Vatican City, Jun 1, 2006 (CNA) - The Holy Father marked the end of the month of May yesterday evening, participating in a traditional Marian procession. The procession, which wound its way from the Church of St. Stephen of the Abyssinians - located near the apse of the Vatican Basilica – finished at the Grotto of Lourdes in the Vatican Gardens. Hundreds of people participated in the ceremony, which was presided over by Archbishop Angelo Comastri, vicar general for the Vatican City State.
Wednesday being the Feast of the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth, the Holy Father spoke of the importance of Christ as the source of all Marian devotion. The Holy Father highlighted how in the Virgin Mary's visit "the hidden protagonist is Jesus. Mary carried Him in her womb as in a sacred tabernacle. ... Wherever Mary goes, there is Jesus."
"May true Marian devotion never obscure or diminish faith and love for Jesus Christ, our Savior, the only mediator between God and man. ... Let us, then, entrust ourselves to her with filial devotion,” the Holy Father said.
The Pope also recalled how this year the month of May was "characterized by the arrival of the image of the Virgin of Fatima in St. Peter's Square on the 25th anniversary of the assassination attempt against the beloved John Paul II, and also by my apostolic trip ... to Poland, where I was able to visit the places dear to my great predecessor."
At the Shrine of Jasna Gora in Czestochowa, he said, "I understood how much our celestial Protectress accompanies her children's journey, and does not disregard supplications addressed to her with humility and faith. Once again, together with you, I wish to thank her for having accompanied me during my visit to the dear land of Poland. I also wish to express my gratitude to Mary for her support in my daily service to the Church. I know I can rely on her help in all situations, indeed I know that she, with maternal intuition, meets all her children's needs and intervenes effectively in their support."
The Pope concluded his address by asking the faithful to pray especially for the forthcoming vigil in St. Peter's Square on Saturday, June 3, when he will meet with new lay movements and communities "those promising groups that have blossomed in the Church following Vatican Council II."
Vatican City, Jun 1, 2006 (CNA) - This morning Pope Benedict XVI greeted a group of Americans on pilgrimage to celebrate the five hundredth anniversary of the Vatican Museums. The Holy Father thanked the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums for their continued support and encouraged them in their service during an audience in the Clementine Hall.
The Pope thanked the association for its "continuing interest, which is motivated not only by a sense of stewardship for the incomparable cultural patrimony of the Vatican Museums, but also by a generous commitment to the Church's evangelizing mission."
He continued: "In every age Christians have sought to give expression to faith's vision of the beauty and order of God's creation, the nobility of our vocation as men and women made in His image and likeness, and the promise of a cosmos redeemed and transfigured by the grace of Christ. The artistic treasures which surround us are not simply impressive monuments of a distant past. Rather, for the hundreds of thousands of visitors who contemplate them year after year, they stand as a perennial witness to the Church's unchanging faith in the Triune God who, in the memorable phrase of St. Augustine, is Himself 'Beauty ever ancient, ever new'."
"May your support of the Vatican Museums," he concluded, "bear abundant spiritual fruits in your own lives and advance the Church's mission of bringing all people to the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ, 'the image of the invisible God,' in Whose Eternal Spirit all creation is reconciled, restored and renewed."
Founded in 1983, The Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums is an American association dedicated to financing the restoration and maintenance of the works of art in the Vatican Museums. Although some 15,000 visitors tour the Vatican museums each day, ticket sales cover only day-to-day costs and the museums are not supported directly by the Holy See. Many of the Patrons make the annual trip to the Vatican to see the fruits of their support.
Milwaukee, Wis., Jun 1, 2006 (CNA) - Officials at the Milwaukee Public Museum have been pleasantly surprised at the public’s reaction to a visiting Vatican exhibit on the history of the papacy. “Saint Peter and the Vatican: The Legacy of the Popes” received more than 144,000 exceeding museum by expectations by almost 23,000 visitors, The Business Journal of Milwaukee reported.
The exhibition also ran longer than anticipated. It was scheduled to run from Feb. 4 to May 7 but, due to popular demand, it was extended to the end of May. Several weekends either sold-out or neared sold-out capacity and museum officials expect to have netted up to $400,000 for the exhibition.
Milwaukee was the exhibit’s third and final North American stop and only venue in the Midwest. It featured more than 300 historic Vatican objects, documents and art, tracing 2,000 years of Church leadership, from Saint Peter to Pope Benedict XVI. It included some never-before-seen artwork and historic pieces from the permanent collections of the Vatican Museums. The Vatican Museums are celebrating their 500th anniversary this year.
The exhibition was presented in collaboration with the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and was organized and circulated in conjunction with the Vatican.
Vatican City, Jun 1, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI told a group of bishops today that they are called to a total commitment to service even to the point of death. The Holy Father made his comments while meeting with the ordinary council of the Secretariat General of the Synod of Bishops who, under the leadership of Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, are gathering and organizing the proposals that emerged from the last synod, held in October 2005 on the theme, "The Eucharist: source and summit of the life and mission of the Church."
"Today's meeting," the Holy Father told them, "is an appropriate occasion to emphasize once more the importance of charity in the activities of the pastors of the Church. ... Nourishing the Lord's flock is a ministry of watchful love that calls for total dedication, complete commitment of energy and, if necessary, the sacrifice of life. The Eucharist is, above all, the source and the hidden permanent impulse of our mission."
He went on: "In his ecclesial existence, the bishop represents the image of Christ, who nourishes us with His flesh and His blood. From the Eucharist, the pastor draws the strength to exercise that special pastoral charity which consists in dispensing the food of truth to Christian people."
"The truth of Love cannot be silenced, because it is the very essence of God. Preaching it from the rooftops is not just 'amoris officium' (a dutiful act of love) but a vital message for mankind in all times. The truth of evangelical love concerns all men, and all of man, and compels the pastor to proclaim it without fear or reticence, never yielding to the conditioning of the world."
The Pope concluded his brief remarks by reminding bishops that, "in a time such as our own, characterized by the growing phenomenon of globalization, it becomes ever more necessary to bring the truth of Christ and His Gospel of salvation to everyone vigorously and clearly. There are innumerable areas in which to proclaim and lovingly bear witness to the truth: so many people are hungry and cannot be left to languish without sustenance."
Ann Arbor, Mich., Jun 1, 2006 (CNA) - The Thomas More Law Center has filed a 49-page brief in the California appellate court, challenging a state judge’s ruling that a 43-foot cross in a war memorial must be removed.
The cross has stood atop San Diego’s Mt. Soledad for the last 50 years. But federal district court Judge Gordon Thompson ordered the City of San Diego on May 3rd to remove the cross within 90 days or face fines of $5,000 per day thereafter.
Judge Thompson’s ruling ignored the results of a special election held in July 2005, in which 76 percent of San Diego voters approved that the municipality transfer the land to the federal government as a national memorial.
A motion to expedite the appeal in an attempt to have the issue decided before the 90-day deadline was also filed. If the appeal is successful, the Mt. Soledad Cross and national memorial would be transferred to the federal government. Such a transfer would moot the federal court order, which is based on a finding that the cross on city property violates the California Constitution.
The Law Center has also filed a motion to intervene in the federal district court case on behalf of San Diegans for the Mount Soledad National War Memorial and to seek a stay on his order.
Additionally, Law Center attorneys are discussing the possibility of White House intervention with Department of Justice attorneys, whereby President Bush would take the Mt. Soledad Veterans memorial under the federal government’s power of eminent domain.
In order to preserve the memorial intact, in 2004, the U.S. Congress passed a law designating the memorial a national veterans memorial and authorizing that a donation of the memorial and surrounding property be accepted from the city of San Diego.
Louisville, Ky., Jun 1, 2006 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Louisville’s two new spiritual fathers also happen to be grandfathers.
Fr. Wally Dant Jr., 66, a widower with five children, and Fr. Jeffrey Hopper, 48, a former Episcopal priest and Catholic convert who is married, were ordained Saturday by Archbishop Thomas Kelly during a two-hour mass at the cathedral, reported The Associated Press.
Fr. Hopper is the first married man to be ordained in the archdiocese, and both are the archdiocese's first grandfathers to enter the priesthood.
These ordinations illustrate a nationwide trend that has emerged toward older men entering the priesthood. The nationwide average age of ordinands this year is 37.4, up from 34.8 in 1998, reported the AP. The average age was in the upper 20s in the late 1960s.
The median age of priests today is about 60, reported the AP.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jun 1, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Domingo Castagna of Corrientes, Argentina, said this week the Church’s strength is not to be found in politics but instead in the “means of grace” given by Christ and in the presence of the Holy Spirit.
“These means (of grace) and the leading action of the Holy Spirit are made manifest in the holiness of Christians. There the strength of the Church is evident: in holy men and women taking responsibility for the temporal duties that are theirs - there is no better expression of this truth,” he said.
Christians, he went on, respond to their critics with “the serene self-control of Jesus,” who does not impose, but rather, proposes the truth. Christ “manifests the truth” through his holiness, Archbishop Castagna said, adding that our ineffective efforts to preach the Gospel prove that “only holiness convinces others of the truthfulness of the message we proclaim.”
In this sense, the archbishop noted, the renewed attacks on the faith and the Church will fail yet again “if Christians are holy” because holiness is “the youthfulness of the Church” and ensures “the constant renewal of her structures.”
London, England, Jun 1, 2006 (CNA) - A senior Anglican bishop has questioned Prince Charles' intention to be seen as the defender of all faiths, rather than just Christianity, should he succeed to the throne.
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali of Rochester said differences between the faiths makes it impossible to defend them all. He said the coronation service would oblige the new king to take an oath to defend the Christian church if he succeeded to the throne.
The bishop told the BBC that the basis of British society, including the monarchy, is Christianity. Legal arrangements are also derived from the Judeo-Christian ethic, he said.
"All our values come ultimately from the Bible,” the bishop reportedly said. “People of other faiths recognize this and they are not often the ones asking for a multi-faith mish-mash. They recognize the value of Britain being a Christian country.
"To be a distinctively Christian country does not necessarily mean that we don't welcome other people," the bishop stated.
Prince Charles first expressed a wish to become "Defender of Faith" rather than "Defender of the Faith" in an interview in 1994, when he suggested that the title held by all British monarchs since Henry VIII implied that they would protect only Christians.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 1, 2006 (CNA) - The National Laity Council in Mexico has called on the faithful to go to the polls on July 2 to cast their free and conscientious vote. In a statement distributed throughout the country, the NLC, led by Fernando Rivera Barroso, reminded Mexicans that they could use their vote to express their disapproval of the lack of progress in the country as well as to overcome demagoguery and manipulation by the media.
When going to the polls, the Council also underscored, voters should keep in mind the candidate’s personal background and party, his or her attitude regarding the dignity of the human person, the family, and the fundamental right to life, in order to determine whether or not that candidate’s actions and beliefs are consistent with the values of integrity, respect for law, and service to those most in need.
The Council reminded Mexicans that if they do not vote, they are betraying the solidarity they owe to one another and they lose their right to have an opinion about their own personal situation and that of Mexico. The person who is chosen to be president will be charged with fulfilling the mandate of the people and working to bring about the common good, the statement noted.
While Mexico has established a tradition of carrying out free elections, the Council expressed regret at the low voter turnout and said it was due, in part, to misinformation and propaganda. Likewise, it pointed out that the absence of an official educational policy based on moral values has encouraged corruption, delinquency and a lack of respect for human dignity and life.
Santiago, Chile, Jun 1, 2006 (CNA) - Auxiliary Bishop Cristian Contreras Villarroel of Santiago, Chile, reminded the faithful this week that “not everything in our society ought to be based on economic relations” and he encourage them to value Sunday as the Day of the Lord.
In an article entitled, “Sunday,” published by the Chilean daily El Mercurio, Bishop Contreras gave an overview of the history of the importance of Sunday in the Church and denied that it was something imposed upon society by Christian culture.
For believers, he said, Sunday should be a day to reflect upon one’s journey of faith. For all people, Sunday is a reminder of man’s physical limitations, which require “a weekly rest,” as well as reminder of the importance of family and faith.
“Does this mean that on Sunday no work should be done at all? In no way. What would happen, for example, if patients at hospitals and clinics were not cared for? What would happen if bakeries, public transportation and gas stations were not open? What would happen if movie theaters were closed and there were no sports events? On Sundays we also need to receive news from radio and television stations and newspapers,” the bishop said.
He also underscored the need for places of entertainment that fulfill the human person’s need for recreation and make it possible for the entire family to be together.
At the same time, Bishop Contreras continued, Chileans must remember that “not everything in our society ought to be based on economic relations. To be human is more than just doing business. Economic matters can subjugate the deep desire of the human person to rest, to be alone with himself or to spend time with the family and with the Lord.”
“The experience of economically developed countries shows that it is absolutely human—and just and necessary—to set aside a privileged time to cultivate family life, to spend time freely with others, to engage in leisurely activities as a counterpart to business and work during the rest of the week. Sunday is a gift and a right for the fundamental structure of the human person,” Bishop Contreras said.