Archive of June 21, 2006

Pope Benedict teaches about James, the "son of thunder"

Vatican City, Jun 21, 2006 (CNA) - Today in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict XVI discussed the Apostle, "James the Greater," during his weekly general audience.  The Holy Father told the crowd of 25,000 people that James possessed an “impetuous zeal” and can teach us, “willingness to bear witness to Him with courage.”

The Holy Father has been working his way though the apostles during his weekly catechesis in the last few weeks - first Peter, then Andrew, now James.

James the Greater, said the Pope, "was one of the three disciples privileged to be present at the most significant moments in the life of Jesus," such as the Lord's Transfiguration on Mount Tabor and His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Pope Benedict pointed out that James, "enjoyed a position of great authority within the early Church of Jerusalem over which, together with Peter, he had pastoral responsibility."
"Son of thunder," the name that Jesus gave to James, perhaps refers "to his impetuous zeal," said the Holy Father, a characteristic the Apostle showed, among other occasions, when he wished to bid fire come down from heaven to consume a village of the Samaritans that had refused to receive the Lord. His reaction, Pope Benedict explained, "clearly showed his love for Jesus, but probably also expressed the traditional enmity between Jews and Samaritans.”  

“But,” the Holy Father continued, “Jesus had no love for violence," and reproved His disciple.

Discussing further two of the most important experiences in James' life - the Transfiguration and agony of Jesus, the Pope said, "In one case, James, with the other two Apostles, experienced glory and ecstasy, in the other, he found himself facing suffering and humiliation. The second experience was for him the occasion to correct his interpretation ... of the first. ... The Messiah , awaited by the Jewish people as a victor was, in fact, not only surrounded by honor and glory, but also by torment and weakness.

"James was thus able to mature his faith gradually," Benedict XVI added, "discovering little by little the true messianic identity of the Master."

After the Pentecost, tradition relates his evangelization of Spain, and the transfer of his body to Santiago de Compostela, which since then has been a goal of pilgrimage.

"From James we can, then, learn many things," the Pope emphasized: "readiness to welcome the Lord's call even when He asks us to leave the 'ship' of our human certainties; enthusiasm to follow Him along the roads He indicates, over and beyond our illusory presumption; willingness to bear witness to Him with courage, even, if necessary, unto the supreme sacrifice of life."

James "who wished to sit with his brother alongside the Master in His Kingdom, was the first of the Apostles to share in His martyrdom" when, in the middle of the first century, King Herod Agrippa 'laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the Church,' killing 'James the brother of John with the sword'."

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Archbishop tells UN to defend right to life, religious freedom

Vatican City, Jun 21, 2006 (CNA) - Yesterday afternoon, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, secretary for Relations with States, delivered a statement before the first session of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, the Vatican Information Service reported.

"The new Human Rights Council represents an important step in the struggle to place human beings at the center of all political activity, both national and international," said Archbishop Lajolo.

After describing the situation of human rights in the world as "worrying," the Holy See secretary for Relations with States pointed out how in many countries those rights suffer "grave violations," and that there are governments which continue to believe that, "in the final instance, power determines the content of human rights and, consequently, they feel justified in using aberrant practices."

"All States, members of the council, must assume their individual and collective responsibility in the defense and promotion of these rights," he added.

Going on to refer to the most fundamental human right, the right to life, Archbishop Lajolo said that "never must a government, a group or an individual take upon themselves the right to decide on the life of a human being as if he were not a person, reducing him to the condition of an object that serves other aims, however grand or noble such aims may be."

"A corollary of this concerns the right to freedom of belief and to religious freedom, because humans have an interior and transcendent dimension which is an integral part of their very being. To deny this dimension to is to make a serious attack against human dignity."

"Religious freedom must be harmoniously inserted into the context of all human freedoms," said the secretary for Relations with States. "It cannot become merely arbitrary."

"The response of the Human Rights Council to the challenges of freedom in many countries of the world, beginning with the council's own member States," Archbishop Lajolo concluded, "is a test of the credibility of the United Nations and of the entire international judicial system.”

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Vatican, Moscow Patriarchate work on joint position regarding human rights

Moscow, Russia, Jun 21, 2006 (CNA) - The Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches have announced that they will hold a joint forum next year on Christianity, Culture and Moral Values. The focus will be the Roman Catholic Church’s view of human rights.

The forum was initiated by Msg. Walter Brandmuller, president of the Pontifical Council for Historical Sciences. He met Tuesday with Metropolitan Kirill, head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, reported Interfax.

During their talk, Metropolitan Kirill noted that among all of the Christian churches, the Catholic Church is closest to the Russian Orthodox in terms of morality.

The two clerics discussed cooperation between their respective churches in advocating Christian values. As an example of such cooperation, Metropolitan Kirill pointed to the international conference To Give a Soul to Europe, which took place in May in Vienna. 

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Cardinal says Saddam should not be executed

Rome, Italy, Jun 21, 2006 (CNA) - French Cardinal, Paul Poupard, head of the Vatican's department for culture and inter-religious dialogue was quoted on Wednesday as saying that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein should not be executed because all life is sacred, Reuters reports.

"Human life is always inviolable," Cardinal Poupard, was quoted as saying by Italy's Ansa news agency in response to a question about Saddam.

"Life is a gift and this is a universal principle and there are no exceptions," the Cardinal reportedly said outside of a conference in Rome.

"Every human creature, even the most wretched, was created in the image and likeness of the Lord. God is the master of life and of death," the agency quoted him as saying.

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that cases in which the death penalty is justified have become "rare if practically non-existent" in modern times.

The Church says the death penalty can be inflicted only on very rare occasions when there is no other way of protecting human lives from an "unjust aggressor" who can continue to do harm.

Reuters speculated that such an exception would not appear to apply to Saddam, who is in custody and no longer a threat.  However, some argue that the political instability in Iraq, as well as the violent insurgency, could leave room for the slight possibility of Saddam’s escape.

Prosecutors at his trial in Iraq have demanded the death penalty for the ex-president and three of his former top aides for crimes against humanity following a 1982 crackdown on Shi'ites in which hundreds were killed and tortured.

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Government-sponsored secularism is deconstructing the family, says Spanish archbishop

Valencia, Fla., Jun 21, 2006 (CNA) - In his weekly pastoral letter, Archbishop Agustin Garcia-Gasco of Valencia has denounced State-backed efforts to secularize society and deconstruct the family by replacing traditional values with those said to be “progressive.”

“For several decades, secular ideologies have desired to take control of the concept of family.  Little by little, these same ideologies introduce variations into the essence of marriage, until they empty it even of its nature as a covenant between the complementarity of the sexes,” the archbishop wrote.

The respect and protection of the family is based on its “contribution to the common good and to the improvement of society,” he continued.  Therefore, those who claim that the family based on heterosexual marriage represents a “conservative model of the past” are “gravely mistaken,” the archbishop warned.

Under the guise of accepting “family diversity,” he went on, the promoters of secularism are deconstructing the family. “Never before in history has what we are experiencing taken place,” he said.

Archbishop Garcia-Gasco also denounced the government-sponsored “Education for Citizenship,” which he called another secularist strategy to indoctrinate young people and instill in them “so-called progressive values.”  

Likewise the archbishop criticized those who are attacking the World Meeting of Families, saying they have carried “their ideological freedom to a point beyond what is admissible.”  He noted that the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches respect for all persons and rejects “all unjust discrimination, or disrespect.  All persons of good will are accepted by the Church.”  At the same time, however, Archbishop Garcia-Gasco called on Christians not to be fooled by radical activists and to be conscious that “every person deserves to hear the saving call of the Risen Christ.”

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Church regains control of Cathedral of St. Vito in the Czech Republic

Rome, Italy, Jun 21, 2006 (CNA) - A district court in Prague has returned the Cathedral of St. Vito to the Catholic Church, ending government control of the centuries-old symbol of Czech Catholicism that began in 1954 when the Communist regime seized the property.

The court’s decision has not yet taken effect as the ruling has been appealed before the Czech government.  However, the Archbishop of Prague, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, expressed satisfaction with the court’s ruling.  He recalled that the Church was always considered the owner of the Cathedral, “until its illegal appropriation by the Communist regime.”

Construction of the Cathedral of St. Vito began in 1344 and was never fully finished until 1929.

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Argentinean bishop warns Ministry of Justice is violating right to life

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jun 21, 2006 (CNA) - Bishop Jorge Lona of San Luis warned this week that the country’s Ministry of Justice and Human Rights is violating the fundamental human right to life by promoting a reform of Argentina’s Penal Code that would in practice legalize abortion.

“Today, in our country, innocent life is in danger,” Bishop Lona said, encouraging Catholics to defend the unborn and recalling that Vatican II labeled abortion an “abominable crime.”

“Nobody has the right to kill an innocent human being,” the bishop continued.  “The unborn child is the most innocent and defenseless of all human beings that can exist.  To kill him means to deprive him of the right to live, which is the first and fundamental of all rights and upon which all others depend,” he said.

“We cannot remain silent when a national Ministry takes responsibility for this reform,” Bishop Lona stated, which gravely violates justice and human rights, “which all Argentineans are specifically tasked to defend.”

The bishop ended his comments with a prayer that the Lord “would enlighten and strengthen our hearts, making us capable today and always of sustaining the defense of life.”

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Colorado relic implies greater Spanish presence

Denver, Colo., Jun 21, 2006 (CNA) - A recently discovered artifact may indicate a larger and earlier presence of Catholic Spaniards in the Colorado area.

A piece of a 17th-century bronze cross which was found on a rocky side of the Grand Mesa 45 years ago has recently been reconsidered, sparking further investigation into what early Spanish explorers were doing on the 10,000- foot-high Grand Mesa.

Researchers have posited that the cross indicates that early Spanish explorers were not just looking for routes west. Rather, they were looking for the lost Aztec empire, reported the Denver Post. Researchers say the bit of cross is probably one of the most important Colorado artifacts found to date.

The cross is cast with images of King Constantine, a Knights Templar-style crown encircling a cross, and pikes and trumpets under a conquistador's shield. Years ago, the artifact was sent to a curator at the Hispanic Society of America in New York City, who dated it and explained some of the images. According to scholars, such crosses were commonplace Catholic symbols of that era.

Researchers will use ultra-sensitive metal detectors to comb a large area on the west of the mesa three days this week and take their findings to labs at Mesa State College for analysis. 

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Successful Chicago young adult ministry program begins 26th season

Chicago, Ill., Jun 21, 2006 (CNA) - This summer, 40 parishes throughout Chicago will host the 26th annual season of Theology on Tap and open their doors to young adults in search of meaning.  Chicago’s Theology on Tap was one of the first young adult programs of its kind and has been replicated in dioceses and parishes around the United States and abroad.

The series this year, will gather thousands of 20 and 30-something Catholics from throughout the Archdiocese of Chicago, the Diocese of Joliet and the Diocese of Rockford for presentations and discussions on faith, relationship and work issues. It also provides a venue for young people to share their faith with one another.

Theology on Tap, sponsored by Chicago’s Young Adult Ministry Office, began in the archdiocese in June 1981 at St. James Parish as a response to a conversation between a parish priest and a young parishioner who was graduating from college. The young man was looking beyond his last few months of school to the "real world." He was concerned about his identity and finding meaning in life: Will I be more than my job? What will it mean to fall in love? Where does God fit in all this? What does it mean to be Catholic?

The popularity of Theology-on-Tap indicates that the program continues to address these concerns for young people.

Some of the topics covered this year include: What Does It Take to Be a Leader?; Understanding Your Neighbors: The Grand Essentials of the Five Major World Religions; The Art of Intimacy: A Good Conversation Is Long Overdue; Recognizing God in Everyday Events: Is There More than Meets the Eye?; How to Have a Healthy, Holy Love Life.

The series concludes Aug. 6 with a mass, presided by Cardinal Francis George, at Holy Name Cathedral. About 1,000 young people are expected for the mass and the lawn party that will follow.

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Boston Archdiocese lays off staff to aid with fiscal recovery

Boston, Mass., Jun 21, 2006 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Boston announced Monday that it will lay off 25 people at diocesan headquarters - out of a staff of 270 - as part of an effort to reduce its deficit.

The reduction will not eliminate any ministries, but some will be consolidated, reported the Boston Globe.

Cardinal Sean O'Malley, archbishop of Boston, had pledged to cut 50 positions from the chancery staff as part of his strategy for fiscal recovery. The current reduction is being accomplished by transferring some employees to assist parishes and other services.

Diocesan spokesman Kevin Shea said some of the lay-offs are diocesan priests, who are being reassigned to parishes, and religious-order priests, nuns, and brothers, who are being reassigned by their orders.

The archdiocese has been struggling financially since the abuse crisis in 2002, which caused a dramatic reduction in contributions. The archdiocese has reduced its staff by 30 percent since 2002.

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Colombian youth to make pilgrimage to local shrine in preparations for WYD 2008

Bogotá, Colombia, Jun 21, 2006 (CNA) - Young people in Colombia are preparing to take part in the National Buga Pilgrimage, June 30-July 2 in order to gear-up for the next World Youth Day, which will be held in Sydney, Australia, in 2008.

The event will have as its theme, “Your Word is a Light for my Path,” and according to the Fides news agency, “the pilgrimage is for young people aged 15 to 30 already active in the field of youth pastoral and activities with young people.”  

About 60 young people from each diocese in Colombia are expected to take part. Besides prayers, catechesis and a penitential liturgy with individual confession, the pilgrimage will include cultural events, recreational activities, a stop at the Shrine of the Lord of Miracles in the city of Buga, and a closing Mass.  

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