Vatican City, Feb 28, 2006 (CNA) - The Vatican announced today that Pope Benedict XVI, along with members of the Roman Curia will begin their annual Lenten spiritual exercises this Sunday, led by Cardinal Marco Ce, patriarch emeritus of Venice, Italy.
This year, the Pope and Roman Curia will reflect on the theme, "Walking with Jesus towards Easter." The exercises will be held in the Vatican’s Redemptoris Mater Chapel, which is housed in the Apostolic Palace.
The Vatican likewise announced that the retreat will begin with Eucharistic exposition, evening Vespers and an introductory meditation, followed by adoration and a Eucharistic blessing.
During the days following, the Pope and Curia will participate in a daily schedule of Lauds and meditation at 9 a.m., Terce and meditation at 10.15 a.m., another set of meditations at 5 p.m., concluding with Vespers, adoration and a Eucharistic blessing at 5.45 p.m.
The spiritual exercises will end on the morning of Saturday, March 11, with the celebration of Lauds and a closing meditation.
The Vatican also noted that during the course of the retreat, all audiences will be cancelled, including the Pope’s weekly general audience on Wednesday, March 8th.
Seoul, South Korea, Feb 28, 2006 (CNA) - Korea’s second cardinal, Archbishop Cheong Jin-suk, has suggested that North Korea would not get a papal visit as long as the Communist country does not allow entry to Catholic priests, reported the Korea Times.
“We have demanded several times that Pyongyang accept Catholic priests of any nationality. However, North Korea keeps saying it is not time yet. Therefore, it is difficult for the pontiff to pay a visit to the North,” the archbishop told reporters.
He spoke Monday during his first official press conference since being named Korea’s second cardinal last week. The press conference was held at Myongdong Catholic Cathedral in central Seoul.
Prior to visiting Pyongyang himself, the newly named cardinal said reconciliation between the two countries had to be achieved. “I think the two Koreas first need to apologize to each other for their past deeds,” he told reporters.
However, the cleric pledged that the South Korean church would continue to support the North with humanitarian aid, including food. Over the last 10 years, the Catholic Church in Korea has sent $10-million worth of aid.
Before Korea’s liberation, North Korea had around 58 Catholic churches and around 55,000 followers, but during the Korean War all of the churches were destroyed.
The archbishop said there might be up to 3,000 Catholics in North Korea, but the number is not confirmed.
CNA STAFF, Feb 28, 2006 (CNA) - In an interview with the Catholic News Agency, Archbishop Jorge Urosa Sabino of Caracas, who will be made a cardinal by Pope Benedict in March, said the main challenge facing the Church in Venezuela is that of “evangelization” and that there is an urgent need to work together to overcome the roots of division that are affecting the country.
What was your reaction to news of your appointment, being the only Latin American bishop to be chosen by the Pope?
“One of immense gratitude to God and to Pope Benedict XVI, but at the same time of great humility because I believe it is an honor that the Holy Father wished to confer on the Church in Caracas and in Venezuela at a time in which it needs support. But also one of fear of trembling because belonging to the College of Cardinals implies a life of greater perfection, greater consecration to the Lord, of service in fidelity to the Holy Father and the Church. I can identify greatly with the Church in Latin America, with CELAM, with my brother bishops and archbishops and certainly my work will reflect that fraternal bond we all have as Catholics and in particular as bishops of Latin America.”
What is the role of the Church in Venezuela’s upcoming elections in December?
“In Venezuela the Church is called to be a source of unity at a time in which there is much division, discord and distrust. We have the task of working to overcome these divisions, so that this distrust is diminished and love, trust and harmony are fostered among all Venezuelans. This is the task that from a social point of view corresponds to the Church, to the bishops, and to me as a cardinal.”
How do you see the relationship between Church and State in Venezuela? What are your expectations and hopes in this area?
My hope is that a climate of understanding and dialogue will cool things down, as hot tempers do nothing to contribute to the country’s progress. We hope for greater serenity and harmony, that the different political sectors will be more understanding instead of constantly confronting one another, that there may be a greater tendency to build bridges for solving the serious problems Venezuela is facing, and that there would be a political agreement to return public trust to the Venezuelan electoral system.
I wish to call on all Venezuelans to fully live the glorious Christian faith that we have, which leads us to a life of love, working for justice, for solidarity, for the poor with great zeal and generosity, so that the name, the love and the glory of Jesus Christ, our Lord, be made present in the world.
We know the challenges for the Church in the world are great, but what are the specific challenges facing the Church in Venezuela?
The main challenge is that of evangelization. In a country in which the population has increased greatly in recent years there is a need for deep evangelization, that New Evangelization which the Holy Father John Paul II spoke about, and of course, there is a need for renewal in the Church in the spirit of the Plenary Council which concluded in August of 2005, the conclusions of which, once approved by the Holy See, will be implemented in order to spurn growth and spiritual renewal full of the paschal joy, with truly apostolic enthusiasm in all sectors of the Church in Venezuela.
How do you see the situation of the Church in Venezuela?
The Church is alive, moving forward, and working hard—of course with the problems we have because of a shortage of priests and religious, but the Church is moving. We have always been well received and given great credibility by the Venezuelan people, such that conditions are ripe for us to continue working for the evangelization, for the poor and for that fundamental renewal of the Church in our country.
Konigstein, Germany, Feb 28, 2006 (CNA) - The mass distribution of fluorescent plastic figures of the Christ Child of 9cm is causing a resurgence of interest in Catholicism with reports that 350,000 statues were distributed across Cuba within one month.
In what is thought to be the first official figures of their kind, a report by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) shows a significant increase in the number of practising Catholics with up to 90,000 now receiving communion weekly.
The statistics were collated with help from Carmelite nuns in the capital, Havana, who bake communion wafers for most of the dioceses spread across the island.
But as churches across the country report an increase in Church attendance in the wake of the baby Jesus initiative, bishops are convinced they have captured the imagination of the people and are putting together another order for yet more of the sacred figures.
In a message to ACN, which funded the baby Jesus initiative, Archbishop Juan Garcia, who heads up mission outreach across Cuba, president of the Bishop’s Conference of the Cuban Bishop’s, wrote that the initiative was the gift of the Holy Spirit: “We beg ACN for help so that more people can enjoy Christmas with the Baby Jesus”.
“We have had many testimonies praising the figures and so just think what Christmas 2006 could be like if we could have more of them, just think what it could mean for people who want to know Jesus more deeply.”
The initiative is being perceived as a milestone for religious expression in Cuba with reports of no difficulties with the Cuban authorities, through the work of the thousands of voluntary missioners who distributed the baby Jesus figures across the island.
Many travelled up to 20km by foot, knocking on doors and inviting people to receive the little statue complete with a leaflet explaining the initiative and the importance of Jesus and the nativity.
They also took the opportunity to visit the sick and infirm and bolster community spirit.
For information about Cuba’s baby Jesus initiative or to make a donation, contact Aid to the Church in Need.
Milwaukee, Wis., Feb 28, 2006 (CNA) - A magnificent exhibit of more than 300 priceless Vatican artifacts has made its way to the Milwaukee Public Museum.
The exhibit, called The Legacy of the Popes, has been on a North American tour, stopping in Houston, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Cincinnati, San Diego, Montreal and San Antonio before its arrival in Milwaukee. It is expected to attract about 120,000 visitors before it returns to the Vatican May 7.
Most of the artifacts were released from the permanent collections of the Vatican museums. A few of the more memorable pieces include a bronze cast of Pope John Paul II's hand, made in 2002, the objects used during the election of Pope Benedict XVI, such as the canister that produced the black and white smoke, and robes and headwear from popes dating back to the 1800s.
The Mandylion of Edessa is also attracting much attention. It is a small piece of linen in a frame of gold and jewels that dates back to the third to fifth century. On it is the imprint of a face, said to be that of Jesus. .
There is also a section of the exhibit that replicates the scaffolding Michelangelo used to paint the Sistine Chapel. Other artifacts include gifts that the popes have received from various historical figures, including Napoleon and the Dalai Lama.
Nashville, Tenn., Feb 28, 2006 (CNA) - The Diocese of Nashville welcomed their new pastoral leader Feb. 27 with the Episcopal ordination of Bishop David Choby.
The ordination, held at the Cathedral of the Incarnation, was attended by hundreds of faithful and well-wishers who gathered to see one of their native sons elevated to the episcopate. He is only the second priest of the Diocese of Nashville to be named bishop; the others have all come from outside the diocese.
The much-loved pastor had served for 17 years at St. John Vianney Parish in Gallatin, Tenn.
Archbishop Thomas Kelly of Louisville was the main celebrant. Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the recently named apostolic nuncio in the United States, also attended as the Pope’s representative. About 30 bishops participated.
Pope Benedict appointed the 58-year-old Nashville native Dec. 20 to succeed Bishop Edward Kmiec, who was assigned the new pastoral charge of Buffalo, N.Y.
Prior to his ordination, hundreds of his parishioners at St. John Vianney held a farewell party for him at the local Catholic elementary school, which was built during his time at the parish.
The people applauded when he entered in his Episcopal garb and waited patiently for their turn to greet him and shake his hand. Parishioners, both young and old, left notes for their pastor, expressing their love for him and wishing him well. One young girl said she thought he would make “a great pope some day.”
Bishop Choby was ordained a priest in 1974 and holds a canon law degree. He served in several parishes and the diocesan tribunal. He was on the faculty of the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, (1984-89) and currently serves on the seminary’s board.
The Diocese of Nashville has 75,000 Catholics in 51 parishes and three missions.
Washington D.C., Feb 28, 2006 (CNA) - A national Catholic advocacy organization is urging South Dakota governor Mike Rounds to sign House Bill 1215, which would ban most abortions in the state. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Roger Hunt, is widely viewed as a direct assault on Roe v. Wade.
Fidelis has worked with constitutional experts to provide South Dakota with assistance on the legislation. Lawyer and former state representative Matt McCaulley, who introduced a similar ban in the 2004, served as a lobbyist for Fidelis throughout the process.
“This is the leading edge of a growing women’s movement to protect women and children from the disastrous effects of abortion,” said Fidelis president Joseph Cella. “South Dakota has taken a necessary and bold step toward protecting the real rights of women.”
Fidelis vice-president Brian Burch remarked on the vast research that now exists on the harms of abortion to women. "This growing body of evidence puts South Dakota in a very strong position because the courts are going to have to confront this explosive new information that was not available in the past," he stated.
Fidelis has committed to offering their resources to aid the state in preparing for a predictable legal challenge from Planned Parenthood once the governor signs the bill, said Burch.
People have been dropping off checks to support the legal defense of the bill, reported Fidelis. As well, the governor has said leaders from across the country, including other state governors, have pledged support to the bill.
Vatican City, Feb 28, 2006 (CNA) - A new document addressing the unique issue of pastoral care for the world’s heavily-persecuted population of Gypsies, saw light today during a presentation at the Vatican’s Press Office.
The document, entitled simply, "Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of Gypsies," stresses the defense of the ethnic group’s cultural identity and argues that no Christian should be indifferent to the marginalization of an entire people.
The wide-ranging text was presented by Cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao and Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, who are president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, respectively.
Groups of pastoral workers, cultural experts and gypsies themselves contributed to the document. It is split into two major sections; one on an overall view of the Church and gypsies, and a second, which looks at specific pastoral questions.
Cardinal Hamao began by explaining that the Holy See first recognized the need for a special form of pastoral care for gypsies in 1965, “after the first historic international pilgrimage of gypsies to Rome, by creating the International Secretariat for the Apostolate of Nomads." This office was later integrated into the Pontifical Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migration and Tourism which was created by Pope Paul VI in 1970.
He said that while the document specifically addresses care for gypsies--who number some 15 million in Europe alone--"it is equally valid for other nomads, who share similar conditions of life in the various continents.”
The Cardinal pointed out that the Church must take into account the ethnicity, culture and age-old traditions of these peoples, and because of this, “local Churches, in countries where they live, should find pastoral inspiration in these Guidelines, ... adapting them to the circumstances, needs and requirements of each group."
He also noted many positive signs of growth among the ethnicity, citing "a growing desire to attain literacy and professional formation, social and political awareness…increasing participation in local and national management in some countries, and the presence of women in social and civic life."
He also recalled the enthusiastic participation of gypsies at "the beatification of the Spanish martyr Ceferino Jimenez Malla, the first gypsy to be raised to the honor of the altar."
Although, he said, the nomadic quality of gypsy life in some way reflects the condition of all mankind - "homo viator" - gypsies' right to identity often comes up against the "indifference or opposition" of many people, who "share habitual prejudices towards them. Signs of rejection persist, often without eliciting any reaction or protest from those who witness them."
This, he said, “has caused untold suffering in the course of history, as we know,” pointing out that “their persecution reached its height especially during the past century.”
“Obviously”, he stressed, “the Church too should recognize their right to have their own identity, and stir consciences in order to achieve greater justice for them."
The new Vatican guidelines," he concluded, "are a sign that the Church has a particular concern for gypsies, meaning that they are the receiver of a special pastoral action in appreciation of their culture. ... In fact, everyone should be welcomed in the Church, where there is no place for marginalization and exclusion."
Pastoral, Governmental care
During his own presentation, Archbishop Marchetto discussed pastoral activity itself, first noting that "the peculiar nature of gypsy culture makes evangelization merely 'from the outside' ineffective."
At the same time, he said however, "a genuine incarnation of the Gospel - called inculturation - cannot indiscriminately legitimize every aspect of their culture…Indeed, the universal history of evangelization affirms that the spread of the Christian message has always been accompanied by a process of purification of cultures.”
Bearing this in mind however, the Archbishop said that “purification does not mean emptying, but some amount of integration with the surrounding culture will be necessary: it is an intercultural process.”
“Reconciliation and communion between gypsies and non-gypsies, therefore, include legitimate interaction between cultures."
The Pontifical Council secretary went on to praise the "strong sense of family…seen among gypsies," but warned that this "should not degenerate, for instance, into perennial resentment between families and clans."
He also stressed the need among gypsies for equal rights between men and women and said that "honesty at work is a civic and Christian virtue, which cannot be disregarded."
The Archbishop admitted that “gypsies are a special minority because they have no country of origin to give them the support they might need and this means the lack of political guarantees and some degree of civil protection.”
He said that “while the arrival of other people seeking refuge and of 'boat people' enables mobilization of a given number of people and governments, that of gypsies usually brings about rejection, even if they come from very poor countries, and are sometimes forced to flee due to religious, racial or political persecution."
This situation, he opined, can only be overcome with a common and comprehensive global policy, pointing out that "it is vitally important that international organizations take an interest in gypsies."
Evangelization of gypsies, Archbishop Marchetto said, "is a mission of the whole Church, because no Christian should remain indifferent to a situation of marginalization with respect to ecclesial communion.”
He added that within catechesis, “it is important to include dialogue that allows gypsies to express how they perceive and experience their relationship with God. Therefore, it is necessary to assess the convenience of translating the Bible, the various liturgical texts and prayer books, into the languages used by the different ethnic groups."
The Vatican noted that the new document will soon be translated and available for viewing at the Holy See’s website: www.vatican.va.
Rome, Italy, Feb 28, 2006 (CNA) - The Pope’s vicar general for the Diocese of Rome, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, is inviting the faithful to participate in ceremonies on April 2 and 3 to commemorate the first anniversary of the passing of Pope John Paul II.
According to Europa Press, the cardinal sent a letter to all pastors, religious superiors and faithful of Rome announcing two events to commemorate the anniversary and give thanks to God “for the gift [Pope John Paul II] has meant for the Church and humanity.”
The first event will be a prayer vigil and rosary on Sunday, April 2, in St. Peter’s Square, which will hearken to the intense atmosphere of prayer that prevailed on the night the late Pontiff died. After the recitation of the rosary, Pope Benedict XVI will greet the faithful from the window of his study.
The second event will be a commemorative Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Monday, April 3.
In his letter, Cardinal Ruini explained that the purpose of gathering together to pray with the current Pope is to express “the intense and profound feelings of gratitude that we hold in our hearts for our beloved Pontiff.”
Lima, Peru, Feb 28, 2006 (CNA) - While commenting on Pope Benedict XVI’s Lenten message, the Archbishop of Lima, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani, underscored the importance of the “interior pilgrimage” that should lead us to Christ.
During his radio program “Dialogue of Faith,” the cardinal called on Catholics to engage in a healthy “examination of conscience during this season of Lent in order to determine where we should go; because, as the Pope said, it is not possible to respond to our material and social needs if we do not first reform our hearts.”
This includes political reform, he continued, and with elections approaching, it must be made clear that that only leaving behind that which is negative and sinful, and “not structures,” can change hearts. “When someone does not want to accept that God has a plan, that person makes himself into a god and proposes economic, social and political ideas that are impossible to carry out. These grandiose dreams we hear about during political campaigns in which everyone assumes a divine role. When the people demand proposals for solving their problems, what they get is a lot of empty promises,” he warned.
Cardinal Cipriani also thanked listeners for the many letters and cards congratulating him for his fifth anniversary as cardinal, and he asked for prayers to do “what God wills.”
Madrid, Spain, Feb 28, 2006 (CNA) - As the Spanish Senate is set to debate a new law on assisted reproduction, the association Professionals for Ethics has launched an effort to remind Spaniards of the dignity of the human embryo.
According to Begoña Sanchez Ramos, the coordinator of the effort, the group plans to air spots on local radio stations warning the public that experimentation or modification of human embryos is an offense against human dignity.
“Reality does not change just because the law calls an embryo a pre-embryo,” Sanchez stated, “because a genetic identity and human life are in the newly conceived and will be with it until death.”
The radio spots can be heard at the group’s website: www.profesionalesetica.com.