Vatican City, Feb 13, 2006 (CNA) - During his weekly Angelus prayer Sunday, given from his balcony above St. Peter‘s Square, Pope Benedict’s thoughts focused on Saturday’s 14th annual World Day of the Sick. He said that physical illness reminds humanity of its need for spiritual healing from Christ, whom he called the ‘true doctor of humanity.’
Before praying the Marian prayer, together with thousands of gathered pilgrims, the Holy Father said that "Sickness is such a typical characteristic of the human condition that it can even become a realistic metaphor thereof.”
He quoted St. Augustine, who, the Pope said, “expresses this well in one of his prayers: 'Have mercy on me, Lord! See, I do not hide my wounds from You. You are my doctor, I am the sick man.' …”
“Christ”, the Pope stressed, “is the true 'doctor' of humanity, Whom the heavenly Father sent into the world to cure mankind, marked in body and spirit by sin and the consequences of sin."
Benedict also referenced the Gospel of St. Mark, which has been the focus of Sunday Mass readings this season. Mark, he said, "…presents us with Jesus Who, at the beginning of His public ministry, dedicates Himself entirely to preaching and to curing the sick in the villages of Galilee. The innumerable prodigies He performs on the sick confirm the 'Good News' of the Kingdom of God."
Recalling that Sunday’s specific Gospel text recounts the healing of a leper "and very effectively expresses the intensity of the relationship between God and man," the Pope said that "…we see [here] the entire history of salvation in concentrated form."
"That gesture of Jesus,” he continued, “Who stretches out His hand and touches the scarred body of the person who calls on Him, perfectly expresses God's will to restore His fallen creature to health, giving him back 'abundant life' - eternal, full and joyful life.”
“Christ”, he said, “is 'the hand' of God reaching out to humanity, that it may escape from the quicksands of sickness and death, and stand on its own feet on the solid rock of divine love."
The Pope concluded his noontime address entrusting “all sick people, especially those who, all over the world, in addition to poor health, also suffer from solitude, poverty and marginalization," to the Blessed virgin Mary.
Vatican City, Feb 13, 2006 (CNA) - For visitors to the Vatican, Saturday marked both the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and appropriately, the 14th annual World Day of the Sick. Pope Benedict XVI used the opportunity to stress the importance of human dignity when caring for the sick and mentally ill, and even went so far as to dedicate his new Encyclical to health care workers and volunteers in the field.
Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar general for the diocese of Rome, was on hand to celebrate an afternoon Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for the sick and for pilgrims of UNITALSI (Italian National Union for Transport of the Sick to Lourdes and International Shrines), and of Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi.
Following Mass, Pope Benedict came to the basilica to bless the sick and address some words to those present.
In his brief address, Pope Benedict recalled the grotto of Massabielle, in Lourdes, at which, he said “the Virgin showed the tenderness of God towards those who suffer.”
“Appearing to Bernadette as the Immaculate Conception,” he said, “Mary Most Holy came to remind the modern world, which risked forgetting, of the primacy of divine Grace which is stronger than sin and death."
Moving on, the Pope discussed a just-completed Australian congress on Mental Health and human dignity. That gathering, held from February 9th through 10th was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry.
On this, Benedict said that "The human person is a single entity the various dimensions of which may be distinguished but not separated.”
“The Church”, he said, “always aims to consider persons in this light, and this concept characterizes both Catholic health care institutions, and the approach of those who work in them."
He also made a heartfelt appeal for those suffering mental illness and for their families, saying that "We feel close to [people in] such situations, with our prayers and with the numerous initiatives implemented by the ecclesial community all over the world…”
He particularly called to mind “places where legislation is lacking, where public structures are insufficient and where natural disasters or, alas, war and armed conflict, create grave psychological trauma in individuals."
The Holy Father then “symbolically consigned“ his new Encyclical ‘Deus caristas est’ "To all doctors, nurses and other health care workers, and all volunteers who work in this field…“
Benedict did this, he said, “with the hope that God may ever remain alive in their hearts, so as to animate their daily work, their projects, their initiatives and above all their relationship with the sick.”
“Acting in the name of charity and in the way of charity,” he added, “you also offer your precious contribution to evangelization, because the announcement of the Gospel has need of coherent signs to confirm it. And these signs speak the language of universal love, a language that everyone can understand."
In conclusion, the Pope called on the Virgin Mary "to keep our hope alive so that, faithful to Christ's teaching, we may renew our commitment to raise up our brothers and sisters in their sickness.”
“May the Lord”, he prayed, “ensure that people do not remain alone and abandoned at the moment of need but, rather, that they may experience even illness in accordance with human dignity."
Denver, Colo., Feb 13, 2006 (CNA) - In a continuing battle against what many of the state’s faithful call an unfair bias against Catholics, the Archdiocese of Denver has uncovered a previously unseen, but sordid list of sexual abuses by many of Colorado’s public school teachers.
The Archdiocese has lifted the lid on some 85 Colorado Department of Education reports of sexual impropriety among teachers since 1997. Reportedly, the state had revoked or denied teaching licenses, all for reasons involving sexual misconduct with minors. But critics charge, the punishment ended there.
According to a report in Denver’s Rocky Mountain News, the list revealed teachers “who prey on grade-schoolers, plying them with love notes…Teachers who download pornography on their desktop computers while students sit before them…Teachers who encourage students to meet them surreptitiously after school, on out-of-town trips, and who give them marijuana or alcohol in exchange for sex.”
Recently, all three of Colorado’s bishops blasted proposed state legislation which seeks to eliminate or modify statutes of limitation allowing sexual abuse victims to wait up to 40 years before filing suits against Catholic and other private institutions in the state.
The problem, they say, is that the bills would unequally punish the Catholic Church while public school teachers and coaches accused of abuse would--because of state sovereignty laws--be all but exempt.
In a letter, read last week to all parishioners in the Archdiocese, Denver’s Archbishop Charles Chaput said that every one of the proposed pieces of legislation “ignores the serious problem of sexual abuse in public schools and other public institutions, and focuses instead on religious and private organizations.”
“In other words,” he said, “some Colorado legislators seem determined to be harsh when it comes to Catholic and other private institutions, and much softer when it comes to their own public institutions, including public schools. And it will be families, including Catholic families, who suffer.”
The bill’s sponsors--led by state Senator Joan Fitz-Gerald argue that there is no anti-Catholic intent in the bills, but even the state’s secular newspapers and talk radio hosts question that assessment.
Rocky Mountain News columnist Vincent Carroll, wrote recently that special legislation aimed squarely at the Church “would be entirely out of line and Senate presidents never toy with anything so improper.”
He pointed out however, that the “only allegations Fitz-Gerald or anyone else seems to mention in relation to her legislation involve the church. And that the only organization already targeted by a smoothly functioning coalition of high-powered plaintiffs' attorneys and victim groups is the church.”
Archbishop Chaput has called this “an extremely serious moment” for the Church in Colorado and has encouraged the state’s faithful to contact their local representatives and demand an end to what he sees as terribly biased bills.
Vatican City, Feb 13, 2006 (CNA) - Following his weekly Angelus prayer Sunday in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict XVI offered special prayers for the 20th Winter Olympic Games, currently being played in nearby Turin, Italy, praying that they may contribute to peace among peoples of the world.
Speaking to thousands of pilgrims gathered in the Square, the Holy Father said: "I hope this magnificent sporting competition may take place in accordance with the Olympic values of loyalty, joy and fraternity."
He added his hope that this spirit may "thus [contribute] to peace among peoples."
The Olympics are being held from February 10th through the 26th in Turin.
Washington D.C., Feb 13, 2006 (CNA) - The United States bishops have successfully infiltrated U.S. politics and influenced decision-making on all levels, even taking over the Republican Party, claims freelance writer Don Collins in the Feb. 10 issue of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Collins’ comment was a response to an online comment by Barbara Anderson, who pointed out the strong influence the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has had on immigration policy.
“Despite the new pope's encyclical disclaimer about trying to influence public policy, Rome and these bishops have been hard at work trying to shape U.S. public policy for decades,” claims Collins.
He underscores the fact that five male Catholic justices have been confirmed for the U.S. Supreme Court and says much of the credit for Samuel Alito's confirmation to the Supreme Court should be given to the bishops’ behind-the-scenes work.
“Those who occupy chairs in the citadels of religiosity are naturally covetous of the ‘true faith’ they embrace -- not because it represents the truth but because it represents temporal power of the most useful kind,” wrote Collins.
“That, for example, the world's richest institution, the combined resources and property of the Catholic Church, exposes the obvious basis for its biases on contraception, abortion and male-only priests as a means of flock control -- particularly over women but also in a much broader sense over the American body politic,” he continued.
Collins also commented on the U.S. bishops’ 1975 Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities, which he describes as “a superbly detailed blueprint of the bishops' strategy for infiltrating and manipulating the American democratic process at national, state and local levels.”
The plan, he wrote, “called for the creation of a national political machine controlled by the bishops. In large measure, this machine has, dragging along its unwitting evangelical brethren, taken over the Republican Party.”
He cites the plan, which states: "It is absolutely necessary to encourage the development in each congressional district of an identifiable, tightly knit and well organized pro-life unit. This unit can be described as a public interest group or a citizen's lobby."
Collins also cites Colgate University political science professor Timothy Byrnes, who interviewed the late Bishop James McHugh and said that in 1973, after the passage of Roe v. Wade, “the bishops had explicitly declared that they wished 'to make it clear beyond a doubt to our fellow citizens that we consider the passage of a pro-life constitutional amendment a priority of the highest order.'"
Collins, who is a board member of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said given all this data the bishops may indeed have their way and “real immigration reform as proposed in House Resolution 4437 will not occur.” Instead, he suggests, the government will bend to the bishops’ demands in their recent pastoral letter on immigration.
London, England, Feb 13, 2006 (CNA) - A recent inquiry has concluded that England’s most popular Catholic hospital has infringed its own code of ethics by referring women for abortions and prescribing the morning-after pill.
Lord Brennan, a Labour peer, conducted the inquiry of St. John and St. Elizabeth Hospital for Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the primate of England and Wales, after the cardinal discussed the situation with the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The cardinal ordered the inquiry last year after the hospital decided to allow GPs to operate NHS practices from its premises in St. John's Wood, north London, reported the Daily Telegraph. Senior Catholics complained that physicians would be obliged under their NHS contracts to refer women for abortions and prescribe contraceptives.
According to the Telegraph, many of the complaints emanated from the Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics, the Church's official think-tank bioethics. Director Dr. Helen Watt said she hopes the report would help secure "the serious changes needed to keep the hospital to a Catholic ethos,” reported the British newspaper.
The cardinal has not yet acted as he is still awaiting the full report, a spokesman said last week.
The hospital has defended its actions saying it is proud of its Catholic heritage but it is committed to an ecumenical philosophy and care of all.
New Orleans, La., Feb 13, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Alfred Hughes of New Orleans announced Thursday that his archdiocese is indefinitely closing more than 30 badly damaged churches, permanently closing seven, and consolidating dozens of parishes and elementary schools.
The archdiocese said its plan is based on $84 million in uninsured losses after Hurricane Katrina, major damages to nearly one-third of its 1,200 buildings, and a significant drop in the local population, reported the Associated Press.
Before the hurricane last August, the archdiocese included 491,000 Catholics in 142 parishes. But six months after Katrina, 35 parishes have no worship life whatever, reported the AP.
Plans include the creation of six centralized elementary schools. Several parishes will be consolidated. In New Orleans, for example, 24 damaged church parishes will be consolidated into 11. In addition, the archdiocese will set up seven additional community centers dispensing storm relief. Previously, only 10 centers were operation.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Feb 13, 2006 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Argentina is calling for laws that promote responsible education programs on sexuality. During an annual gathering of university rectors, the bishops’ document on “The Challenge of Educating in Love” was presented for discussion, in view of the eventual passage of new law on sex education.
The bishops said new laws should be “positive and prudent” and should consider “the right and duty” of parents in the moral education of their children, a role which “cannot be substituted” by the state nor the school.
Likewise the bishops said laws must defend life “from the moment of conception, and absolutely forbid the crime of abortion.” They also said any new law must not promote anti-life policies and must recognize the inalienable right and duty of parents over the moral education of their children.
In their document the bishops warn that the State cannot be a substitute for the family, even families that are wounded by division or the absence of father or mother. At the same time they noted that the State should assist broken families “with prudence” and without falling into an “abuse of ideologies” with “no respect for the culture and tradition of nations.”
The bishops called for legal measures that assist young people in developing a proper respect for sexuality, marriage and the family and the rejecting of laws that would be destructive to families.
Father Ruben Revello, director of the Institute on Bioethics of the Catholic University of Argentina, and Dr. Zelmira Bottini de Rey of the Institute on Marriage and the Family, both of the Catholic University of Argentina, presented the document at the annual conference of rectors.
Father Revello called on the rectors to “teach healthy sex education” and warned against the ideology of gender promoted by certain feminist organizations, whose objectives are to bring down the traditional family and motherhood and to question “obligatory heterosexuality” and the “cultural patriarchy.” “For these people the three bad Ms are maternity, menstruation and marriage,” he noted.
Father Revello also pointed out how feminist groups pressure the UN, the World Bank and the World Monetary Fund to accept their understanding of gender and to make it a condition for providing aid that countries incorporate such perspectives in their laws
For her part, Bottini recalled that the Church prefers to speak about “integral sexual education” or “education in love” rather than just plain sexual education.
London, England, Feb 13, 2006 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of the Anglican Church, is calling for support for a proposal to allow the ordination of women to the episcopate, which would open the door for his successor to be a woman.
According to media reports, during the Anglican General Synod held last week, Williams called for fellow leaders to support the ordination of women to the episcopate, despite deep division on the issue in the Anglican Communion.
He urged the Church of England to accept an elaborate compromise whereby dissenting parishes would be able to opt to stick with male bishops.
If the proposal is approved, starting in 2012 a woman could theoretically become Archbishop of Canterbury and be the spiritual leader of 77 million Anglicans worldwide.
Rome, Italy, Feb 13, 2006 (CNA) - Organizers of the World Forum on Ethics, which was held in several different Mexican cities during the month of January, have published the final conclusions of the event in which they emphasize the validity of ethics as the fundamental norm of conduct in public life at the national and global levels.
The president of the Institute on Family Policy in Spain, Eduardo Hertfelder, told the Fides news agency that the meeting “marked an awakening of an unprecedented global social movement of people and organizations which have the human person and human dignity as the center of their objectives.”
In their conclusions the Forum underscored that “any law or public policy which threatens human right or is essentially contrary to universal ethic principles has no legitimacy even if approved with a democratic vote and legal formalities.”
The Forum also stressed the need for family policies to protect human life from the moment of conception, promote laws to support marriage between a man and a woman, and oppose adoption on the part of same sex couples.
Valencia, Fla., Feb 13, 2006 (CNA) - According to the AVAN news agency, more than two million people have visited the official website for the World Meeting of Families, which will take place July 1-9 in Valencia, Spain.
Organizers of the event said that during January of 2006, over half a million people visited www.emf2006.org, making the total number of visits to the site since it was launched close two 2 million.
After Spain, most visits to the multi-lingual site are originating from Costa Rica, Italy and Great Britain. The official website of the meeting provides a schedule of events, news and history about the gathering, together with nine catechetical lessons prepared by the Pontifical Council for the Family and the Archdiocese of Valencia.