Vatican City, Sep 5, 2006 (CNA) - Prayer for world peace is important but peace must first be constructed in each human heart, said Pope Benedict XVI in his message yesterday to the 20th Inter-religious Meeting of Prayer for Peace in Assisi.
The international meeting, held Sept. 4-5, first took place on Oct. 27, 1986. In his message, Benedict recalled how Pope John Paul II promoted the meeting.
Since 1986, the most important event toward peace has been the fall of Europe’s Communist regimes and the end of the Cold War, the Pope observed.
Unfortunately, he continued, the dream for universal peace did not come true as “the third millennium began with episodes of terrorism and violence that show no signs of abating."
Religion must be a “harbinger of peace,” he said. No one is permitted "to present religious difference as a reason or pretext for a belligerent attitude towards other human beings," he stated.
Prayer, including fasting and pilgrimage, “constitutes a vital element in an effective education for peace," the Pope added. He expressed joy at an initiative for young people in Assisi, promoted by the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, which includes a meeting for dialogue, prayer, and peace education.
The Pope noted the care taken at Assisi 20 years ago to ensure that the inter-religious prayer meeting “did not lend itself to syncretistic interpretations based on relativist concepts.” He underlined the importance at this inter-religious meeting that each religion maintains its traditions.
“Even when we find ourselves together to pray for peace, it is important that prayer take place according to those distinct paradigms particular to the various religions,” he said. “The convergence of opposites must not give the impression of a capitulation to the relativism that denies the very meaning of truth and the possibility of attaining it.”
Castelgandolfo, Italy, Sep 5, 2006 (CNA) - A scientist invited to take part in Pope Benedict XVI’s recent symposium on creation and evolution told APCom today that he expects the Pontiff to write an introduction to the minutes of the meeting, which will be published in November.
Professor Peter Schuster, expert in evolutionary molecular biology and director of the Institute of Theoretical Chemistry at the University of Vienna, and who, as of October 1st, will be the President of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, recalled his two days at the summer residence of Pope Benedict XVI, for the news service. The Pope has, “a sharp mind, which grasps quickly the central issues,” Schuster said.
Schuster was at Castelgandolfo by invitation of the Pope himself, the former “Professor Josef Ratzinger,” for a much publicized symposium on creation and the theory of evolution.
The scientist revealed that Benedict may weigh in on the findings of the group saying, “I had the impression that upon the publication of the proceedings in November, the Pope will write an introduction. He didn’t explicitly say, but I think that’s what he’ll do.”
As in summers past, the former Cardinal Ratzinger gathered several of his past students for a few days of study and discussion. Secular and Church media alike have been abuzz with the topic of this year’s “Schuelkreis,” (circle of students). News sources have wrongly insinuated that the conference will result in a concrete statement of the Church’s teaching on Schuster was invited to join the “regulars” this year, along with Jesuit Paul Erbich and Catholic philosopher Robert Spaemann.
Among the students of the Pope was Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, who Schuster said, began the discussion with a speech on several of the questions he has publicly discussed in recent years. Schoenborn, the Archbishop of Vienna, wrote an article for the “New York Times” in July of 2005, in which he challenged those who claim that both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict have given full support to the theory of evolution.
Sources close to the Pontiff say that the summer’s meeting is no more that a discussion and will not result in any concrete statement aligning the Church with strict evolutionists, strict creationists, or even those who propose a theory of intelligent design.
Schuster said the Holy Father demonstrated, “a great interest, and asked several excellent questions. And, in the end, he synthesized the discussions in a very precise way. I was very impressed."
The Austrian professor said that the Holy Father began the meeting by discussing a few topics weighing heavily on his mind – the situation in Lebanon, “certain issues the Church must face,” and his ecumenical plan – but quickly turned the discussion to Biology, creation, and evolution. Schuster said the topics, which have caused friction between science and faith since the time of Charles Darwin, did not fail to generate a diversity of views among the participants. “If not, there would not have been a true encounter,” the professor noted.
Schuster said he had a “very amicable,” discussion with Cardinal Schoenborn. The two even continued their chat after the meeting ended, discussing the issues for two hours while they sat across one another on the same flight to Vienna.
Schuster said he wasn’t sure if the views of Schoenborn had changed from those he expressed in the “New York Times” article. “Above all else,” he said, “there has been progress,” in the discussion.
Munich, Germany, Sep 5, 2006 (CNA) - Southern Germany is overcome with enthusiasm and expectation for the upcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI.
In what a spokesman for the Diocese of Regensburg has called “an authentic catechesis,” State television and radio in the region are programming a wide array of reports on the events, personalities, and Catholic places linked to the Pontiff.
Numerous web pages have been created to offer people the chance to send virtual postcards from Pentling, the location of the house where the Pope lived with his sister Maria when he was professor in Regensburg until he was named Archbishop of Munich.
The papal colors have decorated the entire city and stores have stocked up on items related to the visit, such as special candles, plates, medals, and even stuffed bears dressed as the Pope.
Local businessmen have created special beers and lemonade with labels showing the face of Benedict watching over the city of Regensburg with fatherly care.
But the most important sign of the impact of the Pope’s visit has been the decision by BMW to halt its daily production of 1000 cars and to close its manufacturing facility located about one mile from “the Pope’s Meadow,” so that workers who wish will be able to participate in the Papal Mass scheduled for September 12.
Many of the streets the Pope will be traveling are being specially prepared, while neighbors and students are decorating the house and the street where the Pope will spend his private day in Pentling.
Vatican City, Sep 5, 2006 (CNA) - A meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and German Protestant ministers in Regensburg, scheduled for his upcoming trip to his homeland, “is a very interesting and important step,” even though the dialogue doesn’t look very promising, Cardinal Walter Kasper, told APCom today.
The Cardinal, who is not only President of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity but also a German, said that the meeting “represents a confirmation that Benedict XVI wants to advance on the path of ecumenism.”
The Cardinal said, however, that “the ecumenical situation in Germany has become a little more difficult. The development (of the situation), in effect, depends on both partners, not just one.”
“Nonetheless, the meeting of the Pontiff with the Protestants represents a significant sign: the pope has decided to move forward on the way of dialogue,” he concluded.
, Sep 5, 2006 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Glasgow condemned, this week, the decision to discipline nine firefighters for refusing to hand out safety leaflets at a gay pride march in June, reported The Universe.
Archbishop Mario Conti described the disciplinary action against the Strathclyde Fire and Rescue Service staff as "dismaying." Some of the firefighters had argued that it would be embarrassing for them to turn up in uniform to the event, while others claimed it would contradict their moral beliefs.
The nine firefighters have been ordered to go for intensive diversity training. One of the officers was demoted, which included a £5,000 loss in salary. The others have all received official written warnings.
"That the officers concerned are being forced to undergo 'diversity training' is alarming. The duty to obey one's conscience is a higher duty than that of obeying orders,” stated Archbishop Conti, who said he understood the firefighters' concerns.
He said the officers’ behavior did not put into question their competency or commitment, nor were they were refusing to assist people in danger.
"They were asked, while in uniform, to hand out leaflets during a demonstration where they had legitimate concerns about being the subject of taunts and jokes and in which, in some cases, their religious sensibilities would have been grossly offended by people dressed as priests and nuns lampooning the Church,” he stated.
The Strathclyde Fire and Rescue Service said the officers’ refusal to hand out the leaflets represented a "fundamental breach of their core responsibilities," adding that they could not "pick and choose" to whom they offered fire prevention education.
Edinburgh, United Kingdom, Sep 5, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal Renato Martino, President of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, announced today his support for the Bishops conference of Scotland as they continue to oppose a proposal by some in the United Kingdom to replace its Trident nuclear missile system with one that is more up to date.
The Scottish Bishops,' and in particular, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, have been vocal on the issue that there is no moral justification for the replacement of Trident, according to the Universe.
According to the paper, Martino has sent a letter to Cardinal O'Brien endorsing the bishops' April declaration which urged "the government of the United Kingdom not to invest in a replacement for the Trident system.”
Cardinal Martino said: "The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace appreciates the above-mentioned statement, which gives a clear view of the Holy See's position on nuclear weapons and a sound answer to the prime minister's request to promote the 'fullest possible' public debate on the Trident nuclear missile system.”
"Nuclear weapons represent a grave threat to the human family; the social doctrine of the Church proposes the goal of a ‘general balanced and controlled disarmament.' In this light, the statement issued by the bishops' conference of Scotland constitutes a service and a reason to hope in a more peaceful world."
Cardinal O'Brien, Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh told the Universe that the letter was "heartening and encouraging."
He added: "A recently produced study guide on nuclear weapons is circulating in parishes throughout Scotland, as is a petition against the renewal of the Trident system.
"Additionally, Archbishop Mario Conti and I, along with other Church leaders and Scots from many walks of life, will take part in the 'Scotland's Long Walk for Peace' from Faslane to Edinburgh between September 14 and 19. I also intend to host a seminar on this issue on October 3, at which, the keynote speaker will be the former politician and diplomat, Senator Douglas Roche from Canada, a renowned authority on disarmament issues."
Santiago, Chile, Sep 5, 2006 (CNA) - In light of the widespread confusion about the Church’s teaching on Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, the Diocese of San Bernardo in Chile has re-published the “Letter to the Bishops of Catholic Church regarding the reception of Eucharistic Communion,” issued several years ago by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The Diocese explained that it was necessary to re-published the document because “it is still common in some Catholic circles to refer to the Church as ‘punisher’ for pointing out that Catholics who have been married in the Church and have later separated and entered into a new civil union cannot receive the Eucharist.”
The letter, the introduction continues, expresses “with charity and clarity that the Church and her shepherds are the first to suffer with these situations and that they strive to journey with those who are going through these situations, ‘proposing to them concrete paths of conversion and of participation the life of the ecclesial community,’ but that out of love for the truth they cannot approach Eucharistic communion, except in very specific cases that are clearly spelled out in the moral teaching of the Catholic Church.”
“It is especially painful that this lack of comprehension is coming from Catholic and ecclesial circles where, presenting these cases from the point of view of the spiritual pain suffered by those who are in them, a call to compassion is being made that betrays an insufficient understanding of what Eucharistic Communion and the presence of Jesus Christ in the sacrament of the altar truly are,” the diocese underscored in its introduction.
Letter to the Bishops of Catholic Church regarding the reception of Eucharistic Communion was approved by Pope John Paul II, who ordered its publication on September 14, 1994, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
Kerala, India, Sep 5, 2006 (CNA) - The Syro-Malabar Church has decided to open an office in Rome to improve communication between the Eastern Catholic Church and Vatican offices, reported UCA News.
The decision was made by all 35 bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church (SMC) at the bishops' synod. The synod was held in Kochi, a major city in Kerala state, and it ended Sept. 3.
The decision to set up an office in Rome and to appoint a representative to coordinate activities there followed the suggestion for such an office by a recent global meeting of SMC delegates, Aug. 18-20. The delegates had highlighted the need for improved relations between the SMC and the Vatican.
SMC spokesperson Fr. Paul Thelakat told UCA News that the office is a means of "effective coordination and faster communication between the Church and the Vatican."
The SMC is one of two Eastern Catholic rites based in India. Both follow Syrian Church traditions and trace their origins to St. Thomas, the Apostle. They and the Latin-rite comprise the Catholic Church in India.
Vatican City, Sep 5, 2006 (CNA) - The Special Council for Oceania of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops has issued a statement at the conclusion of its eighth meeting underscoring the important growth of vocations in the region.
The meeting took place last month in Suva on the Fiji Islands and was focused on the implementation of the post-synod Apostolic Exhortation, “Ecclesia in Oceania.”
During the meeting, the Secretary General of Synod of Bishops, Bishop Nikola Eterovic reiterated the centrality of the Eucharist in the life of Catholics in Oceania and he noted with joy the increase in vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life in the region.
The various members of the Special Council presented reports on the Church and society in each nation of Oceania.
Several reports pointed to challenges facing the Church, such as in Australia and New Zealand, where secularization is rampant and is characterized by ethical and moral relativism.
Among the social challenges discussed were poverty, corruption, unemployment, and the spread of diseases, such as AIDS.
Lima, Peru, Sep 5, 2006 (CNA) - During a Mass marking the Day of Obstetrics, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani called on the country’s obstetricians to not only acquire an adequate professional, but also a moral formation, in order to always respect human life.
In his homily for the Mass celebrated at the Cathedral of Lima, Cardinal Cipriani also recalled that at a time when immorality in human relationships is rampant, the love of God is the only source of joy in life, “but it is difficult, and therefore you need to make use of prayer and confession.”
“If the heart is made for love, use it for loving. But don’t allow vice to enter into it, because a person who does not know how to love is of no use,” he added, underscoring that “we must be vigilant because there is a culture that wants to spread pornography and turn the body into an object of pleasure and trample upon human dignity.”
At the conclusion of the Mass, Cardinal Cipriani received an acknowledgement for his pastoral work by the Professional College of Obstetricians of Peru.