Vatican City, Jan 9, 2006 (CNA) - This morning, Pope Benedict encouraged world diplomats and the nations they represent to recognize truth, forgiveness and authentic human dignity as the only means to bring about lasting world peace. He broke with the tradition of his predecessor, to make a "state of the world" speech, as did Pope John Paul II.
The Holy Father’s remarks came during his annual New Year’s meeting with members of the Vatican diplomatic corps, who assembled today at the Holy See.
The Pope began his address by wishing "Christian joy" to the ambassadors themselves and to the peoples and governments they represent.
"May it be the joy of universal brotherhood brought by Christ, a joy that is rich in truthful values and is openly and generously shared; may it remain with you and grow every day of the year that has just begun," he said.
Benedict then went on to speak of a “common mission” which “confronts us with ever new and formidable challenges. Yet we address them with confidence, eager to support one another - each according to his proper responsibility - on our path towards great common objectives.”
Continuing on this theme, the Pope asked, “what is this [common mission], if not the mission of peace? ... Peace, alas, is hindered or damaged or threatened in many parts of the world. What is the way that leads to peace?"
He did affirm however that "In today's world, alongside appalling scenes of military conflict, open or latent, or only apparently resolved, one can observe, thank God, a courageous and tenacious effort on the part of many people and institutions in support of peace.”
Benedict then laid out what he called a series of “fraternal encouragements” to the diplomats as a means to build up this way of peace.
His first point was that, “commitment to truth is the soul of justice.” He said that “Those who are committed to truth cannot fail to reject the law of might, which is based on a lie and has so frequently marked human history, nationally and internationally, with tragedy."
Citing tenuous situations, particularly in the Holy Land, the Pope noted that world violence is heightened and made more acute by organized terrorism.
On this, he said that “No situation can justify such criminal activity, which covers the perpetrators with infamy, and it is all the more deplorable when it hides behind religion, thereby bringing the pure truth of God down to the level of the terrorists' own blindness and moral perversion.”
The Pope‘s second point was that “commitment to truth establishes and strengthens the right to freedom. ... Truth can only be attained in freedom.”
“This”, he said, “is the case with all truth, as is clear from the history of science; but it is eminently the case with those truths in which man himself, man as such, is at stake, the truths of the spirit, the truths about good and evil, about the great goals and horizons of life, about our relationship with God.”
He went on to say that “These truths cannot be attained without profound consequences for the way we live our lives”, and told “all those responsible for the life of Nations…: if you do not fear truth, you need not fear freedom!”
“The Holy See, in calling for true freedom for the Catholic Church everywhere, also calls for that freedom for everyone,” he said.
The Pope‘s third point was that “commitment to truth opens the way to forgiveness and reconciliation.“
“Differing convictions about the truth”, he said, “cause tensions, misunderstandings, disputes, and these are all the more serious the deeper the convictions underlying them.”
He said specifically that "Asking for forgiveness, and granting forgiveness, which is likewise an obligation ... are indispensable elements for peace.”
On this, he cited the words of his successor, John Paul II: “There can be no peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness.”
“I repeat these words,” he said, “humbly and with deep love, to the leaders of nations, especially those where the physical and moral wounds of conflicts are most painful, and the need for peace most urgent.”
Benedict’s final point was that “commitment to peace opens up new hopes.”
He called this “the logical conclusion of everything that I have been saying. Man is capable of knowing the truth!”
The peace, to which man “can and must be committed,” he stressed, “is not merely the silence of arms; it is, much more, a peace which can encourage new energies within international relations which in turn become a means of maintaining peace.”
“…this will be the case”, the Pope said, “only if they correspond to the truth about man and his dignity. Consequently one cannot speak of peace in situations where human beings are lacking even the basic necessities for living with dignity.”
To read full text of Pope message:
Vatican City, Jan 9, 2006 (CNA) - In his weekly Angelus reflection, given Sunday on the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged a crowd of thousands let their own baptisms renew them in the image of the new man--Jesus.
In his comments, the Pope said that Jesus’ "was a Baptism of penance, using the symbol of water to express the purification of heart and of life.”
“When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan,” he continued, “the Holy Spirit came down upon him in the bodily form of a dove, and John the Baptist recognized that He was the Christ, the 'Lamb of God' Who had come to take away the sin of the world.”
Thus the Baptism in the Jordan, he said was also an “epiphany, an expression of the Lord's messianic identity and of His redeeming work, which culminated in another 'Baptism,' that of His death and resurrection, by which the entire world was purified in the fire of divine mercy."
The Pope pointed out that "The Baptism of children, expresses ... the mystery of the new birth to divine life in Christ: the believing parents take their children to the baptismal font, which represents the 'bosom' of the Church from whose blessed waters the children of God are generated.”
“The gift received by the newborn children”, he said, “needs to be accepted by them, once they have become adults, in a free and responsible way. This process of maturation will bring them to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, which confirms Baptism and confers on each the 'seal' of the Holy Spirit."
The Holy Father concluded his message by praying that the day's solemnity would “be a propitious occasion for all Christians to rediscover with joy the beauty of their Baptism which, if experienced with faith, becomes an ever-present reality, renewing us constantly in the image of the new man, and in the holiness of thought and of action."
Vatican City, Jan 9, 2006 (CNA) - As the Church celebrated the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord on Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI personally baptized ten newborn infants--a first for his pontificate and a continuation of a custom begun by the late John Paul II.
In a spontaneous homily delivered in the Sistine Chapel following the baptisms, the Pope said that in receiving the Sacrament, each of the infants "are introduced to a company of friends that will never abandon them, in life or in death.”
“This company of friends”, he said, “is the family of God which carries within itself the promise of eternity."
His comments were addressed to the parents and godparents of the newly-baptized children - five boys and five girls, all of whom were Italian.
Benedict also stressed that "remaining true to Baptism in the context of the modern world means saying 'yes' to Christ and to life, and 'no' to evil and death.”
“We can say”, he continued, “that also in our own time it is necessary to say 'no' to a culture largely dominated by death; an anti-culture which shows itself, for example, in drugs, in escape from reality, in illusion, and in the false happiness that is expressed in lies, fraud, injustice, and contempt for others, for solidarity, and for responsibility towards the poor and the suffering."
This culture of death, the Pope added, "is expressed in a sexuality which becomes pure enjoyment without responsibility, which makes man a mere object, no longer a person but a commodity."
"To this seeming promise of happiness,” he stressed, “to this apparent life which in reality is no more than an instrument of death, to this anti-culture, we say 'no' in order to cultivate the culture of life. Baptism today is a great 'yes' to life, a 'yes' to Christ, a 'yes' to the One Who conquered death."
The Pope said that this 'yes' to the culture of life is best expressed in the Ten Commandments.
He said that they "are not prohibitions but a vision of life", and added moreover, that they are a "yes" to God Who gives meaning to life.
Mapping out their meaning, Benedict pointed out that a 'Yes' to the family, is contained in the fourth commandment; “'yes' to life, the fifth commandment; 'yes' to responsible love, the sixth commandment; 'yes' to solidarity, social responsibility and justice, the seventh commandment; 'yes' to truth, the eighth commandment; 'yes' to respect for others and for what belongs to them, ninth and tenth commandments.”
“This”, he said, “is the philosophy and the culture of life that take concrete and practical form in communion with Christ."
Vatican City, Jan 9, 2006 (CNA) - Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls announced yesterday that the Holy See would accept the decision of the courts regarding the possible prison release of Ali Agca--would-be assassin of the late John Paul II.
Yesterday afternoon, Navarro-Valls, who directs the Vatican Press Office, said in a written declaration that, "The Holy See only learned the news of a possible release from prison of Ali Agca from news agencies.”
He added that "The Holy See, faced with such a juridical question, confides in the decisions of the courts involved in this matter."
Agca shot and wounded the late Pope as he rode through St. Peter’s Square in an open-air “Popemobile” in May of 1981.
He has been held in a Turkish prison for over 20 years, where, in 1983 Pope John Paul II himself visited Agca and called on faithful to “pray for my brother…whom I have sincerely forgiven.”
Vatican City, Jan 9, 2006 (CNA) - On Saturday, Pope Benedict met with a delegation from the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, with whom he stressed the importance of ecumenical dialogue, but warned against the possibility of true dialogue without interior conversion.
The Alliance, which is headed by the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, told the Pope that they were “eager” during their visit “…to pursue with you how Catholic and Reformed Christians might be partners together for God's justice in a world wracked by poverty, war, ecological destruction and the denial of human freedom."
In his own address, Pope Benedict gratefully recalled “the presence of delegations from the World Alliance both at the funeral of my predecessor Pope John Paul II and at the inauguration of my own papal ministry.”
“In these signs of mutual respect and friendship”, he said, “I am pleased to see a providential fruit of the fraternal dialogue and cooperation undertaken in the past four decades, and a token of sure hope for the future."
The Holy Father then went on to recall the 40th anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council, and the promulgation of the Conciliar Decree on Ecumenism, called "Unitatis Redintegratio."
He said that "The Catholic-Reformed dialogue, which came into existence shortly thereafter, has made an important contribution to the demanding work of theological reflection and historical investigation indispensable for surmounting the tragic divisions which arose among Christians in the sixteenth century.”
"One of the results of the dialogue”, he noted, “has been to show significant areas of convergence between the Reformed understanding of the Church as 'Creatura Verbi' and the Catholic understanding of the Church as the primordial Sacrament of God's outpouring of grace in Christ.”
He also said that “The Decree on Ecumenism affirmed that 'there can be no ecumenism worthy of the name without interior conversion'."
Pope Benedict also recalled that "At the very beginning of my pontificate I voiced my own conviction that 'inner conversion is the prerequisite for all ecumenical progress,' and recalled the example of my predecessor, Pope John Paul II, who often spoke of the need for a 'purification of memory' as a means of opening our hearts to receive the full truth of Christ.”
“The late Pope”, he told the group, “gave a powerful impulse to this endeavor in the Catholic Church, and I am pleased to learn that several of the Reformed Churches ... have undertaken similar initiatives."
The Holy Father concluded his address by stressing that true dialogue "calls for wisdom, humility, patient study and exchange.”
“May we set out with renewed confidence,” he said, “in obedience to the Gospel and with our hope firmly grounded in Christ's prayer for His Church."
, Jan 9, 2006 (CNA) - A decision by federal bankruptcy Judge Elizabeth Perris against the Archdiocese of Portland “will lead to a new class of victims and cause more suffering among the children and the needy of Oregon,” said lawyer Robert Le Chevallier in a column in last week’s Oregonian.
Two weeks ago, Perris ruled that the assets of Catholic parishes and schools are subject to the hundreds of millions of dollars in claims of child sex-abuse plaintiffs.
“Generations of Catholics contributed their hard-earned salaries to build those parishes, schools and social service agencies,” said Le Chevallier. These groups also established endowment funds to enable those of modest means to attend Catholic schools but, because of the judge’s decision, these funds are among those that can be tapped for compensation.
The decision also puts funds used to provide millions of dollars in charitable services each year at risk. These services include social services to the poor, refugees and immigrants, the elderly and the sick, Le Chevallier pointed out.
“These programs, while independent of the archdiocese, are at risk if parishes and schools are burdened with excessive debt in order to pay the claims against the archdiocese,” the lawyer wrote.
Le Chevallier argued in favor of legal reform. “Case law in Oregon has created almost an unlimited liability for sex-abuse claims. Statutes of limitations have been extended for claims that are up to 50 years old,” he said. “The effect of these laws is wreaking serious havoc on our charitable institutions.
“Legal reform is needed to protect both children from sex abuse and the charities and social service agencies of our state that work primarily with children,” he stated.
Dublin, Ireland, Jan 9, 2006 (CNA) - Immigrants make a vital contribution to Ireland’s economy and culture, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said Thursday as he celebrated a vigil mass to mark the country’s growing multiculturalism.
During his homily, the archbishop of Dublin called for protection of and vigorous prosecution of abuses against, vulnerable migrants, reported The Irish Examiner. He expressed his support for the suggestion by Church of Ireland Archbishop John Neill that immigrants who had been living in Ireland for five years should have the right to stay in the country.
He also called for a welcoming, transparent and enlightened national migration policy. He added that the education system had an important role to play in introducing Irish children to the new intercultural reality and discouraged the creation of ethnic ghettos. “Experience in other countries has shown how such situations can be exploited in a manner which brings benefit to no-one,” he said.
The Festival of Peoples mass was attended by people from the Lithuanian, Latvian, Romanian, Nigerian, Brazilian and Keralese Indian communities. It included prayers and readings in different languages, an international choir and an offertory procession of people in national costume.
The archbishop said the mass was meant to celebrate the contribution by immigrants to Ireland’s economy, society and culture, as well as these men and women’s talents, creativity, culture and traditions.
Los Angeles, Calif., Jan 9, 2006 (CNA) - Two more NBC affiliates have decided not to air a new network drama called "The Book of Daniel," which features an Episcopal priest with a gay son, the network announced Friday, the day of the series debut.
To date, four affiliates nationally have rejected the series as a result of a Christian lobby against the series, reported the Associated Press.
KBTV in Beaumont, Texas, and WGBC in Meridian, Miss., were the latest stations to reject the program. The two previous stations included KARK in Little Rock, Ark., and WTWO in Terre Haute, Ind.
NBC has 230 affiliates. A spokeswoman told the AP that the four affiliates make up less than one percent of NBC's national audience.
Vancouver, Canada, Jan 9, 2006 (CNA) - For the third time in four years a priest of the Archdiocese of Vancouver has been named a bishop, reported journalist Jeff Graham. Pope Benedict XVI named Fr. Gary Gordon as the new bishop of Whitehorse Jan. 5.
Bishop David Monroe of Kamloops and Bishop Richard Gagnon of Victoria were also Vancouver priests.
“I am deeply humbled, yet like all challenges, whether climbing mountains or pastoral ministry, it is another adventure of faith and life,” Fr. Gordon was quoted as saying. “With a grateful heart for all I have received in the Archdiocese of Vancouver, I will generously endeavor to be a good steward of what God entrusts to me in this new ministry.”
Archbishop Raymond Roussin of Vancouver called Fr. Gordon’s appointment an honor for the archdiocese. “We thank Bishop-elect Gary Gordon for his many years of dedicated service. We rejoice over this choice and at the same time regret his departure,” said the archbishop.
Fr. Gordon was born in Vancouver in 1957 and was ordained in 1982. Among his appointments, he served as pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Mission from 1988 until his appointment in 1992 as pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in Chilliwack.
A date for the episcopal ordination has not yet been announced.
Springfield, Ill., Jan 9, 2006 (CNA) - The Diocese of Springfield has launched a process to help determine which churches should close given demographic shifts and the shortage of priests. But, according to the Boston Globe, diocesan officials have learned from the nightmare that occurred in the Archbishop of Boston in 2004 and appear determined to avoid the same situation.
Archbishop Sean O'Malley's decision nearly two years ago in 2004 to close nearly one in six churches in the Archdiocese of Boston triggered lawsuits and occupation of church buildings as parishioners refused to let their churches be closed.
In Springfield, church officials are seeking input from parishioners and lay Catholic leaders, as well as from those outside the church, as they decide how to reorganize the diocese. They are holding a Web chat to get the input of parishioners, and they plan to close parishes slowly.
This week, the diocese plans to hold a two-hour live online chat, during which Catholics can question Fr. John Bonzagni, who is in charge of the reorganization.
Church officials have commissioned a study by the University of Massachusetts to be overseen by the dean of the graduate school, John R. Mullin. A doctoral candidate is studying the diocese as if it was a business and will recommend which churches should stay open and which should close.
A 13-member committee of mostly lay Catholics will review the report and conduct its own research, culminating in a recommendation to Bishop Timothy McDonnell of Springfield.
The diocese's proposal will also be presented to local parishes for their input. Once decisions are made, church closings and mergers will take place gradually as priests retire or are moved to other churches. Fr. Bonzagni said that at this point, it's not clear how long the process will take. The diocese plans to create a local appeals process for churches slated to be closed.
A 2005 tally of worshippers in every church in the diocese found that about one in three Catholics in the diocese attends church, about the same as the national average.
However, in the next five years, the diocese may lose as many as one-third of its active priests due to retirement.
In Springfield, diocesan officials say many of the changes will probably take place in the region's urban parishes. And the smallest churches in the diocese are not necessarily those most likely to close. Many of the parishes with the lowest attendance are located in rural areas, and it they closed local Catholics would have to drive many miles to attend church.
Madrid, Spain, Jan 9, 2006 (CNA) - During a Mass offered by Bishop Jose Vilaplana of Santander, Spain, Sister Esperanza Zorroza Landia, 94, celebrated her 75 years as a professed religious with a moving renewal of vows. The ceremony was witnessed by numerous fellow Cistercians, diocesan priests and family members of Sister Esperanza.
Sister Esperanza entered the Cistercian monastery in 1929 at the age of 17, and four years later she made her perpetual vows. 75 years later, the Spanish nun renewed her commitment “with the same fervor as 75 years ago, reading the document with an explosion and tone of vitality, thus demonstrating her lucidness,” reported the Ivicon news agency.
In his homily, Bishop Vilaplana expressed gratitude for the witness of fidelity of Sister Esperanza and emphasized that “the secret of fidelity is love.”
After renewing her profession, a crown of white lilies and garland was placed on Sister Esperanza’s head as a sign of “her faithful combat in the service of the divine,” said members of her community.
The Cistercian nuns of Lierganes, Spain, said the event was a message for contemporary society and “an act of praise to God for the faith he has bestowed upon man.” “It is a moment of joy that reminds us that God can still mean total fulfillment in people’s lives.”
Photographs and reports of the ceremony have brought on a shower of praise for the nun from across Spain.
Lima, Peru, Jan 9, 2006 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Lima, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani, is calling on that country’s presidential candidates to incorporate the Church’s social teachings into their policy proposals, saying its application would bring “much good to society and would make people more aware” of the different problems facing Peru.
In a message addressing the upcoming elections on April 9, the cardinal noted that the Church has the right “to apply the Gospel in the complex world of production, work, business, finances, commerce, law and culture, in which man is immersed on a daily basis.”
Cardinal Cipriani added that the defense of the culture of life is the key to protecting the future of the country. “It is urgent that we stop the abortion tendency that has invaded the legislative environment; the constant attempt to dissolve marriage with permissive laws that facilitate divorce; the trampling of male and female sexual identity through so-called gender ideology,” he stated.
“This danger can be resolved,” he continued, “if serious educational reform is undertaken aimed at recognizing the transcendence and the interior spiritual value of the human person, thus avoiding reducing man’s dignity to mere material wellbeing.”
In his letter the cardinal also recalled that “the principal mission of the State is to keep the country in order, in conditions ideal for private initiative and creativity,” and he emphasized that “therefore it is important that the private sector understands that it must assume its grave responsibility of sharing in the State’s direct responsibility of taking care of basic services.”
Taipei, Taiwan, Jan 9, 2006 (CNA) - The president of Taiwan, Chen Shui-Bian, has sent a letter to Pope Benedict XVI requesting his help to halt “the threat of war which our country is suffering” at the hands of Communist China.
In the letter Chen thanks the Holy Father for his message of peace for the new year, and he asked the Pontiff to intercede with Communist China—which considers Taiwan a renegade province—to convince the country to dismantle its missiles aimed at the island and to renounce the use of force “in order to safeguard the peace and stability of the Asian Pacific.”
Chen also expressed his concern for the status of human rights and religious freedom in China, where Christians are persecuted. In Taiwan, the Catholic Church has seen continual growth in the Church’s seven dioceses.
“Peace, freedom and democracy are basic principles in Taiwan, and China will not make a positive contribution to the world unless it embraces them,” Chen wrote in his letter.
The Taiwanese president promised his country would strive to overcome the main disagreement with China through “good will, reconciliation and active cooperation.”
The Vatican is one of 25 states that recognize the nation of Taiwan, something that has been a point of contention in Vatican-Beijing relations.