Vatican City, Aug 4, 2006 (CNA) - A tireless promoter of Christian unity and the Catholic Church’s oldest cardinal died this week. Cardinal Johannes Willebrands, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, was 97. He had served as a priest for 72 years. Since the announcement several non-Catholic and non-Christians have expressed their condolences.
As rector of the seminary in Warwand, the young priest had developed a keen interest in Christian unity. In 1951, he proved himself as somewhat of a forerunner in the field by organizing a Catholic conference on ecumenical relations. Nine years later, Pope John XXIII had named him secretary of the newly established Secretariat for the Union of Christians.
Yesterday, Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia expressed his condolences for the death of Willebrands who, he said was a, “gifted theologian and diplomat.”
Patriarch Alexy said that the cardinal, who in 1964 assisted in arranging a meeting between Pope Paul VI and Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras, “made an invaluable contribution to the development of Orthodox-Catholic dialogue.”
In 1969, Pope Paul VI named the ecumenist, who had been ordained bishop five years earlier, to the new Vatican office for Christian Unity, following the Second Vatican Council. The Dutch cleric had contributed significantly to the council in the areas of ecumenism, religious liberty and relations with non-Christian religions.
He also served as president of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, which was created under the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity. Several Jewish leaders have also expressed their condolences. Abraham Foxman, National Director of the Jewish Anti-defamation League called Willebrands, “a pioneer in interfaith affairs who was instrumental in beginning the historic reconciliation between Catholics and Jews during the Second Vatican Council.”
Rabbi David Rosen, International Director of Interreligious Relations for the American Jewish Committee said that, “under Cardinal Willebrands’ leadership the Catholic-Jewish relationship was institutionalized in a way we take fro granted today.”
A native of the Netherlands, Cardinal Willebrands was eventually appointed Archbishop of Utrecht and primate of the country in 1975. Pope Paul VI elevated Willebrands to the College of Cardinals that same year.
He retired after a tumultuous stint as Archbishop of Utrecht in 1983, though he continued to serve in his rolls at the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity until 1989.
In a telegram Wednesday to Cardinal Walter Kasper, the current president of the council, Pope Benedict XVI extended his sympathies and recalled the distinguished manner in which Cardinal Willebrands worked for Christian unity.
“He was an ardent promoter [of Christian unity] since the beginning of his priesthood,” the Pope said. “He contributed to developing and intensifying the dialogue among all of the churches and ecclesial communities, confident in the mercy of God.”
Cardinal Willebrands “served Christ humbly, in answer to his prayer for unity,” he added.
The Pope said he gives thanks to God for the late cardinal’s accomplishments in advancing ecumenical relations and prayed that the Lord will allow his labour to bear fruit.
The Pope also sent his condolences in a telegram to Cardinal Adrianus Johannes Simonis, current Archbishop of Utrecht, in which he described the late cardinal as “an indefatigable pastor” He assured his brother–bishops and their collaborators of his prayers.
Cardinal Willebrands was born Sept. 4 1909 in Bovenkarspel, Diocese of Haarlem, the Netherlands. He was ordained a priest in 1934.
Being over the age of 80, Cardinal Willebrands could not cast a vote in the last conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI.
Orlando, Fla., Aug 4, 2006 (CNA) -
The Knights of Columbus have adopted, this week, significant resolutions on a number of critical social issues including marriage, the sacredness of life, the Pledge of Allegiance, school choice, and support for military men and women.
The resolutions, adopted yesterday at the 124th Supreme Council Meeting, held in Orlando, Florida, serve to formally state the Knights’ stance on the issues, most of which they have been involved with previously.
The first resolution states that Marriage, which is the foundation of society and provides the best environment for raising children, “is under siege in our culture” by the movement to legalize same-sex unions.
In this context, the Knights resolved to defend the principle that marriage is based on a love between one man and one woman and to oppose all attempts to legalize same-sex marriage. They resolved that they would join with the bishops throughout the world in their efforts to achieve legal and constitutional protection for the traditional definition of marriage.
Regarding life issues, they resolved to live up to their reputation as “defenders of life” and to encourage elected officials to pass legislation which prohibits the use of public funds to finance programs that degrade the value of life, whether that be abortion or embryonic stem-cell research. They also resolved to call for a law that protects the right of conscience for medical professionals and to make known their opposition to the death penalty.
They expressed their support for parental notification laws and resolved to demonstrate compassion for distressed pregnant women by supporting programs that offer alternatives to abortion.
The Knights resolved to defend the inclusion of the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. They will be interveners in the lawsuit challenging the wording of the Pledge currently pending before the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
The Catholic men’s organization further resolved to encourage legislation that would establish educational choice programs, providing financial assistance to parents who wish to send their children to Catholic schools.
Finally, as they have done for decades, they reaffirmed their support for and expressed profound gratitude to, the men and women who serve in the Armed Forces. They pledged to continue praying for military personnel deployed around the world and for their safe return home.
Chicago, Ill., Aug 4, 2006 (CNA) - Chicago Archbishop Cardinal Francis George, continues to recuperate, the Archdiocese has announced. He’s also received clearance to have a few of his favorite foods.
In a press release yesterday afternoon, the archdiocese announced that the cardinal has been up and out of his bed regularly throughout the day, and has been getting some exercise walking the halls of the hospital with the help of his physical therapist.
Doctors have also cleared the cardinal to return to a full and regular diet and he has made it clear to his staff that he is looking forward to his first, post-operative peanut butter and jelly sandwich accompanied by hot chocolate.
The cardinal is recovering from two surgeries which removed a cancerous bladder as well as parts of his prostate and lymph nodes in which cancer was also found.
The press release says that when he is not resting or working with his physical therapist, the cardinal has been spending his time reading and reviewing archdiocesan business matters with his vicar general.
Cardinal George said his morning prayers with members of his staff yesterday and received communion. The cardinal was able to concelebrate Mass on Sunday.
Those who wish to send greetings and best wishes to Cardinal George can do so through the Archdiocese of Chicago web site, www.archchicago.org. Printed email messages are being shared with the Cardinal twice a day.
Rome, Italy, Aug 4, 2006 (CNA) - In an uncommon show of solidarity, Rome's Catholic, Muslim, and Jewish leaders have collectively condemned pop star Madonna's decision to stage a mock-crucifixion during her concert in the Italian capital on Sunday, the AP has reported.
The 47-year-old singer was criticized during the American leg of her worldwide “Confessions Tour” for a sequence in which she wears a fake crown of thorns and descends on a suspended, glittery cross.
But priests in Rome have gone one step further, calling it blasphemy.
“This concert is a blasphemous challenge to the faith and a profanation of the cross. She should be excommunicated," said Cardinal Ersilio Tonini of the lapsed Catholic pop star.
"Being raised on a cross with a crown of thorns like a modern Christ is absurd,” said Fr. Manfredo Leone. "It is disrespectful, in bad taste and provocative."
"I think her idea is in the worst taste and she'd do better to go home," said Mario Scialoja, head of Italy's Muslim League.
Riccardo Pacifici, spokesman and vice president of the Roman Jewish community, said Madonna should have pulled the routine considering that she is performing at a stadium, located only one mile away from the Vatican.
San Francisco, Calif., Aug 4, 2006 (CNA) - Catholic Charities of San Francisco announced this week that it would end its work as a full adoption agency – yet still offer referral services – after a disclosure last fall that it had placed some children with same-sex couples.
The agency’s decision comes five months after Boston's Catholic Charities decided to close its adoption services entirely due to similar circumstances. Both regional agencies were told to conform to Church teachings, which forbid adoption by same-sex couples, and to pull out of the adoption business entirely.
But San Francisco's Catholic Charities decided that it would not pull out of adoption entirely. While it has stopped direct placements, it will continue to help prospective adoptive parents, including same-sex couples, with information and referral help through an alliance with another organization.
Catholic Charities of San Francisco said it decided to assign three staff members to work with California Kids Connection, a nonprofit statewide organization that compiles an Internet database of children available for adoption and assists with adoption referrals.
If that work ultimately leads to a match between a gay parent and a foster child, that is fine, said Brian Cahill, executive director of Catholic Charities of San Francisco.
“God loves them all,” he told the Boston Globe.
Cahill said his understanding of Church teachings is that a Catholic agency cannot be "directly involved” in the placement of a child in a same-sex household.
Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco said he thought the new arrangement was a form of potential “remote” cooperation that does not conflict with Catholic moral teaching, reported the newspaper.
He told the Globe that he consulted his predecessor, Cardinal William Levada, on the plan. Cardinal Levada is now the prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Rome, Italy, Aug 4, 2006 (CNA) - In an interview with Vatican Radio, Pope Benedict XVI’s personal secretary revealed that if there is any one thing that is present in all that the Holy Father says and does, it is his desire to show that only, “the faith makes living joyful and brings joy to life.”
Father Georg Gänswein was named personal secretary of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 2003 and has remained in the post as his papal secretary. On the occasion of his 50th birthday, he granted an interview to Vatican Radio in which he revealed that the daily life of the Holy Father is filled with work but that he always has time for prayer and meditation.
The German priest says that what has stood out most during the first year of Benedict XVI’s pontificate is his desire to show, both in word and in deed, that true joy in life comes from the faith. “This is present in everything he says…and this joy of the faith should infect us as well,” he said.
The Pope’s day begins with Mass at 7am, followed by Morning Prayer and a period of contemplation and silence before the Lord. Afterwards we eat breakfast together, and my day then begins with sorting through the correspondence, which arrives every day in considerable quantity. The day continues with a brief conversation with the Holy Father and then I accompany him, as is the custom, to the private audiences that take place before midday in the ‘Seconda Logia.’ Afterward we eat lunch together and then take a short walk before resting. The second half of our day begins with perusing correspondence again, and I present to the Pope that which is most important and which requires his signature, or his study and approval. Naturally there are a host of things that come to the attention of the Holy Father but that are not, as such, part of the ordinary routine and that are of a second, third or fourth order,” Father Georg explained. He added that one of his main tasks is to “protect the Holy Father from the enormous amount of mail, papers, and letters so that he can do what truly needs to be done, with due tranquility.”
Father Georg noted that there are, “some things that must be kept confidential and out of the public eye,” and consequently this responsibility, “is for me a sign of the trust the Holy Father has in me, and therefore in everything I do and say, and don’t say, I try to always remain worthy of this trust.”
Having known the Pope for eleven years, Father Georg says he sees no difference between Joseph Ratzinger the cardinal and Joseph Ratzinger the Pope. “Of course, the office accentuates certain characteristics, but his personality, his friendliness and his brilliance are the same as ever,” he noted.
Father Georg added that because he works closely with the pontiff every day he does not feel much nervousness. “But of course I know well who the Holy Father is and therefore when I am with him, I behave accordingly. Nevertheless, there are times when my heart does begin to pound a bit more than normal,” he joked.
Assisi, Italy, Aug 4, 2006 (CNA) - This Sunday Catholics can obtain the Portiuncula Indulgence by visiting any Franciscan parish or chapel around the world.
In the summer of 1216 while praying in the Portiuncula chapel outside of Assisi, St. Francis was inspired to travel to Rome and ask the Pope for an unheard-of privilege: the granting of a plenary indulgence.
Pope Honorius III granted the indulgence as a sign of the greatness of God’s love for humanity. August 2nd was established as the date to receive the “Great Pardon of Assisi.” Eventually, the Church modified the conditions and said the faithful could obtain the indulgence either on August 2nd or on the following Sunday by visiting any Franciscan parish or chapel throughout the world. The conditions for gaining the indulgence include praying the Our Father and the Creed, as well as receiving the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, and praying for the intentions of the Holy Father.
Madrid, Spain, Aug 4, 2006 (CNA) - Caritas International has asked all parties involved in the Middle East conflict to immediately open a humanitarian corridor in order to help the Lebanese population caught between the two warring sides.
In a statement released earlier this week through Caritas Spain, the organization condemned Israel for reversing its decision to halt the bombardment of Beirut for 48 hours after more than 50 civilians were killed during an attack on the Lebanese village of Qana.
Caritas reports that civilians, “remain terrified at refuge centers and do not risk leaving, out of fear of being a target of the attacks.” It added that humanitarian agencies, “seem powerless to provide swift and rapid assistance” to the population, which lacks potable water, food, and medicine.
In addition to, “an immediate and unconditional ceasefire,” Caritas is requesting the safety of all humanitarian organizations and their workers be guaranteed. It is also calls for the release of Israeli soldiers and of the Palestinian officials who have been arrested, as well as for the deployment of an international peacekeeping force and the restarting of peace talks.
“In support of our workers and volunteers who are risking their lives every day by helping others, and in solidarity with all those who are suffering, we believe it is right to direct the attention of the entire world to this humanitarian disaster that is spreading all over Lebanon and to call on all persons of good will to demand peace,” the statement indicated.
Caritas Spain also emphasized that, “peace is an unalienable right of every human being,” and that, “according to International law, military attacks must not deliberately target civilians.”
Barcelona, Spain, Aug 4, 2006 (CNA) - Polish director Krzysztof Zanussi, who filmed a movie on John Paul II entitled, “From a Far Away Country,” said this week the late pontiff, “was thankful for the way in which the press handled his illness, without turning it into a spectacle.”
During a film festival on the family in Barcelona, Zanussi, who was a personal friend of John Paul II, told reporters that the late Pope said, “he recognized everything in the movie except himself. He was not used to looking at himself.” “I would have liked to have filmed the movie after his death in order to have more perspective,” the director stated.
Zanussi also pointed out that while, “the relationship between religion and the media has always been difficult,” John Paul II “never had any problems,” due in part, he said, to “his theatrical experience.”
Asked about his views of Benedict XVI, Zanussi said he was confident in the Pope’s abilities because, “he is a man of great intellectual potential, enough to be Pope, although he may not be the celebrity that John Paul II was.”
Krzysztof Zanussi was born in Warsaw in 1939 and studied Physics and Filmmaking. He began directing as an amateur in the 1950s. Between 1974 and 1981 he was vice president of the Polish Association of Filmmakers.
Konigstein, Germany, Aug 4, 2006 (CNA) - Bishop Mario del Valle Moronta Rodriguez, Bishop of San Cristóbal, has announced that, “at this moment, a level of prudence and rapprochement has been reached,” in Venezuela between the Church and government.
Bishop Moronta said, in comments to Aid to the Church in need, that the “strengthening the dialogue between all social and political” groups, the “search for and elaboration of a common model of the country,” and the “deepening of social justice” are major point of focus in the negotiations.
The bishop also put a strong emphasis on the need to, “carry out the new evangelization in order to renew our country morally and spiritually.”
When asked about the impressive number of vocations to the priesthood from his diocese, Bishop Moronta attributed it to the continuous prayer of each of his parishes, in addition to the “simple and - at the same time - profound faith of our people.”