Archive of May 3, 2006

Orthodox, Catholic leaders gather to discuss state of the ‘soul of Europe’

Vatican City, May 3, 2006 (CNA) - Starting today, leaders from the Vatican and the patriarch of Moscow are meeting together in for an historic joint conference in Vienna, Austria to discuss the theme,  "Returning a Soul to Europe".

The conference-- the first such cooperative venture by the Vatican and the Moscow patriarchate- will examine the role of Christian Church leadership in preserving the "soul" of Europe. In an April 29 preview, the Pontifical Council for Culture said that the effort is the fruit of meeting last November between Cardinal Paul Poupard and Patriarch Alexei II.
The Archdiocese of Vienna reported that during a November 2005 visit to Moscow, the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture spoke with the Russian prelate about their shared concern about "the loss of identity on the continent," and the necessity of reviving interest in Europe's Christian patrimony.
Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture will co-chair the sessions of the conference, along with Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk, the head of external relations for the Moscow patriarchate.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the two prelates plan to release a joint statement to the world leaders who will be participating in the G8 summit meeting at St. Petersburg in July.
Vienna was chosen as a site for the conference because, as the Vatican release observed, it is midway between Rome and Moscow.

Pope Benedict, through Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano, sent a message to participants, stressing that "the Church, an expert in humanity, cannot forget that only through fully preserving and appreciating the patrimony of the values transmitted from its ancestors can Europe, recognizing the diverse spiritual traditions that enrich it, write a new page in its history that respects the dignity of the human person…”

He further called for a new history which prohibits “violence and abuses against human rights, which seriously obstruct the integral development of nations and contaminate the heart of the human being, considerably grieving the heart of the Creator".

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Pope Benedict: Through apostolic ministry, Christ Himself maintains the Church

Vatican City, May 3, 2006 (CNA) - Speaking to a crowd of some 52,000 people in St. Peter‘s Square today, Pope Benedict XVI explained that through apostolic tradition, the Word of God is passed down from Christ himself through the apostles and their successors--in its full integrity--to members of the Church today.

The Holy Father’s regular Wednesday audience earlier today was dedicated to the idea of apostolic tradition, a theme he called of "great relevance in the life of the Church".

"The Vatican Council”, he began, “affirms that the [Church’s] Tradition is 'apostolic', above all in its origins.” He added that “God ... willed to reveal it so that the salvation of souls may be integrally transmitted to all generations ... For this, Christ, in Whom the will of God is completed, sent the apostles to preach ... the Gospel as a source of all truth and moral law".

He explained that the apostles, "heads of an eschatological Israel were twelve, as were the tribes of the chosen people", and this number "not only expresses the continuation of the holy race, the twelve tribes of Israel, but also the universal destiny of its ministry".

"The community,” he said, “born from the pronouncement of the Gospel by those who were first with the Lord ... can rely on the leadership of the twelve, as did those who little by little united themselves with the successors in the ministry of the Word and service toward the community.”

“Nevertheless,” the Pope stressed however, “one feels compelled to transmit to others the 'Good News' of the Lord's presence".

He went on, saying that the Tradition the Church rests on "is the living Gospel pronounced in its integrity by the apostles ... through their work the faith was communicated to others and has arrived to us, until the end of the world.”

“The Tradition”, he said is “the history of the Spirit, working in the life of the Church through the apostles and their successors, in faithful continuity with the original experience".

The Holy Father used the Gospel of St. Matthew to help illustrate his point, saying that the apostolic mandate "implies a pastoral service ('make disciples of all nations'), a liturgical service ('baptizing them'), and a prophetic service ("teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you') guaranteeing closeness to the Lord until the end of the ages ('I am with you always until the end of time')".

He said that "Thanks to the apostolic ministry, Christ Himself comes to one who is called to the faith, overcoming the distance of the ages and offering Himself, living and working, today in the Church and the world".

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Pope Benedict mourns victims of Black Sea airline crash

Vatican City, May 3, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict has sent his personal condolences, by way of Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano, for the victims of an Armenian plane crash which occurred yesterday night off Russia’s Black Sea coast. All 113 passengers on board are now believed dead.

In the telegram, sent to the Apostolic Nuncio in Armenia, Cardinal Sodano wrote that “the Holy Father bows before the many victims and calls on them the Mercy of Our Lord, asking Him to welcome them in His kingdom of Peace.”

Likewise, he said that the Holy Father had asked him “to express his vivid sympathy and assurances the families of the disappeared of his prayers, as well to all those who have been affected. by this tragedy and as well to the authorities and to all the Armenian people.”

The Airbus A-320 belonging to the Armenian airline Armavia was bound for Sochi, a Black Sea resort town.

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Ordination of new Bishop will harm the Church, says Chinese dissident

, May 3, 2006 (CNA) - China's state-sanctioned Catholic church has installed its second new bishop to be appointed without Vatican approval this week. The Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association ordained Liu Xinhong as bishop of the city of Wuhu at St. Joseph's Church in the eastern province of Anhui on Wednesday.

Hong Kong's Cable TV showed Liu, dressed in a yellow robe, bowing his head to receive a yellow head piece from a clergyman. "My feeling at this moment is to thank the Lord and our God from the depth of my heart," he said, addressing the congregation.

Most Catholics in Anhui belong to the underground Church and refuse to join the open, state-sanctioned church. However, an "underground" lay leader in Anhui who asked not to be named, told Asian Catholic news agency UCAN on May 2 that his community, as well as many "open Church" Catholics, “will not accept a bishop without papal approval,” adding that “such an ordination will harm Church efforts in evangelization and reconciliation.”

The underground Catholics are mainly spread in the northern and northwestern part of Anhui province, according to the layman.

He also disclosed that public security officers have already tightened control on his group and others warning Catholics “not to create trouble." For this reason, he said, he and several other lay leaders have left home for a few days to avoid government control.

Another underground Church leader told UCAN that the upcoming ordination “openly confronts the Holy See and damages the hierarchy of the universal Church.” This same Catholic said that in defying the order of the Holy See, Father Liu would not gain the support of local Catholics.

Anhui has been without a bishop since Bishop Joseph Zhu Huayu of Bengbu—part of the state-run church--died at 86 in February 2005. The state church combined the province's three dioceses -- Anqing, Bengbu and Wuhu - to form Anhui diocese on July 3, 2001, but the Holy See still regards them as separate dioceses.

On Sunday, China's state church ordained Ma Yinglin as bishop of the southwestern province of Yunnan.

Most Chinese Catholics are only allowed to worship in government-controlled churches, but an estimated 10 million are loyal to the Vatican. Formal Sino-Vatican ties would give some security to China's Vatican loyalists, who are frequently fined and sometimes sent to labor camps.

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Harvard study challenges authenticity of abstinence, virginity pledges

Washington D.C., May 3, 2006 (CNA) - A new study released by the Harvard School of Public Health challenges the authenticity of pledges made by adolescents to abstain from premarital sex until marriage.

According to Concerned Women for America (CWA), the study attempts to belittle virginity pledges by claiming that adolescents who make pledges to save sex for marriage break their vows within the first year, and that those who relent to premarital sex are more likely to claim that they never made a virginity vow in the first place.

“This new ‘finding’ by Harvard is misleading and deceptive,” chided Janice Crouse, CWA’s senior fellow of the Beverly LaHaye Institute. “This study is in direct contradiction with the trends we have been seeing in recent years –– both teen pregnancies and teen abortions are down, and evidence indicates these trends are related to increased abstinence among teens.

“Those who make virginity pledges have shown greater resolve to save sex for marriage. At the same time, those who have not made a conscious decision to abstain from sex are more likely to engage in premarital sexual activity,” Crouse said in a written release.

“The Harvard report is wrong,” said Crouse. “I know numerous couples who have saved sex for their wedding night. Research is clear –– that it is the best recipe for marital happiness and well-being. Abstinence until marriage is a beautiful promise that should be encouraged and promoted.”

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Could Notre Dame help save Washington DC’s troubled John Paul II Center?

South Bend, Ind., May 3, 2006 (CNA) - The University of Notre Dame may step in to save the financially troubled John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C., which has been suffering under economic strain since its opening in 2001.

A university spokesman confirmed to the Detroit Free Press Monday that the university was asked about the role it might play in the center’s future and was analyzing the situation.

Msgr. William Kerr, the center’s director, confirmed Monday through a spokeswoman that talks are taking place.

“We are negotiating with Notre Dame, but he can’t say anything more,” John Paul II Cultural Center spokeswoman Sandy Peeler told the Free Press.

The John Paul II Center is a little-visited museum located behind the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and adjacent to Catholic University of America. An initiative of Cardinal Adam Maida, it opened in 2001 and is currently operating in the red.

The center is currently being underwritten with $40 million from Catholics in metro Detroit through the archdiocese, which loaned $17 million to the center to cover operating deficits and has guaranteed a $23-million mortgage on the center.

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Situation of Christians in West Bank worsening since Hamas take-over

Jerusalem, Israel, May 3, 2006 (CNA) - The Catholic relief association, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) recently reported on the dire situation of Christians living in Israel’s West Bank, since the Hamas party came to power. “The crisis for the area's about 150,000 Christians has deepened,” they said, “especially with increased intolerance to non-Muslims.”

In an interview with ACN, Victor Tabash, a shopkeeper from Bethlehem who sells Christian devotional gifts, put it this way: "It has become awful living here. We do not believe what is happening. Since the election, things have been getting worse and worse."

With a squeeze on public finances and frequent problems traveling to Jerusalem where many Palestinians work and shop, many reported that Israeli authorities frequently close roads, preventing access to Tel Aviv Airport and the city center.

ACN has offered help to Christian shopkeepers by retailing their hand-made olive devotional items such as crucifixes, cribs and rosaries, an act which is generating funds for Christians in the West Bank.

Mr. Tabash said: "The ACN project is doing a great job for us. We now have orders being sent out from all over the world, from Canada to Australia and now Poland."

In the last 40 years, the Christian population in the West Bank has slumped from about 20 percent of the total to less than two percent today.

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Change of heart: University chancellor allows student fees to be directed to Catholic group

Madison, Wis., May 3, 2006 (CNA) - Chancellor John Wiley of the University of Wisconsin-Madison has changed his mind about directing student fees to religious organizations, saying Tuesday that he “provisionally” approved of directing $145,000 to the UW Roman Catholic Foundation.

The chancellor was quick to add that it may be necessary to receive more information about the Catholic group’s activities "before funding that may be provisionally approved can actually be released," reported the Madison Capital Times.

The funding was approved by student leaders earlier this year. His decision now goes to the Board of Regents for final approval.

Wiley argued in a memo last month to student leaders that fees could not be used to support religious activities without violating the constitution. The Catholic group had threatened to sue if funding was rejected.

In a recent memo, Wiley also wrote that he stood behind the principle that student organizations based off campus, like the Catholic foundation, are not eligible for rent or maintenance subsidies.

But the Madison Capital Times reported that he now says he is granting a one-year exemption to all organizations, and will ask the Board of Regents to clarify the issue.

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Cardinal Martino calls lay the ‘light and soul of society’

, May 3, 2006 (CNA) - “You are a privileged partner and the light and soul of society,” said the Vatican’s Cardinal Renato Martino, speaking on the role of lay people in the Church during this week’s gathering of the Kolping movement in Vienna, Austria.
Cardinal Martino, who is president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, addressed 39 delegates of the Kolping general council yesterday, referring to the “social heritage of the Church as an orientation for the action of Christians in the world.”

He also pointed out the “urgent need to evangelize society according to the requirements of the Church’s social teaching and heritage.”
As evidence of this, Cardinal Martino developed the essential element which is the compendium of the Social Heritage of the Church, elaborated under his overseeing.
“The lay are the privileged partner of the Compendium,” he said, “they are directly present, where the organized secular and social life is; in the realm of the economy, politics, work, and media.”

“They have to deal directly with secular reality, they are therefore the bearers of the practical social heritage of the Church,” he added.
The Cardinal later expressed his wishes that the Compendium would bring maturity to those in positions of responsibility, and enable them to be witnesses in society.
Likewise, he listed a number of challenges which Christians face in society. “It is up to Christian lay to protect the value of the family, and to reinforce the relation between ethics and economy. We have the increasing feeling that economy alone, without ethics is not enough.”
Cardinal Martino conceded that if “Good willing persons take up responsibility positions, in politics, the economy and culture, we would succeed in making this world a better place.”
The Kolping is a Catholic international social organization, which uses education and activities to promote the development of its members in the fields of daily life.

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Nun who launched Vatican website to launch faith-based community site

Vatican City, May 3, 2006 (CNA) - The woman behind the much-renowned Vatican website is working on a new faith-based community site, which will be launched this fall and aim to bring together Catholics from around the world.

Sr. Judith Zoebelein is the editorial director of the Internet Office of the Holy See. In 1995, she and a handful of colleagues approached Pope John Paul II about launching a Vatican website. The Pope gave his approval.

According to an article in the May 8th issue of Business Week, what began as a Web page of the Pope’s 1995 Christmas message has since become one of the most expansive and visited websites. The current Vatican site typically gets about one million visitors per month.

Now Sr. Zoebelein is creating a second Vatican website aimed at bringing together the faithful. There will be personal news updates, e-learning programs, and areas set aside for families, young people, and parishes.

"People will be able to find each other and work together online, and then go back and use what they have learned or done in their own communities," Sr. Zoebelein told Business Week.

Sr. Zoebelein said she believes the Net is the ultimate way to reach millions of people and to connect them with God.

The 57-year-old American nun grew up in a middle-class household in the Hamptons on Long Island. A member of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, Sr. Zoebelein worked with social service agencies in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

According to Business Week, she took an interest in computers and set up computer networks in relief agency offices around the world. She was called to the Vatican in 1991 to help out with its computer systems until the Internet site was developed.

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