican inspection of all U.S. seminaries; and the policy on admitting homosexuals in the seminaries and the priesthood.Last month, the Synod of Bishops in Rome said Catholic politicians have a responsibility to uphold Church teachings, but it did not set strict rules on whether they should be given Communion. It said bishops should exercise “firmness and prudence” in their local situations.
Lourdes, France, Nov 15, 2005 (CNA) - The Catholic Church has officially recognized the miraculous healing of an Italian woman who visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France more than 50 years ago when she was suffering from a fatal form of rheumatic heart disease. Anna Santaniello, now 94, said her illness disappeared during a pilgrimage to the Marian shrine in 1952, reported ANSA. The international Catholic committee that runs the shrine has acknowledged Santaniello as the 67th person to officially healed at Lourdes. In 1964, the Church had declared her case an “extraordinary healing.” Archbishop Gerardo Pierro of Salerno, in southern Italy where Santaniello lives, announced the Church's decision on Sunday at mass. After the mass, Santaniello told the daily Il Giornale that she was diagnosed with the disease as a child and the same illness had killed one of her brothers and a sister. "My condition got worse as I got older and after a while I was confined to bed, barely able to breathe. The doctors had lost all hope for me," she reportedly said.
Washington D.C., Nov 15, 2005 (CNA) - The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to review an appeals court decision, which states that the inscription "In God We Trust" on a government building in North Carolina does not violate church-state separation.
Two attorneys who argued that the inscription on the government building in Lexington was unconstitutional had filed the lawsuit. But a U.S. appeals court ruled that the lawsuit failed to show that the display had no legitimate secular purpose, that it has the effect of endorsing religion or that it has resulted in an excessive entanglement of government and religion, reported Reuters.
The appeals court said Congress first authorized the phrase "In God We Trust" on coins in 1865, and Congress made it the national motto in 1956. It is inscribed above the speaker's chair in the U.S. House of Representatives and above the main door of the U.S. Senate chamber.The high court rejected the appeal Monday without any comment or recorded dissent
Vatican City, Nov 15, 2005 (CNA) - Earlier today, the Vatican announced that this coming Sunday, Cardinal Carlo Furno, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and archpriest emeritus of the Basilica of St. Mary Major, will take possession of the title of the Sacred Heart of Christ the King. The announcement came from the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, and noted that the Cardinal will take possession of a diaconate elevated "pro hac vice" to presbyteral title, in Viale Mazzini 32, Rome. The historic ceremony will take place at noon on Sunday, November 20th.
Washington D.C., Nov 15, 2005 (CNA) - As the U.S. Department of Justice continues to release more documents on Supreme Court nominee Samuel J. Alito, one new, and particularly interesting file--to both sides of the abortion debate--cites the judge saying that he did not believe the constitution protected a woman’s right to have an abortion. National Public Radio reported that in 1985, while Alito was applying to be an aide to then-Attorney General Edwin Meese, he wrote that he was particularly proud of “contributions in recent cases in which the government has argued in the Supreme Court…that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion." While many pro-life advocates are seeing this as a good sign, others, on the so-called “right to choose” side, are suggesting that Alito should be disqualified for having such a strong stance against an issue which has split the nation. Jay Sekulow however, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, said this morning that, “The fact that Judge Alito criticized the legal underpinnings supporting abortion as a constitutional right should not be used against him in the confirmation process.” He stressed that there was ample precedent for confirming a nominee who has expressed his views about Roe v. Wade, saying that the statement “mirrors that of the late Supreme Court Justice Byron White, who was appointed by President Kennedy, and the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist." Earlier this month, President George Bush tapped Alito to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor--often thought to be an important swing vote on important life and religious freedom issues. Alito takes the place of Bush’s previous nominee, Harriet Miers, who withdrew from the running after confounding both sides of the political spectrum with her lack of public legal history on which Senators hoped to base an opinion. So far, some 200 pages worth of the judge’s documents have been made available by the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush Presidential Libraries.
La Paz, Bolivia, Nov 15, 2005 (CNA) - During his opening remarks at the 81st General Assembly of the Bishops’ Conference of Bolivia, the Archbishop of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Cardinal Julio Terrazas Sandoval, called on politicians not to jeopardize the country’s future and to seek “clear and urgent answers” in response to the demands of the people.
“The life of the country is jeopardized when the demands of the common good are set aside or when supposed legal arguments are used to ignore the dignity and the demands of our people,” the cardinal said.
It is “incomprehensible that faced with the real situations of pain and anguish of the immense majority of our people, leaders are not seeking after the clear and urgent responses that we need today,” Cardinal Terrazas continued.
Likewise, he expressed regret at the social unrest that has resulted from the government’s indecision to implement a ruling by the Constitutional Court that ordered congressional redistricting in each region of the country in accord with the 2001 consensus.
The ruling led to political fights between politicians in La Paz, Oruro and Potosi, and Santa Cruz and Cochabamba. After two months of debate, the country’s electoral committee suspended elections scheduled for December 4.
In response, President Eduardo Rodriguez issued a decree establishing the number of congressional seats per region. His decision was disputed by two representatives, which further jeopardized elections.
“The spirit of a people is broken when the feelings of groups or regions are exacerbated, thus stoking the selfishness of some and the nostalgia of others,” the cardinal warned. Bolivia, he said, needs to accept “the diversity of our identities and support social recognition of the different groups and communities.”
, Nov 15, 2005 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Colombia has rejected a proposal being debated in Congress and argued before the Constitutional Court to legalize abortion in that country, saying the issue is not a matter of privacy, as “the legitimate rights of the woman over her body end where the rights of the unborn child in her womb begin.”
Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro of Tunja and President of the Conference said, “Abortion is not a matter of privacy because it carries with it the interests and rights of others,” affecting not only the lives of the parents but also “the unity of the human species,” and there is no legitimate reason to “dispose of human life as if it were a thing.”
Referring specifically to the law being debated in Colombia, the archbishop explained that the baby is “a distinct being from the mother” and begins “to live his own life at the moment of conception,” and therefore the legalization of abortion would contradict the Colombian constitution, which recognizes the inviolable character of the right to life.
“Allowing abortion to be legalized in certain cases—such as rape or non-consensual sex—is to give legitimacy to the State’s refusal to effectively carry out its duties regarding human life,” the body of bishops stated. They expressed their hope that those involved in the debate would respect the country’s laws and would freely and conscientiously exercise their responsibilities.
Archbishop Tunja called on the government to study alternatives that would protect pregnant women in difficult situations.
Lima, Peru, Nov 15, 2005 (CNA) - With a Mass celebrated by the President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, the II International Pro-Life Congress concluded Sunday in Lima, Peru. Before the closing Mass, representatives of 21 countries signed the Declaration of Lima, calling on the governments of the world to base their development plans on the total respect for human life and the family.
The statement reiterates that “the right to life is the first human right that must be respected and protected from the moment of conception to natural death, as the American Convention on Human Rights recognizes.”
“If the right to life is respected, all other rights of a social, economic and political nature will be respected. The first responsibility of leaders is to unconditionally defend the life of each human and to recognize that the family based on marriage between a man and a woman is the natural place in which every human should be born and educated,” the document states.
Participants in the event also expressed their commitment to eliminate all forms of abortion, eugenics, euthanasia and mutilation. They reiterated that parents should always be the primary educators of their children, with the state having only a subsidiary role.
Young people also gathered for the I Youth Pro-Life Symposium, where they committed to living authentic love and seeking the good of the other in relationships, rather than seeking to satisfy oneself at another’s expense.
“We are in a stage of formation and personal development in which we need to exercise control over ourselves and in this way live fully our youth and not behave as if we were married when we are not. Conceiving a child is a great responsibility and an act of generous love,” they added.
Some five thousand people participated in both the Congress and the Symposium. Organizers announced the next International Pro-Life Congress would be held in Mexico in November of 2007.
Mexico City, Mexico, Nov 15, 2005 (CNA) - The President of the Bishops’ Conference of Mexico, Bishop Jose Guadalupe Martin Rabago, said this week the role of the bishops in the coming elections would be to provide guidance and prayer so that the results would allow the country to move forward.
“The Church wants to promote dialogue and civic participation by orienting, guiding and praying so that the next elections reinforce the country’s trust in its leaders, democracy be strengthened, the quality of political debate be elevated and that Mexicans move forward in building the country that we all wish for,” Bishop Rabago stated during a press conference.
He also warned that recent scandals in the country could lead to greater skepticism about politics among young people. This creates “the sensation that we are living in a country in which there is little hope of bringing about change through democratic means,” the bishop maintained.