Rome, Italy, Feb 6, 2006 (CNA) - The General Assembly of Jesuits will meet with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican on April 22. In the letter convening the 35th General Congregation for the year 2008, the Superior General Fr. Hans Kolvenbach announced his wish to retire. A new Superior General will therefore be elected in January 2008.
A high ranked Jesuit spoke to CNA on condition of anonymity, and gave us the names and profiles of possible frontrunners for the election of the successor of Peter Hans Kolvenbach.
P. Franco Imoda, S.J., former Rector of the Gregorian University. He is an Italian
psychiatrist. He is well known in the Vatican, and would represent the Italian Jesuits and the educational sector of the Company.
Fr. José Morales Orozco, S.J, current rector at the Iberoamerican university of Mexico. Former provincial of Mexico, and advisor to Kolvenbach for formation. He knows well the Company worldwide and is well appreciated internationally. He would represent Latin-America as well the Faith and Justice and educational sectors of the Company.
Fr. Elias Royon Lara, S.J, current provincial for Spain for the second time. He was also master of novices, rector in Philosophy and provincial of Toledo, vice-rector of the University of Comillas in Spain, advisor to Fr. Kolvenbach for Italy, Spain and Portugal and co-president of the Conference of Religious people in Spain. Well known and respected by the Spanish bishops and the Vatican. He is older than the others, but it might work in his favor if the election is controversial and a compromise candidate is sought.
Fr. Mark Raper, S.J, current provincial of Australia. Former director of the Jesuit Refugee Service. He knows Rome and is well known there. He would represent the movement of Faith and Justice in the Company.
Madrid, Spain, Feb 6, 2006 (CNA) - In his most recent pastoral letter, Archbishop Francisco Gil Hellin of Burgos said it was hypocritical to be shocked by the Iraq war and yet support legal abortion in Spain, where 85,000 unborn are killed each year.
“One wonders how there could be such hypocrisy when evaluating, for example, the war in Iraq and abortion. What would have happened if there were 85,000 executions in Spain in one year? It is unthinkable,” the archbishop said in his letter.
Archbishop Gil said the national and international media were rightly “outraged” by the prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Grab but that this was “Snow white in comparison to what happens with the aborted unborn: most of them are dismembered, others are poisoned, others are cut to pieces. After 21 weeks, the mother undergoes a caesarian and the fetus is extracted alive and left to die.”
The archbishop compared the number of abortions carried out in Spain during 2004 with “the horrors of Nazism and Stalinism.” The data from that year was “chilling,” he said, as abortion in Spain was up 6.5% from the previous year, 27% of women have had more than one abortion, 23% of abortions are performed after the 12th week of pregnancy, and the average age of women who have abortions continues to go down. The archbishop said estimates are that during the last 20 years since abortion was legalized in Spain, “almost one million innocent and defenseless lives have been taken.”
“The horrors of Nazism and Stalinism are not far off in this society that calls itself and presumes to be progressive and democratic. It is not an exaggeration to state that we are facing a totalitarian situation, where the strongest impose their will on the weakest.” This is occurring, he said, with “at least the tacit consent of politicians and the mass media.”
Society “remains asleep and is allowing unprecedented genocide,” Archbishop Gil continued, “even though people are now beginning to see abortion as something evil.”
The Church is attacked for denouncing such “barbarism” and for trying to awaken consciences, he added, and the number of women “who suffer over the child that could have been theirs continues to grow.” The Church will continue to reach out to young women to help prevent them from having to carry “a heavy conscience for the rest of their lives.”
Rome, Italy, Feb 6, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal Archille Silvestrini, the former prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, has called the caricatures of the Islamic prophet Mohammed, published in the European press, a "scandal" that has offended the world’s Muslims.
Speaking to the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, the cardinal said satirical comments about the practices or customs of Islam were understandable, but not about “the Koran, Allah or his prophet.”
Satire that offends the religious sentiments of others, he went on, becomes aggression and is regrettable. Laws allow individuals to institute legal action when they are personally harmed by libel or defamation, he noted. "But if the offenses are against their religious symbols, how can they defend themselves?" he asked.
Cardinal Silvestrini noted that even a secular society “presupposes respect,” noting the existence of laws that punish those who desecrate their nation’s flags. He said that the cartoons which have led to violence across Europe and the Islamic world betrayed a tendency in Western society to consider freedom of expression as an absolute right.
Manila, Philippines, Feb 6, 2006 (CNA) - The Good Shepherd Tribal Ministry in the Philippines has denounced the killing of lay missionary Matt Morales, who was a victim of paramilitary groups that frequently attack missionaries who work with the ethnic minorities on the southern island of Mindanao.
The crime occurred in the region of San Luis (South Agusan) and was another episode in the spiral of violence that has afflicted missionaries who work with the Manobo and Banwaon communities.
According to leaders of the Ministry, Morales, who ran a hospital for indigenous peoples, was killed by a militia that combats the Communist guerrilla fighters of the People’s New Army.
The Good Shepherd ministry said it would continue to reach out to ethnic minorities, despite continued death threats.
Barcelona, Spain, Feb 6, 2006 (CNA) - According to the latest ratings, the Sunday Mass has become the most watched program on a television station in San Cugat in the Spanish province of Catalonia, with an average of 65,000 viewers each weekend.
The Mass has been aired on Channel 2 since 1982, thanks to an agreement with the region’s bishops. More than 1,000 broadcasts of the Mass have been carried out over the years.
Statistics indicated that some 65,000 tune in to the Mass each week, although the number may actually be higher. Analysts said the high ratings for the station were also due to other religious programs that highlight the beauty of local churches.
Rome, Italy, Feb 6, 2006 (CNA) - Fr. John Jenkins made his first trip to the Vatican last week as president of the University of Notre Dame, marking a new era in Notre Dame-Vatican relations.
In recent decades, university presidents have fostered relations with the Vatican and the different pontificates.
Trips like this, Campus Ministry Director Fr. Richard Warner told The Observer, help the Vatican "to see Notre Dame as the treasure it is for the Church."
For example, university president-emeritus Fr. Theodore Hesburgh had a personal friendship with Pope Paul VI, which began in 1960. Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini, later Pope Paul VI, joined President Dwight D. Eisenhower at Notre Dame's commencement ceremonies to receive an honorary degree. During his four-day stay, Cardinal Montini became good friends with Fr. Hesburgh. This friendship lasted into his pontificate, leading the pope to ask the Notre Dame to revitalize the International Federation of Catholic Universities and rewrite the universities’ constitutions.
University president-emeritus Fr. Edward Malloy developed a more institutional relationship with the Vatican, paying regular visits to Rome, meeting with Pope John Paul II every other year, familiarizing Vatican offices with Notre Dame, and awarding one honorary degree a year to a member of the Vatican.
Fr. Malloy had also served on a 15-member commission to help revise the papal Apostolic Constitution, a draft document released by the World Congress on Catholic higher education in November 1989.
"I believe as we face the challenges of the 21st century, a Catholic university like Notre Dame is absolutely critical," Fr. Jenkins told The Observer. "I think those in the curia kind of see that, and we need to work together so the Church can be enriched by Notre Dame's work and Notre Dame can be enriched by its connection to the universal Church."
, Feb 6, 2006 (CNA) - Only four years after it was created, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in LaGrange is ready to build a new 1,000-seat church.
The new Catholic church is needed to handle an explosion of growth in the young parish from 320 families in 2002 to 1,100 now, reported the Poughkeepsie Journal. The number of children in their faith-education program has also soared from 294 in 2001 to 720 today.
The current church, which has five masses per weekend, seats 315. Masses are standing room only, except for the 7:30 a.m. Sunday morning mass. Construction for the new church on Route 82 will begin this spring. The current church will be converted into classrooms for the parish faith program.
The $12-million construction is anticipating growth in the rural area of LaGrange, where farmland continues to be transformed into upscale subdivisions, reported the Poughkeepsie Journal.
Due to demographic shifts, parishes in the outlying areas continue to grow while the Archdiocese of New York considers closing or merging parishes in the New York City area. It is not unusual to find three parishes in a five-block area, many of them with sharply reduced attendance. The archdiocese must also consider its shortage of priests in its diocesan realignment strategy, which is expected to be announced soon.
Washington D.C., Feb 6, 2006 (CNA) - Members of the Republican Party in the House of Representatives have elected a pro-life Ohio congressman to become the second-ranking leader of the party in the lower chamber of Congress.
Rep. John Boehner will take over from pro-life Texas Rep. Tom DeLay, reported LifeNews.com. Boehner won the race on the second ballot.
During the campaign for the position, Boehner referred to his pro-life views in a letter to members of the Values Action Team, a group of pro-life lawmakers.
"It is a commitment I have felt deeply throughout my life and a commitment I will uphold unapologetically," he said.
Boehner has compiled a 100 percent pro-life voting record since 1997, according to the National Right to Life Committee. In 2005, he supported the bill to back Terri Schiavo's family and voted against using taxpayer funds for embryonic stem-cell research.
Boehner is not new on the scene. In 1994, he was served as chairman of the House Republican Conference, the fourth-ranking leadership post.
, Feb 6, 2006 (CNA) - A measure that would have protected marriage as the union of one man and one woman in Maryland’s state constitution died Thursday in the Maryland House of Delegates. Republicans were hoping the measure would make it to a November ballot.
Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr. (R-Anne Arundel) had drafted the proposal. Two weeks ago, a Baltimore Circuit Court judge ruled the state's 33-year-old same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional.
House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) thwarted last week’s effort by GOP lawmakers to bring the constitutional amendment directly to the House floor for debate instead of passing it through the House Judiciary Committee first, reported the Washington Post.
Under House rules, members can employ a rarely used procedure to petition the bill out of committee if it has a minimum 47 votes. With only 43 House Republicans, the bill's backers found four supportive Democrats.
Republican whip Anthony J. O'Donnell (Calvert) had the petition in hand when the House convened. But just after the prayer and Pledge of Allegiance -- and before O'Donnell had a chance to deliver the document -- Majority Leader Kumar Barve (D-Montgomery) moved to recess the session, the speaker banged his gavel and the moment had passed, reported the Post.
Later, in the House Judiciary Committee, Democrats voted unanimously against the entire proposal. In committee, Del. Kathleen M. Dumais (D-Montgomery) offered an amendment that would outlaw same-sex marriage, but recognize civil unions, prescribing to same-sex partners all the rights and benefits afforded to married couples. Dumais’ amendment was voted down.
Republicans said they would probably try another move to revive the measure in the House, reported the Post. If lawmakers do not pass the constitutional amendment, there is no way for citizens to put such a measure on the ballot.
Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has voiced his support for the constitutional amendment. "I firmly believe the people should vote on this issue," he said.
Vatican City, Feb 6, 2006 (CNA) - Earlier today, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his personal condolences for the assassination of a Roman missionary priest, killed in Turkey Sunday shortly after celebrating Mass.
The Pope sent a telegram of personal condolences to Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Vicar General for the diocese of Rome, spiritual home of Father Andrea Santoro, a missionary fidei donum priest working in Trabzon, Turkey.
The Pope said that "While I hope that his blood shed may be a seed of hope for the building of authentic fraternity among people, I raise fervent prayers for the brave witness to the Gospel of love, and I impart with all my heart the consoling apostolic blessing on his family, in particular, the elderly mother so saddened, and others who mourn his violent death."
The Holy Father sent a separate telegram to Bishop Luigi Padovese, apostolic vicar of Anatolia (Turkey), in which he praised the priest’s generosity and apostolic dedication to his ministry.
He served, the Pope pointed out "in favor of the Gospel and in service of those marginalized and in need."
The Holy Father utilized “this sad moment", to express his particular closeness to the Christian community and reiterate his “firm condemnation of all forms of violence."
Vatican City, Feb 6, 2006 (CNA) - As much of the world’s Muslim community remains up in arms over the publication of what they call offensive cartoons recently depicting the prophet Mohammed in a Danish newspaper, the Vatican has come out against the both the needless publication as well as a violent response on the part of many Muslims.
The Vatican Press office released a statement Friday in response they said, to numerous requests for an official comment on the controversy.
In three parts, the statement both criticized the publication of the cartoons and the violent reactions sparked thereby.
First, it pointed out that “The right to freedom of thought and expression, sanctioned by the Declaration of the Rights of Man, cannot imply the right to offend the religious sentiments of believers. This principle obviously applies for any religion.”
The Church also pointed out that “coexistence calls for a climate of mutual respect favoring peace among men and nations. Moreover, these kinds of exasperated criticisms or derision of others manifest a lack of human sensitivity and may constitute in some cases an inadmissible provocation.”
The statement added that “A reading of history shows that wounds existing in the life of a people are not healed in this way.”
Thirdly however, the Vatican stressed that “the offenses caused by an individual or a member of the press cannot be imputed to the public institutions of the corresponding country, whose authorities might and should intervene eventually, according to the principles of national legislation.”
It said therefore, that “violent actions of protest are equally deplorable.”
“Reaction in the face of offense cannot fail the true spirit of all religion. Real or verbal intolerance, no matter where it comes from, whether as action or reaction, is always a serious threat to peace."
Vatican City, Feb 6, 2006 (CNA) - During a Mass celebrated Sunday at the Vatican’s parish of Saint Anne, Pope Benedict warned that a modern-day fog of ideologies and idolatries which ignore God, threatens to damage and distort true respect and dignity for the human person.
During his homily, the Pope commented on the Gospel reading from Mark, in which Jesus goes to the house of Simon Peter and encounters Peter's mother-in-law who has a severe fever.
"Jesus, coming from the Father,” Benedict said, “goes toward the house of humanity, our earth and finds humanity ill, sick with the fever, the fever of ideologies, idolatry, and the forgetting about God.”
“The Lord”, he continued, “gives us His hand, lifts us up and heals us. And as he has throughout the ages; He takes our hand with His Word, and dispels the fog of ideology and idolatry. ... He cures us of the fever of our passions and our sins with the absolution found in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
The Pope then turned his attention to an image above the church’s altar of the Church, which depicts Saint Anne explaining the Sacred Scriptures to the Virgin Mary, her daughter.
On this, he explained that "Women are also the first doors to the Word of God in the Gospel, they are authentic evangelists." He used the opportunity to give thanks to all the women "who always help us to know the Word of God, not only through their intelligence, but also through their hearts."
The Pope then turned back to the Gospel narrative, in which Jesus, sleeping in the house of Peter's, woke early to go and pray in the desert. Benedict said that, "this Gospel teaches us that the center of our faith and the center of our lives is found in God. When God is not present, man is not respected.”
“Only when the splendor of God is reflected on the face of the human being, the image of God, is man protected by a dignity that nobody should violate," he continued.
Pointing out the Italian the Day of the Family, celebrated Sunday, the Holy Father said that "the human being is not the manager of life, rather he is the custodian and caretaker."
He added that "two mentalities," exist in the world, both of which “are opposed in an irreconcilable way...one maintains that the human life is in the hands of man and the other recognizes that it is in the hands of God."
The Pope pointed out that "the full respect of life is united to a religious sentiment, to the interior attitude with which man considers the reality surrounding him, either as a master or custodian thereof.”
“The word ‘respect’”, he pointed out, “comes from the Latin verb respicere, and indicates a way of looking at things and people that brings us to recognize the fact of their coexistence, not possessing them but caring for them.”
Pope Benedict concluded by saying that "if creatures are denied reference to God, as a transcendent foundation, they run the risk of being placed at the arbitrary mercy of human beings, who, as we can see, can treat them irresponsibly."
Vatican City, Feb 6, 2006 (CNA) - During Sunday’s weekly Angelus prayer, Pope Benedict told thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square that a true “culture of life” must be focused on care for others and defense of the weak--not hedonism and pleasure-seeking self-service.
Prior to the Marian prayer, the Holy Father reflected that the Day for Life, which was just celebrated in Italy "constitutes a precious occasion of prayer and reflection on the themes of the defense and promotion of human life, especially when it is found in conditions of difficulty.”
He pointed out that a number of lay faithful working in the field, “some committed in the Pro-Life Movement," had gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the occasion.
One of the groups represented yesterday was the Italian Movement for Life organization, which was accompanied by Cardinal Camillo Ruini.
The Holy Father went on to invite all those present to reflect over the Italian bishops' message, which explored the theme "Respect of Life."
"I remember”, he said, “our beloved Pope John Paul II, who paid constant attention to these problems.”
In particular, Benedict recalled the encyclical "Evangelium Vitae," which John Paul published in 1995. It represents, the Pope said, “an authentic cornerstone in the Church's teaching on such a current, decisive question. In framing the moral aspects in a broad spiritual and cultural context, my venerated predecessor confirmed on several occasions that human life is of a primary value that must be acknowledged, and that the Gospel calls for it to always be respected."
The Holy Father also made note of his own encyclical, released late last month, and titled, "Deus Caritas Est," or “God is Love.” It emphasized, he said, the importance of the "service of charity" in supporting the promotion of human life.
"The culture of life”, he said, “is based, in fact, on attention to others, without exclusions or discriminations.
All human life, as such, is worthy of and calls for always being defended and promoted.
Benedict pointed out that “We know well that this truth runs the risk of being contradicted often by the widespread hedonism in the so-called welfare societies: Life is exalted while it is enjoyable, but there is a tendency to stop respecting it when it is sick or experiences some kind of disability."
"On the contrary,” he said, “from profound love for every person, it is possible to apply effective forms of service to life: both nascent as well as that marked by marginalization or suffering, especially in its terminal phase.
The Pope concluded recalling the Virgin Mary, who “received with perfect love the Word of life, Jesus Christ, who came into the world so that men ‘may have life, and have it abundantly’ (John 10:10).
“We commend to her”, he said, “women who are expecting a child, families, health agents and volunteers committed in different ways in the service of life.”