Vatican City, Feb 20, 2006 (CNA) - Earlier today, Pope Benedict XVI met with Ali Achour, Morocco’s new ambassador to the Holy See, with whom he stressed the dignity of immigrants and importance of respect and consideration for the religious beliefs and practices of different peoples.
Clearly referencing the recent violence over certain Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed-- an act utterly deplorable to Muslims--the Pope said that intolerance and violence are always incompatible with sacred traditions of religion.
After thanking Mr. Achour for the greetings of Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, the Holy Father expressed his esteem "for the tradition of welcome and understanding which has, for many centuries, characterized relations between the Kingdom of Morocco and the Catholic Church."
Recalling Morocco’s recent 50th anniversary celebration of its independence, the Pope praising the country’s expressed intent to move towards "a modern, democratic and prosperous future."
This achievement, he said, "must enable Moroccans to live in security and dignity, so that they can actively participate in the social and political life of the country."
Moving on, Benedict discussed what he called the "ever-closer collaboration between countries bordering on the Mediterranean Sea, ... which is called more than ever before to be a place of encounter and dialogue between peoples and cultures."
Likewise, he focused on a number of the serious problems faced by these countries, such as "the phenomenon of migration," which, he said, "constitutes an important factor in relations between States."
"In ever greater numbers,” the Pope said, “emigrants from less favored regions call at the gates of Europe in search of better living conditions."
“Therefore,” he pointed out, “it is necessary "that institutions in the countries of destination and transit, do not consider these people as a mere commodity or labor force, and that they respect their fundamental rights and their dignity."
"The precarious situation of so many foreigners must favor solidarity between the countries involved, so as to contribute to the development of the emigrants' places of origin,” the Pope added.
“In fact,” he said, “these problems cannot be solved only by national policies. Only ever-greater collaboration between all the nations concerned will favor the search for solutions to these painful problems."
Referring to Morocco's contribution to "the consolidation of dialogue between civilizations, cultures and religions," the Pope said that "in the current international context, the Catholic Church is convinced that, in order to support peace and understanding among peoples, ... there is an urgent need for religions and their symbols to be respected, and for believers not to be exposed to provocations that wound ... their religious feelings."
"Nonetheless," he said, "intolerance and violence can never be justified as a response to offence, because they are incompatible with the sacred principles of religion.”
Benedict said that “For this reason, we can only lament the actions of those who deliberately profit from the offence caused to religious sentiments in order to foment violence, because their aims are foreign to religion."
The Pope concluded his address, by telling the diplomat that for believers and people of good will alike, the only road that leads to peace and fraternity is that of "respect for the religious practices and convictions of others."
This is the case, he said, because "in all societies, everyone may be assured of the opportunity to practice the religion they have freely chosen."
Vatican City, Feb 20, 2006 (CNA) - Reflecting on Jesus’ miracles of physical healing, which are being described in the Sunday Gospel readings during the coming weeks, Pope Benedict XVI stressed on Sunday, that modern man is no less plagued by paralysis--namely caused by sin--and in need of God’s healing and mercy, than the scriptural figures in Jesus’ time were.
Before praying his Sunday Angelus with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope spoke specifically on the healing of the paralytic man, recounted in Sunday's liturgy from the Gospel of Mark which, he said, represents the image of human beings "prevented by sin from moving freely ... and from giving the best of themselves.”
“Indeed”, he said, “evil, taking root in the soul, binds man ... and little by little paralyzes him.”
It is for this reason, Benedict said, that Jesus “first says: 'your sins are forgiven,' and only afterwards adds: 'rise, take up your pallet and go home.' ... The message is clear. Man, paralyzed by sin, has need of the mercy of God that Christ came to give him, so that, healed in his heart, all his life can again blossom."
He added that "Today too, humans bear the mark of sin that prevents them from making swift progress in those values of fraternity, justice and peace that they have proposed in solemn declarations.”
Asking why this is the case, the Pope pointed out that “In historical terms, we well know that there are many causes and that the problem is a complex one; but the Word of God invites us to look with faith and, like the men who carried the paralytic, to trust that only Jesus can truly heal."
Reflecting on his forbearers, "especially the beloved John Paul II," Benedict commended their fundamental choice "to lead the men and women of our time to Christ the Redeemer so that ... He may heal them.”
“I too”, he said, “wish to continue along this road. In particular with my first Encyclical 'Deus caritas est,' I sought to show believers and the whole world that God is the source of authentic love.”
“Only the love of God”, the Pope added, “can renew the heart of man, and only if cured at heart can paralyzed humanity once again arise and walk."
After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father called to mind the catastrophic landslide which recently destroyed two villages in the Philippines.
"I ask you," he told the crowd, "to join me in praying for the victims, their loved ones and all those affected. May the grieving families experience the consolation of the Lord's presence and rescue workers be assured of our support and concern."
Vatican City, Feb 20, 2006 (CNA) - On Saturday, Pope Benedict XVI met with some 400 permanent deacons from around Rome, telling them that they have a unique, family-oriented ministry to evangelize with the truth of the Gospel and a spirit of charity toward the poor.
The meeting came on the 25th anniversary of the reinstatement of the ecclesial ministry of permanent deacons in the diocese of Rome.
The Holy Father told them that above all, "Union with Christ, cultivated through prayer, sacramental life and especially Eucharistic adoration is of the utmost importance to your ministry, in order that it truly bear witness to the love of God."
Benedict thanked the deacons for their parish service in Rome, especially noting their pastoral concern for Baptisms and the family. Likewise, he highlighted how they must be "servants of the Truth.”
“By announcing the Gospel,” he said, “you will offer a Word capable of illuminating and giving meaning to the work of mankind and to the suffering of the sick, and you will help the new generations discover the beauty of Christian faith.”
“In this way,” he continued, “you will be deacons of the Truth that makes people free, and you will lead the inhabitants of this city to encounter Jesus Christ. For men and women, welcoming the Redeemer into their lives is a source of profound joy, a joy that can bring peace even in moments of trial."
Stressing the idea that evangelization must be accompanied by a witness of charity, Pope Benedict called to mind the large number of poor people, "many of them from countries far from Italy," who come to Roman parishes in search of help.
He told the permanent deacons: "Welcome these brothers and sisters with great cordiality and openness, and seek, as far as possible, to help them in their need."
The Holy Father told the group that "My gratitude goes out to those of you committed to this silent and daily witness of charity. Through your service, the poor also become aware of being part of the great family of the children of God, which is the Church."
Calling the vocation of deacons "a special grace for your family life,” Benedict said that “in this way, [they are] called to be ever more open to welcoming the will of the Lord and the needs of the Church.”
Concluding, he asked that the Lord would “reward the readiness with which your wives and children accompany you in your service to the entire ecclesial community."
Vatican City, Feb 20, 2006 (CNA) - On Saturday, the Holy See’s Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano presented Pope Benedict XVI with the Vatican’s annual report on the state of the Church which, this year, summarized the first year of his pontificate.
Also on hand for the presentation were Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute for General Affairs, and various officials responsible for compiling and printing the volume.
The 2006 “Annuario Pontificio," or pontifical yearbook, showed that in 2005, 15 new Episcopal sees were created as well as one metropolitan see, and one apostolic administration; 170 new bishops, it said, were also appointed.
Likewise, it clarified the fact that from 2003-2004, Catholics compiled a population of 1,098 million within a greater world population of 6,388 million.
Over this period, the Vatican noted, the number of faithful increased in absolute terms by 12 million (or 1.1 percent). However, the report showed that compared with the increase in the world population, which in the same period grew from 6,301 million to 6,388 million, the relative percentage of Catholics dropped from 17,2 percent in 2003 to 17.1 percent in 2004
It was also noted that in 2004, the number of world priests stood at 405,891 (one third of them regular and two thirds diocesan), with their numbers increasing by 441 over the period 2003-2004.
Likewise, the number of permanent deacons has been growing since 1978, and in 2004 stood at 32,324, most of them in North America and Europe.
The report most notably shows that vocations to religious life and the priesthood worldwide are growing, although it specifically shows that the most numerous exist in Africa and Asia, while numbers in Europe are falling--something Pope Benedict has expressed his deep desire to change.
Vatican City, Feb 20, 2006 (CNA) - Earlier this morning, Pope Benedict met with prelates from the Catholic Bishops Conference of Senegal, Mauritania, Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau on Africa, with whom he stressed the need for harmony and strong faith formation in an area often wracked by violence, poverty and being home to a diverse religious population.
The Holy Father told the Bishops, who had just completed their regular “ad limina” visits, that the great variety of human and ecclesial situations in these particular Churches often makes it difficult to harmonize pastoral activities.
Despite this, he stressed that "the ties of communion are essential for an ever-greater apostolic fruitfulness and in order to carry out the mission received from the Lord."
"Walking alongside their people," the Pope said, "bishops must guide, encourage and coordinate evangelizing action, that the faith may grow and spread among human beings. In this way, the Gospel must take full root in the cultures of your peoples."
He also pointed out that "in order to remain faithful to baptismal commitments, each individual must receive a solid education in the faith, so as to be able to face up to the new phenomena of modern life, such as growing urbanization, the unemployment of many young people, material seductions of all kinds and the influence of ideas of varying provenance."
Benedict went on, recalling what he called the generous collaboration of priests in the work of evangelization. He particularly called on the bishops to initially and permanently form these priests so as to render them "humanly and spiritually balanced, capable of responding to the challenges they must face, both in their personal and their pastoral lives."
He also called for "a solid spiritual formation to fortify their intimate life with God in prayer and contemplation, and to enable them to discern the presence and action of the Lord in the persons entrusted to their pastoral mission."
Admittedly, the Pope said, the Church in this part of Africa "expresses her love for others in a very visible way, with her commitment to social development", embodied in numerous ecclesial structures at the service of the poorest.
Likewise, he pointed out how many non-Christians, especially Muslims, collaborate in this service.
"Efforts”, he said, “made towards a meeting in truth of believers from different religious traditions will contribute to achieving the real good of people and of society."
"It is vital," the Holy Father added, "that fraternal relations between communities be rendered more profound, in order to favor the harmonious development of society, recognizing the dignity of each individual and allowing everyone the free expression of their religion."
Before closing his address to the bishops, Pope Benedict noted the current tensions in Guinea-Bissau and recalled the efforts of the local Church there "to promote dialogue and cooperation among all the elements of the country."
He called on all the prelates - "through the word illuminated by faith, constant witness of faithfulness to the Gospel and generous pastoral service" - to continue to be "sure points of reference and guidance for all your countrymen."
, Feb 20, 2006 (CNA) - New York’s second highest court ruled Feb. 16 that same-sex couples have no right to a marriage license under existing state law, reported Jan LaRue, chief counsel for Concerned Women of America.
The decision in Samuels v. New York State Health Department said marriage is the foundation upon which the perpetuation of society and civilization rest and changes to the definition of marriage must be played out in the Legislature and not in the courts.
The court found that both Congress, by the enactment of the “Federal Defense of Marriage Act,” and “nearly all state legislatures that have addressed the issue have similarly maintained the traditional definition of marriage.”
The court rejected plaintiffs’ arguments that the New York Domestic Relations Law limits marriage licenses to opposite-sex couples and therefore “violates their due process, equal protection and free speech provisions of the New York Constitution.” The court concluded that the Due Process Clause does not require “a judicial redefinition of marriage.”
It concluded that children “will have better opportunities to be nurtured and raised by two parents” who are married and of opposite sex, and that the statute did not discriminate on the basis of gender because it applies equally to men and to women.
The plaintiffs will appeal the decision to the New York Court of Appeals. A decision in a similar case in Washington is expected soon.
, Feb 20, 2006 (CNA) - Dozens of Portland-area Catholics are following a new program, which has been transforming lives through the social teachings of the Church.
Archdiocesan justice and peace director David Carrier describes the JustFaith program “a conversion-based learning process that seeks to integrate personal spirituality and social ministry.”
He told reporter Ed Langlois that participants form community with peers in sessions that are “challenging and life-giving.”
“The aim of JustFaith is to empower participants to develop a passion and thirst for justice and to express this passion in concrete acts of parish social ministry,” he was quoted as saying.
JustFaith gathers people at St. Cecilia Parish in Beaverton, St. Andrew in Northeast Portland and St. Anthony in Southeast Portland. Until May, they will study Scripture, papal encyclicals, the lives of Catholic social justice workers, like Dom Helder Camera and Dorothy Day, as well as take social action.
Many participants are experiencing conversions of the heart and utter transformations in the way they live their faith and reach out to those in need. Marilyn Newton, 69, told reporter Ed Langlois that she believes few Catholics know about the social teachings of the Church, leaving their political consciences “very under-informed.” She said she is learning to “care for those who Jesus cared for most.”
Since taking the program, Newton is doing things she has never done before. This year, instead of buying Christmas gifts, she donated money to a good cause in the names of loved ones. She and her husband served fair-trade coffee after Mass.
She also worked as a greeter recently with other members of the JustFaith group during a day to serve the Portland homeless at Memorial Coliseum. Others helped folks find the doctors, dentists, housing specialists and others who had come to offer services for the day.
JustFaith was developed in collaboration with Catholic Charities, Catholic Campaign for Human Development, and Catholic Relief Services. For more on JustFaith, go to www.justfaith.org.
Washington D.C., Feb 20, 2006 (CNA) - Buddhists and Christians learned more about their most basic, if contrasting, convictions and agreed to develop more collaborative social justice projects at their fourth dialogue last month.
The Jan. 26-29 meeting between Catholics and Zen and Ch’an Buddhists was held at Mercy Center, Burlingame, CA, on the theme, “Meeting on the Path.” It was co-chaired by Bishop John Wester, auxiliary bishop of San Francisco, and Rev. Alan Senauke of the Berkeley Zen Center.
Participants examined in depth the nature of the human person. Dr. Martin Verhoeven presented a paper on the essential Buddhist teaching of non-self, explaining that the belief in a permanent “self” is the root of the bondage of sentient beings to the cycle of rebirth.
Mary Ann Donovan of the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley illustrated the emergence of a distinctly Christian “anthropology” by discussing the life and thought of St. Paul, St. Antony of Egypt and his biographer, St. Athanasius of Alexandria, and St. Augustine of Hippo. Donovan illustrated how the revelation of Jesus Christ reshaped Hellenistic philosophical categories. Participants took note of the continuities between Jewish and Christian views of the person as a unitary whole.
Fr. Francis Tiso of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs pointed out the need to recover an understanding of the impact of Hellenism on the Judaism of New Testament times.
Fr. Robert Hale presented the anonymous author of the Cloud of Unknowing, and other works of late 14th-century English mysticism, as representing a model spiritual director and spiritual disciple.
Participants also discussed Buddhist-Catholic collaboration in social outreach projects. Lorraine Moriarty and Alan Senauke spoke about a prison ministry program in the Bay Area in which Catholics and Buddhists are collaborating. Such ministry includes prison visitation, meditation groups, and assistance to the families of prisoners, and raises awareness about the death penalty.
Participants called for more collaborative efforts in the areas of immigration, the death penalty and peace making. Buddhist participants requested copies of recent Catholic documents on these topics. Participants were also invited to offer new models for this dialogue, bringing in more emphasis on shared contemplative practice.
A steering committee will continue the work of this dialogue and meet in early May to confirm plans for the next meeting, scheduled for Jan. 25-28, 2007.
Pierre, S.D., Feb 20, 2006 (CNA) - The South Dakota Senate State Affairs Committee passed legislation Feb. 17 that will ban abortion in the state. HB 1215 moved out of committee with a 5-2 vote. It is expected to face a final vote in the full Senate by Thursday.
The South Dakota House already has overwhelmingly approved the measure that would make South Dakota the first state to ban abortion since the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. It is hoped that Gov. Mike Rounds will sign the legislation, which will likely face a challenge in the federal courts.
“We are proud of the state of South Dakota for taking a leadership roll in what is becoming a movement to challenge head-on the facts of Roe that we believe were wrongly decided in 1973,” said Operation Rescue president Troy Newman, who was present the historic vote. Operation Rescue a leading pro-life Christian organization.
Five other states — Indiana, Georgia, Tennessee, Ohio, and Kentucky — have introduced similar abortion bans, which are currently working their ways through the state legislatures.
“What we are seeing is the beginning of a revolt in the states that no longer wish to tolerate the shedding of innocent blood on their soil,” said Newman. “We are encouraged that we are seeing the beginnings of a movement that will soon put an end to abortion in America once and for all.”
, Feb 20, 2006 (CNA) - Catholic League president William Donohue, decried the suspensions of the editor-in-chief and the opinions page editor of the Daily Illini, the student newspaper at the Urbana-Champaign campus of the University of Illinois, for republishing cartoons that mock the Prophet Mohammed, arguing the suspensions were hypocritical of the school’s chancellor.
The school did not handle "anti-Catholic fare" the same way. Herman said a discussion of the cartoons should have taken place in lieu of republishing them.
"He's right, but that is not the way the university treats anti-Catholic fare on campus," said Catholic League President William Donohue in a statement.
"In March 1997, the same Urbana-Champaign campus displayed drawings by Michele Blondel that showed the red glass vaginas hanging inside European Roman Catholic cathedrals; two of them had red glass holy water cruets with crosses on them," said Donohue.
Donohue said he wrote a letter to the president objecting to the art display and the chancellor, Michael Aiken, replied, saying he regretted "that the art 'disappointed'" Donohue.
"He instructed, 'Most viewers find Blondel's art to be quite subtle as it invites the viewer to contemplate and reflect on topics as diverse as the body, the church, and architectural and religious symbolism.' Stupid me - I thought it was Catholic-bashing porn," said Donohue.
"His closer was precious: 'The University believes that true intellectual discourse extends not only to written communication but also to the visual.' Except when Muslims get angry," added Donohue.
"So what's changed? Do Catholics have to call for beheadings to get respect? How else to explain the condescending response I got, and the sympathetic response afforded Muslims? Similarly, nobody was disciplined for offending Catholics, but two kids have been suspended for offending Muslims!" concluded Donohue.
Konigstein, Germany, Feb 20, 2006 (CNA) - The Apostolic delegate for Greek-Catholics in Kazakhstan and Middle Asia, Fr. Vasyl Hovera, announced recently the unveiling of a new monument in memory of the Ukrainian martyrs of the gulag in a cemetery in the town of Dolinka.
The monument is a memorial to the many victims of the Russian prison system known as the Gulag, which was created by Josef Stalin and consisted of more than 100 concentration camps, where over 200,000 members of the clergy were imprisoned and many killed. Over all some 800,000 people were executed in the gulags.
The memorial especially honors Blessed Oleksiy Zarytskyi, who died in a gulag hospital in Dolinka on October 30, 1963, and was one of 27 martyrs beatified by Pope John Paul II on June 27, 2001. A chapel dedicated to the new martyr was inaugurated in 2001 at the Church of the Protection of the Mother of God in Karaganda.
As Redemptorist Fr. Vasyl Hovera said, “He tirelessly took care not only of Ukrainians but of Poles, Germans and Russians amid inhumane conditions.” Blessed Oleksiy Zarytskyi’s sister Maria, who is a nun at the Redemptorist Convent in Kazakhstan , joined in prayers and thanks to Aid to the Church in Need for the continuous assistance to the Contemplative Sisters, Carmelites, Franciscan and the Greek-Catholic Servants of Our Lady Immaculate. “They are united in vigils on the soil drenched with the blood of the New Martyrs,” she said.
Kazakhstan has 8 million Muslims and 6 million Russian Orthodox. There also are more than 500,000 Catholics, the grand children of the persecuted Catholic Church.
La Paz, Bolivia, Feb 20, 2006 (CNA) - Catholic Charities in Bolivia is preparing to launch an emergency assistance program to help the more than 9,000 people affected by widespread flooding and mudslides caused by heavy rainfall at the end of January. The organization has appealed to the worldwide network of Catholic Charities to order to effectively address the emergency that has caused over 14 deaths and scores of injuries in the regions of La Paz, Santa Cruz, Beni and Potosi.
Currently the organization is directing local offices to provide emergency sanitary assistance, food and clothing. It also plans to create aid programs to help farmers and ranchers in rural communities who have lost their livelihood as a result of the disaster.
Catholic Charities International has issued an urgent call to all regional branches around the world for donations to support the relief efforts in Bolivia. Catholic Charities in Spain responded immediately with a donation of $36,000.
Madrid, Spain, Feb 20, 2006 (CNA) - In an interview with the Archdiocese of Madrid’s news service Analisis Digital, the president of the Spanish Bishops’ Subcommittee on Family and Life, Bishop Juan Antonio Reig Pla, denounced the new law on assisted reproduction passed last week by the country’s House of Representatives, saying it opened the doors to such horrors as “bio-adultery and genetic incest.” The new law, he warned, would lead to “the silent and unstoppable suicide of our civilization.”
Bishop Reig called the new measure a “weapon of mass destruction of human lives” that constitutes an “attack on at least ten fundamental human rights.” He said it would facilitate “murderous behavior” by allowing the creation of “thousands of ‘leftover’ embryos that are frozen and condemned to an uncertain future.” The decision of who can be considered a person and who not would be arbitrarily left to the individual, he said, as during the first two weeks of life the human embryo is to be considered “mere biological material.”
Bishop Reig also decried the new law’s manipulation of language with its use of the term “pre-embryo,” which he said was a “deceptive” distortion of scientific terminology with no basis in biology.
The power to decide who lives and who dies constitutes a true “silent holocaust,” he added.
The new law would allow the cloning and harvesting human embryos for so-called “medical” purposes, which Bishop Reig said “introduces the dangerous precedent of the ends justifying the means.”
“No ends, however laudable, can justify the production of human beings,” he stated. “The dignity of each person demands he be treated as an end in himself and not a thing.” “Reproductive cloning and ‘therapeutic’ or ‘research’ cloning are not two different kinds of cloning,” he explained. “They imply the same technical process of cloning and differ only in the ends being pursued.” Both constitute “grave attacks” upon the dignity of the human person, the bishop said.
“Bio-adultery” and “genetic incest”
In explaining his objections to the new law, Bishop Reig underscored that each person “has the right to know his or her father and mother, and when that is not the case, incestuous sexual relations, among other grave consequences of a psychological and moral nature, are made possible.”
By producing human embryos in laboratories for the purpose of later donating them to others, he warned, “a great injustice is perpetuated: that of deliberately depriving them of the right to know and be raised by their father and their mother.” In this way the foundation is being laid for “a society without fathers and mothers and especially without the paternal presence, which constitutes a very grave attack upon the psychological integrity of children.” “All of this will lead to various psychological disorders, including the increase in the number of persons with homosexual and suicidal inclinations,” he went on.
“Because such individuals would not be aware of their own origins, incestuous sexual relations between direct ancestors and descendents or between brothers and sisters could occur, with many unforeseen biological and psychological consequences,” said Bishop Reig.
The law could also result in “bio-adultery” and “genetic incest,” he said, because the donation of not only embryos, but also of ova and sperm cells is always immoral. “The conjugating of one person’s gamete with that of someone who is not his or her spouse constitutes what we could call authentic ‘bio-adultery’,” said Bishop Reig.
Likewise, he continued, “anonymity in donating gametes makes it possible for a woman to conceive with the semen of her own father, grandfather or brother, thus producing a true ‘genetic incest,’ with, in this case as well, unforeseen biological and psychological consequences.”
“I hope our political representatives are conscientious when the time comes to vote on this bill. The stability of the very framework of the family and society is what’s at stake. Politicians, and especially if they are Catholic, should oppose the passage of this law with every licit means,” he said.
Spain’s Senate has yet to vote on the law.