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Archive of September 4, 2006

Benedict praises “administrative qualities and moral integrity” of Gregory the Great

Castelgandolfo, Italy, Sep 4, 2006 (CNA) - Pilgrims gathering to pray the Angelus with Pope Benedict XVI at the Pontifical residence at Castelgandolfo yesterday, were reminded of the life of St. Gregory the Great.  Gregory, one of two Saints to be named “the Great” was pope between 590 and 604 AD.  Pope Benedict said the great Saint and Doctor of the Church is, "an example of which both pastors of the Church and public administrators must be made aware."
 
Benedict pointed out that St. Gregory, who was born into the family of a Roman Senator, was initially on the path to a successful career in politics.  St. Gregory was appointed as a prefect of Rome at the age of 34 and was known for "his administrative qualities and moral integrity," according to Pope Benedict.

On the death of his father in 574 he embraced the monastic life and, from then, "the Benedictine Rule became the mainstay of his existence,” Pope Benedict said.  “Even when the pope sent him as his representative to the eastern emperor he maintained a poor and simple monastic life."
 
Gregory was a collaborator of Pope Pelagius II, and succeeded him when he died during an epidemic of the plague. "With prophetic far-sightedness, Gregory understood that a new civilization was being born from the encounter between the Roman heritage and the so-called 'barbarian' peoples, thanks to the cohesive power and moral stature of Christianity. Monasticism showed itself to be an asset not only for the Church but for the whole of society."
 
To him we owe, among other things, the reform of liturgical music which took his name, "Gregorian chant." However, his most famous achievement, said Pope Benedict, is "the 'Pastoral Rule' which has had the same importance for clergy as the Rule of St. Benedict for the monks of the Middle Ages. The life of a pastor of souls must be a balanced blend of contemplation and action, animated by the love 'that touches the highest peaks when it stoops mercifully over the profound iniquity of others. The capacity to stoop to other people's misery is a measure of the force driving upward to the heights.' This ever-pertinent teaching inspired the Fathers of Vatican Council II in delineating the image of the pastor of our own times."
 
The Pope concluded his remarks by calling for "the example and teaching of St. Gregory the Great to be followed by pastors of the Church, and by those responsible for the institutions of civil life."
 

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Pope names Cardinal Stafford as envoy to Baltimore basilica rededication

, Sep 4, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has named Cardinal James Francis Stafford, Major Penitentiary of the Holy See, to represent him at the November inauguration of a new altar in the restored Basilica of the Assumption.

In his role as Major Penitentiary, Cardinal Stafford handles cases related to absolutions and dispensations reserved to the Holy See.  He also issues decrees announcing the possibilities of indulgences.  Prior to his role at the Tribunal, Stafford had served as President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. 

The cardinal, however, also has close ties to Baltimore, having been raised in the city.  Stafford was ordained a priest for the archdiocese in 1957 and was named an Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore in 1976.

The 200-year-old Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was the first Roman Catholic cathedral in the United States. It will reopen for the Nov. 4-12 celebrations, after a two-year, $32-million restoration.

The restoration uncovered the cornerstone as well as a gallery for slaves, which had been built over in the 19th century. Four skylights in the cathedral's 87-foot-high (26-meter-high) dome were restored. Paintings of the four evangelists, which are 140 years old, were uncovered on the wall near the dome and also restored.

The cathedral was designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe, architect of the U.S. Capitol.

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Milwaukee archdiocese to pay settlements to abuse victims in Calif.

Milwaukee, Wis., Sep 4, 2006 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has reached an out-of-court settlement with 10 victims of sexual abuse by clergy in California. The lawsuits involved two priests who were transferred to California in the late 1970’s.

The agreement will pay the victims $16.65 million. The plaintiffs said they were abused by priests who had been allowed to transfer from Wisconsin to California, in spite of histories of molesting children.

The abuse was committed by two former Milwaukee priests: Siegfried Widera, now deceased, and Franklyn Becker, now laicized.

The suits could not have been brought in Wisconsin. But, in 2002, the California Legislature approved a one-year period for victims of sexual abuse to sue without any time limit, and the courts ruled that a Wisconsin institution could be sued there.

Although the abuse took place before Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s arrival to Milwaukee, the archbishop was involved in the two-day court-ordered mediation on the recommendation of a Los Angeles judge. He also met with six of the plaintiffs.

Under the agreement, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee will pay $8.25 million through current financial holdings, including properties owned by the archdiocese and the liquidation of some short- and long-term investments, says a statement issued by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Included in this sum will be the proceeds from the sale of the Archbishop Cousins Catholic Center, which were initially intended to benefit Saint Francis Seminary and the formation of seminarians, and other property that had been designated for future pastoral, educational or charitable ministries.

This agreement will not affect any parish property. The rest of the settlement will be paid by insurance.

“Our hope, always, is to continue our progress in reaching resolution with anyone who was a victim of clergy sexual abuse,” says Archbishop Dolan in a statement. “We believe this agreement brings closure to all the cases in California and, hopefully, provides healing for victims/survivors.”

The archbishop said the settlement also allows the archdiocese to continue its work toward resolution with victims locally and to continue its ministry and work throughout southeastern Wisconsin.

He said a priority for the archdiocese is continued outreach to abuse local victims and “diligent attention to our effective policies to see that such abuse will not occur in the future.” 

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Pope’s former neighbors opt to protect his privacy and reject lucrative offer from the media

Munich, Germany, Sep 4, 2006 (CNA) - Neighbors of a home where Pope Benedict XVI once lived in Germany have shown this week that their friendship with the Pontiff does not have a price tag.  Rupert Hofbauer and his wife rejected an offer of $128,000 to allow photographers to take pictures of the Pope during the only private day of his visit to the country.

The Pope has reserved September 13 to visit the home he lived in while a professor in Pentling in Bavaria.  He intends to spend the day with this brother, Father Georg Ratzinger, and hopes to do so away from the media.

According to German state television, Hofbauer rejected “an offer of $128,000 dollars which a group of cameramen made in order to be allowed to take pictures from his house,” hoping to catch a shot of the Pope in the comfort of his former home.

Hofbauer is not only the Pope’s neighbor; he also happens to be the caretaker of the home where then Cardinal Ratzinger once lived.  He said he rejected the offer out respect for their relationship.  “I cannot fall out of graces with the Holy Father,” he explained.

In 1977, the renowned theology professor of Ratisbona, Father Josef Ratzinger, was named Archbishop of Munich and Freising.  After receiving the news, he asked Hofbauer to take care of his home and his garden.

Since April 19, 2005, the day Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope, Hofbauer, who is a retired firefighter from the city of Ratisbona, have also provided information to those who come to visit the place where Pope Benedict XVI once lived.

“I hope they allow me to personally open the door,” Hofbauer said, adding with a smile, “The Pope holds the keys to the kingdom on his coat-of-arms, but he doesn’t have the keys to his own home.”

Preparations

According to German television, Hofbauer and his wife are planting new flowers and plants in the Pope’s garden in preparation for his visit.  “The one in charge of the arrangements is my wife, as she is very familiar with what the Holy Father likes,” he said.

A man from Pentling who used to be an altar boy for Cardinal Ratzinger recently painted the home and received a personal thank you from the Pontiff.  Other preparations include a new gate, made by students from Weiden and Amberg, and the refinishing of the deck and the entrance.

Hofbauer has a special gift for the Pope, who has a weak spot for sweets.  For several weeks he has collected over 35 pounds of honey from beehives in the garden.

Two other residents of the Pope’s home are anxious for his arrival: a golden retriever named Ingo and a cat named Chico.  “In fact, the Pope misses his two pets,” Hofbauer said. “Every time someone from Bavaria visits him in Rome, he asks how is pets are doing.”

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Thousands of evangelical Christians confessing on-line

, Sep 4, 2006 (CNA) - The very public and international forum of the Internet has helped to highlight for many Christians the importance of and the need for confession.  In recent years, a number of websites have emerged that provide surfers an outlet to express their wrongdoings and the brokenness in their lives in search of healing and a peaceful spirit.

One such website is mysecret.tv, which is managed by evangelical Christian minister Rev. Craig Groeschel, the founder of LifeChurch. He told the New York Times that the large number of anonymous accounts he reads on his website have affirmed his belief in the need for confession.
 
LifeChurch set up mysecret.tv as a forum for people to confess anonymously on the Internet about a month ago. Since then, it has received more than 150,000 hits and more than 1,500 confessions.
 
Groeschel told the Times that after 16 years in ministry he knew that the smiles and handshakes he received each week from parishioners often masked a lot of pain.

“I realized that people are carrying around dark secrets, and the website is giving them a first place for confession,” he told the Times. “There’s no magic in confessing on a website. My biggest fear is that someone would think that and would go on with life. This is just Step 1.”

Due to the response to his website, Groeschel had begun a series of sermons on forgiveness and the need for confession.

“We confess to God for forgiveness but to each other for healing,” he told the Times. “Secrets isolate you, and keep you away from God, from those people closest to you.”

Fr. Christopher Layden, said that he’s not surprised by people’s desire to confess their sins, but said that what the Catholic Church offers is even more profound. “There is something cathartic about revealing ourselves to another in individual, especially when that individual is acting in the person of Christ.  We need to hear that we are forgiven, and Christ offers that in a very real and personal way.”

Layden, who received his training in sacramental theology from Rome’s Pontifical University Sant’Anselmo, told CNA that while the decision of Christians to ask forgiveness for their sins is obviously good, the growth of sites such as Groeschel’s points to a troubling trend in society at large.  “We’re in a culture which is growing increasingly comfortable behind the screen of a computer, but not the screen of the confessional.” Fr. Layden said that the anonymity which comes with chat rooms and online forums can shield men and women from entering into true relationships with one another and, in this case, with God.

Catholics believe that God offers forgiveness and peace by way of confession with a priest.  “Since Apostolic times Christians have sought reconciliation by confessing their sins to the presbyters,” Layden said. 

He said that Confession, as a visible sign of invisible grace, has been around since Christ told the Apostles, “whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained (Jn 20:23).”  

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Louisville archdioceses proposes merger of seventeen parishes into six

Louisville, Ky., Sep 4, 2006 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Louisville is one of the latest U.S. dioceses to face major restructuring in the light of population shifts, from one area of the archdiocese to another, and of aging or lack of priests.

Under a sweeping merger proposal released this week by the Archdiocese of Louisville, seventeen parishes would merge into six, and several others would begin sharing facilities, priests and other staff, reported the Courier-Journal.

The proposal, which faces further review by parishes, regions, and a planning commission before a final plan is approved in December, also recommends the archdiocese consider a more centralized school system rather than a parish-based one.

After review and revision the plan will go for final approval to Archbishop Thomas Kelly or his successor. Archbishop Kelly submitted his resignation upon turning 75 in July and is awaiting word from the Vatican on his replacement.

"It's a dialogue," the chancellor, Brian Reynolds, told the Courier-Journal. "We now have to find out whether … the proposals will be affirmed by the local regions. They may come up with an alternative."

Many of the proposals came from the parishes themselves, which were asked to take part in the yearlong planning process, Fr. Bill Medley told the newspaper.

Currently, nearly half the parishes are already sharing priests. There are 87 priests in active parish ministry in the archdiocese’s 122 parishes. The total number of priests in the diocese is now fewer than half the total in 1970. The average age is Louisville priests is 54.

Fr. Medley said this year’s process is an improvement on the process of the 1990s, when he served on a commission that led to 12 parishes closing or merging. He said many people were hurt then because they weren't consulted earlier in the process.

Regarding a more-centralized school system, Fr. Joe Atcher, executive director of the archdiocese's Office of Lifelong Formation and Education, said the idea needed more study over the next year. But benefits would include a more standardized administration and removing administrative duties from the heavy workloads of parish priests. 

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Colombian high court justices say courts must permit abortions

Bogotá, Colombia, Sep 4, 2006 (CNA) - Members of Colombia’s Constitutional Court—equivalent to the US Supreme Court—said last week lower court judges may not refuse to hear abortion cases out of conscientious objection and that those who do so would be subject to sanctions.

According to Caracol Radio, several high court justices said judges in Colombia cannot use conscientious objection as a reason for not accepting cases in which a petitioner is requesting permission for an abortion.

“In Colombia, judges are obliged to rule on the law and not on consciences,” they maintained, arguing that “the Code of Penal Procedure” outlines the reasons for which a judge may recuse himself or refuse to hear a case, and “conscientious objection is not among them.”

The justices’ statements came as three local judges in Santa Marta refused to allow a woman who is six months pregnant to receive an abortion.  The mother alleges that doctors have determined her baby has irreversible deformities.

The justices interviewed by Caracol Radio also maintained that in their recent ruling on abortion they did not establish that “clinics or medical centers require patients to get permission from a judge to obtain an abortion.”

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Spanish Catholic organization helping poor farmers to acquire new business skills

Madrid, Spain, Sep 4, 2006 (CNA) - The Catholic foundation Manos Unidos, based in Valencia, has launched project to help 160 poor farm workers—mostly single and illiterate mothers—to acquire new business skills and start small businesses.
 
The program will be offered in the region of Chinandega in western Nicaragua, where illiteracy is around 50% and sanitary and living conditions are poor.  More than half of the residents in the region are young mothers, many of whom are heads of households as well, with six to eight children under their care.

The funds for the program from Manos Unidos, requested by the Chinandega Women’s Network for Life Foundation, will be used for the purchasing of equipment and materials to educate the women in ecological agriculture and other related fields.

The program will also teach participants how to make better use of natural resources, insecticides and how to cultivate family gardens rich in vitamins.  Likewise participants will learn how to improve their crops to sell them at local markets.
 

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Dominican bishop says criminals need rehabilitation as well as prison time

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Sep 4, 2006 (CNA) - Bishop Antonio Camilo of La Vega, Dominican Republic, has called for a greater effort to rehabilitate prisoners so that when they finish their sentences, they can work towards their reinsertion into society.

During a special Mass inaugurating a home for the rehabilitation of former prisoners, the bishop said that those in prison suffer from “an illness that must be cured.”  He said jail time accomplishes nothing if prisoners have no opportunities in society when they are released.

He acknowledged that the rehabilitation of prisoners is not any easy task, emphasizing that those who embrace such work “must have a vocation” and be dedicated to their mission “out of love for these persons.”

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