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Archive of April 13, 2006

God's unending love elevates us to God’s heights, says Pope

Vatican City, Apr 13, 2006 (CNA) - Among thousands of pilgrims gathered on  Holy Thursday in the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, Pope Benedict XVI presided over the Mass of the Last Supper, in which he made a moving call to contemplate the love of God, a love that knows no bounds.

After the reading of the Gospel of the Last Supper, and performing  the washing of the feet of twelve men, the Pope said that “God loves his creature, man; He loves it also when it falls and doesn’t abandon it. He loves it until the end.”

In the gesture of “washing the feet” we see the “God’s holiness, which is not only an incandescent power before which we must pull back terrified, but is also the power of love and because of this is a purifying and healing power. God descends becoming slave; he washes our feet so that we can be at the table,” the Pope said.

Moreover, the Bishop of Rome related the washing of the feet with the redemption brought by Christ,  “The bath in which we cleanse ourselves is his love readied to face death. Only love has this purifying strength that wipes away filth end elevates us to God’s heights. The bath that purifies us is He himself who gives Himself totally to us, as far as the depth of His suffering and death. He is continually this love that cleanses.”

Following that, Pope Benedict remarked that the presence of Christ  “in the Sacraments of purification—baptism and the sacrament of penitence—He is continually kneeling before our feet and serving us as a slave, [performing] the service of purification that makes us capable of God.”

After raising the question of this refusal of God’s Love, the Pope continued by saying that “it is the refusal of Love, the refusal to be loved and to love. It is the pride to believe that it doesn’t need any purification, that closes itself to the saving goodness of God.”

“In Judas we see the nature of this refusal” The Pope said. “There remains the mystery of refusal that is present in the act of Judas, Judas values Jesus in terms of power and success. For him only power and success are real; love does not count. His greed for money is more important than communion with Jesus, more important than God and His love. His love is inexhaustible; it really goes on till the end

Finally, the Holy Father defined “Every deed of goodness for our fellows, especially for the suffering and those held in low regard, like the service of the washing of the feet. The Lord calls us to do this, step down [from our pedestal], learn to be humble, have the courage to be good and available to accept refusal, and yet trust goodness and persevere in it.”

“The Lord-he concluded- wipes away our filth with the purifying force of his goodness.”

Benedict XVI’s first Cœna Domini mass was celebrated once again in St John Lateran Basilica after Pope John Paul II’s ailing health had prevented him from conducting the service in the same location for several years

The faithful present were invited to participate to the project of rebuilding homes for the victims of the devastating mudslides that affected people in the Diocese of Maasin (Philippines). Offerings collected during the service will be destined to this project.

Tomorrow, on Good Friday, Benedict XVI will preside during the evening in the Basilica of Saint Peters over the celebration of the Passion of Our Lord, and during the night will be present at the Coliseum of Rome, symbol of the martyr of many Christians, to preside over the traditional Via Crucis.

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Jerusalem Church leaders urge int’l community not to boycott Palestinians

Jerusalem, Israel, Apr 13, 2006 (CNA) - The 13 patriarchs and heads of Christian Churches in Jerusalem launched in their joint Easter message a powerful appeal for reconciliation between Israel and Palestine and called on the international community not to boycott the Palestinian people by stopping aid, reported AsiaNews.

The Christian churches in the Holy Land—Orthodox, Armenian, Latin Catholic, Copt, Syriac, Anglican and Lutheran—will celebrate Easter on April 16 or 23. Their leaders call on their faithful to see the proximity in dates as a sign of the need for greater solidarity and shared witness of the resurrection of Jesus.

“It seems nowadays that we face an unknown path or impasse in political life (sic) between the new Israeli government and the new Palestinian government,” they said in their message.

The Church leaders reproached the international community for withholding aid from the Palestinian people. “It is not permitted to boycott a people on whom oppressions and injustices were and are imposed, while the international community remained so far paralyzed in putting an end to these oppressions, and therefore this paralysis gave birth to violence, terrorism and the humiliation of the human person [sic],” they said.

“Instead of boycotting, we appeal to the International Community to seize the opportunity of this phase in history of the conflict in order to try seriously to put an end to the suffering,” they said.

In their appeal, Church leaders also addressed the leaders of Israel and Palestine, saying that security, justice and peace are possible if there is a sincere will on their part.

Finally, the Church leaders appeal to Christians around the world who they say share with their leaders “the responsibility of reconciliation in this Holy Land.”

The leaders urged them to put pressure on their respective governments and their national media to help bring about reconciliation and to reflect on the impact the Security Wall that Israel is building is having on the dignity of the people.

The appeal is signed by Greek-Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem, Roman Catholic Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, Armenian Orthodox Patriarch Torkom I Manooghian, Custos of the Holy Land Fr. Pierbattista Pizziballa, OFM, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop Anba Abraham, Syrian-Orthodox Archbishop Swerios Malki Murad, Ethiopian Orthodox Archbishop Abouna Grima, Maronite Archbishop Paul Sayyah, Anglican Bishop Riah Abu el-Assal, Lutheran Bishop Mounib Younan, Syrian-Catholic Bishop Pierre Malki, Armenian Catholic Rev. Raphael Minassian, and Greek Catholic Archimandrite Mtanios Haddad.

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Benedict XVI: The Priest is a friend of Jesus and a man of prayer

Vatican City, Apr 13, 2006 (CNA) - Celebrating today  the chrism Mass in the Basílica of Saint Peters, Pope Benedict said that “the nucleous of the priesthood is to be a friend of Jesus." He invited the priests present to "offer their hands to Christ and be guided by Him.”

In his homily during the chrism Mass, in which the priests renew their vows and bless the Oils, the Holy Father affirmed that “to be a friend of Jesus, to be a priest, means being a man of prayer. We can only be friends of Jesus in the communion with Christ.”

He refered to the priesthood as a moment in which Jesus Himself becomes a friend and us to himself. He, truly gave himself  to our hands. He makes us participants in the conscience of the misery  of sin, and of all darkness of this world, and gives us to key to open the doors of the Fathers house.”

He rejected activism, as something that doesn’t bear fruit, declaring that: “Simple activism can be heroic," he told the priests. "But in the end, external actions remain fruitless and ineffective if they are not borne of a deep, intimate communion with Christ."

“The priest- he followed- should be above all, a man of prayer. The world in its actions and capacities becomes destructive if prayer is not considered.” He defined as well this reality of priesthood as a “movement back and forth in which God offers a gift to us, and we, in return  filled by this gift, become more like Him: the creation returns to the Creator.”

“This way the priesthood becomes a new thing: It is no more a question of descendence, but rather an encounter with the mystery of Jesus Christ. He is always the One who gives and lifts us to Him.”

Addressing the Priests, he said that “the mystery of the priesthood  lies in the fact that we, miserable  human  beings, by the virtue of the Sacrament can speak in his I: in persona Christi.”

Moreover, the Holy Father gave a thorough explanation of the signs of the Sacrament of the order, affirming that as priests “We have the need to return to that hour in which He laid his hands over us and made us participants of his mystery.”

“The human hand -he followed- is the instrument of his action, the symbol of his capacity to face the world. The Lord laid  his hands over us and wants our hands not to exercise power or to gather possessions but to become instruments of outreach, giving, creativity and love.”

He later referred to Jesus, as the one who “presents himself  today in the  Gospel as the anointed of God, this means that he works for the mission of the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Let’s put our hands again at his service and let’s ask him to always take our hand to guide us.”

Following on the specific moments of a priests life, Pope Benedict again addressed  the priests affirming  “Holding firmly onto Jesus, he said, we will not drown, but will be servants of that life which is stronger than death and that love that is stronger than hatred. He supports us. We ask him never to let go of our hands,” the Pope said.

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San Antonio Archbishop says human dignity, families are at heart of immigration debate

, Apr 13, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop José Gomez of San Antonio took his strongest public stand on immigration during Monday's downtown demonstration against the current bill that would criminalize immigrants.

"We cannot pass a law that makes criminals out of 11 to 12 million people," he told a cheering crowd of hundreds at Milam Park, reported the San Antonio Express-News. "We must recognize Jesus in the face of all immigrants."

Archbishop Gomez compared the cries of the marchers with the crowds who greeted Jesus as he arrived in Jerusalem. He reminded the people that this is Holy Week, the archbishop said the cry today is: "Hosanna! Save us from the pain of injustice."

"Our Catholic tradition has a profound respect for civil law," Fr. Virgil Elizondo a world authority on Hispanic Catholicism told the Express-News. "But it also recognizes the fundamental right the hungry and starving have to migrate."

Fr. Elizondo questioned charges that immigrants were criminals. "Some say this is disrespect for the law. That's not it at all," he said. "This is not about violating civil laws, it is about human rights."

He explained that there is a religious foundation for the demonstrations in Matthew 25, which says that those who welcome the stranger will go to heaven.

The archbishop, speaking in English and Spanish, also cited Matthew 25, reminding listeners that Jesus said that when you do something for the least of the people, you are doing it to him.

When Gomez concluded by reciting the marchers' popular chant: "Si, se puede," or "Yes, we can," the crowd responded enthusiastically: "Viva el arzobispo!" or "Long live the archbishop!"

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Villanova University board delays decision on ‘victims of abortion’ memorial

Philadelphia, Pa., Apr 13, 2006 (CNA) - A plan for a memorial on the Villanova University campus to the victims of abortion is currently in limbo, reported the Philadelphia Daily News.

The Catholic university's board of trustees passed on approving the memorial during its regular April meeting Tuesday.

The bronze statue would aim to "memorialize those who have died as a result of legalized abortion and all those who suffer physically, emotionally and/or spiritually."
 
“No decisions were made about any specific memorial or the broader issue of university memorials on campus,” read a university statement. “Villanova as a Catholic university remains strongly supportive of the dignity of human life.”

Joe McCullen Jr., a venture capitalist and Villanova alumnus, and his wife, Eleanor, donated the $20,000 for the statue.

"I'm disappointed [about the indecision] and I'm curious to find out what the reason is," said McCullen, head of McCullen Capital LLC in Boston. He donated $1 million to the university's endowment fund this year.

Eleanor, a St. Joseph's University graduate and a secular Franciscan, told the Daily News she thought perhaps the board’s indecision meant they are “afraid to come forward and to take a stand.”

McCullen’s donation for the statue had been acknowledged in a letter by Villanova's president, Fr. Edmund Dobbin, a board trustee. McCullen hopes the board will approve the statue at their next meeting in June.
 

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Archbishop Burke, other Missouri bishops call on Catholics to reject death penalty

St. Louis, Mo., Apr 13, 2006 (CNA) - As the state of Missouri prepares for a highly-publicized trial due to challenge the constitutionality of lethal injection, the state’s Catholic bishops are calling on faithful to reject the practice of capital punishment overall as an excess which opposes the dignity of the human person.

They pointed out that while a death sentence “offers the illusion of closure and vindication”, that “no act, even an execution can bring back a loved one or heal terrible wounds. The pain and loss of death can not be wiped away by another death.”

Citing the recent U.S. Catholic Bishop’s document, “A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death”, they said that while “The Church has acknowledged the right of the state to use the death penalty in order to protect society…the Church insists that the state should forego the exercise of this right if other non-lethal options are available.”

The bishops urged “all Catholics to pray that the court will rule in favor of life and condemn the practice of lethal injection. We would ask that, as witnesses to life, you take one step further and address our elected representatives on the state and federal level to voice our opposition to capital punishment and support a halt in executions.”

“Let them know”, they stressed, “that more violence is not a solution to society’s problems.”

They likewise quoted the late Pope John Paul II who, in his Encyclical, the Gospel of Life, urged Catholics to be “unconditionally pro-life.”

The bishop’s March 30th letter was signed by St. Louis’ Archbishop Raymond Burke, and Bishop Robert Hermann, Jefferson City’s Bishop John Gaydos, Kansas City-St. Joseph’s Bishop Robert Finn, and Bishop Emeritus Raymond Boland and Springfield-Cape Giradeau’s Bishop John Leibrecht.

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'It’s true, I swear to...?'

Hull, United Kingdom, Apr 13, 2006 (CNA) - Officials in the northeast British city of Hull have created a legal oath for those who do not want to swear to God on the witness stand.

David Taylor, a Justice of the Peace in Hull told Magistrate magazine that “The oath as it stands introduces needless complexities due to its religious dimension. The point that should surely be underlined in the oath is the very real prospect of a charge of perjury for lying under oath if discovered.”

He added that “Such an oath would surely be much more ‘fit for purpose’ than the present archaic one, and would dispense with the affirmation too.”

According to the London Times, a spokesperson for the Judicial Communications Office said that “Everyone is entitled to their opinion. But there are two distinct oaths — the religious and secular.”

“Because religion is such an important part of some people’s lives it may be important for them to select the religious oath.”

Some critics of the new oath charge however that the move is simply one more shift toward the secularization of society and the removal of God from public life.

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Knights of Columbus urge U.S. leaders to create immigration bill that embraces justice, charity

Charleston, S.C., Apr 13, 2006 (CNA) - The board of directors of the Knights of Columbus has called upon Congress and the President to create immigration legislation that gains control over the process of immigration, but also rejects any effort to criminalize those who provide humanitarian assistance to undocumented immigrants.

The board adopted the resolution at its quarterly meeting in Charleston, S.C., April 7-9. It further calls for providing these immigrants an avenue by which they can emerge from the shadows of society and seek legal residency and citizenship in the United States.

The statement noted that the vast majority of undocumented people in the U.S. are simply trying to build better lives for themselves and their families, but must struggle to do so from the margins of American society.
 
The board declared that legitimate concerns regarding sovereignty and the lawful and orderly control of cross-border travel must not be the only concerns addressed by a new immigration law.

The Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest Catholic lay organization, with more than 1.7 million members in North America, Asia and Europe.
 

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Venezuela archbishop criticizes government attempts to distort truth about April 11th crisis

Caracas, Venezuela, Apr 13, 2006 (CNA) - On the fourth anniversary of the Venezuela’s politico-military crisis of April 11, 2002, Archbishop Jose Baltazar Porras of Merida criticized the government’s attempts to “re-write” the history of those “very confusing events,” and said that both parties involved in the crisis share responsibility.

The archbishop, who was the mediator during the political crisis that edged President Hugo Chavez out of power for a short time, recalled that the events “were very confusing and the responsibility for good and evil falls to both parties, but what we have seen since then is an epic re-writing of the story with a desire to simply and unostentatiously make criminals out to be heroes and victims and those had absolutely no responsibility out to be bloodthirsty.”

In an interview on Venezuelan radio, Archbishop Porras said he did not agree with the manner in which the government celebrated the events of April 11.  “What it’s doing is making the breach wider,” he said, and making people become emotional and irrational, “rather than bring the serenity that a moment like this demands.”  To celebrate and re-write the events brings more hurt to some and makes others blinder, the archbishop added.  “This is the wrong path,” he warned.

“The right to life is above any ideology, it is sacred, above any law,” Archbishop Porras continued, and it is the focal point for putting things into perspective again, “so that we don’t become a country of irrational people acting simply and unostentatiously on our emotions and not on what in reality things demand of us.”

The archbishop said the events of April 11 show what happens when leaders act outside the social and political order and when there is no balance of powers to neutralize the normal tendency of those who are leaders to grasp for more power.  “We are reaping what we have sown,” he said.

Archbishop Porras expressed regret at the “very high distrust” Venezuelans have for public officials and called for autonomy between the country’s different branches of government, warning that consolidating power in one branch would in no way contribute to bringing the country back together again.

He also emphasized the need to recover the moral values necessary to overcome the crisis facing Venezuela. The only way to reestablish trust, he said, is to overcome what he called “cruel individualism,” which never leads to peace.

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Mexicans submit hundreds of testimonies regarding possible miracles by John Paul II

Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 13, 2006 (CNA) - According to the official website for the beatification and canonization of John Paul II, hundreds of emails are pouring in from Mexico claiming miracles through the intercession of Pope John Paul II.  All such testimonies are under review by the beatification commission.

Speaking to the EFE news agency, Father Francisco Javier Sanchez, member of the Mexican Bishops’ Committee for the Causes of Saints, said that as time has passed the number of intercessions attributed to the late pontiff has grown but that the exact amount was not known.

The postulator of John Paul II’s cause of beatification, Msgr. Slawomir Oder, said recently that among the thousands of letters and emails his office has received, “hundreds are coming from Mexico.”

He said that for the moment many testimonies are considered simply as “graces,” because only after “very severe verifications” can they be classified as miracles.  

The official site for the late pope’s cause is http://www.vicariatusurbis.org/Beatificazione/

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Don’t call undocumented workers ‘illegal’ says Mexican cardinal

Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 13, 2006 (CNA) - The archbishop of Guadalajara, Mexico, Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez expressed his support this week for protests by Hispanics in the United States, saying the “undocumented” are persons who also possess the dignity of the children of God.

During the inauguration of the Diocesan Museum of the Mexican Martyrs, the cardinal said the undocumented should not be called “illegal” because they are not criminals, but rather people who out of necessity or “ignorance left without their papers.”  He said the country to which they travel should treat them with justice and grant them a status that “respects first and foremost their human dignity.”

At the same time, he warned that the situation they are in is the responsibility of everyone, but most of all, of the government, which does not know how to train people to fend for themselves and “demand their rights.”

He also praised the US bishops for their support of Operation Sanctuary, which helps immigrants with food, shelter and legal counsel to regularize their status.  The cardinal also pointed out that the Church in the Unites States is made up of a large number of Hispanics.

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Puerto Rican cardinal urges prayer for politicians

San Juan, Puerto Rico, Apr 13, 2006 (CNA) - The archbishop emeritus of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Cardinal Luis Aponte Martinez, is calling on the faithful to pray and do penance that God will enlighten the leaders of the country and “strengthen them spiritually.”

The cardinal said “we can’t do anything else” because “the decisions are in the hands of the political leaders.”  He emphasized the fact that leaders are called to be “true public servants, above all in these moments of crisis for the Puerto Rican people.”

Speaking to local reporters, the cardinal expressed his hope that through prayer, a transformation of political leaders might take place that would lead them to overcome their differences and remember that they have been elected in order to help the people.  He recommended they ask themselves if they are being “faithful” to those who elected them.

“Certainly we have to think that if the current leaders are not able to resolve serious problems, especially those of an economic nature, in a timely fashion, then we need to think about new leaders who are willing to keep the promises they make to voters and who are truly willing to resolve the problems at hand,” he said.

Regarding Holy Week, Cardinal Aponte recalled that “the true triumph and victory is in the resurrection of our Lord, and that is the day we all must celebrate.”

“We cannot stay focused just on the crucified Christ.  We must accompany the Risen Christ, who is the one who after his Passion has truly brought us spiritual victory for our salvation,” the cardinal said.

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