Vatican City, May 24, 2006 (CNA) - The school of faith is not a triumphal march Pope Benedict declared today in his general audience today, as he continued his catechesis dedicated to the personality of the Apostles, focusing again on the figure of Peter.
The General Audience was held on Saint Peters square with more than 35,000 people gathered to listen to the pope’s catechesis.
The Pope began by recalling the miracles of the loaves and the fishes. In this episode, “Jesus announced the cross, and with the cross the Eucharistic bread: His absolutely new way of being king."
As these episodes unfolded, “Peter's faith, was still a nascent faith, a developing faith. It would acquire true fullness only through his experience of the events of Easter. Nonetheless, Peter's impetuous generosity did not safeguard him from the risks of human weakness," the Pontiff continued.
"The school of faith is not a triumphal march but a road beset with suffering and with love, with trials and with faithfulness, to be renewed day after day."
Moreover, Pope Benedict underlined Peter's mission as head of the Church, "that mission was entrusted to him by the Risen Jesus," as St. John recounts.
The pope wished to explain the intentional use of words in the Gospel of Saint John in this dialogue between Peter and Jesus. "In Greek, the verb 'fileo' expresses the love of friendship, tender but not total, while the verb 'agapao' means unreserved, complete and unconditional love. The first time, Jesus asks Peter: 'Simon, do you love Me? (agapas-me?).' "
"Simon had understood that his poor love, the only one of which he was capable, was enough for Jesus. We could almost say that Jesus had adapted Himself to Peter, rather than Peter to Jesus."
"Peter came to trust himself to the Jesus Who had adapted Himself to his own poor capacity to love. Peter would describe himself as 'a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed," he concluded.
Vatican City, May 24, 2006 (CNA) - Tomorrow, Thursday, Benedict XVI will leave the Vatican on an apostolic trip to Poland, the second of his pontificate following last August's visit to Germany. In Poland, from May 25 to 28, he will visit Warsaw, Czestochowa, Krakow, Wadowice, Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, and Auschwitz.
He will depart from Rome's Fiumicino airport at 8.40 a.m., arriving in Warsaw at 11 a.m. Following the welcome ceremony at Warsaw's Okecie airport, he will travel by popemobile to the city's cathedral of St. John. He will hold a meeting with the clergy there.
At 5.45 p.m. he is due to pay a courtesy visit to the president of Poland, Lech Kaczynski, in the presidential palace.
Leaving the presidential palace at 6.45 p.m., he will travel to the Lutheran church of the Most Holy Trinity where he is due to meet with delegates of the seven Churches form the Polish Ecumenical Council. The Lutheran church of the Most Holy Trinity was built in 1781 in a poor area on the outskirts of Warsaw.
Following the ecumenical meeting, the Pope will return to the apostolic nunciature, where he will spend the night.
Vatican City, May 24, 2006 (CNA) - At the end of today's general audience, held in St. Peter's Square, the Pope mentioned his forthcoming apostolic trip to Poland, "homeland of the beloved John Paul II." There, he said, "I will visit the places of his life and of his priestly and episcopal ministry."
After giving thanks to God for "the opportunity of fulfilling a desire I have long held in my heart," the Holy Father invited those present "to accompany me with your prayers on this apostolic trip which I undertake with great hope, and which I entrust to the Virgin Mary, so venerated in Poland."
"May she guide my steps that I may confirm the beloved Catholic community of Poland in the faith, encouraging it to face the challenges of the present time with incisive evangelical action," the pope declared before the faithful present on Saint Peters square.
"May Mary," he concluded, "ensure that the entire nation is granted a renewed springtime of faith and civil progress, while conserving the memory of my great predecessor."
Washington D.C., May 24, 2006 (CNA) - Joined by other church bodies, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) urged the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a lower court ruling which struck down the federal ban on partial-birth abortion.
The amici curiae brief was filed May 19 in the case of Alberto R. Gonzales, Attorney General, v. Leroy Carhart, et. al.
The brief argued that Stenberg v. Carhart does not control the outcome for the present case. In Stenberg v. Carhart, which was decided in 2000, the Supreme Court struck down a Nebraska statute prohibiting partial-birth abortions.
“First, federal law bans a different procedure,” says the brief. “Unlike the Nebraska law invalidated in Stenberg, the federal ban protects the life of an unborn child that is substantially outside his or her mother’s body at specified anatomical points.
“Second, Congress made factual findings that address the precise question whether an exception to the ban is necessary to protect the mother’s health,” it continues.
“Indeed, that this case involves a living child substantially outside his or her mother’s body places the challenged statute outside the scope of this Court’s abortion precedents,” the brief states.
“Roe v. Wade…did not decide the constitutionality of a ban on taking the life of a child in the process of being born…No subsequent decision of this Court, not even Stenberg, has considered the constitutionality of a ban on taking the life of a child substantially outside his or her mother’s body,” the brief points out.
“There is plainly no basis for saying that such conduct should enjoy constitutional protection,” the brief asserts.
“Congress could legitimately conclude, as it did here, that the challenged ban is necessary to preserve the distinction between abortion and infanticide and to prevent the latter,” it suggests.
The brief said the statute should be viewed as a permissible regulation that squares with the Court’s decision in the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
“Casey permits more regulation of abortion, not less, than had been permitted under previous decisions,” the brief notes. “The challenged ban does not prohibit a single abortion or impede access to abortion. It prohibits only a method of abortion.
“Congress found that this particular method of abortion was not medically necessary and, indeed, posed significant maternal health risks. Those factual findings are entitled to judicial deference here as in any other context,” the brief continues.
“To hold otherwise simply because this case involves abortion would inexplicably accord abortion a constitutional status not enjoyed even by interests the Constitution explicitly protects.”
According to the brief, the case also underscores several factors that compel re-examination of the Court’s abortion jurisprudence, including Roe v. Wade.
The brief was filed by the USCCB, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
It was submitted by Mark Chopko, USCCB General Counsel, and Michael Moses, Associate General Counsel.
Perth, Australia, May 24, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Barry Hickey of Perth has welcomed a call by Pope Benedict XVI for the Australian government to "seek forgiveness" from the Aboriginal people as a path to reconciliation.
The archbishop said Tuesday he was pleased the Pope spoke about the "international shame" of Australia's treatment of Aboriginal people. The Pope reportedly told Australia's new ambassador to the Vatican, Anne Marie Plunkett, that her government should seek forgiveness from Aboriginal people and open the way to lasting reconciliation.
It was believed to be the first time the Pope has spoken of the plight of Australian aborigines.
Archbishop Hickey was chairman of the Australian Catholic bishops’ Commission for Relations with Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders. The archbishop urged all citizens to form relationships with Aboriginal people.
Rome, Italy, May 24, 2006 (CNA) - Italy's recently elected Prime Minister Romano Prodi issued a public reprimand Tuesday to three of his ministers who publicized their positions on the Vatican-sensitive issues of abortion and same-sex unions, reported Reuters.
"Ministers cannot express their opinions,” said Prodi, whose party is not united on abortion and civil same-sex unions. “They must speak about decisions, their consequences and their implementation.”
An editorial in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, had criticized comments by Italy's health minister, Livia Turco, in favor of the abortion pill. It called the RU-486 abortion pill, which is not available for general use in Italy, a weapon to carry out "carefree murder.”
Turco said she favored controlled trials of the abortion pill as a "safe and alternative method" to terminate a pregnancy.
On Monday, the newspaper also criticized a proposal by Family Minister Rosy Bindi to discuss legal recognition for civil same-sex unions.
"The haste in which new ministers are lining up to assert their intentions on particularly sensitive themes is disconcerting," the editorial said. "It's feminism we frankly did not feel the need for.”
Turco's statements are a major shift from the previous centre-right government, which halted experiments with the RU-486 and recommended the presence of pro-life activists in state-funded advisory clinics to discourage abortion, reported Reuters.
Official data show that the number of abortions in Italy has fallen over the past two decades, with 132,178 abortions in 2003 compared with 235,000 in 1982, reported Reuters.
Italy has one of the lowest birth rates in the world, with women of childbearing age having on average just 1.3 children, down from 2.2 in 1975.
Trenton, N.J., May 24, 2006 (CNA) - New Jersey's 15 Catholic hospitals have agreed to encourage umbilical cord and placenta blood donation to the state's two public cord blood banks for stem-cell research, reported The Associated Press.
Umbilical cords and placentas contain adult stem cells, not embryonic stem cells that the Church opposes being used for research.
"The ethical principles of our Catholic health care tradition demand that we step up to the plate and support and encourage this donation," said Fr. Joseph Kukura, president of the Catholic Health Care Partnership of New Jersey, at the time of the announcement Tuesday.
William Bolan, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference said the conference intends to tell New Jersey's 3.6 million Catholics about the initiative by providing inserts for parish bulletins and features in diocesan newspapers.
Catholic hospitals will promote donations with expectant mothers, Fr. Kukura added. He said he hoped this program would become a model for the rest of the country.
Donations to the state banks are free, with donors agreeing to let the donated cells be used for research and for others who need might need them.
In related news, the Senate voted last week to allow the state to invest $250 million in stem cell research. The bill must now receive a vote in the Assembly.
The bill would provide $150 million for a stem cell institute at Rutgers in New Brunswick, $50 million for a biomedical research facility in Camden and $50 million for an adult stem cell research facility at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark.
The state has invested $25.7 million in stem cell research in the last two years, mostly through grants provided through the state budgets.
Valencia, Fla., May 24, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Agustin Garcia-Gasco of Valencia, Spain, gave the green light to a local construction company this week to begin building the first parish dedicated to the martyrs of Valencia, who died during the civil war religious persecution of 1936. Pope John Paul II beatified the 233 martyrs in 2001.
The pastor of the new parish, Father Jose Ricardo Albelda, told the AVAN news agency that the parish will be able to sit 847 people and will cover about 11,000 square feet. The ceiling will be decorated with a mosaic made up of hundreds of ceramic tiles. The bell tower will soar to over 91 feet and will house 8 bells.
The parish will also include a small chapel for daily Mass with a seating capacity of 200, as well as a parish hall for different non-liturgical activities. Relics from St. Vincent and the new martyrs of Valencia will be placed in the altar.
The Diocese of Valencia is currently processing the beatification causes of another 250 martyrs from Valencia who died during the Spanish Civil war.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 24, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires has called on members of Catholic Action to have a “greater presence on the streets in order to serve the diocesan Church” and effectively communicate the Gospel.
“God desires a strong Catholic Action” that is present across society, the cardinal said during a closing Mass for the archdiocesan assembly of Catholic Action. He called on the group to heed the guidance of their bishops and to bring their work to those places where the diocese believes they are most in need.
“May this new assembly of Catholic Action in Buenos Aires be a sending out to the city, to all corners, to the streets to the hearts of each person, guided always by the hand of the Virgin,” the cardinal said.
, May 24, 2006 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Colombia has informed President Alvaro Uribe of its rejection of a decision by the country’s Constitutional Court to legalize abortion in some circumstances.
The president of the Conference, Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro Quiroga, and Cardinal Pedro Rubian Saenz of Bogota, met with the president at the Conference headquarters in Bogota. Uribe said he discussed the issue of abortion with the bishops, as well as the issues of religious education, poverty and others.
Regarding the high court’s ruling legalizing abortion in some cases, President Uribe said he must respect it. However, he noted, “As a Christian who adheres to the precepts of the Church, (I should) join in the struggle in Colombia to strengthen respect for life, for ethical principals and moral convictions.
"Such a delicate issue should be handled with much care and we should proceed with prudence in listening to different sectors.” Only after he has become familiar with the text of the ruling would he be ready to “proceed with great prudence,” Uribe said.
Rome, Italy, May 24, 2006 (CNA) - An anti-conversion law recently passed by the parliament of the Indian state of Rajasthan that would prohibit any Hindu from joining another religion was rejected by the governor of the state, Pratibha Patil, thus increasing hopes at least temporarily for the survival the small Catholic community there.
According to the FIDES news agency, Governor Patil sent the bill back to the state parliament and called it “a direct violation of every citizen’s right to freedom of religion.” Unless she signs the bill it cannot come into force. Religious minority leaders were pleased by the decision. “This was an act of courage, of even greater value because it was the act of a woman governor,” they said.
The bill approved by the governing Baratiya Janata Party and other sectors of the majority, punishes those who convert to other religions with prison sentences and steep fines.
The bill had already been criticized by leaders of various Christian confessions and Muslim communities in Rajasthan who appealed to the central Indian government to withhold assent to the law which, they said, violates articles 19 and 25 of the national Constitution guaranteeing all citizens freedom of conscience and religion. “The bill is on the nationalist and intolerant agenda of the Baratiya Janata Party”, said the religious minority leaders, noting that the bill bans conversion from Hinduism to other religions but not vice versa.
Colorado Springs, Colo., May 24, 2006 (CNA) - Most Reverend Michael J. Sheridan, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs will facilitate a series of town-hall meetings on immigration. Four parishes throughout the Diocese of Colorado Springs will host the presentations.
The presentations will explore the current economic, legal, and social realities of immigration through the lens of Scripture and Catholic Social Teaching. The presentations provide a general summary of the Justice for Immigrants Campaign, launched Spring of 2005 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
The events will also include forums for dialogue facilitated by Bishop Sheridan. The meetings will begin on June 1.
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