Vatican City, Mar 7, 2006 (CNA) - This morning, the Vatican released a message sent by Pope Benedict XVI calling for disabled individuals--whom he said, possess the same full human dignity, worth, and rights as all human beings-- to be completely and compassionately inserted into society at large.
The Pope’s message was sent to Cardinal Geraldo Majella Agnelo, who is Archbishop of Sao Salvador da Bahia and president of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil, as the Brazilian Church celebrates their annual Lenten Fraternity Campaign.
In the Holy Father’s message, which was written in Portuguese, Benedict writes that the theme of this year's campaign - "Fraternity and Disabled People" - "promotes reflection and is an encouragement to renew the commandment to charity with greater force, especially towards people suffering some form of disability."
He continued however, saying that what is needed, is not simply "an attitude of tenderness and consolation," but the complete insertion into society of these "our brothers and sisters in Christ."
The Pope said that "even when the problems [of disabled people] touch their minds or their sensorial and intellective capacities, they remain fully human, with the sacred and inalienable rights that belong to humans.”
“Indeed,” he pointed out, “human beings, irrespective of the conditions in which they live and of the capacities they are capable of expressing, possess unique and extraordinary worth from the very beginning of their existence to the moment of natural death."
In his conclusion, Pope Benedict encouraged all people to “assume the dignity that God wished for us - which is an intrinsic part of this life.”
He particularly said that this means “adopting attitudes of commitment, at times heroic and worthy of eternal reward, not only for those who undergo such suffering, but also for those who help the most needy."
Phoenix, Ariz., Mar 7, 2006 (CNA) - Bishop Olmstead of Phoenix has put into question a controversial practice to administer Communion to an autistic child, a decision which has sparked critics against the Church from people unfamiliar to Catholic teaching.
The practice questioned by Phoenix Bishop is to give the communion to Mathew Moran an autistic child, with the boy taking the Communion wafer and placing it in his mouth. His father, Nick Moran, then removes it and consumes the host himself. “Matthew will not swallow even a tiny crumb of the host or a drop of wine with any regularity, frequently spitting them out”, he said.
The publisher of 'The Church Report' Magazine and CEO of Christy Media Questions the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix for its decision on this practice. Jason T. Christy, an evangelical, unfamiliar with the questions and practices within the Catholic Church about Communion said that “Once again, the Catholic church has demonstrated its inability to relate to its parishioners and error on the side of good.”
Another comment came from Denise Resnik, board chairwoman for the Southwest Autism Research Center and the mother of a boy who is dealing with autism. "We often seek comfort in our religion, and it would be nice to think the church would support them to the best degree possible."
The Catholic Church has told the parents of the 10-year-old autistic boy that, because the child cannot consume the host, he is not receiving Communion properly. Until he does, church officials say, he cannot partake of the church's most meaningful sacrament.
According to a letter from Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, delivered to the Lake Havasu City family on Feb. 12, the boy cannot accept Communion in the Catholic Church until he can "actually receive the Eucharist, actually take and eat." In his letter, Olmsted says, "Just to touch it to one's tongue is not to 'take and eat.' In other words, it is not the reception of Christ in the Eucharist. "So while your desire is for your son to receive Holy Communion, he is, in fact, only simulating doing so."
Phoenix Diocese officials contend that Matthew has not been prohibited from Communion, only that the bishop is "not able to approve the present practice," according to his letter. The diocese is not questioning Matthew's preparation or understanding of Communion.
The key rule is that the recipient must "consume" the host before leaving the area of reception. The consumption rule is written in both the directions for the Mass, called the "General Instruction of the Roman Missal," and in a Vatican document called "Redemptionis Sacramentum," the "Redeeming Sacrament."
Bishop Olmstead and the Diocese has offered assistance, which has come in the form of various hosts for Matthew to try, that are thinner than the norm, thicker, even smaller
"Matthew deserves to be able to take the Eucharist fully and completely," said Isabella Rice of the diocese Office on Disabilities and Pastoral Care. "As long as he is unable to do so, we will keep working with him."
, Mar 7, 2006 (CNA) - In an interview with Vatican Radio, the president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Archbishop Stanislao Rylko, said today’s ecclesial movements are “a powerful response of the Holy Spirit to the challenges of our time and a way of responding to the phenomenon of sects in Latin America and their cheap offerings of happiness.”
On March 9 the First Meeting of Ecclesial Movements will be held in Bogota, Colombia, as part of the preparations for the V Conference of the Latin American Bishops’ Council. More than 40 bishops and 50 members from different movements will participate in the gathering, which will have as its theme, “Followers and Missionaries of Christ Today.”
Archbishop Rylko told Vatican Radio the new movements are a powerful response of the Holy Spirit to the challenges of our time and to the “cheap promises of happiness” made by “false preachers,” as well as being powerful tools in the formation of adults in the faith.
The spread of fundamentalist sects is a great problem in Latin America, the archbishop said, noting that “the strength of many of these sects lies in the small size of their communities and the warmth they offer. Precisely because of this our ecclesial communities are a correct and exact response to this type of challenge.”
Archbishop Rylko recalled the comments of Pope Benedict who, when he was still a cardinal, pointed out that the faithful can truly feel at home in the ecclesial movements, “without adopting a ghetto-mentality, but rather manifesting a universal openness to the entire world.” “This is the way in which our communities can and should respond to sects,” the archbishop said.
Steubenville, Ohio, Mar 7, 2006 (CNA) -
Ohio’s small Franciscan University of Steubenville has announced its unique contribution to an upcoming Vatican meeting which will explore the meaning and role of beauty in faith and culture.
Officials from the school said that Paul Cardinal Poupard of the Pontifical Council for Culture asked the University to present a preparatory paper on beauty from the Franciscan perspective, which they sent to Rome in January.
The Pontifical Council is scheduled to convene for their dicastery meeting later this month.
Dr. Max Bonilla, vice president for Academic Affairs at the University called the opportunity a "tremendous honor," adding that “It is unusual and special that the University would be asked by the Vatican to contribute a paper for their work.”
School officials noted that the paper discusses the Franciscan understanding of the effect of beauty on the human person who, they say, imitates Christ “the ultimate expression of beauty.”
The various professors who contributed to the work looked at perspectives ranging from the beauty of the liturgy, as well as beauty in art, religious life, education, and even the mathematical ordering of the cosmos.
In addition to examining the relevance of St. Francis’s teachings today, the paper looks at the political and ethical implications of beauty for the human person.
Franciscan University’s document will be among numerous others which may be incorporated into a larger Vatican document following the dicastery meeting.
Following the Pontifical Council‘s 2004 Plenary Assembly, Cardinal Poupard called for a “reawakening the sense of beauty,” stressing “its capacity to reflect the splendor of the truth in the heart of society: the truth about the human being and the truth about God.”
In this light, Dr. Bonilla said that "The University is interested in the transformation of culture to strengthen and enhance the culture of life. For us, it was very pleasing to participate in the work of the council with a small contribution."
Vatican City, Mar 7, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has added his voice to Italian religious and civil leaders in calling for the immediate release of 17-month old Tommaso Onofri, who was kidnapped from his parent’s northern Italian home on March 2nd.
The kidnapping appeared to be organized but parents and authorities fear that the two men who took Tommaso were unaware that he suffers from a severe form of epilepsy and must be given medicine twice a day.
The Pope’s message was sent by way of Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano to Bishop Cesare Bonicelli of Parma, Italy, near the Onofri’s Casalbaroncolo home.
"The Supreme Pontiff”, he wrote, “unites himself to Your Excellency's appeal for the immediate and unconditional release of little Tommaso Onofri.”
He likewise expressed Benedict’s “intense solidarity to parents and family members struck by such acute anguish for the brutal kidnapping of their relative.”
And, while entrusting the child to the special maternal protection of the Most Holy Virgin, he gives assurances of special recollections in his prayers and sends a heartfelt and comforting apostolic blessing."
Washington D.C., Mar 7, 2006 (CNA) - Nearly 2,000 people are expected to attend the third annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC, April 7.
The event will be preceded by a mass, celebrated by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, April 6 at St. Matthew’s Cathedral (1725 Rhode Island Ave. NW) at 6:30 p.m.
Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison will be the keynote speaker at the breakfast the following morning at the Hilton Washington (1919 Connecticut Ave. NW). The breakfast will begin at 7 a.m. Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, archbishop emeritus of Philadelphia, will also attend. A talk by theologian Scott Hahn will follow the breakfast.
More than 700 people attended the mass last year and more than 1,600 people attended the breakfast. President George W. Bush and Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver attended and delivered addressed participants.
For information, call 1-866-399-6272.
Rome, Italy, Mar 7, 2006 (CNA) - A three-day conference in Rome promises to address timely issues and effective approaches in Church communications.
The conference, scheduled April 27-29, is entitled Strategic Management of Church Communications: New Challenges, New Directions.
Simultaneous translation into English or Italian (as need be) will be offered. The conference will be held at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, which is operated by Opus Dei. The president of the conference organizing committee is Opus Dei spokesperson Marco Carroggio. It is the fifth professional seminar for Church communications offices organized by Holy Cross.
The conference will hold sessions on: key principles for managing Church communications offices; presenting the Magisterium in a mass-media world; framing, news values and the Catholic Church; how to respond to news in a post-Christian environment; the media's agenda vs. the Church's agenda; religion coverage in the secular and Catholic media.
Three case studies will be considered: the Church in Italy and the 2005 referendum on in-vitro fertilization, the Church in the United States after the sex-abuse crisis, and the relevance of the Church in today’s debates.
Two panels are also organized on the experiences of Church communicators and on how to encourage more than superficial coverage of religion news.
Among the speakers are Archbishop Angelo Amato, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Vatican Press Office director Joaquin Navarro-Valls. Archbishop John Foley, president of the Pontifical Council of Social Communications will celebrate mass.
The registration fee is 190 Euro. The registration deadline is April 1.
For more information, go to: www.pusc.it/sci_seminar06 or e-mail [email protected]
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Mar 7, 2006 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Argentina, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, said this week the bishops do not intervene in public life based on the human sciences but rather inspired by the light of the Gospels.
During the presentation of a compilation of the documents of the Argentine bishops from the last several decades, Cardinal Bergoglio underscored that the Church’s comments on issues related to human dignity or social realities “do not center upon polls or socio-economic data or other instruments undoubtedly useful for sociologists, economists or politics,” but rather upon “the prophetic word about reality proclaimed from the Gospel, a word that does not pretend to provide technical solutions but rather to awaken consciences in view of achieving the common good.”
Among the documents included in the compilation, Cardinal Bergoglio made special mention of a 1981 statement by the bishops of Argentina which encouraged efforts at bring about a return to democracy after a long period of dictatorial regimes. “It was a prophetic word proclaimed from the Gospel, which accompanied the Church and all men of good will in their march toward the immense and complex task of restoring democracy in our country,” he said.
He warned, however, against taking certain statements by the bishops over the years out of context and thus “altering their meaning and making the documents say things they don’t, or worse yet, contradict what they do say.”
The cardinal said he hoped there would be a greater desire to understand the Church’s contribution to peace and harmony in the country. He reiterated the Church’s commitment to helping those in need by making these reflections, “which have be borne of our faith,” available to all people of good will.
Seoul, South Korea, Mar 7, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Nicholas Cheong of Seoul, South Korea, called on Catholics this week to “pray for North Korea so that our brothers and sisters in that land may live happily and be blessed with God’s mercy”.
According to the Fides news agency, the newly appointed cardinal said that one of his pastoral priorities would be reconciliation and concrete aid to North Koreans.
He urged Catholics to be “salt, light and leaven in society”, to assist the poor, excluded and marginalized people and be channels of reconciliation particularly with North Korea.
Talks between the two Koreans were restarted last Thursday after a two-year long suspension. Observers see the new talks as part of a slow process of rapprochement which started in 2000 with the history making summit meeting of the respective leaders.
Lima, Peru, Mar 7, 2006 (CNA) - As the April 9 national elections draw near in Peru, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thore of Lima is calling of the faithful to vote for those who defend life and the family.
The cardinal noted that “the authorities of the Church are never going to tell you who to vote for, but they will lay out guidelines to keep in mind when doing so.”
“Think about which candidates defend life and the family. And as a Catholic, don’t worry about too many issues, defend your vote for life and the family,” the cardinal said.
He called on Catholics to take advantage of the Lenten season to reflect upon their own conversions so that on the day of the elections---which will be Palm Sunday—their votes may be the fruit of this interior transformation.
“During this time of Lent, we should seek out Confession, to ask forgiveness for our sins with sincerity and to prepare ourselves to receive Christ in the Eucharist. We must spiritually examine ourselves in order to become better on the inside and thus help our neighbor,” he added.
“Changing our lives is not easy,” he continued, “but we cannot fall into pessimism, discouragement and false humility. Conversion, which means changing one’s soul, is like a mending that helps to make right those thoughts that cause us problems.”
“If we do not lean on Christ there will be no conversion, no forgiveness, and no reconciliation. The strength to forgive comes from the Lord. Therefore let us seek Him out in His Church, the Catholic Church, by way of the sacraments, the ten commandments, and when we are feeling weak let us have recourse to prayer, such as the Our Father,” he said in conclusion.
Washington D.C., Mar 7, 2006 (CNA) - More than 1,000 children, teenagers and adults filled the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Northeast yesterday to prepare to enter the Catholic Church this Easter. A number that is increasing each year.
Children and adults and their families and friends joined church officials in the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion, a liturgy marking the final period of preparation before the sacraments of initiation at Easter. The liturgy is held each year on the first Sunday of Lent.
As many as 1,233 people are expected to enter the Catholic Church this Easter, the largest number in recent years, officials with the Archdiocese of Washington said yesterday.
"Welcome to full Communion," said Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, after each of the two ceremonies held on Saturday afternoon. "You knew you needed something more than you had. ... Somehow, over all the noise of the world, you heard the Lord say, 'I want you to hear I love you, and I want you to come into My family.'?"
As many as 526 persons will be baptized for the first time during Easter Vigil, which this year falls on the weekend of April 16. About 350 of those who will become Catholics are children and teenagers. There were 1,037 new Catholics at Easter last year; 1,123, in 2004; and 982 in 2003, officials said.
In 2004, more than 155,000 adults in the U.S. were baptized or confirmed as Catholics. More than 67 million Catholics live in the U.S.
During the Rite of Election, godparents for nearly 500 non-Christians, or catechumens, vouch that the catechumens are ready to be baptized. After asking the catechumens if this is what they want, Cardinal McCarrick declares them "the Elect" who have been chosen by God to enter the church.
Preparation began in September, said Susan Gibbs, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Washington. In a step called coordination, people who wanted to become Catholics joined prayer meetings and studies about the Catholic faith. Yesterday, Cardinal McCarrick urged friends and relatives of those who will become Catholics to "pray for the priests, that we may be good enough."