Vatican City, Jun 14, 2006 (CNA) -
Today in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict XVI reflected on the life of St. Andrew the Apostle, brother of St. Peter, who is the embodiment of fraternity between the Church of Rome and the Eastern Churches.
Approximately 35,000 pilgrims gathered for the Holy Father’s weekly audience. Pope Benedict started by explaining that the name Andrew is not of Hebrew origin, but of Greek. This, he said, is "an appreciable sign of a certain cultural openness of his (Hebrew) family." Andrew, the Holy Father pointed out, "was the first of the Apostles to be called to follow Jesus," And thanks to Andrew who, according to tradition was the evangelizer of the Greek world, and his relationship with his brother Peter, "the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople consider themselves, in a special way, to be sister Churches."
The Holy Father went on to point out how the Gospels mention Andrew in three key moments. First, during the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, Andrew’s "realism is worthy of note, he saw the boy [with the bread and fish] but noticed the scarcity of his resources." Second, when asking explanations from Christ on His words concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, Andrew showed that "we must not be afraid to put questions to Jesus, but at the same time we must be ready to accept the teaching He offers us." And third we see Andrew, shortly before the Passion, with Philip, when "he interpreted and mediated for a small group of Greeks before Jesus."
Referring to this last episode, the Holy Father recalled Jesus' words on the necessary death of a grain of wheat in order to bear fruit, a symbol of the crucifixion that "in the resurrection will become bread of life for the world, ... a light for people and cultures." Christ thus prophesies the meeting with the Greek world and Greek culture and the extension of the Church "to pagans as a fruit of His Passion."
Tradition recounts St. Andrew's death in Patras on a diagonal cross as, "like his brother Peter, he asked to be crucified on a cross different from that of Jesus." Benedict XVI then quoted the words attributed to St. Andrew during his agony when he said of the cross: "before the Lord was placed upon you, you incited earthly terrors. Now, blessed with a heavenly love, you are received as a gift."
This phrase, the Pope continued, contains "a profound Christian spirituality, which sees in the cross not so much an instrument of torture as the unrivaled means of full assimilation to the Redeemer. ... Our crosses acquire value if considered and accepted as part of the cross of Christ. ... Only from that cross do our sufferings become ennobled and acquire their true significance."
Madrid, Spain, Jun 14, 2006 (CNA) - The director of the Holy See’s Press Office, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, said this week Pope Benedict XVI hopes to “recover the essence of the family” in his upcoming visit to Valencia for the World Meeting of Families. The Vatican spokesman said to expect an “intense, very rich” discourse from the Pontiff that “will be much discussed afterwards.”
Speaking before a ceremony in which he was given an honorary doctorate by the San Antonio Catholic University of Murcia in Spain, Navarro-Valls said Pope Benedict XVI is looking forward to coming to Spain in July for the meeting of families.
Navarro-Valls also announced that the Holy Father would meet with the King and Queen of Spain upon arriving and that as is customary he would extend courtesy greetings to civil leaders.
Washington D.C., Jun 14, 2006 (CNA) - The House of Representatives on Monday approved three resolutions condemning China for their actions in the sphere of religion and human rights.
The first resolution condemns the communist country for its rising persecution of religious believers. The second resolution condemns China's appointment of Catholic bishops without the Vatican's approval, and the third urges remembrance of the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrators who died in Tiananmen Square, reported The Associated Press.
China continues to maintain tight control over all religions. Those who practice Falun Gong, a banned spiritual movement, or who attend underground Protestant or Catholic churches routinely face detention, harassment and sometimes imprisonment.
China's state-sanctioned Catholic church, the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, recently appointed several bishops without the pope's blessing. Under canon law the Vatican considered those who took part in the ordination to be excommunicated.
China's Foreign Ministry complained on Tuesday saying the House Resolution was a "groundless accusation and attack against China's religious and human rights” that interfered in China's internal affairs.
Religious freedom and Christian persecution experts applauded the resolution condemning China for rising religious persecution.
“I think it is appropriate and long overdue,” said Nina Shea, director of Freedom House’s Center for Religious Freedom. “The U.S. should speak up about the barbaric and primitive treatment of its citizen over the most fundamental of human rights.”
“Many people think that China is a modernized country, but [our organization] reports daily on incidents on government persecution against Christians there,” said Jeff King, president of International Christian Concern. King applauded the resolutions but added that it was now time to apply real consequences to those abuses.
In May, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended that China re-designated as a Country of Particular Concern for “particularly severe violations of religious freedom” that are “systematic, ongoing, and egregious.” China is also listed as number 10 in Open Doors USA 2006 World Watch list for worst Christian persecution.
, Jun 14, 2006 (CNA) - Yet another state has passed pro-life legislation that would prohibit abortion. Louisiana approved the bill yesterday and the governor is expected to sign it into law.
The law, which would ban most abortions in Louisiana, would go in to effect only if Roe v. Wade were overturned. Women who undergo abortion would not be penalized but doctors could receive a 10-year jail sentence and fines up to $100,000.
The effort to prohibit abortion in Louisiana was a Democrat-led effort. Democrats For Life of America commended Senators Broome, Mount, Nevers and other pro-life Democratic senators and representatives who led the effort.
Sixteen Democrat senators were joined by 14 Republicans to pass the bill by a vote of 30-7. The House passed the bill by a vote of 85-17, with a majority of 45 Democrat legislators ensuring its passage.
Paris, France, Jun 14, 2006 (CNA) - City officials in Paris have announced the square outside the Notre Dame Cathedral will be renamed in honor of the late Pope John Paul II.
The new name will be “John Paul II Square.”
Although the decision to honor the late Pope, proposed by Mayor Bertrand Delanöe, passed, it did not receive unanimous consent from members of the city council.
According to local reports, the decision is a break with Paris norms that require a waiting period of five years after the death of a noted individual before naming a city square or street in his or her honor.
Sydney, Australia, Jun 14, 2006 (CNA) - The government led by Australian Prime Minister John Howard has invoked rarely-used Commonwealth powers to repeal a law that would have been the country’s first to recognize same-sex marriage.
The Australian Capital Territory, which includes the national capital Canberra, last month voted to allow civil unions for same-sex couples.
On Tuesday, Attorney-General Philip Ruddock asked Gov.-Gen. Michael Jeffrey to invalidate the law.
The Governor-General has the power to strike laws passed by Australian territories within six months of enactment. The last time the rarely used tactic was applied was in the 1990’s to overturn voluntary euthanasia laws in the Northern Territory.
In 2004 The Howard government amended Australian marriage laws to ensure that only unions between men and women were recognized.
Presently, Member of Parliament, Warren Entsch - from Howard’s Liberal Party - is seeking support for his “private member’s” bill, which would give equal rights to same-sex couples in areas such as taxation, pensions, health benefits and social security.
Washington D.C., Jun 14, 2006 (CNA) - Twenty-seven religious leaders, including Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, have signed a statement urging the United States to abolish torture immediately, reported the Washington Post.
A new group, taking the name, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, was formed in response to allegations of human rights abuses at U.S. detention centers in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The group’s statement, titled “Torture is a Moral Issue”, is being published in several newspaper advertisements.
The statement says torture "violates the basic dignity of the human person" and contradicts the U.S.’s most-cherished values. "Nothing less is at stake in the torture abuse crisis than the soul of our nation. What does it signify if torture is condemned in word but allowed in deed?" it asks.
The religious leaders are urging Congress and the president to "remove all ambiguities" by prohibiting secret U.S. prisons around the world, ending the rendition of suspects to countries that use torture, granting the Red Cross access to all detainees, and not exempting any arm of the government from human rights standards.
Cardinal McCarrick said he had signed on to the general principle that torture is unacceptable but he had not seen the new organization's specific proposals, reported the Post. Fr. William J. Byron, former president of the Catholic University of America, is also among the signatories.
La Paz, Bolivia, Jun 14, 2006 (CNA) - A spokesman from the Bolivian Bishops’ Committee on Education is demanding the government clarify its position on religious instruction in public schools, after the country’s Education Minister, Felix Patzi, announced that Catholicism would no longer be the “official religion” of the country’s educational system.
“We are anxious, not out of fear but out of concern, that the government define its position in order to begin dialogue,” said Micaela Princiotto, member of the Bishops’ Committee on Education and the National Congress of Education. She pointed out that in labeling the Church as “colonialist,” Patzi is ignoring the Church’s contribution to culture, education, health care and development in Bolivia.
Princiotto noted that the Church respects other beliefs and does not demand that the Catholic faith be obligatory, but she questioned whether the Evo Morales government would respect the faith of the Bolivian people, “who are 80% Catholic.” “I think the problem is not with the Church, but with the faith of the people,” she said.
The Bolivian government’s proposed educational reform calls for “secular education that respects the beliefs, the spirituality of indigenous and native nations and of the Bolivian nations as the basis of individual and communitarian rights.” The National Congress of Education will consider the proposal on July 10-15 in Sucre, Bolivia.
Vatican City, Jun 14, 2006 (CNA) - The Vatican Information Service announced today that Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, will read an Apostolic letter proclaiming Fr. Eutaquio Van Lieshout Blessed. The proclamation will take place within a Mass to be celebrated at the Mineirao Statium in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
The proclamation of a person as Blessed by the Holy Father is an important step before someone is declared a Saint, though much investigation must still occur and a second miracle must be attributed to the intercession of the Beatified.
Fr. Eustaquio Van Lieshout was born in Aarle-Rixtel, Netherlands, on November 3, 1890, the eighth of eleven children, and was baptized the same day with the name of Humberto. He came from a very Catholic rural family. After reading the biography of the Belgian Blessed, Fr. Damian de Veuster of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, young Humberto decided to join the same order. During his noviciate, he took the name of Eustaquio. He was ordained a priest in 1919, and exercised the pastoral ministry in his own country until 1924.
In 1925 Fr. Van Lieshout arrived in Rio de Janeiro, and for the next 18 years worked as a missionary in Brazil. In April 1942, he took over the parish of Santo Domingo in Belo Horizonte, where a few months later, on August 30, 1943, he died.
In 1949, his mortal remains were transferred to his last parish, which is dedicated to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
On December 19, 2005 Benedict XVI authorized the promulgation of a decree concerning a miracle attributed to the intercession of Fr. Eustaquio.
Bogotá, Colombia, Jun 14, 2006 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro, said this week peace talks between the government and the Marxist rebels of FARC will continue held under the same conditions, and he expressed his hope that the guerrilla leaders would adopt a new attitude to help bring to the two sides together.
“This is not about inventing something new, but rather supporting the efforts that have been made up to now both by the government and the international community, and looking for a new attitude from the FARC in order to facilitate this,” the archbishop said after meeting with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and other government officials.
Archbishop Castro said the bishops would continue to keep the door open to dialogue with the Marxist rebels and that he hoped the FARC would respond with openness as well.