Vatican City, Jun 26, 2006 (CNA) - On Sunday, during his Angelus Address, Pope Benedict took a moment to reflect upon the Feast of St. John the Baptist, which fell on Saturday, as well as the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests, which took place on Friday.
Pope John Paul II instituted the World Day of Prayer for Priests in 2002, for the purpose of providing spiritual support for the sanctification of all priests. On Sunday, Pope Benedict took time to echo the request of his predecessor, asking everyone, "to pray for priests, that they may be valuable witnesses of Christ's love."
Additionally, the Pope recalled how the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which also fell on Friday, unites "popular devotion and profound theology." It, "has its roots in the mystery of the Incarnation: it was through the Heart of Jesus that God's Love for humanity was sublimely expressed," the Holy Father said.
For this reason, devotion to the Sacred Heart, "maintains all its validity, and particularly attracts those souls who thirst for God's mercy, who find there the everlasting source from which to draw the water of life capable of irrigating the deserts of the soul and bringing hope to flower."
The Holy Father then went on to refer to the June 24th Feast of St. John the Baptist, pointing out that he, "is the only saint whose birth is commemorated, because (his birth) marked the beginning of the fulfillment of the divine promises. ... His feast reminds us that our own life is ... always 'relative' to Christ, and that it is fulfilled by accepting Him, Word, Light and Bridegroom, of Whom we are voices, lamps and friends."
"Allowing the 'I' of Christ to take the place of our own 'I',” the Pope said in closing, “was the exemplary aspiration of the Apostles Peter and Paul, whom the Church venerates." The Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul will be celebrated this Thursday, June 29th.
Manila, Philippines, Jun 26, 2006 (CNA) - The president of the Philippines, on Saturday, signed a law abolishing the death penalty and called on all Filipinos to "celebrate life in the most meaningful way." She also thanked the Catholic Church for “being a beacon of grace and discernment” and for leading the campaign against the death penalty, prior to meeting with the Pope on Sunday.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo attempted to allay fears, of many, that the abolition of capital punishment, "opens the floodgates," of crime. She vowed that she would not relent in battling terrorists and criminals, reported the Philippine Star.
"We shall continue to devote the increasing weight of our resources to the prevention and control of serious crimes, rather than take the lives of those who commit them," Arroyo was quoted as saying.
"We have taken a strong hand against the threats to the law and the republic, but at the same time we yield to the high moral imperatives, dictated by God, to walk away from capital punishment," said the president, who is a devout Catholic.
The Papal Nuncio in Manila, Archbishop Fernando Filoni, congratulated Arroyo and legislators who approved the measure. He said it was an important step in showing that the culture of life is “very alive and important” in the Philippines.
"We cannot speak about human rights when death penalty is imposed," he reportedly said.
In Cebu, archdiocesan media liaison officer, Msgr. Achilles Dakay, welcomed the development. However, he also called for an end to vigilantism, which has claimed 167 lives since December 2004, reported the Sun Star.
Since Congress instituted capital punishment in 1993, he said, heinous crimes such as rape and murder have not stopped or lessened.
The lives of more than 1,200 death-row convicts - including at least 11 al-Qaeda-linked militants - will be spared due to the abolition of capital punishment.
President Macapagal Arroyo signed the law on Saturday, just prior to departing for a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, which took place on Sunday. The President said, on Saturday, that she would tell the Holy Father that the actions of the Philippines were, “in the name of life for a world of peace and harmony."
According to a press release from the Vatican this morning, in addition to discussing the death penalty, "Mrs. Macapagal Arroyo also showed the Pope a plan for reforming the Constitution, which aims at a more harmonious development of the country, reserving greater attention to the poorer sectors of the population.”
She also discussed a plan for dialogue with Muslim inhabitants of the Philippines and her hope of achieving peace in the country.
Vatican City, Jun 26, 2006 (CNA) - Today in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI opened the cause of Beatification for 149 Spaniards killed during the Spanish Civil War.
Below are the names of the martyrs, who today are called “Servants of God.” The naming of a person “Servant of God” is the first step in the long process of Canonization.
- Servants of God Bonaventura Garcia Paredes, Spanish, professed priest of the Order of Friars Preachers (1866-1936), Miguel Leibar Garay, Spanish, professed priest of the Society of Mary (1885-1936), and 40 companions killed in 1936.
- Servants of God Simon Reynes Solivellas (1901-1936), Spanish, and five companions of the Congregation of Missionaries of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Mercy, and Prudenza Canyelles i Ginesta, Spanish, laywoman, all killed in 1936.
- Servants of God Celestino Jose Alonso Villar (1862-1936), Spanish, and nine companions of the Order of Friars Preachers, killed in 1936.
- Servants of God Angelo Maria Prat Hostench (1896-1936) and 16 companions of the Order of Friars of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, killed in 1936.
- Servants of God Enrique Saiz Aparicio (1889-1936), Spanish, and 62 companions of the Salesian Society of St. John Bosco, killed in 1936 and 1937.
- Servants of God Mariano de San Jose Altolaguirre y Altolaguirre, ne Santiago (1857-1936), Spanish, and nine companions of the Order of the Most Holy Trinity, killed in 1936 and 1937.
Also named Servant of God was Francesco Spoto, Italian, professed priest of the Congregation of Missionary Servants of the Poor (1924-1964), killed in the Congo.
Kochi, India, Jun 26, 2006 (CNA) - The newly appointed Vatican Ambassador to Iraq and Jordan says his mission will be to promote peace in the area.
Archbishop Francis Assisi Chullikat , who was consecrated Sunday in a solemn ceremony in the southern Indian state of Kerala, has been serving at the Vatican’s Secretary of State as the first secretary in the Department for Relations between States.
“I am happy to go to the troubled country. I am sure it would provide me an opportunity to serve the Church with vigor and valor,” he told Indian Catholic News Service.
The new archbishop said the Catholic Church in Iraq, though small, is playing a vibrant role in human rights and humanitarian activities. The stance taken by the Missionaries of Charity not to abandon their post during the war bears ample testimony to this fact, he pointed out.
“Peace and reconciliation between all conflicting parties and religions is the main concern,” he told AsiaNews. “This task I am embarking on is not an easy one, but I humbly accept what has been entrusted to me.”
The nuncio’s motto will be Fide e Vertute, which means By the Power of Faith. “My firm faith is in God, who has been my guiding star since I became a priest, and who will be my only star in the future,” he said.
Born in 1953, Archbishop Chullikat did his priestly studies in Rome. He was ordained a priest in 1978, for the Archdiocese of Verapoly, and was eventually selected to join the Vatican diplomatic corps.
He has held diplomatic offices as a representative of the Holy See to several countries, as well as serving in the Vatican's office of Permenant Observer to the United Nations in New York
Vatican City, Jun 26, 2006 (CNA) - Holy See Press Office Director, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, today announced that Benedict XVI will make an apostolic trip to Germany from September 9th to 14th, where he will visit Munich, Altotting and Regensburg.
The Holy Father’s trip will be the second to his native country since beginning his pontificate a year ago. The Holy Father, as Joseph Ratzinger, served as Archbishop of Munich from 1977-1981 and was a professor, dean, and vice-president at the University of Regensburg from 1969-1977.
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Jun 26, 2006 (CNA) - Two Ethiopian and two Eritrean Christians have been arrested and incarcerated in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for conducting prayers in their home.
The Compass Direct news agency reported that the religious police, called Muttawa, armed with wooden clubs, broke into a private residence in Jeddah two weeks ago and arrested the four Christians - the four remain in prison.
More than 100 Eritrean, Ethiopian and Filipino Christians were gathered in the house when the Muttawa arrested the four group leaders: Mekbeb Telahun, Fekre Gebremedhin, Dawit Uqbay and Masai Wendewesen. The few Christians in Saudi Arabia are mostly migrant workers.
The government of Saudi Arabia forbids the practice of any religion other than the fundamentalist Wahhabite version of Islam. It prohibits building places of worship, churches, or chapels. Any public expressions of faith, such as carrying a Bible, a crucifix, or rosary beads, and praying in public are forbidden.
Asunción, Paraguay, Jun 26, 2006 (CNA) - The Prefect of the Congregation of the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Cardinal Franc Rodé, said that the Catholic Church "cannot negotiate" the defense of marriage as the exclusive union of a man and a woman.
In a statement for Radio Cáritas, Cardinal Rodé said that, "it is simply ridiculous to say that same-sex unions should be called families." He recalled Pope Benedict words in a recent speech before members of the European Parliament, in which he said that the defense of the family is one of the issues on which the Catholic Church "cannot negotiate."
Cardinal Rodé said that the Pontiff will speak "very clearly" in defense of the family in the World Meeting of the Families in Valencia.
Cardinal Rodé made his comments while participating in the General Assembly of the Latin-American Conference for Religious, taking place in Paraguay. In his first message he told those gathered that "among consecrated people ideologies have also spread that are against the gospel" and he asked the religious present not to be ruled by the pagan ideology characteristic of the world today.
Vatican City, Jun 26, 2006 (CNA) - While American-born Cardinal, Edmund Szoka, will retire as governor of Vatican City this September, he says he is thankful that he is and always will be a priest.
His retirement will take effect Sept. 15, one day after his 79th birthday and 52 years of priestly life. Cardinal Szoka told the Muskegon Chronicle that he will remain active in Vatican bureaucratic bodies and assist at parishes when needed.
Of his continued ministry he said, "I continue to be a priest and will be until I die.”
The cardinal told the paper that he was grateful to God for having been given the opportunity to serve in a variety of posts within the Church.
"There's not many priests who have all that experience," Szoka said in a telephone interview from his Vatican apartment. "I've been blessed in that, and I'm thankful to the Lord for giving me all these opportunities."
The cardinal was baptized at St. Adalbert Catholic Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and entered St. Joseph Seminary as a young man. He pursued further studies in Detroit and Rome before being ordained at St. Peter Cathedral in Marquette, in 1954.
He was named the first bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord and then served as archbishop of Detroit, where he tackled the tough task of closing and merging parishes.
The Cardinal later served as the Holy See's budget director and then as a Vatican City administrator, overseeing nearly 1,500 employees. During his time at the Vatican, the cardinal grew in a close friendship with Pope John Paul II, sharing in Christmas and Easter meals with him.
"For me, every visit with him was an inspiration," the cardinal told the Chronicle. "I always left with the idea, 'I'd like to be holy like he is.' "
He prayed for the pontiff at his deathbed and led a rosary in St. Peter's Square the night he died.
The cardinal intends to continue to reside in Vatican City after he retires, and looks forward to having more time to read and travel.