Vatican City, Jun 23, 2006 (CNA) - This morning, the Holy Father received prelates from the episcopal conferences of the Baltic States - Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia - who have just completed their "ad limina" visit. Pope Benedict encouraged the bishops and reminded them that the Gospel will aid them in healing the wounds of communism and confronting secularism.
"While the wounds communism inflicted on your people are not yet completely healed,” Pope Benedict said, “secularism is exercising a growing influence, exalting the illusion of consumerism and rendering human beings the measure of themselves. All this makes your pastoral work even more difficult. But, without losing faith, continue tirelessly in announcing the Gospel of Christ, the word of salvation for mankind of all times and cultures."
The Gospel, the Holy Father continued, "does not hinder man's freedom and true social progress; on the contrary, it helps human beings to full self-realization and renovates society through the sweet and demanding law of love."
The Pope also referred to the subject of the family, pointing our how "alongside exemplary family groups there are, unfortunately, those marked by the fragility of conjugal ties, by the scourge of abortion and the demographic crisis, by the scant care with which they transmit authentic values to children, by job insecurity, by social mobility weakening ties between the generations and by a growing sense of disorientation among young people.”
"Modernity," he added, "when not rooted in real values is destined to be dominated by the tyranny of instability and confusion. For this reason, each ecclesial community ... is called to be a point of reference and to maintain a dialogue with the surrounding society."
The Holy Father encouraged the bishops never to tire "of being courageous defenders of life and the family," and to continue in "the human and religious formation of engaged couples and of young families. This is a most worthy undertaking which, I trust, is also appreciated and supported by the institutions of civil society."
After calling on the prelates to live in communion with one another and with Peter's Successor, the Pope encouraged them to give spiritual "and if necessary material" support to priests. He also urged them to turn their attention to priests' "constant formation, thanks also to courses of aggiornamento that help them to acquire a more profound understanding of the teachings of Vatican Council II and to evaluate the wealth contained in liturgical texts and in Church documents, translated into your respective languages."
In order to face the difficulties young people encounter in answering the call of Christ - the consequence, said Benedict XVI, of a "secularized mentality" - careful "youth and vocational pastoral care must be promoted. ... As for seminaries, ensure the presence of formators gifted with real humanity and profound piety, open to dialogue and collaboration; professors faithful to the teaching of the Magisterium and credible witnesses of the Gospel."
London, England, Jun 23, 2006 (CNA) - Two Catholic Church leaders have urged the British government to review the 1967 Abortion Act and to establish a bioethics commission to evaluate the ethics of new technologies.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, in a private meeting June 21 with Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt, said it was time for Parliament to re-examine its abortion laws in light of a recent newspaper poll that indicates the majority of British women support a tightening of abortion laws in the country, to make it harder to terminate a pregnancy.
47 percent of women polled supported limiting abortions prior to the current limit of 24 weeks; another 10 percent were opposed to abortion under any circumstances, reported the London Times.
“This is not primarily a religious issue,” the cardinal-archbishop of Westminster told Hewitt. “It is a human issue. Abortion is the wrong answer to fear and insecurity. As a society we need to look at ways of supporting women who find themselves in an unplanned pregnancy.
“There is substantial and growing disquiet in Britain at the numbers of abortions. Our laws should reflect this disquiet,” he said, according to a statement from the archdiocese.
The cardinal also urged Hewitt to back his call for a national bioethics commission. He said the current mechanisms are inadequate for dealing with ethical dilemmas posed by new technologies, such as embryonic stem-cell research and genetic screening of embryos used for in vitro fertilization.
Currently, research licenses are being distributed by regulatory bodies after they deliberate on ethical questions behind closed doors.
“There is public disquiet at the lack of openness and consultation over important ethical issues affecting the future of society,” said the cardinal. “The public need greater assurance that these big issues are being given adequate attention and not decided by unaccountable bodies.”
“We need greater public involvement,” he continued. “Science is speeding ahead of our capacity for reflection. We need a far broader public debate about these vital questions, which touch on the very origin and sanctity of life.”
Hewitt told the London Times after the meeting she had with Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor that she had no intention of reviewing the abortion laws at present.
Cardinal Keith O'Brien, head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, also urged Prime Minister Tony Blair to review the 1967 Abortion Act and encouraged a public and private debate this year, reported the Herald. He is also considering plans to write to every Catholic priest in Scotland to urge their parishioners to lobby their Members of Parliament on the abortion issue.
However, according to the Herald report, Blair told Cardinal O’Brien that he accepted the case for a public debate since so much had changed in 40 years and there was a sense public opinion had shifted, but that new legislation would not be directly introduced by his government.
Legislation may, however, be raised by individual MP’s. Some politicians have argued that the time limit for abortions should be reduced in the light of medical advances which have made it possible for up to 39 per cent fetuses born at 24 weeks to survive. About 124 fetuses were aborted at the 24-week stage in 2004, reported the Times.
Department of Health statistics for women resident in England and Wales show that in 2004 the total number of abortions was 185,400, compared with 181,600 in 2003. The vast majority - 88 per cent - were carried out at under 13 weeks gestation.
The prelates, however, made clear that they are promoting debate upon the issue in general, not simply supporting the reduction of the time limit on abortions. “Whilst I would welcome any move to reduce the number of abortions in Britain,” the Cardinal said, “the Church will continue to state that abortion is the wrongful taking of human life.”
Vatican City, Jun 23, 2006 (CNA) - In a communiqué published today, the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff announced that Pope Benedict XVI will canonize four new saints for the Church on Satuday, July 1st in Rome. Among those to be canonized is American religious foundress, Blessed Theodore Guerin.
Those to be named Saints are:
Blessed Rafael Guizar Valencia, who was a Bishop of Veracruz in Mexico in the early 1900’s; Blessed Filippo Smaldone, a priest and founder of the Institute of the Salesian Sisters of the Sacred Heart; Blessed Rosa Venerini, foundress of the Congregation of the "Maestre Pie Venerini;" and Blessed Theodore Guerin.
Blessed Theodore Guerin founded the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary "ad Nemus" (Saint Mary of the Woods) near Terre Haute, Indiana in 1840.
Blessed Theodore had entered the Sisters of Providence of Ruillé, France, in 1823, taking the name Theodore - which means “gift of God.” Sister Theodore spent several years as a teacher in France, where she received honors for her teaching ability. She also ministered to the sick.
In the mid-1830’s the Most Reverend Simon Bruté, bishop of the Diocese of Vincennes dispatched a colleague to France to find a congregation of sisters that would be willing to assist in his growing diocese.
The superior of the Sisters of Providence of Ruillé, responding to Bishop Bruté’s call, chose Blessed Theodore to lead the mission. She and her companion sisters started right away on their mission and opened an academy for girls only less than nine months after their arrival in Indiana. Soon thereafter, under Mother Theodore's leadership, schools were founded throughout the state of Indiana and beyond - to Chicago and eventually as far as Boston, and Los Angeles.
Today, The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods minister in 20 states, the District of Columbia, Taiwan and China. Currently, there are about 450 members
The remains of Blessed Theodore are currently buried in a tomb beneath the floor of the church at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
Vatican City, Jun 23, 2006 (CNA) -
Catholics worldwide are urged to pray for priests today on the World Day of Prayer for Priests. The day was begun by Pope John Paul II in 2002 with the objective of having all Catholic faithful join in prayer for the sanctification of priests.
It was the late pontiff’s desire that the World Day of Prayer for Priests would coincide with the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is always celebrated on the tenth Friday after Easter Sunday.
The theme for this year’s World Day of Prayer for Priests, issued by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy, is “I have called you friends.” The theme is based on Pope Benedict’s XVI’s homily at the annual Chrism Mass this past Holy Thursday.
A website, www.worldpriestday.com, offers a special prayer for priests, suggestions for parish activities, e-cards for laity to send their thanks to clergy and a children’s section, which includes posters children can color and give to their priests with messages of thanks.
Clergy and laity can also log on and share stories of the impact and significance of the priesthood in their lives. The site invites Catholics to stop for a moment at 3 p.m. and reflect thankfully on the presence of priestly ministry in their lives.
Vatican City, Jun 23, 2006 (CNA) - The Vatican Information Service has released today a letter that Benedict XVI has written to the faithful of the archdiocese of Genoa, Italy, concerning the appointment of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., archbishop of that city, as secretary of State.
During the three years Cardinal Bertone has led the diocese, the Holy Father tells the faithful in his letter, "you have learned to appreciate those gifts and qualities that make him a faithful pastor, especially capable of combining pastoral care and doctrinal wisdom.
"It is precisely these characteristics, together with the mutual understanding and trust we developed over our years of shared service at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, that have induced me to choose him for this exalted and delicate task in the service of the Universal Church at the Holy See.
"I know that I have asked a great sacrifice of Cardinal Bertone; and I know that the sacrifice of the faithful entrusted to his care in Genoa is no less, but I am certain that his affection and his prayers for your community will be brought 'ad Petri sedem.' The history of your diocese demonstrates your generous fidelity to the Vicar of Christ, to which I appeal also by virtue of the name I chose for my own Petrine ministry: the name of the last Genovese Pope, so devoted to the 'Madonna della Guardia.' To her I entrust you all in this moment of change, delicate but full of grace, because 'in everything God works for good with those who love Him.'
"For the sake of your faithful and obedient generosity towards the Holy See, I will undertake as soon as possible to appoint a new successor to the 'See of St. Syrus.'
"I ask you to join me in praying to the Spirit to help us in this discernment and, from this moment, I assure you of my recollection and apostolic blessing in prayer for all elements of the Church in Genoa: pastors, consecrated people, families, young people, and the sick."
Madrid, Spain, Jun 23, 2006 (CNA) - A Guardia Civil commander in Cordoba, Spain, Jose Ignacio Criado, has denied a request by two officers at a post in the town of Almodovar del Rio to remove a statue of Our Lady of the Pilar from their office.
The two officers complained the statue of Mary should be removed because it is “a symbol of the Catholic religion being displayed at the official headquarters of state public administration.”
Criado responded that public recognition of Our Lady of Pilar as the patroness of the Guardia Civil Corps simply “constitutes an acknowledgement of an historic tradition, and in no way violates the rights of any Guardia Civil officers.”
Another Guardia Civil officer who is being sent to the post at Almodovar del Rio has filed a petition with the organization’s headquarters asking that the statue not be removed from the office.
On January 7, 1913, the head of the Guardia Civil requested that Our Lady of the Pilar be officially declared Patroness of the Corps. Six days later on January 13, King Alfonso XIII granted the request.
Vatican City, Jun 23, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI will not attend the international three-day summit of religious leaders that opens in Moscow in early July because he was not invited, reported MosNews.
Metropolitan Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church’s foreign relations department, explained that the Russian Church did not want to hold two landmark events - the international interfaith summit and the long-expected meeting between the heads of the two churches- simultaneously, reported the news agency.
He said, however, that Pope Benedict XVI expressed his support for the summit.
The summit, an initiative of the Moscow Patriarchy, seeks to bring together religious leaders representing Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism to discuss how world religions could help give a moral response to the challenges the world is facing. The leaders are expected to draw up a final statement to present to a meeting of the G8 in July in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The Catholic representatives expected to attend include Cardinal Paul Poupard, head of the pontifical councils for Culture and for Interreligious Dialogue; Cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity; and Bishop Joseph Werth of the Transfiguration Diocese in eastern Russia.
Tensions between the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches were exacerbated in February 2002, when the Orthodox Church accused the Vatican of a modern Catholic invasion of Russia after it created four new dioceses. The Vatican, however, has said it is merely restoring church structures that existed before Soviet communism.
Madrid, Spain, Jun 23, 2006 (CNA) - By a vote of 20-16, the Committee on Education and Science of the Spanish Congress approved a measure that would allow schools to include “recognition of sexual diversity” as part of the government-sponsored course entitled “Education for Citizenship.”
According to the bill, the government would be allowed to adopt measures to ensure that schools teach respect for sexual diversity and acceptance of differences in sexual orientation, “in order to overcome sexist behaviors.”
According to Congressman Luis Juan Tomas of the ruling Socialist party, “sexual diversity” instruction would ideally be incorporated into the Education for Citizenship course, which already includes “specific content to combat racism and sexism.”
However, a spokesman of the opposition Popular Party, Eugenio Nasarre, criticized the government for seeking “to impose a model of morality” and ignoring the right of parents to choose “the education of their children according to their values and beliefs.”
The Spanish Forum on the Family denounced the government’s interest in “making the Spanish educational system an instrument at the service of a particular ideology of certain social groups that is not shared by the majority in Spanish society.”
“In a free society, many ideologies co-exist legitimately in the context of freedom of thought. Therefore, the State cannot impose a particular ideology on the educational system without attacking the neutrality that is demanded in this area,” the Forum said in a statement.
The pro-family group also rejected the use of the term “homophobia” as “an attempt to limit the freedom of thought and expression of those who do not share the vision of sexuality characteristic of ‘gender ideology’.”
Lima, Peru, Jun 23, 2006 (CNA) - The executive committee of the Bishops’ Conference of Peru has called on the newly elected government, as well as political parties and society in general to work for the common good by employing dialogue as a means of achieving unity and looking out for those most in need.
During a press conference, the bishops said the recent elections which resulted in the election of a new president, new congressmen and representatives were a sign that Peru’s “democracy is strengthening.”
Now the country must embrace “the obligation to build the future” through dialogue and non-violent means, the bishops indicated. “We must leave behind divisions, confrontations and all that jeopardizes the search for common understand,” they said.
They also underscored that maintaining social harmony in Peru would come from respect for justice, a commitment to peace, defense of human life and of other human rights, as well as respect for democratic institutions.
While the bishops acknowledged that there has been economic progress in the country, they exhorted the government, lawmakers and business leaders to unite efforts to benefit, “those most in need in Peru and to thus bring about authentic hope.”
“The exclusion of many of our brothers and sisters from economic benefits demands a just solution in the struggle against poverty, in order to guarantee social justice and ensure a dignified quality of life,” the bishops stated.
Although they acknowledged that the road is hard and difficult, the bishops said they were optimistic and they offered prayers that the Peruvian saints would intercede to help bring about “a nobler, more dignified, more just and more humane Peru.”