Vatican City, Nov 18, 2005 (CNA) - Last evening, Pope Benedict was treated to a special screening of the new film, “Pope John Paul II" which, he said, renewed in him a sense of gratitude to God for giving the Church a Pope of “such exalted human and spiritual stature.”
The screening was held in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, and attended by numerous Vatican and media representatives, as well as actor Jon Voight, who played the Pope in the new miniseries.
The film was produced by the Italian Lux Vide company, and by RAI (Italian State Television) in collaboration American broadcast company, CBS. The miniseries will air in the U.S. on December 4th and 7th on nationwide CBS affiliates.
Following the screening, Pope Benedict expressed his thanks to Ettore Bernabei, president of Lux Vide, and to others contributed to the film‘s making.
"Watching this film," said the Holy Father, "has renewed in me and, I think, in everyone who had the gift of knowing (John Paul II), a sense of profound gratitude to God for having given the Church and the world a Pope of such an exalted human and spiritual stature.”
The film opens with the May 13, 1981 assassination attempt on the late Pope in St. Peter’s Square, and continues, following his influential pontificate and vast world travels.
Pope Benedict said that, "over and above any specific evaluation, I feel the film constitutes further proof ... of the love people hold for Pope John Paul, and of their great desire to remember him, to see him again, to feel him close.”
“Beyond its superficial and emotive aspects,” the he continued, “this phenomenon clearly has an intimate spiritual dimension, which we here in the Vatican see every day watching the multitudes of pilgrims who come to pray, or just to pay rapid homage, at his tomb in the Vatican Grottoes.”
“That affective and spiritual bond with John Paul II, which became even closer during the period of his final illness and death, was not interrupted,” he told the crowd.
“It has never been broken,” he emphasized, “because it is a bond between souls, between the great soul of the Pope and the souls of innumerable believers; between his fatherly heart and the hearts of countless men and women of good will who recognized in him a friend, and a defender of man, of truth, of justice, of freedom and of peace.”
“All over the world, many people admired in him above all the coherent and generous witness to God."
Vatican City, Nov 18, 2005 (CNA) - This morning, Pope Benedict met with a group of bishops from the Czech Republic--in Rome for their semi-annual “ad limina” visits--and challenged them to strengthen the Church in their highly secularized country by supporting vocations, families and the laity.
He pointed out that the Church has no reason or desire to conflict with civil and State authorities, rather, it simply seeks to carry out its mission.
After individually meeting with each of the prelates, Benedict said that he had learned that the Church in the Czech Republic is "alive and well, and feels the call to be the leavening in a society that is secularized yet at the same time interested ... in the liberating but challenging message of the Gospel."
He observed that "the material and spiritual devastation of the earlier [communist] regime has left your fellow citizens, now that they have reacquired complete freedom, with a yearning to make up for lost time, pushing ahead without, perhaps, giving sufficient attention to the importance of spiritual values which give fortitude and consistency to civil and material progress."
He went on, affirming the bishops that their communities "already provide a solid testimony that attracts no small number of people, also from the world of culture.”
“This is a sign of hope”, he said, “for the formation of a mature laity, one that knows how to shoulder its ecclesial responsibilities.”
The Holy Father gave thanks to God for the region’s priests and religious, who are "active and hard-working, disciplined and united," but cautioned, although this "is a reason for consolation, it should not lead us to forget other aspects that give rise to understandable concern.”
“In the first place,” he said, “the lack of priests rightly induces you to dedicate special attention to vocational pastoral care.”
He added that from this point of view, a continued commitment to the formation of solid Christian families is particularly important for the life of the Czech Church, laying special emphasis on the importance of lay participation "in parish activities, and their introduction to a rich and healthy liturgical life."
"The Christian community”, Pope Benedict said, “is a grouping of people with their own rules, a living body that, in Jesus, exists in the world to bear witness to the strength of the Gospel. It is, then, a group of brothers and sisters who have no goals of power or of selfish interest, but who joyfully live the charity of God, which is Love.”
He pointed out that "In such a context, the State should have no difficulty in recognizing in the Church a counterpart that in no way prejudices its own function at the service of citizens.”
“Indeed,” he said, “the Church undertakes her activities in the religious sphere, enabling believers to express their faith, yet without invading the area of competence of the civil authorities. ... As is known, the Church does not seek privileges, but only the opportunity to carry out her mission.”
“When this right is recognized, it is really the whole of society that benefits."
The Holy Father concluded his message by exhorting the Czech bishops to continue ecumenical dialogue. “I know such dialogue is intense,” he assured, “as is the dialogue with all citizens in the cultural field on the fundamental values upon which all civil coexistence is based."
Tunis, Tunisia, Nov 18, 2005 (CNA) - Yesterday, Archbishop John Foley, President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications told a United Nations gathering that countries have a duty to use new advances in technology to help offer a voice to those who have been “unheard and forgotten.”
The Archbishop was in Tunis, Tunisia, for a United Nations World Summit on the Information Society, being held this week.
In his address, Archbishop Foley said that new communication technologies give us "the opportunity to connect and assist those living in the poorest and most isolated regions of the world and to offer a voice to those who in the past have often been unheard and forgotten."
He added that "The challenge of narrowing or even closing the so-called 'digital divide,' the current disparity in the access to digital communications between developed and developing countries, requires the joint effort of the entire international community."
The Summit is being held in two phases. The first took place in Geneva, Switzerland in December of 2003, during which, participating countries developed a plan of action on how best to use new communications technology for the betterment of the world community.
This week, the 175 member countries are discussing those plans and looking at ways to implement them.
Washington D.C., Nov 18, 2005 (CNA) - Military use in Iraq, arms control, and new questions raised by global terrorism, were among the tough ethical issues wrestled with by U.S. Catholic leaders at a Georgetown University colloquium, held in Washington last week.
Although the discussions took place behind closed doors. the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has announced that it will release transcripts of many of the November 11th talks, in which modern ethical questions were raised against the backdrop of Catholic moral teaching.
The meetings were part of a colloquium convened by the Bishops’ Committee on International Policy, and sponsored by the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, and Georgetown’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Mortara Center for International Studies, and Initiative on Religion, Politics and Peace.
Bishop John Ricard of the Diocese of Tallahassee-Pensacola, who just completed his term as chairman of the Bishops’ International Policy Committee this week, said that the meeting “was an opportunity to convene experts representing many different perspectives to examine and apply the Church’s teaching on war and peace to pressing foreign policy issues.”
“The purpose”, he said, “was not to rehearse past debates, but rather to reflect on future moral challenges in light of what we have learned from recent experience.”
In an effort to foster intimacy and discussion, the gathering was limited to an invited group of bishops and their staff, U.S. policy and military experts, and leaders of Catholic academic organizations.
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, as well as Bishop Thomas Wenski, incoming chairman of the bishops' International Policy Committee and Archbishop Edwin O'Brien of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, were on hand for the event along with a number of other bishops.
Gerard Powers, from Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute, which co-sponsored the event, said that “the colloquium…provided bishops and lay experts from a range of backgrounds and perspectives a special opportunity to engage in a forward-looking dialogue about difficult issues of morality and policy.”
Transcripts of many of the talks will be made available by the USCCB at: http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/international/index.htm
London, England, Nov 18, 2005 (CNA) - The Council for Catholic Maintained Schools could soon be dismantled as part of a sweeping review of Northern Ireland administration. Among a number of other changes to be announced next Tuesday, the Review of Public Administration has proposed that the CCMS should be downgraded to an advisory role.
The CCMS runs the Catholic schools and employs 8,500 teachers for its 500 schools. Many Catholic school representatives have written to the government, protesting the proposed downgrading of the CCMS. The schools say they are concerned that it is a threat to the ethos of Catholic education.
Education Minister Angela Smith told the BBC that the changes were proposed to “reduce the administrative burdens” and would not threaten the Catholic ethos in schools.
Smith met with the bishops to discuss the issue and said she did not believe that the government and the church are on “a collision course.”
"I can give them absolute reassurance, in terms of what they are concerned about, of maintaining the ethos and the character of their schools, they will not notice any difference," she reportedly said CCMS chief executive Donal Flanagan said to remove their input would diminish educational standards.
"Teachers and ethos are inextricably linked and we want the right to be able to appoint teachers who are committed to the aims of a Catholic education,” said Flanagan.
The review is the largest examination in more than 30 years of the organisation and delivery of public services in the province.
Washington D.C., Nov 18, 2005 (CNA) - The new questions raised by global terrorism and the preventive use of military force in Iraq were discussed by academics, Church leaders and military scholars during a colloquium at Georgetown University Nov. 11.
“This was an opportunity to convene experts representing many different perspectives to examine and apply the Church’s teaching on war and peace to pressing foreign policy issues,” explained Bishop John Ricard at the colloquium convened by the Bishops’ Committee on International Policy. The event was co-sponsored by the University of Notre Dame’s Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and Georgetown University.
“The purpose was not to rehearse past debates, but rather to reflect on future moral challenges in light of what we have learned from recent experience,” said the bishop, who completed his term as chairman of the committee this week. Bishop Thomas Wenski will take up the position.
Other topics included arms control, disarmament, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, preventive peace, alternatives to war, and the role of the Church in addressing these issues.
The discussion was off the record, but written presentations will be available, along with the agenda, at http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/international/index.htm.
Washington D.C., Nov 18, 2005 (CNA) - The Catholic Communication Campaign of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is sponsoring an art contest for children in grades 1 through 6.
The theme of the contest is “How the Good News Gets Around” and students are invited to draw a picture of how Jesus would tell the GOOD NEWS today.
First, second, and third place winners will be selected on the basis of originality and creativity. Cash prizes will be awarded. The submission deadline is March 1. Contest winners will be announced May 1.
The winning artwork will be featured on the USCCB Web site during May, Communications Month.
“We hope that parents and teachers will encourage students to reflect upon how Jesus might use today’s media to tell the Good News,” said Ramon Rodriguez, CCC’s Director of Development. “Then, we invite the students to use their creative talents to portray Jesus telling the Good News.”
Entry information is available at: http://www.catholiccommunicationcampaign.org/.
Lisbon, Portugal, Nov 18, 2005 (CNA) - More than 2,000 international delegates, among them five cardinals, took part in the third International Congress for the New Evangelization last week in Lisbon.
Msgr. Keith Barltrop, national director of the UK’s Catholic Agency to Support Evangelization, was part of the UK delegation, led by Bishop Charles Henderson, retired Auxiliary Bishop of Southwark Diocese. The congress was organized under the theme “Christ Lives.”
"I think the time has come to lose the stereotype that Catholics don't get involved in evangelization,” said Msgr. Barltrop. “The witness of a well-attended and dynamic international conference such as this Congress demonstrates the high importance that the Church places on sharing our faith with others."
The congress is the initiative of five cardinals, who had a vision of putting evangelization at the heart of European life and responding to the call of Pope John Paul II to engage in the re-evangelization of Europe. It aims to provide a European model for parish evangelization.
Msgr. Barltrop said the congress "has not only reaffirmed participants in their role as evangelists, but also transformed the way local Portuguese parishes and UK delegates view what they have to offer a modern European city.”
The monsignor’s agency presented two workshops at the congress, titled: 'How to make parish life more missionary' and 'Mission without jargon', inspiring delegates from Australia, Belgium, France and Spain to set up similar agencies.
The ICNE with each parish putting on coordinated local outreach events during the duration of the Congress.
Delegates also spent one day visiting the Marian Shrine in Fatima. The Statue of Our Lady of Fatima left the shrine for the first time in 50 years Nov. 12, and about 1.5 million people took part in a procession through the streets of Lisbon before the Congress was consecrated to her. St. Therese of Lisieux's relics, which have done a tour of Portugal, were also in the Cathedral of Lisbon all week.
For more information about the Congress and for transcripts of talks go to: www.icne-lisboa.org
Montreal, Canada, Nov 18, 2005 (CNA) - St. Joseph’s Oratory is facing a lawsuit of up to $1 million after it broke its contract to host a national pro-life conference. The conference, which began yesterday and will end Saturday, has been moved to a Protestant church in the suburbs. Three-hundred conference participants traveled into Montreal from across the country.
The pro-life group, Campagne Quebec-Vie, held a press conference yesterday announcing its decision to sue the national shrine and claiming legal, financial and moral damages. The oratory had reportedly signed the contract with Campagne Quebec-Vie in March.
In a letter faxed to Campagne Quebec-Vie Nov. 16, the day before the start of the conference, the shrine’s rector Fr. Jean-Pierre Aumont, CSC, said the oratory made the difficult decision to cancel the pro-life conference at the oratory due to threats of possible protest and the oratory’s inability to guarantee the safety of people on the property. The oratory is owned and operated by the Holy Cross Fathers.
Organizers say the oratory succumbed to intimidation by local activists, who had formed a coalition, called Abort Their Conference Coalition, to protest the pro-life conference.
The incident puts into question the right to freedom of expression in Quebec, say organizers.
Havana, Cuba, Nov 18, 2005 (CNA) - Cuban president Fidel Castro met with the country’s bishops Wednesday night to mark the 70th anniversary of official relations between Havana and the Holy See. The Apostolic Nuncio to Cuba, Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi, was also present at the meeting.
According to the Communist daily Granma, the meeting took place in “a constructive and friendly atmosphere” and “matters of mutual interest were addressed, in keeping with spirit bequeathed to our country, the world and the Church itself by Pope John Paul II, the untiring fighter for ecumenism, unity, and cooperation among the diverse religious denominations, the fight against poverty and for peace in the world.”
During the meeting, Castro recalled the visit of John Paul II to Cuba and said the greatness of the late Pontiff “was his genius of seeing and understanding the problems of today’s world.”
Madrid, Spain, Nov 18, 2005 (CNA) - The Director of the Holy See’s Press Office, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, received this week the Luka Brajnovic Award for freedom of expression and professional dedication, given by the University of Navarre in Spain.
The Luka Brajnovic Award was first granted in 1997 and is bestowed upon distinguished professionals in the communications media for their commitment to the dignity of the person and human values.
Joaquin Navarro-Valls was the tenth person to receive the award, which in previous years has been bestowed upon Violeta Chamorro, former president of Nicaragua, and filmmaker David Puttnam.
Navarro-Valls obtained degrees in Medicine and Surgery in 1961. In 1968 he graduated from the school of journalism at the University of Navarre.
He worked as a journalist for the Spanish daily ABC from 1977 to 1984, when he was tasked to head up the Vatican’s Press Office.
Paris, France, Nov 18, 2005 (CNA) - French president Jacques Chirac has condemned the burning of a church in the Parisian suburb of Romans, calling it an “unacceptable act” of “intolerable aggression.”
This was the latest in the wave of violence that has swept the country, including attacks on three mosques. Rioters set fire to the church using some type of explosive device. The local mayor, Henri Bertholet, called the act “the work of the insane.” France’s Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, had harsh words for those who “attack the symbols of all religions in France.”
Police officers said the church was partially destroyed, with classrooms and part of the nave of the church being the areas most affected.