Vatican City, Dec 1, 2005 (CNA) - Earlier today, Pope Benedict met with members of the International Theological Commission, with whom he stressed the need to uphold the dignity of the human person--firmly written into natural law.
The commission is currently being headed by an American for the first time. Archbishop William Joseph Levada recently replaced Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, thus making him the commission’s president.
The Holy Father began his address by noting the particular subjects under discussion at the group’s plenary session. These, according to the Vatican, include issues like children who die without receiving Baptism in the context of God's universal plan of salvation, the uniqueness of Christ's mediation and the sacramental nature of the Church, and the theme of natural moral law.
Benedict said that this last subject "is particularly important for understanding the foundation of those rights that are rooted in the nature of the person and that, as such, derive from the will of God the Creator Himself."
He pointed out that "Prior to any positive law emanated by States, such rights are universal, inviolable and inalienable, and must be recognized as such by everyone, especially by the civil authorities who are called to promote them and guarantee that they are respected.”
“Although in modern culture,” he went on, “the concept of 'human nature' seems to have been lost, the fact remains that human rights cannot be understood without presupposing that man, in his very being, is the bearer of values and norms that must be rediscovered and reaffirmed, not invented and imposed in a subjective and arbitrary manner."
Continuing with this theme, the Pope said that "dialogue with the world of the laity is very important.”
“It must be made very clear”, he said, “that negating an ontological foundation of the essential values of human life, inevitably leads to positivism and makes law dependent on the trends of thought dominant in a society; thus rendering law an instrument of power, rather than subordinating power to the law."
Vatican City, Dec 1, 2005 (CNA) - The Vatican released today a message written by Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, President of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, on the occasion of the World Day Against AIDS.
Cardinal Barragan reaffirmed that “the best cure is prevention to avoid infection by HIV/AIDS, which we should remember is transmitted through the triple route of blood, transmission from mother to child, and sexual contact,” and stressed that sexual transmission remains the most important pathway through which the disease continues to spread.
“This is greatly fostered by a kind of pansexual culture that devalues sexuality, reducing it to mere pleasure without any further meaning. Radical prevention in this field must come from a correct conception and practice of sexuality, where sexual activity is understood in its deep meaning as a total and absolute expression of the fecund giving of love,” he said.
He reaffirmed the commitment of Catholic institutions in the fight against AIDS saying “ the Catholic Church continues to make her contribution. 26.7% of centers for the provision of care in relation to HIV/AIDS in the world are Catholic based. Local Churches, religious institutions and lay associations.”
The prelate reminded the action of former Pope John Paul II who founded the ‘Good Samaritan’ Foundation, which was entrusted to the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care.
Cardinal Barragan proposed a wide array of suggestions on how Catholic communities might help to prevent the extension of the disease.
Finally he addressed governments and encouraged them to promote the stability of the family and the education of children in a correct understanding of sexual activity as a gift of God for self-giving that is lovingly full and fertile, and promote the overall health of their populations and foster care for AIDS patients, basing themselves on the principles of responsibility, solidarity, justice and fairness.
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Vatican City, Dec 1, 2005 (CNA) - In a meeting today with members of the International Theological Commission, Pope Benedict stressed the need for theologians to perform their work in union with, and under the authority of the Church Magesterium and sacred tradition.
The commission is being headed for the first time by an American--Archbishop William Levada, who replaced former head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict.
Speaking on the importance of academic study, the Pope told the group that "the theologian's work must be carried out in communion with, and under the authority of, the living Magisterium of the Church.”
“To consider theology as a private concern of the theologian”, he said, “is to misunderstand its very nature. Only within the ecclesial community, in communion with the legitimate pastors of the Church does theological work have meaning.”
The Holy Father went on, saying that “such work certainly calls for scientific competence, but also and above all for the spirit of faith and humility of one who knows that the real and living God, subject of his reflections, infinitely surpasses human capacities."
Anticipating possible dissent on this point, the Pope then said, "At this point it may be asked… Is theology thus defined still a science that conforms to our reason? Yes.
Reason, science, and thinking in communion with the Church”, he said, “are not only not mutually exclusive, but complement one another.”
“The Holy Spirit introduces the Church to the fullness of truth,” he added, and “the Church is at the service of truth and guides people by educating in truth."
Vatican City, Dec 1, 2005 (CNA) - Rev. George J. Rassas, a priest from the Archdiocese of Chicago since 1968, was appointed to auxiliary Bishop of his diocese.
He was born on May, 26 1942. and went to primary school at the “Saints Faith, Hope and Charity Elementary School “ in Winnetka, Ill. He then entered the Quigley Preparatory Seminary, and followed the formation to become a priest at the Niles College Seminary.
He graduated in philosophy at the University of St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein and earned an MA degree in counseling psychology at the Loyola University in Chicago
He was ordained priest for the Archdiocese of Chicago on May, 2nd 1968. He fulfilled the following ministries as a priest. In his diocese he served on various committees and councils, as Chairman of the Archdiocesan Presbyteral Council (1999-2002), Director of the Office of Family Ministries (1984-1990), Associate Director of the Catholic Family Consultation Service (1975-1984) and Associate Moderator of the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women (1976-1984).
His parish appointments are the following: He was first vicar at the Queen of the Rosary Parish at Elk Grove Village(1968-1974), then at St. Genevieve Parish, Chicago (1974-1983), St. Norbert’s Parish, Northbrook (1983-1988); Sacred Heart Parish (1988-1990) and finally Pastor at St. Mary Parish, Lake Forest (1990-11/29/2004)
Since 2004, he is the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Chicago, before being appointed as Auxiliary Bishop of his diocese.
Vatican City, Dec 1, 2005 (CNA) - Today the Vatican announced Pope Benedict's prayer and mission intentions for the month of December. Both find their roots in the Pope’s teaching on the God-given dignity of the human person.
Mirroring the theme of two different audiences given today, the Pope’s general prayer intention is, "That an ever deeper understanding be spread of the dignity of men and women according to the Creator's plan."
Likewise, the Vatican announced that his mission intention for the month is: "That, on earth, search for God and thirst for truth may lead every human being to meet the Lord."
Washington D.C., Dec 1, 2005 (CNA) - Echoing the call earlier this week from Baltimore Archbishops Keeler, Most Reverend Stephen Blaire, Bishop of Stockton and President of the California Catholic Conference, released the following statement yesterday expressing strong support for an end to the death penalty in California and affirming the recent statement by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death. With California having scheduled three inmate executions over the next three months,
"The California Catholic Conference of Bishops strongly supports an end to the death penalty and affirms the statement from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death, which was issued earlier this month.
"As Catholic bishops, we teach and preach the Gospel vision of a 'culture of life.' We believe that we are created in God's image, which compels us to teach a consistent ethic of life and obligates us to preach that the use of the death penalty does not protect human life nor promote human dignity.
This call came after Virginia's state governor has spared the life of a convicted killer who would have been the 1000th person executed in the US since the Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to resume in 1976.
Robin Lovitt's death sentence was commuted to life in prison without parole, a little more than 24 hours before he was to be executed by injection on Wednesday night, local time, for stabbing a man to death with a pair of scissors during a 1998 pool-hall robbery.
In granting clemency, Governor Mark R. Warner - a possible 2008 Democrat presidential candidate - noted that evidence from the trial had been improperly destroyed, depriving the defence of the opportunity to subject the material to the latest in DNA testing.
"The commonwealth must ensure that every time this ultimate sanction is carried out, it is done fairly," Mr Warner said.
He had never before granted clemency to a death-row inmate during his four years as governor. During that time, 11 men had been executed. Virginia is one of the most active death-penalty states, having executed 94 people since 1976.
The 1000th execution is now expected to be on Friday in North Carolina, where Kenneth Lee Boyd is set to die for killing his estranged wife and her father.
The American Bishops had renewed their wish to see an end to the Death penalty in a document published during their fall meeting in October.
Vatican City, Dec 1, 2005 (CNA) - Today, Pope Benedict met with eleven new members of the Vatican diplomatic corps and called on their respective countries to help curb violence in all corners of the world. Each left with a particular message for their home countries from the Holy Father.
The Vatican’s new ambassadors include, Ali Abeid A. Karume of Tanzania; Madan Kumar Bhattarai of Nepal; Pekka Ojanen of Finland; Gilbert Ramirez Chagoury of Santa Lucia; Francisco A. Soler of El Salvador; Sten Erik Malmborg Lilholt of Denmark; Konji Sebati of South Africa; Idriss Jazairy of Algeria; Petros Tseggai Asghedom of Eritrea; Feliz Kodjo Sagbo of Togo; and Antoni Morell Mora of Andorra.
In an address to the group, the Pope pointed out how "news of conflicts arrives from all over the world."
In this context, he called on "the leaders of nations and all people of good will to unite and put a stop to the violence that disfigures humanity and places a heavy mortgage on the development of mankind and the hope of many peoples.”
He said that “Without a universal commitment to peace - in order to create a climate of pacification and a spirit of reconciliation at all levels of social life, beginning with the family - it is not possible to progress along the road to a pacified society."
The Pope then went on to put special emphasis on care for the young, saying that, "in order to achieve ever more harmonious development among peoples, it is important to pay special attention to youth…”
This means, he said, “ensuring that families, and the various educational structures are provided with the means to form and educate the young, transmitting essential spiritual, moral and social values, and preparing them for a better future.”
“The young must be made truly aware of their role in society and of the behavior they must adopt in order to serve the common good and to pay attention to everyone's needs," he added.
The Holy Father pointed out that this is "one of the essential ways to ensure that, in the long-term, the world exits from the cycle of violence," assuring that the Church, "present on all continents, will not cease to offer her assistance through…educational initiatives, and by forming people's religious conscience to ensure the development of a sense of fraternity and solidarity."
He urged the ambassadors, as well as all human beings to "commit to peace and reconciliation in all continents, because it is not enough to 'decide' on peace, but to attain it. All means must be used at all levels of society, in order to achieve this end."
In his message to the ambassador of Santa Lucia, the Holy Father recalls the Catholic Church's commitment "against the trade and use of drugs," and affirms that foiling "this pernicious threat to the fabric of society, which fuels crime and violence, ... demands great political resolve, international cooperation, and the support of the whole community."
In his specific message to the ambassador of El Salvador, the Pope said that the religious mission of pastors in that country "does not exempt them from fomenting national dialogue between the leaders of social life."
Likewise, he said, "that social improvement is not achieved only by applying the necessary technical means, but also by promoting reforms with a human and moral foundation."
The Pope stressed the need for inter-religious dialogue to the ambassadors from Finland and Denmark, recalling his own commitment to this field.
In his message to the Algerian ambassador, Benedict referred to the serious violence which has wracked that country in recent years, and urged “a spirit of reconciliation” and of human dignity to be inculcated in to the young.
In his message to the Eritrean diplomat, the Pope expressed the Church's closeness "to refugees and displaced persons, not only with her pastoral presence and material support, but also with her commitment to defend their human dignity."
Sacramento, Calif., Dec 1, 2005 (CNA) - Macy's Department Stores has agreed to return the phase "Merry Christmas" to store signage and advertising. The Committee to Save Merry Christmas announced and lauded the retailer’s decision today.
However, the committee also announced that it is leading a national boycott against Sears Department Stores this year because the international retailer “has rejected several requests that ‘Merry Christmas’ signs be returned and posted in their stores” and to their advertising, said the committee’s press release.
"Over the past several years, Sears has systematically removed references to Merry Christmas. Inviting us to shop for Christmas gifts yet eliminating Merry Christmas is offensive to the sensibilities of millions of average Americans,” said committee chairman Manual Zamorano. "It's the height of hypocrisy for Sears to make tens of millions of dollars selling Christmas presents, yet coldly refuse to acknowledge Christmas."
The committee says Americans should urge Sears to respect "Merry Christmas" by communicating with:
Mr. Aylwin Lewis
President & CEO Sears, Roebuck and Company
3333 Beverley Road
Hoffman Estates, IL 60179
phone (847) 286-2500
fax (847) 286-7829
For a Macy's written agreement, go to: www.savemerrychristmas.org.
Ottawa, Canada, Dec 1, 2005 (CNA) - A bill that would legalize assisted suicide in Canada died on the order table Monday when Canada’s Liberal minority government was toppled with a historic vote of non-confidence.
All of Canada’s political parties, except for the Liberals, voted to bring down Prime Minister Paul Martin’s government. On Tuesday, Martin asked the Governor General to dissolve Parliament. Martin’s government had passed legislation legalizing same-sex marriage in June.
Party leaders have already taken to the campaign trail, and Canadians are expected to go to the ballot box Jan. 23.
Pro-life groups are relieved that bill C-407, the assisted suicide bill proposed by Bloc Quebecois MP Francine Lalonde, would not get to second reading in the House of Commons. But they also fear that another such private member’s bill will be presented with the next government. They are encouraging Canadians who are against assisted suicide and euthanasia to voice their opposition and to vote for members of Parliament whose values respect life.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement Wednesday urging Canadians to exercise their duty to vote Jan. 23, and addressing the problem of voter apathy.
“Citizens too often undervalue politics and public service,” the said. “Whether as part of the governing party or the opposition, political involvement is a determining factor in social, ethical and economic questions, with direct repercussions on the lives of everyone in our land. It is a major responsibility, which should not be belittled by voter disinterest.”
The bishops said Canadians must get to know the political, social, ethical and economic positions of candidates in their ridings, as well as their “fundamental values,” and to carefully select and vote for Parliamentarians who will protect the common good and defend the freedom of religion and conscience.
“It is important to realize that political life is undermined in a democratic nation if those involved are obliged to distance themselves from their own religious beliefs, fundamental convictions and the voice of their conscience,” the Canadian bishops said.
“The basic questions which are part of the current reflections and discussions of Canadian society require political leaders to use all their personal resources, in order to develop political orientations and legislative options that truly serve the common good and respect freedom of religion and conscience,” they said.
Rome, Italy, Dec 1, 2005 (CNA) - Several news agencies are reporting that the miracle required by Canon Law for the beatification of Pope John Paul II may have occurred in France.
News reports have quoted the Pope’s former secretary and now Archbishop of Krakow, Stanislao Dziwisz, who is said to have confirmed that the miracle did take place in France, but without providing further details.
Speaking about the beatification process, which is currently underway in Krakow, Archbishop Dziwisz stated, “The testimonies are numerous, although the most accurate cases must be chosen in order to show the personality of John Paul II.” He said this phase of the process could wrap up as soon as March 2006.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dec 1, 2005 (CNA) - “We value human sexuality as something very important, but we see it from the perspective of man. We believe sexuality is linked to love,” said Bishop Juan Ruben Martinez of Posadas, Argentina, explaining the Catholic position on a plan to establish sex-ed in schools across the country.
In statements published by the website Tierradeperiodistas.com, Bishop Martinez noted that the media “has a lot of money” and seeks to “ridicule” whatever does not coincide with the ideology of consumerism.
This type of journalism seeks to distort the Church’s position in alleging that “the Church is opposed to sexual education,” the bishop added, noting that “they make us look bad and they don’t let us explain the beauty of what we propose.”
Bishop Martinez said many issues needed to be considered with regards to human sexuality, such as intelligence, spirituality, the transcendent nature of man. “We believe sexuality is important, but we need to know how sex-ed would be handled, who would teach it, what and how it would be done,” he added.
The bishop also reiterated that parents are primarily responsible for the sexual education of their children and that the State has no right to strip them of such authority. He said lawmakers were in a rush to get the policy approved and that the issue ought to be debated and discussed in a democratic fashion.
Bishop Martinez likewise underscored that love is necessary in order for people to respect and look out for the good of one another, as opposed to the consumerist mentality, prevalent in soap operas and television programs, of viewing others as objects to be used. He said society lacked the maturity to see in the media a tool for improving human relations and promoting the good of society.
Denver, Colo., Dec 1, 2005 (CNA) - A new one-hour documentary investigates the lives and legends of the Apostles, how they were transformed after the resurrection of Christ, how they traveled the world to tell Christ's story, and how all but John were martyred.
Based on the best-selling books “Twelve Extraordinary Men” by John MacArthur and “The Search for the Twelve Apostles” by William Steuart McBirnie, Miraculous Mission features well-known scholars in theology, archaeology, ancient history and science exploring the lives of the 12 Apostles.
The common denominator among the 12 Apostles is that they were ordinary men, middle class at best. "Yet they achieved extraordinary things," says David Balsiger, the show's producer. "These men traveled the world 2,000 years ago when the only mode of transportation was by foot or by ship."
The docudrama also explores important fact-finding contributions from the scientific community. "Rather than working at odds, scientists and theologians are actually working on a parallel plane to document the existence of the 12 Apostles," says Grizzly Adams Productions president Charles Sellier.
The PAX-TV docudrama is hosted by explorer Michael Flynn and produced by Grizzly Adams Productions. It will premiere Dec. 3 at 9 p.m. EST/PST (8 p.m. MST/CST) on the PAX-TV Network (also known as i-TV). It will be re-broadcast on PAX Dec. 24 at 7 p.m. EST/PST (6 p.m. MST/CST).
The DVD will be released prior to Easter. It will contain two hours of bonus features, including more expert interviews, an expanded version of the life and legends of the Apostles, an examination of the crucifixion, and the Early Church.