Vatican City, Feb 15, 2006 (CNA) - Today the Vatican released the text of a message sent from Pope Benedict XVI to Cardinal Jamie Ortega y Alamino, Archbishop of San Cristobal de La Havana, and president of the Cuban Bishop’s Conference. In it, he encouraged the people of Cuba to open their hearts to the God and the world, striving to find ways to live in peaceful coexistence.
The Pope’s message was sent on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Cuban National Ecclesial Encounter and dated February 2nd, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord,
It contains the Holy Father’s affectionate greetings to Cuba’s bishops, priests, consecrated people and laity and expresses his "spiritual closeness" and "encouragement for their evangelizing tasks."
Benedict began by recalling the words of the late Pope John Paul II during his 1998 Cuban visit, which he called particularly appropriate for the anniversary.
On that occasion, John Paul said, "May Cuba open to the world, and may the world open to Cuba."
Such openness, Benedict noted, "requires us first of all to consider how to open heart and understanding to the things of God; how those who coexist can open to one another, believing and trusting in each another though with different ways of thinking and believing; and finally, how to open to the world, with its challenges, its possibilities and its difficulties."
"Only through the gaze of God, a loving gaze,” he went on, “will it be possible to arrive at the truth of each individual, of each group and of those who live together in one land.”
The Holy Father stressed that “On this journey, ... much help may be gained from each Christian's experience of prayer, in the silence and humility of daily work, in faithfulness to professed faith, in the implicit or explicit announcement of the Gospel.”
He added that “Much help is also to be had from the love of majority of Cubans for the 'Madre de la Cardida del Cobre," patroness of this land for so long, who accompanies its inhabitants with motherly tenderness."
Vatican City, Feb 15, 2006 (CNA) - Today brought to an end an ongoing series of catechesis--begun by the late John Paul II--which covered the entire sequence of Psalms and canticles that constitute the Church’s Liturgy of the Hours and Vespers prayers.
The catechesis came during Pope Benedict’s regular Wednesday audience, held today at the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall.
Speaking before a large crowd, the Holy Father said that "Having reached the end of this textual pilgrimage - like a journey through a flower garden of praise, invocation, prayer and contemplation - we now come to the canticle that closes the celebration of Vespers: the Magnificat."
The Magnificat is Mary’s response to the Angel Gabriel’s announcement that she was chosen to be the Mother of the Messiah. It is recorded in the Gospel of Luke.
The Pope called it "a canticle that reveals ... the spirituality ... of those faithful who recognized themselves as 'poor,' not only in detaching themselves from all forms of idolatry of wealth and power, but also in profound humility of heart, free from the temptation to pride and open to the irruption of divine saving grace."
He explained that the first part of the Magnificat is "the celebration of divine grace which irrupted into the heart and the life of Mary, making her Mother of the Lord,"
But, he said, Mary's personal witness was "not solitary, ... because the Virgin Mother was aware she had a mission to achieve for humanity, and her own story is part of the history of salvation."
Pope Benedict went on to explain that in the second part of the canticle, "the voice of Mary is joined by the entire community of faithful" who celebrate God's actions in history.
"The 'style'“, he said, “that inspires the Lord of history is clear: He takes the side of the least and the lowliest."
Benedict used the words of St. Ambrose to illustrate this point. He wrote, "May each one of us”, the Saint wrote, “glorify the Lord with the soul of Mary. ... If, according to the flesh, the mother of Christ is one, then according to the faith, all souls generate Christ."
Front Royal, Va., Feb 15, 2006 (CNA) - Condom manufacturers and the abortion industry continue to exploit St. Valentine’s Day, which was traditionally a celebration of selfless love and marriage, said Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, president of Human Life International.
This week has been promoted as National Condom Week at campuses across the country, and schools have authorized organizations, some of which provide or facilitate abortions, to distribute condoms to students.
“National Condom Week is a shameless marketing stunt promoted by the abortion industry that targets high school and college students using the same techniques that in the past were used by Big Tobacco,” said Fr. Euteneuer.
“Condoms break, tear or slip off 1 time out of 12 times, ensuring abortionists who participate in National Condom Week a steady stream of business executing abortions and dispensing medications to treat STDs,” the priest said.
He explained that St. Valentine was a priest who continued to perform marriages even after the Emperor Claudius II had outlawed marriage in a short-sighted attempt to increase the size of his army. The faithful priest was arrested and condemned to death. Before being executed, he sent a note to a young bride, in which his closing words were Your Valentine.
Sydney, Australia, Feb 15, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal George Pell entered the debate about abortion pill RU486 and urged members of Parliament not to thrust lawmaking on important moral issues to Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration, an unelected body that is partly funded by industry.
In his statement in the House of Representatives, the archbishop of Sydney argued that "RU486 will increase the danger of women suffering home-alone miscarriages and will further trivialize the destruction of human lives".
The cardinal’s statement came as Liberal backbenchers lobbied for amendments to a private member’s bill, which would eliminate Health Minister Tony Abbott's veto over any abortion drug. The two sets of amendments, both sponsored by Liberal MPs, would hand Parliament a new right of veto.
Queensland backbencher Andrew Laming’s amendments would hand approval decisions to the TGA but give Parliament a right of veto. He also told a meeting of Coalition MPs that he wanted politicians to have a similar veto on other "morally troubling" drugs, such as intelligence enhancers.
Workforce Participation Minister Sharman Stone, who reopened the debate on RU486 last year and highlighted limited access to surgical abortion for rural women, argued the amendments would neuter the bill.
Many opponents of the private members' bill are expected to back the amendments.
, Feb 15, 2006 (CNA) - Hollywood producer David E. Kelley has once again “shown himself to be positively obsessed with Catholicism,” says Catholic League president Bill Donohue.
On yesterday’s episode of “Boston Legal,” a teenage girl who is raped, becomes pregnant and then wants to sue a Catholic hospital for denying her emergency contraception.
“His treatment of Catholicism on ‘Ally McBeal,’ ‘Picket Fences,’ ‘Chicago Hope,’ ‘Snoops,’ ‘The Practice’ and ‘Boston Legal’ is so well known that we have a big fat file on him,” said Donohue.
“This time Kelley has decided to hook up with the equally anti-Catholic folks at the ACLU — the Pennsylvania affiliate is providing a viewing guide that can facilitate discussions at a ‘Boston Legal Viewing Party.’”
Donohue cited the Pro-Life Secretariat of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which maintains that: “A woman who has been raped should be able to defend herself from a potential conception and receive treatment to suppress ovulation and incapacitate sperm. If conception has occurred, however, a Catholic hospital will not dispense drugs to interfere with implantation of a newly conceived human embryo.”
“But don’t look for the party animals at a ‘Boston Legal Viewing Party’ to be instructed in such nuances,” said Donohue.
Winston-Salem, N.C., Feb 15, 2006 (CNA) - The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), the yearlong process of joining the Catholic Church, is most effective when laypeople and priests work together and when the learning process stretches beyond the classroom, says a new study.
In his new book, titled "Real Stories of Christian Initiation," sociologist David Yamane says the RCIA needs lay involvement to succeed, however, it is particularly important for priests to play a role beyond the rites in the RCIA process.
In addition, the number of people involved in the RCIA process is more important than the financial resources of the individual parish.
And while classroom learning often dominated the process, Yamane, who went through the RCIA process in 1992, says formation must go beyond the classroom for it to become a “formation in the practices of faith.”
"Real Stories of Christian Initiation" is co-authored by Sarah MacMillen and Kelly Culver. The researchers spent almost a year observing the RCIA process in five Indiana parishes.
Yamane is an assistant professor of sociology at Wake Forest University. His area of study is religion and postwar American Catholicism. He is the editor of "Sociology of Religion: A Quarterly Review."
, Feb 15, 2006 (CNA) - As he begins to celebrate the one year anniversary of his installation as Archbishop of San Antonio, Archbishop Jose Gomez has released a pastoral letter in which he encourages faithful to seek the truth of Christ, revealed through the 2000 year tradition of the Church, not merely through their own opinions and tastes.
The Archbishop took the opportunity to meditate on one year of shepherding the Catholic people of San Antonio and to look toward the future of the nearly 700,000-member Archdiocese.
He told faithful that using the words “’your archbishop‘—[fills] me with pride and humility: pride at being called to serve this wonderful archdiocese and humility in the knowledge of my limitations.”
Archbishop Gomez began the letter proper by first challenging the faithful to delve more deeply into their faith in Jesus Christ.
“How strange it would be”, he said “if young man told his fiancée, ‘I know everything about you I want to know’ or a scholar said of her field of study, ‘I've learned as much as I wish’ or a music lover declared, ‘I've heard all the symphonies I care to hear.’ Is that how people in love talk?”
“It is the same with followers of Jesus Christ.” he stressed. Quoting Pope Benedict’s new encyclical God Is Love, he said that “the Holy Father…calls Jesus' dying for us on the cross ‘love in its most radical form.’ If we truly love Our Lord in return, we will want to know him better every passing day. Not wanting that would make our love seem doubtful at best.”
Going on to speak about faith formation, Archbishop Gomez pledged to continue the “work of education and formation, including formation in the social teaching of the Church,” which, he said was very close to the hearts of his predecessors.
“An essential part of this body of social doctrine”, he said, “is the dignity and sanctity of human life and the obligation to reverence and defend every human life from conception to natural death.”
He likewise encouraged parents in their proper roles, saying that they “are the first educators of their children, and the home is the first school of education and formation in the faith.”
“I am grateful”, he said, “to dedicated parents who raise their sons and daughters to be faith-filled Catholics. I promise them my support.”
Pointing out that the truth of Christ must be found through the fullness of the faith, passed down for centuries by the Church, Archbishop Gomez stressed a deep appreciation scripture, prayer and the Eucharist, as well as the other Sacraments--particularly Confession.
He wrote that “What Catholics believe is not a matter of opinion or personal taste. It has nothing to do with the corrosive ‘dictatorship of relativism’ of which Pope Benedict XVI spoke on the eve of his election as pope.”
He quoted the Pope, who said that this error “does not recognize anything as definitive” and has as its final goal only “one's own ego and desires.”
Alternatively, the Holy Father wrote that we have “a different goal: the Son of God, the true man. He is the measure of true humanism. Mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ.’
“Here”, the Archbishop pointed out, “is, among other things, our best foundation for ecumenism and interfaith dialogue.”
On a practical level, Archbishop Gomez wrote that “important means of education and formation in the faith include homilies, Catholic schools and religious education programs, adult education, authentic Catholic media, and religious art—paintings, sculpture, music, and architecture.”
He again cited Pope Benedict, who once said, “‘The arrow of the beautiful can guide the mind to truth‘--That fully satisfying truth which is Jesus Christ.”
Archbishop Gomez used the latter part of the letter to stress the fundamental importance of vocational formation, particularly for future priests and nuns.
He encouraged an “update and review [of the Archdiocese’s] Formation programs and plans” through parish programs, schools, evangelization and charitable acts “which Pope Benedict calls ‘the practice of love.’”
“The time has come”, wrote the U.S.’s first Mexican-born Archbishop, “to renew our commitment to God and His people, rediscovering the joys and hopes of the true teachings of the Second Vatican Council, with a new enthusiasm based on the certainty of God’s love for us and our generous response to His love, especially shown in our love for others.”
Sydney, Australia, Feb 15, 2006 (CNA) - A story has developed these days in Australian, linking the debate on the legalization of the Abortion pill and the current rate of abortion in the country, with the fear of an Islamisation of the country. The assumption is based on merely demographic facts raised by an Australian law-maker.
The issue was raised by Dana Vale, an Australian lawmaker, who has set off a storm after comments tackling two subjects many consider taboo. The member of Prime Minister John Howard's ruling coalition, told a press conference that Australians were "aborting ourselves almost out of existence."
Vale linked the concern with worries about the growth of Australia's Muslim community. "I'm talking about the ramifications it actually has for the community and the nation we'll become in the future."
Vale and three other female lawmakers were addressing the media on their opposition to a bill on the RU486 abortion pill which has triggered emotional debate in parliament and the media. If passed, the measure is expected to make it easier for women to get hold of the controversial drug, which is now effectively banned.
Howard called the slogan "offensive" and said it was ironic that at a time "when everybody is being lectured about being sensitive to Muslims in our community" -- a reference to the Mohammed cartoon uproar -- a lawmaker was sneering at a Catholic devotional practice.
Many critics have been made following Vale's remarks, with some coalition colleagues distancing themselves from them, the opposition Labor leader calling her "an authentic representative of this government's growing extremism," and Islamic leaders describing the comments as racist and xenophobic.
While the "us" and "them" implication, "Australians" versus Muslims, was the most sensitive element of what local media described as a "gaffe," available statistics do bear out some of Vale's concerns.
Here are the basic demographical facts underpinning her argument. Australia has a population of just 20.4 million, and about 250,000 children are born each year. A further 100,000 pregnancies end in abortion.Australia's total fertility rate (TFR) has dropped from 3.5 in 1961 to 1.7 in 2005. At the end of World War II, fewer than 3,000 Muslims lived in Australia. That number grew to around 22,000 in 1971 and - following an influx from Lebanon after the outbreak of the civil war - reached some 281,000 in 2001, when the most recent census was conducted.
Today estimated at more than 300,000, the Muslim population still remains a small percentage of the total.
But according to the Department of Foreign Affairs, the 2001 census revealed "a remarkable rate of growth" in Australia's Muslim population -- "an increase of some 40 percent in five years, while the Australian population as a whole only grew by 5.7 percent in the same period."
Vatican City, Feb 15, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has re-appointed indefinitely Cardinal Camillo Ruini as Vicar General for the Diocese of Rome and President of the Bishops’ Conference of Italy.
According to the Vatican Information Service, the re-appointment is for an indefinite period of time. Cardinal Ruini, whose term was scheduled to end on March 6, will turn 75 this Sunday.
According to the statutes of the Bishops’ Conference of Italy, the Pope himself, as Bishop of Rome, designates the president. Normally the post is held in five-year periods.
Since 1991 Cardinal Ruini has been the Vicar General for the Diocese of Rome and archpriest of the Patriarchal Basilica of St. John Lateran’s, and has been grand chancellor of the Pontifical Lateran University.
Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 15, 2006 (CNA) - Responding to statements about the family by candidates of the upcoming elections, the Archbishop of Guadalajara, Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, said the family is under attack both in Mexico and throughout the world by sectors that are undeterred by the disintegration of many homes.
The cardinal called the statements of some of the candidates, who said they would uphold the law, “vain answers” and that they failed to recognize that they are the ones responsible for creating laws.
After having met recently with two of the presidential candidates, Cardinal Íñiguez said he would consider meeting with a third candidate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, of the PRD party, during his upcoming visit to Guadalajara.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Feb 15, 2006 (CNA) - In an article published by the AICA news agency, Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata, Argentina, has questioned statistics being used by the country’s Minister of Health, Gines Gonzalez Garcia, who claims that more than 800,000 back-alley abortions are taking place each year in Argentina.
In his article entitled, “Truths, Half-truths and Lies,” Archbishop Aguer wonders, “How is it possible to keep track of two thousand clandestine procedures per day? If it were based on estimates, it would be good to know how they were calculated. Perhaps by how many of these illegal actions are reported?”
The archbishop recalled the famous case of Dr. Bernard Nathanson, “who was director of the largest ‘sexual health’ clinic in the world, where he personally carried out some 5000 abortions. Later, when participating in scientific studies on the fetus inside the womb, he recognized that the fruit of conception is a human being from the very first moment and he became a special witness against the abortion movement.”
Nathanson revealed that in 1968, abortion supporters maintained that “in the United States a million back-alley abortions were taking place, when we knew that in reality they only numbered about 10,000. But this number was of no use to them and therefore they inflated it in order to gain attention. We also constantly repeated that deaths by back-alley abortions numbered some 10,000, when we knew they were only 200--that’s all--but this number was too small for the propaganda. This tactic of deceit and lies, if it is repeated enough, ends up being accepted as truth.”
Archbishop Aguer explained that “in presenting this background I’m not pretending to judge intentions, but I do want to remind people that there is an international campaign led by numerous organizations, politicians at all levels and effect communications media. They constitute a network with abundant resources for shaping world opinion.”
He warned that in order to counteract the suspicious data, the government has implemented an official reproductive health program that, “under the euphemism of ‘sexual education,’ provides biased information and contraceptives and condoms to adolescents and young people, and spreads a double fallacy.”
“First, it does not provide information about the potentially anti-implantation—in other words, abortifacient--effect of hormonal contraceptives (like the drug levonorgestrel and others) and the Intra-Uterine Device (IUD),” the archbishop explained. “The second fallacy is implicit in the carefree distribution of condoms and the promotion of their use, in an attempt to instill the practice of ‘safe sex’. People should be warned, at least, that it is not so safe.”
The archbishop also pointed to numerous studies that show the ineffectiveness of condoms in preventing the spread of the AIDS virus and other sexually transmitted diseases.
“The campaign sponsored by the country’s Ministry of Health seems oriented toward fostering a false sense of security that does not favor authentically responsible sexual behavior. Thus children and adolescents are misguided, with all of the consequences that can easily be foreseen. Our people, especially our youth and the poor masses, have a right to be told the entire truth,” the archbishop said in conclusion.
Cologne, Germany, Feb 15, 2006 (CNA) - Speaking on Vatican Radio about the upcoming first anniversary of the death of Sister Lucia, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, Archbishop of Cologne, said the last surviving witness of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima was a nun “filled with common sense and trust in God.”
Sister Lucia died one year ago at the Carmelite Monastery of Coimbra. Francisco and Jacinta Marto, the other two children who witnessed the apparitions, were beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2000.
Cardinal Meisner, who was a personal acquaintance of Sister Lucia, shared his memories of the late nun with Vatican Radio. He remembered her as “a very sober religious; she was the treasurer of the monastery. She was a sister full of good humor, common sense and great trust in God,” he said.
Recalling his last visit with her three years ago in Fatima, the cardinal said he brought her a white cassock as a gift from Pope John Paul II. “As I gave it to her,” he said, “she took it into her hands and said, ‘It would have been even better if the Pope came with it’.”
Sister Lucia died in 2005 at the age of 97. The Church celebrates the feast of Francisco and Jacinta Marto on February 20. This Sunday the body of Sister Lucia will be transferred to the Basilica at Fatima. The ceremony will be broadcast live on EWTN (www.ewtn.com).