Vatican City, Jun 2, 2006 (CNA) - The Vatican’s top foreign-policy official told Italian reporters this week the Catholic Church in China is not seeking privileges, but rather freedom to exercise its internal affairs.
In an interview with an Italian newspaper, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, Secretary for Relations with States, said, “As in all countries, the Church in China is not seeking any privileges, just to be free in its internal organization.”
In May Pope Benedict XVI publicly criticized the decision by the Chinese government to appoint two bishops without the Holy See’s approval, and he called the move a “grave violation of religious freedom.”
“Chinese officials should not interfere in the internal affairs of the Church, particularly in the appointment of bishops,” Archbishop Lajolo said. Respect for the Church’s internal affairs would be of “enormous benefit for peace among the people, who are currently forced to choose between obligatory obedience to the so-called Patriotic Church and belonging to the sole Catholic Church, the only one that is in communion with the Pope.”
Vatican City, Jun 2, 2006 (CNA) -
Pope Benedict XVI released today a message in preparation for the upcoming 80th World Mission Day which will be celebrated on October 22nd this year. Benedict shared through his theme, "Charity, Soul of the Mission," his insistence that all missionary activity is animated by first entering into a communion of love with God.
"Each Christian community is called,” the Pope began, “to communicate God Who is Love.” Though sin entered the world, the Holy Father continued, through Christ, “the Good Shepherd who does not abandon the lost sheep, men and women of all times are given the possibility of entering into communion with God.”
“The amazing sign of this love,” Benedict said, “is the Cross."
The mission of the Church, Pope Benedict indicated, begins with the idea that "in order to love according to God, it is necessary to live in Him and of Him. God is man's first 'home' and only those who live in Him burn with a fire of divine charity capable of 'setting alight' the world.”
“It is not, then, difficult to understand,” the Holy Father continued, “that true missionary solicitude - the principal commitment of the ecclesial community - is linked to faithfulness to divine love, and this is true for each individual Christian, for each local community, for the particular Churches and for the entire People of God.”
Turning more directly to missionary activities, the Holy Father said, "Awareness of this shared mission, is what animates the generous willingness of Christ's disciples to undertake works of human and spiritual promotion that bear witness, as the beloved John Paul II wrote in his Encyclical 'Redemptoris mission,' to 'the soul of all missionary activity: love'."
“That mission which is not directed from love, which does not spring forth from a profound act of divine love,” Benedict said, “risks being reduced to a merely philanthropic and social activity.”
The Holy Father emphasized the fact that "to be missionaries means to love God with all one's being, to the point of giving, if necessary, one's life for Him. How many priests, religious and lay people, even in our own time, have rendered the supreme witness of love through martyrdom!"
He added: "To be missionaries is to attend, like the Good Samaritan, to everyone's needs, especially those of the poorest and most needy, because those who love with Christ's heart do not seek their own interest, but only the glory of the Father and the good of others. This is the secret of the apostolic fruitfulness of missionary work, which cuts across frontiers and cultures, reaches people and spreads even to the confines of the world."
The Pope concluded his Message by asking that World Mission Day "be an occasion to better understand that the witness of love, the soul of the mission, concerns everyone. ... Alongside those who are on the front line ... of evangelization - and here my thoughts go out to missionaries - there are many others, children, young people and adults, who with prayer and cooperation contribute in various ways to spreading the Kingdom of God on earth. The hope is that, with everyone's contribution, this shared participation may grow ever more."
Bogotá, Colombia, Jun 2, 2006 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro Quiroga, said this week the Church is willing to serve as facilitator in the peace talks between the government and the different rebel groups, but he said the process needs to move forward with greater prudence.
“The Church has always been willing to serve as facilitator and to make the humanitarian exchange (of individuals that have been kidnapped by the rebels) a priority, for we see this as most urgent as there are human lives that are suffering tremendously,” the archbishop stated.
Speaking with reporters after a meeting with top government officials involved in the peace talks, Archbishop Castro Quiroga said, “We have arrived at the conclusion that the process should move forward, but in order for there to be success, it must be done with much prudence,” because “many things have been messed up by a lack of discretion.”
Vatican City, Jun 2, 2006 (CNA) - Speaking this morning to candidates for the diplomatic service of the Holy See, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged devotion to the Eucharist and the Virgin Mary.
Archbishop Justo Mullor Garcia, president of Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, which trains candidates for the Holy See diplomatic service brought students from 20 countries on four continents for an audience with the Holy Father.
Benedict told the group of priests that in order to prepare themselves for their future mission, "you are called, above all, to be a community of prayer in which the relationship with God is constant, faithful and intense. ... May the Eucharist you celebrate every day be the vital center, the source and the root of all your activities over these years and in the future, when you will perform your priestly ministry at the service of the Holy See in various countries of the world. “
“Only if you remain faithful to your vocation (to the priesthood),” the Pope continued, “will you be able to offer a valid service to the Apostolic See."
"Your academy," he went on, "wishes to continue to be a true school of human and theological formation. ... Today, there is more need that ever for a solid culture that includes, alongside the necessary theological formation, a deeper study of the perennial doctrine of the Church and of the guiding principles of the Holy See's activities at the ecclesial and international level."
After recalling the academy's three centuries of history, Benedict XVI highlighted how the fact that all those present reside in Rome but come from many different continents "represents a precious opportunity to nourish the spirit of unity and communion. ... Open, then, the horizon of your minds and hearts to the universality of the Church, so as to overcome any temptation to particularism and individualism."
The Pope concluded his address by calling on the future apostolic nuncios to ensure their formation "is not lacking in genuine devotion to the Virgin Mary. May she help you to grow in love for Christ and for the Church, and to tend ever more towards sanctity, the supreme ... aspiration of your Christian and priestly lives."
Las Vegas, Nev., Jun 2, 2006 (CNA) - A Catholic high school in Las Vegas has fired a teacher for being in contradiction with the teaching of the Catholic Church, reported the Las Vegas Sun.
Jeff Crouse, a teacher of philosophy and film studies at Bishop Gorman High School for six years, declared his homosexuality on the popular website MySpace.com. Crouse posted on the website that he is a gay Catholic man, looking for "straight-acting single men." Crouse did not discuss his sexual orientation or the website at school, the newspaper reported.
According to Crouse, he was terminated May 12, as per his contract, for “maintaining, by word or action, a position contrary to the ordinary teaching of the Catholic Church,” reported the Las Vegas Sun. The contract is the same for all teachers in the board.
Diocesan and school officials declined to comment on the case, citing personnel confidentiality. However, Richard Facciolo, chancellor and superintendent of schools for the Las Vegas Diocese, says the Catholic Church expects teachers to serve as role models for students and to know, act and teach in accordance with church doctrine
Parents entrust their children to Catholic schools with the understanding that they are going to get teachers and a curriculum that reflects that Catholic faith, he said.
Bishop Gorman isn’t the only school to take such action. Catholic schools elsewhere in the country have also begun terminating teachers who do not live according to Church teaching.
A teacher in Milwaukee, for example, was fired in 2004 for getting pregnant through in-vitro fertilization. A football coach at a Massachusetts school was fired for getting his girlfriend pregnant. A young teacher in Brooklyn, N.Y., was fired for getting pregnant out of wedlock. And in October, a teacher in Sacramento was fired after officials learned she had previously volunteered at an abortion clinic.
According to the May 24 report in the Las Vegas Sun, Crouse did not say whether he plans to appeal his termination.
Rome, Italy, Jun 2, 2006 (CNA) - While the canonization process for Pope John Paul II is in its earliest stages one group is all ready calling to make St. John Paul their own. Some Italian theater actors are saying they would like John Paul to be named their patron.
"We would be so happy to have him as our patron saint,” Giuseppe Ferrazza told the Catholic TV channel Telepace on Thursday. Ferrazza is the chairman of Italy's National Theatre Agency, which published a book on Pope John Paul's writings for and about theatre.
“Theatre needs a protector because it has become too atheist," Ferrazza was quoted as saying.
The young Karol Wojtyla was once an amateur theater actor and a prolific writer of poetry and drama for the theatre. Most biographers agree that the late pontiff's theatrical experience helped him become one of the best communicators in the world.
Konigstein, Germany, Jun 2, 2006 (CNA) - During a recent visit to the international headquarters of Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Manoel dos Reis de Farias of Patos, Brazil, said he was pleased by the large numbers of Catholics in his diocese, but he warned, “To be Catholic by name is not enough.”
Bishop dos Reis said there is a need to “promote a Catholic conscience among the faithful,” who in his diocese account for 90% of the 400,000 inhabitants. He also underscored the need for a sound and solid faith formation of laity, which he hoped could be fostered by a new theological institute which he established in February of this year.
“Due to a lack of facilities, this year only 60 lay leaders can take part in the courses offered by the institute. For 2007 and the following years, we expect 120 people per year to attend these courses,” he said.
Bishop dos Reis also noted the importance of Church-run mass media in order to counteract the influence of aggressive sects, especially among young people.
In addition to the formation of laity and Catholic mass media, he continued, “popular piety is a third ‘pillar’ of evangelization” in the Patos diocese. “Currently, we are preparing a large popular mission, including door-to-door visits, in all the 28 parishes. I am convinced that the Papal visit to Brazil will contribute to the success of this project,” he said.
Vatican City, Jun 2, 2006 (CNA) - This morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received a group of 1,200 journalists and technicians from the communications media group run by the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI). The Holy Father lamented an attempt by many in Europe to erase ties to Christianity and encouraged the journalists to be steadfast in their work.
"Dear friends," said the Pope, "yours is a truly important function. Indeed, it is also thanks to your efforts that the commitment of Italian Catholics to bring the Gospel of Christ to the lives of nations can continue."
"In order to understand the overall significance of the work to which you dedicate yourselves every day," the Pope said, "it may prove useful to reflect briefly upon the relationship between faith and culture" in Europe. "European culture ... was formed over centuries with the contribution of Christianity. However, since the Enlightenment western culture has been distancing itself from its Christian foundations." And, "especially in recent times, ... the reduction of faith to a subjective experience and the consequent secularization of public conscience show us, clearly and dramatically, the consequences of this separation."
On a positive note, however the Pope said that there is a renewal of faith in many parts of Euope. "In particular," he said, "the Catholic faith is still substantially present in the life of the Italian people and the signs of its renewed vitality are visible to all.”
"Therefore," he added, "constant discernment is necessary in your work as communicators inspired by the Gospel. As you well know, the pastors of the Italian Church are careful to conserve those Christian forms that come from the great traditions of the Italian people and that shape community life, updating them, purifying them where necessary and, above all, reinforcing and encouraging them. It is also your duty to sustain and promote the new Christian experiences that are coming into being, helping them to develop an ever greater awareness of their ecclesial roots and of the role they can play."
Benedict XVI described the work of the communicators as "a task not to be undertaken in an abstract or purely intellectual manner, but remaining attentive to the infinite details of the real life of a people."
"Do not tire," he concluded, "of building bridges of understanding and communication between ecclesiastical experience and public opinion. Thus you will be protagonists of a form of communication ... that serves modern mankind."
Sydney, Australia, Jun 2, 2006 (CNA) - The number of seminarians in Australia has sharply increased in recent years and Church officials are attributing it to effective leadership, challenging spiritual and academic formation and a focus on shaping “good and holy priests,” says an article by Michael Gilchrist in the June issue of AD2000.
The Seminary of the Good Shepherd in Sydney, for example, has 44 seminarians, more than double the number of five years ago. Thirty of these men are in formation for the Archdiocese of Sydney. There are also 18 students at the recently established Redemptoris Mater Seminary run by the Neocatechumenate, a movement in the Church founded in 1968.
The St Charles Seminary in Perth has 20 students this year. Eight new priests were ordained for the archdiocese in December. Numbers have also increased in Melbourne, where there are now 35 seminarians at Corpus Christi. Even the small Diocese of Wagga Wagga has 12 men studying for the priesthood.
Gilchrist attributes the increase in Sydney and Melbourne, in part, to Cardinal George Pell, who had served in Melbourne and continues to serve Sydney. A similar increase occurred in Melbourne a few years ago after the cardinal implemented reforms at the seminary.
Gilchrist also attributes the increase to a successful vocations program, which has two seminarians visiting a parish each weekend and giving testimony at the end of mass. A Vocations Retreat Weekend is held for those who are considering the priesthood.
Community prayer life is an important component of the seminary. In Sydney, the seminary has a daily Rule of Life. The men pray the Divine Office together in the chapel for morning, evening and night prayers, along with daily mass. A half hour of meditation is scheduled after morning prayer.
Three-quarters of an hour of Eucharistic Adoration takes place every night and an hour of Eucharistic Adoration each Sunday afternoon. Silence is required after 10:30 p.m. until after morning Mass the next day and all conversations, phone calls, and TV watching have to stop by 10:30pm.
An annual retreat is held for the whole seminary community and days of reflection are set aside during. Seminarians are expected to make a regular confession.
Academic formation is designed to nurture and inspire the personal faith of the seminarian and to presents “unambiguously the truth of the Catholic Church captured in the Scriptures and the Tradition.”
It focuses on the formation of a Catholic mind, a heightened moral conscience and a deep knowledge of the Word of God as “living word.”
But the overall goal is “to produce good and holy priests.”
Truro, Mass., Jun 2, 2006 (CNA) - The Truro Fire Department Board of Fire Engineers cleared all charges of bias that were filed against an EMS volunteer because he had signed a petition against same-sex marriage.
Former Truro Selectman Paul Asher-Best had charged Rescue Chief Leo Childs of being biased against homosexuals because he signed a petition in favor of a referendum on the gay marriage issue.
Asher-Best argued that, given Childs’ position against same-sex marriage, Childs would not treat a gay or lesbian patient the same way as he would a heterosexual patient.
However, despite his attempts to explain, Childs lost his position.
Recently, the board decided to clear Childs after a comprehensive investigation found that he has always used a professional, caring and compassionate approach with all of his patients and “treated his patients in a dignified manner.”
“We believe that the accusation … is completely unsubstantiated,” the board wrote in its May 19 decision. “As a trained firefighter and paramedic, he has always answered calls from the public without any bias, may it be racial, religious, social or for sexual orientation.”
Maggie Gallagher, president of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, treated the issue in her May 30 column, titled “Gay marriage creates new conflicts for neighbors.” She spoke with both parties and fleshed out their points of view.
Childs, who had been volunteering for nearly a decade, said he tried to explain to Asher-Best his position in favor of a referendum. "I'm more concerned that a special interest group with a strong lobby would be able to influence a judge in our state,” he told Gallagher. “I wouldn't have a problem with it if it passed on the referendum.”.
Asher-Best, who has lived in a homosexual relationship for 27 years, told Gallagher this case reminds him of the attitudes that were prevalent prior to the civil rights movement with regard to race.
“Paul Asher-Best is no villain,” Gallagher remarked. “He's a good man with a bad idea: People who disagree with him on gay marriage demonstrate irrational hatred toward gay people. After all, that is what the Massachusetts high court actually ruled.”
Gallagher observed that “two ideas are clearly now on a collision course” in American society. The first is that the unions of husbands and wives are special. The second is that “there's no difference between same-sex and opposite-sex couples, and only hate-filled bigots think otherwise.”
“In Massachusetts, the second idea is now the official view of the law,” Gallagher stated.
“Childs is one of the first casualties of this new conflict. But as our senators debate a Marriage Protection Amendment June 5, they should be forewarned: If they leave marriage to the courts, he won't be the last,” Gallagher warned.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 2, 2006 (CNA) - During a Confirmation ceremony this week, the Archbishop of Guadalajara, Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iñíguez, said the Church will remain firm until the end of the world because she has the protection of the Holy Spirit.
During his remarks to the 47 confirmandi, the cardinal underscored that “the Church shall remain” despite “the attacks she receives daily, both those of the past, and those of the present such as The Da Vinci Code and the apocryphal gospels, such as the Gospel of Judas.”
“These things are nothing more than the gates of hell that are struggling against the Church and from which Jesus promised his protection,” Cardinal Iniguez said. “The Holy Spirit guarantees that she will continue until the end of the world.”
He exhorted young people thus to “not separate yourselves from the Church” and to “defend her, because she is the bark of Peter that brings us to eternal life.”