Vatican City, Nov 24, 2005 (CNA) - Earlier today, Pope Benedict told a group of representatives from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), currently holding their 33rd conference, that dialogue and respect between cultures must be part of the international effort to curb hunger and poverty.
In his address to the group, which included Jacques Diouf, FAO’s general director, the Pope said that this first ever meeting "allows me to see at close hand your efforts in the service of a great ideal: that of liberating humanity from hunger."
He also expressed his "sincere appreciation for the programs which the FAO, in its diverse agencies, has carried out for the past sixty years, defending with competence and professionalism the cause of man, beginning precisely with the basic right of each person to be 'free of hunger'."
Pope Benedict also hit on the paradox that even as progress in the areas of the economy, science and technology continue, so too does the increase of poverty.
With this, he expressed his hope that the FAO’s accumulated experience may "help to develop a method adequate to the task of combating hunger and poverty, one shaped by that concrete realism which has always characterized the work of your distinguished organization."
He noted that the FAO has "worked for broader cooperation and has seen in the 'dialogue of cultures' a specific means of ensuring greater development and secure access to food.”
“Today more than ever,” he stressed, “there is a need for concrete, effective instruments for eliminating the potential for conflict between different cultural, ethnic and religious visions. There is a need to base international relations on respect for the person and on the cardinal principles of peaceful coexistence and fidelity to commitments undertaken.”
The Pope also added however, the need to “recognize that technical progress ... is not everything. True progress ... enables each people to share its own spiritual and material resources for the benefit of all.”
"Here”, he said, “I wish to mention the importance of helping native communities, all too often subjected to undue appropriations aimed at profit, as your organization recently pointed out in its 'Guidelines on the Right to Food.'“
Benedict also asked listeners to recall that, “while some areas are subject to international measures and controls, millions of people are condemned to hunger, even outright starvation, in areas where violent conflicts are taking place, conflicts which public opinion tends to neglect because they are considered internal, ethnic or tribal."
He did however, identify one "encouraging sign" in the "initiative of the FAO to convene its member States to discuss the issue of agrarian reform and rural development.”
“This is not a new area,” he pointed out, “but one in which the Church has always shown interest, out of particular concern for small rural farmers who represent a significant part of the active population especially in developing countries.”
Mentioning potential courses of action, the Pope suggested that leaders “ensure that rural populations receive the resources and tools which they need, beginning with education and training, as well as organizational structures capable of safeguarding small family farms and cooperatives."
Benedict ended his address with a few words about an upcoming meeting in Hong Kong which will look at negotiations on international commerce, particularly with regard to farm products.
"The Holy See, he said, "is confident that a sense of responsibility and solidarity with the most disadvantaged will prevail, so that narrow interests and the logic of power will be set aside.”
“It must not be forgotten”, he added, “that the vulnerability of rural areas has significant repercussions on the subsistence of small farmers and their families if they are denied access to the market. ... Support should also be given to the role of rural women and at the same time to children for whom not only nutrition but also basic education must be assured."
Vatican City, Nov 24, 2005 (CNA) - The Vatican announced today that its annual Christmas concert, scheduled for December 3rd, will be dedicated this year to the support of Catholic missions in east Asia.
The Vatican's traditional Christmas concert will be held in the Paul VI Hall at 6.30 p.m. on Saturday, December 3. This year it will be dedicated to missions in the east.
A Holy See communique, released earlier today, stated that the concert aims "to raise public awareness concerning the question of the Church's missionary vocation and to gather funds to support missions in east Asia."
The Vatican noted that one reason for this particular theme is that “2006 has been proclaimed as the 'Xavierian Year' (in honor of the patron of missions St. Francis Xavier, on the fifth centenary of his birth), of which the concert will officially mark the opening."
The concert, which will be held in the Paul VI Hall, will include various pieces from a new musical on the life of the saint called, "Xavier - dreaming of China."
The Jesuit saint traveled to China on his last missionary journey but fell ill on the island of Sancian, 100 kilometers off the Chinese coast. He died there on December 3, 1552.
A global range of artists will descend on Rome to take part in the concert which, according to today’s statement, symbolizes “the encounter between a diversity of countries, cultures, religions, life experiences, ideals, and musical genres and styles…in order to highlight once again the universality of the Church."
, Nov 24, 2005 (CNA) - The Vatican document indicating that homosexuals cannot be admitted to the seminary and to holy orders is warranted and prudent, said Catholic League president Bill Donohue. The document was leaked to the press Tuesday but its official release is expected Nov. 29.
The Vatican document says that while homosexuals must be respected, the Catholic Church “cannot admit to seminaries and to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, who present deeply rooted homosexual tendencies or who support the so-called gay culture.” Donohue said most practicing Catholics would welcome this decision.
“The Vatican is prudent not to have an absolute ban on admission of homosexuals to the priesthood: there are too many good men with homosexual tendencies who have served the Church with distinction,” said Donohue.
“But there is a monumental difference between someone who is incidentally homosexual and someone for whom the gay subculture is central to his identity,” Donohue pointed out. “Only those blinded by sexual politics will fail to make this distinction.”
Donohue also made reference to the sex-abuse scandal in the Church, stating that while most homosexual priests were not molesters, most molesters were homosexuals.
“The John Jay Report made this clear: 81 percent of the victims are male and almost as many are postpubescent. This is not called pedophilia—it is called homosexuality,” he said.
“The Catholic laity is justifiably angry with molesting priests and their enabling bishops, few in number though they have been,” Donohue continued. “What this [Vatican] document does is to send a signal—those who cannot seriously commit to a celibate lifestyle have no legitimate role to play in the priesthood. This stricture should apply equally to heterosexuals.”
Vatican City, Nov 24, 2005 (CNA) - In a move that some reports have called “shocking”, Pope Benedict XVI has put the friars of the shrine of St. Francis of Assisi under the direct authority of Church officials, stripping them of the autonomy granted to them in 1969.
A report by United Press International says in the last 36 years, the friars were perceived to have made some bold and sometimes controversial moves. For example, they invited Tariq Aziz, one of Saddam Hussein's top deputies, to Assisi shortly before the invasion of Iraq.
Two peace conferences, in 1986 and 2002, reportedly upset many conservatives, including then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. The first included members of many religions, including Islam, Buddhism, American Indian and African religions.
“Excesses”, including allowing African and Indian rituals reportedly marked the 1986 conference, Catholic commentator Vittorio Messori told The Independent.
Islamabad, Pakistan, Nov 24, 2005 (CNA) - Catholic leaders in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir are gathering their resources to build an orphanage after the devastating earthquake Oct. 8 left more than 73,000 people dead.
Bishop Anthony Lobo of Islamabad-Rawalpindi told Aid to the Church in Need that he has been inundated with requests to help the scores of youngsters who have lost parents or who are in need of extra support. He said plans for orphanage are still in the early states and a location has not yet been confirmed.
The bishop said a team of Church-led volunteers, with expert knowledge of the Kashmir region, had unique access to areas largely inaccessible to many relief workers and would be able to find youngsters most in need of help.
Aid to the Church in Need had responded within days of the disaster with emergency aid, including basic food, tents and blankets.
Washington D.C., Nov 24, 2005 (CNA) - The 25th anniversary of “the martyrdoms” of four U.S. missionaries in El Salvador offers an opportunity for rededication to the cause of peace and justice in the Americas, said the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ International Policy Committee today.
“Twenty-five years ago, many throughout the world were shocked by the news of the abduction, rape and murder on December 2, 1980, of four American missionary women in El Salvador,” said Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando.
These were all “young, dynamic, deeply committed missionaries” who “saw the face of Christ in the poorest and most vulnerable of the people of El Salvador and sought to offer what aid and consolation they could provide. In the poisonous political atmosphere of the time, their concern for ‘the least of these’ was seen by some as a challenge to an unjust status quo.”
Maryknoll Sisters Maura Clarke and Ita Ford, Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel, and lay missionary Jean Donovan were killed at a time when the civil war in El Salvador was intensifying. Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador was assassinated earlier that year, March 24, while celebrating mass. Nine years later, six Jesuit priests were also killed.
“May we rededicate ourselves, together with the bishops and faithful of El Salvador and all of Central America, to the task of peace, justice and reconciliation throughout the Americas for which these exemplary women gave their lives,” said Bishop Wenski.