Vatican City, Jan 25, 2006 (CNA) - Today, the Vatican published Benedict XVI's first encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est", an encyclical on charity.
"God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him (1 Jn 4:16)." These words from the First Letter of John express with remarkable clarity the heart of the Christian faith: the Christian image of God and the resulting image of mankind and its destiny. In the same verse, Saint John also offers a kind of summary of the Christian life: "We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.¨ These are the words which begin the encyclical.
"In a world in which the name of God is associated with vengeance, or where hate and violence are associated to it, the Christian message of God's Love is of great actuality," stresses the Pope.
The encyclical is divided into two parts. The first one offers a theological reflection on "Love", in its different dimensions -eros, philia, agape- giving some essential precisions on the Love of God for man and its intrinsic union with human love.
The terme "Love" affirms the document, "one of the most used and abused words in the world today, possesses a wide semantic range. In the multiple significant, though, emerges the archetype of what is the love between a man and a women, which in the antique Greece was given the name eros."
Following on the explanation of the Word "Love", the Holy Father reminds that "in the Bible", and above all in the New Testament, the concept of "Love is deepened- a development that is expressed in Mass at the limit of the word Eros and more in favor of the term Agape, to express such a self-gving Love."
Encountering possible misinterpretations of such a development, such as negative readings of Eros and corporality, the Encyclical underlines that "the Eros, set into its nature of man by the same Creator, is in need of discipline, purification and maturation in order not to loose his original dignity and not to degrade it to pure 'sex' therefore becoming a commodity."
"The Christian faith-he continues- has always considered man as a being in which the spirit and the matter compenetrate, acquiring a new nobility from it. The challenge of Eros is considered overcome when in man, body and soul meet in perfect harmony. Love then becomes, yes an 'extasis' not a moment of momentary intoxication but rather an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self-giving and thus towards authentic self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God".
"In Jesus Christ, who is the love incarnate of God, the eros-agape reaches its more radical form. In the death of the cross, Jesus, giving himself to elevate and save man, expresses Love in its most sublime form. In this act of offering, Jesus has assured a lasting presence through the institution of the Eucharist, which under the species of bread and wine, he gives himself as the new manna that unites us to him."
"Participating to the Eucharist, we are involved too in the dynamic of his gift. We unite ourselves to him and at the same time to all the others to which he gives himself. We become then one body. So that Love for God and Love for the neighbor are truly fused. The double commandment becomes one, thanks to this encounter with the Agape of God: Love can be "sent" because it has first been given.
The practice of Love by the Church
The second part of the document deals with the concrete exercise of the commandment of love to the neighbor. It this part he affirms that "the love to the neighbor is rooted in the love of God, along with being a duty for all the faithful; it is also for the whole ecclesial community, who in its charitable activity is the manifestation of Trinitarian love"
"The conscience of such a duty has had a constituent relevance for the Church since its beginning. In the fundamental structure of the Church appeared the "diaconia" as service of Love to the neighbor exercised in community and in an ordained manner."
Pope Benedict shows as well how "with the progressive spread of the Church, The Church's deepest nature is expressed in her three-fold responsibility: of proclaiming the word of God (kerygma-martyria), celebrating the sacraments (leitourgia), and exercising the ministry of charity (diakonia).
The Pope criticizes then the utilitarian vision of charity, especially in marxism, affirming that from the XIX century on, a fundamental objection has been raised against the charitable work of the Church: it would be counter to justice and would end up acting in maintaining the status quo. With the accomplishment of works of charity, the Church would favor the maintaining of an unjust system making it acceptable and therefore slowing protracting the rebellion and the potential change for a better world. In that sense, marxims had pointed out in the world revolution and its preparation, the panacea for the social problematic- a dream that vanished through time.
Reminding in the same line, the magisterial of the Pontiffs, "beginning with the Encyclical Rerum novarum of Leo XIII towards the trilogy of John Paul II's social Encyclicals (Laborem exercens, Sollicitudo rei socialis, Centesimus annus), the Encyclical affirms that he faced with insistence the social question, and while confronting problematic situations, he always developed a very articulate social doctrine, that proposed valid orientations over the confines of the Church."
"The creation of a just order of society and the State, is a central responsibility of politics, and can therefore not be directly given to the Church. The catholic social doctrine does not want to give the Church power over the State, but only purify and illuminate reason, offering its proper contribution to the formation of consciences, so that the real requests of justice can be perceived, recognized and realized. There exists though, no stately order that, can make superficial the service of love."
"The State that wishes to provide for everything becomes a burocratic instance that cannot assure the essential contribution that the suffering man needs: the loving personal dedication," warns as well Pope Benedict.
The Encyclical shows how to see as a collateral effect of globalization, "that manifest in the fact that the solicitude of the neighbor, transcends the confines of national communities, and tends to extend to the whole world. The structure of national communities and humanitarian associations backs in many ways the solidarity expressed by civil society: many organizations with charitable and philanthropic ends have been created lately.
The Catholic Church as well- the Holy Father continues- and in other ecclesial communities have surfaced new modes of charitable activities. Among all these, it is necessary that a fruitful collaboration may be established. For this reason, it is very important that the Church's charitable activity maintains all of its splendour and does not become just another form of social assistance."
For the Church to keep the essence of Christian charity, his Hollines refers to the necessity to:
- Be led to that encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens their spirits to others.
- Christian charitable activity must be independent of parties and ideologies. The Christian's programme, the programme of the Good Samaritan, the programme of Jesus "a heart which sees."
- Charity, furthermore, cannot be used as a means of engaging in what is nowadays considered proselytism. Love is free; it is not practised as a way of achieving other ends.
But this does not mean that charitable activity must somehow leave God and Christ aside," warns the Pope. "A Christian knows when it is time to speak of God and when it is better to say nothing and to let love alone speak."
Prayer in the action
Towards the end of the Encyclical, the Holy Father reminds the importance of prayer. "In the face of secularism and activism, that may condition also the lives of many Christians engaged in charitable work, it is important to reaffirm the importance of prayer."
A personal relationship with God and an abandonment to his will can prevent man from being demeaned and save him from falling prey to the teaching of fanaticism and terrorism. An authentically religious attitude prevents man from presuming to judge God, accusing him of allowing poverty and failing to have compassion for his creatures.
"He who prays doesn't not waist his time, even though if the situation seem to call only for action, he doesn¡¦t pretend to change or correct the plans of God, but rather searches at the example of Mary and the Saints, to find light in God." the Pontiff concluded.
To read full text of the Encyclical:
Quebec City, Canada, Jan 25, 2006 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Quebec, which will host the 49th International Eucharistic Congress, has launched an official website in five languages as part of its preparations for the event. According to the Fides news agency, the website (http://www.cei2008.ca) will provide all of the information about the Congress.
In a letter about the event Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Archbishop of Quebec who is president of the organizing committee, said, “The Eucharistic Congress in 2008, entrusted to us by beloved Pope John Paul II on 17 October 2004, will be an opportunity for the Catholics of the world to celebrate their faith in the Eucharist and bear witness to the Gospel living moments of prayer, reflection and brotherhood.”
The Congress will coincide with the 400th anniversary of the founding of the city of Quebec, which was also the first Catholic diocese north of Mexico. The theme of the congress is: “Eucharist, God’s Gift for the Life of the World.” The Logo is a cross set over the Host separating it in four parts to underline that the Eucharist is something to be shared and also to refer to the four cardinal points of the world--North, South, East and West. “The logo background has traces of a boat, symbolizing the universal Church and also Quebec, because the faith reached the city via St Lawrence River. The colors used are yellow for the bread and red for the wine. In the design the chalice and paten become one to signify God’s great gift of communion, the Eucharist,” Fides reported.
The website offers users the chance to participate in the “1000 Days of Prayer” leading up to the celebration of the Congress. The prayer campaign consists of reciting a short prayer at least once a day on the dates one selects.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jan 25, 2006 (CNA) - Bishop Joaquin Piña of Puerto Iguazu, Argentina said this week it’s not up to the bishops to say and do everything in the Church, because priests and the laity also must fulfill their roles.
Speaking on the principle of subsidiarity, “the third pillar upon which the social doctrine of Church rests,” the bishop noted that it means that “a matter that could be resolve at a lower level should not be addressed at a higher one.”
Just as in a federal state the central government should not resolve matters that correspond to the provinces, “so in the Church, it doesn’t fall to the bishop to say and do everything. That’s why we have priests and, why not, the laity,” he stated.
Bishop Piña said the rule of subsidiarity means “helping, facilitating, so that somebody else does it. And not the opposite: absorbing or centralizing everything.”
For example, he said, in a diocese, “we say that the parish must be a ‘community of communities’. It is not good to centralize everything. Of course, it’s obvious that harmony and good organization should prevail,” he added.
, Jan 25, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Hugo Barrantes Ureña of San Jose, Costa Rica, has asked the country’s Supreme Court to issue a ruling in favor of the Foundation for the Progress of Blind Persons, in order to protect the secrecy of votes cast by the visually impaired at election time.
The archbishop pointed out that not ensuring an anonymous and secret vote by the blind is damaging “to the rights of all people in general.” He explained that “not all people suffering from visual impairment are lucky enough to have someone trustworthy at their side at the voting booth.”
“The secret vote is a democratic right,” the archbishop continued, noting that it is protected in Costa Rica’s constitution and mentioned in international law regarding human rights.
Therefore he is calling on the Supreme Court to guarantee that all citizens without exception are able to cast their votes in secrecy. Recourse to modern technology and scientific advances should make it easy to guarantee such a right, he added.
“A situation such as this should be amended without delay,” Archbishop Barrantes warned, because its persistence means the right to vote as such is vulnerable, and it constitutes an attack on “the free expression of the will of the voters,” thus weakening the democratic system.
, Jan 25, 2006 (CNA) - The headquarters of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia has become the theater for negotiations between government leaders and the spokesman for the National Liberation Army (NLA), the second largest rebel group in the country.
The NLA spokesman, Francisco Galan, was received by Bishop Luis Augusto Castro Quiroga, president of the Conference, and Father Dario Echeverri, General Secretary of the National Reconciliation Commission.
Galan will attend meetings through Thursday of this week in preparation for a new round of negotiations with the government which are scheduled to take place in February in Havana, Cuba.
On Monday Galan met with the ambassadors of Switzerland, Spain and Norway, who are participating in the dialogue between the Colombian government and the NLA, as well as with other Colombian officials.
On Tuesday the NLA spokesman met with several bishops, including Bishop Jaime Prieto Amaya of Barrancabermeja, who called the meetings “important” for setting “a definitive agenda for the meetings in Cuba in February.”
Bishop Amaya said the agenda for the negotiations with the NLA should “be very creative and should address the humanitarian crisis, kidnappings, land mines, as well as other issues that would bring the government and the NLA closer together.” He expressed his hopes the agenda would bring about a definitive peace and would lead to “greater trust on all sides.”
Washington D.C., Jan 25, 2006 (CNA) - Sixteen new members have been added to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' National Advisory Council. The 63-member council meets semi-annually to review documentation and offer recommendations concerning matters before the bishops.
New to the council are Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix and Bishop David Zubik of Green Bay. They join Bishop Joseph Pepe of Las Vegas and Bishop James Murray of Kalamazoo.
Deacon Everett Doxtator of DePere, WI, joins the council as well. A deacon category was added to the council members in 2003.
Nine laypeople from across the country were named as representatives, among the USCCB’s 14 regions, for a four-year term. Three other lay people were named as members at large.
Washington D.C., Jan 25, 2006 (CNA) - The Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday approved the nomination of Samuel Alito Jr. to the U.S. Supreme Court. The 10-to-8 party-line vote sent Alito's nomination to the full Senate, where he could be confirmed possibly this week.
The Judiciary Committee voted only after each of the 18 members had delivered extended remarks that lasted almost three hours, reported the Times.
Committee chairman Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), a pro-abortion supporter, said he was satisfied by Alito’s answers, even those concerning a “woman’s right to choose” and would vote for him.
Before becoming a federal judge in New Jersey, Alito had written that Roe v. Wade was "wrongly decided" and had laid out a strategy to dismantle it, reported the Times. But during his confirmation hearings, Alito said he was simply articulatning the views and policies of the Reagan administration. He did not say whether he accepted the judgment as "settled law."
"He did not say what his ultimate decision would be, as he should not, because no nominee ought to be asked to decide in advance how he is going to rule on any specific case," Specter was quoted as saying in the Times.
Other senators voiced their “concerns” about Alito’s “strong views” and their fears that he would tip the high court’s balance further to the right on a variety of social issues.
A number of groups, such as the Christian Legal Society and Concerned Women forAmerica commended the Senate Judiciary Committee for approving Alito’s nomination and called for a swift up-or-down vote without reasonable delay or filibuster.
However, while the Democrats’ generally oppose Alito, they lack the votes in the Senate to mount a filibuster.
"Judge Alito displayed amazing temperament and brilliance in the law in both his written and oral testimony before the Senate Judiciary committee.” said the Christian Legal Society’s executive director, Samuel Casey. He noted that Alito answered over 700 questions in three days of testimony – more than any prior Supreme Court nominee.
“His qualifications and record have won the endorsement of many of the nations top liberal newspapers. He has the support of the liberal American Bar Association, which has given him its highest rating,” he continued.
Gregory Baylor, director of Christian Legal Society's Center for Law & Religious Freedom, also noted that as Third Circuit Court judge, Alito “correctly interpreted and applied the First Amendment's religion clauses.
"Judge Alito appears to understand that the Constitution protects the religious exercise rights of all Americans," he stated.
Rome, Italy, Jan 25, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal Camillo Ruini said the Catholic Church would not take the side of any particular party during Italy’s upcoming elections but it would express its views on such hot-button debates as marriage and other life issues.
The cardinal said the Italian Church has a "duty" to share with voters and future legislators the "elementary truths that regard our common humanity," reported ANSA. Cardinal Ruini is the Pope's vicar for Rome and the head of the Italian bishops' conference.
Italian politicians have accused the Church of interference lately, in particular after the Pope made known his feelings on these topics and Cardinal Ruini expressed opposition to a referendum on reproductive technologies last year.
According to ANSA, the cardinal has made a few calls to politicians, urging a more efficient justice system, measures to develop the poorer south and greater self-sufficiency in the field of energy.
South Bend, Ind., Jan 25, 2006 (CNA) - The Catholic Think Tank of America Lecture Series, a student initiative at the University of Notre Dame, was launched yesterday with Honorable William Pryor, Jr., a U.S. Circuit Judge of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
The series is intended to bring direct discussion to students about religious and spiritual issues and their relation to practical areas of life. It will feature prominent Catholics from across the faith's spectrum, and non-Catholics, discussing aspects of spiritual life.
The second speaker in the series is Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit, Mich. He will speak on Catholicism and war Feb. 23 at 7:30 p.m.
Pryor spoke on the role of religion in the judiciary, which has become a greater issue with the recent nominations of Judges John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. He gave one address to Federalist Society at the Notre Dame Law School in the afternoon and another to the larger student community in the evening.
Vatican City, Jan 25, 2006 (CNA) - Today at the Vatican, Pope Benedict’s long-awaited first Encyclical, entitled ‘Deus Caritas Est” was officially presented at a press conference in which a group of prelates reflected on the potentially monumental effects the document could have on the cultural and social order.
Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Archbishop William Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum", were all on hand for the noontime press conference.
Pope Benedict has said that the new, 71-page document, which is translated, ’God is Love’ seeks to “reclaim” the idea of love, which has fallen prey to confusion and misunderstanding in the current culture.
During his brief remarks, Cardinal Martino, the first of the three to speak, discussed the relationship--laid out by the Pope--between justice and charity, and the jurisdictions of Church and State in achieving a just social order.
The Holy Father, he said, notes that although the building of social and State order is not immediately incumbent upon the Church but rather upon the political sphere, that "the Church is duty-bound to offer, through the purification of reason and through ethical formation, her own specific contribution towards understanding the requirements of justice and achieving them politically."
The Holy Father, Cardinal Martino went on, "affirms that, in building a just social order, the duty of the Church with her social doctrine is that of reawakening spiritual and moral forces."
He explained that in this context, lay people must participate in public life and express their presence through service and charity, “made manifest in family, cultural, working, economic and political life.”
Nucleus of the Christian faith
Archbishop Levada, told those gathered that he thought the Encyclical to be "a powerful text on the 'nucleus of Christian faith,' understood as the Christian image of God and the image of man that derives from it.”
He called it “A powerful text that seeks to counter the erroneous use of the name of God, and the ambiguity concerning the word 'love' that is so evident in the world today."
"In order to explain the novelty of Christian love,” the prefect went on, “the Holy Father seeks first to illustrate the difference and unity between two concepts inherent to the phenomenon of love from the times of the ancient Greeks: 'eros' and 'agape'."
These two concepts, he said, "do not oppose one another, but come harmoniously together to offer a realistic concept of human love, a love that involves the entirety - body and soul - of the human being. 'Agape' prevents 'eros' from abandoning itself to instinct, while 'eros' offers 'agape' the fundamental and vital relationships of human existence."
Archbishop Levada added that "in the indissoluble marriage between man and woman this human love takes a form that is rooted in creation itself."
Making note of the Pope‘s structure for the document, he highlighted Benedict‘s point that "Love for others, rooted in the love of God, is the duty, not only of each individual faithful, but also - and here we come to the second part of the Encyclical - of the entire community of believers, in other words the Church.”
Two conclusions emanate from this he said. First, “that the service of charity is part of the essence of the Church, secondly that no one must lack what they need, either within or outside the Church."
Charitable and Ecclesial
Cor Unum’s president, Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, added his own thoughts on the document, pointing out that "today's text is the first ever Encyclical on the subject of charity."
Reflecting on the Church‘s own work of charity, made up of what he called, “concrete initiatives,” Archbishop Cordes said that they are often focused on political initiatives, such as those for the elimination of debt of the poorest countries.”
“We wish”, he said, “to promote an awareness of justice in society,“ but “Pope Benedict XVI [also] wished to illuminate charitable commitment with a theological foundation. ... He is convinced that faith has consequences on the individual who acts, and therefore on the manner and intensity of his acts of charity."
"The social doctrine of the Church and the theology of charity are, without doubt, inter-linked," he said, "but they are not exactly the same. Indeed, the former expresses ethical principles associated with the search for the common good and moves, therefore, more at a political and community level.”
“On the other hand,” he said however, “caring - both individually and together - for the suffering of others does not call for a systematic doctrine. Rather, it arises from the word of faith."
Noting that there exists, fortunately, “in our society…a widespread feeling of philanthropy,” Archbishop Cordes lamented that “this can give the faithful the idea that charity is not an essential part of the ecclesial mission.”
“Without a solid theological foundation,” he said, “the great ecclesial agencies could become ... disassociated from the Church, [and] ... prefer to identify themselves as non-governmental organizations.”
“This, however, contrasts with the two-thousand-year history of the Church, and does not take into account the intimate rapport between ecclesial action on behalf of man and credibility in the announcement of the Gospel."
Archbishop Cordes concluded by stressing that "We must go further…the present sensibility of so many people, especially the young, also contains a 'kairos apostolico.' This opens notable pastoral prospects. There are innumerable volunteers, and many of them discover the love of God in the giving of themselves to others with disinterested love."
Vatican City, Jan 25, 2006 (CNA) - In his weekly general audience earlier today at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI told a crowd of 8,000 that the image of a future world devoid of evil and described in the scriptures is possible if faithful take the side of God, building a culture of love and justice.
After noting that today ends the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which had been the focus of much of his work recently, the Pope returned to his ongoing catechesis on the Psalms, this time reflecting on the second part of Psalm 143, which he called "The king's prayer."
Benedict explained that this Psalm "sings of the final goal of history, when the voice of evil will finally be silent." It also makes mentions "of evildoers, seen as oppressors of the people of God and of their faith.”
He pointed out however, that “this negative aspect is followed by the positive, to which far greater space is dedicated, that of the new and joyful world that is about to come into being.”
“This”, he said, “is the true 'shalom,' the messianic 'peace,' a luminous horizon expressed in a series of images drawn from daily life: for us too, these can become an expression of hope for a more just society."
The Pope then reflected on these images which include that of "the family based on the vitality of the generations," that of "economic life, the countryside and crops," and finally "the city, in other words the entire civil community finally enjoying the precious gift of peace and of public order."
"This picture”, he said, “of a different but possible world is entrusted to the work of the Messiah and of His people. All together we can put this project of peace and harmony into effect, bringing an end to the destructive action of hatred, violence and war.”
The Holy Father said that before this can come about however, “it is necessary to make a choice, taking the side of God, of love and of justice."
He said that this reference is "to the new covenant announced by the prophets and consummated in Christ, to the new man, to the hallelujah of a life renewed and redeemed, to the novelty of Christ and His Gospel."
Denver, Colo., Jan 25, 2006 (CNA) - As the case for traditional marriage between a husband and wife continues to come under fire by some same-sex proponents, Denver’s Archbishop Charles Chaput stepped into the public debate--and encouraged Catholics to do the same--saying that the argument is one of liberation and human dignity.
In his column, which appeared Wednesday in the Denver Catholic Register, the Archbishop wrote that “the nature of marriage is a matter of common sense and long tradition, rooted in practical experience. It’s not simply a ‘religious’ issue.”
“Marriage”, he continued, “as a lifelong relationship between one man and one woman exists for the benefit of children and the protection of women. Society depends on children and the way we form their lives.”
Supporters of same-sex marriage charge that their love is just as legitimate as their heterosexual counterparts and should also be given the dignity of marriage, as they see it.
Some critics also point to the fact that the Christian divorce rate is on par with the skyrocketing national standard.
To this, the Archbishop said that “The fact that marriages frequently fail does not change the purpose of marriage. Rather, it proves that we too often do a poor job of preparing people for what marriage really entails and supporting them in the demands of mature married life.”
Serious about the faith?
Archbishop Chaput stressed that “The Christian case for marriage and the family is a message of liberation and real human dignity. It is not “against” anyone. It is for the happiness of human society.”
“Any effort to reframe and misrepresent that truth”, he said, “needs to be vigorously challenged. We need to govern our actions toward all people with the virtues of justice, charity, mercy, wisdom and prudence. But “tolerance,” if it leads us to live a lie or compromise away the truth about human relationships, is not a virtue. It is the opposite.”
The Archbishop challenged Catholics to be serious about their faith, charging “if Jesus Christ really is the “way, the truth and the life,” and the organizing principle for our lives — we need to carry our convictions into our public policy thinking.”
“They are not just our private preferences,” he said. “We should never apologize for this. If we don’t live what we believe, then what we claim to believe is empty piety. Catholics can compromise about many issues in daily political life. But we can never barter away the nature and sanctity of the human person or those institutions that nurture, form and support the human person.”
Pointing out that “all persons were created by a loving God and deserve the protection of the law,” the Archbishop said that “Society’s legitimate, preferential treatment of marriage should never become an excuse for prejudice. Extending legal and financial benefits to persons in different kinds of non-marital relationships can make sense, depending on the circumstances.”
He stressed however, that “we need to proceed with clear thought regarding the consequences.”
“’Marriage’”, he said, “as a word has meaning because of its foundational role in our understanding of family and society. It’s much more than just another voluntary emotional relationship.”
“If we remove, or even indirectly compromise, the central role and preferential treatment of marriage in our culture,” he said, “we undermine both our families and the long-term health of our society.”