Vatican City, Sep 1, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI made a private visit, today, to the popularly venerated Veil of Veronica. Veronica’s Veil is, according to tradition, a cloth used to wipe the sweat and blood from the face of Jesus on his way to the crucifixion. The veil is believed to have been miraculously imprinted with an image of the Holy Face.
The Pope made his way by helicopter from Castelgandolfo to the shrine, which is located in a remote Capuchin monastery in Manoppello in the Apennine Mountains. Waiting for him at the monastery were thousands of pilgrims, hold signs and cheering, “Benedetto, Benedetto,” and “Viva il Papa,” Reuters reports.
The Pope waved to the crowd and entered the shine accompanied by Fr. Carmine Cucinelli, the rector of the Shrine, and Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto.
“The Pope is making a strictly private pilgrimage,” Cucinelli told the press before hand, explaining that there would be no ceremonial portion of the visit.
The Holy Father is said to have offered a prayer before the relic, though he did not make any official statement as to its authenticity. “This is the reason for my visit,” Benedict told the crowd after his time of prayer, “so that together we can try to better know the face of our Lord, so that from it we can find strength in love and peace that can show us the path," the AP reports.
"Those who meet Jesus," the Pope told the pilgrims, "those who let themselves be attracted by Him and are ready to follow Him even unto the sacrifice of their lives, personally experience, as He did on the cross, how only the 'grain of wheat' that falls to earth and dies brings 'much fruit'."
"This is the way of Christ, the way of total love that triumphs over death," said Pope Benedict, adding: "This is the experience enjoyed by those true friends of God, the saints, who have recognized and loved in their brethren, especially in the poorest and most needy, the face of God long contemplated with love and prayer. They are encouraging examples for us to follow."
"In order to enter into communion with Christ and contemplate His face," the Pope went on, our lives must be "illuminated by the truth of love which overcomes indifference, doubt, lies, and egoism."
The Holy Father also addressed the several priests who were present for his visit, telling them that if the saintliness of Christ's face remains impressed within them "the faithful entrusted to your care will be affected and transformed." He asked the seminarians present not to allow themselves to be attracted "by anything other than Jesus and the desire to serve His Church." Finally, the Pope exhorted male and female religious to ensure that all their activities become "a reflection of divine goodness and mercy.”
“Searching for the face of Christ must be the desire of all Christians," the Pope said.
Benedict concluded his trip with a brief visit to the Capuchin community where he was presented an iconic rendering of the veil. Afterwards he and departed for Castelgandolfo.
May the Virgin Mary, the Pope prayed aloud, "in whose face more than in any other creature the features of the incarnate Word are visible, watch over families and parishes, over cities and nations of the whole world.”
The tradition of Veronica and her veil has been passed down through the centuries. It was not recorded in the cannon of scripture, although the story was written by an early Christian into the apocryphal “Acts of Pilate.”
While Veronica’s Veil was once held in the Vatican, it disappeared in the 16th century. According to the Vatican press release today, in the year 1506, exactly 500 years ago, an unknown pilgrim brought the Face to Manoppello and gave it to one of the town notables who kept it in his family home. Popular tradition holds that the “unknown pilgrim” was an angel. Years later it passed to another family who, in 1638, donated it to the shrine of the Friars Minor Capuchins. Though many have venerated the veil as containing an image of the true face of Christ since the Middle Ages, no Pope has made a recorded visit to the shrine.
Benedict XVI is said to have been intrigued by the image since his election as Pope. According to the Italian news agency, AGI, German Cardinal Joachim Meisner had stopped at the shrine on his way to Rome, causing him to arrive just before the conclave to elect Pope Benedict began. Meisner reportedly took a picture of the veil and gave it to Cardinal Ratzinger before his election to the Chair of Peter. According to Jesuit Father Heinrich Pfeiffer, the Pope has been intrigued by the photo ever since.
The veil, which is protected between two sheets of glass and surrounded by a gold and silver frame, measures 17 x 24 cm (approximately 6 ½ x 9 ½ in.) and bears the effigy of a long-haired, bearded man. His cheeks are dissimilar: one, rounder than the other, appears considerably swollen. His eyes look very intensely upward so the whites are visible under the iris. The pupils are completely open, but in an irregular way, and the gaze is at once questioning and loving, according to the Vatican Information Service.
The cloth has undergone studies to examine its authenticity in recent years. Pfeiffer, who teaches iconography and art history at the Pontifical Gregorian University, concluded after 13 years of studies that it was genuine. According to Reuters, another scholar examined it under ultraviolet light and found the fibers had not been painted. Some critics, however, point to the fact that "Veronica" is a deformation of Greek and Latin words meaning “true image” (vera-eikona).
Regardless of the scientific proof of the image pilgrims will continue to visit the shrine - some say now more than ever.
, Sep 1, 2006 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of New York has set up a new program for priests that have been credibly accused of sexually abusing minors but who cannot be defrocked due either to age or illness.
The Shepherd Program requires that these priests spend the rest of their lives in closely supervised housing, receive regular therapy and spiritual counseling, and fill out a daily log of their comings and goings. They may not say Mass in public, dress as a priest, be alone with children or “inappropriately use computers,” the letter says.
Since June, Cardinal Edward Egan issued a letter to seven priests, offering this program to them.
“The continued safety of our children and young people, the protection of the reputation and patrimony of the archdiocese, and your own well-being dictate that you enter this program and residence,” the letter states.
Only two accepted; the other five chose to resign and leave the priesthood.
The priests who have agreed will live temporarily at a retreat house on Long Island Sound, where priests with troubles have long been sent. They will be transferred to permanent housing elsewhere in a few months, said diocesan spokesman Joseph Zwilling.
“Our goal was to have them all participate in this program,” he told the New York Times.
Zwilling told the New York Times that the priests who received the letter fall into one of several categories. Some have been convicted in a canonical trial but determined to be too elderly or infirm to endure being defrocked and are instead sentenced to a life of prayer and penance, reported the newspaper.
Others have had the accusations against them referred to an archdiocesan advisory board consisting mostly of laypeople, including psychologists and lawyers. The board issues a recommendation to the cardinal on whether the priest should continue to minister. The board does not have to interview the priest nor does it give the priest the opportunity to defend himself.
The archdiocese notifies law enforcement authorities of all allegations that could result in criminal charges. But in many cases the statutes of limitations have run out.
Before the new program was put into effect, most accused priests lived on their own and were barred from functioning as priests. They were required to tell the archdiocese every few months where they lived, Zwilling told the Times.
The letter to the priests mandates psychotherapy, but it does not speak of eventually leaving the program. Past experience showed that priests who underwent therapy still relapsed into abusive behavior, said Zwilling. “With what we know today, I don’t think that can be an alternative,” he was quoted as saying.
Vatican City, Sep 1, 2006 (CNA) - The traditional Vatican Christmas Concert performed every year at the Paul VI Auditorium, will be transferred to a location in Monaco, Vatican sources told the Italian newspaper, “La Stampa” today.
The concert, which had gathered a great number of pop and rock stars during the last 12 years, had not been saved from a few notable scandals.
In 2003, American singer Lauryn Hill broke from the program to go on a diatribe condemning the Church for the sex scandals in the US, before an audience of seven thousand five hundred people, including bishops and cardinals.
According to “La Stampa”, the decision to transfer the annual concert, whose collection is used for Church charities, has less to do with Pope Benedict’s musical taste, who prefers classical music to rock, than with the association between the Vatican and an event that gathered famous, but often controversial, people.
Last year, the coordinator of the event was forced to cancel an invitation to Brazilian singer Daniela Mercury, when she joked on a TV program that she would take advantage of her visit to the Vatican to promote condoms as a way to prevent AIDS.
Milan, Italy, Sep 1, 2006 (CNA) - It took a dream of Pope John Paul II to convince Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone to accept Pope Benedict’s invitation to succeed Cardinal Angelo Sodano as the Vatican’s Secretary of State.
Cardinal Bertone recounted the dream to journalists at his departure ceremonies from Genoa Tuesday at the Sanctuary of Madonna della Guardia. The cardinal, who has been serving as Archbishop of Genoa, will begin as Secretary of State Sept. 15.
The cardinal explained that he was fearful when Pope Benedict told him about his intentions to name him Secretary of State.
“When he asked me to accept, I got the shivers and replied, “I need to think hard.”
“During the night, between Aug. 15 and 16, I saw John Paul II in a dream: he was serene and smiling,” he continued. “We spoke about young people and I told him that World Youth Day was his most beautiful invention. Then I spoke with him about my new appointment and I asked for his blessing. He told me, ‘of course.’ I kneeled and he blessed me.”
Cardinal Bertone said when he recounted this dream to Pope Benedict XVI, the current Pope said: “Well, then, you don’t have to be afraid.”
“The Pope then confirmed his appointment and I accepted,” the cardinal concluded.
Washington D.C., Sep 1, 2006 (CNA) - Labor Day invites Catholics to celebrate the value of work, but it also challenges the faithful to consider how the U.S. economy treats all workers, including migrant workers and immigrants, who have come to the U.S. through legal or illegal means, said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn.
In his annual Labor Day reflection, the bishop pointed out how the issues of work and immigration are in many ways intertwined. Bishop DiMarzio serves as chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Domestic Policy Committee.
“The challenge of immigration today is not just at the borders, but in our labor markets,” the bishop acknowledged. He pointed out that more than 12 percent of U.S. residents and 15 percent of workers were born in another country. These figures are up from about 5 percent in 1960.
“As this happens, newcomers can find themselves linguistically and culturally isolated and more vulnerable to exploitation and discrimination because of their legal status and language barriers,” he stated. “And local communities can feel overwhelmed by the growing presence of people in their midst with different languages and different ways.”
However, he stated plainly: “The simple fact is many parts of our nation's economy have become dependent on immigrant workers.”
The bishop expressed regret at the divisive nature of the current national immigration debate and urged Catholics to be agents of hospitality, to “welcome the ‘strangers’ among us”, and to build bridges in the ongoing debate.
“The Catholic Church has a long history of involvement with immigrants,” he wrote in his message. “The Church's mission in assisting and standing with immigrants flows from our belief that every person is created in God's image.
“For the Catholic Church, immigration is not a political issue, but a fundamental human and moral issue,” he stated. “Through the decades, immigrants have built our communities of faith and they are still bringing new life to our Church. Immigrants are not numbers for us. They are our brothers and sisters; they are our ‘neighbors.’”
He asked Catholics to consider immigration from the various points of view of the migrants who come seeking a better life for their families and of the people who work on immigration issues and policies.
“We must and we can find reasonable and responsible ways to welcome those seeking a new life and opportunity,” he said. “I believe we can help newcomers without legal status to come out from the shadows and contribute more fully to our communities. When we do this, I believe we can also increase the security of our nation and the vitality of our Church.”
Melbourne, Australia, Sep 1, 2006 (CNA) - Muslims living in the West must speak out in defense of Christians’ rights to religious freedom in Islamic countries so that “sacred principle of hospitality” can be attained, said Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor yesterday.
The archbishop of Westminster was invited to speak at the opening of the Australian Catholic University's new Asia-Pacific Centre of Inter-religious Dialogue.
According to a report published in The Age, the cardinal said it is essential that Muslims can worship freely in Melbourne and Sydney, and that Christians can worship freely in Riyadh or Kabul, he said. It is crucial for Christians and Muslims to maintain this “vital principle of sacred hospitality,” he added.
The central reason for interfaith co-operation is to uphold religious freedom, said the cardinal.
"Where Christians are being denied their rights or are subject to sharia law, that is not a matter on which Muslims in Britain or in Australia should remain silent. Where religious rights of minorities are disrespected in the name of Islam, the face of Islam is tarnished elsewhere in the world," he was quoted as saying.
Rome, Italy, Sep 1, 2006 (CNA) - Young Italians of the group Sentinelle del Mattino (Sentinels of the Morning) have launched a unique project they are calling “Mission: Possible,” in which they are setting up stands at rest areas along the freeways near Bologna inviting travelers to attend Mass or Eucharistic adoration.
According to the Korazym news agency, the young people spent last Sunday at a rest area that has a small chapel and is located on the freeway between Bologna and Milan. They organized two Masses at the chapel and convinced a number of travelers to stop and participate.
Throughout the day they also invited passersby to spend a few moments in Eucharistic adoration. In the afternoon a Christian band provided entertainment to travelers who stopped to rest.
24 year-old Chiara, one of the youths involved in the project, said, “Not many people refused our invitation, although some people were indifferent and said, ‘We don’t believe in those things.’ Nevertheless, many people asked me why we were there, so I told them quickly that three years ago I was one of those who didn’t believe in God and that now I could be an example of the various ways in which one can encounter Him.”
Many drivers took the opportunity to ask for prayers or to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
The idea for such a project began almost two years ago. Father Andrea Brugnoli, assigned to provide spiritual guidance to the Sentinels, said its purpose is “to give witness to travelers. The Sentinels are young people carry out their mission in bars, pubs, and discos, among drug addicts and prostitutes, as Jesus did.”
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sep 1, 2006 (CNA) - A federal attorney in Argentina admitted this week that the country’s Health Minster, Gines Gonzalez Garcia, released falsified statistics related to the number of clandestine abortions in the country, but he rejected calls to investigate the incident, saying lying is not a crime.
The organization Portal de Belen filed a lawsuit against the Health Minister for falsely claiming that 500,000 clandestine abortions take place in Argentina each year, in an attempt “to intimidate and confuse Argentinean society, in order to obtain a social consensus for the decriminalization of abortion.”
A lower court rejected the lawsuit and the organization appealed the ruling. During a public hearing held at the federal court in Cordoba, federal attorney A. Ferrer Vera admitted that Garcia lied but he asked that the lawsuit be thrown out.
Vera said that although the Health Minister exaggerated the statistics, he did not commit a legally punishable crime, since regardless of the controversy surrounding the numbers of clandestine abortions, it remains a fact that they are taking place, and Garcia’s actions were motivated exclusively by political strategy.
Portal de Belen reiterated its own position regarding the scandal, underscoring that the Argentinean government “is engaging in an explicit effort to confuse and prepare the populace for the decriminalization of abortion, by spreading false statistics and cowardly using the debate about the right to life of innocent children in order to divert the attention of society.”
The organization said the unfortunate cases of two mentally handicapped women who conceived through rape and were recently allowed to obtain abortions were being used as smokescreens.
Bogotá, Colombia, Sep 1, 2006 (CNA) - A priest in Colombia has organized a group of native Colombians in Cali to help make comforters out of donated clothing for poor families in the region.
Father Alexander Matiz’s mission has enabled the native Colombians to produce more than 50 bed comforters to be given to those most in need in the area and gift bags, which they will be able to sell at local markets to earn money.
“I was amazed, but it’s true. For the last three months these individuals have received meals and assistance at our home in the district of El Piloto. They began making blankets with the clothing local residents donated,” Father Matiz said.
He said he also plans to provide instruction for the native Colombians for six to eight months to train them to be tourist guides.
“As natives, who are always seeking ways to earn income, they now want to offer their work to the poor for free. When they receive proper formation, their lives truly acquire new dignity,” he stated.
Madrid, Spain, Sep 1, 2006 (CNA) - In order to confirm the commitments made to the family and human life during the World Meeting of Families last July in Valencia, Spain, the Marian Shrine of Torreciudad has announced it will host the 17th Marian Day of the Family on September 16.
The theme of the event will be “The Family, Sanctuary of Life,” and will be attended by Archbishop Manuel Ureña of Zaragoza, who will preside at a Mass with an expected 10,000 people.
Father Javier Mora-Figueroa, rector of the Shrine, said the event this year is intended to “confirm the commitments to life, the family and the integral development of all Spaniards outlined at the 5th World Meeting of Families held in Valencia.”
“The purpose is to make of this event a day of thanksgiving for the gift of Holy Father’s presence in Spain and to encourage participants to attain concrete goals in day-to-day life, through reflection and personal commitment, in defense of the identity of the family as a common good for humanity,” he added.