Vatican City, May 18, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict received this morning the participants in the 56th general assembly of the Italian Episcopal Conference, inviting them to contribute to guaranty and promote the dignity of the person and the common good of society.
The Pontiff opened his address by referring to one of the bishops' "essential tasks" as always remaining "close to our priests," watching over their formation, concerning themselves with their material and spiritual well-being, ensuring they do not face difficulties alone, and performing "a careful selection of candidates for the priesthood."
Through the Bishops, he went on to thank “our priests for their continual and often unseen dedication.”
Refering to the upcoming fourth national ecclesial congress of Verona, due to be held from October 16 to 20, the Pope declared "I will have the joy of participating."
Going on to quote his recent Encyclical "Deus caritas est," Benedict XVI recalled how the Church is aware of the fundamental "distinction between what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God, in other words, the distinction between Church and State, or the autonomy of the temporal sphere."
"At the same time," he added, "and precisely by virtue of her mission of salvation, the Church cannot rescind her task of purifying reason by the proposal of her own social doctrine based upon 'what is in accord with the nature of every human being,' and reawakening moral and spiritual forces by opening people's will to the authentic needs of what is good."
Pope Benedict added: "In current circumstances, by recalling the value for public and private life of certain ethical principles rooted in the great Christian heritage of Europe, and in particular of Italy, we commit no violation of the laicism of the State, rather we contribute to guaranteeing and promoting the dignity of the person and the common good of society."
The Pope concluded by highlighting the need to offer "a clear testimony to all our brothers and sisters in humanity. By doing so we do not burden them with useless weight, but help them, to progress along the road of life and of true freedom."
Vatican City, May 18, 2006 (CNA) - Benedict XVI today received the Letters of Credence of five new ambassadors to the Holy See, encouraging them to strive to build bridges between countries in the area of fraternal solidarity and in that of economic and cultural exchanges.
The five new ambassadors are Moukhtar Wawa Dahab from Chad; Amitava Tripathi from India; Domingos Dias Pereira Mascarenhas from Cape Verde; Valeriu Bobutac from Moldova; and Anne Maree Plunkett from Australia.
Pope Benedict invited the new ambassadors to “a solid commitment that does not seek only the interest of a particular section of society, to the detriment of the general interest, but that aims above all at the common good of a whole country, and of humanity.”
The Pontiff called for Peace “rooted in respect for religious liberty, which is a fundamental and primordial aspect of the freedom of belief of individuals and of the freedom of peoples.
Pope Benedict wished to stress the importance of Religious freedom, to “practice it openly and without fear, because no one can base their existence only on material well-being.”
The Holy Father concluded his address by calling on the international community to show more concern for people than for mere economic questions. "It is our duty," he said, "to be responsible for one another and for the progress of the world, because no one can answer as Cain did to God: 'Am I my brother's keeper?'"
The Pope then gave each diplomat a written copy of a speech addressing the particular situation in his or her own country. The Holy Father congratulated the Indian diplomat for his country's efforts to resolve, "with negotiations and peaceful methods, the long running controversy with Pakistan,"
Addressing the Australian representative, the Holy Father writes of his joy at the celebration of World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, and highlights the "respect for transcendent order that has led Australians to recognize the fundamental importance of marriage and stable domestic life at the heart of society."
Vatican City, May 18, 2006 (CNA) - The Vatican must move ahead with economic and diplomatic initiatives to support Christians in Muslim-majority countries, said the Holy See foreign affairs minister Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo.
The difficult situation in these countries “is making thousands of Christians leave their homeland, where their fundamental rights are not adequately guaranteed,” he said, according to AGI. The bishop named the Holy Land, Turkey and the Middle East as particularly difficult regions.
“It's sad to acknowledge the exodus of Christians from Iraq, where they are a minority, but well-rooted," the bishop said.
The bishop pointed out that it is impossible to give accurate figures of the number of Christians in these countries since these governments do not conduct a census.
However, the Holy See compared UN, U.S., and Vatican figures and concluded that Catholics accounted for 0.1 percent of the population in Iran in 1973. In 2005, that percentage dropped to 0.01.
During that same period, the number of Catholics in Iraq dropped from 2.6 to 1 percent. In Syria, that figure fell from 2.8 to 1.9 percent, and in Israel-Palestine, the percentage decreased from 1.9 to 1 percent.
South Bend, Ind., May 18, 2006 (CNA) - Bishop John D'Arcy of Fort Wayne-South Bend issued a statement opposing the addition of sexual orientation and gender identity to the city human rights ordinance, reported the Tribune.
The bishop said his concern was that the ordinance “appears to be more about validating in law homosexual lifestyles and behaviors than it is about addressing unjust discrimination.”
Bishop D'Arcy said the main reason for his opposition is that sexual orientation and gender identity go beyond "self-identity" and include behaviors, expression and appearance.
In other communities these types of changes in the law have led to wider efforts to promote homosexuality, he noted. Citizens with "principled objections" are often labeled as prejudiced or homophobic, he said.
"Without question, everyone deserves to be treated fairly and with dignity. Everyone should enjoy the same basic human rights," the bishop wrote. “At the same time, we must be very cautious lest we validate in law lifestyles and behaviors to which many of our citizens are deeply in conscience opposed.”
The bishop said he deplores any type of violent action or hateful speech aimed at homosexual persons. “Such activity is morally wrong,” he wrote.
Cannes, France, May 18, 2006 (CNA) - Film critics panned The Da Vinci Code after its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in France yesterday.
According to the Associated Press, “reaction ranged from halfhearted admiration to boredom to derision.” The film is to open on screens worldwide Friday.
The AP reported that “laughter rippled through the theater” near the end of the film at the Cannes press screening at what was supposed to be a serious moment in the film — when Tom Hanks' character, symbologist Robert Langdon, reveals a key secret to co-star Audrey Tautou with great melodrama.
"It's not a good sign when your film's big revelatory moment is greeted with laughter," wrote the Boston Herald’s film writer, Stephen Schaefer.
The laughter was clearly something director Ron Howard “would not have anticipated,” reported the Press Association Newsfile.
CNN reported that after the audience broke out into laughter, the critics spoke through the final scenes. “There was no applause when the credits rolled; instead, a few catcalls and hisses broke the silence,” CNN reported.
The AP reported that some even walked out during the movie’s closing minutes and “there was none of the scattered applause even bad movies sometimes receive at Cannes.”
Some critics found the weight of the script too heavy to bear.
"Sitting through all the verbose explanations and speculations about symbols, codes, secret cults, religious history and covert messages in art, it is impossible to believe that, had the novel never existed, such a script would ever have been considered by a Hollywood studio," wrote Daily Variety critic Todd McCarthy.
The Hollywood Reporter had a similar opinion: “The movie is so drenched in dialogue musing over arcane mythological and historical lore and scenes grow so static that even camera movement can’t disguise the dramatic inertia.”
Some critics grew restless during the two-and-a-half-hour screening. James Rocchi, a film critic for CBS 5 television in San Francisco, was among those who said the movie dragged on “and not in a good way."
“As sturdy and versatile an actor as Hanks can be, he can't work miracles when he's got nothing to work with,” wrote AP film critic Christy Lemire.
Despite the less-than-favorable reviews, the film is still expected to be a hit at the box office.
Washington D.C., May 18, 2006 (CNA) - An interfaith coalition is calling for the boycott of The Da Vinci Code movie because “it seeks to profit off [anti-Catholic] bigotry, it proselytizes Satanism and it undermines the dignity of women.”
The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival yesterday and will open on theatres worldwide Friday.
Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, president of Human Life International, made the statement on behalf of the coalition yesterday at the National Press Club.
The Interfaith Coalition Against The Da Vinci Code includes Dr. Ted Baehr of Movieguide.org, Don Feder, Austin Ruse of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, Patrick Reilly of the Cardinal Newman Society, and Bob Knight of Concerned Women for America.
“Sony’s Da Vinci Code, the movie, seeks to profit off the permissible prejudice of anti-Catholic bigotry,” said Fr. Euteneuer. “If [director] Ron Howard were to replace the word Catholic every time it appeared in the Da Vinci Code with Jew or Muslim, the outcry from the mainstream media would have rightfully been deafening.”
Furthermore, he said, “The Da Vinci Code is filled with contradictions, nonsensical statements, and innumerable artistic and historical inaccuracies.”
“Why is it acceptable to slander Christians generally and Catholics specifically? If Sony profits from anti-Catholic bigotry this May, what can we expect in the future? Next summer, will they seek to profit off anti-Semitism?” he said.
“Sony must get the message loud and clear: you can not profit from hate,” he continued. “Let us reject bigotry and boycott Sony’s Da Vinci Code movie.”
Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 18, 2006 (CNA) - The Christian Family Movement in Argentina has launched an “Adoption versus Abortion” campaign in order to reduce the number of abortion in the country.
Speaking to the Fides news agency, the spokesman for the CFM, Pablo Cavallero, said the initiative was started “in the wake of the current tendency to legalize abortion in the country and spread the idea that the carrying out of this crime is perfectly licit.”
Volunteers will be distributing pamphlets encouraging adoption instead of abortion, even for women who are in painful or unjust situations.
Organizers have also launched the campaign in the 31 other countries where the CFM is present. The Movement began in Argentina in 1948 and seeks to promote marriage and the family and defend life from conception to natural death.
Sao Paulo, Brazil, May 18, 2006 (CNA) - As they gathered for their 44th general assembly this week, the bishop of Brazil issued a statement to the youth of the country encouraging them to a deeper encounter with Christ in order to make authentic transformation of society possible.
The bishops reminded young people that “the encounter with Jesus Christ, faithful friend and companion on the journey, makes us experiment the beauty and joy of the faith. He calls each one of us and desires a generous response. The young person who allows himself to be conquered by the Lord discovers true happiness in his life and thus bears witness to his faith and hope by helping other young people to have the same experience. Passionate love for the Lord and his Kingdom causes enthusiasm and leads you to consecrate your lives for the cause of the Gospel,” they said.
The bishops emphasized the important role young people have in the life of the Church and they reiterated that young people “are called to be disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ, protagonists in the defense of life from conception to natural death, and in the building of a peaceful society that is the fruit of justice and love. The testimony, message and affection of Pope Benedict XVI for you, and that of his predecessor John Paul II, as well as the celebration of the World Youth Days, has stirred us to an even greater concern for young people,” the bishops continued.
They expressed their satisfaction at the participation of young people in the life of the Church and in different ecclesial movements and organizations and said they hoped young people would collaborate with the bishops in reaching out to those who are away from the Church.
“Experience has shown that the best apostles to young people are young people themselves, and consequently we encourage you to join together in a great evangelization movement in our country through the missionary work of young people,” the bishops stated.
They likewise encouraged young people to “transform the world and not be afraid of responding to your baptismal vocation, to marriage, to the priesthood, to the religious or secular consecrated life, and especially to the missionary challenge, thus become leaven, salt and light in the family, in the Church and in society.”
Quebec City, Canada, May 18, 2006 (CNA) - Catholic young people in Canada have begun a program of spiritual preparation for the 49th International Eucharistic Congress which will take place in Quebec June 15-22, 2008, on the theme, “The Eucharist, gift of God for the life of the world.”
According to the Fides news agency, the Archdiocese of Quebec has organized a first preparatory meeting for May 19-22 for young people of all the diocese of the country. The meeting was called for by Cardinal Marc Ouellet in order to encourage young people to spiritually prepare for the Eucharistic Congress, reminding them that they are called to fully participate in this event that has as its purpose the celebration and proclamation of Jesus Christ present in the Eucharist as the heart of the Church.
During the meeting, which will be held at the Jèsus-Marie College of Sillery, young people will participate in catechesis, liturgical celebrations and works of charity, and they will hear an address by Cardinal Ouellet. The meeting will culminate on Sunday, June 22, with a procession to the tomb of the three founders of the Church in Canada.
The International Eucharistic Congress will coincide with the 400th anniversary of the foundation of the city of Quebec, where the first Catholic diocese north of Mexico was established.
Washington D.C., May 18, 2006 (CNA) - The nomination yesterday of Bishop Donald W. Wuerl as the new Archbishop of Washington, caused many to react and give their opinion about the current Pittsburgh bishop. First were his colleagues, bishop of the United States, and many who worked with him in Pittsburgh.
"Having served as a bishop for more than two decades and having worked in Rome years ago, he understands the gifts and challenges of pastoral leadership. He has a wonderful way of teaching and communicating the message of Christ,” said Detroit Archbishop Cardinal Adam Maida, a East Vandergrift native in Pennsylvania.
“In the years I worked with him, I found him to be a very able and experienced bishop. He is highly respected by his brother bishops, and is known as a hard worker who is well read. Whenever he speaks, it is clear that what he is saying is the result of great learning, deep reflection and prayer,” said Galveston-Houston Archbishop Daniel DiNardo, a native of Pittsburgh
"We are absolutely delighted that the Holy Father gave us so special of a man. He's an extraordinary man, who you will love., said Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, outgoing archbishop of Washington, D.C.
Mayor Bob O’Connor of Pittsburgh, on the other hand , declared that "Bishop Wuerl taught us by his example and his commitment to improving the quality of our life for all the people of our city and region. His teaching and involvement in efforts that promote the improvement of all people have left a rich legacy for us and has earned him our deepest respect and gratitude. We will miss this native son of Pittsburgh.”
A farewell Mass for Bishop Donald Wuerl, who Tuesday was named the new archbishop of Washington, D.C., will be held June 11 in St. Paul Cathedral in Oakland.
"I'm looking forward to having a chance to say a farewell to so many of the faithful people of this community ... and also to pray with whoever wants to come by," Archbishop-nominee Wuerl said yesterday.
Rome, Italy, May 18, 2006 (CNA) - A recent article published in tomorrow’s edition of the National Catholic Reporter (NCR), stated that a Vatican source disclosed a forthcoming disciplination of the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Fr Maciel Degollado, by the Vatican.
Jim Fair, spokesperson of the Legionaries of Christ, told CNA today, that this was “just more speculation.” on an a long list of attacks against the Legionaries and its founder.
Unaware of the NCR article, the spokesperson of the Legionaries said that "right now, We’re not waiting for anything from the Vatican.”
The Vatican source affirms that new restrictions may come upon Fr. Maciel that should be announced in a statement by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.
Theses Restrictions would limit Fr. Maciel's public activity, such as his capacity to celebrate public Masses, to give lectures or other public presentations, and to give interviews for print or broadcast.
The restrictions have apparently been approved by Pope Benedict XVI, and the Vatican is expected to issue a brief statement shortly
Founded by Maciel in 1941, the Legionaries of Christ has become one of the most influential and rapidly growing communities in the church. Today the order numbers some 650 priests and 2,500 seminarians worldwide. The lay branch of the Legionaries, Regnum Christi, reportedly has 50,000 members worldwide.
The Vatican is expected to issue a statement Friday concerning its investigation into allegations the Mexican founder of the Legionaries of Christ sexually abused seminarians decades ago, Vatican officials said Thursday.