Brisbane, Australia, Jan 24, 2006 (CNA) - The largest public demonstration of Catholic faith in decades hit the streets of Brisbane Saturday, when more than 500 Catholic youth processed through the city center.
The one and a half hour walk began at City Hall and concluded at St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
The walk was peaceful and prayerful, yet bounding with youthful energy and enthusiasm. The procession was one of the events of a four-day festival of faith.
"The energy and commitment of these young people is incredible. It is a message to the world that the Church in Brisbane and in Australia is not dead. We expect even more young people and families to join in Saturday’s march," said coordinator Ben Bulaong.
The festival, called ADORE 2006, was organized by the Alliance of the Holy Family International with the support of the Catholic bishops and the Australian Catholic Students Association. It offers young people a “back to basics” approach to deepening their faith, which focuses on the Eucharist.
“This is the first time in many years that the young people in Brisbane have showed their faith in such a dramatic way as this,” said Jesuit Fr Gregory Jordan, national chaplain of the Australian Catholic Students Association. “Their witness is contrary to the usual view of the loss of faith amongst the young."
Paris, France, Jan 24, 2006 (CNA) - About 10,000 people marched through the streets of Paris Sunday, calling for an end to abortion and the creation of a culture of life in France. A large number of young people participated, as well as two German delegations, one Spanish delegation and one group of Belgium youth. Some marchers. The presence of the international community signaled the importance of this pro-life for the entire European community.
Demonstrators chanted slogans, “Yes to life” and “Give life rights,” and tried to raise awareness about the painful consequences of abortion, and to propose alternatives to abortion. About six million abortions were performed in the country since abortion was legalized 31 years ago.
The march was organized by a collective called “30 ans ça suffit ! (Thirty years is enough!) The first march last year drew 15,000 people.
One of the organizers launched an appeal to pro-lifers and the general public to continue to mobilize in favor of life and to resist the culture of death throughout 2006. Organizers are calling for even greater participation at the third annual march Jan. 21, 2007, as it will precede the spring elections.
Washington D.C., Jan 24, 2006 (CNA) - More than 100,000 Americans converged on the nation's capital for the March for Life yesterday. The event marked the anniversary of Roe v. Wade and called for a culture of life in America. Marchers from across the country and from various ages, backgrounds and political views, sang, prayed and shared their views against abortion.
Numerous college student groups, including three busloads from Notre Dame and Princeton universities, also participated. Before the March for Life began, more than 22,000 youth and young adults packed the MCI Center for a pre-march rally.
Prior to the march, thousands of others gathered near Congress to hear pro-life speakers. Among them were women who had abortions and who spoke about how it impacted their lives in ways they had not anticipated.
Numerous women lined up on and around the main podium from the Silent No More Awareness campaign with signs saying, "I Regret My Abortion."
"They are proof that there is reconciliation and there is hope," said Rep. Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican and leading pro-life member of Congress. "We are so glad to have the women of Silent No More here with us on the stage. Their testimony gives witness to the lie that the other side puts forth, that abortion is pro-woman."
President George Bush also called and spoke with marchers shortly before they left a pre-march rally.
"We're sending a clear message to any woman facing a crisis pregnancy: We love you, we love your child, and we're here to help you," Bush said. The president referred to numerous pieces of pro-life legislation he has signed and renewed his call for a ban on human cloning and for Congress to pass a measure respecting parental involvement laws.
"Because human life is a gift from our Creator and should never be used as a means to an end, we will not sanction the creation of life only to destroy it," he said
Bobby Schindler, the brother of Terri Schiavo, who was euthanized by her husband last year, also addressed the crowd. He and his parents, Bob and Mary, received an award from the National Pro-Life Religious Council at their event, held earlier in the U.S. Senate Russell Building Caucus Room.
At the National Memorial, Rev. Rob Schenck and other speakers emphasized the social and political shift in favor of life. Steven Paroutka of the National Pro-Life Action Center said the change signals the beginning of the end of Roe v. Wade, sparking a thunderous standing ovation. More than 50 clergy representing numerous denominations led in prayers and the reading of Scripture, including Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life.
Marches were held across the country. In San Francisco, more than 15,000 pro-life advocates marched, and more than 6,000 pro-life advocates demonstrated in St. Paul, Minn. Over 1,000 people attended a South Carolina rally in Columbia, and 400 turned out for a Boise, Idaho rally.
Vatican City, Jan 24, 2006 (CNA) - Representatives of the Jewish and Christian faiths will meet to discuss how to expand the existing dialogue between Jews and Catholics as a platform to achieve better understanding and cooperation.
Discussions will take place between Israel Singer, chairman of the World Jewish Congress Policy Council, and Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, secretary for Relations with States of the Vatican. Singer will also meet Archbishop Michael Louis Fitzgerald, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue.
The World Jewish Congress is the international federation of Jewish communities. It represents Jewish communities around the world and serves as the diplomatic arm of the Jewish people to world governments and international organizations.
Ottawa, Canada, Jan 24, 2006 (CNA) - Pro-life and pro-family groups are hopeful that the newly elected Conservative government of Stephen Harper will make good on its campaign promises.
Canadians elected a minority Conservative government yesterday, booting the Liberals out of office after being in power for 12 years in succession.
Hours after the victory was announced, Harper took to the podium in his Calgary riding and told Canadians that he understood the vote to mean that they wanted real change.
Te prime minister-designate said his party would work hard with other members of Parliament to follow through on what he promised Canadians: revamping the political system by enacting clear guidelines for accountability, a reduction of sales tax, childcare allowance to families and a free vote in Parliament on same-sex marriage.
The Conservatives were elected in 124 ridings and picked up 36 percent of the popular vote. The Liberals took 103 and received 30 percent of the popular vote. The Tories made significant gains in Ontario and Quebec, where they won about two dozen seats. In Quebec alone, they won 10 ridings; they had won no ridings in the previous election.
The Bloc Quebecois won in 51 ridings and the NDP was elected in 29. Quebec voted in one Independent.
Vatican City, Jan 24, 2006 (CNA) - Today, the Vatican released Pope Benedict’s message for this year’s World Day of Social Communications, in which he said that with the proper focus, mass media can be used as a tool to foster the dignity of the human person and promote truth and peace.
He added however, that if the industry is self-serving and merely profit driven, it can become a detriment to peace and harm the individuality of persons.
The Day of Communications is scheduled to be held on May 28th and will address the theme: "The Media: A Network for Communication, Communion and Cooperation."
The document’s release comes on the Feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of journalists.
In the Message, now available in Italian, English, French, German, Spanish and Portuguese, the Pope reflected that "Technological advances in the media have in certain respects conquered time and space, making communication between people, even when separated by vast distances, both instantaneous and direct.”
He said that while “This development presents an enormous potential for service of the common good,” that “...daily we are reminded that immediacy of communication does not necessarily translate into the building of cooperation and communion in society.”
Stressing that the informing of consciences is “never a neutral task,” Benedict called on those working in the media “not to wilt under the weight of so much information nor even to be content with partial or provisional truths.”
He also called on members of the media to be responsible, seeking and transmitting “what is the ultimate foundation and meaning of human, personal and social existence…In this way the media can contribute constructively to the propagation of all that is good and true.”
The Pope warned against the industry becoming “self-serving or solely profit-driven” saying that there can be a tendency in the media that engenders “a kind of monoculture that dims creative genius, deflates the subtlety of complex thought and undervalues the specificity of cultural practices and the particularity of religious belief.”
On the flip side, however, he said that it is possible for “today's media to be responsible - to be the protagonist of truth and promoter of the peace that ensues.”
Pope Benedict stressed that "Accurate reporting of events, full explanation of matters of public concern, and fair representation of diverse points of view must, then, always be fostered.”
He particularly highlighted “The need to uphold and support marriage and family life….precisely because it pertains to the foundation of every culture and society. In cooperation with parents, the social communications and entertainment industries can assist in the difficult but sublimely satisfying vocation of bringing up children, through presenting edifying models of human life and love."
In order to "encourage both a constructive presence and a positive perception of the media in society,” Benedict reiterated three steps laid out by his predecessor, John Paul II, which he said are necessary “for the service of the common good: formation, participation, and dialogue.”
"Formation”, he said, “in the responsible and critical use of the media helps people to use them intelligently and appropriately. ... Precisely because contemporary media shape popular culture, they themselves must overcome any temptation to manipulate, especially the young, and instead pursue the desire to form and serve.”
“In this way”, he said, “They protect rather than erode the fabric of a civil society worthy of the human person.
Secondly, the Pope said that "Participation in the mass media arises from their nature as a good destined for all people. As a public service, social communication requires a spirit of cooperation and co-responsibility with vigorous accountability of the use of public resources and the performance of roles of public trust, including recourse to regulatory standards and other measures or structures designed to effect this goal.”
Finally, Benedict called for the “promotion of dialogue through the exchange of learning, the expression of solidarity and the espousal of peace presents a great opportunity for the mass media which must be recognized and exercised.”
He said that through dialogue, the media “become influential and appreciated resources for building the civilization of love for which all peoples yearn.”
With these three steps, the Holy Father expressed his confidence that the industry could help “men, women and children, to become more aware of the dignity of the human person, more responsible, and more open to others especially the neediest and the weakest members of society."
In closing his Message, Pope Benedict called to mind the "encouraging words of St. Paul”, who said, “'Christ is our peace. In Him we are one.' Let us together break down the dividing walls of hostility and build up the communion of love according to the designs of the Creator made known through His Son!"
To view full text of Pope Benedict XVI's message:
Vatican City, Jan 24, 2006 (CNA) - Following Saturday’s death of Ibrahim Rugova, president of Kosovo, Pope Benedict has sent a telegram--by way of Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano--to Bishop Zef Gashi S.D.B., apostolic administrator of Prizren, Srbija i Crna Gora, expressing his condolences and prayers for the people of that country.
"Having learned the sad news of the death of President Ibrahim Rugova,” Cardinal Sodano wrote, “the Supreme Pontiff charges Your Excellency to offer his heartfelt condolences for the bereavement that has struck the people and government of Kosovo.”
He said that “at the same time, [the Pope] gives assurances of his spiritual closeness at this moment of trial. In recalling the solid civic virtues that inspired the life of the dear departed, and his generous service to his fellow citizens, His Holiness calls on God to bring down abundant blessings upon the beloved inhabitants of Kosovo."
Madrid, Spain, Jan 24, 2006 (CNA) - A controversial editorial published in Mensajero, one of the official publications of the Jesuit Order in Spain, has characterized the pontificate of Pope John Paul II as raising suspicions about the Jesuits and of being incapable of resolving the breach between the faith and the modern world.
The editorial announced that a General Congregation of the Society of Jesus is being planned for 2008 and will address important issues for the future of the order founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola.
Among the issues to be discussed are what kind of structural organization responds best to the challenges of globalization, which apostolic priorities should be focused upon, what type of formation today’s Jesuit needs and how to incorporate the laity into the apostolic work of the Society.
The editorial said the meeting would set the agenda for the Society for the first quarter of the 21st century.
“Under the leadership of Pedro Arrupe,” the editorial states, “Jesuits were enthusiastic fans of Vatican II.” But, the authors lament, “Their very institution paid a heavy price because of it.”
“Many members left the Society and the number of vocations dropped, especially in the consumerist and satiated North. This has led to a notable increase in the average age of today’s Jesuits,” the editorial notes.
The editorial accused “the spin which the papacy of John Paul II introduced into the Church” of stifling the reforms being led by Father Pedro Arrupe (Father General of the Society during the post-conciliar period). “The Jesuits went from being the defenders of the Roman Pontiff, to the object of suspicion because of progressivism, sympathy for Communism, and excessive concern for human justice, thus downplaying eternal salvation,” the editorial complains.
The authors claim Pope John Paul’s immensely successful papal voyages “may have led some to believe in the effectiveness of this ministry which was more spectacular than profound.” The Pope’s ministry was a failure, they claim, because it did not “close the gap between a technologically advanced society that is global in nature—and that continues to marginalize the poor—and the dictates of Christian faith and morals, as they are officially proclaimed.”
“The Jesuits have observed a ‘time of silence’ during these years,” the editorial continues.
The “creative fidelity” of the Jesuits towards the Church “has not always been well understood and accepted.”
“This has led to conflicts and harassment. Neither has there been a lack of stupidity and even foolishness on the part of members of the Society, which has led to reprimands.”
The editorial concludes by humbling pointing out that the “Society of Jesus constitutes an important reference point for consecrated life in the Church and also for some lay movements. In this jubilee year which [the Jesuits] are celebrating, they should reflect on not only their problems, which is very legitimate, but also on the Church itself which they form a part of and which they want to be more fraternal and evangelical.”
Caracas, Venezuela, Jan 24, 2006 (CNA) - During the celebration of the feast of St. Sebastian this week, Bishop Mario Moronta of San Cristobal, Venezuela, said the country was in urgent need of Catholics who bear public witness to their faith in the midst of the country’s current difficulties.
“The word martyr,” the bishop recalled, “comes from Greek and means witness. Thus, every martyr is considered a witness of faith in Jesus Christ, someone who has been able to give up his entire life for Him and for the Church and for his brothers and sisters in the faith.”
Nevertheless, Bishop Moronta noted, St. Sebastian and the other martyrs “did not become so overnight. When the difficult hour of martyrdom arrived they were already prepared, because throughout their own lives they had been courageous witnesses of the Gospel of Christ.”
Bishop Moronta explained that being a witness “does not mean doing spectacular or miraculous works. It is above all showing forth faithfulness to God in the little things, following the teachings of the Master in the Gospel.”
“This is the great challenge for the Church today and for each of her members: we are called to be leaven. That is, to make our society rise with the principles and values of the Gospel; to illuminate the darkness that overshadows society with its brilliant light; to break down all walls of division so that each human being can become a new man or a new woman,” he added.
Those who “call themselves believers in Christ but do not act in His name are simply liars,” the bishop warned.
“There is nothing easy about the times in which we are living,” he continued. “And as believers and followers of Jesus we are called to be capable of building the kingdom of God.” “This means we must bring the values of the Gospel everywhere that we go so that the light of Christ shines forth in its entire splendor.”
“Today Venezuela needs us to be courageous witnesses of Jesus Christ. This is not a task for tomorrow; it is something to be lived out today by each believer, not in isolation but in communion with our brothers and sisters in the faith,” Bishop Moronta stated.
Madrid, Spain, Jan 24, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Agustin Garcia-Gasco of Valencia, Spain, said this week “society cannot be governed or built up as if God didn’t exist” because such a mentality “only leads to injustice, to personal and social disintegration.”
The archbishop made his statements Sunday during Mass celebrating the feast of St. Vincent the Martyr, the patron saint of the archdiocese. Several government officials, including the mayor of Valencia, Rita Barbera, were in attendance.
“All of the moral decadence and the seriousness of the problems of our times, such as terrorism, violence against women and children, the disintegration of the family and of family bonds, are a consequence of the efforts by some to build a life and a world by turning their backs on God, by going against God Himself,” Archbishop Garcia-Gasco stated.
Therefore, he called for an end to the “hostility” and “confrontation” shown to the Gospel, and he lamented the attitude of those who “put words into our mouth…distort our intentions, and unjustly accuse us of actions we reject.”
“St. Vincent’s passion teaches us that the powers of this world are not absolute, that they cannot seek to replace God and that we must obey God before men,” the archbishop said.
“We are not seeking to impose on anybody, we don’t want special privileges. Our mission is that of proclaiming the Gospel, of service founded upon the guarantee of freedom and peace, freedom of education, religious freedom, freedom of conscience, public and private freedom to foster, defend and promote the fundamental values of social coexistence,” he added.
In conclusion, Archbishop Garcia-Gasco exhorted the faithful “not to yield to the temptations and powers of this world” and “not to fall into the slavery of a relativism that only leads to emptiness and indifference.”
Valencia, Fla., Jan 24, 2006 (CNA) - According to the AVAN news agency, more than 2,300 volunteers have signed up to assist in the organization and celebration of the V World Meeting of Families, to be held July 1-9 in Valencia, Spain.
According to event organizers, everyone from students to married couples to doctors and psychologists are joining the ranks of volunteers who will help make the event possible. “Volunteers range in age from 16 to 70. Apart from Spain, the countries from which we are getting the most volunteers are Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Italy, Mexico and the United States,” they added.
Volunteers will providing assistance for such tasks as welcoming participants at train stations, bus depots and airports, providing information at different sites throughout the city, collaborating at the press center, assisting local officials and coordinating groups of participants.
Those interested in volunteering can obtain information at www.emf2006.org.
Safety Harbor, Fla., Jan 24, 2006 (CNA) - On Saturday, Michael Schiavo, former husband of brain-damaged Terri Schiavo, who died of forced starvation last spring, married his long-time girlfriend in Espiritu Santo Catholic Church, near Tampa, Florida.
Michael Schiavo fought the Vatican, the U.S. Supreme Court, Congress and even the president as he battled to end the life of his late wife, whom he claimed, told him that she wouldn’t have wanted to be kept alive in her incapacitated state.
He also vehemently fought Terri’s family, who argued that their daughter and sister would have made no such claim--namely due to her strong Catholic faith.
Michael met Jodi Centonze, with whom he has already fathered two children, 11 years ago, after his wife had already been admitted to a Tampa-area nursing home.
Supporters of Terri and her family have criticized the pair for marrying in a Catholic Church, despite Michael’s disobedience to the Vatican who implored him not to kill his wife.
South Bend, Ind., Jan 24, 2006 (CNA) - The new University of Notre Dame president questioned Monday whether controversial events should take place on campus or be sponsored by university departments. Among these are "The Vagina Monologues" and a Queer Film Festival which have been held each year on campus the past few years.
The matter was discussed on Monday by University President Rev. John I. Jenkins during a speech to faculty members and plans to address students on Tuesday. He said also wants to hear from alumni.
Rev. John I. Jenkins took over as president of the Roman Catholic school on July 1. He did not say he would cancel the events, but is scaling back both events.
He told the faculty he worried that sponsorship by university departments indicated a certain level of acceptance. As an example, he said the school would face questions if it were to sponsor a play that was anti-Semitic.
"A reasonable observer would assume that the university is sponsoring an event that, in fact, is clearly and egregiously at odds with its values as a Catholic university," he said.
He said events that are inconsistent with Catholic values should not be allowed at Notre Dame.
Rev. Jenkins’ reflection on the posture a Catholic University towards these events happening on campus caused many to react in favor or against such a proposal.
Margaret Doody, an English professor, said the university should be a place for freedom and that higher education had already been through a period where research and thinking were restrained.
"It was known as McCarthyism," she said.
But others praised Jenkins for taking up the issue. Margot O'Brien, who teaches in the accounting department, said plays such as "The Vagina Monologues" had no place at Notre Dame.
"It is a matter of treating something that is evil as good, and that's just wrong," she said.
Jenkins said he wasn't surprised by the responses.
"People have strong feelings about this and there are strong differences of opinions," he said.
Jenkins, who was a top Notre Dame administrator for four years before becoming president, told the faculty members he supported academic freedom -- calling it essential to the university -- but said academic freedom has limits.
"I do not believe that freedom of expression has absolute priority in every circumstance," he said. "While any restriction on expression must be reluctant and restrained, I believe that, in some situations, given the distinctive character and aspirations of Notre Dame, it may be necessary to establish certain boundaries, while defending the appropriate exercise of academic freedom."