Vatican City, Feb 3, 2006 (CNA) - The Vatican’s Apostolic Penitentiary office, led by former Denver Archbishop, Cardinal James Francis Stafford, has announced that a Plenary Indulgence will be offered to faithful who participate in this year’s annual World Day of the Sick.
The World Day of the Sick, which will be celebrated on February 11th of this year, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, is the fifteenth of its kind, celebrated annually.
This year, it will take place in Adelaide, Australia, culminating with a Eucharistic celebration in that city’s cathedral of St. Francis Xavier.
Cardinal Stafford, who is the Vatican’s major penitentiary, met with Pope Benedict on January 2nd asking for the concession of special indulgences for the sick.
According to a text released today, the Holy Father, was "motivated by the ardent wish that the illnesses and pains of mankind, borne with resignation and offered to the Eternal Father, ... may bring abundant spiritual fruits.”
“Above all,” it continues, “he was sustained by the hope that activities and initiatives of Christian piety and social solidarity may be promoted in favor of the sick, especially those who, afflicted by mental problems, are marginalized by society and by their own families."
For this reason, the Vatican has decreed that a Plenary indulgence be granted to “faithful who, under the usual conditions (sacramental Confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer in keeping with the intentions of the Holy Father), and with the soul completely removed from attachment to any form of sin,” participate in the World celebration on February 11th.
The decree adds that they must participate either at the cathedral of Adelaide itself, or at some other place chosen by ecclesiastical authorities, “in a sacred ceremony held to beseech God to grant the goals of the World Day of the Sick."
In addition, the Vatican said that "faithful who, in public hospitals or in private houses, like 'Good Samaritans' charitably assist the sick - especially those with mental problems who require greater patience, care and attention - and who, because of the service they provide, cannot participate in the aforementioned ceremony,” will still be able to obtain the Indulgence.
These individuals are asked to “generously provide, at least for a few hours, their charitable assistance to the sick as if they were tending to Christ the Lord Himself, with the soul completely removed from attachment to any form of sin, and with the intention of observing, as soon as they can, the conditions required for obtaining the Plenary Indulgence."
Likewise, the apostolic office explained that faithful who, "through sickness, old age or similar reason, are prevented from participating” in the ceremony, may still obtain the Plenary Indulgence with special requirements.
The decree stated that their souls must be “completely removed from attachment to any form of sin” and that they make the intention of observing the aforementioned conditions as soon as they can.
They are also asked to “pray devotedly for the sick, and offer - through the Virgin Mary 'Health of the Sick' - their physical and spiritual sufferings to God."
For those who cannot meet the requirements for the Indulgence, the decree states that a Partial Indulgence will also be offered to "all the faithful whenever, between February 9 and 11, with a contrite heart they raise devout prayers to the merciful Lord calling for these aspirations to be met in order to help the sick."
Denver, Colo., Feb 3, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver said Catholics in Colorado would examine Bishop William Skylstad’s settlement and approach to the sex-abuse cases in the Diocese of Spokane.
Archbishop Chaput said Catholics across the state have “noted with interest” the settlement reached this week by the Diocese of Spokane in its sex abuse cases, and the reported willingness of its bishop to support changes in Washington state’s criminal statute of limitations.
“The circumstances in Washington and Colorado — and the Diocese of Spokane and the dioceses of Colorado — are quite different,” said Archbishop Chaput. “Nonetheless, Colorado Catholics would welcome a discussion of the statutes of limitations regarding sexual abuse, as long as any revision of the law is fair, comprehensive, all-inclusive and equitable.”
On Feb. 1, the Diocese of Spokane offered a $45.7 million settlement to 75 abuse victims. The diocese had filed for bankruptcy in 2004 after being hit with sex-abuse lawsuits, totaling more than $77 million.
Bishop William Skylstad publicly apologized Wednesday to the victims "for the terrible wrongs inflicted on you in the past." He urged Catholics to accept the proposed settlement, which will require money from individual parishes.
The Associated Press reported that Bishop Skylstad also agreed to support the state’s abolition of statutes of limitations on sex crimes. The settlement would therefore cover only those who have already sued the diocese. There is no provision for anyone who might bring a claim in the future.
Archbishop Chaput stated: “To be just to all parties, including the many Catholic families with children in public schools, any revision of Colorado’s statutes of limitations regarding childhood sexual abuse must apply equally both to public and private institutions and impose exactly the same financial damages, civil and criminal penalties, and reporting time frames both for public and private institutions and their agents. Anything less is inadequate law and prejudicial in its effect.”
Washington D.C., Feb 3, 2006 (CNA) - Americans are a prayerful people who continue to seek God’s will and to respond to this will in service to those in need, said President George W. Bush at yesterday’s National Prayer Breakfast. The event was held at the Hilton Washington Hotel.
The annual breakfast is organized without government funding by the Fellowship Foundation, an evangelical Christian group. But this year’s breakfast had a more interfaith presence than past years in that the event’s co-chair was the Jewish Senator Norm Coleman. King Abdullah II of Jordan, a Muslim, was also one of the honored guests. He gave the keynote speech at a lunch, following the breakfast.
Rock star and humanitarian Bono gave the keynote address. He spoke about his own experience of faith and God and referred to the Jubilee 2000 Campaign before urging the United States to give "an additional one percent of the federal budget" to the poor, especially in Africa.
President Bush followed Bono at the pulpit.
“It is fitting we have a National Prayer Breakfast, because our nation is a nation of prayer,” said the president. He said he appreciated the presence of world leaders and people of other faiths, and adding that all present were “united in our dedication to peace and tolerance and humility before the Almighty.”
“In America, we do not prescribe any prayer. We welcome all prayer. We're a nation founded by men and women who came to these shores seeking to worship the Almighty freely,” he said.
“In our country, we recognize our fellow citizens are free to profess any faith they choose, or no faith at all. You are equally American if you're a Hebrew -- a Jew or a Christian or Muslim,” he continued. “You're equally American if you choose not to have faith. It is important America never forgets the great freedom to worship as you so choose.”
He spoke from his experience and about how citizens pray daily for American troops and for the presidency and how, through prayer, they open themselves up to God’s will and to service for the poor. He commended Americans on how they expressed love for their neighbor in their responses to the numerous disasters that struck in recent years.
“This morning we come together to recognize the source of that great love. We come together before the Almighty in prayer, to reflect on God's will, to seek His aid, and to respond to His grace,” he said.
“Prayer,” he said, “reminds us of our place in God's creation. It reminds us that when we bow our heads or fall to our knees, we are all equal and precious in the eyes of the Almighty.
“I want to thank you for the fine tradition you continue here today,” he concluded. “I pray that our nation will always have the humility to commend our cares to Providence and trust in the goodness of His plans.”
Jerusalem, Israel, Feb 3, 2006 (CNA) - The 13 patriarchs and heads of the Churches of Jerusalem have issued a statement, congratulating the Palestinian people for their “democratic performance” in the recent elections, and committing to pray for all those “who will govern in this difficult period.”
“We express our respect and our support to the will of the people expressed in these elections. We congratulate all those who were elected,” they said.
The church leaders expressed their intention to cooperate with the new government “for the public good and the national Palestinian aspirations, together with the cause of justice and peace in a nonviolent way, whether in regard to foreign relations, the rule of law together with full religious freedom, especially in the social and educational fields.”
They addressed the fears and concerns that some may have about the future with the words of Jesus: “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. Peace I bequeath to you; my own peace I give you, a peace which the world cannot give” (Jn 14:27).
“We call upon the Palestinian people to continue their contribution to the making of their history whatever may be the difficulties or obstacles, internal or external,” they said.
In their message to the new Hamas government, the church leaders wrote out the entire Beatitudes.
“We ask God to guide us towards what is good for all and for this Holy Land with all its inhabitants, Palestinians and Israelis, be they Muslims, Christians or Jews,” they concluded.
Los Angeles, Calif., Feb 3, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal Roger Mahony and the lawsuit-wracked Archdiocese of Los Angeles have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overrule a series of lower court decisions, and protect the Archdiocese’s constitutional right to keep priest files confidential.
Fourteen files from Archdiocesan priests accused of sexual abuse are in question, all of which, the Church argues, the courts should not have access to.
It’s the latest step for the Church in Los Angeles fighting to block a subpoena from L.A. district attorney Steve Cooley, who wants to use the private files--some of which contain private penitential conversations--as legal testimony.
In a Los Angeles Times editorial, Erik Berkowitz, a LA writer and lawyer, said that while the Archdiocese is fighting an uphill battle, a loss mean be “a step backward” for justice.
“In prying open the church's files,” he wrote, “the courts also will be trampling on some of society's most important constitutional and civil rights — including the Catholic Church's 1st Amendment right to freely exercise its religion and an individual's right to discuss sins in private with clergy.”
“Ironically,” he added, “the courts might even be making it harder for religious organizations to prevent abuse by priests” in the future.
While many question the way that Cardinal Mahony has handled the scandal, Berkowitz said that this “doesn't mean we should hinder his successors from trying to do a better job.”
“Yet”, he explained, “that is exactly what the courts will do if they force these documents into the light.”
Question about the priest-penitent seal and private discussions in the confessional have also stepped into the foreground recently, particularly in Los Angeles and in other parts of the country, most notably, New Hampshire where a newly proposed bill could require priests to divulge information about sexual abuse—even if it was obtained in the confessional.
On this, Berkowitz pointed out that “As with the attorney-client and psychotherapist-patient privileges, the protection of clergy-penitent communications expresses society's collective decision that it is more important to guard a confidential relationship than it is to expose what happened in a particular case.”
“For many,” he wrote, “the ability to communicate freely with their clergy serves the same function as psychotherapy. We may not see much value in providing this service to accused child molesters, but when the privilege is weakened for some people, it is weakened for all of us. Such communications are generally inviolate, even if they include admissions of criminal wrongdoing.”
Under Church practice, the bishop acts as primary counsel and many times, confessor, for the priests working under him.
Recently, another Los Angeles court, in a related case, ordered Msgr. Michael Lenihan, an Archdiocesan priest, to reveal whether a transitional deacon, accused of sexual abuse, came to him for confession.
Canon Law and Church experts decried the act as a blatant violation of the priest-penitent relationship--legally binding throughout the country--and demanded that the court withdraw the request.
Richard Thomson, Chief Counsel for the Michigan-based Thomas More Law Center, told the National Catholic Register that as Catholics, “our feeling is that the confessional seal is inviolable, no matter what the court says.”
He lamentably added that “People want to use the emotion of the sexual scandals to try to break down the sanctity of confession.”
Vatican City, Feb 3, 2006 (CNA) - The General Assembly of Jesuits will meet on April 22 with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican. A solemn mass will be celebrated by Cardinal Martini on the occasion.
This will take place on the day in which Saint Ignatius and his companions made their profession in 1541 at the Basilica of Saint Paul.
Pope Benedict will salute all the Jesuits after a solemn celebration lead by Cardinal Maria Martini. The order founded by Saint Ignatius which gathers more than twenty thousand members and is lead by its Superior General Father Hans Kolvenbach, nicknamed the “black pope”, due to the black color his habit.
For that day, the Superior General invited in a letter to all Jesuits of the world to announce that, with former consent of Pope Benedict XVI, he decided to convene the 35th General Congregation. At the origin of this call, is his personal decision to leave his charge as Superior General of the Company which is for life usually. He made this move to facilitate the elective process for a new Superior General of the Jesuits, younger and more dynamic than himself.
The General Congregation will meet on Januray 8, 2008
Kansas City, Mo., Feb 3, 2006 (CNA) - In his latest column, Kansas City, Kansas Archbishop Joseph Naumann weighed in on the volatile national immigration debate, saying that Scripture exhorts faithful to welcome the stranger and the alien, not as an option--but as a responsibility.
The Archbishop wrote in regard to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s Justice for Immigrants Campaign which advocates comprehensive immigration reform in the U.S.
Citing a joint pastoral letter drafted by the Bishops of the U.S. and Mexico in 2000 called, “Strangers No Longer: Together On a Journey of Hope,” Archbishop Naumann said that the Biblical Abraham himself as well as his descendents “knew what it was like to be strangers in a strange land.”
The document points out that “The key events in the history of the Chosen People of enslavement by the Egyptians and of liberation by God led to the commandments regarding strangers (Ex 23: 9; Lv 19: 33).”
“Israel’s conduct with the stranger” it continues, “is both an imitation of God and the primary, specific Old Testament manifestation of the great commandment to love one’s neighbor… the great God, mighty and awesome, who has no favorites, accepts no bribes, who executes justice for the orphan and widow, and befriends the alien, feeding and clothing him.”
“So you, too,” scripture exhorts, “must befriend the alien, for you once were aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt”(Dt 10: 17-19).
Archbishop Naumann added that “During the Christmas season, we were reminded how Jesus, Mary and Joseph were migrants and refugees, having to flee their homeland to avoid the maniacal efforts of King Herod to kill Jesus.”
Likewise, “In the Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples when they welcome a stranger, they welcome him.”
In short, the Archbishop said that “For the American Catholic, being concerned about the plight of immigrants today is not just an option but a responsibility.”
Admitting his lack of “expertise or competence to design the precise solution for our current immigration challenges,” Archbishop Naumann said that he is “confident that if we — as Americans — set our minds and our hearts to the task, we will succeed in devising a solution that both protects our security and welcomes as many newcomers as possible who share our yearning for freedom and our desire to have the opportunity to work hard.”
Each immigrant and newcomer, he wrote, “possesses the image of God engraved on their heart. Each migrant is of such worth that Jesus Christ gave his life on Calvary for them.”
How then, the prelate closed his column, “can we ignore the plight of those who are so precious in the eyes of the Lord?”
Guatemala City, Guatemala, Feb 3, 2006 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Guatemala is poised to file a petition before the country’s Supreme Court to stop a new law that would open the doors to abortion.
President Oscar Berger vetoed the law on family planning, which was championed by the opposition in Parliament. Nevertheless, opposition lawmakers gathered enough votes to override the veto and force its passage.
According to Auxiliary Bishop Gonzalo de Villa of Guatemala City and secretary of the Conference, the bishops could file a petition before the Supreme Court arguing the law is unconstitutional because of the way in which it was passed and because it constitutes “an attack on human life and the right of parents to educate their children.”
“The law on family planning is an attack on human life…and is unconstitutional,” said Cardinal Rodolfo Quezada Toruño, Archbishop of Guatemala, during a press conference. “This law will open the doors to abortion, which contradicts the value of life,” said the cardinal, noting his disappointment that “because of their lack of knowledge about moral values, Congress rejected the presidential veto.”
Ottawa, Canada, Feb 3, 2006 (CNA) - The election of Stephen Harper has Prime Minister of Canada and the new breakdown of the Canadian legislature is giving new hope to pro-life and pro-family groups in the country. Harper has publicly stated the legislature will review a law allowing homosexual “marriage” in Canada.
According to the Archdiocese of Madrid’s Analisis Digital, “Harper seems to be bent on making moral values a distinct part of his mandate” and believes that although Canada is not a major power in the world, the country “could influence the world with its values.”
Harper said that “sooner than later, although not immediately,” the Canadian parliament would reconsider “homosexual marriage.”
Analisis Digital said there were other issues on the new government’s agenda “that await a response from conservative sectors. One such issue is that of raising the minimum legal age of consent for sexual relations, which today in Canada is 14 years old.”
Another issue is the recent legalization of group-sex clubs, which would be open to 14 year-olds as long as no alcohol is being served. “Judith Reisman, who has served as an advisor to three US administrations, has denounced this decision as an open invitation to pedophiles around the world.”
Madrid, Spain, Feb 3, 2006 (CNA) - In a letter marking the World Day of Consecrated Life, celebrated on February 2, Bishop Jose Sanchez Gonzalez of Sigüenza-Guadalajara, Spain, said the “mere existence” of the vocation to religious life “is an inextinguishable sign and a contribution to our materialistic and short-sighted world.”
In emphasizing the importance of the consecrated life, the bishop noted such individuals “are at the heart of the Gospel and without them, the Church would be missing something of her own nature, and the world would be much poorer.”
Bishop Sanchez pointed out the wide variety of apostolic work and spiritual ministries carried out in the Church by those who live the consecrated life, either alone or in community, and that such persons “constitute, by their very existence, an inextinguishable sign and a contribution to our materialistic and short-sighted world.”
“They speak to us through who they are as persons, through what really motivates them and through their way of life, of other values, and other motives, of the transcendent dimension, of the supernatural life and of the spirit, which are not often valued or held high in our current culture and way of life,” said Bishop Sanchez.
In his letter the bishop also noted that consecrated persons “unite contemplation with apostolic love; they do not live with their heads in the clouds, unoccupied with the rest of the world, but rather, through the contemplation of God’s plan of salvation,” they “offer up their entire selves forever in the service of others, helping others to live with dignity and according to the plan of God, which leads to blessedness.”
“This World Day of Consecrated Life should be for all of us a motive and an occasion to get to know more deeply our consecrated brothers and sisters, to renew our affection and gratitude towards them, to pray for their faithfulness and for the multiple and various works they carry out in service to the Church and the world and to ask God to bless them with abundant vocations,” the bishop said in conclusion.
Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 3, 2006 (CNA) - The secretary general of the Bishops’ Conference of Mexico, Bishop Carlos Aguiar Retes, said this week the continuing collaboration between Church and State is an irreversible process because both entities are not rival institutions, as some myths that have been around since the Cristeros wars of the earlier 1900’s would have people believe.
“The first thing is to recognize that we have an historical problem,” the bishop said. The difficulties that arose during the Mexican revolution of the early 20th century “led us to believe that we were rival institutions that couldn’t work together, let alone coexist,” he explained. Such myths are difficult to erase, he added, because “they become part of a cultural mindset.”
Bishop Aguiar comments came in response to criticisms leveled by popular Mexican writer Carlos Monsivais, who attacked President Vicente Fox for not defending the secular state and governing secretary Carlos Abascal for expressing his Catholic faith in public.
Bishop Aguiar noted that the situation has improved over the years, especially with the Constitutional reform of 1992, which resulted in greater freedom of association and religion.
He said the situation was made difficult, however, by the fact that “for the first time there are high-ranking officials, such as the governing secretary, with a very clear awareness of their Catholic identity, and they express it explicitly at the same time that they are working a high levels of the government.”
Therefore, Bishop Aguiar said, there is need for people to realize that “believers and non-believers alike can share power at the same time.”
Washington D.C., Feb 3, 2006 (CNA) - The Russian-language Christian New Life Television is now airing Operation Outcry’s 30-minute “Faces of Abortion” television show in 110 countries via satellite and cable.
“Faces of Abortion is dramatic and compelling television, revealing the devastation of abortion in the lives of women and men,” said Karen Bodle, Operation Outcry International director, who had an abortion while in college. “The cost has been high and long lasting: unresolved grief, fear, shame, hopelessness, physical and emotional problems, broken relationships and marriages, and destructive and addictive behaviors,” she said.
“The personal testimonies touch hearts and change lives, making it one of the most powerful television shows in America,” said Allan Parker, the show’s co-host. “Now it has been translated into the Russian language and is available in over 32 million Russian-speaking homes.
Faces of Abortion airs in Russian each Friday at 5:30 p.m. (Moscow time) in Europe, North Africa and Asia. It is also available in Russian in five million homes in the United States.
The program is available in English in the U.S., four times weekly in 10 million homes, on Angel 1 on the Sky Angel System at the following Central Standard Times: Sunday, 6 p.m.; Monday, 10:30 p.m.; Tuesday, 3:30 a.m.; and Friday, 7 a.m.
Rome, Italy, Feb 3, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict is planning on lifting the excommunication pronounced in 1988 by his predecessor John Paul II against the bishops of the Saint Pius X Fraternity, founded by schismatic bishop Marcel Lefebvre, according to the Italian paper “Il Giornale.”
Pope Benedict will receive in an audience on February 13 at 10h30 the cardinals-heads of dicasteries of the Roman Curie. A reflection on the status of Saint Pius X Fraternity should be on the table that day.
Pope Benedict has called on a meeting of all the cardinals of the dicasteries of the Holy See to treat the issue. It would amount to the first general consultation of the all the cardinals of the roman curie by the recently-elected pope. Most of these cardinals had called during the papal vacancy for a greater frequency of these meetings.
Benedict XVI would be willing to talk on February 13 about the extension of the usage of the pre-counciliary missal, requested by the Saint Pius X Fraternity. Nowadays, celebration of Mass according to the Saint Pius V Ordo is allowed but only with the local bishops consent. The Fraternity would like to be free to celebrate it in any diocese, independent from the local bishops decision.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, from which the Ecclesia Dei commission depends and who is in charge of this case, will meet in Rome for a plenary assembly next week should review the question too.
This information follows the enthusiastic comments made by Bishop Fellay, the head of the Fraternity on January 13t, in which he expressed his confidence of being accepted back into the Church.