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Archive of August 9, 2006

John’s teaching on love is an invitation, but also unsettling in its demands, Pope says

Vatican City, Aug 9, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict returned to the Vatican briefly today, from his summer residence at Castelgandolfo, in order to conduct his weekly general audience.  During the course of his address to those gathered in the Paul VI auditorium, the Pope discussed the great works of John the Evangelist, works which, he said, invite us to love but also unsettle us.

The Pope told the gathered crowd that there is one characteristic topic that emerges from the writings of John - that of love.  

Benedict said that it was no accident that he began his first encyclical with words from one of John’s letters, “God is love; those who dwell in love dwell in God and God in them (1 John 4,16).”  The Pope said that it is difficult to find such a text in other religions and therefore, “such an expression brings us head-on with a fact particular to Christianity.”

The Holy Father said that there are three points of consideration to develop an understanding of John’s discussion of the profound reality that “God is love.”

Benedict first noted that John’s declaration that “God is love” comes in similar form to other declarations that “God is Spirit” (Jn 4,24) and “God is light” (Jn 1,5).  

“And note well,” the Pope said, “the assertion does not simply come that ‘God loves’ or even less that ‘love is God!’ In other words, John does not limit himself to describing a divine action, but proceeds to the roots.”  

Moreover, he said, the declaration “God is Love” is not the attribution of a single divine quality to a generic and impersonal love.  Rather John is, “turning directly to God, to define His nature with the infinite dimension of love. By so doing John wants to say that the constitutional essence of God is love and therefore all activity of God is born from love and is imprinted with love.”

Understanding John’s definition that ‘God is love’ must be taken a step further, the Pontiff said, for we know that God demonstrated His love by coming into the world and not simply by telling us verbally but by paying the price of love in first person.  The Pope pointed out the words of John, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son (Jn 3,16).”  

Jesus, John tells us, loved us totally and, “to the end.”  “In virtue of this total and oblative love we are radically redeemed from sin,” the Pope said.

The third dynamic of love laid out by John, the Holy Father said, is that mankind is called to move from the role of a recipient of the great and overwhelming love which God is, “to the engagement of an active answer.”  

The answer humans are called to act out comes in the form of a “new commandment” from Jesus, “Love one another. I have loved you, so you also should love one another (Jn 13,34)."   

Pope Benedict said that the Old Testament, as well as the other Gospels, contain an idea of loving “as yourself.”  But, the innovation found in John is Jesus’ statement to love as He has loved.  “And it is in this way that love becomes truly Christian: in the sense that it must be directed towards all with out distinction, above all in so much as it reaches finally to extreme consequences, having no other measure but that it is without measure.”

“Those words of Jesus, ‘as I have loved you,’ invite us and at the same time unsettle us; they are a Christological goal that can seem unattainable, but at the same time they are a stimulus.”

The Pope concluded his address with words from the spiritual work, Imitation of Christ: “The noble love of Jesus spurs to great deeds and excites longing for that which is more perfect. Love tends upward; it will not be held down by anything low. Love wishes to be free and estranged from all worldly affections…for love is born of God and cannot rest except in God, Who is above all created things.  One who is in love flies, runs, and rejoices; he is free, not bound. He gives all for all and possesses all in all, because he rests in the one sovereign Good, Who is above all things, and from Whom every good flows and proceeds.”

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Archbishop Dolan saddened by Wisconsin woman’s attempted ordination

Milwaukee, Wis., Aug 9, 2006 (CNA) - Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan attempted to reach out to and reason with a Wisconsin woman who recently took part in an invalid attempt at ordination to the Roman Catholic priesthood.

In a letter released this Sunday, Archbishop Dolan told parishioners at Kathy Vandenberg’s former church that he was disappointed at the decisions she had made.   Vandenberg, the 64 year-old resident of Waukesha, Wisconsin, took part in a small ceremony two weeks ago to protest the Catholic Church’s doctrine on ordination to the priesthood.  Vandenberg was drafted by a group called Roman Catholic Womenpriests to join them in reenacting a modified ordination ceremony aboard a boat and declaring themselves Catholic priests.

The Catholic Church has repeatedly stated that whereas the ordination of men to the sacramental priesthood is a divinely inspired tradition and not a matter of equality, it is not an issue up for discussion.  The Diocese of Pittsburg, within which the ceremony took place, warned the women, prior to their protest, that their public actions in defiance of the faith would indicate a public decision to separate themselves from the body of the Church.  

 “I regret it when anyone publicly jeopardizes his or her relationship with the Church, which Ms. Vandenberg, by her action, has now unfortunately done,” Dolan said.

“I am also disappointed,” the archbishop said, “because Ms. Vandenberg and I had begun a fruitful dialogue on the matter last fall.”  Archbishop Dolan said that he had met with Vandenberg and Archdiocesan Chancellor, Dr. Barbara Anne Cusack and that at the meeting he, “advised her that any attempted ordination would affect her relationship with the Church.”  Dolan said that Ms. Vandenberg seemed sincerely unaware that her planned actions could result in excommunication and that she, “did not want that to happen.”

 “I invited her to reflect on the gravity of such a decision, to renounce it, and to return to the Church,” the archbishop said.  

Archbishop Dolan said that Ms. Vandenberg asked for time to consider her decision and promised him that she would discuss her next step with him.  He wrote Ms. Vandenberg twice and asked for her to keep him up to speed on her decision.  “Her regrettable participation in the protest,” the archbishop lamented, “gives me her unfortunate answer.”

Dolan says that it is now his duty as archbishop to notify the Holy See of Ms. Vandenberg’s decision.  “If the past is any guide, I would anticipate that the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith in Rome will soon inform the participants in this exercise that, sadly, they are excommunicated from the Church.”

The Catholic Church teaches that excommunication arises when a person makes the decision to remove themselves from the authority of the Magisterium.  That authority, Catholics believe, has been granted by Jesus and protected by the Holy Spirit.  Excommunication never comes from the Church but always from the individual, the Church simply formally states what the individual has already stated by their actions. In a statement reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Ms. Vandenberg said that in her belief, a declaration of excommunication, “doesn't mean I'm excluded from the church. Only I can exclude myself.”

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Archbishop Amato says Gospel message still good news which must be spread

Vatican City, Aug 9, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Angelo Amato, Secretary of the Catholic Church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said in an interview last weekend that there exist serious obstacles to the transmission of the Faith, both inside and outside of the Church.

Polish journalist, Wlodzimierz Redzioch sat down with Archbishop Amato for the weekly journal Niedziela.  The archbishop said that the Gospel message is still good news and that, as such, “we must do our best to proclaim the good news effectively.”

Quoting the Second Vatican Council document, Dei Verbum, Amato said that, “the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on (D.V. #10).”

In order to execute their task in this day and age, “The magisterium of the Church is, therefore, closely connected to mass media,” the archbishop said.

While the Magisterium attempts to do its best to promulgate the faith, there are still some parts of the world in which Christians are clearly persecuted and refused the right to practice their faith, Amato said.  

However, he said, in most countries much more subtle obstacles exist.  Those obstacles, the archbishop explained, include a postmodernist contemporary culture, a weakening of Catholics’ (both believers and theologians) feeling of identification with the Church, and a common lack of knowledge of the history and theology of the Church. “All these things influence the reception of the teaching of the Church, which is actually rejected.”

Amato said that the “weak philosophies” of the contemporary postmodernist culture reject the “strong philosophy” of Christian Revelation.  These “weak philosophies,” which include nihilism, which regards the human being as a self-contained individual whose life, without values and aim, finds its end in nothingness; relativism, which overloads the individual with countless ‘sensible solutions’ thus making one’s opinion the most important thing; and the philosophy of a ‘biotechnological culture’, which creates the notion that the power of science is somehow greater than God, serve as obstacles to an understanding and acceptance of the Faith.

“When the religious aspect is removed from our lives the concept of 'life' is reduced. Such a life would be only a biological existence, without any deeper meaning and values that would be limited to ordinary functioning of human organs.”

“It is a great challenge to the Church, to her shepherds and all believers,” Amato said, to overcome these obstacles and spread the truth of the Faith.

Unfortunately, the archbishop stated, there are also challenges the Church must face from within.  “The faithful show a weakened relationship with the Church. The Magisterium is not regarded as the transmission of God's truth about man and salvation; on the contrary it is seen as an ordinary opinion and is often ignored, fought against or rejected.”  This too must be countered with a fervent recommitment to the spread of the truth, especially by way of modern media, Amato said.

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Pope reiterates comments of predecessors, prays for peace in the Middle East

Vatican City, Aug 9, 2006 (CNA) - At the conclusion of his weekly general audience, today, Pope Benedict prayed again for an end to the conflicts in the Middle East and recalled the words of previous Popes on the issue of peace.

Speaking from the auditorium named for his predecessor, Benedict quoted Pope Paul VI in his 1965 address to the United Nations.  The late Pontiff told the General Assembly “no more the one against the other, no more, never! If you want to be brothers, let the arms fall from your hands.”

The conflict between Israel and Islamic militant group, Hezbollah, continues to escalate.  A ceasefire agreement drafted by the United States and France failed today and hostilities have continued.

Pope Benedict told the gathered crowd, “Facing the efforts in action to finally reach a ceasefire and a just and lasting solution to the conflict I repeat, with my immediate predecessor, John Paul II, that it is possible to change the course of events when reason, good will, confidence in the other, prevails, the implementation of agreements are employed and cooperation (is had) between responsible partners.”

“To all,” the Pope concluded, “I renew the exhortation to intensify prayer to obtain the desired gift of peace.”

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Former Nuncio says non-violent transition in Cuba is possible

Rome, Italy, Aug 9, 2006 (CNA) - As the world awaits news on the condition of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, Archbishop Giulio Einaudi, who was Apostolic Nuncio in Cuba from 1980-88, said this week, a transition could take place on the island nation without recourse to violence.

Speaking to the Chilean daily “El Mercurio,” the archbishop explained, “A non-violent transition is possible, depending on how this matter is handled.  Personally I think it can take place through normal channels after so many years of revolution.”

“If the international community will approach Cuba through dialogue, the situation can evolve in a very positive way,” he stated.

He also referred to the transfer of power from Fidel Castro to his brother Raul, saying he “should be capable of leading the country towards peaceful and normal progress.”

The interim leader’s “limitation could also be its strength,” Archbishop Einaudi continued, “as he was at Fidel’s side during all these years.  Thus he knows the situation completely. It depends on how he will handle matters in this period of transition, which we don’t know yet if it will be one of transition. It depends greatly on him and precisely on the powers he may choose to employ.”   Nevertheless, the archbishop said it was too early to talk of a post-Fidel period.  “We cannot say that a truly post-Castro era has begun, as it is possible he will improve and return,” he maintained.

Asked about the Cuban bishops’ statement that they would not accept or support any kind of foreign intervention in the country, Archbishop Einaudi said Cardinal Jaime Ortega of Havana “is a very prudent man and is capable of facing this transition.”
 
“As the Church we do not get involved in political alternatives: We can follow the evolution of events, and also call for prayer, but that’s it.  And this what was done when the Church in Cuba called on the faithful to pray that the Lord would be with Castro in these difficult moments, which are hard for him, but also for the entire Cuban people,” the former-Nuncio said.

Speaking about his time as Apostolic Nuncio in Cuba, he recalled “there was a good relationship with Felipe Carneado—at that time head of the Communist Party’s Central Committee for relations with the Church.  Almost every day we met to analyze the daily affairs of the Church, such as the possibility of having more priests and religious, facilitating the importation of literature, building new parishes, etc.”

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Paraguayan children take part in Great Walk of Love for children throughout the world

Asunción, Paraguay, Aug 9, 2006 (CNA) - The members of Catholic group, Missionary Children, took part Monday in the Great Walk of Love in protest of the abuse suffered by children throughout the world.

Hundreds of children in various cities walked through the streets, including the Paraguayan capital of Asuncion, where Archbishop Pastor Cuquejo celebrated a special Mass at the Cathedral.

As they were walking, the children and young people performed dramatizations depicting the sufferings and problems children experience in their country and around the world, such as child labor, violence, and hunger.   

Marcos Morinigo, 11, said children like him are suffering from hunger and homelessness.  “We pray they have the chance to improve their lives,” he said.  “I invite them to draw close to God, to pray and to share with their families; we always come together and pray for them,” he added.

The walk brought to an end the, “Week of Prayer for the suffering of children.”  Along with the walk, a special collection took place last weekend to help the world’s children who are most in need.

Missionary Children is an apostolate founded in France in 1843 by Bishop Carlos Forbin in order to encourage “children to help children.”

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Pro-life group denounces efforts by congresswoman to punish local judge

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug 9, 2006 (CNA) - The organization Pro-Life Argentina has denounced calls by two pro-abortion lawmakers to sanction a lower court judge who ruled against allowing a mentally handicapped woman who conceived through rape to undergo an abortion.  

In a case that has received extensive media coverage, the mother of the handicapped woman had asked for authorization that her daughter receive an abortion.  The request was denied by lower court Judge Ines Siro in the city of La Plata, who ruled that efforts should be made to preserve the lives of both the mother and the baby.   Her ruling was reaffirmed by the Court of Appeals but overturned by the Supreme Court of the Buenos Aires province. 

Nevertheless, the abortion was not carried out as doctors refused to perform the procedure, arguing that the baby was too far along in development for the abortion not to pose serious risks to the mother.

Now two federal lawmakers, Diana Conti and Graciela Rosso, have called for sanctions against Judge Siro.

According to Pro-Life Argentina, the two congresswoman are seeking to punish Siro as a warning to other judges who might issue similar rulings.  “They are trying to intimidate the rest of the judiciary and condemn them for decisions that don’t sit well with certain politicians who are acting like political commissars, trying to impose their ideas on everyone by force,” the organization stated.

Pro-Life Argentina pointed to inconsistencies in the petition filed by the mother of the pregnant woman, which the group said justified the ruling issued by Judge Siro and cast doubt on the decision of the Buenos Aires Supreme Court.  “During the course of the trial it became clear that it was not proven that the young woman had been raped, as her mother claimed.   Legal briefs proved that no one has been charged, convicted or even investigated for the crime. Expert witnesses showed that the alleged mental handicap was ‘moderate’ and that the young woman in question is aware of who and where she is, moves about on her own, uses a cell phone and has a boyfriend.  It was also shown that she voted in the last elections and that she has engaged in sexual relations for some time.”

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Cardinal Martinez reiterates Pope’s call for peace

Vatican City, Aug 9, 2006 (CNA) - The Camarlengo of the Supreme Pontiff, Cardinal Eduardo Martinez Somalo, said this week Pope Benedict XVI continues to urge a ceasefire based on mercy, in order to bring about definitive solutions that will lead to reconciliation.

“The Pope asks us insistently to pray to the Lord, that He might have mercy on humanity so that it might live in peace,” the cardinal told reporters.

“The message being conveyed by the Holy Father, which other pontiffs have proclaimed as well, continues to be the same and equally urgent: there is nothing to lose with peace and everything to lose with war,” the cardinal stated.

“We watch with sadness as the war widens and as the possibility of a peaceful solution becomes more complicated,” he added.

“We cannot call up an army of peace but we can call up a spiritual army to implore peace, so that the fact that one day of peace is better than years of war will penetrate peoples’ consciences,” he said in conclusion.

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Pilgrims ask John Paul II for prayers, touch water at base of his statue

Wadowice, Poland, Aug 9, 2006 (CNA) - Pilgrims visiting a newly erected statue of Pope John Paul II, in his hometown of Wadowice, have been taking a bit of the monument with them.  Several have begun to touch the water which flows from a fountain at the base of the statue and take it away in bottles, the Associated Press has reported.

Many of the pilgrims consider the water a way of connecting physically with their beloved shepherd and countryman. "If the water comes from the papal monument, it is holy to us," said Stanislaw Unijewski, a 37-year-old electrician who traveled 120 miles from his hometown of Nysa.

The water, which is piped in as part of the design of the monument, has not been blessed by a priest and it did not appear miraculously as has the healing springs of Lourdes and sights of popular devotion.  Yet, many are happy to use it as an outward sign of their inward prayers asking for the intercession of the great Pope – who they believe to be in heaven.

Slawomir Piotrowski, 46, traveled across Poland from the northern city of Bydgoszcz to visit John Paul's hometown. He, his wife, and their two teenage children planned to visit John Paul's childhood home and St. Mary's Basilica, where John Paul was baptized and served as an altar boy, the AP reported.

But their first destination was the monument, where Piotrowski let the water flow over his hand before pressing it to his chest, convinced it will help cure his ailing heart.

"I am a little sick and I'm looking for strength to keep on going," said Piotrowski. "We all feel this water will give us new strength."

The statue is composed of a granite base, topped by a bronze figure of John Paul wearing papal vestments and a miter, with a staff in his left hand and his right hand raised as if in blessing.

Pilgrims from across Europe and beyond have been seen praying at the monument daily. Many wash their faces and hands in the cool, crystal-clear water that flows over the dark granite.

Wadowice Mayor Ewa Filipiak said the water was connected to the monument simply to enhance the granite's gray-brown color, and that authorities were unaware it would itself become an attraction. It comes from a well in the town's main square that dates back at least to the 16th century.

"It has turned into an additional and very welcome attraction and embellishment of this place linked to John Paul II," she said.

Filipiak said hundreds of people visit the town daily, but the fountain eventually could draw even more people, especially if John Paul, who died on April 2 last year, is declared a saint. Pope Benedict XVI opened the beatification process for John Paul last year, waiving the customary five-year waiting period after his death.

The statue was unveiled by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the archbishop of nearby Krakow and the longtime personal secretary of John Paul, who is revered in Poland for helping to inspire the pro-democracy Solidarity movement in the 1980s that helped end communist rule.

The Rev. Jakub Gil, the parish priest at the Wadowice basilica, said the church has never declared the water holy, but that it provides a tangible reminder to many of the great personal power of the late pontiff.

"No one is telling the people that this is miraculous water," Gil said. But, he added: "Nothing is impossible for believers, and if this water evokes faith, then great things might happen."

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