Vatican City, May 8, 2006 (CNA) - As
the Pontifical Swiss Guard--the longest standing army in the
world--continues to celebrate 500 years of service to the Pope and the
Church, Pope Benedict celebrated Mass on Saturday thanking both past
and present Guard members for the dedication of their lives.
Civil and military authorities from Switzerland as well as other countries were on hand at St. Peter’s Basilica for the ceremony, where they joined relatives, friends of the Guard and military chaplains.
During his homily, the Holy Father discussed the readings--taken from the Book of Wisdom and St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans. He said that "whoever, fascinated by wisdom, seeks and finds it in Christ, leaves everything for Him, receiving in exchange the priceless gift of the Kingdom of God; and, clothed in temperance, prudence, justice and strength (the 'cardinal' virtues), he lives his witness of charity within the Church."
He likened this vision to the Pontifical Swiss Guard who, "motivated by love for Christ and the Church, put themselves at the service of Peter's Successor."
Benedict expressed his gratitude both for those members of the Guard who had signed on for a limited time, as well as others who decided to serve for their whole lives. He expressed his joy for those whose service in the Vatican had "brought them to mature a response to a priestly or religious vocation."
"Nonetheless,” he continued, “for everyone, being Swiss Guards means an unreserved adherence to Christ and to the Church, and a readiness to give one's life. Actual service may cease, but in your hearts you always remain Swiss Guards.”
Here the Pope commended the “nearly 80 former Guards who, from April 7 to May 4, made the extraordinary march from Switzerland to Rome, mainly following the old pilgrim route of the Via Francigena."
Inviting his listeners to be nourished by the Eucharist, he encouraged them, above all else, to be "men of prayer, that divine wisdom may make you true friends of God and servants of His Kingdom of love and peace.”
“It is in the sacrifice of Christ”, he said, “that the service of your long line of predecessors over these 500 years acquires completeness of meaning and value."
Vatican City, May 8, 2006 (CNA) - The
Catholic Church celebrated the 43rd annual World Day of Vocations on
Sunday. At the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI marked the occasion by
ordaining 15 new priests and stressing how they must be a witness of
the Gospel both to believers and to a world that has not yet heard of
13 of those ordained yesterday now become priests within the Diocese of Rome, while the two others will serve in the Order of Discalced Carmelites.
During his homily, the Holy Father recalled the day’s Gospel reading, which speaks of the Christ the Good Shepherd, who gives his life for his flock.
This priestly spirit, Benedict stressed, is opposed to "careerism, the attempt to arrive 'high up,' to seek out a position through the Church, serve oneself and not serve others. This is the image of a man who, through the priesthood, seeks to become important and famous."
Yet, he was quick to add, "the only legitimate ascent towards the ministry of the shepherd is the cross. That is the door."
He went on to say that to be a priest is not "to desire to be someone important, ... but to live for others, for Christ, and through Him and with Him to live for the men and women He seeks, whom He wants to lead along the path of life.”
"We enter the priesthood through a Sacrament," the Holy Father said, "and this means through the total donation of self to Christ, so that He may use me as He wishes, so that I serve Him and follow His call even when this contrasts with my own desires for self-fulfillment and respect. To enter by the door, which is Christ, means knowing Him and loving Him ever more deeply, that our will may unite with His and our action become one with His action."
He went on, stressing the importance of celebrating the Eucharist daily--an act which, he said, “must become a school of life for us, one in which we learn to donate our lives."
Likewise, he highlighted the importance of "a practical and concrete knowledge of the people entrusted to us. ... The pastor cannot be content with remembering names and dates, his knowledge must also be a knowledge of the heart. This, however, is only fully possible if the Lord has opened our own hearts."
The Pope concluded his homily by emphasizing how priests "must concern themselves with everyone," especially "those who believe and live with the Church," but also with "bringing God's invitation to His banquet to those men and women who have still not heard of it."
Boston, Mass., May 8, 2006 (CNA) - The legalization of same-sex marriage has launched the most significant cultural battle of our time and will have severe and far-reaching consequences for churches and religious organizations, many legal experts say.
In the cover story of the May 15 issue of the Weekly Standard, Maggie Gallagher predicts that the decision to legalize gay marriage will trickle down through the legal system and negatively impact churches on all fronts.
Her comprehensive report offers the insights and observations of several legal experts, who attended a December conference on the issue organized by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
Gallagher is president of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy and coauthor of The Case for Marriage.
The recent conflict over gay adoptions in Boston and the decision of Catholic Charities in that city to withdraw from the adoption business is only one sign of the huge cultural battle to come between religious liberty and sexual liberty, Gallagher suggests. Gay marriage has already been legalized in Massachusetts.
“People who favor gay rights face no penalty for speaking their views, but can inflict a risk of litigation, investigation, and formal and informal career penalties on others whose views they dislike,” Gallagher writes.
“Meanwhile, people who think gay marriage is wrong cannot know for sure where the line is now or where it will be redrawn in the near future. ‘Soft’coercion produces no martyrs to disturb anyone's conscience, yet it is highly effective in chilling the speech of ordinary people,” she continues.
“Precisely because support for marriage is public policy,” she writes, “once marriage includes gay couples, groups who oppose gay marriage arel ikely to be judged in violation of public policy, triggering a host of negative consequences, including the loss of tax-exempt status.”
“Because marriage is not a private act, but a protected public status, the legalization of gay marriage sends a strong signal that orientation is now on a par with race in the non discrimination game,” she states.
Among a number of legal experts, Gallagher interviews Marc Stern, general counsel for the American Jewish Congress, who sees the coming conflicts as pervasive. The problem is not that clergy will be forced to perform gay marriages or prevented from preaching their beliefs, he says, the problem is the sweeping and unpredictable impact it would have on American law.
He says same-sex marriage will affect religious educational institutions in at least four ways: admissions, employment, housing, and regulation of clubs.
In addition, he foresees future conflict with the law in regard to licensing, as well as psychological clinics, social workers, marital counselors, etc.
He also warns that the expression of opposition to gay marriage in the corporate world will not be suppressed by gay advocates but by corporate lawyers,“who will draw the lines least likely to entangle the company inlitigation,” Gallagher writes.
According to Stern, churches might be able to defend their tax-exempt status basedon the First Amendment, but "the parachurch institutions are very much at risk and may be put out of business because of the licensing issues."
Gallagher also interviewed Robin Wilson, an expert in family and health care law, who unlike Stern, believes that public-support arguments may be advanced to compel churches to participate in same-sex marriage or risk losing their tax-exempt status.
Wilson also points out that the First Amendment did not prevent religious hospitals from being punished for refusing to perform abortions, once abortion became a constitutional right. It was Congress and state legislatures that stepped in to provide statutory religious exemptions. The same will likely need to happen regarding same-sex marriage.
Gallagher also interviewed Georgetown law professor Chai Feldblum, known for her work on civil rights issues, especially gay civil rights. She has drafted many federal bills to prohibit “orientation discrimination,” reports Gallagher.
Feldblum also sees how anti-discrimination laws pose a burden on religious groups. "When we pass a law that says you may not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, we are burdening those who have an alternative moral assessment of gay men and lesbians," she told Gallagher.
Most of the time, the need to protect the dignity of gay people will justify burdening religious belief, Feldblum argues. But that does not make it right to pretend these burdens do not exist or do not matter.
While the burdens must be considered each time a law is passed, she said she believes sexual liberty should win out in most cases “because that's the only way that the dignity of gay people can be affirmed in any realistic manner.”
For more on the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, go to
Shenyang, China, May 8, 2006 (CNA) - Another
Catholic bishop was ordained in China Sunday — the third in eight days—
in a ceremony that was approved by the Vatican, unlike the
controversial first two, which, the Vatican said could result in a
series of excommunications.
The local cathedral was packed for the ordination of the new auxiliary bishop, Pei Junmin, 36, who was trained in Philadelphia. Several U.S. and other foreign guests also attended. During the ceremony, part of the decree from the Pope approving the consecration was read in Latin, reported the New York Times.
The ordination of a new auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of Shenyang came three days after Pope Benedict XVI sharply rebuked China for consecrating two bishops in the past eight days without Vatican approval.
China responded over the weekend by describing the Pope's criticism as "unfounded" and defending the ordinations as within the bounds of the government, reported the Times.
While Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said in a statement that the Chinese government “is always sincere and has made unremitting efforts in improving its ties with the Vatican,” others in the Church believe the actions are a huge step backward in reconciliation between China and the Vatican. Diplomatic ties were broken 55 years ago.
While Pope Benedict has made normalization of relations a priority, the issue of appointing bishops has become a major stumbling block.
For several years, an understanding has existed between the Vatican and Beijing under which candidates for bishops have been vetted by both sides. Since 2004, at least five bishops have been approved with such consent.
Fr. Benoit Vermander, an expert on China-Vatican relations at the Ricci Institute, a Jesuit-led organization in Taipei, Taiwan, told the Times that the recent happenings were indicative of some internal disunity within Chinese policymaking.
Vatican City, May 8, 2006 (CNA) - During Pope Benedict XVI’s Regina Coeli prayer on Sunday, he stressed thecontinued need for priestly vocations throughout the world, explaining how priesthood, married life, and consecrated religious life all must work together for the good of the entire Church.
Prior to leadingthe Marian prayer, the Pope greeted a throng of pilgrims gathered belowhis study window in St. Peter’s Square and expressed joy at his own ordination of fifteen priests earlier that day at the Vatican Basilica.
He recalled that Sunday’s particular emphasis on Jesus as the Good Shepherd relates well to the celebration of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations--also held Sunday--the theme of which was: "Vocation in the mystery of the Church."
"Christianvocation," Benedict said, "is the renewal of the personal friendship with Jesus Christ, which gives full meaning to one's existence andmakes it receptive to the Kingdom of God. The Church lives off this friendship, nourished by the Word and by the Sacraments, holy truthsespecially entrusted to the ministry of bishops, priests and deaconsconsecrated by the Sacrament of Holy Orders."
He explained that "for this reason, the priest's mission is irreplaceable; and although in some areas there is a lack of clergy, it must not bedoubted that God continues to call boys, young men and adults to leaveeverything and dedicate themselves to preaching the Gospel and to pastoral ministry."
“Another special way to follow Christ”, the Pope said, “is the vocation to consecrated life, expressed though an existence of poverty, chastity and obedience,entirely dedicated to God in contemplation and prayer, while serving our brothers and sisters, especially the weakest and poorest."
"Christian marriage”, he added”, is also and to all effects a vocation to sanctity. He stressed that “the example of saintly parents is the primary condition favoring the growth of priestly and religious vocations."
Philadelphia, Pa., May 8, 2006 (CNA) - Westminster
Theological Seminary has announced that it has partnered with
interl’inc to create resource materials specifically for teens and
young adults on “The Da Vinci Code” book and movie.
The school hosts www.thetruthaboutdavinci.com. Interl’inc ( www.interlinc-online.com) is known for its use of cutting-edge music to integrate biblical teaching and Scripture.
Peter Lillback, president of Westminster Seminary, noted that youth resources on “Da Vinci Code” had not been created yet.
The creators say their resources teach young people about biblical and historical truths as well as how to defend their faith.
The study guide is designed to be used over four sessions and covers the following themes: Doubts About the Church, Doubts About the Bible; Doubts About Jesus; and Confidence About Jesus.
Westminster faculty has joined with noted authors, theologians and scholars to provide content for pastors, small group leaders, as well as the average person just wanting to research the facts and come to their own conclusions.
The resource is featured in the upcoming issue of interl’inc’s resource magazine, Youth Leaders Only (YLO), and on the Westminster website, www.thetruthaboutdavinci.com.
Burlington, Vt., May 8, 2006 (CNA) - The
Diocese of Burlington, Vermont, wants Judge Ben Joseph removed as the
presiding judge in an upcoming sex-abuse case. Diocesan officials say
Joseph’s rulings in a recent case jeopardize the diocese’s chances of
getting a fair trial, reported the Burlington Free Press on May 5.
In a sealed motion filed Thursday in Chittenden Superior Court, diocesan attorney David Cleary said Joseph's decision to lift a gag order regarding church documents after the April 19 settlement had resulted in extensive media coverage.
"It is now absolutely impossible for the diocese to receive a fair trial in these matters because of the pre-trial publicity surrounding these events," reads the court motion, which was approved by Bishop Salvatore Matano.
Joseph wrote in a brief ruling later that day that the diocese's request to keep the motion secret was groundless. He declined comment on the request.
Joseph issued a series of pre-trial rulings that expanded the scope of testimony by allowing evidence of abuses by other priests to be considered, Cleary added.
The recent case involved claims that the diocese knew Fr. Ed Paquette had molested boys when it assigned him to Christ the King Church in Burlington in 1976. The lawsuit was brought by Michael Gay, a former altar boy. The case was settled for $965,000.
The next trial, tentatively scheduled to begin July 1, involves claims that Fr. George Paulin molested an altar boy in the mid-1970s during his term at St. Mary of the Sea Church in Newport.
Madrid, Spain, May 8, 2006 (CNA) - In
an interview published by the Spanish daily “El Pais,” Cardinal Alfonso
Lopez Trujillo, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family,
again responded to controversial statements made by Italian Cardinal
Carlo Maria Martini regarding the beginning of life and the use of
condoms in combating AIDS.
The Colombian cardinal directly confronted statements made by Cardinal Martini with the official position of the dicastery he heads.
Regarding Cardinal Martini’s opinion that the condom could be considered a “lesser evil” in the case of a married couple where one spouse has AIDS, Cardinal Lopez Trujillo countered, “He’s trying to become involved in pastoral areas. That is currently not his task.”
“Martini”, he said, “is a specialist in the Bible, and of course he has expressed his own opinions. And moralists and people who deal with these pastoral questions will know how to weigh these things in the correct way. But what I can say is that at the dicastery where I have served for 16 years, there has been no request to present new teaching on the subject.”
Speaking about the reported existence of a “study” by the Holy See on the use of condoms, the Colombian cardinal was emphatic: “No Pontiff up to now has opened this possibility. Paul VI did not do it, John Paul II did not do it during 27 years, nor has it been done by this Pope, who is working hard for the family and for life. Everything Benedict XVI has done in recent months has been to recommend faithfulness, continence and chastity.”
“That is the only thing I have read up to now and this is what makes us feel completely sure,” he said. “Cardinal Lozano Barragan, who is president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care, has already told ‘Avvenire’ that he has never been given such an assignment.”
Asked about his own opinion about Cardinal Martini’s statements on condom use, Cardinal Lopez Trujillo insisted, “This is his personal opinion that is not found in the Magisterium. Up to this point many, many people do not see a way to accept it. But let me say, in some cases it could be studied by competent individuals and by competent dicasteries. But for now there is nothing.”
With regard to Cardinal Martini’s opinion that abortion could be considered in cases of life of the mother, Cardinal Lopez Trujillo replied: "That notion can only be explained by an error in the transcript. An innocent life can never be eliminated for any reason, and the fetus is an innocent life.”
“The Church”, he stressed, “has never approved of abortion by a mother whose life is threatened by the child. It has never been, and never will be, allowed because it is the only teaching of the Church” on this matter. “I think that in this sense the cardinal was misinterpreted, because someone so important with such vast knowledge knows well that Catholic morality has never said such a thing.”
As for what the Colombian cardinal had to say to Cardinal Martini himself; “I have great esteem for Cardinal Martini. When I have the chance to see him we will talk. And I am sure he will give me the good news that some of his statements were misunderstood.”
Prague, Czech Republic, May 8, 2006 (CNA) - The
Czech Bishops’ Conference has joined the chorus of protests against the
Da Vinci Code book and movie, saying that the work’s author, Dan Brown,
has smeared basic Christian symbols in order to gain publicity.
Conference spokesman Martin Horalek said, “Offending or trampling upon the religious sentiments of somebody in order to make money is simply despicable.” He pointed out that the Dan Brown book is an intentional attack on Christian sentiments and he compared it to the cartoons depicting Mohammed.
“The only difference is that Christians do not take to the streets, they do not use violence and they do no call for the death of Dan Brown,” he added.
Francisco Mata Marcano, director of the Opus Dei-affiliated University Center in Prague, also spoke out against the “Da Vinci Code.” “In terms of its style, the book does keep you in suspense. The problem is that it attacks the fundamental values of the Christian faith, of the Catholic faith.”
“The impact of this book could also be very positive,” he added, “as people may become interested in the person of Christ and seek out more information and thus arrive at the truth, which we find in Sacred Scripture.”
In terms of the confusion the book could cause in the Czech Republic, Marcano noted that since the book’s release there several months ago, there has not been any “unusual reaction.”
“While it was the most read book last year, I have not seen a significant reaction from people. I think that the image of the Church that is conveyed in the schools of this country is already quite negative. Therefore the book isn’t really saying anything new, in my opinion,” Marcano said.
Bogotá, Colombia, May 8, 2006 (CNA) - As
the upcoming presidential elections scheduled for May 28 draw near, the
bishops of Colombia issued a statement this weekend reaffirming the
need to defend human life from conception to natural death.
In their statement, the bishops recalled the words of Pope Benedict XVI to a group of European lawmakers in which he laid out several “non-negotiable principles” such as the defense of life from conception to natural death, the recognition and promotion of the family, and the protection of the rights of parents to educate their children.
With regard to the family, the Pope noted in his address that this consists of “a union between a man and a woman founded upon marriage” and that it must be defended against efforts to make other radically different types of unions legally equivalent.
The bishops called on the presidential candidates to “respond to the multiple offenses that are committed against the truth of the human person and against justice.” They exhorted the candidates to “use the final days of campaigning to spread truth, justice and peace among all Colombians. Your campaigns should be a model of tolerance and reconciliation for all Colombians,” the bishops said.
The bishops also emphasized the importance of voting in the elections, saying “the time has come to express our love of country. Let us all try to discern what the best option is for responding to the urgent needs of Colombia,” they said.
San José, Costa Rica, May 8, 2006 (CNA) - The
chancellor of Costa Rica, Roberto Tovar Faja, has said that “the State
is obliged to defend the family,” especially from the moral and social
relativism that is seriously threatening it.
During the closing of the International Day on Family Policy and Human Rights, Tovar explained that this duty of the State is “more than a legal imposition” and that as individuals, the defense of the family must start from “a moral conviction, especially by those of us who happen to hold public office.”
He warned that the greatest threat to the family comes not from totalitarian regimes but from “social and moral relativism which attacks the family and assaults our culture.”
In this sense, he called on those attending the event to defend the family from relativism, “because our children should continue to grow up in an atmosphere of solidarity and understanding, which is what springs forth from a strong and vigorous family, where father and mother and children foster a reciprocal sense of love.”
Tovar also thanked God for giving him “the opportunity to hold an office that allows me to defend values that are precious to our culture--life and the family--and to defend my Christian values.”