Archive of September 14, 2006

Pope tells priests, you must rely on God not your own powers

Freising, Germany, Sep 14, 2006 (CNA) - On the last day of his Bavarian Tour Pope Benedict XVI was greeted with applause and broad smiles as he addressed a gathering of priests and permanent deacons at the famed Cathedral of St. Mary in Freising, Germany.  The Pontiff abandoned his prepared text to speak to the men from the heart of an Apostle, telling them to recognize the limits of their own powers and to rely upon the Lord.

After sprinkling those outside with Holy Water, Pope Benedict stepped through the doors of the Cathedral of St. Mary to a standing ovation.  The cathedral holds a special significance for him.  It was here that he was ordained a priest and here (the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising) that he served as Archbishop.  The cathedral also contains the tomb of St. Corbinian, who Benedict has referenced numerous times as a personal patron and inspiration.  

A broad smile came across his face as the Pontiff walked toward the altar and took his seat.  

The current archbishop welcomed Pope Benedict with the kind words, “with this visit you have strengthened our faith and brought us closer to God…with your visit home you have given us a gift.”

Surrounded by his fellow Bavarians, including his brother and other priests from his ordination class, the Holy Father recalled the feelings he experienced during his ordination when he had laid facedown in that very cathedral.  The thought that, like St. Corbinian, who is represented by a bear on Benedict’s coat of arms, great saints came before him and would be with him gave a great sense of peace, the Holy Father said.

A visibly jubilant Pope Benedict then glanced down to his planned speech, slyly grinned, and to the joy of the congregation said, “I have here a whole homily, but I really don’t want to read it!”  This was again greeted with applause and smiles.

The Holy Father then began his unscripted testimony with the words, “I only want to reference two points.”  

“One, the harvest is great,” he said referencing the sacred scripture reading from the ninth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew.  

Pope Benedict explained, “the harvest is great - [Jesus] didn’t just mean in Palestine, the great harvest is today…it grows in the hearts of men waiting to be shown the way.  It is more than the word, more than hope, it is love.”

“God wants to serve man…He needs man to say yes, so his harvest will reach man,” the Holy Father continued.  “Help with this harvest so that we may say, everything must come from God.”  

Benedict told the priests and deacons that while Christians are becoming fewer and young people continue to face greater challenges in practicing their faith that they should not get discouraged in their ministry.  “Even the Pope thinks, ‘my powers are not enough.’”  Sometimes, he said, we must leave it to God and our fellow workers.  Sometimes, the Pope continued, you must say, “God, you must do it.  Everything comes from You.  I believe that here my power ends and the rest I leave to you God.  God, do what I cannot do.”

Recalling the theme of his entire trip, Benedict said his second point was simply that, “He who believes is never alone.”  This, he said, “is the motto for priests.”  

Stressing the importance of unity within the Church the Holy Father closed his discourse with the words, “…he who is a priest is in community with the bishop.  This is a reality.  We must all work as one, even in doubt or uncertainty.  Then in this togetherness our work becomes more joyful and we may better experience Jesus Christ.”

After his meeting at St. Marys, the Pontiff traveled directly to the airport where he would offer a brief farewell before departing for Rome.

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Catholic groups question law school over choice of politician as guest lecturer

Washington D.C., Sep 14, 2006 (CNA) - Several Catholic groups have expressed their displeasure at the decision of The Catholic University of America to bring Bob Casey, Jr. to campus in the midst of an extremely close political race with fellow Catholic, Sen. Rick Santorum.  The University says the decision was not politically motivated, but critics are furious that Casey, who has publicly stated several views contrary to moral teachings of the Church, was invited at all.

Casey, who is attempting to defeat the unabashedly pro-life Santorum for his Pennsylvania Senate seat in this November’s election, will be honored by the university today, offering the 2006 Pope John XXIII Lecture on ethics at CUA’s Columbus School of Law.

Joseph Cella, president of Catholic advocacy group Fidelis, told the Washington Post that Santorum's views on issues are more in line with the church, and a debate between the two would be a better format.

"Having a speaker like Casey who has ambiguous stances on key social issues only confuses Catholics and does not advance the cause of truth," Cella said.

The Democratic senate hopeful has stated publicly that while he is opposed to abortion, he supports free access to the Plan B “morning after pill,” a powerful contraceptive pill which is know to cause early-stage abortions.  The Church strongly rejects the use of contraceptives and the destruction of unborn human life.  

Casey has also said that he does not support “homosexual marriage,” but that he will not support a ban on the issue.  He’s also clearly in favor of allowing adoption by same-sex couples, an issue which the Vatican has officially spoken out against as recently as March.

Casey’s father, former Pennsylvania Governor Bob Casey Sr., is know as a “pro-life hero,” and was one of the last major pro-life voices in the Democratic party.  Bob Casey Jr., however, has stated that he is “pro-life,” though he does not address abortion as an issue on his campaign website.

Nonetheless, the law school’s dean, Veryl Miles, defends the invitation, saying that not only is Casey, “on the record as a strong supporter of pro-life positions,” but he is not even coming to campus to speak on those issues.  Instead, Dean Miles said, “he has been invited to share his thoughts on the lawyer's professional responsibility and obligation to do pro bono service and help the less fortunate.”

Miles said in a statement, released to the Catholic News Agency today, that Casey’s invitation to speak at the school, “should in no way be misconstrued as an endorsement of his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, nor an endorsement of all of his stated positions as a public figure.”

“The law school,” Miles continued, “does not endorse candidates and maintains neutrality about political elections.”

Miles was also quoted by the Washington Times as saying that decision to choose Casey was meant to have an effect on the university community and not the Pennsylvania race.

But, Bob Destro, a professor and former acting dean of the law school, told university president, Fr. David O’Connell, that he disagrees with Miles’s notion.

“The race is one of the most hotly contested and important in the country ... and the votes of the Catholic community are likely to provide the margin of victory,” Destro said in letter.  "The university is clearly taking sides and has no business doing this in one of the most important elections in the country."

And Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, a Catholic higher education watchdog group, says that regardless of the law school’s initial intent, the effect of the invitation does have broad political implications.  “Whether intentional or not, CUA is signaling that it endorses this political candidate and deems his public dissent from Catholic moral teaching unimportant,” said Reilly.

“Whoever selected Casey for this honor must have known the impact it could have on his political campaign, and that violates academic neutrality,” Reilly insisted. “They also must be aware that regardless of politics, inviting a public dissenter to speak on ‘America’s Moral Compass’ is a scandal to the faithful and undermines CUA’s Catholic identity.”

Still, Dean Miles says that inviting Casey to give the lecture, titled “Restoring America's Moral Compass: Leadership and the Common Good,” is in keeping with the tradition of the lecture series, which since its inception in 1965 has often, “explored the themes of the common social good, and what man owes to his fellow man.”

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Benedict leaves Bavaria “deeply moved” and offering thanks

Munich, Germany, Sep 14, 2006 (CNA) - Departing his beloved homeland for Rome today, Pope Benedict XVI told Germans that he had come simply to bring the message of the Gospel and “to confirm believers in their fidelity to Christ” and that he was encouraged by the faith he encountered.  The Pope had spent six days traveling to different sites important to his life.

Benedict spent a good deal of time offering his thanks to those who made the trip a success.  “I can only imagine the challenges, concerns and the work involved in organizing this stay in Bavaria,” he told the crowd, “many people had a part to play, both those from the Church, Regional and State agencies, and the many people who volunteered their time.”

The Pope said that he had been “deeply moved by the enthusiasm and fervent devotion of the faithful who gathered to listen to the Word of God and to join in prayer.”  And he noted especially that there are so many striving for faith in the midst of a “secularized world.”

“I came to Germany,” Benedict told the crowd, “to bring once more to my fellow-citizens the eternal truths of the Gospel and to confirm believers in their fidelity to Christ, the Son of God, who became man for the salvation of the world.”

“I am convinced, in faith, that in Christ, in his word, we find the way not only to eternal happiness, but also to the building of a humane future even now, here below,” he professed.

The Pope also noted that today marks the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s Encyclical “Laborem Exercens.”  The letter, he said, could “prove very beneficial in Germany’s present situation.”  

The Pontiff specifically noted John Paul’s understanding of work as “something good for man.”  In the encyclical, Benedict noted, John Paul calls work, “a fundamental dimension of man’s existence on earth (No. 4),” insisting that "the primary basis of the value of work is man himself (No. 6).”  In work, the encyclical also says, “man not only transforms nature, adapting it to his own needs, but also achieves fulfillment as a human being, and, in a certain sense, becomes more human (No. 9).”

Pope Benedict concluded his remarks, entrusting Bavaria and Germany to the many German saints, who, he said, experienced in their lives the truth expressed in the motto of his visit, “Those who believe are never alone.”

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Church has role in mediation of peace in Middle East, says new secretary of state

Rome, Italy, Sep 14, 2006 (CNA) - The role of the Catholic Church in light of the crises in the Middle East is to serve as a mediator and to seek peace, said Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who is set to start tomorrow as the Vatican’s new secretary of state. He will succeed the retiring Cardinal Angelo Sodano.

“The Church works to unite, to rejoin, to re-solder the chains broken by violence,” said Cardinal Bertone in response to a question about the Vatican’s objectives regarding the crises in the Middle East, Italian paper “Il Messaggero” reported.

The new secretary of state said he would meet and dialogue with representatives of other religions. “It’s part of the mission of the Church,” he remarked.

The cardinal also upheld Pope Benedict XVI’s comments earlier this week that God, who is love, calls his people to love one another and not to act out of violence.  

“It is necessary to return to the original matrix of human life, which is love,” said the cardinal in response to a question regarding the Pope’s comments Tuesday that jihad, the Islamic concept of “holy war” said to be fought in the name of God, are actually against God.

“Placing God at the center of one’s life and of one’s ideals, this is the truth,” said Cardinal Bertone. “Loving God means loving your neighbor with whom Jesus identifies and welcoming every human person.”

On Tuesday, the Pope said Catholic theology holds that, “violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul.” He added that Mohammed’s teaching on jihad (holy war) is divergent from Christianity’s view that spreading the faith through violence is intrinsically unreasonable.

The Pope also quoted 14th-century Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus, who said: "God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death.”

In the interview, Cardinal Bertone noted that the origins of the crisis in the West is based on its choice to distance itself from God, and not placing at the centre of its ideals a stable and shared truth.

“The crisis is relativism,” he said. “There is a need to return to the truth that gives full meaning to human life. We need to return to the search for truth and to the ‘interiorization’ of these ideals.”

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Cardinal invites priests to hear witness of sex-abuse victims

Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 14, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal Justin Rigali has invited his local priests to join him Friday to listen to the accounts from victims of clergy sexual abuse.

A Philadelphia grand jury probe last year identified 63 archdiocesan priests as abusers since the 1950s. Seventeen of them have been defrocked and others have been relieved of pastoral duties.

In a press release, the cardinal-archbishop of Philadelphia said one of the most significant things he learned this past year is the importance of listening to victims convey the hurt, pain and suffering they experienced and which is still part of daily life for many of them.

The evening meeting, which has been titled “Witness to the Sorrow,” will be held on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary.

Two victims of clergy sexual abuse and one parent of abuse victims will speak to the clergy, after which there will be a procession to Saint Martin's Chapel for evening prayer. Other victims and their families have also been invited to attend.

According to the Associated Press, the meeting was organized by a victim's advocate the archdiocese hired this year.

"For the last 10 months or more, the Church has been silent, very much at my suggestion, because we have to look inward," advocate Mary Achilles told the AP. "We have to straighten up our own house."

"This event on Friday is just a step," Achilles said. "It will not solve the problem. Its goal is simply for those who operate in the Church currently to witness the pain and suffering of victims."

The archdiocese wants to make the meeting as accessible to the wider community as possible. Live streaming video will be available at The video will be available on the archdiocesan website following the event.  

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Catholic support waning for Labour Party, says Scottish bishop

Edinburgh, United Kingdom, Sep 14, 2006 (CNA) - Bishop Philip Tartaglia of Paisley warned the Labour Party it was losing the support of large numbers of Catholic voters in Scotland due to their increased support of homosexual marriage and weakening support of core family values, reported “The Scotsman”.

"Catholics are tired of being bullied into accepting an intolerant new orthodoxy on issues such as homosexual unions while the family and marriage are constantly attacked by a very anti-family Labour Party," said the bishop. "There's no doubt Catholic support for Labour in Scotland is clearly waning."

He was also scathing about the standard of Labour candidates. "They could field almost anyone and expect Catholics to vote for them because they always did in the past," he said, suggesting that this would no longer be the case in the future. 

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Canadian hospital under fire for sticking to Catholic ethics

Humboldt, Sask., Sep 14, 2006 (CNA) - A family physician in Humboldt, Saskatchewan, has launched a petition to overturn the decision of a Catholic-run hospital to no longer offer tubal ligations after a patient was refused the procedure.

The board of St. Elizabeth's Hospital decided to ban the sterilization procedure in June.

Levick-Brown told CBC News that she was told the ban was imposed because the hospital board felt it needed to follow the Catholic health ethics guide more closely. The Catholic Church is opposed to sterilizations, which it sees as an act removing the natural possibility of procreation from human sexuality.

Another Catholic-run hospital in the province, St. Paul’s, said it supports the decision of the board of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital.

Saskatchewan Health Minister Len Taylor told CBC he was gathering more information about the situation and may have more to say later this week about whether hospitals that receive public money can pick and choose which procedures they do.

Brenda Fitzgerald, executive director of St. Paul’s, said she is not surprised by the decision. As a Catholic hospital, required to follow the Catholic Ethics Guide, St. Paul’s would be in a similar situation if it provided full obstetric and gynecological services, Fitzgerald said. However, in the mid-1990s, the Saskatoon Health District decided to consolidate OB-GYN services in two other area hospitals.

Bishop Albert LeGatt and St. Elizabeth’s Hospital board chair Jerome Strasser were not immediately available for comment.

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Papal visit a break for city of Freising

Freising, Germany, Sep 14, 2006 (CNA) - Until just a few days ago, the Marian Cathedral of Freising, with its baroque ornamentation, was full of scaffolding and covered in dust.  Today it shines in all of its splendor once again to welcome Pope Benedict XVI, a much anticipated break for the city and one which will forever mark its history.

The Pope has desired to end his visit precisely in the place where he began his priestly life 55 years ago, when together with his brother Georg he was ordained to the priesthood at the city’s Cathedral.

While the final work of restoration to the Cathedral of Freising will not be finished until the end of November, nevertheless today, just a few hours before the Pope’s visit, the doors of the Shrine will be opened to receive the Holy Father.  Here he will meet with permanent deacons and the clergy of the archdiocese for a time of prayer before the altar where the relics of the city’s patron, St. Corbinian are conserved.

The visit to Freising is a great wish of the Holy Father. When then Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope on April 19 of 2005, the people of Freising rejoiced in the bond that exists between the city and the person of Benedict XVI.  However, at the news of the election, the mayor of the city, Dieter Thalhammer, knowing that the Pope is very uncomfortable with publicity because he once told him so, told the city’s press and population to avoid any exaggeration in the many circulating news stories.

In 1945, an 18 year-old Ratzinger entered the seminary in the city.  He studied philosophy and theology, eventually being ordained in 1951 together with his brother Georg and 42 other men.  

“It was a bright summer day, which I treasure as one of the most unforgettable moments of my life,” the Holy Father wrote in his autobiography.  It was also at the seminary in Freising where he began his life as a teacher, assuming the classes on dogma and fundamental theology.

During his stay at the seminary as professor, he lived at his parents’ home located nearby and next to the Church of St. Benedict. He would remain there 14 years, until he was called to be professor of Theology in 1959, at the University of Bonn.  Later he moved on to teach at the University of Tübingen and then the University of Ratisbona.

The close ties between the Holy Father and Freising are also officially apparent: on his papal coat-of-arms appears a crowned Moor and a bear wearing a pack-saddle—both traditional symbols of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising.

The bear refers to the legend of St. Corbinian.  It is said that while he traveling to Rome a bear mauled his pack animal. The saint then rebuked the wild beast, and commanded the bear to carry his packs to Rome. Once he arrived there, however, he let the bear go, and it lumbered back to its native forest.

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Chilean young people march against distribution of morning after pill in schools

Santiago, Chile, Sep 14, 2006 (CNA) - In response to the decision by the government of Chilean president Michelle Bachelet to distribute the morning after pill, free of charge and without a prescription, to teenagers above the age of 14, the country’s Youth For Life Association has organized a protest to take place this Friday in Santiago.

The march will begin at 11am in the Chilean capital, bringing together young people from public and private schools and universities to defend life from the moment of conception and demand that President Bachelet recognize the rights of parents to be involved in such issues.

Representatives of the association said they chose to organize the protest because, “faced with a government decision that is this serious and goes against the common good in Chile, those of us who want a better and more humane society cannot passively stand by and wait for our pastors to solve the problem.”

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Cardinal exhorts parents to demand removal of controversial textbooks on sexuality

Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 14, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniquez of Guadalajara, Mexico, has called on parents “not to let their guard down” and to demand that the removal of high school biology textbooks that encourage sexual permissiveness among teenagers.

In his column for the diocesan newspaper, “El Semanario,” the cardinal denounced officials from the Department of Education for distributing the textbooks at high schools and said they “are already causing harm” to minors, inciting them to permissiveness and confusing them “about values related to sex and marriage.”

The cardinal said the State is using secularism to justify the action.  He warned that “a secularist State cannot ignore moral values or trample upon natural rights.”

He noted that a secular State is one in which no specific religion is promoted. However, the state, “would do well to respect the sentiments and moral values of a people that, as in Mexico, is majority Catholic.”  He reiterated as well that the rights of parents to educate their children “is not a religious issue, it is an issue of natural law.”

The cardinal said such problems exist in Mexico because of remnants of “totalitarian practices, similar to those of a dictatorship,” that are still present in the government, and because the “State is weak and under pressure from international groups opposed to life, the family, and morality.”

He urged parents to demand the textbooks be withdrawn and that children be given “a true sexual education” in which they are not only informed but also taught to “correctly and morally appreciate that gift which God has given to all for the transmission of life, for love expressed fully in marriage.”

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Holy See and Catholic doctors organize congress on stem cells

Rome, Italy, Sep 14, 2006 (CNA) - The Pontifical Academy for Life and the International Federation of Associations of Catholic Doctors (IFACD) is hosting the International Congress, “Stem Cells: The future of therapy? Scientific Aspects and Bioethical Problems,” September 14-16 in Rome.

The event, intended for doctors, biologists, researches, experts in bioethics and others interested in the issue, will be presented by the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Msgr. Elio Sgreccia, Jose Mari Simon de Castellvi, President of the IFACD, and Jean Marie Le Mene, President of the Jerome Lejuene Foundation.

Among the themes to be discussed include the potential benefits of cord blood stem cells, stem cells and genetic diseases, embryonic and non-embryonic stem cells, and others.

More information about the event can be found at:

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Death threats force priest to abandon parish in Colombia

Medellin, Colombia, Sep 14, 2006 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Medellin has reported that Father Juan Guillermo Zapata was forced to abandon his parish in the town of Bello in northern Colombia after a group of delinquents robbed him and threatened him with death.

During his Sunday homily at the Parish of St. Maximilian Kolbe, where he has been pastor for seven years, Father Zapata said goodbye to his parishioners, saying his sudden departure was due to death threats he received on September 1st, when a group of men approached him and, after robbing him of what he was carrying, told him to leave his parish as soon as possible.

The case of Father Zapata is not the only one in the region.  In February of 2005, Father Roberto Cadavid Arroyave, rector of the School of Our Lady of Chiquinquira in Niquia—located just a few blocks from Father Zapata’s parish—also received death threats and had to leave the school.  On that occasion, more than 600 school children marched through the streets of the town rejecting the intimidation.

A year and a half later, the residents of a sector that has historically suffered from armed militias and high crime rates is having trouble reconciling the fact that their parish is without a pastor.  Fr. Zapata, in their estimation stood firmly for his work with young people and his efforts for excellence in the parish, the rectory, and its diverse apostolic works.  

The reason for the death threats against the priest has not been determined, and the Archdiocese of Medellin said it would issue a statement about the events and about the transfer of the priest as soon as more detailed information about the incident is available.

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