Vatican City, Dec 13, 2005 (CNA) - In light of ongoing war in the Middle East, recent terror attacks throughout the world and tenuous political balances in many countries, Pope Benedict XVI has released his message for January’s World Day of Peace, calling for peace in the light of truth.
Cardinal Renato Martino, prefect of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, presented the Holy Father’s message at the Vatican Press Office this morning. Archbishop Giampaolo Crepaldi and Msgr. Frank J. Dewane, respectively secretary and under-secretary of the pontifical council were also on hand.
The Pope begins his message for the January 1st celebration by noting that "The very name Benedict, which I chose on the day of my election to the Chair of Peter, is a sign of my personal commitment to peace.”
“In taking this name,” he said, “I wanted to evoke both the patron saint of Europe, who inspired a civilization of peace on the whole continent, and Pope Benedict XV, who condemned the First World War as a 'useless slaughter' and worked for a universal acknowledgment of the lofty demands of peace.”
Cardinal Martino explained that the Pope chose “truth” as the major theme of his message, “linking its many dimensions to the various questions concerning peace in the modern world," and drawing inspiration from the Vatican Council II Pastoral Constitution "Gaudium et spes."
Benedict himself said that, “'In truth, peace' - expresses the conviction that wherever and whenever men and women are enlightened by the splendor of truth, they naturally set out on the path of peace."
"Peace” he said, “cannot be reduced to the simple absence of armed conflict, but needs to be understood as 'the fruit of an order which has been planted in human society by its divine Founder.'“
“As the result of an order planned and willed by the love of God, peace has an intrinsic and invincible truth of its own, and corresponds 'to an irrepressible yearning and hope dwelling within us'."
War, terrorism, and arms
The message itself is divided into four main parts. The first, Cardinal Martino said, “which is of a spiritual and theological nature, highlights the meaning and value of the bond between peace, truth and lies."
The second part addresses the question of peace in real situations of war, while the third looks at peace in relation to terrorism, and the forth, from a standpoint of re-launching the process of disarmament.
From a historical point of view, the Cardinal added, the Pope "formulates a very severe judgment of last century" and highlights the "need for peace" which is intrinsic to human beings and is "the shared birthright of all men and women of the one human family."
Speaking about real situations of war, the Holy Father writes that, in these cases, “there must be full respect and complete observance of international humanitarian law, which ... must remain a point of reference for the international community."
Concerning terrorism, Benedict offers a unique analysis on the phenomenon saying that its roots lie in nihilism and in fanatical fundamentalism, which "have an entirely erroneous approach both to truth and to the truth of peace."
Nihilism and fundamentalism, he wrote, "both show a dangerous contempt for human beings and human life, and ultimately for God Himself. ... In analyzing the causes of the contemporary phenomenon of terrorism, consideration should be given, not only to its political and social causes, but also to its deeper cultural, religious and ideological motivations.”
Despite the sometimes grim world situation, the Pope does note “certain signs of hope in the work of building peace.”
“I think,” he says, “for example, of the decrease in the number of armed conflicts... These are reassuring signs which need to be confirmed and consolidated by tireless cooperation and activity, above all on the part of the international community and its agencies charged with preventing conflicts and providing a peaceful solution to those in course.”
He warns however, that "All this must not, however, lead to a naive optimism. It must not be forgotten that, tragically, violent fratricidal conflicts and devastating wars still continue to sow tears and death in vast parts of the world."
The Pope also lambasted those world leaders who “count on nuclear arms as a means of ensuring the security of their countries.”
“Along with countless persons of good will,” he said, “one can state that this point of view is not only baneful but also completely fallacious. In a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims.”
He added that “The truth of peace requires that all - whether those governments which openly or secretly possess nuclear arms, or those planning to acquire them - agree to change their course by clear and firm decisions, and strive for a progressive and concerted nuclear disarmament.”
Pope Benedict closed his message calling for every community to “undertake an extensive process of education and witness aimed at making everyone more aware of the need for a fuller appreciation of the truth of peace.”
“At the same” he said, “time I ask for an increase of prayers, since peace is above all a gift of God, a gift to be implored incessantly.”
Washington D.C., Dec 13, 2005 (CNA) - The United States bishops joined numerous human rights organizations and celebrities last week in asking California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to commute Stanley Tookie Williams’ death sentence.
However, Schwarzenegger could not be persuaded and Williams was executed early Tuesday morning, 25 years after he was convicted of murdering four people.
The head of the U.S. Bishops’ Domestic Policy Committee, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, in solidarity with the Catholic Bishops of California, asked the governor to grant Williams clemency in a Dec. 9 letter.
“I am writing to urge that you exercise your power of clemency to spare the life of Mr. Stanley “Tookie” Williams,” wrote Bishop DiMarzio. “It is not my intent in any way to diminish the responsibility of those who have committed terrible crimes; however, this execution can only compound the violence that already exists in our society.”
He referred to both John Paul II’s Gospel of Life and the U.S. bishops’ recent pastoral statement on the death penalty, titled “The Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death.”
The pastoral statement, which accompanied Bishop DiMarzio’s letter, affirms the teaching of the Catechism with regard to the death penalty and states that American society has the means to defend itself “without resorting to the use of the death penalty and should therefore restrict itself to other non-lethal means.”
“Such non-violent measures can give the offender time to repent for his or her crime and allow the possibility of receiving God's grace,” Bishop DiMarzio wrote.
The U.S. bishops, he said, “strongly believe that the use of the death penalty diminishes all of us when a man or woman is killed on our behalf.” The bishops base their teaching on a “fundamental respect for life,” he added
“We do not believe that you can teach that killing is wrong by killing. We do not believe that you can defend life by taking life,” he wrote.
Vatican City, Dec 13, 2005 (CNA) - The Vatican has announced that Father Alexander K. Sample, chancellor of the Diocese of Marquette, Michigan, has been appointed the new bishop of that diocese.
Simultaneously, Pope Benedict accepted current Bishop James H. Garland‘s resignation, having reached retirement age. The bishop is 74.
Bishop-elect Sample is originally from Kalispel, Montana and studied at the College of St. Thomas, now St. John Vianney Seminary, in St. Paul, Minnesota, and the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio.
He received a doctorate in Canon Law from the Angelicum in Rome. He has been a priest for the Diocese of Marquette since 1990.
The Diocese of Marquette, which stretches to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is spiritual home to some 68,000 Catholics, 100 priests, 28 permanent deacons and 70 religious.
Jerusalem, Israel, Dec 13, 2005 (CNA) - The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, has called for the removal of the separation barrier being constructed between the West Bank and Israel.
The top Catholic official in the Holy Land made his plea during a peaceful demonstration Sunday, with about 1,000 followers, reported the Associated Press. He expressed his desire for peace, shared by the demonstrators, by planting an olive tree on the planned route for the barrier. Israel has been constructing the barrier, which it says is necessary to be safe from Palestinian attackers.
But the patriarch said the barrier serves no purpose. In some places, it was built into the West Bank to surround settlements, cutting several thousand Palestinians off from farmland or services. According to the AP, the patriarch said last Christmas the separation barrier turned Bethlehem into a "prison."
"This position and the confiscation of lands have no reason at all. [The barrier] doesn't benefit the security of either Israel or anybody else. Our prayers are for the removal of this physical wall currently under construction and the return of our lands and your lands to you," Archbishop Sabbah told the demonstrators, whom he urged to remain peaceful, reported the AP.
"Our hearts are filled with love, and no hatred for anybody. This peace will be possible regardless of the obstacles put between the people," he was quoted as saying.
Washington D.C., Dec 13, 2005 (CNA) - Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver will participate in a panel discussion on Christian persecution around the world, called “Christmas Under Siege Around the World.
The discussion, organized by the Freedom House’s Center for Religious Freedom & The Congressional Working Group on Religious Freedom, will include Dr. Richard Land and experts on China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Vietnam, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka. Senator Rick Santorum will chair the discussion. The speakers will also discuss possible strategies to help the situation.
The event announcement says the Christmas season is a time to remember the world’s Christians who suffer persecution for their faith. It notes that persecution against Christians has intensified over the past year in many countries.
The conference will take place on Wednesday, December 14, at the following address:
U.S. Capitol, Room S-219
Abuja, Nigeria, Dec 13, 2005 (CNA) - The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights and a board member of a network’s parent company have condemned last week's episode of South Park, saying it was appalling and disrespectful of the Virgin Mary.
The league said the program, which aired on Comedy Central in the U.S. and the Comedy Network in Canada the day before the feast of the Immaculate Conception, "defiled the Virgin Mary," reported the CBC.
The episode, entitled "Bloody Mary," revolves around a town's discovery that a statue of the Virgin Mary has begun bleeding. The event is dubbed a miracle and the people flock to see the statue, including Pope Benedict XVI, who concludes that the statue is simply menstruating.
In a statement issued Thursday, the league demanded that Viacom, Comedy Central's parent company, issue an apology to Catholics and pledge to permanently retire the episode and not make it available on DVD.
Viacom board member Joseph Califano Jr., a practicing Catholic, also condemned the episode Friday, after viewing it.
"I found it an appalling and disgusting portrayal of the Virgin Mary. It is particularly troubling to me as a Roman Catholic that the segment has run on the eve and day of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a holy day for Roman Catholics," Califano said in a statement Friday.He called for a review of the show by Viacom president and chief executive Tom Freston.
Valencia, Fla., Dec 13, 2005 (CNA) - Archbishop Agustin Garcia of Valencia, Spain, has confirmed the visit by Pope Benedict XVI to that country in July of 2006 for “at least two days” in order to attend the V World Meeting of Families.
After the celebration of the Mass on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the archbishop said, “Although it will be some time before it is officially made public, I now can confirm this great joy.”
According to the schedule for the meeting of families, the Holy Father will preside at a festive gathering in the afternoon on July 8. That evening he will attend a prayer vigil during which several families will share their testimonies.
On Sunday, July 9, the Pope will preside at the closing Mass. More than one million are expected to attend the liturgy.
London, England, Dec 13, 2005 (CNA) - An American scientist is set to publish a crucial new book on the pre-natal behavior of babies that is expected to have a profound impact on the issue of abortion.
“The Theorem: A Complete Answer to Human Behavior” by Douglas M. Arone is set for release in the United Kingdom by John Hunt Publishing Ltd. The book has already provoked reaction among scientists, such as Dr. B. Abolade, psychiatrist for children and adolescents in Montgomery, Alabama, who calls the theory, "A discovery of great genius that will advance mankind's march towards progress".
"I specifically wanted The Theorem to be published in the U.K. to avoid the focus on the abortion debate that seems to consume America. It was, and still is my hope that over here the work can be appreciated for the other equally important aspects such as; why we talk, the purpose of sleep and the identification to the possible origins of autism, and not just focused on identifying exactly when the fetus gains a limited consciousness", states Mr. Arone.
The publisher has prohibited any pre-release and review copies, which has fueled interest in the book on the part of both pro-life and pro-abortion groups. The Theorem is scheduled to be released on December 26.
More information can be found at: http://www.thetheorem.com
Konigstein, Germany, Dec 13, 2005 (CNA) - During a recent visit to the headquarters of Aid to the Church in Need, the director of the Catholic Social Center of the Diocese of Xi’an in Shaanxi, China, Father Stephen Chen, said that his diocese has experienced enormous growth during the last few years, but that it is still in need of prayer and material assistance.
Father Chen explained that in the central province of Shaanxi there are eight dioceses with more than “280,000 Catholics, 260 priests who assist the faithful, and 600 religious dedicated to teaching and to helping the poor, the infirm and the elderly.”
In addition to this growth, Father Chen continued, during the “last 20 years 400 churches have been built in the province, but we need more, above all in the small towns. Unfortunately many are in bad shape and need to be restored or rebuilt.”
Another important aspect of the growth of the diocese is the pastoral attention given to young people and the increase in vocations at the region’s two seminaries, where there are vocations both “to the priesthood and to women’s religious communities.”
Father Chen thanked Aid to the Church Need for helping the Church in Shaanxi and he asked for continued prayers and support.
Bethlehem, West Bank, Dec 13, 2005 (CNA) - The Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem has launched a new program to reach out to mothers who live in extreme poverty in the region.
The hospital, located just a short distance from the place where Jesus was born, boasts of a modern intensive care unit for newborns which, according to executive director Colleen Marotta “cares for women who, outside the hospital, still endure conditions similar to those endured by Our Lord when He was born, and who endure the most unsanitary and unsafe conditions that exist.” “25% of those women cared for live in refugee camps and 13% of newborn babies are cared for in the neonatal intensive care unit, the only one of its kind in this region.”
Since its founding, Holy Family Hospital has cared for more than 30,000 babies without a single incident of maternal death. Some 200 women a month give birth at the hospital, which is open 24/7 throughout the year.
“The women who give birth,” Marotta said, “are of different creeds and religions, but they are all united in the care and attention they have for bringing their children into the world. Like Mary and Joseph, these families are looking for a place to stay, a place where their children can be safely born. In the entire region, this is the destination point: Holy Family Hospital.”
In 1989, at the request of Pope John Paul II, the Order of Malta took over the administration of hospital and decided it would be dedicated to helping pregnant women and their children. In 2000, the late Pontiff included the hospital in his list of 100 priorities for the new millennium.