Calcutta, India, Sep 6, 2006 (CNA) - Thousands of people, including Christians, Muslims, and Hindus, gathered in Calcutta yesterday to mark the ninth anniversary of the death of Blessed Mother Teresa.
They came to visit her tomb and the motherhouse of the Missionaries of Charity, the religious congregation which she founded, reported Indian Catholic News Service. Some were seen prostrating before the tomb, some people lit candles. Many stood in silent prayer.
Earlier in the day, Archbishop Lucas Sirkar of Calcutta presided at a Mass, concelebrated with several other priests.
The extent to which the elderly nun touched people of all faiths was evident in the numerous events organized across India.
An inter-religious service was held in Gujarat, where several inter-religious flare-ups have occurred in the recent past. Bishop Thomas Macwan of Ahmedabad urged participants to imitate the life of Mother Teresa and to transcend the narrow confines of sectarianism, reported ICNS.
Mother Teresa died Sept. 5, 1997 of heart failure. The beloved nun was beatified in October of 2003 and her cause for canonization is moving forward at a remarkable pace.
Vatican City, Sep 6, 2006 (CNA) - St. Philip is the latest Apostle to gain Pope Benedict XVI’s attention. The Holy Father, who has been working his way through a catechesis on each of the Apostles, used today’s General Audience to tell the twenty-five thousand gathered of the life of Philip and to encourage them to “meet Jesus as Philip met Him.”
The Pope, who traveled back to the Vatican from Castelgandolfo in order to hold his Audience in St. Peter’s Square, pointed out that Philip came Bethsaida, just as Peter and Andrew did, and that along with the two brothers, Philip was one of the first Apostles.
Philip, he said, immediately demonstrated "the characteristics of the true witness," recalling Philip’s encounter with Nathaniel. The Pope recounted the story found in the Gospel of John, in which Philip tells Nathaniel of Jesus and speaks of who Christ truly is. When Nathaniel is skeptical Philip tells him, “Come and see;” showing, the Pope said, that Philip was not simply content to speak of Jesus, "but suggested (Nathanial) come and experience personally what was being announced."
"The Apostle calls us to a close knowledge of Jesus," said the Pope. Benedict recalled the words of Mark’s Gospel in which he said that Jesus appointed the twelve, "primarily 'to be with Him,' in other words, to share His life and learn directly from Him, not only His behavior but, above all, exactly who He was.”
“Intimacy, familiarity, and habit bring us to discover the true identity of Jesus Christ,” Benedict said. “It is precisely of this that the Apostle Philip reminds us."
On the occasion of the miracle of the loaves and fishes, the Pope considered, it was to Philip that Jesus turned asking where they could buy bread to feed the multitudes following Him. Before the Passion, too, a number of Greeks approached Philip wanting to see Jesus. In both cases, the Apostle took on the role of "intermediary ... teaching us to be ever ready to welcome questions and requests, ... from wherever they may come, and to guide them towards the Lord, Who alone is capable of satisfying them fully."
During the Last Supper it was Philip who asked the Lord to show them the Father receiving Jesus' reply, "he who has seen me has seen the Father," said Pope Benedict. And, he explained: "Expressing ourselves in accordance with the paradox of the Incarnation, we could well say that God assumed a human face, that of Jesus, and so from now on, if we truly wish to know the face of God, we must do no more than contemplate the face of Jesus."
The goal to which our lives must tend," the Pope concluded, is "to meet Jesus as Philip met Him, seeking to see in Him the Heavenly Father. If this commitment is lacking, we would simply be turned back to ourselves, as in a mirror. ... Philip invites us to allow ourselves to be conquered by Jesus, to be with Him and to invite others to share His indispensable company."
After the audience, the Pope greeted pilgrims in various languages, also mentioning his forthcoming apostolic trip to Germany. "I thank the Lord," he said, "for the opportunity He has given me to visit, for the first time since my election as Bishop of Rome, my homeland of Bavaria." Benedict XVI asked people to pray for his journey, and confided the visit to the Virgin Mary, that she may "obtain for the German people a springtime of renewed faith and civil progress."
Miami, Fla., Sep 6, 2006 (CNA) - In a letter to the faithful of the Archdiocese of Miami, intended to express solidarity with the bishops of Cuba who recently asked for prayers for the health and conversion of Fidel Castro, Archbishop John. C. Favalora has reminded Catholics of their duty to forgive and to pray for their enemies.
In the letter entitled “Should we pray for our enemies?” the archbishop noted, “Putting politics and emotion aside, the church's teaching on this matter is clear: We must pray for the well-being and enlightenment of our civic leaders, and we must pray for the salvation of the sick and dying — without exception, whether we like them or not.”
“The reason we pray for those who do not believe is so that they might be open to God's graces. Who knows? The Lord might indeed call them, as he has called so many, on their deathbed. The Lord wants everyone to be saved,” he said.
“This may seem unfair, he continued, “but we know from the teachings of Jesus that God's ways are not our ways. Our justice is not God's justice. God's justice is tempered with mercy and compassion, while all too often our human justice is mingled with our inability to let go and be healed of oppressive memories, or even at times our desire to seek revenge and retribution.”
“If we are to call ourselves Christians,” the archbishop underscored, “we cannot pick and choose which teachings of the church we will follow or which way of the Lord we will emulate.”
He noted that in the “Eucharistic prayer at Mass, we pray daily at the consecration of the Precious Blood: ‘It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven.’ That is why the church of the Eucharist must be an agent of reconciliation in the midst of conflicts and division.”
Recalling that Christ himself asks us “to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us,” Archbishop Favalora emphasized that despite the difficulties in putting this commandment into practice, “that is what is expected of Christians.”
“I pray every day for the liberation and salvation of all the people in Cuba, without excluding anyone, and I make no apologies for that,” he said. “I also make no apologies for saluting the bishops of Cuba, who have spent years patiently evangelizing their people in the midst of extremely difficult circumstances. They have been prophetic pastors in the face of serious political difficulties. I don't know how many of us in this country would be able to do what they have done.”
In conclusion, the archbishop said, “I can unequivocally state that the church in Miami stands in communion and complete solidarity with the bishops of Cuba, not only at this moment of uncertainty but in all of their pastoral endeavors to carry out their apostolic office.”
Assisi, Italy, Sep 6, 2006 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II was spied on in the Vatican by priests who acted as informers for secret services in Warsaw and Moscow, said Cardinal Jozef Glemp, the primate of Poland, on Tuesday.
Speaking with ANSA at the inter-religious meeting in Assisi, Cardinal Glemp said the communist regime managed to enlist 15 percent of the nation's priests — some of them working at the Vatican — as spies. But the cardinal named only Polish priest Fr. Konrad Hejmo as an alleged Vatican spy.
The recent opening of secret police archives from the communist era have revealed that many highly respected people, including journalists, doctors, and priests, supplied information to secret services, reported ANSA.
Pope John Paul II’s pontificate was largely concerned with the fight against communism. As a result of his efforts, he has been credited with helping to bring about the collapse of communism in Europe. Communism collapsed in Poland in 1989.
An Italian government investigation concluded in March that the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II was the result of precise orders from the Politburo, the former central policy-making and governing body of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
Assisi, Italy, Sep 6, 2006 (CNA) - A leading Muslim theologian described Pope John Paul II as “the light of inter-religious dialogue” at the international meeting of world religions in Assisi, on Tuesday.
Mohammed Amine Smaili, a professor of Islamic dogma at the University of Rabat in Morocco, said the late pontiff was the “strongest voice for hope and justice” he had ever heard, reported ANSA.
The theologian’s comments highlight the high regard for the late pontiff among non-Christians and the support that has been expressed for his cause for beatification.
Msgr. Slawomir Oder, the Polish priest overseeing the Polish pope’s cause, has confirmed in the press that at least five non-Catholics had sent him letters attesting to the late pope’s holiness.
Likewise, former Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said earlier this year that many letters about John Paul's holiness had arrived from agnostics, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus.
The Muslim professor said Tuesday he remembers John Paul's 1985 trip to Morocco, where he invited the 80,000 young Muslims gathered there to work for harmony between peoples, reported ANSA.
"He was a friend of the oppressed, the poor, the sick, a defender of the dignity of every human being," he was quoted as saying. "He was an exceptional man who combined vast learning with a fabulous intelligence. To my mind, as a Muslim, he was the light of inter-religious dialogue."
Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 6, 2006 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera, is calling on Mexicans to embrace dialogue as the means to resolving the political and ideological differences that are dividing the country and not allow them to morph into resentment and hatred, “which could spark a destructive spiral of violence.”
“We must cease doing wrong and begin to do good,” the cardinal said. “It is time to build bridges of dialogue and understanding; it is time to remove the blinder that keeps us from seeing evil and injustice.”
In a statement which he read at the conclusion of Sunday Mass, Cardinal Rivera emphasized, “It is essential to reconsider economic policies and models that only benefit the few and leave the vast majority of our people without hope.”
“It is no longer possible to tolerate corruption and the idolatrous ambition of illicitly attained riches,” he stated. “Mexico must change, but it should avoid the destructive temptation of violence, which creates more pain and suffering.”
London, England, Sep 6, 2006 (CNA) - Catholics must not be afraid to speak out about their faith, says a new national campaign that will be launched across England and Wales this month.
“All of us are being challenged to reflect and think again about the witness that we give to Christ on a daily basis,” said Bishop Malcolm McMahon of Nottingham, who is spearheading the campaign.
“Do not be afraid to spiritually 'die to self', so as to celebrate, proclaim and live your faith.”
The campaign will be launched officially on Home Mission Sunday, Sept. 17, reported The Universe. It encourages Catholics to daily engage in charitable acts, speak about their faith, pray, and share their time and talents.
“In this way God can do his evangelizing work in and through us,” said Msgr. Keith Barltrop, director of the Catholic Agency to Support Evangelization (CASE).
CASE has sent more than 4,000 resource packs to every parish and religious house in England and Wales. Each pack includes a poster, children’s liturgy materials, an evangelization resources catalogue and an Evangelization Directory, The Universe said.
The directory contains more than 250 entries on the diocese, welcoming people back to the faith, materials for young people, and web links. It is also available online.
The campaign has the full backing of the Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, archbishop of Westminster and primate of the Church in England and Wales.
“Jesus Christ was not afraid to proclaim who He was and to share His message in a loving and respectful way with all those that He met, even if it led to suffering, rejection and death,” the cardinal said. “In these times, as a Catholic community, we too must, in our own and very different ways, do the same.
Madrid, Spain, Sep 6, 2006 (CNA) - In his latest pastoral letter, Archbishop Fernando Sebastian of Pamplona criticized the Spanish government for seeking to impose a secularist mentality that excludes God and constitutes an attack on authentic democracy by discriminating against the Catholic majority of country.
If the government’s action is inspired by a “secularist mentality, ignoring and sometimes harming the way an important segment of its citizenry thinks and lives,” it fails to live up to the maxim that laws and acts of a democratic society should be, “at the service of the common good of all its citizens, both believers and non-believers,” without any “discrimination,” he said.
According to the archbishop, “there is little room left for democracy” if the State becomes the “educator and brainwasher” of the populace and if it imposes on society a secularist concept of life, as if God and religious citizens who have another vision of life did not exist.
Archbishop Sebastian decried the enacting of laws that “go against the moral law founded upon reason and on the tradition of the majority of society” and he rejected “democracy that benefits only one party and its friends, leaving half of Spain out.”
He denied that the Church seeks to impose on the whole of society its norms and moral criteria and rejected claims that the Spanish bishops are acting “with a mentality of national Catholicism.”
“Whoever studies the documents and statements of the bishops cannot accuse us of such nonsense,” he said.
While the Church is not seeking special privileges, the archbishop explained, “we are not willing to see ourselves excluded from democracy, or forced to live under the pressure of the secularist model of life, or to be considered second-class citizens.”
He expressed dismay that in the name of a “secularist and rationalist ideology,” faith and the Church are considered “incompatible with democracy. That is to condemn half of Spain to submission or to rebellion. Ideologies always end up legitimizing authoritarianism,” he warned.
Madrid, Spain, Sep 6, 2006 (CNA) - In a message entitled, “Bringing Christ to Young People in the New School Year,” Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela of Madrid says, “We must bring Christ to young people again. So they can know him, love him and follow him.”
In his message the cardinal emphasized “the unappealable need to pass the faith on to our brothers and sisters” who live in Madrid, “where the offer of a life without God and its cultural, social and political expressions are portrayed as more attractive and credible than the Gospel itself.”
The “social and ideological context” of Madrid, he noted, “gravely and decisively conditions children and young people when it comes to laying out their own future.”
“We must bring Christ to young people again,” he urged.
“It’s obvious we need a new missionary impulse which the entire diocesan community should be committed to, in order to bring the news of Jesus Christ, and even more, his very presence, the presence of the Lord that calls them, that loves them…He loves them, so they will love Him!” the cardinal said in his message.
He issued a special call to all Catholics in Madrid to be missionaries to young people, but especially “the Catholic young people, themselves, who have received and welcomed into their lives the grace of friendship with Jesus Christ.”
“All of us, then, are called to make each young person in Madrid realize that the Lord waits at the door of their hearts and wants to enter. Let us help them to open wide the doors of their hearts!” Cardinal Rivera said.
Konigstein, Germany, Sep 6, 2006 (CNA) - “In a country that is still being plagued by civil unrest and where the government is weak, the Catholic Church has a great moral authority due to its social commitment, especially in the sectors of healthcare and education,” said Mgr. Agostino Delfino, OFMCap, Bishop of Berberati, in the West of the Central African Republic. The Bishop’s comments came upon his visit to Aid to the Church in Need, Sept. 6th.
The bishop pointed to the Church’s efforts to protect the pygmies, an ethnic minority often discriminated against, as one are of social commitment which has gained it a great deal of moral authority among the county’s citizens.
According to the prelate, his Berberati Diocese, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last February, has about 450,000 inhabitants, some 80,000 of them Catholics. “There are 17 parishes, 29 native priests, 14 seminarians and some 300 lay catechists.
“In Berberati, there is a Catholic Cultural Centre which is open to all of the town’s youth,” he said adding that “there is a good ecumenical dialogue” with major Protestant denominations as well as “a peaceful co-existence” with local Muslims.
As a priority for his diocese, Bishop Delfino named the formation of seminarians and laity. The prelate, an Italian missionary who has been living in the country for 46 years, is one of six foreign bishops there, while the remaining three are natives.
The land-locked country of Central African Republic has a long border with the war-torn country of Sudan, on its east side. The former French colony has experienced political turmoil, with a few pockets of civility, since gaining its independence in 1960. The current government, under General Francois Bozize, still has not tamed the crime-wracked countryside and the country remains one of the poorest in Africa, according to the CIA.