Castelgandolfo, Italy, Aug 7, 2006 (CNA) -
Pope Benedict XVI renewed his call for an immediate ceasefire in the Middle East and said that peace must be the work of everyone.
Benedict, who made his comments in the context of his weekly Angelus address, delivered from his summer residence at Castelgandofo, said that while, “we know well that peace is, before all else, a gift of God...in this moment we want also to remember that peace is a work for all men of good will.”
The Pontiff once again offered prayers to God and asked the intercession of the Virgin Mary in the ongoing conflict which has seen hundreds killed in Lebanon and Israel. “How much do we need, in this our time, to emerge from the darkness of evil, in order to experience the joy of the children of the light,” the Pope exclaimed.
Lamenting the continuation of hostilities and the ignoring of the, “voices that call for an immediate ceasefire,” the Pope called on all sides, “to offer their proactive contribution to the construction of a just and lasting peace.”
“I entrust this renewed appeal to the intercession of the Most Holy Virgin,” the Pope concluded.
On Saturday it was announced that the Holy Father granted an unprecidented hour-long interview with German news agencies, in preparation for his visit to Germany. In the process of the interview, which will be made public on the 13th of August, the Pope said that war does not bring good for anyone.
The Holy Father said that while the Holy See does not have political power, “we want to appeal to Christians and to all those who feel in some way touched by the words of the Holy See in order that all the forces which recognize that war is the worst solution for everybody are mobilized."
War, the Pope said, "doesn't bring any good for anybody, not even for the apparent victors. We know that well in Europe, following two World Wars."
Chicago, Ill., Aug 7, 2006 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Chicago said yesterday, that while Cardinal Francis George remains in stable condition, he has been held in the Intensive Care Unit due to an, “episode of bleeding” on Saturday morning.
A press release on the 69-year old Archbishop of Chicago who is recovering from two surgeries to combat bladder cancer, said that his vital signs are normal, blood counts are stable, and he has no fever.
The cardinal is reportedly ready to get back to a more active life and had begun a solid food diet before bleeding was discovered on Saturday. The archdiocesean press release said that the Cardinal underwent two tests Saturday and that the “episode of bleeding experienced early Saturday morning was self-limited.”
Catholics in the Archdiocese of Chicago and around the world continue to pray for the archbishop, who is considered one of the most brilliant in the Church. Prayers and get-well wishes for Cardinal George can be sent electronically by visiting the Archdiocese of Chicago web site at www.archchicago.org.
Castelgandolfo, Italy, Aug 7, 2006 (CNA) - Speaking from his summer residence at Castelgandolfo, Pope Benedict XVI focused his weekly Angelus address on the Feast of the Transfiguration, which the Church celebrated on Sunday. The Pope discussed with the hundreds of pilgrims gathered below his courtyard window, the mystery of the “light of God,” telling them to, "experience the joy of being children of the light."
The Holy Father noted that Mark’s Gospel describes Jesus appearing to Peter, James, and John in brilliant white clothing, “such as no fuller on earth could bleach them (Mark 9,3).” Benedict told the crowd that the glowing light emanating from Jesus is the same light that appears on the day of his Resurrection. “In this sense,” he said, “the Transfiguration seems to be like an anticipation of the Easter mystery.”
“The Transfiguration is an invitation to open our eyes to the heart of the mystery of the light of God present in the entirety of salvation history,” the Pope said.
The Holy Father discussed how light is present in the revelation of God, throughout scripture. In Genesis God speaks the words, “Let there be light, and there was light (Gen 1,2).” The light, the Pope said, shines forth as a reflection of God’s glory through the remainder of the creation account.
The Pope continued, mentioning Habakkuk where it says that, “His splendor spreads like the light; rays shine forth from beside him (Hab 4,3).” “The light, it says in the Psalms, is the mantle in which God is robbed (Ps 104,2).” In the Book of Wisdom, the Holy Father said, “the symbolism of the light, is used to describe the very essence of God: wisdom, the effusion of the glory of God, is ‘a refulgence of the eternal light’.”
Turning to the New Testament, the Pope said, “Christ is established as the complete manifestation of the light of God. His Resurrection overcame forever the power of the darkness of evil.”
“In Him the light of God illumines in a permanent way the life of mankind and the path of history: ‘I am the light of the World,’ he affirms in the Gospel, ‘Who follows me, does not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (Jn 8,12)’.”
In this sense, the Pope said, this generation needs us, “to emerge from the darkness of evil, to feel the joy of the children of the light.”
Havana, Cuba, Aug 7, 2006 (CNA) - In a statement which was written as Fidel Castro prepared for surgery and provisionally yielded power to his brother Raúl last week, the Cuban Bishops asked that parishioners pray for God to guide and protect their country so that peace and fraternity “cannot be disturbed by any situation, internal or external.”
¨President Fidel Castro Ruz´s delicate state of health constitutes an especially significant moment for our people," Conference of Cuban Bishops said in a communication that was read during all Sunday Masses.
In the note, the Cuban episcopate indicates that “the Catholic Church, as part of the people, shares the worries and the prayers of all believers.”
“We the Bishops of Cuba as that all our communities offer prayers that God accompanies President Fidel Castro in his illness and guides those who have provisionally received the responsibilities of government,” the bishops added.
Finally, the bishops asked that the Virgin of the Charity, Patroness of Cuba, “despite all the worries of this hour of the history of our country, to bring a deep peace and brotherly unity among all Cubans, one that cannot be disturbed by any external or internal situation.”
Springfield, Ill., Aug 7, 2006 (CNA) - A new report, issued by a special panel to the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, says priests who have engaged in grave sexual misconduct, excluding misconduct with minors, but who have “admitted their failings, have undergone treatment, and are actively engaged in aftercare may be considered to return to ministry.”
The diocese’s Special Panel of Clergy Misconduct submitted its eight-page report to diocesan officials this month. It is one of the diocese’s many efforts to clean house after a long-running sex scandal involving clergy, which came to light nearly seven years ago.
The report follows an 18-month investigation that revealed serious, non-paedophilic sexual misconduct by the former bishop and a small number of local priests.
The investigation, however, also confirmed that the overwhelming majority of priests in the diocese are devoted, upstanding, and honest. The diocese has a separate process for addressing allegations of misconduct against minors, the panel said.
Specifically, the inquiry revealed that former Bishop Daniel Ryan engaged in improper sexual conduct — namely multiple homosexual relationships with male prostitutes and other priests or deacons — and used his office to conceal his activities. His conduct created a culture of secrecy in the diocese, discouraging faithful priests from coming forward with information.
He took early retirement in 1999 at age 70, and was succeeded by Bishop George Lucas. But this did not prevent sexual scandals from erupting again. In 2004, Msgr. Eugene Costa, the chancellor, was involved in sexual misconduct. Msgr. Costa has been removed from public ministry and is undergoing psychological treatment. Bishop Lucas is currently taking the necessary steps to bar him from future public ministry
Allegations of sexual misconduct were also made against Bishop Lucas but these have since been proven false.
The independent investigation, which began in February 2005, was conducted by Bill Roberts of Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP, former U.S. Attorney for the Central District of Illinois and States Attorney for Sangamon County.
A five-member special panel reviewed the results of the investigation and made more than a dozen recommendations in five areas.
Seven of these recommendations regard actions in the case of future charges of misconduct. Among them, the panel said all credible allegations of criminal behavior must be immediately reported to civil authorities. Evidence of non-criminal misconduct should be addressed immediately according to Canon Law “to ensure the safety of all persons, to protect the integrity of the Church…, to assist those who are harmed, and to hold accountable those accused.”
In the case of priests who engaged in misconduct, the panel said they may return to public ministry “provided there is clear and convincing evidence that person has acknowledged wrongdoing, repented and is sufficiently in recovery so as not to present a threat to the spiritual, psychological, or physical well-being of himself or others.”
These priests should be reintegrated openly, and parishioners “should be informed of the misconduct, restitution and remedy.”
The panel recommended that it remain intact and periodically review the cases of those who returned to ministry to offer continued close supervision.
Investigations also revealed wrongdoings in other areas. As a result, the panel deems that a change in financial oversight is necessary after evidence of improper financial activities were reported. In accordance with canon law, all parishes should have finance councils, and evidence of embezzlement or theft should immediately be reported to civil authorities.
Given reports of computer and Internet use to access inappropriate websites, the diocese should publish a strong policy regulating the used of church-owned equipment, and random computer audits should be conducted, the panel said.
Investigations found that church members were wary about reporting information because those who came forward in the past were either penalized or ignored. The panel therefore recommended that an independent investigator should also be retained to allow people with concerns about questionable conduct to relate their information.
Furthermore, the diocese should improve its screening measures for candidates to the priesthood. Screening should occur prior to entering the seminary and once again prior to ordination, in addition to continuous monitoring throughout the formation process, the panel said.
The panel also expressed particular concern about impact of past misconduct on the local church.
The actions of former Bishop Ryan, who no longer resides in the diocese nor participates in public ministry, led some local Catholics to abandon their faith, the panel noted.
The panel also expressed its concern about a perception in the diocese that Bishop Lucas “rewarded those who protected Bishop Ryan by granting them the title ‘Monsignor’ in 2003.”
While the recommendations were made by the vicar general, Msgr. John Renken, the bishop “could have been more thorough in researching the character of some of those recommended,” the panel said.
Still, the report acknowledges that “both clergy and laity are now starting to sense positive change” since the appointment of Bishop Lucas, who commissioned the independent investigator and set up the five-member panel.
“The bishop has demonstrated a willingness to rely upon Canon Law to repair scandal, restore justice and reform the offender,” the report reads.
“This recommended system of vigilant oversight will strengthen the credibility of the Church and thereby lead others to a deeper participation in its mission,” it concludes.
Toronto, Canada, Aug 7, 2006 (CNA) - As Canada’s Catholic bishops prepare to travel to Rome next month for their regular “ad limina” visit with Pope Benedict XVI, reports suggest that many are expecting something of a scolding due to low church attendance and a lack of family involvement in many Canadian parishes.
In an interview with the Toronto Star newspaper, Bishop Richard Smith who is leading the delegation of 25 bishops in September, said that this past spring, the Holy Father told a number of bishops from Canada’s eastern provinces that "Faced with the many social ills and moral ambiguities which follow in the wake of a secularist ideology, Canadians look to you to be men of hope, preaching and teaching with passion."
Bishop Smith, head of the Diocese of Pembroke and president of the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that he expects similar words for the Catholic leaders of all of Canada’s provinces.
The report in the Star recalled that Pope Benedict recently gave a similar warning against secularism to bishops from his native Germany. To them he said, "People do not know God, they do not know Christ. There is a new form of paganism and it is not enough for us to strive to preserve the existing flock."
He added: "We should give serious thought as to how to achieve a true evangelization in this day and age."
In Canada, a country where only about 32 percent of citizens attend church regularly, Bishop Smith admitted that there is cause for concern.
"In the church” he said, “there are many people of faith who love the Church and are deeply committed. But it is a society as a whole that is tending toward a secularist outlook."
Munich, Germany, Aug 7, 2006 (CNA) - The Cross of Enghausen, the oldest existing life-size crucifix in the world, will be used during the Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to Germany in September.
A 667,000 square foot area is being readied for the papal Mass and will feature a large sanctuary where the Pontiff and the concelebrating prelates will be seated.
The famous Cross of Enghausen, which dates to the year 890 and was recently determined to be the oldest life-size crucifix in the world. It will be used during the Mass at the explicit request of Cardinal Friedrich Wetter, Archbishop of Munich.
A large platform will also be built for the 3,000 journalists expected to cover the papal Mass in Bavaria, which organizers expect will be attended by over 250,000 people.
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Aug 7, 2006 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez, has warned that peace is endangered when the dignity of the human person is not respected and the common good is not prioritized.
“At times like these, a serious reflection on the issue of violence and peace, as well as concrete, effective, and convincing efforts in favor of the good of peace, must take place,” the cardinal told participants in a convention on violence, organized by the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo and the National Council of Reform.
Cardinal Rodriguez called for “alternative solutions to war” in order to resolve international conflicts. The cardinal said that the destructive power of modern-day weaponry makes it “practically impossible” to predict the consequences of a confrontation.
He noted that Christianity promotes true peace founded upon the love God has for each human being, which is only possible through forgiveness and reconciliation.
“The Church exhorts people, states, and nations to share her concern for the reestablishing and strengthening of peace, emphasizing in particular the important role of international law,” he added.
“The Church works for peace also through prayer,” the cardinal underscored, “which opens the heart not only to a profound relationship with God, but also to an encounter with others, inspired by sentiments of respect, trust, understanding, esteem, and love.”
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug 7, 2006 (CNA) - Bishop Roberto Rodriguez of La Rioja has rejected criticism that the Church did not denounce human rights violations during Argentina’s military dictatorship, and he said that continued speculation that the car accident, which took the life of his predecessor in the Diocese of La Rioja, was actually a case of homicide is “rash.”
Speaking to Radio Independiente, Bishop Rodriguez said, “The Church always voiced her rejection of the cases of the disappeared and of the detentions carried out by unknown forces.” “I have the proof of what the newspapers of the day said. The Church spoke, and there were persecutions which she suffered,” he maintained.
Asked about the death of his predecessor, Bishop Enrique Angelelli, Bishop Rodriguez said, “Justice must take its course,” because “it would be rash to make a personal judgment.” Upon the 30th anniversary of the late bishop’s death, last week, Argentinean President Nestor Kirchner publicly stated that the prelate had been murdered and called for justice in the case.