Archive of November 23, 2005

Through Christ, ‘we reach infinite, glorious depths of God,’ says Pope

Vatican City, Nov 23, 2005 (CNA) - In today’s general audience, Pope Benedict XVI explained to a large number of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square that the through Christ, “the work of God the Father is revealed and accomplished.

Having spent many of his recent audiences teaching about the Psalms, the Holy Father today, shifted his attention to the opening canticle of St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, “God the Savior”, calling it a “constant stream of praise rising up to God.”

Benedict said that the canticle belongs to the category of "blessings that appear in the Old Testament and that were further spread by the Jewish tradition."

Noting that in the Christian faith, God is “celebrated as 'Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’, the Pope said that “in our hymn of praise, the central figure is that of Christ, in Whom the work of…the Father is revealed and accomplished."

He went on to point out some of the specific verbs used in St. Paul's hymn, the first of which is "to choose."

God, said the Pope, "'chose us in Him,' this is our vocation to sanctity, to the status of adoptive children, and hence to fraternity with Christ. ... The second verb ... designates the gift of grace. ... The grace the Father gives us in the only begotten Son is, then, the epiphany of His love which envelops and transforms us.”

The Holy Father then moved to what he called, "the third fundamental verb of the Pauline hymn.” “It too”, he said, “has as its object in divine grace which is 'lavished upon us.' What we have, then, is a verb of fullness, we could say (keeping to its original sense) of excess, of giving without limit or reserve."

"And so”, he continued, “we reach the infinite and glorious depths of the mystery of God, opened and revealed by grace to those who were called through grace and love.”

He explained that “the mystery of divine will has a center that is destined to coordinate all existence and all history, leading them to the fullness desired by God. This is the 'plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things' in Christ."

Comparing the history of creation and salvation to a great fresco, the Pope called to mind the words of St. Irenaeus who, he said, “recognized that since the Word of God truly becomes man, sin and death are defeated and all people are renewed in Christ."

At the conclusion of the audience, the Pope addressed special greetings to representatives of the Italian National Anti-Usury Consultancy, who are celebrating their tenth anniversary, as well as a group of Polish pilgrims, to whom he expressed praise for their recent recognition of the contemplative life.

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Cinema has potential to spiritually guide man to essential understanding of himself, says Archbishop Foley

Vatican City, Nov 23, 2005 (CNA) - As he inaugurated the 9th International Congress on Cinema and Spirituality last evening, Archbishop John P. Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, expressed his hope that the spiritual potential of film could place itself at the service of mankind.

The Congress is being held in Rome's "Roma Tre" University from November 22nd to the 23rd.

Speaking about this year's theme, "the temptation to believe," Archbishop Foley said that submitting to this temptation "means starting along the road of the difficult search for Truth in a world such as today's which swings from religious indifference to religious extremism…”

“It means responding to God despite human incredulity,” he continued, “which can never be completely overcome, it means undertaking an act of courage, a leap of quality at the existential level."

The archbishop also noted that in various films, this theme, "the temptation to believe ... has given rise to a dialogue between human beings and God, a dialogue capable of stimulating spectators to profound reflection, bringing them face to face with their own intimate identity and with their fellow men."

He praised what he called "the great film directors," who "know how to tell the stories of men and women of all times and cultures to the men and women of today, echoing personal experiences of great intensity.”

“And”, he said, “it is precisely this valuable potential of cinema that leads me to hope that it will continue to place itself at the service of mankind, guiding man to a spiritual understanding of his own essence."

Archbishop Foley also pointed out that "cinema has traversed more than one hundred years," yet it "continues to amaze us, to make us think and question ourselves through the masterful art of those artists who have chosen to share their spiritual experience with the spectator."

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Boston Archbishop cancels attendance at Catholic Charities dinner honoring pro-abortion mayor

Boston, Mass., Nov 23, 2005 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Boston has confirmed that Archbishop Sean O’Malley will not attend a Christmas dinner hosted by the local Catholic Charities organization, at which the group will honor pro-abortion Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.

A spokesperson for the Archdiocese confirmed the news with CNA this morning, and an article is slated to appear in the Archdiocese’s Pilot newspaper later today.

In a statement dated November 22nd, Catholic Charities announced that “In light of the mayor’s past statements concerning abortion and same-sex marriage policies, the archbishop regrets that he cannot attend the dinner.”

“In doing this”, they added, “he acts in accord with the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ policy regarding public officials who are in conflict with Catholic teaching on specific issues, a policy formulated at plenary session of the Bishops’ conference in June of 2004.”

Catholic Charities also said that after they had announced plans “to recognize the mayor at the dinner, objections were raised because of statements the mayor has made concerning abortion and same-sex marriage.”

“Catholic Charities”, they said, “firmly supports Catholic teaching concerning these matters. We differ with the mayor on both of these issues, even as we recognize his contributions to those we seek to serve each day in our city.”

Some Catholic activists groups, including ‘Faithful Voice‘, established in response to vocally dissident ‘Voice of the Faithful’ group, have vowed to boycott the dinner. Reportedly, they have taken a number of notable donors to the charity group with them.

Mayor Menino, a Catholic himself, is scheduled to be honored during the December 9th dinner for his “consistent support of Catholic Charities in Boston.”

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U.S. Vatican ambassador says new document on homosexuality will make Church stronger

Vatican City, Nov 23, 2005 (CNA) - Remarking yesterday on the long-awaited release of a Vatican document regarding admission of homosexuals to Catholic seminaries, the U.S.’s ambassador to the Holy See, Francis Rooney said that ultimately, he thinks the new document will strengthen the Church.

The ambassador, who is also former mayor of Boston, said that "the clergy sex abuse scandal exposed the Church to a deep rooted problem which Pope Benedict XVI could not ignore."

"Pedophile priests”, he said, “will be prosecuted and active homosexual men will no longer become priests. Both of these policies will ultimately make the Catholic Church stronger."

The Vatican confirmed yesterday afternoon that a 6-page document, leaked by an Italian Catholic news organization was indeed, the Congregation for Catholic Education’s long-awaited instruction.

As expected, the document excludes the admission of persons with deep-seated homosexual tendencies to the priesthood and maintains that priestly candidates should attain affective maturity so to “relate properly” with both men and women.

It also asks that he develop in himself “a true sense of spiritual fatherhood for the ecclesial community that will be entrusted to him.”

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Catholic Charities ranked second-largest nonprofit in US

Alexandria, Va., Nov 23, 2005 (CNA) - Catholic Charities USA has received two top rankings by respected nonprofit publications. It was ranked the second-largest nonprofit organization in the United States, by The NonProfit Times, and The Chronicle of Philanthropy ranked it 10th among the nation's largest fundraising organizations.

Judy Bokorney, public information officer for Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Venice, Florida, shared the news in a recent issue of The Sun.

To be included in the "NPT 100," nonprofits must raise at least 10 percent of their total revenue from public sources, such as individual donors and foundations. The Chronicle ranks the nation's largest nonprofit groups by how much money they raise from private sources.

In 2004, the combined revenue of the Catholic Charities network was $3,189,302,436, more than $580 million came from private donations, reported Bokorney.

According to the public information officer, the network's total expenses for 2004 were $3,035,709,486; nearly 90 percent of all revenue was spent on programs and services, helping 7.1 million people, and making Catholic Charities one of the most efficient charities in the country.

For example, Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Venice uses 92 cents of every dollar donated for direct services. As a result, this year the organization was awarded the top four-star rating by Charity Navigator, an independent evaluator of charities, said Bokorney.

Catholic Charities continues to seek funds to help those who have suffered the devastation of the recent hurricanes. Citizens are invited to contribute to the organization’s Christmas Appeal.

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World Council of Churches, Catholic Church celebrate 40 years of ecumenism

Bossey, Switzerland, Nov 23, 2005 (CNA) - Four decades of cooperation, between the World Council of Churches and the Catholic Church, for the advancement of ecumenism was the focus of the celebrations at a two-day conference last weekend.

Twenty-eight representatives marked the establishment of the churches’ Joint Working Group, which was begun in 1965 after the Second Vatican Council, reported the Christian Post.

They gathered at the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, Switzerland, where the first joint meeting was held, Nov. 17-19.

Weekend participants reportedly evaluated the achievements of the Joint Working Group and its impact on their relationship. They also suggested working together on a number of contentious social issues, such as: bio-ethics; human, civil and religious rights; issues of peace; social justice; healing of memories; human sexuality; and reproduction.

A greater effort must be put into ecumenical formation and more opportunities should be offered to young people so that they are exposed to traditions other than their own and share through a program of formation and service, said participants.

According to the Christian Post, participants also suggested that the Joint Working Group consider a number of topics in the future, including: interreligious dialogue; religious pluralism; the absence of God in cultural life; modern technology and the media; violence and the fear induced by international terrorism.

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$3M goes to five dioceses for post-hurricane reconstruction

Washington D.C., Nov 23, 2005 (CNA) - The Committee on the Home Missions has awarded a special $3-million grant to the five dioceses most affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The committee of the U.S. bishops helps support some of the poorest dioceses in the country. There are about 90 U.S. dioceses that receive CHM grants.

CHM chairman Bishop Peter Sartain of Little Rock said the CHM had decided in September that it would expend up to $3 million of its reserve funds for hurricane relief. 

At its meeting in Washington Nov. 15, the committee allocated most of the funds: $1.2 million was granted to the Archdiocese of New Orleans; $900,000 to the Diocese of Biloxi, and; $300,000 each to the Dioceses of Houma-Thibodaux, Lake Charles, and Beaumont.

“The Catholic Home Mission Appeal is a concrete expression of the spirit of communio that binds together all the bishops of the United States,” Bishop Sartain said in a letter to the heads of the affected dioceses. “Please accept this special award with their prayers and ours for a hopeful future.”

The Committee on the Home Missions is the successor to the American Board of Catholic Missions, begun in 1924. It is funded by an annual appeal conducted in the 195 U.S. dioceses.

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US backs Vatican effort to improve relations with China

Vatican City, Nov 23, 2005 (CNA) - The U.S. ambassador to the Holy See said one of his priorities is to support the Vatican's efforts for improved relations with and greater religious freedom in China.

"As the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, I intend to make it a priority to support the Holy See on this issue," said Ambassador Francis Rooney in a statement Monday, one day after President George W. Bush told Chinese leaders in Beijing to expand religious, political and social liberties. Bush also urged the leadership to invite Vatican officials to discuss religious freedom, reported the Associated Press.

"China has a great opportunity following the president's visit to become more open to the Holy See and to work toward greater freedoms for its Catholic citizens and indeed for those of all faiths," said Rooney.

Vatican-China relations were severed in 1951. Soon after Pope Benedict XVI was inaugurated, he indicated that he wanted to restore diplomatic relations. China has responded by saying the Vatican must not interfere in China's internal affairs and must sever ties with Taiwan.

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Colombian bishops praise restarting of negotiations between government and rebel leaders

, Nov 23, 2005 (CNA) - Bishop Fabian Marulanda of Florencia and Secretary General of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia praised the decision by President Alvaro Uribe to seek the creation of an international commission to facilitate humanitarian negotiations with the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Speaking on Caracol Radio, the bishop said the government should make every effort to secure the liberation of policemen, soldiers, politicians and civilians who have been kidnapped—including some who have spent more than seven years in captivity—and that this initiative should not be seen as “an excess of kindness on the part of the government.”

On the other hand, referring to the rebel group known as the National Liberation Army (ELN), the Prefect of the Congregation of the Clergy, Colombian Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, said the Church “is ready during peacetime or during an emergency” to support the search for reconciliation in Colombia and would support any eventual dialogue between the ELN and the government.

Regarding the proposal by the ELN to hold an “formal exploratory meeting” with President Uribe, Cardinal Castrillon said the most important thing is for there to be “honesty in the proposals and that both parties are aware of the chance to see the harm that armed conflict causes,” because in Colombia, dialogue “cannot be independent of the warlike reality we have experienced during the last 60 years.”

The Bishops’ Conference also announced that, as in previous years, the Church would make its traditional appeal for a Christmas truce between all sides of the conflict.

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Argentinean bishop says sins of omission are also sign of rejection of God

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 23, 2005 (CNA) - Bishop Jorge Luis Lona of San Luis, Argentina, said this week “the rejection of God is not only conveyed by our evil actions, but also by sins of omission, which always suppress the good works we were called to do.”

“What counts are the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.  It’s not only giving; it’s giving of ourselves.  Giving for the good of the body and soul of one who is in need,” the bishop added.

Bishop Lona noted that the “call of Christ to recognize Him in the least of those who need help” is increasingly more urgent.  “Children, teenagers, and young people are the ones being incited to an early disordering of their sexuality, thus terribly threatening to leave them handicapped for true love,” he said.

Bishop Lona stated that “young people urgently need teaching, counsel and loving correction.”  If these things cannot be found in their own homes, he said, young people should seek them out in the greater Catholic community.

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