Castelgandolfo, Italy, Aug 21, 2006 (CNA) - Christians must guard against the dangers of excessive activity and busyness, regardless of their state of life or occupation, in order to protect themselves from developing “hardness of heart,” said Pope Benedict XVI yesterday, borrowing from 12th-century Cistercian monk and Doctor of the Church St. Bernard of Clairvaux.
The Pontiff, speaking to a crowd of faithful gathered to pray the Angelus at his summer residence in Castelgandolfo, noted that Sunday marked the feast of St. Bernard (1091-1153), who served as abbot of the famed monastery of Clairvaux for 38 years.
Excessive busyness leads to spiritual suffering, loss of intelligence and the loss of grace, the saint had written in his text called De consideratione, which was addressed to Pope Eugene III and which focused on the importance of the interior life. This applies to all occupations, including those within the Church, the saint had said.
St. Bernard knew how to harmonize the contemplative life with important missionary work, the Pope noted. However, the saint’s strict observance of silence and contemplation did not impede him from living a very intense apostolic life, the Pope observed. His humility and his commitment to tame his impetuous temperament were exemplary, he said.
The Pope also highlighted the saint’s focus on the truth that God, who is love, created mankind out of love and that man’s salvation consists of adhering firmly to Divine love, revealed through the crucified and risen Christ.
The richness of St. Bernard’s preaching and his theology were not in pursuing new paths, the Pope said, but in succeeding to propose the truth of the faith in a clear and incisive way so as to fascinate the listener and lead the person to prayer.
Rockford, Ill., Aug 21, 2006 (CNA) - The United States, with its vast abortion industry, will soon rival the Nazis, who were responsible for about 50 million deaths during the Second World War, said Bishop Thomas Doran of Rockford, last week.
Americans are appalled by the Nazi regime, “and yet in our country we have, for the most part, allowed the party of death and the court system it has produced to eliminate, since 1973, upwards of 40 million of our fellow citizens without allowing them to see the light of day,” the bishop wrote in the diocesan newspaper.
“No doubt, we shall soon outstrip the Nazis in doing human beings to death,” he stated.
In his Aug. 10 column, the bishop said the “seven sacraments” of secular culture—abortion, buggery, contraception, divorce, euthanasia, feminism of the radical type, and genetic experimentation and mutilation—are “a clear and present danger to our survival as a nation.”
These “sacraments”, he said, “defile and debase our human nature and our human destiny.” He noted that these behaviors are promoted and defended in government by a particular political party, though he did not name the party.
In particular, the bishop argued that the legalization of abortion in 1973 has led to greater violence in society. “What we have to remember is that violence breeds violence. When we tolerate unjust attacks upon the tiniest innocents among us, we habituate ourselves to violence,” he wrote.
The violence of abortion coarsens people to the atrocities and loss of life around the world, he said. “How accustomed we have become to the immense loss of life in our wars throughout the world!” he wrote. “It is true what the theologians have said, that sin darkens the intellect, and weakens the will.”
All Catholics have the duty to support local pro-life movements and to work for an end to the culture of death, he insisted. The bishop expressed his dismay about some of his priests and some faithful not supporting the pro-life movement.
Allenspark, Colo., Aug 21, 2006 (CNA) - A group of more than 40 of the top Hispanic business leaders in the U.S. gathered this weekend for a retreat and conference at the St. Malo Catholic Retreat Center in Allenspark, Colorado. Participants took part in an in-depth dialogue to discuss the economic, cultural, and spiritual contribution of Hispanics in the U.S. The conference also included addresses from Dr. Guzman Carriquiry Lecour, Sub-Secretary of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Laity, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of San Antonio, Texas, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, and Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando, Florida.
Welcoming the participants on Friday evening, Archbishop Chaput laid out the responsibility of the business leaders, as men and women who have achieved a certain position in U.S. society, to speak out for all of their brothers and sisters with whom they share cultural and spiritual values. “My hope is that, as Hispanics, you recognize that your faith is at the very core of the values you are bringing. You just can’t loose that. If you loose that, you loose it all,” Chaput said.
Dr. Carriquiry said that the faith of Hispanic Catholics will play a role not only in the Church of the U.S. but worldwide. Carriquiry pointed out that Catholics in North and South America make up 560 million of the world’s 1.08 billion Catholics. And, he said, the percentage will continue to grow in the next decades. “It would be naive or foolish or "ideological" not to keep in mind the weight of the numbers.”
While Catholicism in the America’s is growing, Carriquiry said, “Europe faces a demographical suicide, it is economically and politically swamped and it seems to hate its own tradition, suffering a silent apostasy of the crowds, in great weakness before the Islamic siege. The destiny of the whole of Catholicism, at least for the next decades of the 21st century, is in great measure being played in the presence and mission of the Catholic Church in the life of our peoples and nations, at an American level.”
Dr. Carriquiry, who spoke to the business leaders about Pope Benedict’s hopes for Hispanics in the U.S., warned against the “subjectivist drift” which occurs among many in modern western culture. The Vatican official said that unfortunately many people, spurred on by the media and an individualistic culture tend to aim for cultural and religious pluralism which causes, “many Catholics to eventually compose…their own mix of beliefs, accepting and discarding arbitrarily the theological and moral truths under the custody and teaching of the catholic Church.” “Only the ‘truth will set you free,’” Carriquiry reminded.
Carriquiry challenged those present to grow in fidelity and depth of faith in order to grow in the “richness of sanctity, charity, doctrine, morality, wisdom and the culture of the catholic tradition.” Faith, he said, should grow in the midst of the changing world, indeed at the height of it. And faith, “must be able to give reason of itself, of its reasonableness and convenience for people, of the inseparable and enriching synthesis of truth and liberty, of its strength and aptitude to serve more humanely in this society, of its capacity to host, include, embrace, purify, and exalt the best of the cultural and religious tradition of this country, of its ethical discernment to face very crucial and delicate questions that are raised in the field of scientific investigation, technological progress, legislation, politics and business including the international order.”
“A mentality and sensibility must be cultivated and grown that can gradually lead to a judgment of all of reality from the intelligence of the Catholic faith,” he said.
Archbishop Gomez said that with this Catholic view of reality, sanctity is possible for everyone.
Telling the story of Blessed Salvador Huerta Gutiérrez, a new Mexican blessed, who was a business owner, Archbishop Gomez told the business leaders that there is no inherent contradiction between being a business owner and being a saint.
“In fact,” the archbishop said, “I hope there are many among you who are striving, as you build your businesses and careers, to also grow in holiness, to become saints.”
“In God’s eyes, you are working for more than the bottom line, more than the next quarterly earnings report,” Gomez continued. “It’s not that those things are unimportant. They are supremely important. God wants you to succeed and achieve. He wants you to be the very best you can be at what you do. God wants us to do our work well. But we have to do it with the right intention and attitude.”
“You are not working only for a salary or a commission; you’re not even working only for your clients or shareholders. You are working for God’s sake, as well. Everything you do, then, must be worthy of God.”
For more information on St. Malo Catholic Retreat, Conference, and Spiritual Center please visit their website.
Vatican City, Aug 21, 2006 (CNA) -
On Saturday Pope Benedict XVI named Argentinean Jesuit Father Jose Gabriel Funes new director of the Vatican Observatory.
Father Funes was born in Cordoba, Argentina, and is a member of the Observatory. He replaces American Jesuit Father George Coyne.
Father Funes studied astronomy before entering the Jesuits, and after his ordination he continued with his studies in the field.
The Vatican Observatory
Pope Leo XIII established the Vatican Observatory near St. Peter’s Basilica. However, Rome’s heavy pollution made observations difficult, and in 1935 the facility was moved to Castelgandolfo.
In 1981, modern city lights in Rome made it necessary to found a second center of research, “The Vatican Observatory Research Group” in Tucson, Arizona, one of the largest and most advanced astronomical centers in the world.
In 1993, in collaboration with the Steward Observatory, the Vatican Observatory completed construction of the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope (VATT) at Monte Graham, Arizona, considered one of the best astronomical sites in North America.
Vatican City, Aug 21, 2006 (CNA) -
Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State of the Holy See, issued a letter to the leader of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq following the abduction of an Iraqi priest. Writing on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI the cardinal told Archbishop Emmanuel III Delly, Archbishop of Baghdad and Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, that Holy Father assured all Iraqis of “his spiritual closeness and prayerful solidarity.”
The message included an appeal for the release of Father Saad Syrop Hanna, who was arrested after celebrating Mass for the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary. The message said that the Pope wishes for the release, “so that he can return to the service of God, the Christian community, and his countrymen.”
The Holy Father is also mindful of all victims of abduction in Iraq, the message said, and “prays that this dreadful scourge as well as the terrible daily bloodshed which delays the dawn of reconciliation and rebuilding will finally come to an end.”
In conclusion the message said, “His Holiness encourages the members of the Catholic community to continue to work together with all religious believers and people of good will towards a future of harmonious and respectful coexistence for the beloved nation of Iraq.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Aug 21, 2006 (CNA) - Three Mexican fisherman who were believed to be dead but were recently rescued after spending nine months stranded at sea attributed their survival and rescue to God and to their reading of the Bible everyday.
News of the rescue of Lucio Rendon Becerra, Jesus Edmundo Vidana and Salvador Ordonez surprised their family members, who had given up hope of finding them alive and had even prayed novenas for the repose of their souls.
“The first thing I will do when I get to Mexico is visit the church in my town (Las Arenitas in the Mexican state of Sinaloa) to thank God for giving me my life back, because I have been born again,” Jesus Edumundo Vidana told the Reforma newspaper.
Speaking to other reporters, Vidana said the three survived thanks to the help of God, who gave them the strength not to lose hope. “We have a lot of plans, we want to keep fishing and we hope that, Lord willing, we can make that a reality,” he added.
On October 28, 2005, the three men set out to capture a shark off the Western coast of Mexico and were not heard from for nine months. They were believed to be dead until August 14, when a Taiwanese vessel found them near the Marshall Islands, some 5,600 miles from their point of departure.
During their months stranded at sea, they went for periods as long as fifteen days without eating. They survived on fish they were able to catch and on rainwater.
Castelgandolfo, Italy, Aug 21, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict exclaimed a prayer for world peace yesterday after viewing a play on the dramatic and passionate life of St. Joan of Arc.
Given the current international context, faced with the dramatic events in the Middle East and before situations of suffering provoked by violence in numerous parts of the world, the message of Le mystère de la Charité de Jeanne d’Arc continues to inspire audiences to engage in meaningful and valuable reflection, the Pope said.
“May God hear the prayer of the saint of Domremy and ours, and give our world the peace to which it aspires!” he declared at the end of the performance.
The play, by famed Catholic playwright Charles Péguy (1873-1914), was performed yesterday evening in the courtyard of the Pope’s summer residence in Castelgandolfo.
The French playwright was a socialist and French nationalist before experiencing a conversion in 1908. Thereafter, he dedicated his life as a Catholic poet and writer. In addition to his play on Joan of Arc, another great work of Peguy’s is his poem, “The Portal of the Mystery of Hope.”
Pope Benedict said, Péguy’s work on Joan of Arc leads viewers to a greater understanding of the young saint-warrior’s deep and ardent faith and even to a profound meditation on the mystery of Christ’s Passion.
“Through a profound reflection on themes that are ever present in the thought of our contemporaries, we were introduced to the heart of the Christian mystery,” he said.
The Pope thanked the actors and the theatre crew for the splendid performance. “May St. Joan of Arc help us to enter always more deeply into the mystery of Christ in order to discover the way of life and happiness,” he concluded.
The initiative was promoted by the Archdiocese of Moscow in collaboration with the Embassy of Monaco at the Holy See.
Rimini, Italy, Aug 21, 2006 (CNA) - One of the world’s largest summer festivals – which is a meeting of Catholics - is taking place this week in Rimini, a beach town on the Adriatic coast of Italy.
The 27th annual Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples, organized by the worldwide Catholic movement, Communion and Liberation, opened yesterday and will run until Aug. 26th. The theme of the weeklong conference is, "Reason is the Need for the Infinite and Culminates in the Longing and the Presentiment this Infinite becoming Manifest."
Communion and Liberation was founded as a student movement in 1954 by Fr. Luigi Giussani, in Italy. There are currently members active in over 20 countries throughout the world.
According to the Communion and Liberation website, the annual Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples—which has taken place every summer since 1980—is the most frequented summer festival of encounters, culture events, music and stage-shows in the world. The event receives a yearly average of over 600,000 visitors.
The Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano sent conference participants a message on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI, which was read by Bishop Mariano De Nicolò of Rimini, at the opening mass.
The message noted the theme of the festival, which puts the spotlight on man and on his most intimate relationship with the Creator. Man has the clear sense of being made for an infinite destination. It is this destination alone that can fill the space and emptiness he feels inside, the message said.
“Restlessness, lack of satisfaction, desire, an impossibility to appease himself in his accomplishments: these are the words that define man and the laws of his reasoning,” the cardinal wrote in his message.
Man is on a continuous search for the Infinite. This search for the Infinite, he said, seems condemned to take place within the limits of the finite. “Man, in fact…remains always conditioned by his time and space, rather than by the limits of his own ability,” he said.
The meeting intends to propose once again, with vigor, the perennial truth of Christianity—that God, the Infinite, entered into human history to be able to reach out to man in his rational nature. And he continues to reach out to man always, the message said.
In sum, this year’s meeting in Rimini repeats the Church’s invitation to all people to come into a personal encounter with God and to satisfy their thirst in him. The experience of peace is possible in God, who revealed himself through Christ, the message concluded.
Cardinal Sodano assured participants of the Pope’s prayers. He also said the Pope remains very mindful of the Holy Land and the Middle East during this time of profound pain. The Pope, he said, urges all people to pray for peace.
, Aug 21, 2006 (CNA) - The National Conference of Bishops of Brazil has launched a campaign to encourage solidarity with the people of Lebanon in the wake of the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah which has devastated the country.
The secretary general of the NCBB, Bishop Odilio Pedro Scherer, and the executive director of Caritas Brazil, Jose Magalhães de Sousa, announced the launching of the campaign in the Brazilian capital. Brazil boasts of the largest Lebanese community in the world. “The Church and Caritas are urging Brazilians to respond to this call. There are thousands of victims and they must be helped,” Bishop Scherer said.
Caritas has produced 30-second television and radio spots providing the public information on how to participate in the effort. The campaign will run through November 30th.
According to Brazil’s Foreign Minister, at least seven Brazilians—including three children—were killed during the fighting in Beirut. Some 3,000 Brazilians of Lebanese origin living in Beirut were evacuated during the conflict.
Bishop Sherer took the opportunity to express his own rejection of war and of all forms of violence as a means of solving conflicts, and he exhorted Brazilians to take part in the solidarity campaign.
Havana, Cuba, Aug 21, 2006 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, presided at a special Mass last week in memory of Gustavo Arcos Bergnes, the recently deceased Cuban dissident leader and cofounder of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights.
The Mass was celebrated at the Church of the Sacred Heart in the Havana district of El Vedado, in the presence of the widow of the late Cuban leader, Teresa Rodriguez, and current dissident leaders on the island, including Oswaldo Paya of the Christian Liberation Movement.
Paya, who received the 2002 Sajarov Award, called Arcos “a man in whom I never saw fear.” “His entire life was committed to the freedom of his people. All of his humiliations and sacrifice were not in vain, and I am sure that Cuba will be free and reconciled just as he wished,” Paya added.
Laura Pollan, member of the Women in White, said Arcos Bergnes “was the first stone in what has become the building of new society for Cuba.”
Gustavo Arcos Bergnes was born in 1926 in Caibarien, Cuba. After the Batista military coup of 1952, he joined the Orthodox Party and participated in the resistance with Fidel Castro.
He was freed during a general amnesty in 1955 and went into exile in Mexico. He returned to Cuba in 1959 after the military triumph of Castro. He was named ambassador to Belgium, Denmark and Luxemburg, but he resigned in 1964 in disagreement with the Marxist direction being taken by the government.
He was imprisoned for “acts against State security” and freed in 1969 after a hunger strike. He was prohibited from traveling outside Cuba and was imprisoned again in 1981 after he attempted to leave the island nation.