Vatican City, May 30, 2006 (CNA) -
This Friday an eternal flame in honor of Pope John Paul II will be lit at the Vatican grottos, in a ceremony to be led by the Vicar General of Vatican City, Archbishop Angelo Comastri.
The event will take place at 12:30pm local time, and will be attended by several famous athletes, including Olympic champion Manuela Di Centa, who will carry a lighted torch from the Monastery of St. Vincent in Bassano Romano to the Vatican to light the flame.
On its way to the Monastery the torch will be first be carried throughout Italy by several athletes. The John Paul II International Foundation has organized the ceremony as one part of series of social and religious events.
Boston, Mass., May 30, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal Sean O'Malley is leading a novena of masses leading up to Pentecost to pray for forgiveness and healing for the sexual abuse by clergy in the Archdiocese of Boston.
The archdiocese has called the nine days of prayer "a pilgrimage of repentance and hope." It is the first time that a series of masses has been offered for this intention since the scandal broke in 2002.
The first mass was celebrated at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Ascension Thursday. Cardinal O'Malley and about 25 priests prostrated themselves on the sanctuary for nearly 10 minutes as 30 intentions were read, asking for forgiveness for the "sins of your priests" and "harm brought to your Church."
"We are sorry that this pain was hidden and the sins were not exposed," Cardinal O’Malley said in his homily. "So much suffering was caused by the actions and inactions of bishops and priests."
"We come together in this pilgrimage overwhelmed by the sadness and pain sexual abuse has caused our Church,” he reportedly said. "The sexual abuse of children is, for us, the wounds on the body of Christ.”
The other masses are being held at parishes that were served by priests accused of or convicted of sexual abuse. A victim of the abuse, or a victim’s relative, is to address the assembly at each mass. A crucifix from a parish that was closed after the abuse scandal is on display at each mass. About on fifth of the Archdiocese’s parishes have been closed or are slated to be closed since the scandals erupted.
Barbara Thorp, director of the archdiocese's Office of Healing and Assistance Ministry, said the masses aren’t just “a pious exercise” but the people of God coming together to sincerely and humbly beg for God's help.
The archdiocese has paid more than $100 million in settlements for hundreds of sexual abuse claims. Through its office of Pastoral Support and Outreach, it continues to offer counseling to victims, train adults to recognize signs of sexual abuse, and teach children how to prevent abuse and work closely with civil authorities to prosecute and prevent abuse.
London, England, May 30, 2006 (CNA) - British Prime Minister Tony Blair is expected to have his first papal audience with Pope Benedict XVI this weekend and to invite the pontiff to set a date for his first visit to the UK, the Telegraph reports.
This is Blair’s second papal audience in three years. Blair had a private audience with Pope John Paul II in 2003 during which the late pontiff expressed his reservations about military action in Iraq.
The audience with Pope Benedict is expected to include discussions about reconciliation between the Muslim and Christian faiths.
Blair's wife, Cherie, is Catholic. She met Pope Benedict in a private audience in April, after attending a Vatican conference on young people.
Beijing, China, May 30, 2006 (CNA) -
Bishop Wu Qinjing of Zhouzi, whose episcopal ordination was approved by the Holy See but was not recognized by the Catholic Patriotic Association of China, has challenged Chinese officials by presiding publicly at a ceremony at the diocesan cathedral.
According to the South China Morning Post, Bishop Wu celebrated Mass vested as a priest, but he put on his biretta and ring when he appeared before the faithful for the blessing of a new cross at the Cathedral of Zhouzhi.
Bishop Wu was ordained by the former bishop of Xian, Anthony Li Duan, last October, but the act was not made public until last week.
"Bishop Wu would like to give the government time to acknowledge his legality within the needed process, but at the same time he does not want to compromise his religious belief," said a Catholic source quoted by the Chinese newspaper.
Bishop Wu’s actions highlighted the current friction between the Holy See and Beijing over the appointment of bishops. Recently, China appointed three bishops without the Pope’s blessing.
The newspaper reported that the Patriotic Catholic Association is preparing to ordain several more bishops without Vatican approval. “Many dioceses in China are without a bishop. We cannot wait for relations with the Vatican to improve in order to fill them,” said Liu Bainian, Vice president of the Association.
China has some 10 million Catholics, but they are split between an underground church loyal to the Holy See, and the state-approved church.
, May 30, 2006 (CNA) - Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has joined a $1.2-million emergency response plan that includes the Vatican’s Caritas Internationalis network and other Catholic agencies to provide assistance to the victims of Saturday's devastating earthquake in Indonesia.
The magnitude 6.3 quake struck in the early morning close to Yogyakarta. At last count, the quake had killed more than 5,400 people, wounded more than 6,500 and left 100,000 homeless. It is estimated that recovery and reconstruction may take up to two years.
CRS is working closely with all UN and international agencies on the ground and with three local partners. Its interventions are focused in three of the most-affected areas: Kretek and Pundong in the district of Bantul, and Prambanan in the district of Jogjakarta.
Currently, CRS is working to procure and distribute shelter materials, blankets, hygiene kits, clothes, kitchen sets and family kits to 5,000 victims. It has also provided funds for medical supplies to a local non-governmental organization that is providing shelter to 1,800 people and medical attention to 10,000 in Pundong.
Long-term reconstruction efforts are focused on establishing cash-for-work programs and setting up semi-permanent and permanent shelters.
Phoenix, Ariz., May 30, 2006 (CNA) -
Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix is tackling the meaning of true human sexuality from a Catholic perspective in a series of columns, to be published in the diocesan paper, The Catholic Sun.
His reflections will be based on the sixth commandment - You shall not commit adultery.
The human body and sexual activity are not evil. Rather, “the goodness of the body and of the sexual embrace is of such value that it must be handled with great care” and only within the lifelong commitment of marriage, wrote the bishop in his first column.
In order to understand the sixth commandment, Bishop Olmsted said, Christians need to understand the goodness and beauty the commandment protects and how sins against this commandment distort God’s plan for human love.
“It is sad to say that many of these sins are rampant in society today, especially those that threaten the very institution of marriage,” the bishop wrote.
He explained: “God created human persons for the sake of love, an embodied love. Our masculinity or femininity, in other words, enters into every dimension of our efforts to love.
“When we love, we make a free gift of our whole person, body and soul, according to our state in life. For most men and women, this occurs in the vocation of marriage. But it also occurs when God calls persons to virginity or celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. The whole person, body and soul, is called to make a total gift of self to God and to whomever God gives one to love,” he wrote.
“Adultery and all other sexual sins fall short of this total gift; in doing so, they distort God’s plan and harm the persons who commit them or are touched by them,” he said. “On the other hand, chastity, which is a successful integration of one’s sexuality and a grace-filled mastery of self, leads to integrity of life and authentic love.”
The bishop cited Pope Benedict’s first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, to explain the necessary unity of the body and the soul in order for human beings to love. “Only when both dimensions are truly united, does man attain his full stature. Only thus is love - eros - able to mature and attain its authentic grandeur,” the Pope says in his encyclical.
“The teaching of the Church does not divide the soul from the body of the human being, never places them at odds with one another,” said the bishop.
The body-soul dualism, proposed by the Gnostics, is antithetical to the Catholic faith, said the bishop. “This old heresy has emerged again in our time, but it is nothing new, just an old error built on contempt for the human body,” he wrote.
Quito, Ecuador, May 30, 2006 (CNA) - In an official statement published Monday, the Bishops’ Conference of Ecuador praised a ruling by the Constitutional Court—the equivalent in that country of the US Supreme Court—prohibiting the sale of the “morning-after pill and called the decision a “Yes to life.”
“Defending life,” the bishops said, “has become a difficult task in our days, when a ‘culture of death’ is emerging through different paths, promoted and maintained by certain people who are motivated especially by economic interests.”
“This seems ironic in a society which frequently proclaims itself to be respectful of human rights and yet nonetheless does not see any contradiction in attacking the life of those who are the weakest and most defenseless, the unborn,” the bishops continued.
They acknowledged that unwanted pregnancies “indeed constitute a serious problem. But you do not solve a problem by creating others, and less so, by irresponsibly resorting to the criminal solution of abortion.”
The morning-after pill, the bishops went on, “must be referred to for what it is, beyond the pseudo-scientific subtleties and verbal manipulations: it is simply called abortion. Those who speak of ‘avoiding an unwanted pregnancy’ should clearly state that in reality they are talking about the interruption of pregnancy that has already begun.”
“The bishops of Ecuador support the ruling of the Constitutional Court. We are pleased to know that our country has judges who have chosen life,” the statement noted in conclusion
Mexico City, Mexico, May 30, 2006 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, exhorted Mexicans this week to vote to maintain the peace his country is currently enjoying and to thwart voter fraud by showing up at the polls on July 2.
The cardinal said all Mexicans should exercise their right and duty to vote in the country’s presidential elections, and he rejected claims that the Church is backing a specific candidate through its educational program on politics and faith. The program has been reviewed by the Mexican government on three separate occasions.
In Guadalajara, Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez advised Mexicans to “not only listen to what the candidates are promising, how they speak and what they say—because they all do that well—but also to analyze, research and be interested in finding out about their moral quality and history; look at what they have done and how they have acted in their different public offices.”
“And I say this both for those who aspire to federal office as well as to state and local office in the executive and legislative branch. Pay attention to the quality of persons, because that way your vote, as has been so often said, will be reasoned out, with full knowledge, free and secret,” the cardinal said.