Vatican City, Dec 12, 2005 (CNA) - Before praying his weekly Angelus in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI chided the increased commercialism surrounding Christmas, and stressed the importance of Nativity scenes in family homes.
He began his address before the prayer by criticizing "today's consumer society” saying that because of it, the Christmas season “suffers from the 'contamination' of commercialism that risks changing its true spirit, characterized by reflection, sobriety and a joy that does not come from outside, but from within.”
He said that “It is, therefore, providential that the entrance door to Christmas" should be "the feast of the mother of Jesus who brings us to know, love and adore the Son of God, made man.”
He challenged listeners to allow Mary “to accompany us ... with sincerity of heart and openness of spirit to recognize in the Child of Bethlehem the Son of God, Who came to earth for our redemption."
The Pope recalled that "Immediately after the feast of the Immaculate Conception, many families begin to prepare their nativity scenes, as if to relive, together with Mary, those days filled with trepidation which preceded the birth of Jesus.”
He stressed the importance of the family Nativity scene, saying that bringing one into the home “can be a simple but efficacious way to present and transmit the faith to children.”
“A nativity scene”, he pointed out, “can help us understand the true secret of Christmas, because it speaks of the humility and the merciful goodness of Christ, Who 'though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor'."
Following Vatican tradition, the Pope concluded by blessing figures of the Child Jesus brought by Roman children, which will be used in their own nativity scenes.
"With this gesture”, he said, “I invoke the help of the Lord so that all Christian families may prepare to celebrate with faith the forthcoming Christmas celebrations."
Vatican City, Dec 12, 2005 (CNA) - During a meeting Saturday, with members of consecrated religious communities and institutions around Rome, Pope Benedict said that; absorbed by things of this world, modern man needs their holy example more than ever.
The meeting took place in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, in the presence of some 8,000 consecrated people from the Diocese of Rome.
The Pope began by extending his “special thoughts…to those living in monasteries of contemplative life, who are spiritually united with us" and "consecrated people from Africa, Latin America and Asia currently studying in Rome."
"As always," he said, "consecrated people constitute a valuable presence in the life of the Church of Rome, because they offer a unique witness to the unity and universality of the People of God.”
He added that “the complex social and cultural context of our city ... demands from you a constant attention to local concerns, as well as a courageous faith in the charism that distinguishes you.”
The Pope then recalled the origins of consecrated life, saying that from the beginning, it “has been characterized by a thirst for God.”
On this, he challenged his listeners not to be afraid “of visibly showing yourselves as consecrated people and ... demonstrating the fact that you belong to Christ."
The Holy Father also noted the deep involvement of consecrated people in various diocesan programs and pastoral work, calling on them to intensify loyalty to “their commitments, the charisms of their institutes, and the guidelines of the local Church.”
He specifically thanked the umbrella groups which represent them such as: the Italian Confederation of Superiors Major, the Union of Italian Female Superiors Major, the Group of Secular Institutes and the Ordo Virginum.
"The Church has need of your witness, “Benedict said, “of a consecrated life that faces the challenges of today with courage and creativity.”
“Faced with the advance of hedonism,” he continued, “I ask of you the brave witness of chastity. Faced with the thirst for money, your sober life and your service to those in need, reminds us that God is the authentic source of wealth that never perishes.”
“Faced with individualism and relativism...your fraternal life of obedience confirms that your fulfillment comes through God."
Continuing his reflections on the 40th anniversary of the end of Vatican Council II, the Pope concluded his message by noting the conciliar Decree "Perfectae caritatis," dedicated to consecrated life.
He said that: "Those living a consecrated life live in the world, but their hearts are directed beyond time; and to modern man, who is often absorbed by the things of the world, they bear witness that true destiny lies in God Himself."
Vatican City, Dec 12, 2005 (CNA) - On Saturday, the Pope extended his personal congratulations to Mohamed El Baradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and winner of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize.
In a telegram, Pope Benedict offered his congratulations to the IAEA, and El Baradei, who was presented with the award in Oslo, Norway over the weekend.
The Holy See is a founding member of the IAEA.
The Holy Father wrote that, "Even today, sixty years after the devastating attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it is clear that the peace of the world continues to be at risk from the spread of nuclear weapons.”
“The service that you have given to the international community by promoting nuclear non-proliferation and by contributing to the process of nuclear disarmament deserves the highest commendation.”
“I pray”, the Pope concluded, “that God will continue to guide the efforts of all who work for peace and especially those who seek to prevent any further use of weapons of mass destruction."
Vatican City, Dec 12, 2005 (CNA) - Following a tragic airliner accident in Nigeria which claimed the lives of 103 people, mostly children, over the weekend, Pope Benedict has sent his personal condolences to the country and to grieving families of the victims.
Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano sent the telegram, in the Pope's name, to Bishop Alexius Obabu Mazoki of Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
"Saddened by news of the great loss of life in the air tragedy near Port Harcourt,” Cardinal Sodano wrote, “the Holy Father asks you kindly to convey his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims.”
“He commends the dead”, the letter continues, “to the eternal mercies of Almighty God and invokes the divine blessings of strength and peace upon all who mourn and upon all engaged in the work of relief."
Vatican City, Dec 12, 2005 (CNA) - Following his Angelus prayer in St. Peter‘s Square Sunday, Pope Benedict called for the building of new churches throughout Rome for the many neighborhoods still without one.
Thousands were on hand in the Square for the Holy Father’s announcement that during Advent this year, as in previous years, the diocese of Rome will propose an initiative called: "New churches for Rome."
The new initiative, he said, aims to "raise awareness among the ecclesial community over the need to build new parish structures in neighborhoods that are still without them.”
He then added his thanks to "those who, with their generous commitment, have enabled many outlying suburbs to be provided with appropriate pastoral centers."
The Pope pointed out that "…much remains to be done to ensure that the faithful of this city, which continues to grow, have appropriate places for liturgy, catechesis, and works of social and cultural animation."
Ratisbon, Germany, Dec 12, 2005 (CNA) -
German Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller announced on December 8 that Pope Benedict XVI would visit Bavaria and his own diocese of Ratisbona in September of 2006.
“Today, on the solemnity of Mary Immaculate and commemorating 40 years since the close of Vatican II, I have very a moving announcement for you. As part of his visit to Bavaria, the Holy Father Benedict XVI has announced that our own diocese will also be honored by his visit.”
Bishop Müller said the papal trip is set for September 10-15, 2006, but that the Holy See would make the official announcement in weeks prior to the trip. He also listed the cities which the Pope would visit, including Munich, Ratisbona, Altötting and Marktl am Inn, the Pope’s own birthplace.
Bishop Müller noted that the Holy Father’s ties to Ratisbona not only stem from his years there as a professor of theology but also from family ties, as it is home to his brother, Father Georg Ratzinger, and is the place where his parents and sister are buried.
“We are overjoyed with the visit of the Holy Father,” the bishop said. “We will prepare a very dignified welcome for him, so that everyone in the diocese, parishes, shrines, and Catholic communities are spiritually and theologically prepared for the meeting with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.”
Bishop Müller also recalled that “according to the words of Vatican II, St. Peter and his successors have been called by Christ to be a continuous and visible beginning and foundation of unity in the faith and of communion in the Church.”
On December 8, Bishop Müller had parishes throughout the diocese ring their bells, inviting the faithful to honor the Holy Father, to pray for him and for the universal Church.
Vatican City, Dec 12, 2005 (CNA) - The Holy See’s Press Office has announced that Pope Benedict XVI’s message for World Day of Peace 2006 will have as its theme, “Peace in the truth,” and will be released on December 13.
Cardinal Renato Martino, Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi and Msgr. Frank J. Dewane, of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, will present the message at 11:30am local time.
The World Day of Peace, established by Pope Paul VI, is celebrated on January 1, the solemnity of Mary Mother of God.
, Dec 12, 2005 (CNA) - Two days after Colombia’s Constitutional Court ruled against legalizing abortion in the country because of “a lack of arguments” in the case, a pro-abortion congressman announced that he would resubmit a bill to Congress this week that would allow for abortion under “special circumstances.”
José Luis Arcila said consideration of his bill was postponed in anticipation of the high court’s ruling on the question of legalizing abortion. He acknowledged he would face serious opposition in the Colombian Congress.
At the same time, Monica Roa—the lawyer who argued the abortion case before the Constitutional Court—said she would also continue her efforts to legalize the practice.
“We have to begin again and this could take several months because it would be a totally new process, from the legal point of view,” she told Caracol Radio.
Roa said she would analyze the Court’s ruling in order “to correct it and submit it again.”
Bradely, Ill., Dec 12, 2005 (CNA) - The bishops of Illinois are calling on Catholics throughout the state to take action in an effort to persuade legislators to protect and preserve marriage.
In their joint statement, dated Nov. 11, the bishops said they support efforts to modify Illinois law and eliminate the ambiguity of the term “marriage” in the constitution.
They have endorsed a petition, organized by the Citizens Initiative on Marriage, in favor of adding a constitutional amendment regarding marriage in the form of a referendum to the November 2006 ballot. The initiative, sponsored by the Catholic Conference of Illinois, is aimed at gathering 285,000 signatures.
Catholic Conference of Illinois spokesperson Zachary Wichman told the Catholic Explorer that petitions are available at parishes. They must be notarized and submitted to the State Board of Elections by May 8.
Illinois law allows for referendums to be only advisory. However, amendments that have defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman have already been added to constitutions in about 20 states so far, including Louisiana, Ohio and Oregon.
In their text, the bishops affirmed that marriage is “the union between a man and a woman.” Faith and reason point to “the fact that the institution of marriage is based on human nature,” said the bishops. “In other words, neither the state nor the Church invented marriage, and neither has the right to change its nature.”
The bishops reminded the faithful of the sacramental nature of marriage and of the fact that marriage was not created by Church or man. It is regulated by civil laws and Church laws, but it was created by God, they said.
The bishops instructed that marriage is the foundation of the family and the basic unit of society, and it provides the best environment in which to raise children. “Unlike any other relationship, marriage makes a unique and irreplaceable contribution to the common good of society, especially through the procreation and education of children,” said the bishops.
Marriage expresses “the sexual complementarity willed by God,” they said. The bishops explained that same-sex unions contradict the nature of marriage because they are not based on the natural union of male and female; they cannot cooperate with God to create new life; and the natural purpose of sexual union cannot be achieved by a same-sex union.
“Persons in same-sex relationships cannot enter into a true conjugal union. Therefore, it is wrong to equate their relationship to a marriage,” they stated.
The bishops also addressed the educational aspect of laws, “insofar as they shape patterns of thought and behavior. If marriage is redefined in the law, so as to make same-sex relationships equivalent to it, the institution of marriage will be “devalued and weakened.”
“The weakening of this basic institution has already exacted too high a social cost,” the bishops stated in reference to the degeneration of marriage in Western society in the last five decades.
Corpus Christi, Texas, Dec 12, 2005 (CNA) - The Diocese of Corpus Christi in Texas will open a new Catholic high school on the grounds of the former Corpus Christi Minor Seminary Complex.
Pope John Paul II High School is expected to open in August 2006, reported the Caller Times. The school will offer the excellent curriculum and values associated with Catholic schools, including faith education, community spirit and a disciplined environment.
The school will accommodate 500 students; the first graduating class will be in 2010. The annual tuition will be $4,000. Students can apply for scholarships and grants to help offset the cost.
The John G. and Marie Stella Kenedy Memorial Foundation has committed $2.5 million during the next four years to help with operations and to provide scholarships. The diocese will budget an additional $600,000 per year for operations, reported the Caller-Times.
The diocese has awarded a $1.5 million construction and renovation contract to Fulton/Coastcon Construction. Work is to be completed by July.
The diocesan school system has not had a high school since 1997, when Corpus Christi Academy closed because of declining enrolment.
Adelaide, Australia, Dec 12, 2005 (CNA) - Mental health will be the focus of the 14th World Day of the Sick, to be held in Adelaide, Feb. 9-11.
Bishops from across Australia, New Zealand and the Asia-Pacific and hundreds of participants are expected to attend.
In his message for the occasion, released last week, Pope Benedict shared the Church’s concern for those suffering from mental illness. He noted that one-fifth of the world population suffers some form of mental illness and described this prevalence “a real and authentic social-health care emergency.”
Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide described the three-day gathering as an opportunity “to engage and experience the needs of those who are most vulnerable in our society and … for those who work in the heath care sector to reflect on their work and how it can be seen as a continuation of the healing mission of Jesus.”
A one-day conference will include presentations by keynote speaker Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, head the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers, and renowned Australian experts in mental health, such as Ian Hickie, director of the Brain and Mind Institute and Professor of Psychiatry at Sydney University, and Anne Deveson, author and member of the New South Wales Mental Health Review.
The one-day conference will be followed by a workshop with Cardinal Barragan, health care workers, and people interested in health care from across Australia, with the hope of developing recommendations about mental health care. These recommendations will be put to Church and government bodies for action.
Participants will also make visits to the sick, the homeless and the mentally ill. The event will conclude with a mass in St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral, where the sick can receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and a special blessing.
Madrid, Spain, Dec 12, 2005 (CNA) - In comments marking the 40th anniversary of the close of Vatican II, the renowned Spanish theologian Father Olegario Gonzalez de Cardenal said given the “moral weight of Catholicism in the world,” the history of the Church, the world and Spain is incomprehensible without “taking into account what that Council meant and what has come from it.”
In an article published by the Spanish daily ABC, Father Cardenal noted, “The history of the Catholic Church in the 20th century is no longer comprehensible without Vatican II. The same is true for the history of Spain. Moreover, given the moral weight of Catholicism in the world, with its 1.5 billion members, with its presence in every geographic corner of the world and its specific vision of the meaning of human life, the history of the world in this century is also incomprehensible without taking into account what that Council meant and what has come from it. Just think of Poland, of John Paul II and the events of 1989.”
“As an internal event of the Catholic Church,” Father Cardenal continued, “it was normal in one sense and revolutionary in another. Normal because the collective search for truth is a constant in the history of the Church, together with the communitarian dimension of her expression and the ultimate decision regarding her dogmatic contents and moral demands by way of a material or representative meeting of all of the bishops.”
Nevertheless, he explained, the Council was also revolutionary “because of its proposal to rectify past history by establishing a profound connection between the Christian conscience and modernity; to bring together the best social projects and hopes with the power of the Gospel; to create attitudes, expressions and institutions in the Church that aren’t ambiguous but rather demonstrate her true essence and her mission to be God’s sign for the world.”
Vatican II and Spain
According to Father Cardenal, the history of Spain in the 20th century is “incomprehensible without that which Vatican II unleashed, liberated, made possible and demanded.”
“Of the four transitions which have given birth to modern-day Spain (economic in 1959 with the development plans; religious in 1962-1965 with Vatican II; political in 1978 with the new Constitution; and moral and cultural, with the sharing of power between the different political parties), the religious transition was the most radical and complete, because it affected the personal and moral roots of the conscience, where everything either comes together or is torn apart.”
Lastly, Father Cardenal notes that “religious freedom could not be an island in an ocean without other freedoms; in its wake these other freedoms had to come. Out of the spirit of the Council came the need for unity, reconciliation, consensus and peace in justice. This is the moral foundation of the transition to reconciliation in a democratic Spain.”
“To try to forget, deny, or alter the meaning of these events is to violently turn the history we have experienced on its head and sow new seeds of uncivil discord,” he said in conclusion.
Konigstein, Germany, Dec 12, 2005 (CNA) - Reconciliation and justice are still desperately needed in Bosnia-Herzegovina, 10 years after the end of the war, Bishop Ratko Peric of Mostar-Duvno told Aid to the Church in Need Dec. 7.
The prelate underlined, however, that true reconciliation requires the participation of all concerned parties.
“First of all the people must be ready to reconcile,” he said. “Bosnia-Herzegovina must become united—not only religious leaders, including Muslims, but one state with three different ethnic groups on an equal footing.”
He noted that Catholic and Orthodox bishops have met six times in the last seven years to work toward this end; they also issued a joint Christmas message last year.
The country is still in need material aid as it was severely damaged by the war, said the bishop. In his diocese alone, more than 60 church buildings were destroyed or heavily damaged; not all of the buildings have been repaired.