Vatican City, Jan 30, 2006 (CNA) - Before Sunday’s weekly Angelus prayer, Pope Benedict XVI--gathered with a large group at St. Peter’s Square--called the Saints the most privileged witnesses of charity, saying that the history of the Church is “a history of sanctity.”
He praised the Church’s vast body of Saints, saying that they lead faithful to consider the path of consecrated life as a profound “expression and school of charity.”
Following in the footsteps of his predecessor, John Paul II, Benedict also announced that he would preside at the Day of Consecrated Life, which will be celebrated on February 2nd.
Referring first to his new Encyclical, "Deus caritas est," published last Wednesday, the Pope said that the Saints "have all made of their lives, though with a thousand differing shades, a hymn to the God of Love."
Specifically, he recalled those saints whose feast days were recently, or about to be commemorated, and "who are very different from one another.”
He first noted “the Apostle Paul with the disciples Timothy and Titus,” saying that the trio “belong to the very roots of the Church, missionaries of the first evangelization.”
He also recalled “Thomas Aquinas, from the Middle Ages, [who] is the model of a Catholic theologian who found Christ in the supreme synthesis of truth and love; Angela Merici, in the period of the Renaissance, proposed a way of sanctity for those who live in the lay state.”
“In the modern age,” he said, “we have John Bosco who, enflamed by the charity of Jesus the Good Shepherd, cared for disadvantaged children."
"In truth," Benedict continued, "the entire history of the Church is a history of sanctity, animated by the one Love which has its source in God.”
“Indeed,” he said, “only supernatural charity, such as that which flows ever new from the heart of Christ, can explain the prodigious flowering over the centuries of religious orders and institutes both male and female, as well as other forms of consecrated life.”
“These men and women,” he stressed, “whom the Spirit of Christ has formed as models of evangelical devotion, lead us to consider the importance of consecrated life as an expression, and a school, of charity."
On this note, the Holy Father noted that "on February 2, Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, the Church celebrates the Day of Consecrated Life.”
“On that afternoon,” he said, “as John Paul II used to like to do, I will preside at Mass in the Vatican Basilica. ... Together we will give thanks to God for the gift of consecrated life and pray that it may continue in the world as an eloquent sign of His merciful love."
Also mirroring his predecessor, Pope Benedict closed the Angelus, flanked by two young people from the group Catholic Action, and freed two white doves, symbols of peace, from the window of his study.
Rome, Italy, Jan 30, 2006 (CNA) - In a radio interview, Fr. Slowomir Oder, a polish priest, postulator of the cause for Beatification of Pope John Paul II, revealed what would be former pope Woytila’s first miracle.
The extraordinary event would have happened in France in October 2005, revealed Fr. Oder, who is working for the Vicariate of Rome, in an interview to Rai Uno of Italy.
The beneficiary is a French religious, which name was not disclosed by Fr. Oder, but remarked that it had to do with “newly born children suffered the same illness that could be witnessed in the last part of the life of John Paul II,” and has not to do with of the “unexplained healing of a tumor but rather of Parkinson’s disease.”
Fr. Oder created a website in six languages to receive messages and testimonies on the merits of Pope John Paul II and the eventual miracles that happened since his death:
Vatican City, Jan 30, 2006 (CNA) - On Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI called for greater care and attention to a disease thought by many to be nearly extinct--leprosy.
The 53rd World Day of Leprosy, held Sunday, was themed, "Lord, if You will, you can make me clean." It was first initiated by Raoul Follereau and, as the Pope pointed out, continues to be celebrated today, thanks to "associations that draw inspiration from his humanitarian work."
During his Sunday Angelus, Benedict addressed special greetings to those suffering from the disease and encouraged "the missionaries, health care workers, and volunteers committed on this frontier in the service of mankind."
"Leprosy”, he said, “is a symptom of a more serious and widespread evil: poverty. For this reason, following the footsteps of my predecessors, I renew the appeal to leaders of nations to unite their efforts in order to overcome the grave imbalances that still penalize a large part of humanity."
For the occasion, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, prepared a message addressed to presidents of national episcopal conferences and to bishops in charge of pastoral health care ministry.
The Cardinal wrote that The Church on this Day "wishes to listen to the very many people in the world who are still afflicted by Hansen's disease. ... [She] wants to give voice to their cry for help so that all of us together feel involved, with our various capacities and responsibilities, in the commitment to offer practical answers for the care and treatment of those suffering from leprosy."
The Cardinal went on to say that while scientific and pharmacological progress now enables leprosy to be treated in its early stages, there still remains "broad swathes of sick people and vast regions of the world that do not yet have these possibilities at the level of treatment."
He cited statistics from the World Health Organization which illustrate his point, saying that at the beginning of 2005, 47,596 cases of the disease currently exist in Africa, 36,877 in America, 186,182 in South East Asia, 5,398 in the Eastern Mediterranean, and 10,010 in the West Pacific.
He also wrote that there exists a certain regression in the disease, citing that "from 763,263 people suffering from leprosy in 2001, the figure fell to 407,791 in 2004."
He said however that "The just and shared satisfaction at the results that have been achieved in the fight against Hansen's disease should not mean less commitment or that the permanent needs, the endemic causes of the disease, the prejudices that still exist... should be forgotten.“
“A decisive effort”, he stressed, “could be made to finally, and in every part of the world, eliminate the disease of leprosy."
Cardinal Barragan used the opportunity to invite national and international bodies, non-governmental organizations, and local Churches "to respond in a more effective way to contemporary needs at the level of prevention and the treatment of people who are at risk or are already affected by leprosy."
He also called "for the free distribution of pharmaceuticals," and stressed "the need to create and train ... groups of social and health care workers who are able to act in the local areas, diagnosing in good time the presence of this disease and treating it."
At the end of his message, Cardinal Lozano expressed gratitude for the efforts of Christian communities and missionaries "in the fight against the disease of leprosy and in providing loving care to people afflicted by it."
Likewise, he emphasized how "the Church has always in so many countries of the world worked with total devotion to the welcoming ... and the social reintegration of those who have, or have had, leprosy.”
“On January 29, in particular,” he wrote, “we invite our communities to remember, during the Eucharistic celebration of the Total Body of Christ, the many people and families that still suffer because of the disease."
Vatican City, Jan 30, 2006 (CNA) - Following his weekly Angelus prayer on Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his prayers and condolences for a number of Poles who were killed or injured when a convention center roof collapsed under the weight of heavy snow killing at least 67 people on Friday.
Addressing a special greeting to Polish pilgrims present at St. Peter‘s Square, the Holy Father recalled the tragic accident which took place in the city of Katowice.
The city’s International Convention center was hosting an exhibition on homing pigeons at the time. Some 500 people were in attendance and at least 160 were injured.
The Pope said on Sunday that he entrusts “the deceased to God's mercy, uniting myself in spirit to their relatives and to those injured in the accident.”
“To all”, he said, “I impart a heartfelt blessing."
Vatican City, Jan 30, 2006 (CNA) - On Saturday, Pope Benedict XVI met with law officials from the Tribunal of the Roman Rota--the Holy See’s governing body of law--telling them that law and law officials need to be guided, above all, by love for truth.
The dean, judges, promoters of justice, defenders of the bond, as well as the Tribunal’s lawyers and officials were all in attendance for the audience as they prepare for the inauguration of their judicial year.
In his address to them, Pope Benedict called to mind the legacy of John Paul II, and what the Pope called his vast legacy of teachings on the subject of canon law.
The Pope specifically noted the Instruction "Dignitas connubii", which concerns proper procedures to be followed in cases of nullity of marriage.
He said that "The greatest contribution of this Instruction, which I trust is fully applied by ecclesial tribunals, consists in indicating the measure and manner in which, in causes of the nullity of marriage, the norms contained in the respective canons ... should be applied, while observing the special norms for causes concerning the state of persons, or for causes concerning the public good."
The Pope pointed out that, during last October's Synod on the Eucharist, the Synod Fathers had "called on ecclesiastical courts to make every effort to ensure that members of the faithful not canonically married may, as soon as possible, regularize their domestic situations" and so resume communion.
He said on the other hand, however, that "canonical legislation and the recent Instruction would seem would seem to place limits on that pastoral proposal, as if the principle concern were to fulfill the legal formalities, while losing sight of the pastoral aims of the legal process.”
“Concealed behind such an approach”, he explained, “is a supposed conflict between law and pastoral care in general."
Love for truth; Sacramentality of marriage
The Pope told the group that "In this my first meeting with you, I prefer to concentrate on an aspect that represents the main point of agreement between law and pastoral care: love for truth."
In this context then, he stressed that "the aim of a court hearing is the declaration of truth by an impartial third party," after both sides have been offered a chance to present their case "in an appropriate space for discussion.”
“All legal systems must tend,” he said, “to ensure the objectivity, timeliness and effectiveness of the judges' decisions."
Benedict pointed out however, that the courts sometimes find themselves dealing with matters "that lie beyond the domain of the parties concerned, in as much as [such matters] concern the rights of the entire ecclesial community."
It is here, he said, that "causes for declaring the nullity of marriage fall. Indeed, marriage in its dual dimension - natural and sacramental - is not something of which the spouses can dispose at will nor, given its social and public character, is it possible to imagine some form of self-declaration."
The Pope emphasized that "no court hearing is per se 'against' the other party, as if the aim were to inflict some form of unjust punishment."
Rather, "The aim of the hearing”, he said, “is…to declare the truth concerning the validity or invalidity of a specific marriage; in other words to pronounce on the reality that lies at the very foundation of the institution of the family, and that is of maximum concern to the Church and to civil society."
The Pope said that "the criterion of the search for truth" leads us to consider another aspect of the legal question: "its pastoral value, which cannot be separated from the love for truth.”
“Indeed,” he affirmed, “it can happen that pastoral charity sometimes becomes contaminated by complacent attitudes towards others. Such attitudes may seem pastoral, but in reality they do not respond to the good of individuals, or to that of the ecclesial community."
He stressed that "The truth sought in causes of the nullity of marriage is not ... an abstract truth, one completely removed from the good of individuals.”
“It is a truth”, he said, “that is an integral part of the human and Christian journey of each faithful. Thus, it is extremely important that the declaration [of that truth] should come about in a reasonable span of time."
Pope Benedict also stressed to the officials their grave obligation to "bring the institutional activity of the Church in her tribunals ever closer to the faithful,” as well as to "seek to prevent nullity of marriage," and “to help spouses resolve their difficulties and find a way of reconciliation."
The Holy Father concluded his address to the Tribunal saying that he hoped his words "serve to help you better understand how the love for truth links the institution of canonical causes of the nullity of marriage with the authentic pastoral sensibility that must animate such causes.”
“Seen in this light, the Instruction 'Dignitas connubii' and the concerns that emerged from the recent Synod, are in complete harmony," he said.
Vatican City, Jan 30, 2006 (CNA) - A Vatican official has confirmed that the Holy See is exploring the possibility of expanding its Catholic-Jewish dialogue to include Muslims.
Msgr. Michael Fitzgerald, who heads the Vatican's office for interreligious dialogue, and other Vatican officials met Thursday with the policy council chairman of the World Jewish Congress, Rabbi Israel Singer. They and discussed “the various meetings taking place between Jews, Christians and Muslims,” the monsignor told the Associated Press.
Rabbi Singer had released a statement about his discussion with Vatican officials after the meeting.
"We examined the possibility in doing something in this line," the monsignor told the AP about the WJC's suggestion to include Muslims in the dialogue. But he stressed the meeting with Singer was "just an exploratory meeting."
Washington D.C., Jan 30, 2006 (CNA) - A major pro-life ad campaign, seeking to dispel the myths about Roe v. Wade and to challenge the public to reconsider the scope of abortion law in the United States, has been launched in Washington for the second year.
New “Roe v. Reality” ads from the Second Look Project are now running in public buses and trains, and 60-second radio spots are being aired. Print ads have also been placed in major media outlets, including the Washington Post and the New York Times, around the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
“The Second Look Project seeks to inform Americans of the actual legal status of abortion in the United States,” said Deirdre McQuade of the Pro-Life Secretariat, who oversees the Second Look Project.
“Public support of abortion on demand is declining,” she said. “One Metro ad highlights this point in a myth/fact pairing: ‘Myth: The vast majority of American women believe abortion should be legal for any reason. Fact: Only 30% do.’”
The campaign has also been running in San Francisco. However, some ads there were vandalized.
For more information, go to: www.SecondLook.org.
Washington D.C., Jan 30, 2006 (CNA) - A new film about partial-birth abortion was showcased at the 33rd annual March for Life in Washington last week.
A Distant Thunder was created by Jonathan Flora, an award-winning producer with Disney's Buena Vista Home Entertainment, and his actress-wife, Deborah, who plays the lead role in the film.
"We created this film in what many of those in the pro-life movement consider the belly of the beast—Hollywood,” said Deborah Flora. "We made it so that through our craft, a terrible truth could be told so lives could be saved."
The Floras spoke at a Capitol Hill reception, premiering the movie to members of Congress and their staff. Flora’s film is receiving critical acclaim for its courageous story-telling and creative style. The LA Daily News calls A Distant Thunder, "A powerful thriller and a gripping legal drama."
The film takes viewers through a maze of disturbing hints, twists, symbols, and flashbacks until, at the end, they are stunned at what they've been watching.
The filmmaker said he intends for the film to educate people on both sides of the debate, change attitudes and lives. It is only 35 minutes long and so can be viewed in classrooms, by religious groups and politicians.
A Distant Thunder is available on DVD at www.adistantthunder.com.
, Jan 30, 2006 (CNA) - People of faith are concerned about public policy issues, such as abortion, same-sex marriage and assisted suicide, and not the federal budget so much, said Catholic League president Bill Donohue in a response to Thursday’s comment by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on President George Bush’s upcoming State of the Union address.
Referring to Democrats, she said the “best way…for us to speak to people of faith is in terms of the work we do; in terms of the budget, for example. The budget is a document that’s supposed to be a statement of our national values.”
“By ‘people of faith,’ Pelosi meant people like the 114 protesters who were arrested last month for blocking the entrance to the Capitol.
“Ask anyone leaving church on Sunday what public policy issues motivate ‘people of faith’ and the likely answer will be such things as abortion, same-sex marriage, assisted suicide, drugs, illegitimacy, etc.,” said Donohue. “Ask Nancy Pelosi and she says the federal budget.”
Donohue also criticized her “disdain for the faithful.” He noted: “When her party lost the 2004 presidential election, she arrogantly said: ‘As a devout Catholic, I observe with great regret the intervention of some Catholic bishops who joined evangelical leaders in the political arena.’”
“According to Democratic strategist Paul Begala,” Donohue said, “on the night of the presidential election, former President Bill Clinton told him, ‘you can’t ignore those social, cultural values voters.’ He was right.”
Warsaw, Poland, Jan 30, 2006 (CNA) - The President of Poland, Lech Kaczynski, who met privately with Pope Benedict XVI last Thursday, said the Pope would visit the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz during his trip to Poland in May.
Although the Holy See has not officially announced the dates of the trip, Kaczynski confirmed that Benedict XVI would visit the homeland of his predecessor May 25-28.
The Polish president also revealed that after visiting Auschwitz, the Pope will visit Wadowice, where John Paul II was born, and Krakow, where he was archbishop.
Kaczynski added the Pope Benedict may also visit the Marian shrine of Czestochowa.
Vatican City, Jan 30, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI met quietly last Friday with Mariano Rajoy, the leader of the opposition Popular Party of Spain, to discuss moral and ethical issues in light of the current political and social situation in the country.
According to the EFE news agency, “the defense of the human person and the family, the right of parents to choose the kind of education their children receive, and respect for ethical values were some of the issues discussed.”
Rajoy was accompanied by his wife, Elvira Fernandez, and two other officials of the Popular Party, Jorge Moragas and Jorge Fernandez.
Pope Benedict first met privately with the Popular Party leader and later with his entire entourage. Rajoy gave the Pope a copy of the program from an exposition on Queen Isabel the Catholic, which was held in the Cathedral of Toledo in 2005 to mark the 500th anniversary of her death.
Pope Benedict XVI gave the opposition leader a set of Pontifical medals and a special rosary to his wife.
Medellin, Colombia, Jan 30, 2006 (CNA) - Several pro-life groups in Colombia have launched a campaign to collect 100,000 letters from children in Medellin calling on the country’s Supreme Court to refuse to legalize abortion.
Leaders of the effort are hoping pastors, school principals, families and other religious groups and institutions will encourage children to “write to the Supreme Court asking the justices, as a gift to Colombia, to protect life and to not approve the grave crime of abortion.”
Adults are encouraged to help children write the letter in their own words. Children are also being encouraged to include a drawing with their letter. They should sign the letters in their own handwriting, indicating their full name, address and municipality.
Children have until February 20 to write their letters, which will be collected by campaign leaders at schools, offices, and parishes of the Archdiocese of Medellin.
Cologne, Germany, Jan 30, 2006 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, said this week he was pleased by the warm reception Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical “Deus Caritas est” has received so far, and he noted that charity unconnected to the Good News and to worship becomes mere social assistance.
According to the Kath.net news agency, the cardinal stated that to affirm that “God is love is not simple preaching about God. It is the most divine thing human beings can say about God, and at the same time it is the highest thing you can say about man, who is loved by God.”
“My impression,” he continued, “is that humanity was waiting for something like this encyclical for a long time, and in fact, there is no simpler nor deeper message for human beings than its first words, which at the same time perfectly reflect its contents: God is Love,” Cardinal Meisner said.
The dignity and intangibility of the human being, he went on, are based on this truth, that “God loves man and that man has been loved by God; this is not a purely spiritual occurrence, but rather it envelops man with all of the love of which he is capable, as the Pope notes. Marriage between a man and a woman is, for example, a reflection of this physical-spiritual love.”
Cardinal Meisner said the charitable work of the Church is not “a social pastime that the Church engages in when it befits her, but rather it belongs to the essence of her mission. When worship is not united to charity, it becomes an empty ritual. When the proclamation of the Gospel is not carried out nor bears fruit in charity, it becomes ideology. And when charity is not united to the proclamation of the Gospel and worship, it becomes mere social assistance.”