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Archive of October 4, 2006

Pope: story of Bartholomew recalls importance of personal experience of Christ

Vatican City, Oct 4, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI continued his catechesis on the twelve Apostles today, speaking to some 30,000 pilgrims about the lesser known Apostle, St. Bartholomew, during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square. 

The Pope began by admitting that little is known about Bartholomew, who is traditionally identified in the Gospels as Nathaniel, “a name that means 'God has given.'" 

The first mention of Nathaniel in the Gospels, Benedict noted, is when the Apostle Phillip tells him of having encountered Jesus, the Messiah, who had come from Nazareth.  Nathaniel answers in a prejudiced way; "Can anything good come from Nazareth?"
 
The words of Nathaniel, the Pope said, offer a lesson for the Church.  “It shows us that, according to the Judaic expectations, the Messiah could never come from such an obscure town,” Benedict said. “At the same time however, it emphasizes God's freedom, which surprises our expectations by being found where least expected."
 
"The story of Nathaniel also offers another reflection,” the Holy Father continued, “in our relationship with Jesus, words are not enough.”

“Phillip invites Nathaniel to meet Jesus personally: ‘Come and see!’ Our knowledge of Jesus, above all, needs to be a living experience.   The witness of others is certainly important, since, usually, all our Christian life begins with the proclamation that comes to us from one or more witnesses,” Benedict continued. “However, it is up to us to become personally involved in an intimate and deep relationship with Jesus.”
 
“Later, in his dialogue with Jesus,” the Pope noted, “Nathaniel would conclude with a profession of faith: ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’”

The Pope said this proclamation by Nathaniel, "highlights a dual, complementary aspect of the identity of Jesus: His special relationship with God the Father, being the one and only Son, and with the people of Israel, having been declared their king."
 
"We must never lose sight of these two dimensions,” Benedict emphasized, “because if we only proclaim the heavenly dimension of Jesus, we run the risk of making Him an ethereal and evanescent being; while, on the contrary, if we only recognize His physical presence in history, we end up forgetting His Divine dimension, which qualifies Him."
 
"We do not have detailed news about Bartholomew's later apostolic activities, the Pope concluded.  But, nonetheless, “the figure of Saint Bartholomew remains before us to tell us that deep adhesion to Jesus can be lived and witnessed even without the achievement of sensational works."

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Archbishop says public leaders, who claim to be Catholic but do not act on Gospel, are deceiving themselves

Harrisburg, Pa., Oct 4, 2006 (CNA) - Political and community leaders are called to change the world with justice and charity, and with a greater love for God than for their careers, said Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap., at the Red Mass in Harrisburg, Pennsylvannia yesterday.  

The Archbishop of Denver presided at the Oct. 3 Mass for several hundred members of the local legal community at the invitation of Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Harrisburg.

During his homily, he reflected on the life of St. Francis of Assisi, whose feast the Church celebrates today, and on how Francis led a spiritual revolution in the Church. The archbishop said the historical period in which Francis lived, with its injustices and its disparity between rich and poor, was very similar to the world of today.

Francis, he said, led the Church toward conversion, reconciliation and a more authentic witness of the Gospel through his personal example.

“If you and I want to be what God calls us to be in the years that lie ahead, we need to be like St. Francis,” he said. Catholics today must work to renew society through repentance, conversion, humility and willingness to serve.

“When people claim they’re Catholic but do nothing in the public square to advance the Christian understanding of each human person’s dignity, they’re deceiving themselves and other people -- but they’re not fooling God,” the archbishop said, naming areas of concern to Catholics, such as embryonic stem-cell research, abortion, assisted suicide, marriage, immigration, poverty and the disabled.

“We need to drill it into our heads that defending the sanctity of the human person and serving the common good can’t be separated,” he said. “Stuffing our Catholic faith in a closet when we enter the public square or join a public debate isn’t good manners, and it isn’t political courtesy. It’s cowardice. And we’ll be judged for that cowardice by the God who created us.”

“It’s always easier to talk about social justice or political reform when the target of the reform is ‘out there,’ rather than in here,” he continued.  

“The world does need to change, and in your vocation as public leaders, God is calling you to pursue that task with justice and charity; with a love for the common good and a reverence for human life,” he said. “The world needs committed Catholic laypeople like yourselves to lead with humility, courage and love.  

“But what it [the world] needs more than anything else is holiness – holy men and women who love Jesus Christ and God’s Word more than they love their own careers and agendas,” he challenged.

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Vatican says preparations for papal trip to Turkey continue

Vatican City, Oct 4, 2006 (CNA) - Despite continuing threats from Islamic extremist groups and warnings from Muslim clerics and politicians in Turkey, preparations for Pope Benedict XVI’s first Papal trip to Turkey are continuing, Vatican officials said this week.

Vatican officials issued the confirmation after Turkey’s leading daily newspaper, Hurriyet, wrote that the Vatican was considering canceling the trip after a purported threat from al-Qaida aimed against the Pope and Muslims who meet with him.
 
According to The Associated Press, Msgr. Georges Marovitch, a Vatican embassy official, said he was not aware of the threat and that preparations were continuing as usual. The Pope is expected to arrive in Turkey Nov. 28 and depart Dec. 1.
 
His primary focus in planning the trip is a meeting with the Istanbul-based leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, Bartholomew I. The pope's planned visit coincides with the Christian feast day of St. Andrew on Nov. 30.

Teams of top Vatican officials reportedly went to Turkey recently to check on logistics.
 
The Pope's tentative schedule includes a meeting with the Turkish president in Ankara on Nov. 28, a visit to Ephesus, the site of an early Christian community, the following day, and a meeting with Bartholomew in Istanbul on Nov. 30. Benedict would leave Dec. 1 after mass with Istanbul’s Catholic community.

In a video last week, Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, reportedly compared Benedict with Pope Urban II, who in 1095 ordered the First Crusade to establish Christian control in the Holy Land.

On Wednesday, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan repeated his criticism of the Pontiff over a portion of a speech he made last month in Germany.  The Pope quoted words of a medieval emperor which were deemed offensive by many Muslims. 

"The Pope is both a political and religious figure. But this person spoke in a way that is unfitting even for us politicians," Erdogan told an economic conference in Istanbul yesterday, according to Reuters.

Following a Turkish plane hijacking yesterday, which was thought initially to be in protest to the Pope’s trip, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi reaffirmed, "There is no reason to cancel the trip."

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Copts call on Rice to discuss human rights, religious freedom in Egypt

Washington D.C., Oct 4, 2006 (CNA) - The American Coptic Union (ACU) is urging Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to discuss the continued human rights abuses of Coptic Christians in Egypt during her upcoming meeting with the Egyptian government.

The ACU, which is a nonprofit organization that represents Coptic people in the U.S. and Egypt, claims violations against the Copts have been escalating since Sept. 11, 2001, and the Egyptian government has not responded with any protection. The ACU claims Islamic terrorists and the Egyptian State Security Investigation authority continue to attack and persecute the Copts.

“The daily horrors of shame-rape, ethnic cleansing, forced displacement, and forced conversion, particularly in the southern part of Upper Egypt, are seriously eroding the Copts’ economic, social, and religious existence,” the letter recent to Rice reads.

“Despite the good relationship and numerous calls by President George W. Bush to President Hosni Mubarak, the daily life of the Copts continues to deteriorate,” the letter says.
 
“While the Egypt government continues to isolate its Coptic population, it has never discussed the constitutional rights of Egypt’s Christians nor has it legislated any new laws or presidential decrees to ensure human rights for the Copts,” it reads. “In fact, human rights activists are often harassed, attacked and falsely imprisoned.”

The ACU says it has documented and reported many of these crimes, which the Egyptian government has ignored. The letter tells of the case of Mary Bulak, a Coptic mother, whose two minor daughters were kidnapped, raped, and forcefully converted to Islam in 2003.

“Although our organization has spent considerable time with officials from the U.S. Department of State and the USCIRF, giving full details of the horrible crimes and suffering endured by the Bulaks, the Egyptian government still refuses to end the suffering of this family, and thousands of other families who have endured similar persecution,” the letter states.

The ACU also pointed out that the 2004 murder of human rights lawyer Sabry Zaky has been ignored by officials and remains unsolved.

In their letter, the ACU also suggests “building a friendly grass roots effort with those Christians and Muslims who are loyal to the U.S. and its values for freedom.”

The 2006 CIA World Factbook estimates that nearly 7 million, or 9 percent, of the ethnic Egyptian population is Coptic, making it the largest Christian community in the Arabic world.  The term Coptic refers to an ethno-religious group made up of Orthodox, Catholic, and some Protestant Christians originating in Egypt.

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Spokane diocese to sell bishop's office to pay sex-abuse claims

Spokane, Wash., Oct 4, 2006 (CNA) - The Diocese of Spokane is selling its pastoral center to help cover $81 million in claims, mostly by victims of clergy sex abuse. The nearly 30,000-square-foot, downtown building serves as the chancery and houses the bishop’s office.

A telephone auction is scheduled today after three parties met the minimum offer of $1.7 million, reported The Associated Press. A vacant 3-acre parcel, owned by the diocese in Spokane Valley, also will be sold.

The pastoral center is among $11 million in assets the diocese claimed when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December 2004.

The diocese estimated it could raise between $30 million and $35 million from insurance settlements and sales of property. While a federal judge ruled in June that Bishop William Skylstad could not sell schools and parish churches to satisfy creditors, the AP reports that lawyers representing the abuse victims said they would consider suing individual parishes to get money.

The diocese does not yet know where it will move its offices. However, according to the AP, some diocesan representatives hope a "Catholic-friendly" buyer would purchase the building and consider leasing it back to the diocese.

The diocese also wants to sell a 92-acre parcel of land near Medical Lake, west of the city, that is listed at $1.5 million. However, no offer to purchase has yet been made.
 
The bankruptcy proceeding is currently in mediation. According to the AP, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Patricia Williams said she wants to approve a reorganization plan that includes payments to victims by early January. 

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Laity in Mexico express solidarity with thousands of priests faithful to their mission

Mexico City, Mexico, Oct 4, 2006 (CNA) - In response to a sexual abuse lawsuit filed against a Mexican priest, the National Council of Laity (NCL) in Mexico condemned such crimes, but expressed its solidarity with the thousands of priests who generously serve others and have nothing to do with such conduct.

In a statement, the Council expressed is “regret and indignation” over the cases of sexual abuse committed by some priests.  Nevertheless, the group said, “Our hearts remain filled with joy and hope at the heroic service and generous commitment of the immense majority of our more than 14,000 priests, who we thank for their ministry and who we encourage and invite to remain faithful in their vocation of service and love to God and the Church.”

The NCL called on Mexicans to denounce cases of sexual abuse “with Christian courage and clarity,” because they are “a terrible assault on the suffering victim” and an attack against the family and all of society. “We insist that this is about a crime, and as such it should be punished according to the law, regardless of the status of the aggressor,” the statement emphasized.

The group likewise urged prayers for both the victims and the offenders, that there might be “justice and well being for both,” and “conversion of heart for the latter.”  The faithful should pray for priests, that the Holy Spirit would help them “in times of trial.”

The NCL said Catholics should treat priests with great respect and fraternal love, “so that they may find in us and our families true brothers and sisters with whom they can share, recreate and grow in a balanced way.”

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Future Saint moved to new shrine in Indiana

Saint-Mary-of-The-Woods, Ind., Oct 4, 2006 (CNA) - Hundreds of pilgrims gathered in an Indiana church yesterday as the body of a soon-to-be-canonized nun was moved from a crypt below the floor, to a shrine near the church’s main altar.  According to the Associated Press, pilgrims lined up to pray before the remains of the 19th century foundress, reaching out to touch her coffin.

The body of Blessed Theodore Guerin, who will be canonized a Saint by Pope Benedict XVI on October 15th in Rome, has been placed in a chapel near the sanctuary of the Church of the Immaculate Conception in St. Mary of the Woods, Indiana.

According to the Sisters of Providence, moving Mother Guerin's body is meant to make it more accessible to pilgrims who are expected to visit the church in the future.  Catholics believe that both the spiritual and physical natures of human beings are important. As such, the remains of Saints provide an important reminder of God’s glorification in heaven of men and woman dedicated to His service here on earth.

"While she sleeps, her heart watches over this house," Sister Marie McCarthy, a member of the Sisters of Providence of St. Mary of the Woods, which Guerin founded in 1840, told those at the ceremony.

Guerin founded a mother house for the Sisters of Providence and an academy for girls within a year of arriving in Indiana from France.  The original academy grew into the current St. Mary-of-the Woods College, located a few miles west of Terre Haute.  And the religious foundation Mother Guerin made spread throughout the United States.  Today 450 Sisters of Providence serve in 20 states throughout the country.

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German bishops call Muslim interpretation of controversial papal discourse “unjust”

Rome, Italy, Oct 4, 2006 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Germany, gathered for the plenary assembly, has called the interpretation by many Muslims of the lecture Pope Benedict XVI gave at the University of Ratisbona “unjust.”

According to the bishops, the Pope’s words were misconstrued by some to be “an unjust affirmation of scorn for the Muslim religion.”

The bishops issued a statement strongly rejecting the attitude of some who were stoking the controversy by making “accusations, demands, and even threats.”

“The Catholic Church and all persons, in Germany and throughout the world, who respect freedom of expression and defend it, will never be intimidated,” the bishops noted, expressing their hope that “Muslim leaders throughout the world will refrain from contributing in any way to exacerbating the situation again,” because “any ambiguity only leads to discord and should be avoided.”

The bishops deplored the attacks upon Christian minorities in some Muslim countries, especially the killing of Catholic nun in Somalia.  They likewise noted that in Germany, Muslims enjoy religious freedom, and they called on Muslim organizations to be committed to promoting religious freedom in their countries of origin.

Underscoring that “insulting or profaning religious faith is an abuse of freedom,” the German bishops explained that there is a fragile balance between the right to freedom of expression and the right to have one’s religious convictions respected.

They also emphasized the need, “now more than ever,” for Christian-Muslim dialogue in order to “purify the memory and give credit to the common witness of the religions in favor of peace and against violence.”

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Sustaining the Church is responsibility of each Catholic, says Madrid cardinal

Madrid, Spain, Oct 4, 2006 (CNA) - Speaking about the new financial model being used by the Catholic Church in Spain, the Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco, said this week that material support for the Church in her mission “has been and always will be the responsibility of her children and an obligation” of all the baptized.

“Material support of the Church, so she can carry our her service of the Word, the Sacraments, and the witness of charity is, has been, and always will be the responsibility of her children and an obligation born of the demands of the commandment of love that binds and unites them to their Lord and Savior,” the cardinal said during his Sunday radio program.

He noted that the Church’s economic and material needs have always been covered by “the generosity of her faithful.”  While the way in which this assistance is given to the Church has varied throughout the centuries, “the principle of the faithful contributing as an obligatory sign and instrument of their communion with the Church and her pastors has remained unchanged.”

Regarding the new financial agreement between the Spanish government and the Bishops’ Conference of Spain, Cardinal Rouco said, “It’s not going to completely solve the problem of what the real financial needs of the Church in Spain are,” since what the Church receives from State subsidies “does not meet even 30% of the Church’s pastoral expenses.”  State funds only cover 10% of the expenses of the Archdiocese of Madrid, the cardinal added.

Therefore, he continued, the “active solidarity of Catholics with the Church in Spain and in Madrid continues to be vitally essential and it must not decline neither in material volume nor in spiritual intensity.”

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Holy See accepts resignation of controversial Argentinean bishop who aspires to political office

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct 4, 2006 (CNA) - On Tuesday Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Bishop Joaquin Pina Batllevell, SJ, of the Diocese of Puerto Iguazu, who recently caused a firestorm by forming and leading an independent political coalition to replace the controversial current governor of the Argentinean province of Missiones.

Bishop Pina submitted his resignation upon reaching the age of retirement, and as his successor, Pope Benedict appointed Father Marcelo Martorell, 61, a pastor from the city of Cordoba.

Until the installation of the new bishop, the Holy Father designated, as Apostolic Administrator of Puerto Iguazu, Archbishop Domingo Salvador Castagna of Corrientes.  

Thus, Bishop Pena will no longer have a formal link to the diocese, although as a bishop he still remains subject to the canonical norms that apply to clergy seeking political involvement.

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