Vatican City, Jul 6, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI today received prelates from the Croatian Bishops' Conference, who have just completed their "ad limina" visit. The Holy Father called on the bishops to continue preaching the Gospel in their changing country.
The Pope said that in order to counteract secularization and relativism, "tireless announcement of evangelical values is necessary." In this context, he encouraged the prelates not to be afraid, "to show the faithful what the Gospel teaches, putting them on their guard against values that run counter to it, so that your communities can stimulate all of society to pursue the common good and care for the needy."
The war torn country continues to repair and grow following its four year battle for independence from the mostly Orthodox Serbia and Montenegro and the primarily Muslim Bosnia Herzegovina. The population of Croatia is 88% Roman Catholic.
Mentioning Croatia's desire to join the European Union, Benedict XVI pointed out how the nation could bring, "the contribution of its own culture and its own traditions to a shared search for the full truth about man. ... It is essential that the construction of the common European home," rests upon that truth, and upon every individual's right to life, respect and religious freedom. "Upon these values it is possible to reach a consensus even with those people who, while not belonging to the Catholic Church, accept the voice of reason and are sensitive to the dictates of natural law."
The Holy Father expressed his contentment for the bishops' pastoral initiatives aimed at, "solid preparation for the Sacraments and appropriate participation in the liturgy." He also mentioned their "commitment to religious formation and to high quality catechesis," and their concern, "for traditional forms of devotion and frequent pilgrimages, especially to Marian shrines."
"Unfortunately," Pope Benedict went on, "your country is still feeling the consequences of the recent conflict, the negative effects of which are visible not only in the economy but also in the souls of the inhabitants. ... Always be announcers of reconciliation and workers for peace among the citizens of your country, encouraging them to follow the path of Christian reconciliation. Forgiveness frees, in the first place, those who have the courage to grant it."
Benedict XVI called on the Croatian bishops to be, "generous in serving the Church and your people, persevering in prayer and full of zeal in announcement. Pay particular attention to the formation of priests; ... promote priestly vocations and take watchful care of your seminarians. I exhort you to guide, with love and a spirit of mutual collaboration, religious communities and movements of both consecrated and lay life."
The Pope also told the prelates to continue to promote, "faithful love, harmony, and daily prayer," in families, "encouraging them to a generous openness to life," then emphasized the importance of the presence of Catholics, "in public life, and in the communications media." It is up to them, he concluded, "to ensure that a voice of truth is heard on the problems of the day."
Moscow, Russia, Jul 6, 2006 (CNA) - Russian Patriarch Alexy II insisted on the need for the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches to cooperate facing the challenges of the current culture in modern Europe, reported Interfax.
The primate of the Russian church made the comment at the World Religious Summit, held in Moscow, from July 3 to 5.
Uniting the two churches with a common position on issues of the day, “presents a wonderful opportunity to witness about Christian values before the world,” he said.
Alexy II also thanked Pope Benedict XVI for his support for the summit and said the participation of a Vatican delegation at the interreligious summit “testifies to the positive development of relations between the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches. The Pope did not attend the summit.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said the Vatican shares the concerns of the Russian Orthodox Church about attempts to marginalize religion in Europe and throughout the world.
“At the same time I note the growing interest of modern youth to religious life. Our cooperation would be a good sign for the young people,” the cardinal said.
Cardinal Kasper observed that many of the delegates representing different religions at the summit spoke in favor of peace and denounced the killing of innocent people in the name of religion. “This summit is very important as the voice of its participants will be heard in the world,” he stated.
The Catholic delegation also included Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture and Interreligious Dialogue; Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, honorary president of the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace; Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, and; Bishop Joseph Wert, president of the Catholic bishops’ conference of Russia.
Valencia, Fla., Jul 6, 2006 (CNA) - The Family is a “path to holiness and first line of evangelization,” said Luis Fernando Figari, Superior General of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae and Founder of the international Christian Life Movement during an address to the International Theological Pastoral Congress on the Family.
Cardinals, bishops, theologians, and experts in education, pastoral care of families and the communications media are attending the event, as are various ecclesial movements from some 30 countries.
The congress - which is taking place as part of the Fifth World Meeting of Families - began on Tuesday and concludes tomorrow and is considering various themes associated with the family and reflecting upon how best to transmit the faith within families.
Figari, whose Christian Life Movement involves thousands of married couples and families spread throughout the world, said that the family is under a, “systematic siege,” which is incorporated in the process of globalization. The siege can only be countered by recognizing the, “value of the family in itself as well as its mission as the first line in the real proposal for a society of life - a community which is more just, more reconciled and more in accordance to the divine Plan,” Figari said.
Figari’s movement teaches a path to holiness in marriage which, in addition to being grounded in reflection and theoretical positions, also involves a practical program of five points. These five points, Figari said, are like the fingers of a hand - which symbolizes action.
Figari spoke briefly to the Congress of the five practical points he sees as necessary to a holy marriage.
Of primary importance, Figari said, is the personal holiness of the couple being called to married life. “More than a few people forget the order of things. They forget that, as taught since time immemorial, charity begins by attending to God’s Plan for one’s own self. If this step is not taken into account it is difficult, not to say humanly impossible, to take the others.”
“The horrible failure of so many millions of marriages,” Figari continued, “is due in large part to the fact that they do not begin from the idea that married life is about a man and a woman who have to proceed towards encounter, to harmonize with each other in love and in daily life, building a ‘we’ dimension out of their individual realities, realities which cannot be renounced. Husband and wife do not dissolve but go towards the encounter of one another as persons.”
The very institution of marriage, Figari said, is a vehicle through which God opens the way for man and woman to eternity. “I am convinced that if God, in Jesus, institutes the sacrament of marriage it isn’t in order to paint a varnish over some human situation, a social cell, however basic it may be considered, but in order to open up a beautiful, exciting, and vigorous channel for the person’s realization, a stream in which each of the members of this adventure of conjugal love can realize themselves and be happy in the light of the divine Plan.”
After one realizes the necessity of personal holiness one can take on the second step of integration as a couple. This integration, Figari continued, involves each person realizing the presence of Christ in their own being and then living love for the other in the same sacrificial way that Jesus did.
“Marital love is one of the most beautiful human adventures,” the movement founder said, “but its success, considering the loving grace that God pours out, demands an ascetic personal discipline, a renunciation of personal egoism in favor of the other, a constant and renewed building in the vital ideal of conjugal love.”
From that marital love flows the third step of loving children. And married couples, he said, must understand that children are gifts of God - entrusted to the education, love, tenderness, and care of the parents. Too many parents, Figari continued, objectify their children and fail in renouncing their own personal impediments, those things which impede their relationship with their spouse and allow such impediments to stunt, “the firm and healthy development,” of the children who have been entrusted to them.
The answer to such tendencies lays in living a family life full of faith, Figari said. “The faith illumines this whole process of family growth and maturation. Under this light it is necessary to examine one’s own attitudes and the family realities that with the help of the compass of faith, of self-examination before what we profess to believe, will show us if we are along the right path.”
A fourth point, Figari said, is the proper understanding of work in the context of the family. Work, which is necessary for the sustenance of a home, should never become an obstacle to the first three steps, he said. Figari said that the, “pressure of the ideology of ‘productivity,’ of professional competition, of consumerism, even of unemployment or underemployment, are factors that contribute to distortions which affect not only the lives of the spouses but the healthy growth and development of the children.” The living of the first three points cannot be postponed by fears surrounding work, he said.
Finally, Figari said, from all of the above points can flow a work of apostolate to the world. “Married Christians,” he said, “should turn to apostolate towards others, not as a routine, but with the same enthusiasm that they should have in knowing and loving each other.”
“It’s clear that there is an internal apostolate, with one’s spouse, with one’s children, everyone as a family, and there is an external one which is the personal radiation of Jesus from the heart of the family, as a testimony that Christian life is possible, that it is a path for personal transformation and for the transformation of the world, a fulfilling and vivifying path. From the heart of the family the Christian life should unfold in a proclamation of the Lord Jesus and in sharing his love with the most needy, as well as in the evangelization of culture and the transformation of the world.”
“In light of the awareness of all this,” Figari said in conclusion, “I would like to propose a demystification of the magnitude of the enterprise of personal holiness, of conjugal and family holiness. The initiative of the vocation to marriage is from God who gives the grace. One must collaborate with it and take the means following a process which helps endure challenges and nourish itself from love, enthusiasm, and affection. Even though the saints on the altars who were married in this life are very few, I am certain that those participating in the Communion of Love are myriad. Countless millions!”
“The path to marital holiness is not a quick race, but one of perseverance. It’s not a question of taking it all at once, but step by step, perseveringly, letting oneself be helped by the Spirit, and imploring the intercession of the ever Virgin Mary and the Holy Guardian, Saint Joseph,” he said.
“Families are the first line of the Church. Their task is enormous and exciting. These are the “domestic churches” whose mere mention, due to their greatness and their mission, is already overwhelming.”
For more information on the Christian Life Movement, in English, see their U.S. website at: http://www.clmusa.org
Valencia, Fla., Jul 6, 2006 (CNA) - Organizers of the Fifth World Meeting of Families confirmed yesterday that the schedule of Pope Benedict XVI will be adjusted to include a visit the site of the metro disaster which took the life of 41 people in Valencia on Monday.
A source told news agency Europa Press that the Holy Father will visit will stop at the site sometime between his 11:30 AM arrival at Valencia’s Manises Airport and his arrival at the Cathedral.
The same source said that the Holy Father will stop at the Jesus Metro Station - where the disaster occurred to offer prayers for the victims and leave a memorial wreath of flowers.
Valencia, Fla., Jul 6, 2006 (CNA) - The President of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, Cardinal Julian Herranz, requested that the world’s legislators consider passing legislation recognizing marriage as “the union of one man and one woman, open to procreation.”
The AVAN news agency reported the Cardinal’s comments during a celebration within the Fifth World Meeting of Families taking place this week in Valencia. The Cardinal said that the concept of marriage as a union between heterosexuals has been continuously recognized and defended in, “the two thousand year tradition of the Greco-Roman culture,” and therefore is not only a, “postulation of the Church,” but in fact an “anthropological reality.”
In his comments to the press, Herranz also discussed the sanctity of human life. The cardinal said that genetics has demonstrated that, "from the moment of conception the impregnated cell is a human being in development."
"Neither jurists nor any other person can remove this (truth) when reaching juridical decisions, although this is difficult in the face of the brutal economic and political interests which exist", he added.
Washington D.C., Jul 6, 2006 (CNA) - The national director of Priests of Life is calling on Christians to pray for the continued conversion of abortion practitioners.
According to Fr. Frank Pavone, hundreds of abortionists and their staff across the country experience repentance, conversion, and healing each year.
In a recent column, Fr. Frank Pavone wrote about the Society of Centurions, an organization for former abortion providers.
The organization is named after the centurion in the Gospel, who stood at the foot of Christ’s cross of Christ and suddenly became horrified at the crucifixion he was ordered to carry out. When Christ died, the centurion recognized Christ’s innocence, dropped his sword and had a conversion.
Fr. Pavone wrote of the pain these repentant abortion providers experience each day and their long road to healing. In attempt to make amends and to bring about reconciliation, some former abortionists try to contact every woman on whom they had ever performed an abortion and apologize to her. Others have dedicated each day to one of the children they killed. They would also name those children, write them letters, and pray a profound prayer of apology.
Fr. Pavone explained that their conversion, as determined by Dr. Philip Ney, usually comes about due to a combination of several factors, including evidence of the infant's humanity, a spiritual experience, personal distress, evidence of the mother's distress, scientific articles, being accepted as a person, a personal relationship with a pro-lifer, and pro-life pickets.
Priests for Life, which operates the world's largest abortion recovery program, Rachel's Vineyard, also assists former abortionists in their journey of healing and repentance.
Konigstein, Germany, Jul 6, 2006 (CNA) - Lebanon is the last hope for Christianity in the Middle East - that was the message from a Lebanese priest speaking recently at an event in support of the suffering Church.
In an emotional talk about his country of origin, Father Samer Nassif told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) benefactors and supporters at St Joseph’s Church in Cardiff that all across the Middle East, Christians see Lebanon as a bastion of hope. “Everyone in the Middle East is looking to the Lebanon,” Fr. Nassif explained. “Ours is the only free and flourishing Christian community in their midst. If we can’t hold our place in the Middle East, which Christians can?”
Fr Nassif said that Christianity in Lebanon remained strong despite widespread emigration. The priest, who works for ACN’s French branch, said that out of Lebanon’s entire population of some 4.4 million, about 3.5 million are Lebanese by birth, half of which are Christians. He added that, due to emigration, the Lebanese diaspora totals some 16 million, about 80 percent of which are Christians.
Many Lebanese Christians belong to the Maronite Catholic Rite. Others are split among Orthodox Churches and other Rites united to the Roman Church. A small portion of Lebanese are also Protestant.
According to Fr Nassif, approximately 300 Christian villages were destroyed between 1983 and 1985, during the war in Lebanon. In his diocese of Saida, Fr. Nassif said, 50 parishes were demolished.
“In spite of all the horrors that we saw and lived,” he said, “like Christ on the cross, we forgave.”
Jerusalem, Israel, Jul 6, 2006 (CNA) - The chief rabbi has asked Pope Benedict XVI to denounce an international gay festival, scheduled to take place this year in Jerusalem, reported Haaretz.com.
World Pride 2006, a weeklong festival and rally for gay, lesbian, transsexual, and transgendered people, is planned for Aug. 6-12. The last such event, in Rome six years ago, drew about 500,000 people.
In a letter, Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar asked the Pope to, "strongly and unequivocally come out against this terrible phenomenon, out of hope that a general protest from different religious leaders will awaken the lost hearts who are deceiving themselves and immeasurably harming their souls.”
According to Haaretz.com, some religious leaders and lawmakers of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths expressed their great dismay Tuesday at plans to hold the event in Jerusalem. At a special session, lawmakers appealed to organizers to reconsider holding the parade.
The majority of city council members - 24 out of 31 - have signed a petition against the parade. A poll indicates that only 12 percent of citizens support the gay rally and that 69 percent oppose it.
"The residents of Jerusalem are attracted by the unique character of this city. There is no reason to harm this singularity for a simple exhibitionist desire," said MP and rabbi Yitshak Levi, quoted in the top-selling Yediot Aharonot daily.
According to the Associated Press, many in Jerusalem believe the festival is a sacrilegious event that would only defile the holy nature of the city.
"This is about a pride that is shameful and misplaced and which encourages exhibitionism," said Rabbi Henri Kahm.
Several anti-gay demonstrations are planned around the event, including a so-called "humility parade," reported the AP.
Homosexuality was illegal in Israel until 1988.
Hyderabad, India, Jul 6, 2006 (CNA) -
Archbishop Marampudi Joji of Hyderabad and other Christian leaders are demanding that authorities take immediate action against Hindu radicals who harassed four Missionaries of Charity, reported the Catholic Bishops Conference of India.
The four nuns - Sr. Maria Julia, Sr. Chriselda, Sr. Emma Felesia and Sr. Reena Francis - were detained and harassed by more than 40 Hindu radicals on June 25th, at a local hospital in Tirupati, where the sisters routinely visit the sick. The radicals falsely accused the sisters of proselytization.
The nuns were detained at the hospital for two hours, where they were insulted, abused and threatened. They were not allowed to leave the hospital or contact their superiors.
The police then took the sisters to a local station for questioning. The sisters were released after the personal intervention of Archbishop Joji.
The archbishop is also vice-president of Andhra Pradesh Christian Federation, an ecumenical body of all Christians in India. The federation has already contacted authorities and demanded immediate action against the offenders.
The area is generally known for communal harmony and religious tolerance. However, of late, some atrocities against Christians, including the killing of three Protestant pastors, harassments and communal disturbances, have taken place.
Hindu fundamentalist groups, who claim to represent Hinduism, are responsible for these acts. However, the bishop emphasized, most Hindus do not support them. Rather, they have great appreciation for the Christians, especially the clergy and religious who serve the downtrodden and the sick.