Jerusalem, Israel, Jun 19, 2006 (CNA) - Israeli Minister of Tourism, Isaac Herzog, and Papal Nuncio to Israel, Archbishop Antonio Franco, have reportedly agreed on a visit to the Holy Land by Pope Benedict XVI early in 2007.
Israeli business journal, Globes, reported that the visit was arranged during a recent meeting of the two. Herzog also proposed to Franco that Israel host the World Conference of Bishops, which is traditionally held in Rome and is attended by thousands of the world’s Catholic Bishops.
Herzog reportedly believes that such an event would be significant and improve relations with Israel’s Christian community
Globes reports that the Ministry of Tourism is excited by the prospect of the Pope’s visit, which they call a significant political and economic visit, since Benedict will have a large entourage of pilgrims. The visit will also encourage pilgrimages to Israel later in the year.
When Pope John Paul II made his pilgrimage to Israel in 2000, pilgrims used 420,000 room-nights in hotels, and generated $60 million in tourist revenue, Globes reported.
Franco reportedly asked Herzog to promote an administrative-economic agreement between Israel and the Vatican, and to facilitate the handling of members of the priesthood in Israel and formalizing their status, including visas and movement in the territories. He also asked Herzog to facilitate regular movement of pilgrims to Bethlehem.
According to the Ministry of Tourism, 800,000 Christian pilgrims visited Israel in 2005, half of whom were Catholics, and the rest Protestants and Evangelists. Christian pilgrims accounted for 40% of all tourists. 400,000 Christian pilgrims visited Israel in 2004, half of whom were Catholics.
Vatican City, Jun 19, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI acknowledged, during his weekly Angelus address, that Sunday marked the celebration of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi (the Body of Christ) in most of the world.
Corpus Christi, the Pope explained, "is the solemn public feast of the Eucharist, Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, ... which on this day is shown to everyone, amid the fervor of faith and devotion of the ecclesial community.
"The Eucharist," the Pope said, "constitutes the 'treasure' of the Church, the precious heritage that her Lord left her.
However, the Holy Father continued, “this treasure, which is intended for the baptized, does not limit its field of action to the environment of the Church. The Eucharist is the Lord Jesus, Who gives Himself 'for the life of the world.' In all times and places, He wishes to encounter men and women and bring them the life of God."
"The Eucharist also has a cosmic significance," the Pope went on. "Indeed, the transformation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ constitutes the beginning of the divinization of creation itself.”
The incomparable importance of the Eucharist in the world is the reason that Catholics generally celebrate the feast by processing with the Blessed Sacrament through the neighborhoods surrounding their churches, the Holy Father said.
"In carrying the Eucharist through the streets and squares," the Holy Father concluded, "we want to immerse the bread of heaven in our daily lives. ... On this feast day, Christians as a community proclaim that the Eucharist represents everything for them, it is their very life, the source of love that conquers death."
Vatican City, Jun 19, 2006 (CNA) - The director of the Holy See’s Press Office, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, announced on Saturday during a television interview that he has submitted his resignation to Pope Benedict XVI after 22 years at the post.
“After many years, perhaps too many, a change would do me well,” the Vatican spokesman said during an interview broadcast on the Italian channel La 7.
The Italian news agency ANSA quoted Navarro-Valls as saying, “Pope Benedict XVI knows well what my desire is because I have made it known to him with due respect.”
While he said he has not yet decided what he will do after retiring, Navarro-Valls said he is considering remaining in Italy. “I have a number of books I would like to delve into, but to dedicate myself solely to studying would require six or seven months. I don’t know if that will be my first task,” he stated.
During the interview, Navarro-Valls reminisced about great moments in the pontificate of John Paul II, singling out the meetings with Soviet leader Mikail Gorbachov and Mother Teresa of Calcutta among his most intense experiences with the Polish pope.
He said Pope Benedict’s visit to the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz during his recent trip to Poland should be considered an important milestone and changed his view of the Jewish Holocaust.
“Personally I think that after the visit by a German pope, the way we see Auschwitz and Birkenau changes, and we need to remember that beautiful discourse and the images of Benedict XVI at the extermination camp,” Navarro-Valls stated.
One name being discussed as a potential successor is “Il Messagerro” writer Orazio Petrosillo. According to Italian news agency, “Affari Italiani”, the Vatican Curia has a good opinion of Petrosillo and he could be appointed to replace Navarro-Valls or he could be named director of L'Osservatore Romano to replace current director, Mario Agnes, who has been in charge of the Vatican’s paper since 1984. The news agency reports that Agnes has also unofficially announced his desire to retire.
Affari Italiani’s source indicated that the Holy See will probably offer Navarro-Valls a position as a Vatican representative to an international organization, due to his experience and doctrinal firmness in dealing with international forums such as the Population Conference of Cairo and the Beijing Women's Conference.
Vatican City, Jun 19, 2006 (CNA) - Today in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Bishop Mark Benedict Coleridge, current auxiliary of the archdiocese of Melbourne, Australia, as archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn.
Coleridge succeeds Archbishop Francis Patrick Carroll, whose resignation the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit of 75.
Archbishop Carroll was quoted by “The Advertiser” as saying that he was delighted with the appointment and that Coleridge, "will be a true pastor to the people of the archdiocese and an effective leader in the wider community."
Archbishop-elect Coleridge was born in Melbourne in 1948, he was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Melbourne in 1974.
Following his ordination, Coleridge studied in Rome and earned a doctorate in sacred scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute. After serving in academic and pastoral capacities in Australia, he returned again to Rome. From 1998 to 2002 he worked in the Secretariat of State in Vatican City and in May 2002 was appointed by Pope John Paul II as an auxiliary bishop of Melbourne.
The Archbishop-elect said in a statement today, "I am honored and humbled to follow Archbishop Carroll in a diocese with a history as rich and varied as its landscape…I look forward very much to meeting people, both in the cities and countryside and to serving them as a pastor after Christ's own heart."
Sydney, Australia, Jun 19, 2006 (CNA) - Thousands of Catholic churches around the world celebrated the Solemnity of Corpus Christi this weekend. Feast-day celebrations, which usually include a mass, procession, adoration and benediction, were organized as small parish-based events and large diocesan-wide public manifestations of faith.
About 10,000 people of all ages, races and cultures took to the streets of Sydney, Australia, bringing the city core to a halt. Holding a monstrance - a vessel that displays the Eucharist - Archbishop George Pell led the faithful from St Patrick's Cathedral in the city's north to St Mary's Cathedral near Hyde Park. The feast of Corpus Christi is the celebration of the Body and Blood of Christ, present in the Eucharist.
"This is the centre and pinnacle of our faith and today's celebration is one of the grandest for the Catholic Church," organizer Stephen Rawson told the AAP. "Today means we can get out and show Sydney what we believe in."
The procession was only the second of its kind in Sydney. It will be held annually until World Youth Day in 2008.
In Moscow, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz led about 600 Roman Catholic faithful through the streets of the capital city. Celebrations began with Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
The archbishop urged the faithful not to take Christ's Body and Blood as a "silent symbol", but as "a remedy for changing and transforming our life."
Catholics carried banners and large icons, decorated with flowers. They were followed by the clergy clad in gold-embroidered vestments and by girls wearing white dresses, who dropped rose petals before the monstrance, carried by the archbishop. Bells were rung and believers sang throughout the procession, which was punctuated by readings of the Gospel.
In Montreal, about 2,000 people gathered for the diocesan celebration of Corpus Christi on June 15th. During the Thursday evening mass, Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte told the standing-room only crowd at Notre-Dame Basilica, that the Eucharist must be rediscovered as a gift from God. Prior to the mass, about 300 young people gathered for pizza and a catechesis on the Eucharist with Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Mancini.
A special element of the feast-day celebrations in Montreal was the Ark of the New Covenant, a wooden chest decorated with Eucharistic images. It was blessed by Pope Benedict XVI in May and is being used as a symbol to gather people together in prayer in preparation for the International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec City in 2008. It is expected to visit every diocese in Canada and was in Montreal for the feast of Corpus Christi.
The 40-kilogram ark, which had a monstrance attached on the top of it, was held by young priests and covered by a white canopy, held by seminarians. It led the procession through the downtown streets, followed immediately by the cardinal-archbishop, about 50 clergy and nearly 2,000 faithful. The procession ended at St. Patrick’s Basilica with adoration and benediction. The people prayed that the 2008 congress will renew the faith in Canada.
In Shreveport, Louisiana dozens of Catholics joined a procession from the Catholic Center to St. John Berchmans Cathedral Saturday morning. The celebrations included a monstrance blessed by Pope John Paul II, which was in Shreveport as part of a national tour.
, Jun 19, 2006 (CNA) - Vatican and Chinese officials have been in secret negotiations regarding seven detained bishops of the underground Roman Catholic Church in China, reported The Sunday Times.
The talks were disclosed by Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong, who said last week that Vatican envoys were in Beijing for closed-door talks to try to prevent the continued decrease in conditions for priests and bishops loyal to the Pope, reported the Times.
The tensions between the Vatican and China concern the Pope’s right to appoint bishops in China and the Vatican’s recognition of Taiwan. The Vatican had been trying to facilitate talks prior to the Chinese government’s recent decision to ordain three bishops without Vatican approval. Cardinal Zen says there is evidence the clergymen were coerced into going through with the ordinations. Nonetheless, these ordinations undid months of diplomacy between the two states.
Cardinal Zen said two bishops appointed to the rural Christian stronghold of Baoding, in central Hebei province- Bishops Su Zhimin and An Shuxin- vanished more than six years ago and there is no indication of where they are.
There is also growing concern for the welfare of one of the detained bishops - 89-year-old Bishop Lin Xili of Wenzhou. Reports say he is under guard in a hospital at an undisclosed location, can only take liquid and is partially paralyzed.
Anthony Liu Bainian vice-chairman of the Patriotic Association is reported to have warned Chinese leaders that allowing the Pope to appoint bishops would lead to the Church becoming a greater social force and the eventual fall of the communist system in China as it happened in Poland.
The Cardinal Kung Foundation feels the Vatican was mistaken to think that Communist country would ever allow the Church to exist freely in China and believes the current diplomatic troubles have exposed “a very confused China policy by the Vatican in recent years,” Joseph Kung, foundation spokesperson, told the Times.
Washington D.C., Jun 19, 2006 (CNA) - Famed physicist Stephen Hawking said Thursday that Pope John Paul II tried to discourage him and other scientists attending a cosmology conference at the Vatican in 1981 from trying to figure out how the universe began.
Hawking said the Pope told scientists: “It's OK to study the universe and where it began. But we should not inquire into the beginning itself because that was the moment of creation and the work of God.”
The physicist wrote something similar in his best seller, "A Brief History of Time."
However, Catholic League president, Bill Donohue, said on Friday that the public teachings of Pope John Paul, and in particular, a 1981 address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences indicate that Hawking mistook the Holy Father’s comments.
“Every scientific hypothesis about the origin of the world, such as the one that says that there is a basic atom from which the whole of the physical universe is derived, leaves unanswered the problem concerning the beginning of the universe,” the Pope had said. “By itself science cannot resolve such a question.”
“There is a monumental difference between saying that there are certain questions that science cannot answer - which is what the pope said - and authoritarian pronouncements warning scientists to back off,” said Donohue.
Donohue also pointed out that Hawking has not said exactly when the Pope made his comments and did not use quotation marks when referencing the Pope’s words, indicating that Hawking may only be writing his impression of the Holy Father’s words.
Hawking, “should stop distorting the words of the Pope,” he said.
New Orleans, La., Jun 19, 2006 (CNA) - Catholic schools in New Orleans are trying to attract families, displaced by Hurricane Katrina back to the area by offering a tuition-free pre-kindergarten program, reported UPI.
The program uses state money to pay tuition for 4-year-olds whose parents meet certain income requirements. There are 1,500 slots at 11 Catholic schools.
To be eligible, a child must be 4 years old by Sept. 30 and have received all age-appropriate immunizations. Parents may register at the school they want their child to attend but must eventually live in the same parish as the program their child attends.
Registration has already begun and will continue until all of the slots are filled.
Seville, Spain, Jun 19, 2006 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Sevilla, Cardinal Carlos Amigo Vallejo, is calling for “respect and veneration” for religious symbols in response to a decision by an Andalusia school to remove crucifixes from the classrooms after receiving complaints from a small group of parents.
The cardinal said Catholics deserve much more respect and that “religious signs are never offensive for anybody. On the contrary, we all have to treat them with veneration and respect.” “We must avoid the imposition of the tyranny of the minority,” he warned. “That is not true democracy.”
Cardinal Amigo Vallejo underscored that it is most important that “parents are not limited in their right to choose the best way to educate their children and to give them integral education.” “The problem is not ‘Religion, yes or no, here or there’,” he continued, “but rather, respect for the fundamental rights of the majority of parents, who want a Catholic education and want to be able to educate their children in freedom and in accord with their convictions.”
Asunción, Paraguay, Jun 19, 2006 (CNA) - A book by Spanish exorcist Father Jose Antonio Fortea and published by the Thomas More Institute of the Catholic University of Asuncion has outsold The Da Vinci Code in Paraguay, with the first edition selling out in just three days.
The book, entitled “Summa Daemonniaca”, answers questions about Satan and was published in conjunction with Father Fortea’s visit to Paraguay, where he gave a series of lectures to thousands of people.
According to the daily “Cristo Hoy,” Father Fortea was in Paraguay for a week, giving lectures at various venues, including the Catholic University of Our Lady of the Assumption, and the National Sports Council stadium, where more than five thousand young people gathered to hear him speak.
According to the Paraguayan newspaper, “Father Fortea’s call to live the essence of the faith in front of thousands of young people was moving. The exhortation to live respect for the body, which is sacred because it is the temple of the Holy Spirit, to pray the rosary and to attend Mass on Sundays as weapons in the battle against evil, was like music to the ears of the thousands that longed to hear such words. Because in the end, even in the most hardened of hearts these truths can never be denied or forgotten.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 19, 2006 (CNA) - During his homily on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City, exhorted Catholics to be on guard against “false prophets, human messiahs” who “preach doctrines that are not of Jesus.”
“There are many false prophets and human messiahs who seek to redeem man and assist him in his fall. They preach doctrines that are not of Jesus, and in the name of Christ they invent gospels and doctrines that never came from the lips of Jesus of Nazareth,” the cardinal said.
“The word of God brings salvation, but without deformity and accommodation,” the cardinal explained. “The simplification of the gospel does nothing, and those who act thus expose themselves to illnesses of the soul. These are the lukewarm Christians,” he stated.
Cardinal Rivera said he hoped the Corpus Christi procession would be a great blessing for the city, and he called on the faithful to pray for “children who live on the street, children who are abused, marriages under the grip of misery and love grown cold, for the sick and the handicapped, for those who sleep on the streets of our city.”
Before the Corpus Christi procession, a prayer service in honor of the 475th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe was held, in which various indigenous communities participated.