Vatican City, May 17, 2006 (CNA) - This morning, Pope Benedict XVI held his general Audience, in which he recalled Peter’s spiritual journey, describing him as a man "animated by a sincere religiosity, who learned what following Jesus really means."
Before more than 60,000 faithful gathered on Saint Peters square, Pope Benedict gave a catechesis on the life of the Saint Peter, and the personality of the individual Apostles.
“Peter was animated by a sincere religiosity that moved him to go with his brother to Judea, following the preaching of John the Baptist.”He was a faithful Jew, who believed in God's active presence in the history of His people, “ the pope continued.
The Pontiff wished to give a thorough depiction of the person of Saint Peter and his spiritual itinerary toward Christ, “a strong and impulsive character, Peter allowed himself to be involved in this great adventure,” the Pontiff added.
Pope Benedict recalled the way in which he recognized Jesus as the messiah,
with the famous question Jesus asked him "'Who do men say that I am?' ... And Peter replied also on behalf of the others: 'You are the Christ'."
"This reply," said Benedict XVI, "has within it the seed of the Church's future profession of faith. However, Peter had not yet understood the profound substance of Jesus' messianic mission, as became clear shortly afterwards when he made it known that the Messiah he sought in his dreams was very different from God's plan."
Lastly, the Pope recalled that "Peter thus learned what following Jesus really means. And, though with difficulty, he accepted the invitation and continued his path in the footsteps of the Master."
Vatican City, May 17, 2006 (CNA) - During today's general audience, held in St. Peter's Square, the Pope addressed some words to Polish pilgrims, expressing joy over his forthcoming visit to that country, due to begin in 8 days' time.
"This visit," he said "will take place under the motto 'remain strong in the faith.' Even from today I ask you, and all the Church in Poland, to pray so that in those days, with the help of God' grace, we can strengthen one another in our testimony of the faith. May Servant of God John Paul II accompany us!"
The Holy Father also greeted a group of faithful from Estonia, especially the choir of the cathedral of Maribor, to whom he said: "In your pilgrimage recalling the tenth anniversary of my predecessor's visit, may the example of his life make you strong in faithfulness to Christ and to the Church."
Finally, addressing young people and the sick, he called on them "to intensify the devout practice of praying the Rosary, especially in this month of May, dedicated to the Mother of God," entrusting to her "all your needs." He also called on recently married couples to "make the praying of the Rosary in the family a moment of spiritual growth under the maternal gaze of the Virgin Mary.
Paris, France, May 17, 2006 (CNA) - “The Da Vinci Code: A film which, finally, the Church has little to be concerned about.” These are the words from Signis, the Catholic communication association, after viewing the much announced movie yesterday. .
As the movie was presented yesterday at the opening of the Cannes Movie Festival, in France, many Christians from different backgrounds and sensibilities were anxious about the release of the film of The Da Vinci Code, directed by Ron Howard.
The Catholic association described the film as “simply a popular entertainment. While the early scenes set us on an exciting treasure hunt, the wordiness of the drawn out twists of the later part of the film will disappoint many cinemagoers.”
“The film wants rather to please everyone and not upset them too much. The writers have added quite a number of dialogue exchanges which downplay the more controversial statements of the novel about the Church, the divinity of Jesus, the role of Mary Magdalene and even Opus Dei.
Signis wished that “the Church can benefit from this phenomenon in explaining the theological foundations of faith and the hopes of all Christians.”
Signis is a non-governmental organization that includes members from 140 countries. As the "World Catholic Association for Communication", it brings together radio, television, cinema, video, media education, Internet, and new technology professionals.
The association usually through an ecumenical jury, is one of only three Juries, along with the Official Jury and the Jury of the Film Press (Fipresci), entitled to give awards and commendations in the official competition.
The Ecumenical Jury has a particular perspective on the films. It honors works of artistic quality which witnesses to the power of film to reveal the mysterious depths of human beings through what concerns them, their hurts and failings as well as their hopes.
Alexandria, Va., May 17, 2006 (CNA) - Catholic Charities USA is pleased with President George Bush’s recent speech endorsing comprehensive reforms to the country’s immigration laws. “We are hopeful that this push by the White House will move Congress forward towards necessary reforms,” said Fr. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA.
"America's immigration system is broken, and Congress needs to fix it in a way that provides fair and just reforms while protecting our nation's security,” Fr. Snyder said in a prepared statement.
The organization hopes the president's call will end efforts by some in Congress “to focus only on punitive enforcement-only solutions,” he said.
“We believe that any immigration reform must take steps to put undocumented workers on the path to lawful permanent residence and citizenship,” he added.
Fr. Snyder said his organization is also encouraged that the Senate intends to pass a bipartisan immigration reform bill this month.
Catholic Charities agencies and institutions assist more than half a million immigrants and refugees each year.
, May 17, 2006 (CNA) - Data from recent surveys indicate that liberals and people who are not regular churchgoers are more likely to believe the tales proposed in The Da Vinci Code about Jesus having children with Mary Magdalene, said Catholic League president William Donohue.
“There is an inverse correlation between religiosity and belief in the Da Vinci Code’s thesis,” explained Donohue in a press release. “The more likely one is to attend church, the less likely he or she is to believe the book’s thesis.”
According to Donohue, a Barna Group survey found that liberals were twice as likely as conservatives to have altered their religious beliefs after reading Dan Brown’s book.
Donohue also cited statistics indicating that the British are twice as likely to believe Da Vinci’s “moonshine” than Americans. Donohue attributed it to the fact that British Christians attend regular church services less often than Americans. The 2001 British census revealed that 72 percent consider themselves Christian, but only 8 percent regularly attend church services.
Donohue also quoted a USA/Gallup poll taken this month, which found that 72 percent of Americans said no movie had ever had a profound effect on their religious beliefs in any positive or negative way; 21 percent said they saw a movie that strengthened their beliefs; and four percent said they saw a film that caused them to question their religious beliefs.
As well, a Barna Group survey reported yesterday that 24 percent of those who read the book said it was helpful in relation to their ‘personal growth or understanding.’ Only five percent said they changed their beliefs because of The Da Vinci Code.
Konigstein, Germany, May 17, 2006 (CNA) - A Catholic initiative to give the poorest of the poor in India a fresh start in life is celebrating some ground-breaking achievements, reported Father Rossi Rego, SJ, Mission Procurator of the Karnataka (south west India) Jesuit Province.
Fr. Rossi Rego gave an account of his mission during a recent visit to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), he explained that Jesuit-run ‘Mission’ programs provide kindergartens, schools, self-help centres, hostels, and social support for people in debt – all mainly directed towards the Dalits, India’s down-trodden ‘untouchable’ underclass.
About 25 years ago, the ‘Missions’ were set up across south India, aimed at uplifting the Dalits by freeing youngsters from child labour and enrolling them at rehabilitation schools. Key to the self-help projects are privately-run banks, set up to encourage Dalits to save a little every month and to deter them from taking out loans with hugely-inflated interest rates.
Fr Rego said it showed that the ‘Missions’ had played a key part in enabling Dalits to break free from oppression. Things have changed enormously.” He went on: “Women have grown in asserting themselves. We have been holding a series of talks and now the women are asking questions and really coming forward. This would have been unheard of 10 years ago. They are even going to the government offices to demand their rights – again unthinkable a decade ago.”
Needham, Mass, May 17, 2006 (CNA) - The Catholic Medical Association is calling on pharmaceutical companies to develop vaccines that are not derived from aborted fetuses.
"The pharmaceutical companies that manufacture the vaccines have the ability and know-how to produce versions of these vaccines which do not depend on cell lines from aborted fetuses,” says a recent statement issued by the CMA. “They should be pressured to develop those vaccines to meet the health needs of those who have religious and ethical objections to abortion.”
Vaccines that have been derived from cell lines originally prepared from tissue taken from voluntarily aborted fetuses include those for rubella and Hepatitis A, among others.
The statement says that physicians and patients are permitted to use the vaccines derived from aborted fetuses “when no effective alternative is available."
However, they noted, it is also permissable to abstain from using these vaccines “if it can be done without significant risk to their health.” And when alternative versions of these vaccines are available, "they must be used in place of those produced by immoral means," reads the CMA statement.
"But there is really no reason why those alternatives should be unavailable," said Robert Saxer, CMA's executive vice president.
“The FDA has the authority to allow for the licensing and importation of safe and effective ethical alternative vaccines such as Takahashi (rubella) and Aimmugen (Hepatitis A), and it has a moral duty to exercise that authority," Saxer added.
Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities welcomed the CMA statement. He said his office looks forward to working with the CMA to help make alternative vaccines readily available in the U.S.
The current situation in Iowa, where there has been an outbreak of mumps, highlights the ongoing urgency to resolve the issue of vaccines derived from abortions. Part of the vaccine being used (MMR) is derived from aborted tissue, and there is no alternative available for that component in the U.S.
London, England, May 17, 2006 (CNA) - British Muslims should not remain silent when Christians are being denied their rights or are made subject to sharia law, said Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor.
The archbishop of Westminster spoke Tuesday at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies on the need for respectful dialogue between Christians and Muslims and on the conditions required to make such dialogue to work.
The “main obstacle” to Christian-Muslim dialogue, the cardinal said, was the failure, "in a number of Muslim countries, to uphold the principle of religious freedom," reported Independant Catholic News.
"If we do not enjoy the freedom to practise our religion openly and without fear, then we cannot be honest,” he was quoted as saying. “Dialogue assumes the freedom to witness. It is essential that Muslims can freely worship in Oxford or London, just as it is essential that Christians can freely worship in Riyadh or Kabul.”
He told his audience that when religious rights of minorities are disrespected in the name of Islam, “ the face of Islam is tarnished elsewhere in the world.”
“It is unfortunately necessary to point out that in some Islamic countries similar signs of the recognition of religious freedom are lacking,” he said, referring to the opening of the mosque in Rome in 1995.
He said he was pleased that Muslims can gather at the new Roman mosque and expressed his hope that the rights of Christians and people of all faiths “to express their own faith will be recognised in every corner of the earth.”
"This is a vital principle of sacred hospitality, and it is vital for the relationship between Christians and Muslims,” he said.
Seville, Spain, May 17, 2006 (CNA) - The Apostolic Nuncio in Spain, Archbishop Manuel Monteiro, said this week “man is ontologically, but not morally, free, because he is obligated in conscience to seek out the truth in all its aspects.”
During the 17th Symposium on the History of the Church in Spain and America, the prelate also referred to the dignity of man and woman, as defended and promoted by the Church throughout her history. Human dignity “is increasingly clearer in the conscience of mankind in our time,” he said, and “in order for conscience not to be violated or to suffer violence, it is necessary that it be truthful and in accord with the human person.”
Archbishop Monteiro noted that “the Church does not ask for privileges,” but rather “she desires to enunciate the love of God to mankind and thus build a society in which love and charity reign.” In this sense, he explained that religious liberty is a “natural right” that should translate into a civil right, because it is founded “upon the very dignity of the person.”
In order to lay the foundation of this freedom, he went on, “it is essential to recognize man’s right to seek the truth, to follow his conscience and to accept the free and supernatural character of the act of faith.”
The archbishop warned that in exercising his freedom of religion, man must not forget he is a “created being,” and that “only with a careful and complete humanistic formation can we have people who are willing to serve the Church and society.”
, May 17, 2006 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro, praised the proposal by the country’s president, Alvaro Uribe, to hold talks with the Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) if the Marxist rebel group agrees to cease hostilities.
Uribe said Tuesday he was willing to reach out to the FARC in order to motivate the group to enter into a peace process with the government or to establish a humanitarian accord for the release of those who have been kidnapped.
Archbishop Castro said he would remind Uribe of his statements down the road when immediate decisions about the talks would have to be made. He said he hoped to see “readiness and good will on the part of the FARC in order to seek out ways to bring the sides together.”
As the country gears up for presidential elections on May 28, the Church in Colombia has temporarily halted its efforts to bring the government and the FARC together in peace talks.
Barcelona, Spain, May 17, 2006 (CNA) - The new president of the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations, Jose Maria Simon Castellvi, said this week that since its Hippocratic origins, the essence of the practice of medicine demands respect for the life of every human being.
“We should not employ euphemisms such as ‘voluntary interruption of pregnancy’ or ‘death with dignity,’ which cover up sordid realities that many do not want to hear,” Castellvi said at the conclusion of the Federation’s 22nd annual gathering.
“Leaving aside the progress and the advances we have experienced in recent years, we cannot forget about right and wrong. And despite everything that can be said, doctors and the health-care sector cannot work against human life,” he added. Castellvi said he would continue to work to ensure that “the principles that have made the medical community one of the most respected in society” are not lost.
The Spanish doctor also addressed the issue of poverty in the countries of the southern hemisphere and noted that in that region “medicine should not be a business.” He denounced the “institutions and companies related with the medicine of the privileged first world that do not commit to fighting poverty in the world.” Castellvi said the pharmaceutical industry should reach out to poor countries and provide assistance even though it would be economically beneficial.
Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and peace, was also in attendance at the Federation’s annual gathering. He expressed his disappointment that only five European countries have kept their commitment to dedicate 0.7% of their GDP to aid for poor countries.
Lima, Peru, May 17, 2006 (CNA) - On May 17 the Peruvian congress will be visited by a group of journalists from the Catholic Radio and Television Network of Argentina, which is producing a report on the efforts of some Peruvian lawmakers to defend human life and the family.
The Argentinean journalists, whose report is being funded in part by Aid to the Church in Need, will interview Elvira de la Puenta Haya and Luis Santa Maria Calderon, two Peruvian lawmakers who will explain the importance of passing laws that deal with human life and the family and the repercussions they have in Peruvian society. Haya and Calderon will also describe the efforts currently being made in the Peruvian Congress to promote integral development of the human person.
The Argentinean network plans to make the report available to TV networks in other countries in order to allow viewers around the world to see and be inspired by the actions that have been taken in Peru to defend life and the family.