Valle d'Aosta, Italy, Jul 17, 2006 (CNA) -
After praying the Angelus with the faithful gathered in front of the house at Les Combes in Italy's Valle d'Aosta region which he is spending a brief holiday, Pope Benedict XVI called on people to pray for peace in the Holy Land and, in a special way, to pray for the intercession of Mary.
News coming from the Holy Land over the last few days is, said the Pope, "a cause of new and serious concern to everyone, especially for the increasing military activities in Lebanon and for the many victims among the civilian population. At the root of such pitiless contrasts there are, unfortunately, objective ... violations of rights and of justice. But neither terrorist acts or reprisals, especially when they have such tragic consequences on the civilian population, can be justified. Bitter experience shows that by following this path no positive results can be achieved.”
The Pope recalled that Sunday was the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. Mount Carmel is a mountain in the Holy Land which, just a few kilometers from Lebanon, dominates the Israeli city of Haifa. Haifa itself has been attacked recently.
Earlier in the day, during a visit to the Carmelite monastery in nearby Quart, the Holy Father assured the solidarity of the whole church with the religious and lay of Haifa, which has suffered several missile attacks by Hezbollah.
"Let us pray to Mary Queen of Peace," said Benedict, "that she may implore from God the fundamental gift of harmony, bringing political leaders back to the way of reason and opening new possibilities of dialogue and understanding. With this in mind, I invite the local Churches to raise special prayers for peace in the Holy Land and in the entire Middle East."
Rome, Italy, Jul 17, 2006 (CNA) - The former Apostolic Nuncio to Israel, Cardinal Andrea Lanza di Montezemolo, has called on “the international community and in particular the United Nations to support dialogue as the only means of overcoming the current difficult and painful situation,” in the Middle East.
Speaking on Vatican Radio, the cardinal decried the seemingly endless cycle of terrorist attacks and disproportionate reprisals. “The escalation of recent days is leading to increase in tensions and is creating very painful situations,” he stated.
Cardinal Montezemolo, who is currently Archpriest at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, emphasized that the peoples who live in the war-torn region have the right “to live in peace and security.”
“Something new needs to spring forth from inside (these peoples)”, the cardinal went on, as well as “something new from the outside,” in order to provide an impulse to good will on the part of those involved in the conflict. He said the suggestions of the UN for finding a just and lasting solution should be respected. Such solutions will be achieved “only through dialogue, and never through violence,” the cardinal said.
Valle d'Aosta, Italy, Jul 17, 2006 (CNA) - Speaking from the same Italian Alpine chalet where Pope John Paul II often stayed, Pope Benedict XVI recalled on Sunday the Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel and the devotion’s roots in the life of the prophet Elijah.
More than 5,000 people gathered to hear the Pope’s words prior to praying the Angelus with him at Les Combes, the resort in Italy's Valle d'Aosta region where the Pope is spending a brief holiday.
Before the Marian prayer, the Holy Father addressed a greeting to the religious and civil authorities of the region, to the inhabitants of Les Combes and to those vacationing in the area.
The Pope then remarked that today's liturgy commemorates the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel and explained how the slopes of Mount Carmel, on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, are full of natural caves, once used by hermits, including the prophet Elijah "who in the ninth century before Christ undertook a strenuous defense of the purity of faith in the one true God against the contamination of idolatrous cults.”
Drawing on inspiration of Elijah and his contemplative lifestyle, he added, "the contemplative Order of Carmelites came into being, a religious family that numbers among its members such great saints as Theresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Theresa of the Child Jesus, and Theresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein). The Carmelites encouraged devotion to the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel among Christian people, indicating in her a model of prayer, contemplation, and devotion to God.”
"Indeed, Mary believed and experienced, before anyone else and insuperably, that Jesus, the Word incarnate, is the Summit, the pinnacle of man's meeting with God. Fully accepting His Word, she 'arrived happily at the holy mountain' and lives forever in soul and body with the Lord.
"To the Queen of Mount Carmel, I wish today to entrust all communities of contemplative life throughout the world, especially those of the Carmelite Order. ... May Mary help each Christian to encounter God in the silence of prayer."
, Jul 17, 2006 (CNA) - The leader of the Maronite Catholic Church has condemned attacks by Hezbollah and Israel, which have killed hundreds of innocent civilians and has asked the United States to help Lebanon work for peace and justice in the region through dialogue.
In remarks at the conclusion of his U.S. tour last week, Cardinal Nasrallah Peter Sfeir, patriarch of Antioch and all the East, condemned the attacks of Israel on targets which have resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians and destroyed Lebanese infrastructure. The cardinal also expressed his fervent hope, “that Hezbollah will finally lay down its arms and join the other citizens of Lebanon in reaching political solutions to all of the Lebanese problems.”
The cardinal admitted that the recent eruption of war in the area has made him very concerned and anxious. “As we have said in the past and reassert again today, we are against all aggression wherever it comes from,” he said.
"We look forward to a united, sovereign, free, and truly independent Lebanon, where the Lebanese government exerts its sole authority over all of Lebanon's territory,” he stated.
The cardinal said he made his trip to the U.S. to “strengthen the bridges between East and West, Christians and Muslims” and “to say that the Lebanese are determined to live far from terrorism, tyranny, corruption and despair.”
He also addressed the ongoing difficult relationship with Syria. “Syrian troops have left Lebanon, but their influence is still there,” he said. “We therefore ask again that our two nations develop proper relations befitting of states, which means among other things, delineated boundaries, embassies, respect for international law, and friendly relations.”
Madrid, Spain, Jul 17, 2006 (CNA) - In an interview with the Spanish weekly, “Alba,” the director of Aid to the Church in Need in Italy, Attilio Tamburrini, said a devious persecution against Catholics exists in Western countries and has resulted in the Vatican being accused, more than Cuba or China, for supposed human rights violations.
Although the annual report by Aid to the Church in Need points to Asia as the region with the greatest persecution against Catholics, Tamburrini noted that “in countries ‘where nothing happens’ there is devious pressure from the predominant culture.” “Religions are the cultural forms most denigrated by international organisms,” he stated, and the Catholic Church is considered the main enemy of human rights, “despite her promotion of them.”
Between 1994 and 2004, various European institutions have condemned the Holy See on 29 occasions for supposed violations of human rights, while Cuba has been condemned only 25 times and China just 15.
Tamburrini decried the spread of “anti-discrimination” laws throughout Europe, saying in practice the laws have become tools for discriminating against Catholics and other Christians. “These are the laws that have made it possible for a Danish Protestant pastor to be sentenced to six months in prison for speaking about homosexuality in his church. Or for the Church’s ecclesial movements to be classified as dangerous sects by the French anti-sectarian laws of 1996. France has taken even further steps and since March 2004 has prohibited the public use of religious symbols, which has prevented priests from entering public schools,” the article in Alba noted.
Tamburrini maintained that the legal and political pressure is only made worse by the cultural pressure. “The post-modern and contemporary culture presents de facto obstacles to the faith,” he said. Therefore, “it is necessary that those who do not have faith begin to live as if God existed in order to recover the defense of man,” Tamburrini concluded.
New Haven, Conn., Jul 17, 2006 (CNA) - A U.S. tour of the relics of six Knights of Columbus, canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2000, will conclude next month in Florida.
The six priests - Pedro de Jesus Maldonado Lucero, Miguel de la Mora de la Mora, Jose Maria Robles Hurtado, Luis Batiz Sainz, Rodrigo Aguilar Alemán, and Mateo Correa Magallanes - were martyred for their faith by the Mexican government during the religious persecution in Mexico in the1920s.
“This pilgrimage seeks to promote knowledge of and devotion to the Knights of Columbus priest martyrs of Mexico and all those who sacrificed their lives for their faith during the Mexican persecution,” explained Supreme Knight Carl Anderson.
The pilgrimage of the relics began in Mexico City in September 2005, to mark the centennial of the Knights in Mexico. The reliquary then traveled throughout Mexico, before beginning the U.S. portion of the pilgrimage March 18th, with a procession to the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Dallas, where a special mass was celebrated.
The relics are currently near Tucson, Arizona and will be moving next to the Chicago area and then on to New York. The pilgrimage will conclude in Orlando at the Knights convention in August.
The 1920’s brought a revolution to Mexico, along with the widespread persecution of Catholics. Missionaries were expelled from the country, Catholic seminaries and schools were closed, and the Church was forbidden to own property. Priests and laymen were told to denounce Jesus and their faith in public; if they refused, they faced torture and death.
During this time, the Knights did not retreat in Mexico but grew dramatically, from 400 members in 1918 to 43 councils and 6,000 members just five years later. The Mexican government eventually outlawed the order.
The Knights of Columbus website reports that thousands of men, many of whom were Knights, would not bow to these threats or renounce their faith, and they often paid with their lives. They took a stand when that was the most difficult thing they could do, and their courage and devotion have echoed down through the decades, the website says.
Valencia, Fla., Jul 17, 2006 (CNA) - Reflecting upon the recent World Meeting of Families (WMF), which Pope Benedict XVI attended in Spain, Archbishop Agustin Garcia-Gasco of Valencia exhorted the faithful to, “move from joy to gratitude, from trust to action.”
According to the AVAN news agency, in his weekly letter the archbishop noted that the WMF, “has signified a new exercise in educating people about the commitment to the common good.”
He noted that the city of Valencia has received congratulations from, “the farthest corners of the world and from innumerable communications media, sparking praiseworthy comments about the success of the organization, the behavior of the participants, and the generous and effective service of the volunteers.”
The archbishop also highlighted that the enormous good brought about by the WMF is the fruit of the multiple efforts and generous collaboration of many, and he encouraged people to extend that “shared effort” to other areas of society in order to address the problems of young people, families, education and social action for those most in need.
Archbishop Garcia-Gasco also praised Valencian Television for its hard work in providing unbiased and complete coverage of the event, unlike other media outlets that chose instead the provide coverage that was, “slanted and misinformed.”
Lastly, he thanked Pope Benedict XVI for, “coming to Valencia, to Spain, and for having called us to a spirit of mutual cooperation, ratified by his gestures and his words.” “Thank you, Holy Father!” he exclaimed. “Your presence and your example have resolutely inspired us to be builders of a society fit to live in, a society of love, of the family, of freedom!”
Rome, Italy, Jul 17, 2006 (CNA) - The Catholic bishops of Europe have initiated a research plan for investigating the teaching of the Catholic religion in private and public schools of Europe.
Thirty-four delegates, representing the different national episcopal conferences of Europe, gathered in Rome July 10-11 for their opening seminar on the research project, reported Fides. The meeting was called by the Council for European Bishops Conferences and set up in cooperation with the National Service for the Teaching of the Catholic Religion of the Italian Bishops’ Conference.
The main objective of the meeting was to involve the bishops’ conferences of Europe in the promotion of the debate in favor of religion in schools and to encourage the different episcopal conferences to share their experiences on this topic. The delegates underscored the growing role of churches and church communities in shaping the citizens of Europe.
Over the next few months, the delegates will collect data on the teaching of religion in their respective countries. Each delegate will send a national report to the working group by November. The results will be unveiled at a symposium in 2007.
Buea, Cameroon, Jul 17, 2006 (CNA) - The Catholic Church in Cameroon continues to flourish, especially in the west African country’s southwest province where signs of faith and life continue to sprout.
This month, for example, Bishop Pius Suh Awa of the Diocese of Buea confirmed 245 Catholics July 9 at St. Charles Lwanga Church, reported the Buea Post. Buea is the capital city of Cameroon’s southwest province.
In his homily, pastor Fr. Patrick Harrington said Christians have to strengthen their belief in God and called on the confirmands to go out and be prophets, reported the newspaper.
Fr. Harrington also pointed to the signs of life in the Buea Diocese, including the ordination of parishioner Felix Nkafu as a deacon and the recent appointment of a Buea priest, Fr. George Nkuo, as the Bishop of the Kumbo Diocese.
Furthermore, he said, two other Buea priests were ordained bishops, including Archbishop Cornelius Fontem Esua of the Archdiocese of Bamenda and Bishop Peter Teke Lysinge of the Diocese of Mamfe.
The University of Buea, Cameroon’s only English-language university, also recently established a Catholic chapel. The bishop had presided over another confirmation mass there earlier, where 500 people were confirmed in the Catholic faith.
La Paz, Bolivia, Jul 17, 2006 (CNA) - Bolivia’s Minister of Education, Felix Patzi, has pledged to the country’s bishops that he will uphold religious instruction in public schools after delegates from the Bishops’ Conference of Bolivia walked out of a National Educational Congress, saying it had become political and exclusive.
According to media reports, in the late-night meeting between Patzi and several Bolivian bishops, the Minister of Education said he would uphold religious instruction in schools and that the Church-State agreements would be respected. “We recognize the contribution of the Church in the area of education, technical formation, and other areas,” Patzi said.
“Religious subject matter will respect the diversity of religions and that is something we share with the Church, everyone has the right to practice the diversity of other religions, there was never any disagreement on that,” he added.
Bishop Jesus Juarez of El Alto, who together with Auxiliary Bishop Luis Sainz of Cochabomba, said the right to receive religious instruction at school was fundamental. Each school should offer instruction according to its own confession, he added, and in public schools, “the parents should be able to choose which type of religious instruction their children will receive.”
Bishop Sainz called on the government to, “clarify and come up with a consensus about the concept of secular education so that there are no longer any doubts.” He noted that the Bolivian constitution already guarantees freedom of religion and of worship.
As the late-night meeting was taking place, the bishops’ press office announced that the bishops’ delegation at the National Education Conference decided to walk out “after a profound analysis” of the situation.
The delegation left, “not because of religious issues, but because the government is seeking to impose its new education law, which reflects an attitude that prevents dialogue about certain aspects of the future of education in Bolivia,” the Press Office stated.