Regensburg, Germany, Sep 8, 2006 (CNA) - The black, red and gold flags colors that were proudly displayed in homes and on cars throughout Germany during the World Cup have been replaced in the city of Ratisbona now by white and yellow, the colors of the papal flag, in anticipation of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Bavaria.
The president of the Marian Congregations for men, Father Heinrich Wachter, had the idea of distributing the papal flags. He noted that many Germans “wanted to take part in the joy and enthusiasm experienced during the last World Youth Day in Cologne and during the recent World Cup.”
“Seeing the little flags with the papal coat-of-arms on so many cars is an opportunity for drivers to enthusiastically greet one another as they travel about the city,” he added.
A long-time neighbor of the Pope’s brother and friend of the Holy Father for decades, Father Wachter emphasized, “For us Catholics, it is an immense joy to have a German pope. The flags are a visible sign of our faith and our solidarity. My dream is that in few days everyone in Ratisbona will be draped in the papal flag.” He said that in recent days he has received more than 700 requests for the papal colors.
Beirut, Lebanon, Sep 8, 2006 (CNA) - In a strongly worded statement, Lebanon's Maronite Catholic Bishops criticized Hezbollah and said the interest of political parties in the country to fulfill sectarian ambitions rather than to serve national interests is “a chronic disease that has to be extracted.”
“There are 18 sects in Lebanon with equal rights and duties," the bishops said. "But in reality, we see that some groups are monopolizing the decision-making process and leading the country to unwanted situations."
The bishops did not mention any of these sects by name but made clear reference to Hezbollah.
“A Lebanese faction continues to bear weapons despite the Israeli withdrawal from most of the South in 2000. This continues to be in violation of the Taif Accord,” the bishops wrote. “This group has become a religious, military and political organization and led us to a war that was launched on July 12, 2006.”
The statement was issued Wednesday by the Council of Maronite Bishops, which is headed by Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir, reported The Daily Star.
“Sectarianism’s symptoms are embedded in the presidential post at this time in particular,” they added. The current president is Emile Lahoud.
“The Christians, particularly the Maronites, are hurt by world leaders and local political figures’ disregard of the Lebanese presidency,” the bishops said. “This weakens the status of the presidency and needs a solution.”
The bishops added that Christians have become “marginalized due to the absence of an efficient role of the presidency.”
“Powerful countries and regional forces have also interfered more than enough in Lebanese affairs and are backing one sect or another,” the bishops added.
The council said that despite the end of Syria’s tutelage over the country, there are still many divisions among the Lebanese.
The bishops called on the people to back their current parliament, headed by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, “as the sole authority on Lebanese territory.”
“Only the government can bring trust and reassurance to the citizens,” they said.
The bishop said the Lebanese state must be responsible for developing the country’s south and overseeing the distribution of aid, the appeal said.
“It is the duty of every Lebanese to rebuild the country and swathe its wounds.” The council urged the Lebanese to respect the country’s Constitution and to “benefit from the international embrace they are enjoying at the moment."
Vatican City, Sep 8, 2006 (CNA) -
Today, members of the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops heard from Pope Benedict XVI who spoke to them, in no uncertain terms, about the duty they have to face moral problems in their dioceses. The Pope welcomed the prelates on the closing day of their “Ad Limina” visit, warning them of the dramatic split between the Gospel and culture, especially in the political realm and specifically on the issues of homosexual “marriage” and abortion.
The Pope, who had met with each of the bishops in small audiences, earlier in the week, receiving written reports from them, laid the foundation for his address by quoting the Gospel of John, "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him" (1Jn 4:16).
The Pontiff reminded the Canadian bishops of the message John’s Gospel transmits, assuring a, “sure and save dwelling place,” for those who “abide in the love and truth of Christ.”
“God first loves us,” the Pope said, “and we, drawn towards this gift, find a resting place where we can ‘constantly drink anew from the original source, which is Jesus Christ, from whose pierced heart flows the love of God’ (Deus Caritas Est, 7).”
Benedict challenged the bishops to renew their efforts to spread this message of God’s love, through the preaching the Gospel and the celebration of the Eucharist. “Dear Brothers, your own Diocesan communities are challenged to resonate with the living statement of faith: ‘we know and believe the love God has for us (1 Jn 4:16),’” the Pope said.
“In helping individuals to recognize and experience the love of Christ,” he continued, “you will awaken in them the desire to dwell in the house of the Lord, embracing the life of the Church. This is our mission.”
He told the bishops to guard against language and concepts watering-down their mission. “We must acknowledge that any reduction of the core message of Jesus, that is, the ‘Kingdom of God’, to indefinite talk of ‘kingdom values’ weakens Christian identity and debilitates the Church’s contribution to the regeneration of society. When believing is replaced by ‘doing’ and witness by talk of ‘issues’, there is an urgent need to recapture the profound joy and awe of the first disciples whose hearts, in the Lord’s presence, ‘burned within them’ impelling them to ‘tell their story’ (cf. Lk 24:32; 35).”
“Today, the impediments to the spread of Christ’s Kingdom are experienced most dramatically in the split between the Gospel and culture, with the exclusion of God from the public sphere,” the Pope warned.
While Canada has a “well-earned reputation” for its commitment to issues of justice and peace, the Pope noted, “certain values detached from their moral roots and full significance found in Christ have evolved in the most disturbing of ways.”
“In the name of ‘tolerance’ your country has had to endure the folly of the redefinition of spouse, and in the name of ‘freedom of choice’ it is confronted with the daily destruction of unborn children,” the Pope said, lamenting Canada’s recognition of homosexual “marriages” and widespread use of abortion.
“When the Creator’s divine plan is ignored the truth of human nature is lost,” Benedict said.
The Pope then turned to the place of Catholics in the political life.
“False dichotomies are not unknown within the Christian community itself. They are particularly damaging when Christian civic leaders sacrifice the unity of faith and sanction the disintegration of reason and the principles of natural ethics, by yielding to ephemeral social trends and the spurious demands of opinion polls. Democracy succeeds only to the extent that it is based on truth and a correct understanding of the human person,” he continued.
“Catholic involvement in political life cannot compromise on this principle; otherwise Christian witness to the splendour of truth in the public sphere would be silenced and an autonomy from morality proclaimed (cf. Doctrinal Note The Participation of Catholics in Political Life, 2-3; 6).”
“In your discussions with politicians and civic leaders I encourage you to demonstrate that our Christian faith, far from being an impediment to dialogue, is a bridge, precisely because it brings together reason and culture.”
Benedict pointed out that one of the most important means of evangelizing the culture of Ontario is through their network of Catholic schools. The Pope praised the many catechists and religious educators for undertaking their “taxing apostolate.” “I thank and encourage those many lay men and women, together with Religious, who strive to ensure that your young people become daily more appreciative of the gift of faith which they have received. More than ever this demands that witness, nourished by prayer, be the all-encompassing milieu of every Catholic school,” he said.
Turning to difficulties in education, the Pontiff noted, “a particularly insidious obstacle to education today, which your own reports attest, is the marked presence in society of that relativism which, recognizing nothing as definitive, leaves as the ultimate criterion only the self with its desires.”
“Within such a relativistic horizon an eclipse of the sublime goals of life occurs with a lowering of the standards of excellence, a timidity before the category of the good, and a relentless but senseless pursuit of novelty parading as the realization of freedom. Such detrimental trends point to the particular urgency of the apostolate of ‘intellectual charity’ which upholds the essential unity of knowledge, guides the young towards the sublime satisfaction of exercising their freedom in relation to truth, and articulates the relationship between faith and all aspects of family and civic life,” the Pontiff continued.
“Introduced to a love of truth, I am confident that young Canadians will relish exploring the house of the Lord who "enlightens every person who comes into the world (Jn 1:9) and satisfies every desire of humanity,” Benedict concluded.
Finally, the Pope offered words of greeting and encouragement for all Catholics in Ontario. He assured the bishops of his continued prayers and offered his Apostolic Blessing for them and the faithful of their dioceses.
Washington D.C., Sep 8, 2006 (CNA) -
Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington has been named the first William Cardinal Baum University Professor of Theology at The Catholic University of America. As is customary, the newly appointed archbishop had already been named chancellor of the university.
The professorship, named in honor of the third archbishop of Washington, will provide Archbishop Wuerl with the opportunity to lecture in theology, while exercising his primary ministry as the spiritual leader of the Archdiocese of Washington. The archbishop is an alumnus of the university. The professorship was announced on the CUA website Aug. 30th.
During his tenure as Bishop of Pittsburgh, Archbishop Wuerl was appointed a Distinguished Service Professor at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, where he taught a course on the foundations of Catholic faith.
The day following the announcement, the archbishop presided at the Mass for the opening of the university’s academic year. Hundreds of students, faculty, and staff packed into the crypt church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
During his homily, the archbishop said what distinguishes a Catholic university or college from any other institution of higher learning is the faith context that provides its identity.
“Each of us gathered for this celebration of the Eucharist identifies ourselves in part by our belief in God and our faith in Christ,” he said. “Catholic University stands in the midst of this community as an integral part of the Catholic Church and its proclamation that Jesus is the answer to the significant questions of human life: How shall I live? What is the purpose of life? What are the values that should direct my steps through life?
“A Catholic university, this university,” he said, “offers you a vision of belonging to something much larger than just yourself.”
The Catholic University of America (CUA) was establish in 1887 and is unique as the national university of the Catholic Church and the only higher education institution founded by the U.S. bishops. Located just north of the U.S. Capitol building, the university has long held an important place in both the ecclesial and political life of the country, especially through its outstanding curricula in Philosophy, Political Science, and Social Work as well as its noted Columbus School of Law. CUA is often recognized for its programs in such varied fields as Music, Architecture, Library Science, and Nursing.
Since his arrival in the late 1990's, CUA President Fr. David O'Connell has been working to rebuild the once esteemed School of Theology and Religous Studies, of which Arcbishop Wuerl will now be a part.
For further information on CUA, visit their website at www.cua.edu
Albany, N.Y., Sep 8, 2006 (CNA) - Lawyers for Catholic Charities of Albany urged the state Court of Appeals Wednesday to either expand an exemption for state-mandated contraceptive coverage to include all faith-based organizations or to declare the exemption unconstitutional.
Catholic Charities of Albany and other faith-based groups brought the lawsuit against the state Insurance Department. They say the religious exemption that applies to organizations, like seminaries, but does not apply to faith-based organizations that serve the public is unconstitutional.
Albany lawyer Michael Costello asked the highest court in the state to issue an injunction that would release the faith-based groups from compliance.
"You can judiciously craft an appropriate exemption," he reportedly told the seven judges. "You can either expand it or declare the exemption unconstitutional."
Costello observed that the current legislation, which stipulates grounds for the exemption, is the first to establish “a notion of what it means to be a religious employer."
"They've crossed the line here in an unconstitutional way,” Costello said adding that the religious exemption should be expanded to include groups like Catholic Charities.
The New York State Catholic Conference has said the law attempts to destroy the Church's network of social services, hospitals, nursing homes and schools.
Furthermore, the conference maintains that the law is a means of mandating coverage for abortion.
The court is expected to render a decision in about a month.
Munich, Germany, Sep 8, 2006 (CNA) - Excitement over the visit of Pope Benedict XVI in the small German town of Thyrnau, on the outskirts of Passau, has reached fever pitch. The nuns at the Monastery of St. Joseph have done little for the last several weeks but cut, sew, and embroider the vestments which the Holy Father will use during the celebration of the Mass at the Shrine of Alttöting on September 11.
The nineteen Cistercian nuns who live at the monastery, including the abbess, Mother Mechtild, said they feel very honored to have been given the task to embroider the pontifical coat-of-arms on the fine silk used for the vestments.
Sister Michaela, who is putting the final touches on the papal mitre, made totally by hand, said, “The most important thing is that it fits the Holy Father, that the size is correct and that it is comfortable.”
The nuns are not only sewing papal vestments and linens for the altars, but also the chasubles that will be worn by 30 other cardinals and bishops who will concelebrate at the Mass. The most difficult aspect of the work, said Sister Francisca, is “sewing as beautifully as possible, knowing that we have to race against the clock.”
Sister Monica, who is responsible for preparing the altar cloth, said she had to take into account such factors as the wind, and consequently she sewed small rows of wax into the seams on the borders.
“It is something extraordinary to have received this honor,” explained the abbess, as normally everything is brought from Rome. “To be able to sew and embroider something that the Holy Father himself is going to wear is something special,” she said.
When the Diocese of Passau sent its proposal to the Pope that the nuns prepare the ornaments, the Holy Father, knowing the reputation of the Cistercian Nuns at St. Joseph’s work, probably found it difficult to refuse.
“Each stitch is joined with our intentions,” the abbess said, “that the Pope will be healthy, that his words will be well-received, that his mission will be a success, that he will always be strong.”
While some sew, other nuns had the task of recording televised papal celebrations from the Vatican in order to study the figures embroidered on the Pope’s vestments and check them against their own work.
Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 8, 2006 (CNA) - In a statement released on Thursday, the Bishops’ Conference of Mexico gave official recognition to the final ruling of the Federal Electoral Tribunal declaring the ruling party candidate Felipe Calderon the winner of the July 2nd elections.
“The bishops of Mexico join the citizens and institutions that support the actions and decisions of the Electoral Tribunal, and therefore we recognize the legality of the new president-elect, and we wish him success in his administration for the benefit of all Mexicans,” the statement indicated.
The bishops called on Mexicans to resolve their disagreements through dialogue in order to allow the new government to do its job and combat the social inequalities that result in widespread poverty.
They also reminded the incoming administration of its responsibility to fight against drug trafficking, corruption, and general lack of security in Mexico, as well as to avoid “actions that might motivate hatred, violence or division” while promoting “reconciliation, inclusion, respect for opponents and for those who exercise constructive, responsible and reasoned opposition.”
The bishops also insisted Mexicans contribute to fostering peace and work together with the government, “which cannot go it alone,” as it needs “the generous and fraternal collaboration of all Mexicans, of all political parties, of all leaders in society, placing aside personal or group interests in order to contribute to this great task.”
Chicago, Ill., Sep 8, 2006 (CNA) - Polio survivors consider Cardinal Francis George a hero, according to a recent report in the Chicago Tribune.
The Archbishop of Chicago resumes limited duties this week and full schedule Oct. 1, after having undergone an operation to remove his cancerous bladder. The 69-year-old cardinal had contracted polio in his youth, at age 13, and still wears a leg brace to support his muscles that were damaged by the illness.
Janet Felde, 58, also a polio survivor, told the Chicago Tribune that she considers the cardinal “an amazing example” and will be following the cardinal’s progress with a mix of pride and concern.
Felde’s concern is legitimate as medical experts say the residual impact of polio compounds effects of aging and later-life illnesses.
It is also not unusual for some polio survivors to suffer after-effects diagnosed as "post-polio syndrome." More than 300,000 Americans may suffer from this condition, which typically surfaces 15 to 30 years after an initial episode of polio.
Dr. James Sliwa, a polio and cancer rehab specialist at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, told the Tribune that a real risk for the cardinal would be “a significant decline in his functional status, due to the combined effect of the cancer and the earlier polio.”
The challenge for Cardinal George, the doctor suggested, will be to balance the need for activity with the need to conserve energy and prevent muscle overuse.
Colleen Dolan, a spokeswoman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, told the newspaper that the cardinal exercises daily to keep muscles in his legs and trunk in shape.
There are about 1.6 million American polio survivors, including 640,000 who had a more severe, paralytic form of the infectious illness. Polio largely disappeared from the U.S. after the Salk vaccine became available in the mid-1950s.
Santiago, Chile, Sep 8, 2006 (CNA) - The National Catholic Schools Parents’ Union in Chile has expressed its strong rejection of “the abusive and unilateral decision” by the Chilean government to distribute the morning-after pill, free of charge, to 14 year-old girls without a prescription or parental consent, saying it is an attack on parents’ right to educate their children according to their values and that those who distribute the pill, “risk being judged for grave violations of human rights.”
The organization noted in a statement that it is, “unacceptable that, while parents strive to provide a sexual education that forms men and women who maturely live responsible fatherhood and motherhood in the context of stable marriage open to new life, the government takes the abusive and unilateral decision to distribute the pill to girls in order to avoid pregnancy by taking the easy way out.”
Emphasizing the right of parents to, “carry out the duty of educating and protecting our children from every kind of aggression,” the organization said the distribution of the drug “to our girls, without the consent of their parents, makes the situation worse from both the moral and constitutional points of view.”
“Everything that affects our children concerns us,” the statement said in conclusion.
Prague, Czech Republic, Sep 8, 2006 (CNA) - After being confiscated by the Communist government almost 50 years ago, the Cathedral of St. Vitus in Prague has finally been returned to the Catholic Church, thanks to a ruling by the Czech Republic’s Supreme Court.
During the Communist period, the Czech government seized control of the cathedral in 1954. Years later, after the return of democracy to the country, officials in Prague agreed to return it to the Church and began a judicial process that lasted 13 years.
Petr Haje, spokesman for the Prague Castle, said that as of the moment of the handover, “the management declines any responsibility for visitors or for the sale of tickets to the Cathedral. Visits to the Castle…no longer include entrance to the Cathedral, and the new Church administrators will be the ones to offer guided tours of the royal crypt, the tower, and the apse,” Haje said.
The Archbishop of Prague, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, praised the decision saying, “A monument like the Cathedral of St. Vitus is part of the cultural heritage of the people, and thus everyone together will have to assume responsibility for maintaining it.”
The cardinal said there are plans to make improvements to the Cathedral in order to bring more dignity to the liturgy, as well as to dedicate a chapel to St. Adalberto, who was bishop of Prague and suffered martyrdom in 997.
Madrid, Spain, Sep 8, 2006 (CNA) - As the new school year gets underway in Spain, under the shadow of the educational reforms enacted by the country’s Socialist government, the Catholic Confederation of Parents warned of the beginning of a “great educational catastrophe” and reiterated the “exclusive and preferential” right of parents over the moral formation of their children.
In a statement, the Confederation warned that if necessary, parents should appeal to “conscientious objection and any other means necessary” to avoid allowing their children to be subjected to “any kind of political or moral indoctrination,” in this case, as a result of the new curriculum “Education for Citizenship and Human Rights” instituted by the government.
Likewise, the organization denounced the government for being more interested in “denigrating” religion classes by imposing its “Education for Citizenship” and creating “confusion about gender and families” than in resolving educational problems like “the growing violence in classrooms, the restriction of the rights and freedoms of constitutionally protected instruction, the absence of common and homologous instruction for the entire country and the imposing of unnecessary courses.”
Confederation leaders said they were considering organizing another mass protest, like the one that took place in November 2005, to demand freedom of education.