Vatican City, Jan 16, 2006 (CNA) - Speaking briefly yesterday, on the occasion of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Benedict XVI called for an overcoming of “discrimination, injustice and disdain for the human person,” particularly in cases of migrants dwelling in foreign lands.
Following his weekly Angelus prayer, he began by pointing out that migration is "a very widespread phenomenon in today's world: it is one of the 'signs of the times' that presents itself in varying forms: migration can be voluntary or forced, legal or illegal, motivated by work or study."
"Although, on the one hand," he said, “some respect is shown for ethnic and cultural differences, difficulties remain with acceptance and integration."
For this reason, the Pope said that "the Church seeks to take advantage of the positive aspects of this sign of the times, while overcoming every form of discrimination, injustice and disdain for the human person, since all people are an image of God."
Vatican City, Jan 16, 2006 (CNA) - This weekend, Pope Benedict XVI met with members of the General Inspectorate for Public Security at the Vatican, which oversees police and security in St. Peter’s Square. He praised the group for their work during the death and funeral of Pope John Paul II and for their “spirit of sacrifice,” which can be an example to the world.
The meeting is an annual tradition for the Pope, who met with the group at St. Peter’s on Saturday.
The Holy Father told the inspectorate that safety and order "require technical and professional training, coupled with no small amount of patience, constant vigilance and a spirit of sacrifice."
He then commended "the great efforts" made by the Inspectorate and other members of the Italian armed forces during the period of the illness, death and funeral of John Paul II, "and on the occasion of my own election to the See of Peter.
“I take this opportunity”, he said, “to renew my collaborators' and my own thanks to all those people who, in those historic circumstances, contributed to ensuring that everything proceeded in an orderly and tranquil fashion; the entire world was able to admire the efficiency of the organization."
The Pope then went on to emphasize the importance of "always working in a spirit of harmony and true cooperation."
"Families, communities, organizations of all kinds, States, and the world itself”, he said, would be better if, like a healthy and well-composed body, all members conscientiously and altruistically carried out their duties, however large or small they may be."
The Holy Father concluded his brief address by asking those present to "…open [their] hearts to Christ, and faithfully welcome His Gospel, a precious rule of life for those people who are searching for the true significance of human existence."
Caracas, Venezuela, Jan 16, 2006 (CNA) - In one his harshest criticisms to date of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Cardinal Rosalio Castillo Lara accused that country’s government of having “lost its way” and of showing “signs of dictatorship.”
The retired Salesian cardinal, who served for years at the Vatican as President of the Administration of the Holy See’s Patrimony, presided at the traditional Procession of the Divine Shepherdess—a popular Marian devotion that draws millions of people every year—through the downtown streets of Barquisimeto.
Although he focused most of his homily on the spiritual values of the Marian devotion and on the Catholic roots of Venezuela, Cardinal Lara launched his harshest criticism yet of the Chavez regime at the end of his remarks.
“On this solemn occasion I ask that we all together fervently pray to the Divine Shepherdess to save Venezuela,” the cardinal said. “We are facing an extremely grave situation like few others in our history.”
"A government democratically elected seven years ago has lost its democratic way and shows signs of dictatorship, where all powers are in the hands of one person who exercises them in an arbitrary and despotic way," Cardinal Castillo added, “not for the purposes of bringing about the greater common good of the nation, but rather for a twisted and archaic political project: that of implanting in Venezuela a disastrous regime like the one Fidel Castro has imposed on Cuba, at the cost of so many human lives and the progress of his nation.”
“The seven years of this government,” he warned, “provide abundant proof of what the future of Venezuela will be like if this regime continues in power.”
Pointing to the risks of a continuing Chavez government, Cardinal Lara noted that “dissidence, which is barely tolerated, is in many cases persecuted. Courts hand down unjust sentences in the name of the law. There are dozens of political prisoners, while common crime increases and reaps a tragic sum of 10,000 murders per year. Corruption—which they promised to radically eliminate—is spreading in the face of silence and complacent inaction by the General Comptroller of the Republic, resulting in the creation of thousands of new millionaires. At the same time, poverty is increasing, unemployment is widespread,” the cardinal stated.
Cardinal Lara also warned that “the extremely high price of oil, which would allow many problems to be solved, is being used instead to fund multi-million dollar gifts to obtain uncertain political loyalty from other nations, while in Venezuela we are painfully feeling the lack of interventions and projects to equip hospitals with what they need, to repair communication channels and city streets, to build housing and schools.”
Cardinal Lara said a future with Chavez would be “a very grave situation that could be compared to the cholera outbreak of 150 years ago that led to the miraculous intervention of the Divine Shepherdess.”
“If the Venezuelan people fail to grasp the seriousness of the situation and fail to categorically speak out in favor of democracy and freedom, we will find ourselves subjected to a Marxist-style dictatorship,” Cardinal Lara said in conclusion.
Denver, Colo., Jan 16, 2006 (CNA) - On Saturday morning, as many college students around Colorado were still asleep, hundreds were gathered at the Broomfield Omni Interlocken Hotel for Mass, and to hear Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput challenge them to live up to their true calls from God.
The Archbishop spoke to the nearly 700 college students from around Colorado and the west, gathered for the annual FOCUS Student Leadership Conference, and told them that each of them were being called by God to “something spectacular.”
FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students is a national campus ministry organization aimed at sharing the Gospel and teachings of the Church with college students.
Flanked by 14 of his brother priests and deacons, the Archbishop paraphrased a well known quote by St. Irenaeus, telling the students that “our being fully alive is what gives God glory.”
In an age in which, FOCUS pointed out, that the third highest cause of death among college students is suicide, Archbishop Chaput said that “Even in the midst of unsuccessful ordinary life, God can call us to greatness…even in the midst of your studies and activities.”
The Archbishop praised the FOCUS organization, saying that from what he’s seen in the Colorado schools in which they are active, “the whole purpose of FOCUS is to invite peers to come to know the Lord.”
FOCUS is currently present on 6 campuses in Colorado and 27 nationwide, including the U.S. Air Force and Naval Academies, Seton Hall University in New Jersey, the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and the University of Colorado in Boulder.
Stressing the idea of grace given in Baptism and Confirmation, Archbishop Chaput told the young people that “each of us is set aside for the ministry of saving God’s people.”
“Christ”, he said, “is the one source of salvation, but he uses his people.”
Recalling the role of his own mother in shaping his faith as a young boy, the Archbishop said that “each of you has an important role to play in the history of salvation…think of those who brought us to Christ.”
He then challenged the students to be mentors to others and, like his mother, to bring them into the Catholic faith.
He told the students in closing that God is “calling all of us who are sinners in our ordinary life to follow Him.” And, he said, referring to the story of Levi the tax collector, who in the day’s readings, made the choice to follow Jesus, “all it takes is for us to get up.”
Vatican City, Jan 16, 2006 (CNA) - In a meeting earlier today with Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Sengi and members of Rome’s Jewish community, Pope Benedict stressed the need for Jews and Catholics to spread together what he called, “the torch of the Ten Commandments.”
The Pope also expressed Christian solidarity with the Jews, noting the two faith’s common “heritage of the Fathers.”
He began his brief address by referring to Moses' song of thanksgiving after the Israelites had passed safely through the Red Sea. "Your visit”, he told the delegation, “fills me with joy and it motivates me to renew with you this song of thanks for salvation.
He pointed out that “The people of Israel have been liberated many times from the hands of their enemies and, in times of anti-Semitism, in the dramatic moments of the Shoah, the hand of the Almighty guided and sustained them.”
In this light, he said that “The favor of the God of the Covenant has always accompanied them, giving them the strength to overcome trials. Your Jewish community, present in the city of Rome for more than two thousand years, can also bear witness to this divine loving attention."
The Pope went on to say that "The Catholic Church is close to you and is your friend,” noting that “Following Vatican Council II the reciprocal esteem and trust between us has increased.”
He added that “Ever more fraternal and cordial contacts have developed, becoming even more intense during the pontificate of my venerated predecessor, John Paul II."
"In Christ”, the Holy Father told the Jewish community, “we partake in your heritage of the Fathers, in order to serve the Almighty ... grafted onto the one 'holy tree' of the people of God.”
“As Christians,” he said, “this fact makes us aware that, with you, we share in the responsibility of cooperating for the good of all people, in justice and peace, in truth and freedom, in holiness and love.”
Keeping in mind this shared mission we cannot fail to denounce and fight firmly against the hatred and misunderstanding, the injustice and violence that continue to worry the soul of men and women of good will.”
“In this context,” he asked, “how can we not be pained and concerned over the renewal of manifestations of anti-Semitism?"
Pope Benedict concluded his words by expressing his personal best wishes to the rabbi, stressing that "the many challenges and needs of Rome and the world demand that we unite our hands and hearts in concrete initiatives of solidarity, justice and charity.”
“Together,” he said, “we can work to transmit the torch of the Ten Commandments and of hope to the young generation."
Baltimore, Md., Jan 16, 2006 (CNA) - A nonprofit group that is working to impact the national debate on homosexuality—by letting everyone know that no one is born with same-sex attraction and that change is possible—is launching a national effort to have this view included in sex-education curricula across the country.
Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays won a lawsuit last May. The group had initially demanded that the board include information about changing from homosexual to heterosexual in its sex-education curriculum, but the school board and superintendent refused. The group then filed a lawsuit against the Montgomery County, Maryland Board.
In a landmark decision May 5, U.S. District Court Judge Alexander Williams, Jr. stated that the present curriculum was an egregious form of discrimination. He also noted that only gay-affirming materials are allowed into schools and ex-gay resources are censored. The judge recognized the group’s First Amendment rights.
“The wisdom of approving a curriculum which prohibits students from discussing one viewpoint of a controversial subject goes to the very essence of that First Amendment faith,” the judge wrote in his judgment.
“The merit of Plaintiffs' viewpoint -- be it right, wrong, discriminatory, or just -- is of no consequence,” the judge continued. “Rather, the Court is concerned with ensuring that the Plaintiffs' free speech rights are not restricted merely because they voice an unpopular viewpoint. No matter the importance of an idea to its believers, or how objectionable it may be to its detractors, the diversity of our democratic fabric is sewn together by the belief that the path to freedom lies in the opportunity for rival positions to be equally heard and discussed”
“Our battle has just begun,” Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays said in a press release. “We won’t rest until all students across America know the truth that change is possible and ex-gays exist. We want our children to know that they have options.”
The group is asking supporters to donate funds to pay for its national campaign for which it needs to create, print and distribute new materials and resources to educate students about the possibility of changing from a homosexual to a heterosexual orientation.
, Jan 16, 2006 (CNA) - The Catholic League is encouraging Catholics across the country to support the United States bishops’ pro-life campaign, called the Second Look Project, especially after pro-abortion activists have been destroying the ads put up in the Diocese of Oakland.
“It is important that this campaign succeed,” said Catholic League president Bill Donohue. “It is a great way to subvert the culture of death.”
The Respect Life Ministry of the Oakland Diocese has been promoting the pro-life message on Bay Area Rapid Transit trains. One of the ads, “9 MONTHS,” calls attention to the amount of time the Supreme Court allows abortions to take place.
Another ad reads: “The Supreme Court says you can choose: after the heart starts beating, after its arms and legs appear, after all organs are present, after the sex is apparent, after it sucks its thumb, after it responds to sounds, after it could survive outside the womb.” The ads end by asking: “Have We Gone Too Far?”
Pro-abortion activists have destroyed most of the ads, but diocese officials have been busy replacing them. According to Donohue, many of the placards have been covered with the “incredibly vicious anti-Catholic and obscene remarks.” Some of the ads have been torn to shreds.
“Most Americans, including those who support abortion rights, have serious reservations about abortion-on-demand. But not these people,” Donohue said in a press release, referring to the vandals. “Abortion is regarded as sacrosanct because it affirms their vision of genital liberation—every sexual act that can be performed must be performed, and none should be burdened by pregnancy or disease.”
He suggested that citizens who want to “know what makes these people tick” should go to the indybay.org Web site.
Paris, France, Jan 16, 2006 (CNA) - Talks aimed at reconciling the Vatican and the Society of St. Pius X are progressing, according to Bishop Bernard Fellay, head of the Society.
The 48-year-old priest told journalists Friday he was sure Pope Benedict XVI wanted to end the 17-year split between the Church and the dissenting group. But Fellay, the successor to the Society’s founder Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, says reconciliation must progress slowly in order to avoid problems in the future, reported Reuters.
The Society has maintained the old Latin Mass and rejects much of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. The Swiss-based group, which has 463 priests and six seminaries around the world, is the only religious group to break with the Catholic Church since the Council. In 1988, Rome excommunicated Lefebvre and four bishops he made -- including Fellay -- for holding that ceremony without papal permission.
Fellay met Pope Benedict last August, as well as Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, the Vatican official dealing with the SSPX, in November. Fellay reported that his meeting with the cardinal was very fruitful.
"For the first time, we really discussed fundamental questions," Fellay was quoted as saying. "There is a new tone [to the discussions]." He added that the cardinal had said just before the meeting that he saw no heresy or schism in the Society’s activities.
Statements like those and comments by Benedict during their meeting in August meant that the Latin Mass and the 1988 excommunications were no longer blocking the way to reconciliation, Fellay told reporters.
Washington D.C., Jan 16, 2006 (CNA) - More than 40 pro-family groups in the US have threatened to boycott Ford if it continues to openly support the gay lobby, according to the Human Rights Campaign, the largest pro-gay, lesbian and transsexual organization in the United States.
In addition to Ford, Kodak and Hewlett-Packard also openly support gay activism among their employees. Some employees who defend Christian values or express their opposition to pro-gay policies have been let go.
The Human Rights Campaign has given its highest marks to a number of well-known companies, such as American Airlines, Apple, AT&T, BP, Chevron, Citigroup, Credit Suisse First Boston, Daimler Chrysler, Dell, Deutsche Bank, Ernst & Young, Estee Lauder, Intel, IBM, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Johnson & Johnson, Levi Strauss & Co., Merrill Lynch, MetLife, Microsoft, Nike, Pepsico, Toyota, UBS and Xerox.
By supporting and encouraging gay activism, these businesses promote an anti-family and anti-marriage agenda. For this reason 42 groups have sent a letter to Ford threatening a boycott if it does not cease from “supporting any group involved in the current ‘culture war’.”
The American Family Association had previously organized a boycott against Ford, but the company announced in December it would suspend its financing of the gay lobby. Several days later, Ford officials met with representatives of seven homosexual organizations and broke their commitment with pro-family groups.
Another company involved in the ‘culture war’—although not listed by the Human Rights Campaign—is Procter & Gamble, which has been criticized as well for its practices in the third world and for producing explicit educational material.
Some 250,000 have signed a manifesto calling for a boycott of the company for promoting “homosexual marriage.” Officials at Procter & Gamble deny having supported such an idea but according to those calling for the boycott, the company backs the idea implicitly by claiming that “restricting” marriage to the union of a man and a woman is discrimination.
Allstate is another company that unconditionally supports the gay lobby through financial donations. Employees at Motorola who attend a company-sponsored workshop on how to eradicate homophobia in the workplace are not allowed to openly express their opinions. The company also has a section on its website, called MotoPride, specifically geared to homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals.
Sony Music has initiated a new project with Wilderness Media & Entertainment, one of the founders of LOGO, MTV’s gay channel. Sony also supports abortion by sponsoring the organization Rock for Choice, which brings together popular artists such as Pearl Jam, Soul Asylum, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Iggy Pop, R.E.M., Green Day, Cyndi Lauper, Pet, Peter Gabriel and Tracy Chapman in support of abortion. Pro-life artist have formed their own organization, Rock For Life, to counteract the movement.
Lansing, Mich., Jan 16, 2006 (CNA) - The Diocese of Lansing's Catholic schools will unify to form a K-12 school system to eventually encompass some suburban schools.
"Our Catholic schools can do more for students and families if they work together," said Bishop Carl Mengeling said in a press release.
A 15-member advisory committee, formed of parents, principals, pastors and other Catholics, will oversee the schools now educating more than 1,000 students.
The committee's first assignments will be to eliminate differences in tuition and teacher salaries at the schools, which will prevent competition. It will also institute more uniform accounting practices at the schools and explore the feasibility of the constructing a new Catholic middle school.
Rome, Italy, Jan 16, 2006 (CNA) - The next encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI, according to sources close to the Vatican, will be a comment on the First Letter of Saint John, in which The Pontiff will stress that the genuine Christian love, that is expressed in charitable deeds is not an ideology.
The sources also revealed that the encyclical, which bears the title “Deus Caritas Est,”-God is Love- will be published this week and will start with the passage “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4;16) Theses words, taken from the Letter of Saint John, express with a singular clarity the center of Christian life, the Christian image of God and the subsequent vision of men and his path.”
The text-46 pages- shorter though than the average encyclical of Pope John Paul II- is divided into two parts. The first one is dedicated to “the unity of love, the creation and the history of salvation”, and the second one to the notion of “Caritas,” as the “exercise of love from the Church.”
According to a Vatican source, cited by the Italian daily La Repubblica, in the last chapter Pope Benedict XVI insists on the concept of “Love-Caritas,” and its relation to Catholic Charity organizations, he remarks that the this binomial will always be necessary, as well in more just societies.
The Pope notes too that Charitable work in the Church has to be totally separated from parties and ideologies, because Charity, being more than a way to change the worlds, is the achievement here and now of the love man always needs.”