Archive of April 10, 2006

Handing over of World Youth Day cross represents commitment to journey in the footsteps of Christ, says Pope

Vatican City, Apr 10, 2006 (CNA) - The pilgrim World Youth Day cross--first commissioned in 1984 by John Paul II--began its journey from Rome to Sydney Australia yesterday, where it will arrive this summer just in time for the 22nd World Youth Day celebration.

Following a solemn Palm Sunday liturgy in St. Peter’s Square, presided at by Pope Benedict XVI, the cross changed hands from a group of German youth to pilgrims from Australia. Last year’s World Youth Day was celebrated in Cologne, Germany.

Following his weekly Angelus prayer, Pope Benedict reminded a crowd of thousands of the spiritual and historical significance of the globe-trotting cross.

"This”, he said, “is the cross that the beloved John Paul II entrusted to young people in 1984 that they might carry it around the world as a sign of Christ's love for humanity," together with another sign of WYD, an icon of the Virgin Mary.”

Benedict said that "This handing over of the cross has become a tradition, ... a highly symbolic tradition to be practiced with great faith, and the commitment to follow a journey of conversion in the footsteps of Jesus.”

"This faith is taught us by Mary Most Holy,” he went on, “who was the first 'to believe' and carried her own cross together with the Son, later tasting with Him the joy of the resurrection.”

He told the crowd that “For this reason the young people's cross is accompanied by an icon of the Virgin, representing the image of Mary 'Salus Populi Romani' which is venerated in the Roman Basilica of St. Mary Major, the oldest basilica dedicated to Mary in the West."

On its way to Sydney, the cross and the Marian image will travel through various African countries "in order to express the closeness of Christ and His Mother to the people of that continent, tried by so much suffering."

It will arrive in Oceania in February 2007, and from there, travel through various Australian diocese before reaching Sydney in July of 2008.

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Pope may grant wider use of Pius V Missal during Holy Week

Vatican City, Apr 10, 2006 (CNA) - A source at the Vatican has told CNA that during Holy Week Pope Benedict XVI may grant universal permission to use the Missal of St. Pius V, the liturgical rite used in the Church before Vatican II.

According to the source, the announcement could come “between Holy Thursday and Easter Sunday,” but the exact day has not yet been set.  Nevertheless, the source said the decision has already been made by the Holy Father and that it’s “only a matter of time” before it is publicly announced.

“A minor official gesture by the Holy Father would be enough to allow the Mass according to the 1962 Missal to celebrated by whoever desires to do so, thus reiterating that this rite is still valid today simply because it was not abolished,” the source told CNA.

The announcement would be in the context of “the reform of the reform” that Pope Benedict XVI is promoting, which includes norms and principles that will be made public in the upcoming post-synod Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist. 

At the same time, such a gesture by the Pope could contribute to ending the schism with the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X, founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988.

On Saturday, Pope Benedict XVI named three new members to the Ecclesia Dei Commission, created by Pope John Paul II in order to reach out to the Lefebvrists.  They are Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Jean-Pierre Richard, Archbishop of Bordeaux of president of the Bishops’ Conference of France, and Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera of Toledo, Spain.

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Vatican confirms: Pope Benedict will visit Poland in May

Vatican City, Apr 10, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI will travel to Poland--the home country of his predecessor John Paul II--in May, according to a confirmation from the Vatican press office earlier today.

Joaquin Navarro-Valls, director of the Holy See Press Office officially announced that the Holy Father will make an apostolic trip to Poland from May 25 to 28, 2006.

During the trip, he is scheduled to visit Warsaw, Czestochowa, Krakow, Wadowice, Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, and Auschwitz.

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Pope Benedict: the cross is mankind’s sign of love which is stronger than death

Vatican City, Apr 10, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI joined thousands of young pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square yesterday to celebrate both Palm Sunday and the 21st World Youth Day. Referring to Jesus‘ sacrifice on the cross, he said that real life is gained not by seizing  it, but by giving it.

The theme of this year’s World Youth Day, which takes place in the Vatican during odd years, was "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."

After the traditional blessing of the palm branches, the Pope began his homily by recalling how for 20 years, "thanks to John Paul II, Palm Sunday has become a special day for young people; the day on which youth all over the world go out to meet Christ in the desire to accompany Him into their cities and countries, that He may remain among us and establish His peace in the world.”

He stressed that "If we want to go out and meet Jesus, and walk alongside Him on His journey, we must however ask: along what path does He intend to lead us? What do we expect from Him? What does He expect from us?"

Benedict cited the words of Zechariah who prophesies in Luke’s Gospel about the coming King Jesus, who "will be a king of the poor, a poor man among the poor and for the poor."

The Pope pointed out that "one can be materially poor and yet have one's heart full of desire for wealth and for the power that derives from wealth. ... Interior freedom is a necessary condition for overcoming the corruption and avidity that are now devastating the world; and this freedom can be found only if God becomes our wealth."

He said that the Prophet Zechariah "also shows us that this king will be a king of peace," and this fact "takes concrete form in the sign of the cross. ... The new weapon that Jesus puts in our hands is the cross, a sign of reconciliation, a sign of the love that is stronger than death.”

“Every time we make the sign of the cross”, he said, “we must remember not to meet injustice with injustice, violence with violence; we must remember that we can conquer evil only with good, and never by repaying evil with evil."

Pope Benedict said that Zechariah’s third assertion was "the announcement of universality. ... Christ reigns by becoming our bread and giving Himself to us. This is the way in which He builds His kingdom."

It is through the Eucharist, Benedict said, that "we enter His kingdom of peace. In Him we welcome, in some way, all our brothers and sisters to whom He comes, in order truly to become a kingdom of peace in the midst of this divided world."

He summed up by saying that "These three characteristics announced by the prophet - poverty, peace and universality - come together in the sign of the cross. It is for this reason, and rightly so, that the cross has become the focal point of World Youth Days.”

“There was a time,” he pointed out, “a time that has not yet been completely left behind, in which Christianity was rejected precisely because of the cross. The cross represents sacrifice, it was said, the cross is a sign of the negation of life. What we want, however, is life entire, without restrictions or renunciation."

"And Palm Sunday”, he stressed, “tells us that that the real great 'yes' is the cross, that the cross is the real tree of life. We do not find life by seizing it but by giving it.”

“Love is a giving of self and for this reason it is the way of true life symbolized by the cross."

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Thousands of Americans to join Catholic Church on Holy Saturday

Washington D.C., Apr 10, 2006 (CNA) - Thousands of Americans will join the Catholic Church on Holy Saturday, April 15, through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). They will be baptized, confirmed and receive the Eucharist for the first time. Others, who already have been baptized in another Christian church, will embrace full membership in the Catholic Church.

At press time, the total number of adults being welcomed into the Catholic Church in 2006 was not available. However, some dioceses have submitted their reports. In Denver, 700 people will be baptized and 1,400 will come into full communion. In Galveston-Houston in Texas, 1,090 will be baptized and 905 will come into full communion. The Archdiocese for Military Services reports it will baptize 425 and welcome 515 into full communion.

“The Rite of Election [which precedes baptism] is always a moving experience as new life comes into the Church,” said Bishop Sam Jacobs of Houma-Thibodeaux, Louisiana, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Evangelization.

“It is a sign of the work of the Holy Spirit and of the witness of faith that Catholic men and women give every day. Virtually all who come into the Church note that they were drawn to the Catholic Church by a friend, relative or acquaintance who quietly lives out the Christian life,” he said.

People come to the Catholic Church in a variety of ways. Some are inspired by other family members, including spouses, who already are Catholic. Others find the Catholic Church during a spiritual search. Others seek to return to the Church of their baptism. The RCIA candidates come from all walks of life and are of all ages.

Martin White is CEO of MDU Resources, a Fortune 500 company with earnings over one billion dollars last year. He and his wife, Sheila, followed the RCIA with the Benedictine Sisters at the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota, where he will soon become dean of the college’s new school of business.

At St. Elizabeth Parish in rural Richfield, Utah, one RCIA candidate is an 87-year-old man whose daughter and family joined the Church a few years ago; another is a young woman who was deeply touched by Pope John Paul II’s death, and another is a 19-year-old man who graduated from high school last year.

Adults will enter the Church in every diocese of the country and in virtually every parish. In 2005, 80,521 adults were baptized in the Catholic Church and 73,296 came into full communion.

The RCIA is an ancient rite that was reinstituted in the Church following the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). It is the usual means for adults to come into the Church.

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Pope confirms visit Australia in 2008, says bishop

Sydney, Australia, Apr 10, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has confirmed he will be in Sydney, Australia, for World Youth Day 2008, Bishop Anthony Fisher, auxiliary bishop of Sydney told I-Media. It will be this Pope’s first visit to Oceania.

Pope Benedict officially launched preparations for the 2008 event at Palm Sunday mass yesterday in St Peter's Square, where six young Australians received the World Youth Day Cross from German youth.

The ceremony at the Vatican coincided with a special mass at St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney to mark the handover, reported Australia’s Daily Telegraph.

WYD 2008 is expected to draw 130,000 foreign pilgrims.

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Cuban bishops permitted to give Holy Week radio addresses for first time in 46 years

Holguin, Cuba, Apr 10, 2006 (CNA) - For the first time in 46 years, the communist Cuban government has permitted Catholic bishops in that country to address Catholic faithful over the radio.

According to the German organization, Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Emilio Aranguren, head of the Diocese of Holguin, and Bishop Dionisio Garcia Ibanez, head of the Diocese of Bayamo-Manzanillo addressed their respective dioceses with messages for the beginning of Holy Week.

The group said that when Bishop Aranguren informed faithful at the end of the Chrism Mass on Saturday, April 8th of the historic event, those in attendance erupted in a storm of applause and a standing ovation.

ACN quoted the Bishop as saying, “When I visit the sick in their homes, I realize the large majority of them pick up foreign radio stations in order to hear religious messages because they need it for the faith they have and in order to face the needs that they have in their daily life.”

“For this reason”, he said, “I have asked the authorities to let me address the sick in order to encourage them to celebrate the great events in the life of Jesus Christ: His Passion, Death and Resurrection. God willing, may I do that every week.”

During his 12-minute radio speech, broadcast on Palm Sunday, the bishop specifically addressed the elderly, saying: “I want to bring you a message of consolation, of strength, of hope. I know that you need this just like all of us. When you hold a Crucifix in your hands or look at Jesus Christ on the cross, I invite you to renew your trust in Him.”

“You will find”, he stressed, “a new disposition, a spiritual aptitude to continue to carry your cross with confidence, bravery, dignity and hope.” 

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Link to pro-life group on government website ruffles feathers

Sioux Falls, S.D., Apr 10, 2006 (CNA) - Some feathers were ruffled at Planned Parenthood in South Dakota last week when it came to light that the State Health Department website includes links to the Alpha Center, a pro-life organization.

The Alpha Center is a nonprofit agency that provides services to women and couples involved in an unplanned pregnancy. It is included among links to similar organizations providing alternatives for women considering abortion, such as counseling and adoption, reported the Associated Press. The Alpha Center has lobbied in favor of the state's abortion ban.

Planned Parenthood state director Kate Looby told the AP that the links to pro-life groups, and to Alpha Center, were unfair.

However, a 2003 law requires a state website for abortion alternatives, making links to the Alpha Center and similar organizations perfectly legal. In this case, the law trumps a policy that forbids links to politically involved organizations.

"The statute specifically requires information be provided about alternatives to abortion, not abortion services. For that reason, the Alpha Center is included," Doneen Hollingsworth, state Health Department secretary, told the AP.

In 2004, Connecticut Gov. Mike Rounds asked the State Library board to remove a link to a Planned Parenthood site from a State Library website for teens, based on the policy that links to sites run by organizations that politically involved are inappropriate. Rounds' request had followed a letter from Bishop Robert Carlson, now former bishop of the Diocese of Sioux Falls.

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Latin American bishops slam ‘Gospel of Judas’, accuse National Geographic of commercial opportunism

Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 10, 2006 (CNA) - Four leading Latin American archbishops, including three cardinals, have expressed regret over National Geographic’s decision to publish a Palm Sunday report on the so-called “Gospel of Judas,” presenting it as new discovery that sheds light on the life of Jesus.

In reality, they say, the text is one of a number of writings created by Gnostic sects which were attributed to the Apostles but were never accepted by the early Church.  The oldest copy of the text dates back to the year 260, more than two centuries after the Gospels of Matthew and Mark were written.

“The enemies of the Church are drudging up old arguments, apocryphal writings in order to confuse the people, and if people do not study their faith, they will get confused,” said Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iñiguez of Guadalajara, Mexico.  

Speaking to more than 300 young people gathered at the site of a new shrine dedicated to a group of Mexican martyrs, the cardinal said, “If Catholics adequately study their faith, nothing would be able to shake it, not even their enemies.” He also called on the faithful to not be fooled by “apocryphal writings that only carry with them a host of lies and fables.”  

Cardinal Sandoval noted that the “Gospel of Judas,” which National Geographic presented as a new discovery, was already known to the Church in 1945, when scholars found the document in Egypt.

In Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera called the National Geographic report “sensationalist and lacking in credibility” saying it was historically disconnected from the testimony of the Apostles and the witnesses of the life of Jesus.  “If we followed that logic, I could say that what you have been told about our independence is not true and that I am the one who has a secret revelation.  It’s obvious that that document is neither a gospel nor was it written by Judas,” the cardinal said.

In Monterrey, Mexico, Archbishop Francisco Robles criticized National Geographic’s opportunism in presenting the so-called “gospel.”  “What a coincidence that they sat on the news until this week, when our Christian sensibility is so out in the open,” he said.   

Archbishop Robles noted that the Christian community “came to a conclusion about this text and others centuries ago and they were not accepted.  Therefore they do not form part of the canon of the Bible…The only historical and authentic documents for the Christian faith are the canonical Gospels, which from the beginning were approved by the Church,” he added, saying Catholics should not be disturbed by these types of reports.

In Chile, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz of Santiago reiterated that the text belongs to the apocryphal writings that contradict the Gospels that have always been accepted by the Church.  “The Gospels which the Church has always considered authentic were written by the Apostles themselves or their close associates,” he said.  “The Gospel of Judas totally contradicts what we know of Christian history, which is the result of a very precise and drawn-out discernment.”

“When did Judas have time to write a gospel if he hung himself?  Not only that, but the first Christians noted that when he gave the silver coins back they did not want to return them to the temple treasury and they used them to buy a field which to this day is known as the Field of Blood, because it was the fruit of the shedding of the blood of Christ and the suicide of Judas.  In other words, the document is contradictory and late,” said Cardinal Errazuriz.

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Catholic Church in US joins broad fellowship of Christian churches

Washington D.C., Apr 10, 2006 (CNA) - The Catholic Church in the U.S. has joined national leaders from four other Christian confessions — Evangelical/Pentecostal, Historic Protestant, Historic Racial/Ethnic and Orthodox — to form the broadest Christian fellowship in the country.

The mission of Christian Churches Together in the USA (CCT) is to “enable churches and Christian organizations to grow closer together in Christ in order to strengthen [their] Christian witness in the world.”

It gives priority to prayer and worship, to building relationships of trust, and to discerning societal challenges that need to be addressed for more faithful Christian witness.

Thirty-four churches and national Christian organizations, representing over 100 million Americans, belong to the fellowship.

“The Catholic Church is deeply committed, as integral to her mission, to the full, visible communion of all Christians,” said Bishop Stephen Blaire, chairman of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical Relations and Interreligious Affairs.

“Participation in Christian Churches Together is an important step forward in the process towards Christian unity that Jesus Christ wills for us,” he said in an April 7 press release.

The U.S. Catholic bishops voted to participate in CCT in November 2004. They selected Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore, Bishop Blaire, and Fr. Ronald Roberson, CSP, to serve on the CCT Steering Committee. Sr. Ana María Pineda, RSM, professor at Santa Clara University, is an at-large member. Cardinal Keeler serves as one of the CCT’s five presidents.

The vision of CCT began when a diverse group of Christian leaders gathered in 2001 and expressed a longing for an expanded Christian conversation. At the end of that meeting, which was hosted by Cardinal Keeler, the group expressed the need for a new ecumenical forum in the U.S.

At a March 28-31 meeting near Atlanta, where the fellowship was finally formed, the group focused on the issue of poverty in the U.S. They concluded that overcoming poverty is “central to the mission of the Church and essential to our unity in Christ,” and committed to work together to address the causes of poverty.

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