Washington D.C., Jan 13, 2006 (CNA) - The United States bishops have called for a national civil dialogue that will lead to a responsible transition in Iraq, and have said the U.S. military should remain in Iraq only as long as it takes to secure that responsible transition.
In a letter, issued Jan. 12, the Chairman of the Committee on International Policy for the U.S. bishops said such a dialogue could help the U.S. chart a course of action that meets both the “moral and human dimensions of the situation in Iraq.”
“We need a forthright discussion that begins with an honest assessment of the situation in Iraq and acknowledges both the mistakes that have been made and the signs of hope that have appeared,” said Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando in the letter.
“Most importantly, an honest assessment of our moral responsibilities toward Iraq should commit our nation to a policy of responsible transition,” he continued. “Our nation’s military forces should remain in Iraq only as long as it takes for a responsible transition, leaving sooner rather than later.”
“The central moral question is not just the timing of U.S. withdrawal, but rather the nature and extent of U.S. and international engagement that allows for a responsible transition to security and stability for the Iraqi people,” Bishop Wenski stated.
The bishop said responsible transition means establishing a series of basic benchmarks, including: “achieving adequate levels of security; establishing the rule of law; promoting economic reconstruction to help create reasonable levels of employment and economic opportunity; and supporting the development of political structures to advance stability, political participation, and respect for religious freedom and basic human rights.”
The bishop also warned Americans to avoid distortions of reality in Iraq. “We must resist a pessimism that might move our nation to abandon the moral responsibilities it accepted in using force and might tempt us to withdraw prematurely from Iraq without regard for moral and human consequences. We must reject an optimism that fails to acknowledge clearly past mistakes, failed intelligence, and inadequate planning related to Iraq, and minimizes the serious challenges and human costs that lie ahead.”
The bishop recognized key challenges to a responsible transition, including terrorism, and the U.S. response to it; violation of the human rights of persons in the custody of U.S. and Iraqi forces; threats to religious liberty and religious minorities in Iraq; the plight of refugees; and meeting other international responsibilities.
Fort Mitchell, Ky., Jan 13, 2006 (CNA) - About 800 Catholic high school juniors from Northern Kentucky gathered Wednesday for the second annual vocations rally for the Diocese of Covington.
Clergy, religious and laypeople talked to the students about making the choice to marry, stay single or join the religious life. They also shared their witness of their lives as priests and sisters.
Fr. Gregory Bach, vocation recruiter for the diocese, told the Enquirer that one of the biggest obstacles for young people to commit to a religious vocation is that “there are so many voices vying for the attention of young people.”
The number of Catholic priests in the United States continues to decline. There were 57,317 in 1985 and only 42,000 today. Covington, like other dioceses across the country, has brought six priests from India to fill positions at various parishes.
Fr. Bach saw a recent spike in the number of seminarians in the diocese as a ray of hope. The diocese has 15 seminarians now compared with about three seminary students five years ago. The priest credited increased visibility and promotions like the rally.
The clergy at the rally urged students to pray about what their vocations.
Springfield, Ill., Jan 13, 2006 (CNA) - The Diocese of Springfield held its first live Web forum Tuesday in an effort to answer parishioners’ questions and concerns about the diocese’s upcoming parish reorganization.
Fr. John Bonzagni, director of the Office of Pastoral Planning, responded to more than a dozen questions on the Web log, ranging from the staffing of parishes to parish assets, from 6 p.m. to 8.
A Web log allows real time communication via the Internet. The questions came from parishioners across Western Massachusetts.
People can continue to post questions for on the Web sites: www.iobserve.org and www.diospringfield.org . While the live blog (Web log) will not be active, Fr. Bonzagni will continue to answer questions from the Web site daily for several months.
The diocese will host another live Web log on another topic sometime in the future and will continue to offer information through more traditional means of communication.
Vatican City, Jan 13, 2006 (CNA) - Speaking today to members of the “sediari pontifici”, the group of men who are historically charged with bearing the literal “chair” of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict explained that the benchmark of a Christian lifestyle, and particularly of members of the Pontifical Household, is one of service.
Today, members of this ancient office largely carry out various functions and protocols during ceremonies involving the Papal Household.
The Pope began by telling the group that: "Yours is an ancient task” although one “which over the course of the centuries has evolved in different ways depending upon the customs and needs of the times.”
But, he pointed out, it has always remained "linked with the See of Peter."
"Your work, then,” Benedict said, “is part of a context wherein everything must speak to the whole world of the Church of Christ, and must do so coherently, imitating Him Who 'came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.'“
“It is in this light”, he continued, “that the recent reforms put into effect by my predecessors must be seen, particularly by Pope Paul VI to whom it fell to implement the new requisites of the Council.”
Under Paul VI, the Pope pointed out, “Ceremonies were simplified, bringing them back to a greater sobriety more in keeping with the Christian message and the needs of the times."
In this light, Benedict thanked members of the "sediari" for assisting the smooth functioning of pontifical audiences and celebrations. He added that "diligence, courtesy and discretion must be the characteristics that distinguish you in your work."
He closed by expressing his wish to the group: “that you may always be - both in the Vatican and at home, in the parish and in all situations - helpful and attentive to others.”
“This”, he said, “is a precious lesson for your children and grandchildren, who will learn from your example how service to the Holy See means, above all, a Christian mentality and lifestyle."
San Francisco, Calif., Jan 13, 2006 (CNA) - On February 11th, Ignatius Press will host a nationwide re-release of the classic film, The Passion of Bernadette, which is based on the later life of Saint Bernadette Soubirous, a young girl, to whom Mary repeatedly appeared in Lourdes, France.
The film, originally released in 1989 is a sequel to the 1988 Movie “Bernadette”, which garnered considerable acclaim from the Vatican and today, plays continually for pilgrims in the church in Lourdes.
The sequel follows St. Bernadette’s life after she entered the convent in Nevers, France, where she lived until succumbing to tuberculosis at the age of 35.
Recently, CNA spoke to actress Sydney Penny, who currently stars on the soap opera “All My Children” and has appeared in numerous television and film roles, about portraying young Bernadette in both films and about the role she thinks this famous Saint still plays in today’s world.
CNA: You were 15 during the filming of Bernadette and 18 during the Passion of Bernadette. What was it like for you portraying such an intense story at such a young age?
PENNY: I was very fortunate to have Jean Delannoy as a director. He really understood Bernadette, and telling her story correctly was a passion for him. He guided me through, and it felt effortless, all I had to do was try to understand the character. When the writing is good and the directing is good, it’s effortless.
CNA: Most people (even Catholics) have only vaguely heard of Lourdes, if at all. As a non-Catholic, did you know much about the story of Bernadette prior to filming?
PENNY: The closest association I had was that a Catholic friend of mine growing up went to Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, but I never thought anything about it.
I think that not really knowing much about Bernadette gave me fresh eyes. I was just trying to portray her life--not that of a Saint specifically. What we tried to portray was just the human person. She was really just a simple girl, and considered herself a stupid girl. I think this simplicity made her accessible to everyone.
The role was so different from what I was doing at the time. I was on the beach in California filming the new Gidget movie…I had no clue until I got to Lourdes what an important person this was. And it wasn’t until the premier that I really started to understand the importance of this.
CNA: After she entered the convent in Nevers, France, Bernadette developed tuberculosis and was given difficult, menial tasks to perform, which she did with great suffering. What was it like trying to portray the intense pain and suffering that she experienced in her later life?
PENNY: It was very hard. I felt so deeply for her because she had such difficulties. But despite, she was able to find something positive--even delightful--in every part of her life. There’s a strange psychosomatic thing that happens when you play a character like that. She was much older than I was, so they aged me…and I wore this heavy wool wrapping around my knee which honestly made me feel old. It was very difficult.
I visited the convent in Nevers during the fall when it was cold and damp and I couldn’t help but think of Bernadette and her tuberculosis performing the most medial tasks there, cleaning the latrine…This poor woman doing these menial tasks…just amazing.
CNA: Many would say that our culture is going through a profoundly dark time right now. How do you think the story of Bernadette can offer hope in today’s world?
PENNY: We all have choices in every minute and we’re all presented with difficulties--big and small. For some, it’s family, for some it’s work…not to mention the huge, world political struggles that we all feel a part of.
But Bernadette had this simple truthful nature, this fantastic code of honesty and simplicity. I think her common sense approach to life and suffering is one that we can all learn from. We can try to change the world, but will we always succeed? Not necessarily. Really, all we can do is lead by example. That’s what Christ did, and that’s, I think, what Bernadette has to show us today.
Amarillo, Texas, Jan 13, 2006 (CNA) - Fr. Frank Pavone, head of the group, Priests for Life, has announced that a new priestly society--one devoted to work in the pro-life movement--has been given the go-ahead from Bishop John Yanta, head of the Diocese of Amarillo Texas, to begin work immediately.
The society, called the Missionaries of the Gospel of Life, was authorized by Bishop Yanta and Reverend Michael Colwell, JCL, Vicar General and Chancellor for the Diocese on December 12th to “officially and in the name of the Church” train priests, deacons, and lay missionaries, to, as the group put it, “advance the dignity of human life.”
A delighted Fr. Pavone called the occasion “historic.” “Never before”, he said, “has there been a community within the Church specifically dedicated to ending abortion and euthanasia.”
He explained that “The society’s work will involve a broad spectrum of pro-life action, including motivating people to elect pro-life candidates, lobbying for the confirmation of Supreme Court Justices, and advocating for people like Terri Schiavo.”
“We will not tire”, he promised, “until the mass-killing of children ends, and every human life, from conception to natural death, is valued and protected in America.”
Washington D.C., Jan 13, 2006 (CNA) - In a press release yesterday, Concerned Women for America commended Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel Alito for his “superb job despite blatant partisan attacks by some members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.”
“He has conducted himself with dignity and honor, confirming his strong character. Led by Senators Kennedy, Feinstein, Durbin and Schumer, liberals have failed miserably in their attempt to discredit this outstanding nominee. If anything, they only proved that Alito has nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed of, and everything to be admired for,” said CWA Chief Counsel Jan LaRue.
Madrid, Spain, Jan 13, 2006 (CNA) - Bishops from around the world will be gathering for the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land in Jerusalem on January 14-19 in order to promote solidarity with Christians in that region and to get to know the pastoral life of the Church there.
In a statement, the Bishops’ Conference of Spain announced that the meeting would consist primarily of work sessions for the participants and discussions on the pastoral life of the local Church, as well as dialogue with Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian authorities.
On Saturday and Sunday participants will visit parishes in Jerusalem, Galilee, and the West Bank, where they will celebrate the Eucharist.
On Monday, January 16, in addition to the work sessions, the bishops will hold a meeting in Jerusalem, with representatives of the laity, religious and priests. They will also visit with Israeli President Moshe Katsav and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. On Tuesday, January 17, the bishops will travel to Jordan where they will meet with King Abdullah II. The following day they will visit local parishes in the country. The meeting will conclude on Thursday, January 19.
The Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land was created in January of 1992 by Pope John Paul II.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Jan 13, 2006 (CNA) - The famous Brazilian legal scholar, Yves Gandra Martins, has published an article in the Jornal do Brasil denouncing the government’s effort to approve abortion, which he says will make those who believe in God second-class citizens in Brazil.
Martins began his article praising a 1980 law that protects turtle eggs. “A person who destroys one single turtle egg commits a crime against the animal and could be imprisoned. This is very praiseworthy,” he said. “What isn’t though is the destruction of human beings in the maternal womb, as proposed by Representative Jandira Feghali, for any reason, up to the moment of birth and without any punishment for the doctor, the woman or those who collaborated in the abortion of the unborn.”
The government’s proposed law would allow abortion on demand throughout pregnancy. Martins noted the paradox of establishing that “the killing of a human being in his mother’s womb one minute before birth would not be a crime. One minute later it would be considered homicide.”
Martins said arguments in favor of the measure put forward during public debate were without basis and were limited to attempts to discredit those opposed to taking the life of the unborn. He also stated the measure was “unprecedented” and that it appeared that only “agnostics” and those who represent “the god of reason” were the only ones permitted to make such decisions for the country.
“Those who believe in God are second-class citizens,” he continued, “while those who do not believe are first-class and get to make life and death decisions about other human beings. Thus we see the rebirth of the worst period of the Moscow dictatorship in which those who believed in God could not aspire to any relevant position of public service,” he noted
Martins concluded his article expressing hope that “the good sense of legislators will certainly not allow the approval of a measure defending the right to indiscriminately kill the unborn, which has originated in the deep-seated prejudice that only agnostics and unbelievers can control the destiny of the country. It can be understood, given this mentality against the Creator, why in Brazil turtles are treated better than humans.”
Moscow, Russia, Jan 13, 2006 (CNA) - The Patriarch of Moscow, Alexis II, has called on Protestant Churches to solve the issue of homosexual “marriage” by adhering to the values and principles of the Christian faith, instead of being carried away by liberal tendencies.
During a meeting between Alexis II and the president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, Yukka Paarma, the Patriarch said, “The values that come from the Gospel must be preserved and advanced, and we must not be influenced by the liberal forces of today.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 13, 2006 (CNA) - Bishop Jose Guadalupe Martin Rabago of Leon, Mexico, called on the faithful in his diocese this week to take part in a tithing drive aimed at financing the different apostolic activities in Leon.
In a letter sent to pastors, religious and the laity, Bishop Rabago underscored that “tithing is an obligation and is very different from voluntary contributions of the faithful on Sundays.”
Therefore, he added, “all employed professionals who earn more than the equivalent of two minimum wage jobs should donate one day’s worth of their salary per year, and those who earn less should give as their means permit.”
Bishop Rabago said that “all the funds raised during the drive will be earmarked for pastoral works, parish assistance in marginal areas, construction of new churches, as well as for care of elderly priests and religious.”