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Archive of May 11, 2006

Pope stresses concerns in meeting with Venezuelan president

Vatican City, May 11, 2006 (CNA) - In a day marked by strong words, Pope Benedict XVI met today with Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, to whom he expressed his concerns over the Church’s sometimes tenuous situation in that country as well as a number of the leader’s proposed national reforms.

In a statement released today by the Holy See Press Office, director Joaquin Navarro-Valls said that during the course of the meeting, "the president illustrated to the Pope the projects of social change taking place in his country,” while “Benedict XVI then drew to the president's attention certain themes of particular concern to him.”

The Catholic Church in Venezuela, led by Cardinal Rosalio Jose Castillo Lara, has been highly critical of Chavez’s presidency. Last year, he told the Italian press that the president was dividing the country and “since he came to power he has sowed hatred that is bearing evil results.”

During today’s meeting, the Pope stressed “the freedom of the Holy See to appoint bishops, and expressed the hope that the Catholic University of ‘Santa Rosa de Lima’ may always maintain its Catholic identity.”
 
The statement added that "The Holy Father also expressed his concern over an education reform project in which there would seem to be no provision for teaching religion. He further asked that public health programs uphold the fundamental principle of protecting life from its very beginnings. He also underlined the importance of the independence of Catholic media.”
 
In response, the Vatican said that President Chavez “gave assurances of his concern for the Holy Father's requests and expressed his commitment to overcome all forms of tension in full respect for everyone's rights.”
 
At the end of the meeting, Pope Benedict gave a personal letter to the president which summarized what the Vatican called, “his pastoral concerns for the good of the country."
 

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Pope Benedict chides Canadian Bishops: rediscover centrality of the Eucharist

Vatican City, May 11, 2006 (CNA) - In a meeting earlier today with a group of prelates from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Pope Benedict XVI had strong words regarding the state of the Church in that country, stressing the need for increased devotion to the Eucharist, stronger priestly formation and greater outreach to young people.

The Holy Father began  his address by chiding Canadian society, calling it marked by “pluralism, subjectivism and increasing secularization.” In this light, he said he was grateful for the visit as it allowed him the opportunity to reflect on the Church’s mission in that country.

Recalling that in 2008, Quebec will celebrate the fourth centenary of its foundation and, simultaneously host the International Eucharistic Congress,  Benedict called on the city to "rediscover ... the place the Eucharist must occupy in the life of the Church."

This was a particular point of concern for the Pope who highlighted "the notable drop in religious practice over the last few years," and "the lack of young people at Eucharistic assemblies," cited in the bishop’s own reports.
 
Benedict told them that "The faithful must be convinced of the vital importance of regular participation in Sunday Mass, that their faith may grow and find coherent expression.”

He said in fact, that “the Eucharist, source and summit of Christian life, unites and conforms us to the Son of God. It also builds the Church, strengthening her in her unity as the Body of Christ. No Christian community can be built up if it does not have its root and its core in the celebration of the Eucharist."
 
The Holy Father also lamented a national drop in the number of priests "which at times”, he said, “makes it impossible to celebrate Sunday Mass in certain places,” but stressed his particular worry over “the place occupied by sacramentality in the life of the Church… The requirements of pastoral organization must not compromise authentic ecclesiology.”

He said that “The central role of the priest - who 'in persona Christi capitis, 'teaches, sanctifies and rules the community - must not be diminished."

He also expressed his gratefulness for the generous and important role of the laity, but pointed out that it “must never obscure the absolutely irreplaceable ministry of priests in the life of the Church.Consequently, priestly ministry cannot be entrusted to others without effectively prejudicing the very authenticity of the Church's being.”

“Moreover,” he asked, “how will young men want to become priests if the role of ordained ministry is not clearly defined and recognized?"

Despite these problems, the Pope affirmed that "the thirst for renewal perceptible in the faithful is a sign of hope," referring to the "positive impact"which 2002’s World Youth Day, held in Toronto, had on young Canadians.

That occasion, he said, awoke a fresh interest in Eucharistic adoration.

Benedict continued, saying that "If, as John Paul II wrote, Christianity in our time must distinguish itself above all for 'the art of prayer,' how can we not feel a renewed need to dwell in spiritual conversation ...before Christ present in the Most Holy Sacrament?"

Solid Ecclesial Communion

He then thanked Canada’s consecrated communities for the "apostolic and spiritual commitment of their members," highlighting how "consecrated life is a gift of God benefiting the entire Church and serving life in the world."

However, the Pope urged, it must take place in a context of "solid ecclesial communion," where consecrated men and women "to work ever more closely with pastors, welcoming and spreading Church doctrine in all itsintegrity."

He told the bishops that "You, as well as the whole Christian community have a primordial duty to transmit the call of the Lord fearlessly, to awaken vocations and to accompany young people along the path of discernmentand commitment, in the joy of celibacy.”

“In this spirit,” he said, “you must take care over the catechesis of children and young people.”

In closing, he likewise invited the Catholic community in Quebec “to pay renewed attention to its adherence to the truth of Church teaching on theology and morals, two inseparable aspects of being a Christian in the world."  

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‘Sad day in Colombia’, say bishops, as country legalizes abortion

Bogotá, Colombia, May 11, 2006 (CNA) - Ina decision which the Colombian bishops lament has come on “a sad day for Colombia”, the country’s Constitutional Court--equivalent to the U.S. Supreme Court--has legalized the practice of abortion.

In ruling issued late Wednesday, the Court legalized abortion in three circumstances. From now on, it will no longer be a crime in Colombia to end the life of an unborn child in cases of rape, fetal deformation or when the mother or child are “at risk.”

With their ruling, the majority liberal Court struck down three articles of Colombia’s Penal Code, which punished those who procured or assisted in procuring abortion with up to seven years of prison. The 5-3 vote was are sounding victory for the powerful anti-life lobby in Colombia led by attorney Monica Roa and supported by pro-abortion forces in the United States.

Last December,the justices refused to hear a case filed by Roa to legalize abortion, but in their decision they left the door open to future re-consideration.

Roa brought the case before the Court again and after lengthy legal battles spanning several months Colombian citizens overwhelmingly expressed their opposition to abortion. The Constitutional Court however, decided to legalize the practice nonetheless.

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Pope Benedict stresses importance of marriage as a great ‘good for society’

Vatican City, May 11, 2006 (CNA) - Experts and students in the field of marriage and family study from around the world are meeting in Rome this week for a congress sponsored by the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family--currently celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Earlier today Pope Benedict XVI met with participants, stressing the importance of marriage for the overall good of society.

The theme of the congress is, "The heritage of John Paul II on marriage and the family: to love human love." The institute currently has campuses in the U.S., Mexico, India, Benin, Australia, Spain and Brazil.

The Holy Father began his address recalling that on the day of the assassination attempt on him in May of 1981, John Paul had planned to announce the foundation of the institute during his general audience.

Benedict moved on to highlight two major ideas which mark "the novelty of John Paul II's teaching on human love." The first, is that "marriage and the family are rooted in the most intimate core of truth about man and his destiny." The second element is "that Christ, fullness of the Father's revelation of love, also reveals the full truth of man's vocation of love, which can only be completely achieved in the sincere giving of self."

Pope Benedict recalled his own Encyclical "Deus caritas est", which suggests that "the close relationship between the image of God Love and human love enables us to understand that 'corresponding to the image of a monotheistic God is monogamous marriage.”

“Marriage”, he said, “based on exclusive and definitive love becomes the icon of the relationship between God and His people and vice versa. God's way of loving becomes the measure of human love'."

He explained that "This idea has still largely to be explored," adding that the institute's task is "to illuminate the truth of love as a road to completeness in all forms of human existence.”

“Authentic love”, he said, “becomes a light guiding all life to its fulfillment, creating a society in which mankind can live. The communion of life and love that is marriage is thus ... a real good for society."
 
The Holy Father concluded his address saying that "Avoiding confusion with other kinds of union based on a weak form of love is, today, particularly urgent. Only the rock of complete and irrevocable love between man and woman is capable of acting as a foundation for a society that can be home to all human beings."
 

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Belgium Bishops release declaration on church occupations

Brussels, Belgium, May 11, 2006 (CNA) - Today the Bishops of Belgium held a press conference in order to explain their position on the current occupation of church buildings by undocumented foreigners. A formal declaration was issued subsequently. This comes a day after the declaration of the Apostolic nuncio in Belgium.

The Bishops wished to speak in one voice, answering to alleged divisions in the Bishops Conference on the issue.

“The problem of refugees is a major issue in our society,” the declaration starts. "The Bishops reaffirm they solidarity with theses undocumented refugees and hope for a swift and human solution to the problem” it states.

The Belgian Bishop expressed their sympathy for the undocumented and “understand that some of these undocumented have recourse to church occupations to bring the problem to the attention of a wider public.” They wished to express their independence from political parties: “The bishops will not accept to be instrumentalized or manipulated by any party involved.”

Then the declaration condemns the means used to bring pressure on the government. “In any case can the Bishops admit hunger strikes in churches as a mean to pressure,“ they affirmed.

Moreover on the issue of the occupation of church buildings, “the Bishops remind as well that church buildings are not the most appropriate places to undertake such actions. It is therefore preferable that the pastors provide other spaces that they have available to welcome these people.”

Returning to the political aspect of the issue, they declareed that “the normalization of the situation of undocumented foreigners is above all a political question. A political answer is therefore required. The Bishops are well aware that this political issue is not easy to manage.” 

Nevertheless they strongly criticized the inaction of government and politicians in the issue. “Remaining silent or even worse indifference can not be accepted,” they affirmed.

“The Bishops can only invite people to be generous,” the declaration concludes.

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Opus Dei releases founder’s ‘The Way’ ahead of ‘Da Vinci Code’ opening

, May 11, 2006 (CNA) - As part of its communications blitz to counter the negative image of Opus Dei in Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code”, Opus Dei has authorized the reprinting of their founder’s most well-known book, "The Way.”

Doubleday and members of Opus Dei gathered to celebrate the publication of a new edition St. Josemaria Escriva's book at a reception in New York on Tuesday, reported Reuters. The release was timed to coincide with the film's May 18th release.

Doubleday, which also happens to be Brown's publisher, has set a first print run of 10,000 for the North American market, reported Reuters.

Opus Dei was founded in 1928 in Spain by Fr. Josemaria Escriva to teach Catholics to strive for holiness through work. It has 85,000 members worldwide, of which 2,000 are priests. St. Escriva was canonized in 2002. “The Way” has was first published in Spain in 1939. It has since been printed in 46 languages, with 4.6 million copies in print.

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Federal legislator blogs ‘truth about stem cells’

Washington D.C., May 11, 2006 (CNA) - Advances in adult and umbilical cord-blood stem-cell research have surpassed embryonic stem-cell research, but media hype and several misconceptions continue to fuel support for government subsidized embryonic stem-cell research, said United States Rep. Christopher Smith on The Hill’s Congress Blog yesterday.

In his May 10 blog entry, titled “The Truth About Stem Cells” Smith noted that “nearly 70 human clinical applications using adult stem cells have been published in peer-reviewed journals” and he gave three examples where adult stem cells have been used successfully for organ reconstruction.

The Republican legislator from New Jersey also addressed the misconceptions that the U.S. is falling behind in the competitive field of scientific research and development or losing scientists because of the current embryonic stem-cell policy.

This claim “is simply unsubstantiated,” he said. “There is no statistical evidence that scientists are leaving the country due to the current policy.”

He noted that developments in the field of embryonic stem cells are disappointing, often resulting in failure. These cells have also shown a tendency to form tumors, he wrote.

“These failures of embryonic stem-cell research are magnified by the fact that the process itself destroys human lives at their most vulnerable beginning stage,” he said.

He also addressed the misinformed notion that human embryos left over from the process of in vitro fertilization might as well be used for research because they “are just going to be destroyed anyway and poured down the drain.”

Smith points out that, in fact, some of these embryos are not thrown out but adopted by other couples.

He reported that President George Bush welcomed “snowflake families” to the White House last year.

“These families adopted embryos stored in frozen orphanages left from other couples’ attempts to conceive through in vitro fertilization,” Smith wrote. “They have since seen their adopted embryos grow into happy, healthy children. These children are living examples of why not one taxpayer dollar should be used for the destruction of human embryos.

“Once the government not only permits but funds the destruction of human life in the name of science, all life is devalued and the culture of death becomes even more pervasive,” he concluded.

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Archdiocese of Denver hosts national African-American Catholic youth conference

Denver, Colo., May 11, 2006 (CNA) - More than 200 youth from across the country attended the annual Sankofa Family Summit IX, whose expressed goal is to respond to the educational, psychological and spiritual needs of African American youths and families.

The event, which took place from April 27-30, was hosted by the Archdiocese of Denver and organized by Ambassadors of the Word, a Catholic peer-group ministry program headquartered in Montgomery, Ala. Archbishop Charles Chaput officially welcomed the group to Denver on the Saturday, reported the Denver Catholic Register.

The summit kicked off with a concert at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The conference offered prayer groups, a variety of workshops on youth ministry, spirituality and black family history, Bible study workshops, a spirit walk and Mass with gospel music.

Although the summit is traditionally youth-centered, families were invited this year.

Ambassadors of the Word co-founder Fr. Chester Smith told the Denver Catholic Register that the organization’s primary role is to help instill values, healthy self-esteem and positive behavior patterns in young people.

During a workshop on Scripture study entitled, “Fever for the Flavor of the Word,” Gail Jackson, a youth minister from Washington DC told the group that “It’s hard for young people today with all the peer pressure bombardment from the media, and negative messages…God is calling us to be apart from the world, and to do that we have to arm ourselves with the word.”

One participant, 15-year old Eugene Harper, came all the way from St. Louis. He said that he came away from the conference “able to connect (with God) on a deeper level…because I know the Lord loves me as much as I love him.”

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Sirius to launch New York-based Catholic radio channel

, May 11, 2006 (CNA) - Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. announced Wednesday that it plans to create a new channel of exclusively Catholic programming in cooperation with the Archdiocese of New York, reports the Associated Press.

The channel, which will launch in the fall, will carry live daily Mass from St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York as well as talk and music programming. Programming on the new channel would be created especially for Sirius.

Sirius already carries religious programming, including Catholic-themed syndicated talk shows, the EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network, and FamilyNet, the broadcast arm of the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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Quebec City boy, who was born deaf, sings a song to Pope Benedict today

Quebec City, Canada, May 11, 2006 (CNA) - Today  Jeremy Gabriel of Quebec City stood before Pope Benedict XVI and sang in his soft, high-pitched voice his rendition of "Je Louerai L'Éternel" (I Will Praise the Everlasting). Jeremy has Treacher-Collins Syndrome, a rare birth defect characterized by facial anomalies such as downward slanting eyes, a small lower jaw, underdeveloped or missing cheekbones and malformed or missing ears.

Jeremy’s wish impressed Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Archbishop of Quebec and primate of the Roman Catholic Church in Canada, who brought it to the attention of Pope Benedict XVI. "The Holy Father was moved by the young boy's story. After a moment of silence he said, 'Let's do it.' He decided in 30 seconds. It was quite touching," Cardinal Ouellet said recently in explaining the Pope's decision to honor Jeremy’s request.

Jeremy will sang at noon today before a blessing ceremony for an ark of the new covenant built by Canadian Catholic Youth. Quebec's bishops are in the Vatican this week for their ad limina visits, the visits they are required to make every five years to report on their ministries. The ark to be blessed by the Pope is a chest covered with iconic images related to the Eucharist. Over the next two years, it will be sent to dioceses across the country as part of the evangelization movement leading up to the Eucharistic Congress to be held in Quebec City in June, 2008. The Pope is expected to attend part of the week-long congress, where 20,000 people will gather.

Jeremy  has had more than 15 rounds of surgery to rebuild his face, and more are planned. He uses a special hearing aid that transmits sound vibrations through his skull bones. Despite his handicaps, Jeremy loves to sing and to participate in plays at École oraliste de Québec, his school for the deaf.

Last fall he recorded an album of Christmas songs, and in October he was invited to sing the national anthem before a sellout crowd of more than 20,000 fans at a Montreal Canadiens hockey game.

Yet for Jeremy, the appearances at these prestigious events still fell short of his goal of singing a hymn for the Pope, an ambition he said he has nurtured since watching the funeral of Pope John Paul II on TV last year.

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