Archive of April 11, 2006

Cardinal says Vatican and Chinese government engaged in ‘real talks’ to normalize relations

Rome, Italy, Apr 11, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong said Monday that Chinese government officials and the Holy See “have entered into real talks” about normalizing diplomatic relations.

In statements to ATV World television in Hong Kong, the new cardinal said he was under the impression that “real talks” between the two parties were under way in Rome.  His statements came a week after China’s Director of Religious Affairs, Ye Xiaowen, confirmed that formal contact had been made with the Holy See aimed at establishing bilateral diplomatic relations.  According to Ye, this “could take place soon.”

Cardinal Zen also said that one of the most complicated issues in the talks was the issue of appointing bishops, as Beijing considers episcopal appointments by the Holy See to be intrusion into internal affairs.

According to some sources, the Vatican would accept submitting a roster of names to Chinese authorities and allowing Beijing to voice an opinion, as long as the Vatican had the final word.  Cardinal Ze said authority over appointments could not be the exclusive domain of an “atheist government.”

The Hong Kong bishop also noted that one of the conditions the Vatican has set for establishing relations is the existence of freedom of religion in China.  The Church, he said, calls for “absolute religious freedom.”

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

Vatican City, Apr 11, 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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Compendium of the Catechism officially released, sells out first 50,000-copy printing

Washington D.C., Apr 11, 2006 (CNA) - The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church was officially launched at the opening ceremony at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress on April 7. It sold out by its second day on sale.

All parents, students and teachers should use the Compendium as part of their faith formation, Cardinal Roger Mahony told those gathered at the congress. The resource comes in both English and Spanish.

The book went on sale at the weekend conference Friday morning. By mid-Saturday morning, all 1,500 copies of the book at the conference were sold out. About 50,000 copies were purchased in pre-sales.

The Los Angeles Religious Education Congress is the largest event of it kind. This year, an estimated 40,000 people attended from 47 states and the District of Columbia, as well as Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe.

For information on the Compendium, go to

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Vatican prepares to celebrate 500th birthday of St. Peter’s Basilica

Vatican City, Apr 11, 2006 (CNA) - Officials at the Vatican are preparing to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the largest church in the Christian world--St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Holy See announced today that a press conference will be held on April 20th to present plans for official celebrations marking the fifth centenary.

The basilica, which covers an area of 5.7 acres, was completed in 1626. The tomb of St. Peter himself rests underneath the main altar.

Scheduled to be on hand for the press conference are Cardinals Francesco Marchisano, archpriest of the Vatican Basilica, and Albert Vanhoye S.J., rector emeritus of the Pontifical Biblical College.

Also present will be Archbishop Angelo Comastri and Bishop Vittorio Lanzani, respectively president and delegate of the Fabric of St. Peter's; Antonio Paolucci, superintendent of the Florentine Museums and curator of the exhibition, "Petros Eni;" as well as Maria Cristina Carlo-Stella, bureau chief at the Fabric of St. Peter's.

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Holy See’s Way of the Cross Meditations will be available in some countries starting today

Vatican City, Apr 11, 2006 (CNA) - The Vatican announced today that the meditations for this year’s Good Friday Way of the Cross will be available to consumers in Italy, Germany and the U.S.

The Vatican Publishing House said in a communique this morning that the meditations will be available starting Tuesday in a number of religious and chain bookstores in the three participating countries.

This year’s Way of the Cross, which will be held in Rome’s Coliseum on April 14th-- Good Friday, will be the first ever to be led by Pope Benedict XVI. The meditations were written by Archbishop Angelo Comastri, who is prelate emeritus of Loreto and the Pope’s vicar general for Vatican City State.

The communique says that the meditations "invite us to reflect upon the devastating power of sin and, at the same time, encourage us to contemplate the healing power of God's love clearly expressed in the cross of Christ."

The text is slated to be released today in Italy, Germany and the United States. Herder and Ignatius Press are the official publishers for the German and U.S. editions while the Italian is being produced by the Vatican Publishing House.

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Cardinal O’Malley returns to Boston for first public Mass

Boston, Mass., Apr 11, 2006 (CNA) - The archbishop of Boston received a standing ovation at St. Theresa of Avila Parish April 1 at the beginning of his first public Mass since being elevated to the College of Cardinals last month.

“It’s a great joy to be here,” Cardinal Sean O’Malley told the packed church.

According to a report in Boston’s diocesan newspaper, The Pilot, the new cardinal began his homily by speaking about the universality of the Church and the role of the Pope, who unites Catholics throughout the world.

He explained that the red robes of a cardinal, which he wore under his purple vestments, is a reminder that the Catholic Church is a Church of martyrs. “We must be ready to suffer to bear witness to our faith,” he said.

His purple Lenten vestments, with gold, red and green embroidery down the center, were Pope John Paul II’s. They were a gift from Pope Benedict XVI after he was elevated to cardinal. Cardinal O’Malley felt it appropriate to don the vestments of the late pope as the one-year anniversary of his death would be commemorated the following day.

Cardinal O’Malley said Lent should be less about sticking to our promises to give up sweets or cigarettes and more about obeying and getting to know Christ.

“Lent should mean turning our backs on everything that separates us from Christ and each other,” he said. “Lent is about dying to the selfishness of sin and individualism and being able to experience the joy of Christ.”

He reminded the congregants not to be afraid to follow Christ. “During Lent, look to Jesus lifted up on the cross,” he said. “If we really see the cross, we see love, obedience, hope — and if we really see Jesus, we see that He is always watching us with love — love that gives us the courage to stop following Him at a safe distance and follow Him up close.”

Cardinal O’Malley also celebrated Mass at St. Catherine of Siena in Norwood April 9 and is scheduled to celebrate at St. Mary of the Assumption in Lawrence April 16 in Spanish.

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Jews are paralyzed by not studying New Testament, says Rabbi

Washington D.C., Apr 11, 2006 (CNA) - Prominent reform Rabbi Michael Cook says many Jews are paralyzed by their ignorance of New Testament writings, and is urging their study in order to improve interfaith relations and answer Christians who ask why Jews don't accept Jesus as the Messiah.

Cook says this lack of knowledge about the New Testament is the Jewish "Achilles' heel," reported the Associated Press. Jews they must learn how the Gospels molded Christian attitudes toward Judaism, he says. This "self-imposed ignorance" is dangerous, he adds.

"The New Testament is the greatest single external determinant of Jewish history, and deleteriously so in it’s causing Jews grievous problems," Cook, a New Testament professor at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, told the AP.

"Once Jews catch on to this, most will recognize how valuable this venture can be," Cook was quoted as saying. He is working on a book he plans to publish next year, "Modern Jews Engage the New Testament.”

Many scholars agree that Jews would benefit from studying the Christian texts. But most Jews shun Christian Scripture due to both religious law and historical experience.

Fellow scholars say there are too many other pressing issues in Jewish education, including the increasing secularization of Jews, to make New Testament learning a priority.

Currently, the text is almost completely absent from coursework for rabbinical candidates, students at American Jewish colleges and the many young people enrolled in Jewish high schools. There are a few Jewish colleges that include a course on New Testament studies.

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University students urged to use mass media to ‘be bold for Christ’

Steubenville, Ohio, Apr 11, 2006 (CNA) - Christian media professionals must produce more than explicitly Christian material in order to expand their impact and influence, said seasoned journalist Carlos Briceno in his keynote address at Franciscan University of Steubenville's first ever Faith and Media Conference.

The two-day conference gathered students, faculty and media professionals March 31-April 1. It sought to explore the role Christians play in the most powerful cultural force of our times—the mass media.

Briceno encouraged attendees to stay on fire with love for Christ by "evangelizing [themselves] everyday" and by not allowing fear or busy schedules to keep them from "laboring in the vineyard."

Briceno is the founder of Disciples With Microphones, an organization of professional journalists who use their skills to spread the Gospel.

He shared specific ways he has brought Christ into the secular media, including selecting faithful Catholics for interviews and allowing his faith to shape the focus of his reporting.

"Catechetical and religious materials are good, but we need to make more than explicitly Catholic materials," he said.

The conference also explored the topic, "Working in Christian Media" and "Maintaining Faith in a Secular Environment."

Franciscan University professor David Schaefer took a critical look at how faith and religion are portrayed in film. Before teaching at Franciscan, Schaefer worked as a producer and anchor in television and radio. He said the biggest challenge for Christian filmmakers is convincing Hollywood that movies can be both religious and successful.

The conference was the first of its kind in the Ohio Valley. It was the brainchild of senior communications major Valerie Striker, who suggested to professors that Franciscan host such a conference for Christian students.

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Fargo Bishop urges faithful to pray Divine Mercy Novena for vocations, reparation for sexual abuse scandal

, Apr 11, 2006 (CNA) - Bishop Samuel J. Aquila of the Diocese of Fargo, North Dakota is urging faithful in his diocese to pray the Novena of Divine Mercy in order to build faithful priestly vocations and bring healing to victims of the Church’s massive sexual abuse scandal.

Bishop Aquila asked that the Novena--a nine day prayer said for specific intentions--begin on Good Friday so that it could end on Divine Mercy Sunday, traditionally celebrated each year on the Sunday following Easter.

The Divine Mercy feast, which has heavily Polish origins, was instituted by Pope John Paul II to increase devotion to the Mercy of Christ.

In his announcement, issued on Palm Sunday, the bishop said that “God desires for each of us to live with him eternally. Thus, he offered us Jesus and, through Jesus, his Divine Mercy is made present.”

“Mercy is the goodness, compassion, faithfulness and love of God revealed in Sacred Scripture”, he went on, “Despite man’s constant sin and unfaithfulness, God remains faithful and loving toward his creatures.”

Likewise, he pointed out that “We see this mercy most especially revealed in the parable of the prodigal son. The love of the Father waits for each one of us to return to his complete cleansing and healing forgiveness.”

Bishop Aquila specifically asked that members of the diocese pray “For holy vocations to the priesthood for the Diocese of Fargo – that men will hear God’s call and make themselves a total self gift to the Father, imitating Jesus Christ in serving his people.”

He also asked that they pray “For reparation for the sins of the clergy – that clergy realize the depth of the pain sin causes and seek forgiveness from those they offend, from the Church, and from God,” and “For victims of sexual abuse – that they may turn with confidence to the mercy of God to be comforted, healed and strengthened.”

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Church will oppose family planning law, says Guatemalan cardinal

Guatemala City, Guatemala, Apr 11, 2006 (CNA) - The archbishop of Guatemala City, Cardinal Rodolfo Quezada Toruño, said this past Sunday that the Church would oppose a new law on family planning which is currently before the country’s Constitutional Court. He said that the law is “manifestly unconstitutional.”

Speaking to reporters after the celebration of Palm Sunday Mass, the cardinal warned that the Guatemalan bishops would file briefs before the high court against the law.  At the same time, however, he said the official position of the Church in Guatemala regarding the legislation would be made known after the bishops meet in April.

“This law is manifestly unconstitutional because it does not respect the human embryo, it does not respect the right of parents to teach their kids about sexuality and it even forces private Catholic schools to teach things that go against their consciences,” the cardinal said.

The Guatemalan high court denied a motion by the country’s executive branch last December to prevent the new law from being published in the official daily after it was approved by Congress.

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Cardinal Rivera urges Mexicans to focus on Holy Week, not on elections

Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 11, 2006 (CNA) - The archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, has called on Mexicans to set aside the issue of the upcoming presidential elections and focus instead on Holy Week in order to mediate on the mysteries of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.

“This is not the time to think about the elections, as there will be other times to think about the vote.  This time is for meditating on the message of Jesus,” he said during the celebration of Palm Sunday Mass.

In recalling that the priority of the Church is to evangelize, Cardinal Rivera noted that history has not yet finished, as Jesus’ trial continues today as he suffers when we give in to sin or when the we make the shouts of the multitudes our own: “We don’t want this one, give us Barrabas.  Crucify him!”

While “the physical passion of Jesus continues in the physical ailments that human beings sufferer such as hunger and illness, his spiritual passion is caused by the moral sufferings he had to endure,” the cardinal added.

In this sense, he continued, “our passion comes from religious indifference, scorn for the moral laws under the name of progressivism, manipulation of religion for perverse ends and from theoretical and practical atheism which rejects God from public life.”

“Affective compassion towards suffering members is not enough,” the cardinal warned.  “We need to effectively alleviate their sufferings instead of increasing them.  Thus the reading of the passion will not be a mere recollection but a source of personal and communal Christian renewal,” he said in conclusion.

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