Castelgandolfo, Italy, Aug 15, 2006 (CNA) -
The Blessed Virgin encourages the faithful to remain hopeful in the face of the inevitable problems of daily life, said Pope Benedict XVI today on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary.
Prior to praying the Angelus with the pilgrims at his summer residence in Castelgandolfo, the Pope said Mary offers support and an example of discipleship to all of the faithful.
“She assures us of her help and she reminds us that what is essential is to seek and to think about are the things of heaven, not those of this world,” the Pope said.
The 79-year-old pontiff told the crowd who gathered to pray that, taken up by daily preoccupations, the faithful risk thinking that the ultimate purpose of human existence is found in this passing world.
“Instead, heaven is the real goal of our earthly pilgrimage,” he stated. “How different our days would be if they were guided by this perspective! This is what it was for the saints. Their lives witnessed that when one lives with one’s heart constantly turned to heaven, earthly realities are lived in the proper proportion.”
The Pope entrusted the “anxieties of humanity” that are being experience in every part of the world that is racked by violence.
Benedict, who had celebrated Mass just prior to his address, said the Church was in communion with those Christian brothers and sisters who were gathered at Our Lady of Lebanon Sanctuary in Harissa, Lebanon, where Cardinal Roger Etchegaray was celebrating Mass for the Marian feast day. The cardinal was sent to the war-torn country as the Pope’s special envoy to bring comfort and solidarity to all victims of the conflict.
“We are also in communion with the pastors and faithful of the Church in the Holy Land, who have gathered in the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth,” with the nuncio, Archbishop Antonio Franco, he said.
The Pope said his thoughts also went out to the people suffering from ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka and to those suffering in Iraq, “where the frightful and daily flow of blood makes the possibility of reconciliation and reconstruction more distant.”
After the Angelus, the Pope addressed the pilgrims in seven languages, urging them to turn to Mary with confidence in seeking God’s will and their source of joy.
Castelgandolfo, Italy, Aug 15, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI told German Radio and Television that he has grown since being elected pontiff and that he finds joy in his ministry.
“[My] basic personality and even my basic vision have grown, but in everything that is essential I have remained identical,” he said in the interview, which he granted in anticipation of his visit to Germany next month. The interview was released Sunday.
“I’m happy that certain aspects [of my personality] that weren’t noticed at first are now coming into the open,” he added.
Despite the fact that being Pope is tiring, the pontiff said, he finds joy in his ministry. “The Good Lord gives me the necessary strength,” he commented.
“I think it’s very important to be able to see the funny side of life and its joyful dimension and not to take everything too tragically,” the Pope added, demonstrating his sense of humor. “I’d also say it’s necessary for my ministry.”
While some may view the pontifical office as a lonely one, Pope Benedict said he is not lonesome. He is surrounded by his "pontifical family" and receives many visitors daily, providing him with many personal encounters.
The Pope has planned a trip to the Latin American Episcopal Council in Brazil next year and said he would like to visit the Holy Land. However, he leaves any other travels to Divine Providence.
“I’ve never felt strong enough to plan many long trips,” the Pope admitted. “But where such a trip allows me to communicate a message or where, shall I say, it’s in response to a sincere request, I’d like to go – in the ‘measure’ that’s possible for me,” he said.
Benedict said he is humbled by the amount of work that people go through to get ready for his Pontifical trips, “I blush when I think of all the preparations that are made for my visit, for everything that people do.” The Pontiff said he’s been told of everything Germans – even non-Catholics – are doing to prepare for his upcoming visit and is grateful. But, he said, “I don’t think it’s for me, but rather a sign of wanting to be part of this faith community and to serve one another. Demonstrating this solidarity means letting ourselves be inspired by the Lord.”
In response to a question about a recent worldwide fascination with Catholicism, the Pope explained that the pontificate of John Paul II “drew people’s attention” to Catholicism and the Church and “brought them together.”
He said the late pontiff’s funeral, for which “hundreds of thousands of people flowed towards St Peter’s Square in an orderly fashion, stood for hours, and while they should have collapsed, they resisted as if moved by an inner strength” remains a historical moment.
This large manifestation of faith was then relived at the inauguration of his own pontificate and again in Cologne, Pope Benedict noted.
“It’s very beautiful when the experience of community becomes an experience of faith at the same time,” he reflected aloud.
Jakarta, Indonesia, Aug 15, 2006 (CNA) -
The intervention of Catholic Church leaders, including the Pope himself, led the Indonesian government to issue a stay of execution for three Catholic men. However, Catholic leaders and the prisoners’ relatives are now urging authorities to renew investigations into the case and to free the men.
Fabianus Tibo, 60, Dominggus da Silva, 39, and Marinus Riwu, 48, were sentenced to death after they were convicted in 2001 of murdering 200 local Muslims in 2000. Relatives claim the men were wrongly convicted of the crime.
The executions were scheduled for Aug. 12, but the government issued a stay just hours earlier, postponing the execution until after Aug. 17.
General Sutanto, the national police chief who announced the stay, said the delay was due to letters by Pope Benedict XVI, the Bishops' Conference of Indonesia, and interfaith leaders.
Fr. Jimmy Tumbelaka of St. Theresia Church told UCA News that he sees God's intervention in the delay.
"It is a miracle that the government wants to open their hearts," he reportedly said. The day before the scheduled execution, he and two other priests had visited the prisoners to celebrate Mass and offer the sacrament of reconciliation.
The bishops’ conference had sent a letter to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, asking him to stay all executions and to abolish the death sentence.
"The death sentence will end someone's life, and it will never return even though we will have a different truth in the future,” the bishops wrote. “Moreover, the Republic of Indonesia has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that approves and upholds the right to life of everyone."
As a result, the president should stay all executions "and abolish the death sentence in Indonesia for ever," the bishops added. The letter was signed by Jesuit Cardinal Julius Darmaatmadja of Jakarta and Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo of Semarang.
Fr. Serafin Dany Sanusi, executive secretary of the bishops’ Commission for Justice and Peace, told UCA News he welcomes the government decision.
The Catholic Church of Indonesia, he added, has decided to consistently reject the death sentence in the future "because it violates human right to life."
Chicago, Ill., Aug 15, 2006 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Chicago announced Monday, that Cardinal Francis George is recovering well and will leave the hospital sometime today.
Archdiocesan spokeswoman, Colleen Dolan told the Chicago Tribune that the decision was made yesterday that the cardinal would leave Loyola University Medical Center by midmorning Tuesday.
Cardinal George has been recovering from two surgeries to remove a cancerous bladder as well as parts of other organs. The Cardinal had suffered a few slight set backs after bleeding was discovered following the first surgery. A second surgery was undertaken to stop the bleeding and George has been recuperating since that time.
Dolan told the Tribune that the cardinal has been keeping tabs on the archdiocese while at the hospital and will continue to ease back into his duties from home, as doctors monitor his progress.
"He has been working from the hospital, being consulted and being involved in the decision-making of the diocese, and he will continue to do that," Dolan said.
A diocesan press release says that over the last weekend his condition continued to improve and he practiced walking up and down stairs. The cardinal’s vital signs are reportedly stable, and he is not running a fever.
After several weeks in the hospital, George is excited to return home, Dolan said.
Last week the cardinal contributed his weekly column in the archdiocesan paper, The Catholic New World. In his article George reflected on the meaning of suffering and encouraged all to attempt to recognize human sufferings within the sufferings of Christ. The cardinal said that he took great solace in remembering the examples of the founder of his religious order, who died of cancer, and of Pope John Paul II who, he said, “showed us so well how to love the world in Christ’s name and how suffering contributes to the building up of the Body of Christ.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Aug 15, 2006 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, has called on Mexicans to accept the decision of the Federal Electoral Commission regarding the winner of the July 2 presidential elections.
While he acknowledged that the election results had polarized the nation, the cardinal said, “We bishops are not qualified to say how serious those irregularities were. They [the Electoral Commission] are the ones charged with making a judgment.”
Asked about the incident of a supporter of leftist candidate Manuel Lopez Obrador, who entered the Cathedral in Mexico City shouting, “Vote by vote! Ballot box by ballot box!” Cardinal Rivera replied, “Not all the members of his party are like that.”
At the conclusion of Mass, the cardinal noted that “the Church is for everyone” and that people come to church to pray and to hear the word of God, not to attack. “All [the members of the PRD party] can come, there’s nothing stopping them. The Church is open to all,” he stated.
Hyderabad, India, Aug 15, 2006 (CNA) - India’s minority Christian community got a hearing last week with a concerned parliamentarian, who was seeking to understand the problems of minorities in the state.
Vice-chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, M.P. Pinto, visited Hyderabad Friday and addressed a meeting of Christian leaders of the state, including Archbishop Marampudi Joji of Hyderabad, reported Indian Catholic News Service. Pinto is the only Christian on the commission.
Pinto told journalists he made the trip “just to understand the problems faced by minorities in general and Christian minorities in particular.” Christians make up 2 percent of India's nearly 1.1 billion people; 81 percent are Hindu.
He said his office has received several complaints from individuals about the issue, and the commission wants to examine the basic cause of the problems. He reportedly said the commission would take immediate action on problems of an individual nature.
Although a minority, Catholics in India are generally strong in their faith. The Indian Church continues to grow despite anti-conversion laws in some areas, growing pressure from Hindu’s, and some persecution. Just over two weeks ago the Union for Catholic Asian News reported the beating of two priests in the south of the country.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug 15, 2006 (CNA) - In response to a recent decision by the Supreme Court of the Buenos Aires province that authorized an alleged rape victim to obtain an abortion—which was subsequently not administered as doctors said the baby was too developed for the procedure to be carried out—Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata expressed dismay that during the controversy the rights of mother took center stage while the life of the unborn child was forgotten.
During his weekly television program, “Keys to a Better World,” Archbishop Aguer said, “There is much talk about abortion and about the freedom of the mother, but there is little mention of that which the unborn child has. In the debate that took place there was almost no discussion of the child, he was not taken into account,” the archbishop stated.
He noted that before the Court issued its ruling it would have been interesting to see the child as he was in the womb, as one of the justice’s who voted against allowing the abortion had requested. “A three-dimensional ultrasound can give us a perfect idea that what is in the mother’s womb, at that stage of the pregnancy, is in fact a child. There is a child in there who smiles, yawns, sucks his thumb and, if he is attacked, reacts by expressing his pain with a silent scream,” Archbishop Aguer pointed out.
He said he was surprised that while thousands of Argentineans were celebrating the life of this child, certain leaders are reacting to the doctors’ decision with anger and indignation, saying that because of the court rulings the right to abortion was not treated favorably.
“I don’t know if everyone realizes how an abortion at five months is carried out. It is something frightful, it’s truly a massacre because delivery is induced or a cesarean is performed and the baby is left to die on a table. If difficulties arise, the contents of the skull are extracted so that he can come out easier. It is a massacre,” the archbishop exclaimed.
He also noted that the politicking during the debate was “striking,” and that it left one wondering if “we are in fact living in a state governed by the rule of law.”
The archbishop also criticized the media for failing to accurately and adequately report on the issue and for pushing for the legalization of abortion, “whether through the legislative or the judicial branch.”
San José, Costa Rica, Aug 15, 2006 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Costa Rica, Bishop Jose Francisco Ulloa Rojas of Cartago, said this week that it is not the duty of the Church to make a judgment about a continued Free Trade Agreement with the United States. “We aren’t stating a position because it is not the mission of the Church,” he said.
The Bishop said bishops and priests should provide the moral and ethical foundation upon which lawmakers can make decisions on behalf of the people. “The Church provides light so that the decision whether or not to approve this treaty be truly voluntary and benefit Costa Rica in the best way possible,” Bishop Rojas said. He emphasized that the bishops have been encouraged in their stance by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican Secretary of State, who sent a letter to the Costa Rican bishops providing “guidance and enlightenment, and encouraging dialogue and unity in all aspects of Costa Rican life.”
“We are not going to take sides in any way, but rather we intend to collaborate in seeking conciliation and dialogue between the different positions,” Bishop Rojas added.
Bishop Angel Sancasimiro Fernandez of Quesada seconded Bishop Roja’s statements and added that the discussion of the issue should take place in the Costa Rican parliament and should extend to all sectors of the country.
Asked if he supported a referendum on the Free Trade Agreement, Bishop Fernandez responded, “It’s not for us to say yes or no. What we believe simply is that there should be as much dialogue as possible, because the issue that is being discussed will have a great impact on Costa Rica. It’s not for us to say whether it should be this way or that,” the bishop noted.
San Salvador, El Salvador, Aug 15, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Fernando Saenz Lacalle of San Salvador has called on Salvadorans to collaborate in the struggle against violence and to “denounce any type of anomaly.”
“Salvadorans should be ready to denounce any type of anomaly and although security forces are working, the assistance of the citizenry is necessary,” he said.
The archbishop acknowledged that many witnesses to violence refuse to testify in court “out fear of being assassinated by the murderers.” For this reason, he added, people should be prudent in reporting crimes. According to official numbers, an average of 10-12 murders per day took place in El Salvador during the month of July.
Archbishop Saenz Lacalle said that simple repression of crime would not help to eliminate violence, but rather the implementation of programs such as the one that helps young people who are released from jail rejoin society.