, Jun 5, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, President of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, delivered an address to the United Nations Friday, detailing the Catholic Church’s work against the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Barragán told the assembly that the Catholic Church has been at the forefront of the fight against HIV/AIDS since the beginning and will continue to provide increased service in this area.
Noting the work of groups such as Caritas Internationalis, the Vincentians, the St. Egidio Community, The Hospitaller Brothers of St. John of God (Fatebenefratelli), the Jesuits, and the Missionaries of Charity (Sisters of Mother Theresa), Barragán said that, “26.7% of the centers that treat people infected with HIV and affected by AIDS in the world are Catholic-based.” Catholic-based assistance is present, he said, in at least 62 countries.
Turning his focus to the work done by Catholic organizations, Barragán said, the goal “is to strongly promote and strengthen the required sense of ownership and responsibility that each country must develop in each phase of the answer to the pandemic.” The Church’s organizations have a wide range, focusing, “on the training of health care professionals, as well as prevention, treatment, care and assistance. In all of these stages,” the Cardinal said, “we accompany the sick and their respective families.”
In closing Barragán spoke of the work of the Good Samaritan Foundation, which Pope John Paul II founded to support the poorest of the world. Through the Foundation, Barragán said, “we have facilitated the acquisition of antiretrovirals for centers in 18 countries: 13 in Africa, 3 in the Americas and 2 in Asia. The funds given to these centers came from the contributions of Catholics in 19 countries, from the Americas, Asia, Europe and some from Africa itself.”
Vatican City, Jun 5, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI met with more than 400,000 representatives of new ecclesial movements and communities during a Saturday evening celebration of the Vigil of Pentecost in St. Peter’s Square.
Prior to the meeting’s beginning, the Pope traveled through St. Peter’s Square and down the Via della Conciliazione in an open-top popemobile, greeting and blessing the crowds as he went.
Prior to the praying of Vespers, Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, prefect of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, gave a brief welcome and Chiara Lubich, founder of the Work of Mary (the Focolari Movement), offered a few remarks.
During Vespers the reading of the psalms was interspersed with reflections by Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Sant'Egidio Community, Kiko Arguello, founder of the Neocatechumenal Way, and Msgr. Julian Carron, president of the Communion and Liberation movement.
The Holy Father then gave his homily which he began by recalling Pope John Paul II, who in held the first meeting with movements and communities in 1998. "That great evangelizer of our time," Pope Benedict told the crowds, "defined your associations and communities as 'providential'."
Pentecost, said the Holy Father, "is not only the origin of the Church and, therefore, in a special way, her feast; Pentecost is also the feast of the creation. The world does not exist of itself; it comes from the creative Spirit of God. ... Those who, as Christians, believe in the Creating Spirit are aware of the fact that we cannot use and abuse the material world as a simple instrument to enact our desires."
"God approaches us through creation," said the Pope. "Nonetheless, the good creation of God, over the course of the history of mankind, has been covered with a deep layer of filth that makes it, if not impossible, at least difficult to recognize therein the reflection of the Creator."
After highlighting how "life and freedom" are "the things we all long for," Benedict XVI stressed that "life is only to be found by giving it, it is not to be found by seeking to possess it. This is what we must learn from Christ, and this is what we are taught by the Holy Spirit, Which is a pure gift, Which is God's giving of Himself."
"The ecclesial movements," he went on, "want to be, and must be, schools of freedom, of this true freedom. ... In this world, so full of false freedoms that destroy the environment and mankind, we, with the strength of the Holy Spirit, wish to learn authentic freedom together," and show people "how beautiful it is to be free in the true freedom of the children of God."
The Pope continued: "The Holy Spirit, granting life and freedom, also grants unity. These three gifts are inseparable from one another. ... Looking at this gathering here in St. Peter's Square, we realize how He always generates new gifts; we see how different the groups He creates are, and how, ever anew, He works corporeally."
In Him, "multiplicity and unity go together. He blows where He wills. He does so unexpectedly, in unexpected places and in previously unimagined forms. ... Multiformity and unity are inseparable. He wants your multiformity, and He wants you for the one body, in union with the lasting orders - the joints [of the body] - of the Church, with the successors of the Apostles and the successor of St. Peter."
The Holy Father called upon those present "to participate in the building of the one body. Pastors will ensure that the Spirit is not extinguished, and you will not cease to carry your gifts to the entire community."
The Pope also sought to encourage the "missionary drive" of the movements and communities. "Those who have found something true, beautiful and good in their own lives - the only real treasure, the precious pearl - hurry to share it with everyone: in the family, at work, in all areas of their lives."
"Dear friends," he concluded, "I ask you to collaborate even more - much more - in the Pope's universal apostolic ministry, opening the doors to Christ. This is the best service of the Church to mankind and, in a special way, to the poor, so that the life of individuals, a more just ordering of society and peaceful coexistence among nations may find in Christ the 'corner stone' upon which to build a true civilization, the civilization of love."
Following the Pope's homily, a renewal of the Sacrament of Confirmation took place with the invocation of the Holy Spirit and the profession of faith.
After the singing of the Magnificat, two representatives from ecclesial movements - Luis Fernando Figari of the Christian Life Movement and Patti Gallagher Mansfield of Catholic Charismatic Renewal - expressed thanks to the Pope.
Washington D.C., Jun 5, 2006 (CNA) - Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has sent a letter to US Senators asking them to vote in favor of a proposed Federal Amendment prohibiting same-sex “marriages.”
Romney, who many consider a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2008, said that the argument should not be seen as anti-homosexual. The governor insisted that while he is opposed to bigotry and disparagement, this debate, “is not a debate over tolerance. It is a debate about the purpose of the institution of marriage.”
“Attaching the word marriage to the association of same-sex individuals mistakenly presumes that marriage is principally a matter of adult benefits and adult rights,” Romney said.
Instead, Romney maintained, marriage is primarily about raising children. And, he said, the ideal setting for raising a child is in a home with a mother and a father.
In February 2004, Romney’s state was the first to legalize same-sex “marriage” due to a ruling of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts. This, Romney said, gives him a unique perspective on the issue.
“Although the full impact of same-sex marriage may not be measured for decades or generations,” the governor said, “we are beginning to see the effects of the new legal logic in Massachusetts just two years into our state’s social experiment.”
Romney said that an amendment is necessary to protect marriage from, “judges like those here in Massachusetts who think that marriage is an evolving paradigm, and that the traditional definition is rooted in persistent prejudices and amounts to invidious discrimination.”
Arguing against a movement in favor of leaving the issue to individual states, Romney said that a federal amendment is necessary because, “marriage is not just an activity or practice which is confined to the border of any one state.”
“Your vote on this amendment,” Romney wrote in closing, “should not be guided by a concern for adult rights. This matter goes to the development and well-being of children.”
Vatican City, Jun 5, 2006 (CNA) -
(VIS) This morning, on the Solemnity of Pentecost, Pope Benedict XVI presided at Mass in St. Peter's Square. The Mass, concelebrated by several Cardinals, was attended by tens of thousands of people, many of whom had participated in yesterday's meeting between the Pope and ecclesial movements and new communities.
"On the day of Pentecost," said the Pope in his homily, "the Holy Spirit descended powerfully upon the Apostles; and thus the Church's mission in the world began. Jesus Himself had prepared the Eleven for this mission, appearing to them a number of times after His resurrection. ... Remaining together was the condition placed by Jesus for receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit."
"This provides a remarkable lesson for all Christian communities. Sometimes, it is thought that missionary success depends principally on careful planning, followed by clever implementation through concrete commitment. Of course, the Lord asks our collaboration, but prior to any response on our part His initiative is necessary. His Spirit is the true protagonist of the Church."
Benedict XVI then commented on the images (of wind and fire) with which St. Luke describes "the irruption of the Holy Spirit." Images that recall the covenant of God with the People of Israel in the Sinai Desert and through which the Evangelist presents "Pentecost as the new Sinai, as the feast of the new pact, in which the Covenant with Israel is extended to all the people of the earth."
For this reason, "the Church was Catholic and missionary from her inception. The universality of salvation is significantly highlighted in the list of ethnic groups who listened to the first announcement of the Apostles. The People of God ... was enlarged ... until it no longer knew frontiers of race, culture, space or time. Unlike what happened in the Tower of Babel - when men, intent on building a way to heaven with their own hands, ended up by destroying their capacity to understand one another - in the Pentecost the Spirit, with the gift of tongues, shows how His presence unites and transforms confusion into communion. ... The Holy Spirit ... rebuilds the bridge of true communication between earth and heaven. The Holy Spirit is Love."
However, in order to know "the mystery of the Holy Spirit," we must go back to Jesus' words at the Last Supper, when the Apostles were disconcerted and saddened by His announcement of His death and departure.
"In order to comfort them [Jesus] explains the meaning of His leaving: He will go, but will return, in the meantime He will not abandon them, He will not leave them orphans. He will send the Counselor, the Spirit of the Father, and it will be the Spirit Who makes it known that Jesus' work is a work of love: the love of He Who offered Himself, the love of the Father Who gave Him."
"This is the mystery of Pentecost," said the Holy Father, "the Holy Spirit illuminates the human spirit and, revealing Christ crucified and risen, indicates the way to become like Him, to be, that is, 'image and instrument of the love which flows from Christ'."
After the Mass, Benedict XVI prayed the "Regina Coeli" with those present, before reflecting further upon Pentecost which, he reiterated, "invites us to return to the origins of the Church." He also quoted the words of the Apostolic Constitution "Lumen gentium" where it is written: "The Church, which the Spirit guides in way of all truth and which He unified in communion and in works of ministry, He both equips and directs with hierarchical and charismatic gifts and adorns with His fruits."
The Holy Father concluded: "Among the things prompted by the Spirit in the Church are the ecclesial movements and communities, which yesterday I had the joy of meeting in this square, in a great international meeting. All the Church, as Pope John Paul II used to like to say, is one great movement animated by the Holy Spirit, a river crossing history to irrigate it with the grace of God and render it fruitful of life, goodness, beauty, justice and peace."
Vatican City, Jun 5, 2006 (CNA) - Making remarks during a prayer service in St. Peter’s Square on Satuday evening Luis Fernando Figari, founder of the Christian Life Movement, spoke to Pope Benedict XVI and thousands of members of new movements and ecclesial communities. Speaking during a vigil celebration of the Solemn Feast of Pentecost, Figari’s comments centered on the essential nature of unity, diversity, and fidelity to the Pope in proclaiming Christ to the world.
Addressing Pope Benedict XVI, Figari said, “Those who respond as indicated by the Virgin Mary in Cana: "Do whatever he tells you" (John 2:5), listen to Christ and obey him, and they open up to the Father who will reside in them.”
The Peruvian founder told the hundreds of thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square, “The Eternal Word, made flesh in the Immaculate Virgin Mary in order to redeem all human beings, comes to meet each of us in order to bring us to the wonderful gift of reconciliation, with God, with oneself, with others, with all of creation.”
Referring to the birth of the different ecclesial movements, Figari noted that the same, “Spirit who descended on Our Lady at the time of the Annunciation and Incarnation, the Spirit who was made manifest in tongues of burning fire and touched minds and hearts at Pentecost, is the same Spirit who in our times has given rise to a wave of ecclesial movements and other communities of the faithful to live the Christian life, to proclaim to the world that Christ is real and that he reconciles people, to show them who Christ is, and to invite them to love and communion and participation in the divine nature.”
Figari was invited by the Pontifical Council for the Laity to make his comments in response to the papal homily.
The founder of the Christian Life Movement underscored that the pluralism of charisms in the Church are a blessing “that demonstrate rich ecclesial plurality and contribute in communion with Peter and under Peter.”
“Most Holy Father, your most appreciated teachings and encouragement lead us, members of ecclesial movements and new communities, in spite of our littleness, to feel urged on to greater commitment to the New Evangelization, to stimulate the drive toward coherence in the Church and eagerness to give witness, to search out new courageous methods and expressions to proclaim Christ and his teachings that are based on the experience of those who have listened to his call, have heard his voice, and have met him in a life-giving encounter, and to give witness, according to the gifts granted by the Spirit of faith, hope and charity, to the ends of the earth in all the undertakings of humanity,” Figari said in conclusion.
Washington D.C., Jun 5, 2006 (CNA) - The Becket Fund, a interfaith organization for religious freedom, filed an opening brief June 1 in an effort to overturn the September 2005 court decision that struck down daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance because it includes the words "under God."
The case is now before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Becket Fund filed its brief on behalf of children who attend the targeted public schools and who want to keep saying the pledge with the words “under God”, the parents of those children, and the Knights of Columbus, who spearheaded the effort to add "under God" to the pledge 52 years ago.
The brief explains that the words “under God” encapsulate a foundational idea in American political philosophy: that the rights of the human person are inalienable -- and that the power of the state is correspondingly limited -- precisely because those rights exist prior to the state and come from a source beyond it.
The brief details how this concept is reflected throughout American history, starting with the Declaration of Independence.
It also traces the history of the phrase "under God" as a way to declare limits on the power of the state, beginning with the Middle Ages, up through George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
Opening briefs of the other defendants — the Rio Linda Union School District and the United States — were also filed June 1. Numerous briefs of amici curiae in support of the appeal are expected to be filed this week.
Konigstein, Germany, Jun 5, 2006 (CNA) - According to Aid to the Church in Need, more than 65,000 displaced persons in East Timor have found shelter in various refugee centers, many of them linked with the Catholic Church.
Refugees of the small Southeast Asian nation have been driven from their homes in the wake of violence which broke out in late April when some 600 soldiers were dismissed from the armed forces.
More than 10,000 people have found refuge at the Salesian Center of Dili, and the Church is preparing to accommodate even more refugees in the Cathedral of Dili. “The Church is always ready to help with what is necessary,” said Mgr Alberto Ricardo da Silva, Bishop of Dili.
According to UN statistics, 100,000 people have been made homeless in the Dili region. 65,000 have found shelter in different centers and 35,000 have fled to the mountains.
East Timor’s independence was internationally recognized in May 2002. Prior to achieving independence it was considered part of Indonesia. It is one of Asia’s poorest countries and, in addition to the Philippines, the only other nation in Asia with a predominantly Catholic population.
Washington D.C., Jun 5, 2006 (CNA) - More than 2,000 young adults, bishops, diocesan coordinators and other parish leaders from across the country will gather for the first National Encuentro for Hispanic Youth and Young Adult Ministry, June 8-11, at the University of Notre Dame.
The historic meeting will call Hispanic young adults to a more active participation in the life and mission of the Catholic Church. Half of all U.S. Catholics under the age of 25 are Hispanic.
Guided by the theme, Weaving the Future Together, the event is the culmination of parish, diocesan and regional encuentro meetings held in several cities. Participants from 126 dioceses will attend, including 20 U.S. bishops. Bishop Adalberto Martínez of San Lorenzo, Paraguay, and Rev. Gustavo Monje of Bogota, Colombia, will lead a delegation from Latin America and speak about how immigration impacts pastoral ministry.
The English and Spanish event is convened by the National Catholic Network de Pastoral Juvenil Hispana (La Red), a network of church-based organizations and pastoral ministers. The U.S. bishops’ Committee on Hispanic Affairs and Sub-committee on Youth and Young Adults, and the University of Notre Dame are co-sponsors.
The encuentro aims at focusing on the needs, aspirations and contributions of Hispanic young adults with the goal of developing a common vision and pastoral principles that will be presented to the U.S. bishops.
"Not only are young Hispanic Catholics a significant presence in the Church today, but they will be a very significant part of the leadership of the Catholic Church in the future," said Alejandro Aguilera-Titus, associate director of the USCCB Secretariat for Hispanic Affairs.
Keynote speakers will include Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Auxiliary Bishop Jaime Soto of Orange County, Calif.; and Sr. Maria Elena Gonzalez, RSM, of the Mexican American Cultural Center in San Antonio.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jun 5, 2006 (CNA) - In an effort to promote the annual Catholic Charities collection in Argentina which is scheduled for Sunday, June 11, the organization’s president, Bishop Fernando Bargallo of Merlo-Moreno, called on Argentineans to remember that “the social exclusion that many of the poor endure should motivate us to review our attitudes in order that we do not grow accustomed to their situation.”
The bishops reminded Catholics that “despite efforts to eradicate poverty, there is still an enormous task before us.”
“In the communities where Catholic Charities is present, we know that there are many families that still cannot provide themselves daily sustenance, nor provide for the education of their children or obtain stable and dignified employment,” the bishop said.
He noted that while the general economic situation in the country has shown hopeful signs of improvement, Argentineans have the duty to “not let our commitment in solidarity become lax and to continue building relationships that are ever more just and fraternal and make equitable development possible.”
Quito, Ecuador, Jun 5, 2006 (CNA) - President Alfredo Palacio Gonzalez of Ecuador has issued a decree establishing March 25 as the Day of the Unborn Child.
The presidential decree, issued June 1, 2006, grants recognition to the unborn as a child, whose “right to life” must be respected and who must be considered a person under the law and protected against discrimination on the basis of being unborn.
The decree also declares that it is a “Constitutional obligation of the State to protect and guarantee the life of every human being, from the moment of conception,” noting also that it is necessary to make society aware of “the special protection that the unborn deserve because of their extreme fragility and defenselessness…that the unborn are a vulnerable group that should be given priority treatment.”
“The Ecuadorian government deems that the Day of the Unborn Child should be celebrated on March 25 each year, the internationally accepted date for the event,” the decree stated.
It also established that different government agencies take the necessary steps to incorporate the holiday in social and educational programs and “to promote and organize festivals and special celebrations in honor of the unborn.”
The presidential decree brings the civil authority of Ecuador in line with the Ecuadorian Bishops who had already established March 25 as the Day of the Unborn Child.