Vatican City, Nov 21, 2005 (CNA) - Over the weekend, Pope Benedict met with members of a Vatican conference on health care ministry, to whom, he urged; scientific advances ought to serve the "integral good of the person, in constant respect for his or her dignity."
The international conference was the 20th of its kind and sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry. It was held in the Vatican from the 17th to the 19th on the theme of the human genome.
The Pope told conference participants during his Saturday address that "believers well know that the Gospel is in intrinsic harmony with the values inscribed in human nature."
"The image of God", he said, "is so strongly impressed on man's soul that it difficult for the voice of conscience to be completely silenced. ... Even people who no longer recognize themselves as members of the Church, or who have lost the light of faith, remain attentive to human values and to the positive contribution the Gospel can make to individual and social good."
The Holy Father continued, saying that modern people "are capable of understanding that the dignity of man is not identified with the genes of his DNA, and does not diminish in the presence of any physical diversity or genetic defects."
"The principle of 'non discrimination' on the basis of physical or genetic factors", he added, "has entered profoundly into people's consciences and is formally expressed in the Charter of Human Rights."
He said that, "this principle has its most authentic roots in the dignity intrinsic to each human being by the fact of having been created in the image and likeness of God." An analysis of scientific data reveals the dignity of human life "from the first moment of fecundation."
The Pope pointed out how the Church "announces and presents this truth, not only with the authority of the Gospel but also with the strength deriving from reason."
He also stressed the necessity of guarding "against the risks of a science and technology that seek complete autonomy from the moral norms written into human nature."
Pope Benedict also affirmed that the need to give "fresh impulse to pastoral health care ministry" through "a renewal and a deepening of pastoral activity itself, bearing in mind the increased awareness spread by the media in society, and the higher level of education of the people to whom it is addressed."
"We cannot ignore the fact", he said, "that ever more frequently, not only legislators but citizens themselves are called to express their view on complex scientific problems. If adequate education - or indeed an adequate formation of consciences - is lacking, false values and misleading information may easily prevail in orienting public opinion."
The Pontiff concluded his address by noting the particular applications of genetic engineering, which, he said requires, "a thorough and limpid formation of consciences."
He stressed that pastoral health care ministry "needs well trained and competent professionals" because "modern scientific discoveries affect the lives of families, involving them in unforeseen and delicate choices which must be faced responsibly."
Vatican City, Nov 21, 2005 (CNA) - Christ’s role King of creation was the major theme of a brief address Pope Benedict gave to throngs of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square Sunday, to pray the weekly Angelus. Yesterday was the liturgical Solemnity of Christ the King--the final Sunday in the liturgical year before the beginning of Advent.
The Holy Father told the crowd that "During His public life, Jesus inaugurated the new Kingdom which 'is not of this world,' finally realizing it in full with His death and resurrection."
"Having risen from death," the Holy Father said, "He appeared before the Apostles and said 'all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.' This power springs from the love which God showed totally in the sacrifice of His Son."
He added that "The Kingdom of Christ is a gift offered to men and women of all times so that everyone who believes in the Word incarnate may 'not perish but have eternal life'."
Pope Benedict then went on to cite concluding paragraph of the first part of the Vatican Council II Pastoral Constitution, ‘Gaudium et Spes, which is titled "Christ, Alpha and Omega."
This section, the Holy Father said reads: "’The Lord is the goal of human history, the focal point of the longings of history and of civilization, the center of the human race, the joy of every heart and the answer to all its yearnings.’"
"Enlivened and united in His Spirit," the document continues, "we journey toward the consummation of human history, one which fully accords with the counsel of God's love: To reestablish all things in Christ, both those in the heavens and those on the earth'."
The Pope said that "'Gaudium et spes' interprets, in the light of the central position of Christ, the condition of contemporary man; his vocation and dignity, and all areas of his life: family, culture, economics, politics and the international community."
"This", he stressed, "is the Church's mission yesterday, today and always: to announce and bear witness to Christ so that mankind, all men and women, may fully realize their vocation."
The Vatican II documents have been finding their way into many of the Pope’s recent addresses, as the Church continues to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the conclusion of the influential council throughout this fall.
San Antonio, Texas, Nov 21, 2005 (CNA) - During the I International Congress on Churches, the Lay State and Society, Archbishop Jose Gomez of San Antonio, Texas said most Catholic politicians in the United States have fallen into "a distorted understanding of what their faith is."
During a speech on Catholics and public life in the US, Archbishop Gomez noted that "today 70% of politicians who claim to be Catholic in Congress and the Senate support abortion, and that figure reaches almost 90% in traditional Catholic states such as Massachusetts or New York."
Many Catholic politicians, inspired by the interpretation of some influential theologians, consider all the teachings of the Church to be on equal footing. "They respect ‘a large part’ of that doctrine, especially in social matters, but they disagree on issues such as abortion, euthanasia and homosexual unions. According to them, they adhere to a ‘large part’ and say they are adhering to it all."
This understanding, the archbishop pointed out, has led to "curious anomalies, such as a ‘Catholicity’ survey carried out by one Catholic senator among his colleagues in 2003 which showed that this senator and another were the ‘most Catholic’ of the Senate, despite having voting voted 100 out 100 times in support of abortion, euthanasia, homosexual unions and experimentation with embryonic stem cells."
An example of such a situation was the presidential candidacy of John Kerry. Kerry claimed to be Catholic yet openly supported abortion.
As a result, many Catholics looked to their bishops and priests for guidance. "It was necessary for the bishops of the United States to take some time to reflect on this matter, which was what took place in Denver, Colorado, last year, with the support of a letter sent by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith," said Archbishop Gomez.
"The Church teaches that abortion is a grave sin and that not all moral issues have the same weight as the interruption of the life of the unborn or euthanasia," the archbishop continued. "If some candidate campaigns for and supports laws that allow abortion and euthanasia, his pastor should meet with him, instruct him in the teachings of the Church and inform him that he should not present himself for Communion until he puts an end to the state of sin in which he finds himself," Archbishop Gomez said in conclusion.
Vatican City, Nov 21, 2005 (CNA) - Thirteen Mexican martyrs were beatified Sunday in Guadalajara, Mexico--the latest in a recent string of Saints-to-be, pronounced by the Holy Father since his inauguration last spring.
Following his weekly Angelus prayer at the Vatican, Pope Benedict sent a special greeting to bishops, priests, religious and laity who had participated in the day’s event at Guadalajara’s Jalisco Stadium.
The beatification ceremony for the martyrs, killed during religious persecutions last century in Mexico, was presided at by Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins C.M.F., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
At the Vatican, Benedict announced the names of the martyrs: Anacleto Gonzalez Flores, and seven companions, Jose Trinidad Rangel, Andres Sola Molist, Leonardo Perez, Dario Acosta Zurita, and fourteen-year-old, Jose Sanchez del Rio. "They faced martyrdom in order to defend their Christian faith," he said.
"On this Solemnity of Christ the King," the Pope recalled, "whom they invoked at the moment of supreme sacrifice, they are for us a permanent example and a stimulus to bear coherent witness to our own faith in modern society."
He also added that Monday, November 21st, the Feast of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple, marks "pro orantibus" Day, or the day dedicated to religious communities of contemplative life.
The Pope expressed his personal gratitude, "in the name of the whole Church, for those people who consecrate their lives to prayer and to the cloister, offering eloquent testimony of the primacy of God and of His Kingdom. Let us remain close to them with our spiritual and material support."
Vatican City, Nov 21, 2005 (CNA) - Pope Benedict has established new juridical norms for the famous Basilica of St. Francis, as well as the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels, both located in Assisi, Italy and run respectively by the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor Conventual and Friars Minor.
The new "Motu proprio" entitled "De Basilicis Sancti Francisci et Sanctae Mariae Angelorum," establishes new norms concerning the Basilicas, which will now be assigned a Cardinal to oversee some necessary apostolic activities.
The Pope began his new document by recalling the universal fame of the Basilica of St. Francis "which holds the remains of the seraphic saint," and that of St. Mary of the Angels "which houses the diminutive but pre-eminent church of Porziuncola."
He also highlighted the fact that "the Roman Pontiffs, for their part, have always had special ties with, and particular solicitude for, these two major Franciscan churches, ... and have always kept them under their own direct jurisdiction."
"Over the centuries," Benedict wrote, "with their compassionate activities and their testimony, the Conventual Friars and the Friars Minor have kept the spirit and the charism of St. Francis alive, spreading his evangelical message of peace, brotherhood and goodness throughout the world."
He then affirmed that, in order in order to more effectively integrate the various activities carried out in the two basilicas with diocesan, regional and national pastoral care, "we feel it appropriate to modify the current juridical regulations, as established by my venerated predecessor Pope Paul VI, ... updating the norms to reflect current needs."
Consequently, the Pope decreed over the weekend that the two Basilicas, with their associated convents, would be assigned a cardinal as papal legate who "although without jurisdiction, will have the task of perpetuating with his moral authority the close ties of communion between those places sacred to the memory of St. Francis and this Apostolic See."
"He will be able to impart the papal blessing during the celebrations he presides on the occasion of the major liturgical Solemnities."
In the document, the Pope went on to decide that the bishop of the diocese Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino will, from this moment on, have jurisdiction "over the churches and the religious houses, regarding all pastoral activities carried out by the Conventual Fathers of the Basilica of St. Francis, and by the Friars Minor of St. Mary of the Angels."
"The Franciscan Fathers," he added, "both Conventual and Friars Minor, for all initiatives with pastoral implications, will thus have to ask for and obtain the consent of the bishop of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino."
That bishop, will then "seek the opinion of the president of the Episcopal Conference of Umbria" [the region of Italy, of which Assisi is part] or, for more wide-ranging initiatives, "of the president of the Italian Episcopal Conference."
"As for the celebration of the Sacraments in the aforesaid basilicas, the norms of the Code of Canon Law and those in force in the diocese are applicable."
The Motu proprio, dated November 9th--the anniversary of the dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran--concluded by exhorting "the Sons of St. Francis, to whom the two aforesaid basilicas are entrusted, to follow with generous willingness the norms laid down…in a spirit of sincere communion with the bishop of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino and, through him, with the regional and national episcopal conferences."
Vatican City, Nov 21, 2005 (CNA) - Earlier today, Pope Benedict visited the Vatican offices of the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences, where he told leaders that "human beings are part of nature and, yet, as free subjects who have moral and spiritual values… transcend nature."
The two academies, located in the Vatican Gardens, are headed, respectively, by Nicola Cabibbo and Mary Ann Glendon.
Before presenting a sculpture of the late Pope John Paul II, founder of the academies, Benedict specifically thanked the Academy of Social Sciences for their choice of "the concept of the person in social sciences" as the subject of its plenary assembly this year.
In his address, he said that the anthropological reality of humans being part of, and transcending nature "is an integral part of Christian thought, and responds directly to the attempts to abolish the boundary between human sciences and natural sciences, often proposed in contemporary society.
"Understood correctly," Benedict told the group, "this reality offers a profound answer to the questions posed today concerning the status of the human being. This is a theme which must continue to be part of the dialogue with science."
"According to God's design," he went on, "persons cannot be separated from the physical, psychological or spiritual dimensions of human nature. Even though cultures change over time, to suppress or ignore the nature that they claim to 'cultivate' can have serious consequences."
"Likewise," he added, "individuals will only find authentic fulfillment when they accept the genuine elements of nature that constitute them as persons."
The Pope said that "the concept of person continues to bring about a profound understanding of the unique character and social dimension of every human being. This is especially true in legal and social institutions, where the notion of 'person' is fundamental."
"Sometimes," he noted however, "even when this is recognized in international declarations and legal statutes, certain cultures, especially when not deeply touched by the Gospel, remain strongly influenced by group-centered ideologies or by an individualistic and secularist view of society."
Benedict then explained that "The social doctrine of the Catholic Church, which places the human person at the heart and source of social order, can offer much to the contemporary consideration of social themes."
Before presenting the John Paul II sculpture, the Holy Father stressed how his predecessor greatly "enriched and expanded the concept (of the person) in his Encyclicals and other writings. These texts represent a patrimony to be received, collected and assimilated with care, particularly by the pontifical academies."
The Pope closed by expressing his gratitude at having the opportunity "of this occasion to unveil this sculpture of Pope John Paul II, flanked by two memorial inscriptions. They remind us of the Servant of God's special interest in the work of your academies, especially the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, founded by him in 1994."
"They also", he said, "point to his enlightened readiness to reach out in a dialogue of salvation to the world of science and culture, a desire which is entrusted in a particular way to the pontifical academies."
New Orleans, La., Nov 21, 2005 (CNA) - Archbishop Alfred Hughes of New Orleans will lead an interfaith service in praying for the renewal of the New Orleans community and for those who died when Hurricane Katrina struck in August.
The interfaith service will be Nov. 27 at 3 p.m. at St. Louis Cathedral. Clergy from the Episcopal, Lutheran, African Methodist Episcopal, Greek Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu traditions will join him.
New Orleans is still in the initial stages of reconstruction after Hurricane Katrina hit the city and the entire Gulf Coast at the end of August.
Congregants will join the clergy to meditate and reflect and to remember those who died in the hurricane. They will also give thanks to God for those people who saved lives and be invited to pray for the renewal of the community in faith in God.
The service will include readings from the Bible, the Koran and other sacred writings, Latin, Greek Orthodox and Jewish chants, the Muslim call to prayer and Christian and Gospel hymns.
People of all faiths are invited to attend.
Dublin, Ireland, Nov 21, 2005 (CNA) - The adoption and implementation of a new child protection policy by the Church in Ireland is a sign of hope for the future, said Bishop Seamus Hegarty of Derry.
"We have long since accepted that we, as Church leaders, have failed in our responsibilities in the past," said the bishop. But with the new policy, he said: "We can look to the future with a new-found hope and expectation."
He referred to the humility Pope John Paul II showed when he visited his would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca, in prison and suggested that Irish bishops need to show the same kind of humility with regard to sex abuse.
The bishop made these comments during a meeting in Dublin of the Irish bishops’ agency for Irish prisoners overseas.
With regard to prisoners overseas, the bishop said he was "horrified" by the conditions some Irish citizens in prisons overseas.
He urged the Irish government to increase the number of countries with which it has bilateral agreements in order that Irish prisoners overseas might have the option of serving their sentence in Ireland rather than abroad. The families of Irish people in jails abroad are often left to suffer in silence, he added.
Bishop Hegarty also urged against the privatization of prisons in Ireland, which may put the dignity of prisoners at risk in the name of efficiency.
Madrid, Spain, Nov 21, 2005 (CNA) - The Apostolic Nuncio to Spain, Archbishop Manuel Monteiro de Castro, said last week freedom and power are weakened when God is excluded from society, adding that the "Eucharist is the nourishment that gives Christians the strength to be truly free."
During the inauguration of the 7th Congress on Catholics and Public Life, organized by the San Pablo University Foundation, Archbishop Monteiro explained that "young people are anxiously seeking liberty, justice and truth; unfortunately, many times they are fooled by proposals of a freedom that is not founded in God."
In the relationship between Eucharist and freedom, he added, "the former always maintains its message of building a society in which trust in God, communion, solidarity and authentic freedom prevail."
The president of the San Pablo Foundation, Alfonso Coronel de Palma, encouraged participants to open their hearts to Christ, and he insisted that freedom be the central theme of the Congress, as many Spaniards today are not experiencing it.
The Congress on Catholics and Public Life was held in Madrid with the intention of promoting the participation of Catholics in society and encouraging them to live their faith consistently both in private and in public.
Lima, Peru, Nov 21, 2005 (CNA) - A former official of the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) says the international organization requires that NGOs include the concepts of reproductive and sexual health and gender ideology in its development projects as a condition for receiving economic aid.
Amparo Medina, who is now a pro-life leader in Ecuador, told CNA that "most NGOs dream of receiving economic assistance from the UNPF in order to support their development projects, but unfortunately they are deceived in this process because in order to become self-sustaining, they must accept anti-population policies."
Medina also noted that funds provided by the United Nations for pro-abortion policies in Latin America come mainly from pharmaceutical companies and from the International Planned Parenthood Federation, the largest abortion provider in the world.
Many NGOs are told that the only way their projects will become sustainable is if they accept to distribute more contraceptives and introduce abortion legislation in their countries, Medina said.
Proof that such policies are not successful, Medina continued, is found in the fact that "teen pregnancy in Latin America was less than 3%, but since these sexual and reproductive health policies have been promoted, beginning in 1998, that figure has soared alarmingly to 23%."
"Several years ago AIDS was considered something far away, something related to European countries. Today it is about to become a pandemic in the region due to the indiscriminate distribution of contraceptives and condoms among young people," Medina said in conclusion.
Santiago, Chile, Nov 21, 2005 (CNA) - Parents should demand religion classes at public schools because children have a right to them, said Chilean Bishop Hector Vargas of Arica, adding that the Ministry of Education should subsidize the textbooks needed for such courses and include religion grades on report cards.
Bishop Vargas, who is also president of the Committee on Education of the Bishops’ Conference of Chile, said that in Arica there is a growing interest on the part of students in attending religion classes, because all of the municipal elementary schools are including it in their curricula. "In addition, all of the schools that have been built recently are offering religious instruction, and many of them have asked to be recognized as Catholic schools," he pointed out.
The only exceptions are students in the third and fourth year of high school, the bishop continued, because "in those cases there are not enough religion teachers who are qualified to teach at that level."
Bishop Vargas noted that the Conference has developed a series of programs aimed at addressing the questions high school students have about the faith. "The idea is that in religion class young people can discuss their problems and issues," he said.
Washington D.C., Nov 21, 2005 (CNA) - A must-have for journalists and other communicators, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has just released the 2006 Directory of Catholic Communications Personnel.
It lists principal communications contacts for each of the 195 U.S. dioceses, and other media contacts in the Holy See, diocesan-related organizations, Canadian organizations, religious community related organizations, national Catholic and media organizations, and ecumenical organizations.
A directory costs $7, including postage. To order, send a check, made out to USCCB Communications, to:
2006 Communications Directory
USCCB Communications Office
3211 4th St., N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20017