Madison, Wis., Jul 4, 2006 (CNA) - The St. Benedict Center, a Benedictine ecumenical community in Madison for the past 40 years, has chosen to end its ties to the Roman Catholic Church in order to live out more comfortably its ecumenical character.
The prioress, Sr. Mary David Walgenbach, told the Wisconsin State Journal that there are several reasons for the change, one of which is that the order started accepting Protestant members several years ago.
The 67-year-old sister said the Sisters of St. Benedict petitioned the Vatican for dispensation from their vows as a Catholic religious order and that the request was granted. The order will now be called the Benedictine Women of Madison.
"We didn't want our non-Catholic sisters to have second-class status," she told the newspaper. Rev. Lynn Smith, a Presbyterian clergywoman, took her final vows to become a member of the order in 2004.
The prioress said the center, with members from several Christian denominations, will now function as an ecumenical community, similar to Taizé in France, under its new name, Holy Wisdom Monastery. All members will retain their individual religious affiliations.
Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison wished the women well, but is cautious about the future of the monastery. "Such experimental endeavors can bear great fruit for the Church, such as the monastery at Taizé (France)," he wrote in a June 26 letter to his priests. "But there are very few other success stories worldwide, and thus our prayers and good wishes are all the more important."
The bishop approved the changes, but he requested that the monastery no longer have Catholic Mass celebrated at the center and that the Eucharist no longer be reserved in the chapel.
He said Catholic adults are free to go to the center, but added that it would not be suitable for young people or catechumens. Young people, he said, need to be well grounded in their own Catholic faith in order to have a foundation from which they can participate in ecumenical activities.
Vatican City, Jul 4, 2006 (CNA) -
Benedict XVI has sent a telegram of condolence to Archbishop Agustin Garcia-Gasco of Valencia, Spain, for the death of more than 40 people in an accident on the city's underground railway system at midday yesterday.
"As I learn, with profound regret, the sad news of the accident on the Valencia underground which has filled so many families with grief, I offer up prayers for the eternal repose of the dead and request the Lord to concede consolation and serenity to those weeping the loss of their loved ones. I ask you to transmit my most heartfelt condolences to the relatives of the victims and to express my feelings of paternal spiritual closeness to the many injured; at the same time, I affectionately impart to everyone my consoling apostolic blessing as a sign of faith and hope in the Risen Christ."
The accident took place five days before the Pope's own arrival in Valencia where, this Saturday and Sunday, he is due to close the Fifth World Meeting of Families, currently being held in that city.
Reuters reports that the train’s “black box” has been located this morning. Investigators are looking closely at the speed of the train to determine if it was traveling at an unsafe speed prior to derailment.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jul 4, 2006 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Mexico announced its complete confidence Monday in the country’s electoral institutions and expressed its hope that they “maintain their credibility” by resisting pressure and blackmail from different political factions amidst the too-close-to call presidential elections of July 1st.
The bishops issued their statement as both candidates, Manuel Lopez and Felipe Calderon, refused to concede and claimed the final vote would be in their favor. The bishops praised the Mexican people for the large turnout for Sunday’s vote, calling it a “triumph of democracy in the country.”
“All of us would like to have known the name of the next president of Mexico today; however, the intense competitiveness has prevented that,” the bishops stated.
They expressed their, “complete confidence,” in the country’s electoral institutions and expressed their hope that they, “maintain their credibility,” by resisting the pressure or blackmail that any one political faction might try to exert.
“We also express our gratitude to the media, which have professionally reported the news and the directions of the IFE (Federal Electoral Institute),” the bishops said in conclusion.
Vatican City, Jul 4, 2006 (CNA) - The Vatican Information Service has released a brief schedule for the Holy Father’s vacation and summer residency.
In a statement today, the VIS said that Benedict XVI is scheduled to spend a period of rest at the alpine resort of Les Combes in the Italian region of Valle d'Aosta, from July 11th to 28th.
During this period, the Pope will not hold his Wednesday general audiences. He will, however, make his Angelus addresses on Sunday, July 16th, and Sunday, July 23rd, from Les Combes.
The Holy Father spent his summer vacation at Valle d’Aosta last year as well. During his vacation the pope dedicates his time to prayer and study as well as taking a few walks and hikes.
Upon the conclusion of his stay in Valle d'Aosta, the Pope will travel to his summer residence at Castelgandolfo south of Rome, where he will remain until the end of September.
Over the summer period, the pope traditionally suspends all private and special audiences, but holds his general audiences and Angelus addresses at Castelgandolfo.
Vatican City, Jul 4, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI’s personal secretary, Father Georg Gänswein, said this week with Germany and Italy playing each other in the World Cup semi-finals today, the Holy Father would be rooting for both teams.
Father Gänswein told the Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper on Sunday that the Pope, “is always impartial,” and that he would be rooting for, “both the German team and the Italian team.”
Father Gänswein said that while he personally hopes Germany wins, he will be rooting for Italy, as he will watch the game with several cardinals, the nuns who take care of the Holy Father, and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the newly appointed Vatican secretary of state.
The World Cup has been followed closely at the Vatican - even by the Holy Father himself - amidst the busy schedules of the Roman curia. Father Gänswein said Pope Benedict watched with great suspense the match between Argentina and Germany, which was decided by penalty shots. He was so enthralled that, “dinner had to be postponed,” the German priest said.
Konigstein, Germany, Jul 4, 2006 (CNA) - Priests must be more fully who they are, said Bishop Jan Babjak, the Byzantine Catholic bishop of Presov, East Slovakia.
“I want every priest to be 100 percent a priest because the clergy’s religious zeal leads to religious zeal on the part of the faithful,” he told Aid to the Church in Need during a recent visit to the charity’s head office in Germany.
Emphasizing the role of the priesthood, he said the priests in the Presov Cathedral hear confessions everyday, from 5 a.m. until 7 p.m., and there are always 5 or 6 people who want to receive the sacrament.
“It is the sacraments that give our people a firm anchor in a sea of liberalism,” he said. “Whenever the Church speaks out in public, there is resistance and, immediately, there are strong counter reactions by the liberal media,” he continued.
These counter reactions spill over to the average citizens, who do not want to listen to the Church’s teachings on various social issues. Still, the Church in East Slovakia is experiencing growth. The bishops reported that there are about 100 conversions each year.
There are between 250,000 and 260,000 Byzantine Catholics among Slovakia’s 5.4 million inhabitants.
Atlanta, Ga., Jul 4, 2006 (CNA) - A Catholic conference for African Americans promises to equip and empower participants, especially youth and youth ministers, with what is needed to be, “sons and daughters of light.”
The Interregional African American Catholic Evangelization Conference will be held in Atlanta Aug. 4-6 at the Atlanta Hilton Hotel. More than 1,000 people are expected to participate.
The theme of the conference - Gettin' on the Good Foot, Runnin' to the Kingdom - is inspired by the prophet Isaiah, who calls the people to return to Jerusalem and to work and wait for the promises of God to be fulfilled.
Workshops related to evangelization, catechesis, spirituality, relationships, youth ministry, and critical health issues will be offered. In addition, in preparation for the 2007 National Black Catholic Congress, there will be a youth summit and a young adult roundtable to create a national agenda for outreach with black Catholic youth.
The conference is co-sponsored by the Dioceses of Raleigh, Toledo, Memphis, Lexington, Charleston, Cleveland, Galveston-Houston; the Archdioceses of Louisville, Cincinnati and Atlanta; the National Association of Black Catholic Administrators; Knights of Peter Claver, Inc.; and the National Black Catholic Congress.
For more information, go to <http://www.obcmatl.org>.
Los Angeles, Calif., Jul 4, 2006 (CNA) - Despite limitations imposed on religious practice by Fidel Castro’s government, the Catholic Church in Cuba continues to welcome newly baptized members and to see a steady increase of vocations, as they have each year for the last 20 years.
“In the church there is always a youthful presence - not extraordinary - but there are very interested youth, very desiring of a Christian formation,” said Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino of Havana, who recently visited Los Angeles for the first time. He spoke with the U.S. bishops June 16 at their annual spring meeting in Los Angeles. He was later interviewed by The Tidings, the diocesan newspaper for Los Angeles, and Vida Nueva.
“Every year around Easter we baptize many adults. The majority are younger than 35 years old,” he told the newspapers. “In the Archdiocese of Havana we baptize around 1,000 to 1,200 people each year, mostly youth. This is after a year or more of catechetical preparation. These are new members who arrive at the church because of an aware decision and a desire to grow in the Christian life.”
The cardinal said the government-imposed limitations aren't so much about practicing religion anymore. “We have a much more religious liberty,” he said. “The limits we face as a church now are that we still don't have the possibility of having Catholic schools, or to be able to teach religion in the schools. And there are limits in having access to the media.”
“Slowly we are always achieving a little more,” the cardinal said. “Perhaps one of our bishops is able to speak on the radio in one of the dioceses during Holy Week. I too have been able to talk on the radio to give a Christmas message. But we don't have customary access to communications mediums.”
Catholic schools are not permitted in Cuba. Therefore, children receive their Christian formation in “mission homes,” which function like a parish. These are family homes where people from a neighborhood get together and form a Christian community. There are more than 400 mission homes in Havana alone.
Despite the success of the mission houses, there is still a need for churches, the cardinal said. “When the church in a town is fixed, immediately the life of the people and the Church is renewed. The church is a symbol of the continual renewal which the Catholic community has to have,” he told the newspapers.
Nonetheless, more than 300 lay people are studying philosophy, Church history, doctrine, and theology in a religious institute in Havana named Father Felix Varela.
This coming year, there will be more than 80 new seminarians in the seminary of Havana, as well as another 30 studying elsewhere.
“The visit of Pope John Paul II [in 1998] had a great impact on the Cuban church - in the growth of vocations, the frequency of participation in the Sunday Mass, and many people drawing closer to the Church who had been distant,” the cardinal was quoted as saying.
Cardinal Ortega also emphasized the importance of priests in the Church. “Without priests we don't have the Eucharist, and without the Eucharist we don't have the Church,” he said. “I have 23 deacons in my diocese. They are excellent men. They have been a blessing from God. They are a fantastic help to the pastor. But only the priest can serve as pastor. The priest is very necessary.”
The cardinal thanked the U.S. bishops for their continued spiritual and material support and encouraged Cubans living in the U.S. and those in Cuba to journey toward communion.
“I think communion is the capacity to love and to feel like we are all one,” he said. “That is the role of the Church in the world: to sow communion among countries, among different cultures, in the middle of a culture like [Los Angeles] where there are many nationalities.”
Cardinal Ortega currently heads Caritas Cuba, the Catholic humanitarian aid agency. The cardinal has also sought to increase religious liberties for the communist country’s 11 million people.
For the full interview, go to www.the-tidings.com.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jul 4, 2006 (CNA) - Bishop Joaquin Piña of Puerto Iguazu, Argentina, said this week the World Meeting of Families in Valencia will shed light on the true state of the family not only in Spain or Argentina, but also in different parts of the world.
“The most serious thing is this individualistic culture that has invaded us, where everything that has to do with effort and sacrifice is completely absent. And thus, that which is most essential for family cohesion is missing: true love,” Bishop Piña stated.
The bishop noted that many parents are incapable of educating their children or getting involved in their affairs, which is one of the factors that have led to the crisis of the family.
The bishop also pointed to an economic independence which sometimes exists between the parents as well as between the children and the parents as another factor contributing to the crisis.
“If there is no warmth in the home,” he added, “the home perishes and love is extinguished.”
“At this World Congress we will hear that love has to be something more. That it is the only foundation and support of the family,” Bishop Iguazu maintained. “We must pray to God that his flame is never extinguished. And if it has gone out, that it may be lit again,” he said in conclusion.
Bogotá, Colombia, Jul 4, 2006 (CNA) - A Franciscan priest was killed this week in Colombia in the northern region of Magdalena. Initial investigations indicate the 46 year-old priest was assaulted.
Father Luis Alfonso Herrera Moreno, who was the accountant at the San Luis Beltran School, operated by the Franciscans in the costal city of Santa Marta, disappeared on Tuesday after he went out to run a few errands for the school. His body was found one day later and police said it appeared he had been bludgeoned to death.
According to other officials at the school, Father Herrera took a phone call before being picked up in a van to go to an appointment. Police have not yet located the van.
Father Herrera was born in Pacora, Colombia, and studied at the University of La Salle and the University of St. Bonaventure in Bogota.
More than 60 priests, bishops, religious, and seminarians have died violent deaths during Colombia’s 30 year-old civil conflict. In addition, 4 bishops, 14 priests, and 1 missionary have been kidnapped.