Wadowice, Poland, May 29, 2006 (CNA) - On Saturday morning, after celebrating a private Mass in the chapel of the archbishop's palace in Krakow, the Holy Father travelled by car to Wadowice, the home town of John Paul II.
The Pope visited the basilica of the Immaculate Conception, where Karol Wojtyla was baptized, and visited the house in which he was bornm now a museum.
Following a greeting from Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, archbishop of Krakow, the Pope delivered his address. "I wished to stop precisely here, in the place where his faith began and matured," he said referring to his predecessor, "to pray together with all of you that he may soon be elevated to the glory of the altars."
The Holy Father then recalled how John Paul II would often refer to the baptismal font of the church of Wadowice where, on June 20, 1920 he received the Sacrament of Christian initiation, and for which he had "special veneration." This, said Pope Benedict, is "the key to understanding the consistency of his faith, the radicalism of his Christian life and the desire for sanctity that he continuously manifested."
"His love for the Church was born in the parish of Wadowice. In it he experienced the sacramental life, evangelization and the formation of a mature faith. For this reason, as a priest, as a bishop and as Pope, he treated parish communities with such great care. “
The Holy Father then recalled the deep attachment of the inhabitants of Wadowice to the local image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and especially John Paull II which he expressed in the motto 'Totus tuus.' Until the last moments of his earthly pilgrimage he remained faithful to this dedication." The pontiff added.
"In the spirit of this devotion," the Pope concluded, "before this image I wish to give thanks to God for the pontificate of John Paul II and, like him, I ask that Our Lady watch over the Church which by the will of God has been entrusted to me to guide. I also ask all of you to pray for me just as you prayed for your great fellow countryman."
During his return journey to Krakow, the Pope visited the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Langiewniki. He paused in prayer before the tomb of St. Faustina Kowalska where Karol Wojtyla frequently came to pray when he was a worker and later as a clandestine seminarian in the 1940s. Benedict XVI also visited the basilica where he met with 800 sick people.
Washington D.C., May 29, 2006 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops view the immigration bill that passed May 25 in the Senate as a critical first step in reaching a comprehensive approach to dealing with the challenges of the nation’s immigration system.
"While the U.S. bishops’ Conference does not agree with each and every provision in the Senate bill, we applaud its comprehensive approach and believe it contains many of the elements necessary to help solve the problems associated with our country’s current immigration system," said Bishop Gerald Barnes of San Bernardino. Bishop Barnes serves as the chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Migration.
The bishop called the passage of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 "a historic moment for our nation."
He also urged the Senate and House of Representatives "to work together to either eliminate or ameliorate the harsh enforcement provisions found in both the House-and Senate-passed versions of the legislation."
He also urged them to simplify the path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants to maintain a just temporary worker program, which includes an option to petition for permanent residency. He added that changes also be made to the family-based immigration system to reduce the waiting time for families to be reunited.
Washington D.C., May 29, 2006 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops have called for modifications to the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006 to support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to alleviate the urgent needs of the Palestinian people.
"These goals are in the best interests of both Palestinians and Israelis who long for a just peace," said Bishop Thomas Wenski said in a May 19 letter to Senator Richard Lugar. Lugar is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Bishop Wenski is the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Policy.
Bishop Wenski said the perspective of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on the legislation is shaped by two overriding concerns.
The bill should promote the ultimate goal of a two-state solution "that provides security for Israel and a viable state for the Palestinians, two states living alongside one another in peace," the bishop said. The USCCB is concerned that some of the provisions of the legislation would undermine a two-state solution.
The legislation should also provide for the urgent humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people. Catholic Relief Services and other NGOs say their programs in the Palestinian Territories could be severely curtailed under the proposed legislation, Bishop Wenski said.
"It is not in the best interests of either Israelis or Palestinians for desperation to grow in the West Bank and Gaza. Instead S. 2370 should send a message that Congress supports a wide range of basic assistance programs to the Palestinian people," he said.
Bishop Wenski said the legislation rightly calls upon Hamas to renounce terrorism, to recognize Israel and to accept prior agreements. But he questioned sections of the legislation which discourage contact with all officials of the Palestinian Authority, except for President Abbas and his personal representatives. "These actions discourage contact with the Palestinian leaders whose support is crucial for pursuing a two-state solution," the Bishop said.
Bishop Wenski said the certification described in the bill, which is the basis for all of the bill’s restrictions, should focus on essential reform requirements for the Palestinian Authority.
"Good governance is always a worthy goal, but a laundry list of conditions beyond these essential ones may simply delay and impede a negotiated two-state solution," he said.
Washington D.C., May 29, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal Theodore McCarrick ordained the Archdiocese of Washington's largest class of priests since 1973 and the second largest in the nation this year.
The cardinal ordained the 12 men Saturday at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The ordinations will also mark the cardinal’s last major act as the bishop of Washington as he heads to retirement, reported the Washington Times.
The new priests come from a variety of vocational backgrounds, including careers as physicist, computer engineer, stockbroker, sales manager, scuba diver and Air Force parachutist. The group includes natives of Spain, Cuba, Britain and Hungary.
The cardinal credited the diocese's location for attracting a large and diverse class of new priests.
"Because Washington is such a magnet, almost half of our seminarians come from other parts of the United States or even from abroad."
The backgrounds of the new priests will prove valuable in their work with 150 diverse parishes in the archdiocese.
Fr. David M. O'Connell, president of Catholic University, said the new priests are sensitive to the public skepticism facing priests given the recent sex-abuse scandal.
"If anything, the revelation of recent scandals has made seminarians firmer, more determined in their commitment and much more realistic about their lives as priests," he told the Times.
"Combined with a very strong emphasis on healthy celibate living, I believe our seminarians in the Archdiocese of Washington and elsewhere are better prepared to meet the challenges that are a part of every priest's life," he was quoted as saying.
, May 29, 2006 (CNA) - In anticipation of their meeting with Pope Benedict on June 3rd in St. Peter’s Square, leaders and members of the various ecclesial movements will gather for a conference May 31-June 2 at Rocca di Papa, Italy to discuss the theme, “The beauty of being Christians and the joy of communicating it.”
Organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the conference will bring together over 300 leaders and members of the new ecclesial movements to discuss the theme that was inspired by the words of Pope Benedict XVI in his inaugural homily on April 24, 2005: “There is nothing more beautiful than being reached, than being surprised by the Gospel, by Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than knowing him and communicating his friendship to others.”
Organizers said the conference would provide an opportunity to reflect on the very nature of the Christian experience and how it is lived out in the different ecclesial movements and associations.
Among those expected to speak at the conference include Christoph Cardinal Schönborn of Vienna, Alba Sgariglia of Focolare, Kiko Argüello of the Neocatechumenal Way, Giancarlo Cesana of Communion and Liberation, Patti Mansfied of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, and Father Laurent Fabre of the Chemin Neuf Community,
Others scheduled to speak at the conference include Marc Cardinal Ouellet of Quebec, who will address the conference on “The beauty of being Christian,” Vittorio Messori, who will talk on witnessing to the beauty of Christ in contemporary society, and Luis Fernando Figari of the Christian Life Movement, who will speak on bringing the faith to young people.
The event will conclude with a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Josef Clemens, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.
More information on the conference can be found at: http://www.laici.org
Dili, East Timor, May 29, 2006 (CNA) - Church people and refugees in East Timor are hoping foreign troops will be able to end the violence that has seen thousands of residence take refuge in church and NGO-run centers, reported UCA News.
Trouble flared in East Timor in April after the government fired more than one-third of its 1,400-member army. Close to 600 soldiers were dismissed after they went on strike claiming discrimination and a lack of promotion.
The violence the erupted in and around Dili has pitted government forces against dismissed army soldiers and their supporters. Several people have been killed and the sound of gunfire echoed through streets. As a result, the capital has emptied and its residents have fled for safe haven, many to church-related centers, such as the Don Bosco Center, 10 kilometers to the west.
Press reports say foreign troops including Australian and Malaysian soldiers have landed in East Timor, following a call by the government for assistance. New Zealand is sending two military aircraft and some troops to assist with evacuations and troop transport, while Portugal reportedly is sending 120 military police.
About 9,000 East Timorese have taken refuge at the Don Bosco Center, where volunteers have had to stop armed fighters from entering the compound.
Br. Adriano Maria D'Jesus, 35, a Salesian and the skills-training center's coordinator, told UCA News apart from his volunteers disarming people who come into the compound, his immediate concern is the health of the thousands of children at the center.
"This is the rainy season and we are concerned about the condition of the children who have to sleep on the floors of our center," he said. "There are not enough mosquito nets," he added.
Br. D'Jesus said the Catholic Church's Caritas agency, World Vision International and other aid groups are trying to help the refugees.
Violence is still fresh for many East Timorese. Following the August 1999 referendum in which voters chose independence from Indonesia, pro-Jakarta militias went on a rampage, killing hundreds of people and destroying infrastructure. Indonesia then relinquished control of the former Portuguese colony, which it had brought under its rule in 1975. After more than two years under a transitional United Nations administration, Catholic-majority East Timor became an independent country in May 2002. The country’s population is one million.
Valencia, Fla., May 29, 2006 (CNA) -
In preparation for the 5th World Meeting of Families, which will take place this July in Valencia, Spain, the 12th Congress on Science and Human Life will be held July 1-4 at the Catholic University of Valencia.
The event, organized by the International Free University of the Americas, aims to bring together teachers and researchers of diverse disciplines with the purpose of discussing themes related to the defense and promotion of human life.
The World Meeting of Families originated in 1981, following Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation ‘Familiaris Consortio’ and constitution of the Pontifical Council for the Family. Past meetings have been in Rome, Rio De Janeiro, and Manila and each has drawn crowds exceeding one million.
More information on the event can be obtained by writing to [email protected] or [email protected]
Bilboa, Spain, May 29, 2006 (CNA) - Lech Walesa, the former president of Poland and recipient of the 1983 Noble Peace Prize, said last week the new Europe being built needs Christian values.
Speaking to reporters in Spain where he was attending an event on Catholics and public life, Walesa called on Christians to be increasingly active in building a more honest and safe world.
“A new European Union is being created. We are living on a planet that is changing and is more globalized every day. But the world will not be honest, safe or good if it is not built by people with Christian values,” he said.
In this sense, he explained, “Catholics should reflect and propose programs based on the values we respect.” Although there are “other religions and other points of view in Europe,” Walesa continued, “we must take advantage of the elements we all share in common and build a new world on this foundation.”
Walesa also warned that the more society becomes technologically advanced, the more there is a need for Christian values. Otherwise, Walesa said, “we will only run up against countries like China or India, which have philosophies about life that are so different from our own.”
San José, Costa Rica, May 29, 2006 (CNA) - The Notivida news agency is reporting that the Supreme Court of Costa Rica has declared homosexual marriage to be unconstitutional.
The case arguing for the legalization of gay marriage was brought before the court in 2003 by Costa Rican lawyer Yashin Castrillo Fernandez, who claimed limiting marriage to persons of the opposite sex was discriminatory. The high court rejected his arguments in a 5-2 ruling.
The justices said that the alleged discrimination does not exist, because “the concept of marriage embraced by the Political Constitution stems historically from a context where it is understood to be between a man and a woman.”
Chief Justice Luis Fernando Solano suggested that the issue be taken up by the Costa Rican parliament in order to come up with a specific law for “civil unions.” Notivida reported that most of the justices agreed that the court could issue a different ruling in the future if changes to the law were enacted.
While Costa Rica the population of Costa Rica is over three fourths Roman Catholic, Solano says that “juridical, and not religious, principles were applied in the ruling.” Should civil union legislation be raised Costa Rican lawmakers could find opposition from the Church. Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, has repeatedly said that legal recognition of civil unions is the first step towards legalizing homosexual marriage.
Krakow, Poland, May 29, 2006 (CNA) - On Sunday afternoon, Benedict XVI travelled by car from the archbishop's palace in Krakow to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps, on the last stage of his apostolic trip to Poland.
The Pope walked into the Auschwitz concentration camp, passing under the words "Arbeit Macht Frei" (work makes you free) written over the gate. He visited the courtyard surrounding the Wall of Death, where prisoners used to be summarily executed, and met with former inmates. He also visited the cell where St. Maximilian Kolbe died, in the cellar of block 11.
The Holy Father then travelled by car to the center for dialogue and prayer, a Catholic institution established near the camp, upon which he bestowed his apostolic blessing. Returning to his car, he journeyed three kilometers to the camp of Birkenau, the largest extermination camp set up by the National Socialist Governement during the World War II.
Upon arriving there, the Pope first paused before the 22 bronze slabs that symbolically commemorate the victims of the Holocaust in the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau. He also met with representatives of other religions and with a group of concentration camp survivors of various nationalities.
The Pope prayed for the victims and listened to the Kaddish, the Hebrew prayer of mourning, before delivering his address:
"To speak in this place of horror, in this place where unprecedented mass crimes were committed against God and man, is almost impossible - and it is particularly difficult and troubling for a Christian, for a Pope from Germany," said Benedict XVI.
"In a place like this, words fail; in the end, there can only be a dread silence - a silence which is itself a heartfelt cry to God: Why, Lord, did You remain silent? How could You tolerate all this? In silence, then, we bow our heads before the endless line of those who suffered and were put to death here; yet our silence becomes in turn a plea for forgiveness and reconciliation, a plea to the living God never to let this happen again."
The Pope recalled the visit of John Paul II, who "came here as a son of that people which, along with the Jewish people, suffered most in this place and, in general, throughout the war. 'Six million Poles lost their lives during the Second World War: a fifth of the nation,' he reminded us. Here too he solemnly called for respect for human rights and the rights of nations."
"John Paul II came here as a son of the Polish people. I come here today as a son of the German people. For this very reason, I can and must echo his words: I could not fail to come here. I had to come. It is a duty before the truth, and the just due of all who suffered here, a duty before God, for me to come here as the successor of John Paul II and as a son of the German people - a son of that people over which a ring of criminals rose to power by false promises of future greatness and the recovery of the nation's honor, prominence and prosperity, but also through terror and intimidation, with the result that our people was used and abused as an instrument of their thirst for destruction and power."
"How many questions arise in this place!" the Holy Father cried. "Constantly the question comes up: Where was God in those days? ... How could He permit this endless slaughter, this triumph of evil?"
"Let us cry out to God- he continued- with all our hearts, at the present hour, when new misfortunes befall us, when all the forces of darkness seem to issue anew from human hearts: whether it is the abuse of God's name as a means of justifying senseless violence against innocent persons, or the cynicism which refuses to acknowledge God and ridicules faith in Him."
Krakow, Poland, May 29, 2006 (CNA) -
On Saturday afternoon, Pope Benedict presided over a celebration with young people in Krakow’s Blonie Park - the site of many of John Paul II's celebrations in Krakow.
the Pope delivered an address to the 1,000,000 strong crowd that had gathered in the park to hear him.
"Do not be afraid of this desire!, the pope declared to the youth gathered.
"Do not run away from this desire! Do not be discouraged at the sight of crumbling houses, frustrated desires and faded longings. God the Creator, who inspires in young hearts an immense yearning for happiness, will not abandon you in the difficult construction of the house called life."
"Jesus encourages us to build on the rock. In fact, it is only in this way that the house will not crumble. But what does it mean to build a house on the rock? Building on the rock means, first of all, to build on Christ and with Christ." It means "to build on a foundation that is called 'crucified love'."
Christ, Benedict XVI added, "knowing us better than we know ourselves, says to us: 'You are precious in my eyes and honored, and I love you'." Building on the rock "means to build with Someone Who is always faithful, even when we are lacking in faith, because He cannot deny Himself; ... with Someone Who constantly looks down on the wounded heart of man and says: 'I do not condemn you, go and do not sin again.' Do not be afraid to lean on Christ! Long for Christ, as the foundation of your life!"
To build on the rock, the Pope went on, also means "building on Someone Who was rejected," and he recalled St. Peter's description of Jesus "as a 'living stone rejected by men.' The undeniable fact of the election of Jesus by God does not conceal the mystery of evil, whereby man is able to reject Him Who has loved to the very end. This rejection of Jesus extends throughout human history, even to our own time
Yet to build on the rock, the Holy Father highlighted, also means "being aware that there will be misfortunes. Do not be surprised therefore by misfortunes."
"The last word is a hopeful one," Pope Benedict concluded. "The fear of failure can at times frustrate even the most beautiful dreams. ... It can convince one that the yearning for such a house is only a childish aspiration and not a plan for life. ... You are all witnesses to hope, to that hope which is not afraid to build the house of one's own life because it is certain that it can count on the foundation that will never crumble: Jesus Christ our Lord."
Having completed his address, the Pope gave the young people the "Flame of Mercy," as a symbol of their mission to carry the light of faith throughout the world, and blessed the first stone of the John Paul II Center.