Vatican City, Oct 11, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI greeted some 40,000 pilgrims in St. Peter’s square today, speaking to them of the Apostles Simon and Jude. The Holy Father told the crowd of faithful that the two Apostles provide a witness to the unity that can be found in Jesus as well as the necessity of preserving the firm identity of the Christian faith.
Jude, the Pope said, is known sometimes simply as Thaddaeus which means, “magnanimous.” Benedict noted how St. Jude Thaddaeus asked Jesus at the last supper, “Master, (then) what happened that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world (Jn 14:22)?" To this, the Holy Father said, Jesus gave an “indirect reply,” which “affirms a very important truth: the full manifestation of Jesus to His disciples is not exterior but interior, it is conditioned by the disciple's love."
The Pontiff also discussed the Letter of Jude, one of the Letters of the New Testament, which he said has as its principle theme, “to warn Christians from all those who use the grace of God as a pretext for their own dissoluteness and to mislead their brethren with unacceptable teachings, introducing divisions within the Church."
"Today, perhaps, we are no longer accustomed to using such polemical language which, though adopting beautiful poetic imagery, does not fail to state with great clarity both what is distinctive of Christianity and what is incompatible with it,” the Pope said.
“The path of tolerance and dialogue, taken by Vatican Council II, must certainly be continued with firmness and constancy,” Pope Benedict continued. “This must not, however, make us forget the duty to reconsider and highlight the irrefutable guidelines of our Christian identity." An identity which, he said is not merely cultural "but requires strength, clarity, and courage of conviction."
The Pope also discussed St. Simon the Cananean. Simon, the Holy Father noted, is also known as the Zealot. “It is highly possible," he said, "that this Simon, if he did not actually belong to the nationalist movement of the Zealots, was nonetheless characterized by his ardent zeal for the Jewish identity, hence for God, for His people and for the Divine Law.”
"If this was so," he added, "Simon was at the opposite extreme from Matthew who, as a tax collector, had practiced an activity universally considered as impure.”
This, the Pope said, “is an evident sign that Jesus calls His disciples and collaborators from the most diverse social and religious groups, without preclusion. He is interested in people, not in social categories and labels. ... All His followers, though different from one another, lived together, overcoming the understandable difficulties. Jesus Himself was, in fact, the cause of their cohesion."
We, on the other hand, are "often inclined to underline differences and contrasts, forgetting that in Jesus Christ we are given the strength to settle our conflicts," Benedict lamented.
“Therefore the Pope concluded, the two saints, “help us to constantly rediscover again and to live untiringly the beauty of the Christian faith, and to know how to give a strong and at the same time clear testimony.”
London, England, Oct 11, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor said after his first meeting with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexis II last week, it was very clear that the Patriarch “wants better relationships with the Catholic Church.”
“I was very impressed with the Patriarch,” he said in an interview with Gerard O’Connell posted on the Archdiocese of Westminster’s website. “He seemed to me not only very friendly but also very open and glad to see me.”
The cardinal-archbishop said the Patriarch was “eager to discuss the things we share as Christians and eager to talk about the way we should give common witness in Europe to the values we represent as Churches; the values regarding family, ethical and bio-ethical questions, and the question of being a Christian in a secular culture.”
“I was very impressed by the way he insisted that we have so much to share and that we need to support one another,” he added.
Cardinal O’Connor said the Patriarch also addressed some issues blocking the development of Orthodox-Catholic relations, such as the question of proselytism and that of the presence of the Greek Catholic Church in the Ukraine.
“With regard to proselytism, I don’t think the Catholic Church would want to use that word in reference to the way it promotes the Gospel; it promotes the Gospel very freely,” the cardinal explained. “Proselytism isn’t a word we would want to use, and so I was able to reassure him about that.”
The cardinal reported that the Patriarch expressed his high esteem for Pope Benedict and asked the cardinal to extend his greeting to the pontiff.
The cardinal said the Pope, who he met with on Monday, was pleased to hear about the meeting. “Part of Pope Benedict’s agenda is to develop a closer relationship with the whole of the Orthodox Church, and clearly the Patriarch of Moscow,” he said.
“In other words, I think the Pope himself would like to meet the Patriarch, but from his point too he would want a well prepared meeting, something that is realistic and able to ensure a real rapprochement, a real step ahead in the quest for greater unity with the Orthodox,” the cardinal stated.
The cardinal, who said he met with the Holy Father in his capacity as the president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, also spoke with the Pope about the weaknesses and strengths of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.
The cardinal reported a decrease in priests and church attendance and the tensions of secular society. However, he also reported the respect people in society have for the Church.
“They recognize the rationality here and I think, increasingly they see that what the Catholic Church teaches, it teaches it because it is true,” he said in the interview.
“We count now more as Church than we did before and that, in a sense, if we could have more articulate lay people able to express their faith we are in a very good position to do so,” he added.
Sydney, Australia, Oct 11, 2006 (CNA) - While everyone wants to find cures for disease and to alleviate suffering, this cannot be done “by creating and then killing human life,” the Australian bishops said in opposition to a bill that proposes the creation of embryos for research.
The Australian Parliament is currently debating whether to allow the creation of embryos specifically for embryonic stem-cell research. Passage of the bill would radically reverse a decision taken by Parliament in 2002, preventing human cloning.
In 2002, Australia adopted legislation that allows embryonic stem-cell lines to be extracted from viable human embryos “left over” from the process of in vitro fertilization, but it prevented the creation of embryos for research.
The issue will be put to a vote of conscience in Parliament. The bishops say they hope Parliamentarians will reject the bill.
“The Catholic Church is not opposed to stem cell research,” the bishops’ statement says. “On the contrary, we are strong supporters of research based on adult stem cells, as well as those which are derived from umbilical cord blood.
“Since 2002, there have been no significant scientific developments to justify more permissive legislation and no change in the fundamental ethical issues,” the statement reads.
The bishops argue that the new bill creates “a new contempt for life” by “creating embryos purely for the purpose of destruction” and “introducing new categories of human embryos, including clones and embryos with mixed DNA.”
“Introducing cloning and the mixing of human and animal genetic material into this field of research only compounds the promotion of curiosity over ethics,” the bishops say.
“Many Australians are afflicted by terrible suffering and we share with them the hope for a cure or effective treatment,” the bishops say. “But allowing scientists open slather on human embryos for research is not the way forward.”
, Oct 11, 2006 (CNA) - Made public this morning was an address given by the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, on the subject of the General Assembly’s “Follow-up and implementation of the outcome of the International Conference on Financing for Development.” The Vatican representative said particular attention should be given to the economic growth of low-income developing countries.
Such countries, the archbishop said, “face the greatest difficulties in mobilizing domestic resources for development.” As such, Migliore continued, “these countries should therefore be the subjects of particular attention, especially since foreign direct investment is unlikely to be significant, primarily because it is not meant to resolve problems of poverty and development as such, but it may help do so if properly regulated.”
Archbishop Migliore said the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP), which were prepared by the governments of developing counties themselves, “have an important role,” in the process, “since they could provide an appropriate framework for defining national development strategies.”
The archbishop commended the successful preparation of the PRSP and encouraged “all global institutions aimed at reducing poverty in the poorest countries” to use the papers as a tool to aid in progress.
Migliore noted the successful proposal of the G8 that the International Monetary Fund, the International Development Association, and the African Development Fund cancel all debts claimed by the poorest of countries. “External debt,” he noted, “has crippled many economies for decades.”
The UN report on development, the archbishop concluded, “paints a generally positive picture of the engagement in this field.” However, he noted, “it will be important for all partners to stay engaged and to address systemic issues, above all those which concern steps to create and maintain an equitable international monetary, financial and trading system which will be fair, open and capable of supporting development,” in order for the countries to meet Millennium Development Goals set to be reached by 2015.
Pittsburgh, Pa., Oct 11, 2006 (CNA) - Instead of simply criticizing Pentecostal churches that draw Catholics as members, Catholic leaders should consider why their parishes aren't meeting the needs of those who leave, said Cardinal Walter Kasper said Monday.
"Our response cannot be in the form of a polemical approach, leaving ourselves to condemn the activities of other groups," the cleric reportedly told an audience of 225 people at Duquesne University.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Cardinal Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said it is crucial to be engaged with the diverse global Pentecostal movement, which numbers 600 million members.
Catholics who leave their parishes often they long for a sense of Christian community and direct spiritual experience that they find lacking, he continued. In addition, many haven't been taught enough about their own faith to respond to criticisms of their faith. These problems are acute in the global South, he said.
The cardinal called for better faith formation, which does not denigrate other Christian denominations, small parish-based prayer groups, youth groups and Bible studies where people can form a close spiritual community.
He noted that the Catholic charismatic movement, which has characteristics similar to Pentecostalism, emerged in 1967 at Duquesne University, reported the newspaper. Pentecostalism emphasizes community and the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as speaking in tongues, prophecy, and faith healing.
Bishop Paul Bradley, administrator of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Metropolitan Basil Schott of the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh, Episcopal Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh and Metropolitan Nicholas of the Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church of Johnstown also attended the lecture.
Fr. Lou Vallone, pastor of St. John of God Parish in McKees Rocks, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette he believes there is hope of rebuilding ties with Catholics who have joined the Pentecostal church.
“People are attracted to the emotionalism and high levels of joy, but they miss the Mass,” he was quoted as saying. He said when he held Mass during a joint Catholic and Pentecostal medical mission to Mexico everybody attended.
“It was like a coming home for them,” he reportedly said.
Wellington, New Zealand, Oct 11, 2006 (CNA) - The New Zealand government claimed yesterday that it had United Nations approval to deport an Iranian refugee who is refusing to go home because he fears he will be executed for converting from Islam to Christianity.
Thomas (formerly known as Hossein) Yadegary has been held in a New Zealand prison for 23 months awaiting deportation.
According to Deutsche Presse-Agentur, the 37-year-old chef is refusing to sign papers needed to obtain the Iranian passport required to send him home.
Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported that immigration official Mary Anne Thompson said Yadegary's application for asylum had been refused after a fair hearing and he was now legally required to leave the country. She rejected claims that Yadegary would be killed if sent back to his homeland.
Yadegary fled Iran in August 1993, after getting a letter telling him to report to the authorities, and arrived in New Zealand two months later.
He was allowed to work while his application went through the lengthy appeal process. He also attended English classes at an Auckland church and converted to Catholicism in 1997.
According to an interview that was broadcast on Radio New Zealand, two other Iranians who converted to Christianity were executed in Iran in August.
Associate Immigration Minister Clayton Cosgrove told Parliament that Yadegary had failed in seven appeals for asylum in New Zealand and six ministerial representations. Two High Court judicial reviews had confirmed his rejection.
Cosgrove turned down a final appeal for Yadegary to stay in New Zealand last week.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct 11, 2006 (CNA) - Bishop Luis Lona of San Luis has criticized the recent law on sexual education passed by the Argentinean Senate and said the country’s leaders should clarify what he called “an ambiguous legal norm” and the uncertainty as to how it would be applied.
Bishop Lona said in passing the sexual education law, which forces private and public schools to teach sex-ed courses, congress failed to outline a basic criteria for the subject matter.
The lack of clarity, the bishop said, prevents many parents from having a say in the sexual education of their children. “This norm divides Argentineans into two categories: those who will be able to provide their children with an education in accord with their convictions by sending them to private schools that respect their beliefs, and those who cannot and will be forced to subject themselves to the dictates of a simple majority in state-run schools,” the bishop said.
Bishop Lona said the failure to clearly define the application of certain laws affects Argentinean families the most, who in recent years are suffering from a crisis of incalculable consequences.
“This crisis is due in large measure to the anti-sexual education we have received in the last twenty years. It is the anti-education of a hedonistic and egocentric culture that is promoted by the modern communications media, and that is increasingly supported by worldwide political majority,” he added.
True sexual education, Bishop Lona underscored, points to God as the creator of man in His image and likeness, to give him freedom and raise him up to the communion of love. “It is education in trusting in one’s own freedom and exercising it authentically. It is education for marriage, which allows the child and the young person to mature in love,” he said in conclusion.
Rome, Italy, Oct 11, 2006 (CNA) - A court in Turkey has sentenced a Muslim teenager to 18 years in prison for the killing, last February 5th, of Italian priest Father Andrea Santoro at the Church of Holy Mary, in Trebisonda.
According to the Turkish news agency Anatolia, the court found the 16 year-old youth, identified only with the initials O.A., guilty of premeditated homicide, illegal possession of firearms, and disturbance of the public order.
Prosecutors argued for a life sentence, but taking into the account the youth’s status as a minor, the court issued a lighter sentence.
Although the motive behind the killing has not yet been determined, several witnesses said during the trial that they heard the perpetrator shout “Allahu Akbar” (“Allah is great”) while he fired upon Father Andrea who was celebrating Mass.
The 16 year-old told investigators he was influenced by the publication of cartoons depicting the Mohammed in some European newspapers.
In the days following the killing, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Vicar of the Diocese of Rome, announced he would ask for the opening of the cause of beatification and canonization of the Italian priest, saying “all of the essential elements of Christian martyrdom” were present in the case.
Madrid, Spain, Oct 11, 2006 (CNA) - During the inaugural address of the World Congress of Catholic Television, the President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Archbishop John Foley, said that “in a media-driven society,” the Church “must not remain isolated” and he called for “greater creativity” in Catholic television in order to offer content “in the forms understood in society today.”
“This congress is very important because of the media moment in which we are living and that demands of us a more harmonious and united presence. We cannot remain isolated, each involved in his own individual struggle with our backs turned to the rest,” the archbishop said, adding such an attitude “weakens the voice” of the Church and makes it “more dispersive.”
Archbishop Foley said technological changes mean the media industry “demands professional-quality content” and “enormous quantities of audiovisual material in very distinct formats.”
In order to address this situation, he said, the Church must “be capable of renewing her creativity to offer content in the forms understood in society today.”
Likewise, he continued, the Church “must be conscience of the leading role of communications in today’s world, of the convergence of the traditional media with those of the new technologies and of the phenomenon of globalization.”
Managua, Nicaragua, Oct 11, 2006 (CNA) - In the wake of a massive pro-life march that brought together more than 10,000 people in Managua to defend the life of the unborn, the leader of the country’s National Assembly, Sandinista Rene Nuñez, has sponsored a measure to reform Nicaragua’s Penal Code and outlaw all abortions.
“Together with the bishops and the Catholic Church of Nicaragua and with the pastors of the evangelical church, we commit ourselves to seeking out the quickest way to do so, which in this case would be the reform of the current Penal Code,” Nuñez said outside the congressional offices.
Thousands of Nicaraguans took the streets in recent days to protest a proposal to change the country’s Constitution to allow “therapeutic abortion.”
“Therapeutic abortion is a door through which abortion could be legalized in Nicaragua, as has unfortunately happened in other countries,” said the bishops’ vicar for clergy formation, Msgr. Miguel Mantica, who helped organize the march.
Archbishop Leopoldo Brenes of Managua and various Protestant pastors led the pro-life demonstrations.
While the bill to legalize therapeutic abortion is still before the National Assembly, Nuñez said it would be soon be tabled.
During the recent political campaign, the Sandinista Party had supported abortion, but now leaders say they oppose the practice.
On Tuesday feminists and abortion supporters met outside the National Assembly to demand the pro-abortion bill be adopted.