Archive of September 12, 2006

Benedict: He who believes is never alone

Regensburg, Germany, Sep 12, 2006 (CNA) - Over 300,000 people attended mass celebrated by Pope Benedict at Islinger Field in Regensburg, Germany on a cloudless Tuesday morning.  “He Who Believes Is Never Alone” would not only be the entrance hymn, but also the main theme for the ceremony.

Applause erupted sporadically throughout the Mass, but none rivaled the overwhelming jubilation emitted by the crowd when Pope Benedict arrived at Islinger Field.  The location was beautifully engineered to allow a Mass of this magnitude to transpire.

With eight large screen monitors placed strategically through the arching rows of seating, all in attendance were able to view the Holy Father as he celebrated Mass on this, the feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary.  On his fourth day in Germany, Pope Benedict was welcomed by Regensburg’s Bishop, Gerhard Ludwig Müller, with the words, “You are Peter…in the name of all in attendance we greet you.”

Under the cover of a graceful white canopy Pope Benedict began his homily with many statements of gratitude to the people of Regensburg, who worked hard to prepare for the Mass and even did some work on his house.  Many in Regensburg know Pope Benedict personally from when he was a professor there.

The Holy Father then posed a few questions to the assembly, “We are gathered for a celebration of faith. But the question immediately arises: What do we actually believe? What does it mean to have faith? Is it still something possible in the modern world?”

With rolling hills surrounding him, Pope Benedict explained that despite the apparent complications and arguments of theology, “…deep down, it is quite simple. The Lord tells us so when he says to the Father: ‘you have revealed these things to the simple - to those able to see with their hearts’ (cf. Mt 11:25). The Church, for her part, has given us a little Summa in which everything essential is expressed. It is the so-called ‘Apostles’ Creed."

The Holy Father went on to say, “We believe in God. This is what the main sections of the Creed affirm.” But, he continued, “it is important to state clearly the God in whom we believe, and to proclaim confidently that this God has a human face.”

And, the Pope continued, at our Baptism our faith becomes more than just a theory; it is “a genuine encounter between God and man… Truly, those who believe are never alone. God comes to meet us. Let us go out to meet God and so meet one another! To the extent we can, let us make sure that none of God’s children ever feels alone!”

The Holy Father then went back to his earlier question about faith and science, “We believe in God…But is such a thing still possible today?...Science, at least in part, has applied itself to seeking an explanation of the world in which God would be unnecessary. And if this were so, he would also become unnecessary in our lives.”

In searching for an answer, Benedict said, “we end up with two alternatives.”  Something came first, “Creative Reason, the Spirit who makes all things and gives them growth, or Unreason, which, lacking any meaning, still somehow brings forth a mathematically ordered cosmos, as well as man and his reason.”

“Faith is, always and inseparably, hope: the certainty that we have a future and will not end up as nothing.”  He went on to say, “when God is subtracted, something doesn’t add up for man, the world, the whole vast universe…as Christians, we say: "I believe in God the Father, the Creator of heaven and earth" - I believe in the Creator Spirit. We believe that at the beginning of everything is the eternal Word, with Reason and not Unreason. With this faith we have no reason to hide, no fear of ending up in a dead end.”

The Holy Father concluded his homily, touching on the significance of the feast day, “may we too receive Mary as the lodestar guiding our lives, introducing us into the great family of God! Truly, those who believe are never alone!”

Inspired by Pope Benedict’s words, applause yet again arose from the large congregation.  

Later today the Pope will hold a conference with professors at University of Regensburg and celebrate Vespers in the city’s cathedral.

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Marriage debate in Canada must be reopened, says Archbishop Prendergast

Halifax, Canada, Sep 12, 2006 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Halifax has urged the faithful of his diocese to contact their members of Parliament and to ask them to vote in favor of reopening the marriage debate in the House of Commons.

In the summer of 2005 Canadian Parliament passed Bill C-38, which wiped out the traditional definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman and allowed for same-sex marriages.

A vote, on whether or not to reopen the marriage debate and re-examine the definition of marriage in Canada, is expected to take place during the fall session. Prime Minister Stephen Harper had promised such a vote during his election campaign.

“Parliament must have a second chance to vote on the matter, without partisan pressure on MPs,” said Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, SJ, in his Sept. 8 pastoral letter. “Whoever tells you otherwise is using arguments that are not based on the facts.”

The archbishop, who also serves as the apostolic administrator of the neighboring Diocese of Yarmouth, acknowledged all of the reasons Canadians have given to not reopen the debate. But he insisted on the necessity of holding a more lengthy and thorough national public discussion on the subject, due to the importance of marriage.

“The historical and spiritual significance of marriage was never properly debated,” Prendergast said. “The sociological experiment that has been introduced was never adequately studied. All this affects vastly greater numbers of Canadians in ways still uncertain.”

“Parliament put us in this tragic place. It is up to Parliament to lead us out by protecting the institution of marriage, the very fabric of our society, while finding ways to respect the rights and dignity of all our citizens,” he continued.

In addition to contacting MPs, Archbishop Prendergast urged Catholics to pray for Canada and its leaders and “especially for our homosexual brothers and sisters. Reach out to them, recognizing that as cherished children of God we all need the support of each other, on a journey that is sometimes difficult and uncertain.”

He also encouraged members of the Catholic Women’s League of Canada, the Knights of Columbus and “zealous young people” to join him in urging Catholics to express their convictions to politicians, family members, and friends.

“Marriage matters,” he wrote, “and government puts its seal of approval on it, precisely because it is within this relationship that men and women typically produce children—the children who will form our society. If it were otherwise, government would have no interest in intimate personal relationships.”

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Faith and reason must come together in a new way, Holy Father says

Regensburg, Germany, Sep 12, 2006 (CNA) - The former Professor Joseph Ratzinger returned to his old university today to hold a conference on the relation of faith and reason. Pope Benedict XVI told professors and students at the University of Regensburg that, “only if reason and faith come together in a new way” can mankind face the dangerous possibilities now facing it.
Following a series of musical performances, by the university’s choirs and orchestra, the Pope began what he described as a “moving experience” by reflecting on his life in the academy.  The Pope mentioned his time at the University of Bonn in 1959, when, he said, the university as a whole was open to raising the question of God through the use of reason, in the context of the Christian tradition.  The Pope said such an open interplay between the various faculties is necessary.

Benedict said, that without doubt, “the positive aspects of modernity are to be acknowledged unreservedly: we are all grateful for the marvelous possibilities that it has opened up for mankind and for the progress in humanity that has been granted to us.”

However, he said, “while we rejoice in the new possibilities open to humanity, we also see the dangers arising from these possibilities and we must ask ourselves how we can overcome them.”

“We will succeed in doing so,” Benedict offered, “only if reason and faith come together in a new way…if we overcome the self-imposed limitation of reason to the empirically verifiable, and if we once more disclose its vast horizons.”

“In this sense,” he said, “theology rightly belongs in the university and within the wide-ranging dialogue of sciences, not merely as a historical discipline and one of the human sciences, but precisely as theology, as inquiry into the rationality of faith.”

“The courage to engage the whole breadth of reason, and not the denial of its grandeur – this is the program with which a theology grounded in Biblical faith enters into the debates of our time.”

In addition to being equipped to answer moral questions, Benedict continued, regaining such an understanding of reason will equip the West to better understand “the world’s profoundly religious cultures.”

“A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures,” the Pope insisted, “is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures.”

See the full text of the Pope’s address here: 

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Pope tells Protestants, Orthodox, let us bear witness in love, “that the world may believe”

Regensburg, Germany, Sep 12, 2006 (CNA) - At the conclusion of his fourth day in Bavaria, Pope Benedict XVI prayed with members of Germany’s Orthodox and Protestant community.  Leading a Vesper service at Regensburg’s Cathedral, the Pontiff told those gathered that they must not loose track of what is central to their dialogue - their common belief in Christ - and that they should bear witness to their common faith “in such a way that it shines forth as the power of love.”

The liturgy, which was punctuated by German hymns, common to all traditions, also included traditional Orthodox chant and a response from leaders of all three Christian groups.

Pope Benedict began his reflection by welcoming the religious leaders and noting that at the heart of the liturgy is the praying of the Psalms, which connects the Christian church with Jewish believers as well.

Benedict next noted the ongoing dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, especially the conversations which are taking place in Germany itself.  “I hope and pray that these discussions will be fruitful and that the communion with the living God which unites us, like our own communion in the faith transmitted by the Apostles, will grow in depth and maturity towards that full unity.”

“’So that the world may believe,’” the Pope emphasized, “we must become one: the seriousness of this commitment must spur on our dialogue.”

The Pope then turned to welcome “the various traditions stemming from the Reformation.”  While he noted the particular work being done in the attempt to reach a consensus on justification, the Pope also pointed to a problem arising in society at large.  “Our modern consciousness, in general, is no longer aware of the fact that we stand as debtors before God and that sin is a reality which can be overcome only by God’s initiative. Behind this weakening of the theme of justification and of the forgiveness of sins is ultimately a weakening of our relation with God. In this sense, our first task will perhaps be to rediscover in a new way the living God present in our lives.”

Turning to the liturgy’s reading from the Gospel of St. John, the Pope noted that what ultimately sets Christians apart is the belief that “Jesus is the Son of God who has come in the flesh.”  This, he said, must be the starting point of any dialogue. “In this common confession, and in this common task, there is no division between us. And we pray that this shared foundation will grow ever stronger.”

From this starting point, Benedict continued, we must become witnesses.  And not just empty witnesses, but witnesses in love.  As the reading points out, he concluded, “’We know and believe the love God has for us’. Yes, man can believe in love. Let us bear witness to our faith in such a way that it shines forth as the power of love, ‘so that the world may believe (Jn 17:21).’”

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Catholic pundit offers advice to Republican Party

, Sep 12, 2006 (CNA) - Given a recent poll that shows a drop in the number of people who view the Republican Party as friendly to religion, Catholic writer and publisher Deal Hudson offers 10 tips for the GOP to “reinvigorate its religious base” and keep the religious vote, in his most recent edition of “The Window.”

Hudson’s first point is that the Republican Party must consistently defend life. “President Bush's decision to allow Plan B, the morning-after pill, to be sold in the United States contradicts his consistent defense of the culture of life,” he noted.

It must also keep the marriage amendment alive, avoid demonizing Islam, not compromise on Iraq, and emphasize judicial appointments.

“After successfully nominating and confirming two solid Supreme Court justices, Republican leadership lost track of the importance of this issue to religious conservatives,” Hudson says. “Liberal judges legislating from the bench are one of the main reasons that religious conservatives became active in politics in the late 1970s.”

The GOP must approach the immigration debate and treat immigrants with compassion. “For religious conservatives compassion is a genuine value that should infuse political rhetoric and public policy,” Hudson adds. “Polling shows Catholics, for example, who attend Mass regularly, are more supportive of the Bishops' lenient attitude toward illegal immigrants than inactive Catholics.”

Hudson also suggests that the GOP “laugh at” accusations made by the left and some Republican moderates that religious conservatives and President George Bush have turned the country into a theocracy.

He strongly advises the GOP to pick the right presidential candidate for 2008, noting that former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Senator John McCain lead the polls.

“Nominating a pro-choice candidate would be disastrous for the Republicans,” Hudson states. “The argument, ‘where else can they go,’ does not work because religious conservatives are religious first and Republican second: They will stay home or form a third party.”

He urges the Republicans to remember that terrorism is a life issue and the government’s first obligation, as outlined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is to protect the lives of its citizens.

Finally, says Hudson, the Republicans must communicate that “the administration of President George W. Bush did more for religious conservatives than any other president, including Ronald Reagan.”

The New York Times recently reported on a Pew Forum poll which found that the proportion of Americans who say the Republican Party is friendly to religion fell 8 percentage points in the last year, to 47 percent from 55 percent. Among Catholics and white evangelical Protestants, the decline was 14 percentage points.

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Catholic high-level group could fuel EU ‘God debate’

Brussels, Belgium, Sep 12, 2006 (CNA) - The debate to include Christianity in a new treaty text for the European Union may by spurred by the creation a new high-profile group of Catholic thinkers. The "group of wise men and women", which held its first meeting Sept. 11, was commissioned by the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community to draft a report on the EU's common values.

The debate was recently re-ignited by Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, who made a plea for including "God" in a new EU treaty text.

The Catholic group includes three members of the previous European Commission — Mario Monti, Franz Fischler and Loyola de Palacio — as well as Jacques Santer, who led the EU executive commitee from 1995 to 1999, former European Parliament president Pat Cox, and former Belgian ambassador to the EU, Philippe de Schoutheete, reported the EU Observer.

De Schoutheete said the aim of the project is to raise awareness among the public of European values which can be linked to the Christian faith, such as peace, freedom, a rejection of extreme nationalism, solidarity, respect for diversity, and subsidiarity.

Currently, De Schoutheete said, most people are "totally ignorant or unaware" that there is "something more" to the EU than the single market or agricultural policy, reported the EU Observer.

However, he added, the group is not a fresh Catholic attempt to get "God" into a new EU treaty text as such. "We have no mandate to draft a constitution or a preamble of a constitution," he was quoted as saying.

The text of the EU constitution was put on hold after French and Dutch voters rejected it last year.  It does not include a reference to Christianity, despite strong lobbying by the European bishops.

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Diocese closes schools to protest vandalism by Hindu militants, bishops condemn attack

New Dehli, India, Sep 12, 2006 (CNA) - The Catholic Diocese of Lucknow closed its 20 schools Sept. 11 to protest vandalism by a militant Hindu mob the previous day.

The mob vandalized Loreto Intermediate College in Lucknow, about 500 kilometers southeast of New Delhi.

Fr. Ronald D'Souza, secretary to Bishop Albert D'Souza, told UCA News that the mob included members of various Hindu radical groups. They entered the college campus at about 4 p.m. after breaking through the main gate, breaking flowerpots and shouting slogans.

According to the priest, the attack was provoked by a report in “The Times of India” about a "special occult session" the college conducted four days earlier. The report said several students fainted at the session and needed medical attention. The paper also alleged the incident prompted "horrified parents" to question the college.

Fr. D'Souza said the newspaper had "completely twisted the whole matter" to incite the Hindu militants.

Sr. Teressia Arickatt, local superior of the Loreto nuns who manage two schools in Lucknow, also said the news report was a pack of lies.

The sister told UCA News that no one was hospitalized after the prayer session though some students did walk out during the service when they felt “giddy” from being in the packed and hot prayer hall.

Sr. Arickatt said the program comprised of mainly prayers, led by a Salesian priest, and the faith witness of a layman. His sharing is available at The prayer service was optional for students, she said.

She said school authorities suspect a teacher, who was reprimanded for misconduct, may have leaked a distorted version of events to the press.

This morning the Catholic Bishop's Conference of India condemned the Hindu group’s attacks calling them “totally unwarranted.”  The Conference spokesman, Father Babu Joseph, said in the release that as a, "civilized and democratic society, we should resort to dialogue rather than violence to find solutions to problems."

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Cubans celebrate patroness, Our Lady of Charity

Havana, Cuba, Sep 12, 2006 (CNA) - Catholics in Cuba particpated in some 69 different processions throughout the country in honor of Our Lady of Charity, declared patroness of Cuba by Pope Benedict XV in 1916 and crowned by Pope John Paul II in 1998.

The Bishops’ Conference of Cuba reported that processions took place in the dioceses of Matanzas, Cienfuegos, Santa Clara, Ciego de Avila, Camagüey, Bayamo-Manzanillo, Guantánamo, Holguin and Havana. In the Cuban capital, the procession ended with a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Jaime Ortega.

The Cuban government has allowed the processions since the historic visit by Pope John Paul II in 1998.  Since that time processions take place during the feast of Our Lady of Charity and during Holy Week.

Likewise, numerous Cubans who live in Valencia, Spain, commemorated the feast day at the Parish of Our Lady of the Rosary, where there is a replica of the famous statue of Our Lady of Charity which was brought there as by Bishop Hector Luis Peña of Holguin in 2003.

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Latin American Bishops’ Council organizes conference on Church’s social teaching

Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 12, 2006 (CNA) - As part of the preparations for its 5th General Conference in 2007, the Latin American Bishops’ Council (CELAM) is meeting in Mexico City the 2nd Conference on the Social Teachings of the Church entitled, “Imagining a continent for all: Justice, solidarity, and the witness of Christians before the new social challenges in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

The Conference, which will be held until September 15, seeks to discern the signs of the times on the continent in order to help ecclesial communities address diverse realities and achieve solutions for today’s social problems.

In addition, the Conference will focus on the need for the people of God “to assume their own mission in the world with greater responsibility,” offering “motivation to sustain the hopes of men and women on the continent, above all, of the poor and those who suffer, in light of the Gospel and the Social teachings of the Church.”

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Benedict XVI to give conference at former university

Regensburg, Germany, Sep 12, 2006 (CNA) - During his visit to Bavaria Pope Benedict XVI will be giving a conference at the University of Regensburg (Ratisbona), where he was once a professor and today is honorary professor.

From 1969 to 1977, Joseph Ratzinger was professor of dogma and history of dogma at the University of Regensburg.  This afternoon the Pope is scheduled to give a conference on the contribution of Catholic theology to the world of science.

The organizer of the Pope’s visit to the university, Jörg Wiesner, who knew the Pope when he was professor there, said, “All of the preparations have been made.”  Although he is Protestant, Wiesner says he has admired Benedict XVI since the time when he was Pro-rector, especially for his “calm and simple manner” and for the “rational way in which he always gets at a result or conclusion.”

Theology professor Father Wolfgang Beinert, who was Ratzinger’s assistant at the University of Regensburg and later became professor of dogma, has known the Pope since his days at Tübingen.  “I received my training from him, and I concelebrated with him each morning at the students’ residence,” he recalled.

Father Beinert also remembers the Pope for his brilliant spirit.  “His classes were always overflowing,” the 73 year-old priest said.  “And despite that he was always intensely dedicated to all the students from around the world that he advised.  When they felt depressed, he helped them by encouraging and consoling them, and once he become someone’s advisor he was even concerned with their posterior academic work.   Even today the Pope meets once a year with some of his former students,” Father Beinert said.

Another former colleague of the Pope, Professor Dieter Heinrich, who was rector of the university the last year that Benedict XVI was there, vividly recalls his conversations with Professor Ratzinger.  He said that while the Holy Father was a man of brief words, when it was his turn to speak he always led discussions in an appropriate direction.  “He has the ability to get to the point in a precise way,” Heinrich said.

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