Vatican City, Nov 28, 2005 (CNA) - The Holy Father said that he was “aware that economic difficulties, consistently high levels of unemployment, and concern over guaranteeing material existence all have an effect on the way of life of many Polish families. It is not possible to create truly authentic attitudes without bearing in mind these problems, which also affect young people."
On this point, Benedict noted the "many positive phenomena that support and assist education in the faith," such as "a profound sensitivity towards the needs of others, especially those of the poor," and "a real interest for questions of faith and religion."
"Education in faith," he explained, "must consist in the first place of developing that which is good in man.”
He continued, saying that “In the Church's educational initiatives, it would also be appropriate ... to accustom children and young people to prayer. ... Among the various forms of prayer, a special place is reserved for the liturgy.”
“In Poland,” he commended the bishops, “young people participate actively and in large numbers in Sunday Mass."
The Pope went on to refer to the enthusiastic participation of young Poles in Catholic groups, specifically noting the "Light and Life" movement.
"The spirituality of this movement”, he said, “is focused on the encounter with God in Holy Scripture and in the Eucharist." He called on the prelates to support it "as being particularly effective in educating in the faith, though without, of course, overlooking other movements."
The Pope then turned to the question of cooperation between various youth-aimed lay associations and families in the realm of education.
"The formation of young generations is the task of parents, of the Church and of the State," he said. "Therefore, ... the Church must collaborate very closely with schools, universities and other lay institutions."
He said that religious education within schools must "maintain its true evangelical dimension of transmitting and bearing witness to the faith."
As for the catechesis of adults, he called on the bishops to "support those institutions that already undertake" this activity.
In his closing points to the bishops, Pope Benedict addressed the issue of pastoral care in universities, in the world of culture and in the world of communications media.
"After years of scant freedom,” he said, “the Church in Poland has been able to establish her own universities and theological faculties, most of which have become part of the infrastructure of State-run universities."
He noted that Poland, with its "rich cultural heritage rooted in Christian values," which had entered the European Union not so long ago, "must not lose this heritage."
He also stressed that in the world of culture, a special role must be played by the communications media, "which thus constitute a valuable instrument of evangelization."
The Pope invited the prelates to establish contact "with the world of journalists and other media operators. It may be appropriate to organize special pastoral initiatives specifically for them."
In conclusion, the Holy Father quoted "Gravissimum educationis," a Vatican II document which remind pastors of "their most serious obligation to see to it that all the faithful, but especially the youth who are the hope of the Church, enjoy a Christian education."
"This exhortation”, he said, “is still relevant," and it may be even more urgent today, in the face of the new challenges presented by current social phenomena."
Vatican City, Nov 28, 2005 (CNA) - Before praying his weekly Angelus prayer with a large group of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square Sunday, Pope Benedict urged Christians to utilize the period of Advent to reawaken their hearts, so that with God’s help, they can renew the world.
He began by explaining how the liturgical period of Advent, which began yesterday, is "of great religious significance," and is "permeated with hope and spiritual anticipation."
The Pope said that during this season, Christians experience a dual movement of the spirit: "On the one hand,” he said, “they raise their eyes towards the final goal of their pilgrimage in history, which is the glorious return of the Lord Jesus; on the other, recalling with emotion His birth in Bethlehem, they bow before the manager.”
“The hope of Christians”, he observed, “is directed to the future, but it always remains firmly rooted in an event from the past."
Pope Benedict highlighted that during Advent, "Christians must reawaken in their hearts the hope of being able, with God's help, to renew the world."
On this note, he quoted "Gaudium et spes", the famous Vatican Council II Apostolic Constitution on the Church in the modern world, a text which the Pope called “profoundly imbed with Christian hope.”
The document reads: 'We are taught that God is preparing a new dwelling place and a new earth where justice will abide, and whose blessedness will answer and surpass all the longings for peace which spring up in the human heart'."
Vatican City, Nov 28, 2005 (CNA) - On Saturday evening in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Benedict XVI marked the first day of this year’s Advent season with a challenge, and a call to Christians to accept the communion offered by God in the coming of Christ.
He presided at a Vespers service which commenced the season of preparation for Christmas as well as the new liturgical year.
In his homily, which focused on a passage from St. Paul first letter to the Thessalonians, the Pope noted the Apostle’s hope that "each individual will be sanctified by God and remain 'sound and blameless' in 'spirit and soul and body' until the final coming of the Lord Jesus."
He pointed out that this hope "contains a fundamental truth, one [St. Paul] seeks to inculcate into the faithful of the community he founded, and that we can sum up like this: God calls us to communion with Him, communion which will be fully realized with the return of Christ, and He Himself undertakes to ensure that we are ready when we reach this final and decisive encounter."
He continued, saying that "The future is…contained in the present or, better still, in the presence of God Himself, in His indefectible love which does not leave us alone, does not abandon us even for an instant, just as fathers and mothers never cease to follow their children's development.”
"Faced with Christ who approaches,” Benedict stressed, “man feels called in all his being. ... Sanctification is a gift of God, it is His initiative, but human beings are called to correspond with all their being, leaving nothing of themselves excluded."
He then recalled that "Just as at the center of human history is the first advent of Christ, and at the end His glorious return, so each individual existence is called to measure itself against Him in a mysterious and multifaceted way during the earthly journey, so as to be found 'in Him' at the moment of His return."
The Pope concluded his homily calling on "Mary Most Holy, the faithful Virgin,” to help him and all the faithful “to make this period of Advent, and the whole of the new liturgical year, a journey of true sanctification, to the praise and glory of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit."
Vatican City, Nov 28, 2005 (CNA) - Earlier today, Pope Benedict XVI added his own voice to the cries of suffering rising from the violence-ridden African region of Sudan as he met with Catholic delegates from that country.
Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir Wako, Archbishop of Khartoum, Sudan, accompanied by a group of Sudanese pilgrims met with the Pope this morning at the Vatican.
During the meeting, Benedict expressed his grave concern for the country, which has recently emerged from a prolonged period of armed conflict, and expressed his “great satisfaction” at the group’s visit.
Through them, he extended his “heartfelt greetings” to the people of Sudan.
“I very much appreciate”, he said, “the sentiments which have prompted your visit, and I wish to reassure you of my prayers and deep concern for the peaceful development of civil and ecclesial life in your nation.”
The Holy Father pointed out that "the cessation of the civil war and the enactment of a new constitution have brought hope to the long-suffering people of Sudan.”
He told them that “while there have been setbacks along the path of reconciliation, not least the tragic death of John Garang, there now exists an unprecedented opportunity and indeed duty for the Church to contribute significantly to the process of forgiveness and national reconstruction.”
“Though a minority,” the Pope stressed, “Catholics have much to offer through inter-religious dialogue as well as the provision of greatly needed social services. I encourage you therefore to take the necessary initiatives to realize Christ's healing presence in these ways.
Benedict also noted that the horrendous events “unfolding in Darfur, to which my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II referred on many occasions, points to the need for a stronger international resolve to ensure security and basic human rights.”
He said that “today, I add my voice to the cry of the suffering and assure you that the Holy See, together with the apostolic nuncio in Khartoum, will continue to do everything possible to end the cycle of violence and misery."
Moscow, Russia, Nov 28, 2005 (CNA) - Cardinal Renato Martino is scheduled to meet Tuesday with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. The prefect of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace left for Russia Saturday.
The meeting with Patriarch Alexy II and Metropolitan Kyrill, who heads the Russian church's foreign relations department, is another attempt by the Vatican to improve relations with Russian Orthodox Christians, reports the Associated Press.
Pope Benedict XVI has pledged to make reconciliation with the Orthodox Church a "fundamental" commitment of papacy.
Pope John Paul II had tried to visit Russia, but the Russian Orthodox Church would not welcome him. The Orthodox Church has accused the Catholic Church of proselytizing after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Vatican has always rejected these claims, saying it is only ministering to Russia's 600,000-member Catholic community.
Under Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990, the Soviet Union had established official ties with the Vatican, but they fell short of full diplomatic relations. Currently, Russia has a mission with an ambassador in Rome and the Vatican has a papal nuncio in Moscow.
Sydney, Australia, Nov 28, 2005 (CNA) - Australia’s Catholic bishops are hoping to influence the debate in Parliament about the proposed changes to the country’s industrial relations laws.
The bishops’ concerns focus on the setting of the minimum wage and how low paid workers will be able to meet the needs of their families into the future, said John Ryan of Australia’s Catholic Bishops Conference.
The bishops are also addressing the country’s unfair dismissal laws. “We believe that every worker has a right to seek redress for unfair dismissal and the no-disadvantage test – the new minimum standards – aren't adequate in our view to provide workers with a level playing field for bargaining,” said Ryan.
“Our real concern is for those workers currently employed and unemployed, who don't have marketable skills, who don't have bargaining power, who are industrially weak or inexperienced, and who will possibly struggle to be able to strike a bargain if there's not a level playing field,” Ryan said.
The Catholic bishops have joined Anglican Church leaders in calling for more time to amend the bill and intend to meet with Senator Barnaby Joyce and with the Minister to discuss amendments. Joyce is on record for saying that paid public holidays should be protected and big business should not to be allowed to avoid the unfair dismissal laws.
Taipei, Taiwan, Nov 28, 2005 (CNA) - Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian told a top Vatican official Friday that he hopes ties with the Holy See would continue despite speculation that the Vatican is ready to sever existing ties with Taipei to rebuild relations with Beijing, reported Agence France-Presse.
"Taiwan and the Vatican have the same beliefs in democracy, human rights, freedom and peace. I hope the relations of the two partners who share the same values will last forever," Chen reportedly told visiting Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran. The head of the Vatican Library received a medal from Chen as he wrapped up a six-day visit to the island-country.
The Vatican has been seeking for some time to normalize relations with China, which considers Taiwan a renegade province.
Taiwan expressed confidence earlier this year that Pope Benedict XVI would not "sacrifice" the Vatican's principles and cut ties with Taiwan due to Beijing’s persistent urging.
In the past, the Vatican's two main conditions for opening of formal ties with China had been the free appointment of bishops on the mainland and freedom for Chinese Catholics to maintain religious links to Rome without government control.
Santiago, Chile, Nov 28, 2005 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Chile concluded its Plenary Assembly last week with the publication of a pastoral letter entitled, “Marriage and the Family,” calling on society to recover the importance of the family and renewing the Church’s commitment to marriage.
“The Chilean episcopate desires to be faithful to the teaching which, in distinct historical, social and cultural circumstances, it has reiterated regarding marriage and the family.” “What benefit would a greatly developed economy be to society if people cease to be guided by the authentic values that should be lived out and fought for and that give true meaning to life?” the bishops asked.
One year after Chile legalized divorce, the bishops recalled that “the marital union and the family founded upon the nature of the human being and that attain their fullness in the Sacrament is good news for society.”
“It is an invitation to grow in love, in commitment and in fidelity in the midst of the changing circumstances of life. Family prayer and participation in Sunday Mass are the guarantors of the presence of Jesus in the home,” they said.
The bishops also called on Chileans “to discover marriage as good news, a beautiful vocation. Society has the support of the bishops to discover the gift and joy that exist in sharing rather than solely in competing; in complementing each other rather than solely in standing out.”
The bishops also called on priests, permanent deacons and religious, as well as others devoted to family ministry, “to also develop a pastoral plan to reach out to the separated. And in the case of separated persons who have contracted a second union, and who therefore are not able to fully participate at the table of the Eucharist, the community must be exhorted to open their doors to them.”
The bishops’ letter also calls on educational institutions to provide students a formation based on virtues such as true love, the authentic understanding of sexuality, the sacredness of human life, and the valuing of marriage and the family.
“We call on the State to develop effective policies for the good of the family, devoting resources to decent housing, valuing marriage and child-bearing, strengthening already existing families, contributing to solutions for marriages in crisis, adequately regulating work, salary and the Sunday rest in such a way as to favor a rich home life,” the bishops added.
Madrid, Spain, Nov 28, 2005 (CNA) - During their fall assembly last week, the bishops of Spain issued a formal invitation to Pope Benedict XVI to visit Spain for the celebration of the V World Meeting of Families in Valencia, scheduled for July 2006, and for the V Centenary of the birth of St. Francis Xavier.
In a letter addressed to Benedict XVI and signed by the president of the Conference, Bishop Ricardo Blazquez of Bilbao, the bishops said the “much-appreciated presence of the Pope would be a very special confirmation of our churches in the faith and an incomparable encouragement for the work of the new evangelization in which they are engaged.”
Speaking in the name of the entire Conference, Bishop Blazquez said the World Meeting of Families “is, without a doubt, a privileged occasion for the evangelization of the family, which, although affected in our country by so many difficulties, continues to be the sanctuary of life and of hope and the privileged place where the faith is transmitted to new generations.”
“The V Centenary of the birth of St. Francis Xavier, Patron of the Missions, is an occasion for providing new impetus to the proclamation of Jesus Christ to all peoples,” the letter also points out.
Guatemala City, Guatemala, Nov 28, 2005 (CNA) - Just days after Cardinal Rodolfo Quezada of Guatemala City warned of the dangers of a new family planning law that would open the door to legalized abortion, Guatemala’s Vice President, Eduardo Stein, acknowledged problems with the law and said it may be vetoed.
According to media reports, Stein admitted that the Executive branch had no other choice but to veto the law because of “wording problems” that could make it unconstitutional.
Stein said the new law represented a missed opportunity to “raise awareness about responsible parenthood, the right to family planning and the massive need for sex education, because of wording” that would open the door to abortion by not specifying the meaning of such terms as “reproductive health.”
Vatican City, Nov 28, 2005 (CNA) - Earlier today, the Vatican released a message from Pope Benedict to Dutch participants of the first ever National Day of Catholic Youth, celebrated yesterday in Nieuwegein, Netherlands. In it, he encouraged young people to frequent prayer and the sacraments and to be a transformative factor in modern culture.
The Pope began his message fondly recalling that many of the young people present at the Dutch event also participated in World Youth Day, held this past August in his home region of Cologne, Germany.
The Holy Father told the youth that “Jesus is your true friend and Lord,” and urged them to “enter into a relationship of true friendship with Him.”
“He awaits you,” the Pope said, “and only in Him will you find happiness.”
He encouraged the young people not to content themselves “with superficial pleasures, ... to live only for oneself in the apparent enjoyment of life. “…sooner or later”, he said, “one becomes aware that this is not true happiness, because true happiness is much deeper and is only to be found in Jesus."
The Holy Father said that "for this reason, I invite you to seek the Lord every day, He wants nothing other than your true happiness."
Likewise, he invited his listeners to dedicate moments of the day "to being exclusively in the company of the Lord. ... Recitation of the Rosary”, he said for example, “may help you to learn the art of praying with the simplicity and depth of Mary.”
He also said that “It is important that participation in the Eucharist should be the center of your life. ... Adore God in church and remain kneeling before the tabernacle."
Pope Benedict encouraged the youth to frequent the Sacrament of Penance, where Jesus "awaits you to forgive your sins and reconcile yourselves with His love. ... What a great opportunity the Lord has given us with this Sacrament for interior renewal and for progress in our Christian lives.”
He went on to say that "If you follow Jesus, you never feel alone because you are part of the Church, which is a great family in which you can grow in true friendship with so many brothers and sisters in the faith, scattered in every corner of the world.”
“Jesus”, the Pope urged, “needs you to 'renew' modern society. Concern yourselves with increasing your knowledge of the faith, so as to be authentic witnesses thereof. Dedicate yourselves to an ever better understanding of Catholic doctrine," in which "the satisfying response to your deepest questions" is to be found.
Pope Benedict closed his message assuring his prayers for the young people and their meeting, and expressed hope that they will "generously welcome the call of the Lord.”
“Only by responding positively to His call, however demanding it may seem,” the Pope told them”, is it possible to find happiness and peace of heart."
Vatican City, Nov 28, 2005 (CNA) - Last week, Vatican representative, Msgr. Renato Volante urged members of the 33rd General United Nations Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to guarantee adequate food supplies and security, particularly for the world’s poor.
The conference was held from November 19th to 26th at the U.N.’s Rome headquarters.
In his November 22nd address, Msgr. Volante, who headed the Holy See delegation, expressed his conviction that "food security remains the fruit of action inspired by a strong solidarity," not of action that is "limited to forms of assistance or to interventions that, despite being well organized, often fail to achieve their intended goals."
He stressed that guaranteeing adequate food supplies, "is an essential component of that right to development intrinsic to each individual, people and nation, proclaimed by the international community but often overlooked, ... as the information presented to this conference shows."
Further, he told the group that "guaranteeing access to agricultural and food resources, is an important way to eliminate poverty and, hence, to put planned strategies into effect."
"It is the heartfelt wish of the Holy See delegation”, Msgr. Volante said, “that support be given to the activities and practices of rural populations (in which the importance of the family cannot be overstressed).”
He said that “They constitute the basic economic foundation for most developing countries where monocultures and forest and marine resources represent an essential - and, unfortunately, at times unique - means of survival."
On this note, he called for the upcoming U.N. conference on agrarian reform and rural development, due to be held in Brazil in March 2006, to "give 'voice' and support to those people who daily practice small-scale agriculture."
The Monsignor concluded his speech referring to the "notable importance for the development of food and agriculture" of "questions concerning the trade in agricultural, forest and fisheries products."