Archive of March 15, 2006

Pope Benedict could be preparing his first social encyclical

Vatican City, Mar 15, 2006 (CNA) - Sources close the Holy See have indicated that Pope Benedict XVI is preparing his first social encyclical, which may be entitled “Labor Domini,” or, “The Work of the Lord.”

According to the report, which has not yet been officially confirmed by the Holy See, the encyclical would present a Christian vision of human work and address the importance of work for society. Likewise, it would explore the necessity and duty of the human person to work in some capacity.

A central theme of the document looks to be work as a participation in the creative action of God and, as a consequence, a means of sanctification.
It may also address the challenges of “neo-liberalism” and of a lack of solidarity in the world. Sources add that the document would probably not be issued until at least Christmas.

Since Pope Leo XII, every pontiff has issued social encyclicals coinciding with the date of the first social encyclical, “Rerum Novarum.”  

The last social encyclical, entitled “Centesimus Annus,” was released by Pope John Paul II to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Pope Leo’s historic document.

The Church will celebrate the 115th anniversary of the encyclical this year.

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Church officials deny reports that Pope Benedict has accepted invitation to Britain

Westminster, Colo., Mar 15, 2006 (CNA) - The office of the Archbishop of Westminster has denied a report, broken earlier today by Glasgow’s Daily Mirror newspaper, that Pope Benedict has accepted an invitation to visit Great Britain in 2007.

According to a BBC report, the  "Archbishop's House has had no indication from Rome if Pope Benedict will visit the UK, nor, if he were to, when that would be."

The Catholic Church in England invited the Pope to visit that country last week and speculation has abounded that a possible trip could fall on the 25th anniversary of John Paul II’s 1982 visit to Britain.

While Westminster’s Archbishop, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor has stressed his desire that the Pope be made aware of the delight a visit would bring to the British people, he admitted that it was too soon to say what one could look like or if it would be feasible.

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It’s not Bishop Olmsted who’s denying autistic boy communion, says Diocese

Phoenix, Ariz., Mar 15, 2006 (CNA) - Officials from the Diocese of Phoenix have responded to recent criticism over a local autistic boy who some claim is being denied communion by Bishop Thomas Olmsted.

A March 4th headline in the Arizona Republic newspaper blared that the Church had denied communion to 10-year old Matthew Moran, a charge which the diocese says, is mistaken.

Under the Moran family’s recent practice, Matthew would receive the host on his tongue where it would sit only momentarily before his father would take it out of the boy’s mouth and consume it himself.

Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted said that this practice does not allow the boy to truly “receive” the Body of Christ and that Church teaching is clear on norms for Eucharistic reception. He wrote in a recent letter that Matthew is not prohibited from receiving communion, only that he could "not able to approve the present practice."

Rosalind Gutierrez, who is director of the Diocesan Office of Worship, and Isabella Rice, director of the Office of Disabilities and Pastoral Care Ministries, submitted an editorial piece to the Arizona Republic outlining the situation from the Church’s perspective. It will appear in tomorrow’s edition.

They say that although it has been reported that Matthew cannot receive communion without spitting it out, evidence from the Diocese of Pittsburgh disputes this.

That diocese provided Phoenix officials a statement from the boy’s catechist there which said that “After many practices in the classroom, (Matthew) was able to consume some unconsecrated hosts”, and “did sip the unconsecrated wine.”

Gutierrez and Rice also cited Fr. David Driesch, pastor of St. Bernard Parish in Pittsburgh, who stated, “On the day of his First Holy Communion, I gave Matthew the consecrated host, he received it and consumed it in my presence.”

The Diocese of Phoenix is now asking what happened? The editorial stated that “The documents from the Diocese of Pittsburgh clearly prove that Matthew is able to receive the Eucharist in the manner prescribed by the Church and in the manner in which he received at his First Holy Communion.”

Gutierrez and Rice added that “accordingly, the Diocese of Pittsburgh never endorsed the present practice of just touching the consecrated host to Matthew’s mouth or tongue. Therefore, Bishop Olmsted has never denied the Eucharist to Matthew.”

They said that in fact, it is Bishop Olmsted who “is seeking to return Matthew to the fullness of reception that he previously experienced.”

The prelate, they pointed out, “is asking that Matthew again receive the Eucharist in ways that are consistent with Church teachings and the documents. The reception of the Eucharist is not ‘in the eye of the beholder,’ as some apparently would like us to believe. The reception of the Eucharist is an objective, grace-filled reality at which the consumption of the consecrated host brings the communicant into a oneness with Jesus Christ and His Church.”

“Continuing to deny Matthew the fullness of the grace of the Eucharist”, the letter stressed, “would be unconscionable.”

The diocese says they are determined to work with Matthew and his family because he “deserves to be able to take the Eucharist fully and completely.”

Gutierrez and Rice said that “the decision to receive the Eucharist” is that of the individual. No one can receive on our behalf — it is an act of our free will to approach the Blessed Sacrament,” and explained that “For this reason, Bishop Olmsted continues to commit the resources of the Phoenix Diocese to assist the Moran family.”

“We also trust”, they wrote, “that God is not restrictive in how He blesses people. If Matthew never receives Eucharist in the manner prescribed by the Church, we trust that God will continue to bless Matthew in ways known to Matthew and God alone.” 

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Pope Benedict begins his first teaching series: no contrast between Christ and His Church

Vatican City, Mar 15, 2006 (CNA) - Exactly one month after completing a catechetical cycle begun years ago by his predecessor John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI today began his own series of catechesis, which will focus on the mystical relationship between Christ and the Church--left in the hands of the Apostles.

The Holy Father announced the new theme during his general audience today, during which some 30,000 people had gathered in St. Peter’s Square to hear him.

"The Church”, he began, “was constituted upon the foundation of the Apostles as a community of faith, hope and charity."

This project of God, he continued, began "when certain fishermen in Galilee met Jesus, and allowed themselves to be conquered ... by his invitation: ... 'Follow me and I will make you fishers of men'."

Benedict told the crowd that "after Mary, pure reflection of the light of Christ, it is the Apostles, their word and their testimony, that convey the truth of Christ to us.

“Yet theirs”, he said, “is not an isolated mission, it is part of a mystery of communion, one that involves the entire People of God and takes place in stages, from the old to the new Covenant."

The Pope pointed out that Jesus' message "is completely misunderstood" if it is separated "from the context of the faith and hope of the chosen people." This, he said, is because "Jesus addressed Himself first of all to Israel in order to 'gather them' together in the eschatological time that had arrived with Him.”

“Jesus' preaching,” he said, “like John's, is both a call of grace and a sign of contradiction and judgment for the entire people of God."

Benedict continued, saying that although the preaching of Jesus is "always a call to individual conversion, ... to interpret Christ's announcement of the Kingdom in individualistic terms would be unilateral and groundless," because in biblical tradition and despite its novelty, "it is clear that the entire mission of the Son-made-flesh has a community goal."

He went on to point out that the choice of twelve Apostles is a number that recalls the tribes of Israel. This, he said, "reveals the significance of the prophetic-symbolic action inherent in the new institution.”

“Choosing the Twelve, introducing them to communion of life with Him and rendering them participants in His mission of announcing the Kingdom, ... Jesus wishes to say that the definitive time has arrived in which God's promises are fulfilled."

He stressed that “the twelve Apostles are the clearest sign of Jesus' will concerning the existence and mission of His Church, the guarantee that there is no contrast between Christ and the Church.”

In this light, Benedict said that the slogan which became fashionable some years ago: 'Yes to Jesus, no to the Church,' is completely irreconcilable with the intentions of Christ."

"Between the Son of God made flesh and His Church there exists a profound, unbreakable and mysterious continuity, by virtue of which Christ is present today in His people, and especially in those who are the successors of the Apostles."

In February, the Holy Father completed the catechesis series begun by John Paul, which explored all the Psalms and canticles which are contained in the Church’s Liturgy of the Hours prayers.

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New Orleans’ historic black church remains open despite parish merger

New Orleans, La., Mar 15, 2006 (CNA) - African American parishioners of St. Augustine’s Church in New Orleans are upset that their parish is slated to close today. The historic black parish will be closed and its territory merged with another parish in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. But archdiocesan officials have said the church will remain open and continue to welcome members of the community for Sunday mass.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Archdiocese of New Orleans is trying to consolidate its resources as it deals with $84 million in uninsured losses. The archdiocese is only expecting 65 percent of its pre-Katrina population to return in the next two years. As a result, seven parishes are being closed or merged and the reopening of another 23 parishes is delayed.

According to canon law, the closing of a parish does not necessitate the closing of a church. One parish can have several churches or places of worship.

But parishioners said this assurance of Sunday masses wasn’t enough. They officially appealed the decision Thursday. They also held a standing room-only mass Sunday, with music provided by well-known artists Ellis and Branford Marsalis, in an effort to convince the archdiocese not to close the historic parish. Even non-parishioners came out to support the appeal. The archdiocese, however, told the Associated Press that it had no plans to reverse its decision.

St. Augustine’s was founded in 1841 by slaves and free people of color. It was a parish of mostly Italian immigrants in the early 1900s but became a predominantly black church once again in the 1960s.

According to the AP, about half of the 350 pre-Katrina families that belonged to the parish have returned so far.

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Did media downplay attacks on Turkish parish?

Mersin, Mar 15, 2006 (CNA) - On March 11th, a young man armed with a long knife entered a Catholic church and threatened two monks and about 25 young people who were rehearsing for a Passion play. The young man also broke a door and stole a cell phone. No one was injured. He was arrested and later released.

But, rather than reporting the violent crime, some newspapers downplayed the event or reported that the boy had entered the church accusing the monks of prostituting boys and girls, Fr Hanri Leylek, one of the monks, told AsiaNews.

Fr. Leylek said the perpetrator had initially entered the church and mixed in with the youth of the parish.

“One of the boys called me, telling me there was a stranger creating problems, who wanted to talk to a priest. I went out of the room and started to talk to him; seeing that he was saying disjointed things and threats, I asked him to go outside. He refused and only threatened all the more, swearing,” recounted Fr. Leylek.

When the young man refused to cooperate, the priest decided to use the telephone in the corridor to call the police. This is when the young man pulled out a knife, about 80 cm long, which he had hidden behind his back.

Fr Leylek tried to calm the young man. When another priest came into the room, Fr. Leylek discreetly left and went to the police station nearby.

When the priest arrived with policemen, the young man threatened the officers as well. After further discussions with the young man, he surrendered to police.

“This was the second attack on our parish,” Fr. Leylek told AsiaNews. The first took place two months ago. Another young man kicked down the two doors of the convent and forced his way in, saying he wanted to talk to a priest. He was not armed but had burned books in the parish information office. Two priests spoke to the young man, who later left with police without resisting.

Since the murder of Fr Andrea Santoro Feb. 28, national news media continue to talk about missionaries and their proselytism, reported AsiaNews. According to the Asian news agency, some say “this approach hides the political struggle of religious fundamentalism against the current Turkish government and its resolve to take Turkey into Europe.”

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Schiavo's family publishes book about her final days

Tampa, Fla., Mar 15, 2006 (CNA) - Terry Schiavo’s family has collaborated on a new book about the final weeks of her life. The 41-year-old severely disabled Florida woman died last March, after her husband, Michael Schiavo, had her feeding tube removed.

Terry’s parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, her brother, Bobby Schindler, and her sister, Suzanne Schindler Vitadamo, recount their personal suffering and struggle to prevent Terry’s husband from having her feeding tube removed.

“A Life That Matters: The Legacy of Terri Schiavo, A Lesson for Us All” will hit bookstores March 28.

Michael Schiavo, who recently remarried, is releasing his own book on the 15-year ordeal one day earlier, March 27.

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Vocations up despite growing secularism, says Spanish cardinal

Madrid, Spain, Mar 15, 2006 (CNA) - In a letter to mark “Seminary Day” in Spain on March 19th, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, Archbishop of Madrid, noted that despite growing secularism in the dominant culture, vocations to the priesthood continue to rise.

Pointing out that more than 200 seminarians are currently studying for the Madrid archdiocese, the cardinal emphasized that “the number and generosity of our seminarians proves that the Lord continues to call men to the apostolic priesthood, despite the progressive secularism of the dominant culture and the secularist attempts to rid our people of their Christian roots and values.”

“Our prayer to the Master of the harvest to continue sending workers to his harvest is not in vain, nor sterile is our cooperation with the grace of God to bring to fruition the vocational seeds that are sown with ecclesial rigor and evangelical care in the Christian life,” the cardinal added.

He criticized youth ministry programs that don’t lead young people to “a personal, living and cordial encounter with Jesus Christ, so that they can open themselves to his will and respond generously to the Christian vocation.”

Cardinal Rouco said that “Seminary Day” is an opportunity to pray for seminarians and to express spiritual and economic support for their commitment to Christ and mankind.  It’s also a chance to make the faithful, especially families, aware of the greatness of the priestly vocation and the urgent need to promote it among children and young people.

He called the increase in priestly vocations an “eloquent sign of the fecundity of Christian life in communities and Christian groups and of the real appreciation of their members for this ministry.”  He questioned whether the shortage of vocations in other parts of Europe might not be due to the abandonment of the Christian roots of the continent and to the lack of apostolic vigor.

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Cardinal Pompedda demands ‘reciprocity’ towards Christians in Islamic countries

Rome, Italy, Mar 15, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal Mario Francesco Pompedda, prefect emeritus of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatory, is demanding a greater reciprocity in granting the same rights and recognitions that Muslims enjoy in Europe to Christians in Muslim countries.

“The same just opportunities that Italy and other European countries have granted to Muslims should be available for Christians in Muslim-dominated countries,” the cardinal said.  This would apply also to the ongoing discussion about allowing Islam to be taught in Italy’s public schools.

The cardinal also warned about the use of the term “clash of civilizations,” saying that “Any chance of clashing or collision should be avoided through mature inter-religious dialogue among cultures.”

He added that he opposes the idea of defining the Christian identity as innately opposed to Islam.  “This would mean heading down the path towards ‘holy war,’ a term which in itself is insulting.”

Cardinal Pompedda said dialogue with Islam must be based “on three pillars: reciprocity, the renouncing of a ‘clash of civilizations,’ and the need for a faith that is lived and is not reduced to the simple proclamation of values.”

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Venezuelan Archbishop calls for understanding between government and opposition groups

Caracas, Venezuela, Mar 15, 2006 (CNA) - During a meeting with top opposition leaders this week, the Archbishop of Caracas, Cardinal-designate Jorge Urosa Sabino, underscored the need to reach an understanding between the government and major opposition groups in order for the upcoming December elections to be legitimate.

Both groups, he said, “have explained their points of view to me and I personally believe it is important, as I have said on repeated occasions, that there needs to be a political agreement between all sectors of the country” so that those who don’t think conditions currently exist for legitimate elections in December can feel “that the doors are open for authentic and truly democratic elections.”

The cardinal-designate said that his meeting with opposition leaders was a reflection of his commitment to dialogue and of the mission that the bishops have as builders of peace in Venezuela.  

Nevertheless, he added, the greatest responsibility falls to the ruling party, which holds a majority in all branches of government and has the duty to ensure free and fair elections in December.  

He also said the government must display a willingness to foster reconciliation in the country and to “apply diverse measures of amnesty to those who have been sentenced for crimes that have to do with political issues.”

Archbishop Urosa said the Church would continue to promote dialogue among the different factions, as “the most important thing is that we find a democratic solution to the existing disagreements.”

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Notre Dame Cathedral begins centuries-old Lenten Conference cycle

Paris, France, Mar 15, 2006 (CNA) - Last week, Archbishop Vingt-Trois of Paris, began the traditional cycle of Lenten teachings which are given each Sunday at the Cathedral of Notre Dame, a tradition which goes back to 1835.

This year’s theme is “Here is the man” (Ecce Homo), which hearkens back to the exclamation of Pontius Pilate, presenting Jesus to the crowd. This week, the Archbishop will explore the question “How can we live our humanity more deeply, truly and in its full dignity?”

The first conference was presented last week by physician Axel Kahn, along with
Jean Vanier, founder of the Community l’Arche, which is dedicated to assisting handicapped people. They both reflected on the great human experience of difference.

This week, the reflection explored the question of “becoming” and the constant realization of man throughout his whole life.

"Through the reflection proposed today, we can measure better that human becoming is not just a simple chronology from which humanity is striving to escape in avoiding the question of death, " said Archbishop Vingt-Trois.

"With the death and resurrection of Christ, it’s the proper sense of history that falls into death and becomes a source of life, it is the origin of a new filiation that goes beyond the transmission of flesh and blood."

Referring back to the previous Sunday’s Gospel on Jesus’ Transfiguration, he said that “The transfiguring illumination on the mountain is also a reading of human life, it manifests what is invisible to our eyes: the everlasting presence of God compared to the historical swiftness of our humanity.”

In the light of this transformation, he said, it is not only the person of Jesus who is transfigured but the whole of human history.

The Cathedral announced that next week’s theme will be on the question of human suffering.

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Cuban dissident steps up pressure for release of political prisoners

Havana, Cuba, Mar 15, 2006 (CNA) - The leader of the Christian Liberation Movement in Cuba, Oswaldo Paya Sardinas, has issued a statement demanding improved prison conditions in that country and the immediate release of political prisoners.

In his letter, Paya denounced “the inhumane conditions of confinement, the lack of medical assistance, and the physical and verbal abuse” of which political prisoners are victims.

The statement makes specific mention of Juan Carlos Herrera, one of 75 dissidents sentenced to 28 years in prison and who suffers from serious health problems, “which have been aggravated by the cruel conditions since he was unjustly imprisoned in March of 2003.”

Prisoners, be they “political or common,” Paya noted, “are also, above all, human beings,” and thus their “dignity and rights deserved to be treated with respect.”  The dissident group also called on the international community to “raise its voice in solidarity with the Cuban political prisoners.”

Paya also enjoined all Cubans not to be “indifferent in the face of this situation of systematic mistreatment” of these “peaceful prisoners, whose only crimes have been defending the rights of Cubans and offering peaceful solutions for the problems and malice that are afflicting the Cuban society.”

Lastly, the group expressed its solidarity with Juan Carlos Herrera in “his demands for medical assistance, dignified prison conditions and just and humane treatment.” It also called for “the immediate release of all peaceful political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.”

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