Vatican City, Oct 26, 2006 (CNA) - Meeting this morning with Frank De Coninck, the new ambassador of Belgium to the Holy See, Pope Benedict XVI noted the challenge of western societies to respect human life in the face of relativism, subjectivism, and a superabundance of consumer goods.
The Holy Father said that there are certain challenges that “concern the future of human beings and their identity." Now that, "enormous technological progress has revolutionized many practices in the field of medical science,” certain ethical, “norms that once appeared untouchable have been relativized,” the Pope said.
“In Western societies, characterized by their superabundance of consumer goods and by their subjectivism, human beings find themselves facing a crisis of meaning," while, he continued, "laws are passed that put respect for human life into question."
"The Church, on the foundation of her long experience, and of the treasure of Revelation she received ... firmly underlines her convictions concerning human beings and their prodigious destiny," said the Pope. "When Belgian bishops speak in favor of the development of palliative care to enable people ... to die with dignity, or when they participate in the debates of society" in order to draw attention to that invisible moral frontier before which technological progress must bow: the dignity of man, "they seek to serve the whole of society by identifying the conditions for a real future of freedom and dignity for mankind. With them, I invite political leaders ... to give attentive consideration to their responsibilities and to the challenges these questions pose," the Holy Father said.
Europe and “the great projects of the planet”
The Holy Father recalled how Belgium was, from the very beginning, an active participant in "the great project of European construction," and he praised the goals achieved in this field over the last 50 years.
"Little by little, the continent of Europe is finding its unity in peace," he said, "the European Union has become a major economic force and, for many people, a sign of hope."
Today, faced with "the requirements of the globalization of trade and of solidarity between human beings," Europe must "continue to open itself, committing itself to the great projects of the planet." Of key importance, Pope Benedict continued, is “the question of peace and security…the international situation weakened by conflict ... especially in the Middle East, and the dramatic conditions in the Holy Land, Lebanon and Iraq, as well as in Africa and Asia."
Dialogue between cultures and religions
Pope Benedict also recalled the diverse history of Belgium and the way it has succeeded in fostering national unity and “respect for each linguistic and cultural community within the nation. The unity of a country,” the Pope said, “requires all sides to show a will to serve the common interest and a desire for better mutual knowledge through dialogue and reciprocal enrichment.”
“Today, the influx of ever-greater numbers of immigrants and the increasing number of communities of different cultural origin or religion, make it absolutely necessary for there to be dialogue between cultures and religions in our societies."
"We must know one another better," the Pope concluded, "respecting one another's religious convictions and the legitimate requirements of social life, in accordance with current legislation. We must welcome immigrants in such a way as always to respect their dignity" through "immigration policies that reconcile the interests of the country of destination with the necessary development of less-favored nations. ... Thus we will avoid the risks of ... exacerbated nationalism or xenophobia, and may hope for the harmonious development of our societies."
Vancouver, Canada, Oct 26, 2006 (CNA) - During a meeting with participants in the fifth international congress of Military Ordinariates, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged the bishops who are responsible for serving the world’s militaries to ensure that their chaplains embrace and teach the Church’s doctrines on building peace in the world.
Marking the twentieth anniversary of the Apostolic Constitution "Spirituali Militum Curae," promulgated by Servant of God John Paul II, Pope Benedict recalled how the work of his predecessor, "updated canonical regulations regarding spiritual assistance to the military, in the light of Vatican Council II and bearing in mind the transformations affecting armed forces and their mission at a national and international level."
With the further changes that have taken place over the last two decades, the Constitution requires "adaptation to the needs of the present moment. This is what you, with great timeliness, have sought to do during this meeting, organized by the Congregation for Bishops."
After mentioning the "two fundamental values" emphasized in the Apostolic Constitution - "the value of the person and the value of peace" - the Holy Father emphasized that those who serve in the military around the world, “do not cease to be members of the faithful of the particular Church where they live, or of the rite to which they belong.” “This,” the Holy Father said, “highlights a need for communion and coordination between the Military Ordinariate and the particular Churches."
"Putting people first means giving pride of place to the Christian formation of soldiers, accompanying them and their relatives as they progress in Christian initiation, along the path of vocation, of maturity in the faith and of witness. It also means favoring forms of fraternity, communion and liturgical and non-liturgical prayer that are appropriate to the military environment and lifestyle."
Going on to refer to the "value of peace," the Pope said: "If Vatican Council II calls the military ministers of peace, how much more so are the pastors to whom they are entrusted! I therefore encourage you all to ensure that military chaplains be true experts and masters of what the Church teaches and practices in terms of building peace in the world."
"The Church is called to be 'salt,' 'light' and leavening,' even in the world of the military... so that mentalities and structures become ever more oriented towards building peace" said Pope Benedict. "The Church's Magisterium on the question of peace represents an essential aspect of her social doctrine," he added.
The Church's "insistent calls for peace have influenced Western culture, promoting the idea that the armed forces are 'at the exclusive service of the defense, security and freedom of peoples.' Sometimes, unfortunately, other interests, economic and political interests fomented by international tensions, put obstacles and setbacks in the way of this constructive tendency, as is evident in the difficulty of disarmament processes."
The Holy Father concluded his talk by insisting that, "in order to offer people adequate pastoral care and carry out their evangelizing mission, Military Ordinaries need motivated and trained priests and deacons, as well as lay people who collaborate actively and responsibly with pastors."
Trenton, N.J., Oct 26, 2006 (CNA) - New Jersey’s highest court yesterday ruled that “there is no fundamental right to same-sex marriage.” However, the 4-3 ruling does claim that the state constitution gives same-sex couples equivalent civil rights afforded to heterosexual couples, but that lawmakers must decide how to grant those rights.
The court gave the legislature six months to create a structure for same-sex couples to receive all the same benefits of marriage. This ruling reverses the June 2005 decision of a New Jersey appellate court.
The court said, "the Legislature must either amend the marriage statutes to include same-sex couples or create a parallel statutory structure, which will provide for, on equal terms, the rights and benefits enjoyed and burdens and obligations borne by married couples."
The Alliance for Marriage immediately called upon Congress to pass the Marriage Protection Amendment. The lobby group filed an amicus brief in the case, arguing that the legislature of New Jersey was fully entitled to protect marriage as an institution that seeks to ensure that more children will be raised in a home with a mother and a father.
"Most Americans believe that gays and lesbians have a right to live as they choose. But they don't believe they have a right to redefine marriage for our entire society," said Matt Daniels, president of the Alliance for Marriage.
In December, attorneys for the Alliance Defense Fund also filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Family Research Council, defending marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
“If marriage can mean anything, then marriage means nothing,” said ADF senior counsel Glen Lavy. “This is a wake-up call for people who believe that marriage doesn’t need constitutional protection.
“The court was right to conclude there is no fundamental right to same-sex ‘marriage,’ but to characterize marriage as just another option along with other ‘unions’ makes marriage meaningless,” he continued. “It’s critical that people vote for marriage amendments, like those in Arizona, Virginia, and Wisconsin, which prevent a court from giving same-sex couples marriage in everything but name only.”
New Jersey citizens will vote on a Nov. 7 ballot, in which the marriage amendment is one of the items.
“Nine major court rulings this year have said that marriage is for the people and the legislature to decide,” Lavy said in a statement. “In 20 states, the people have spoken by adopting amendments to protect marriage -- by an average margin of 71 percent. We need such amendments to stop the kind of judicial activism found in this decision.”
“Legally, marriage is the state’s way of protecting children by ensuring that whenever possible they are raised by their own mother and father,” said Lavy. “Because same-sex couples can’t procreate, this vital state interest is not advanced by handing out marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The court declined to address this issue because the attorney general specifically refused to make the argument.”
Catholic League president Bill Donohue agreed that the court decision is “a wakeup call to the vast majority of Americans who are opposed to gay marriage but are reluctant to access the constitutional amendment process as the right remedy.”
“When faced with the prospect of arrogant judges who continue to appropriate powers to themselves that are nowhere authorized in law, many will now reconsider their reservations,” Donohue said.
Chief counsel for Concerned Women for America, Jan LaRue, said the ruling mirrors the Vermont Supreme Court ruling in 1999.
"This is a textbook example of agenda-driven judges," said LaRue. “Because New Jersey has no residency requirement for marriage, if the legislature caves in to the court, it could open the door for lawsuits challenging every state’s marriage law," she warned.
Dili, East Timor, Oct 26, 2006 (CNA) - Former Aposotlic Administrator to East Timor and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Bishop Carlos Belo, met Tuesday with a Timorese rebel leader and key politicians during a 10-day trip to the country, in an effort to bring about peace.
"It's time to end the violence and crisis," said Bishop Belo during a visit with Timorese refugees, reported The Associated Press. "It is very easy for us to kill our East Timorese brothers and sisters ... our culture is a culture of war and not a culture of peace."
Bishop Belo flew in a United Nations helicopter to meet rebel leader Alfredo Reinado, who has been in hiding since August, when he and more than 50 other inmates escaped from a prison in Dili, reported the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Bishop Belo was the apostolic administrator in East Timor during the independence movement, but resigned in 2002 due to health problems. After recovering in Europe, the bishop returned to service with his Salesian order and has been doing missionary work in Mozambique.
Bishop Belo also met yesterday with former prime minister Mari Alkatiri and former interior affairs minister Rogerio Lobato. A UN report into the violence in East Timor called for both politicians to be criminally investigated in relation to the violence that broke out in East Timor in April.
There has been ongoing unrest in the small country since the April-May gang warfare, which left 33 dead and forced 155,000 people into overcrowded displacement camps. It was reportedly triggered in part by Alkatiri’s dismissal of more than one-third of the armed forces.
A UN report, issued last week, largely blamed Alkatiri’s government for the April-May violence and recommended that Alkatiri and his former ministers for defense and interior be investigated for allegedly being aware of, or involved in, the arming of civilians, reported The Associated Press.
While much of the violence has ended in recent months since the arrival of international troops, a violent incident Sunday led to two fatal stabbings outside a Catholic church. Four others were reportedly injured in fighting between rival gangs.
La Paz, Bolivia, Oct 26, 2006 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Cardinal Julio Terrazas Sandoval, exhorted Bolivians this week not to be afraid of proclaiming Christ and to remember that the mission the Lord gives to Christians is to proclaim the Gospel to all nations.
“We have grown accustomed to some in the Church speaking about Jesus Christ, and the rest of us are afraid, the rest of us hide. Perhaps we might show up at some gathering, but when its time to speak of the Lord and defend the cause of the Kingdom, we cannot hide in anonymity,” the cardinal said during the Mass for Mission Sunday.
The cardinal recalled that the order Jesus gave to the disciples was to bring the message of salvation to all nations. “Go and proclaim what they have seen, what they have heard, what they have felt, what they have touched—Christ the Lord,” he stated.
“A Church that does not heed this order of the Lord is a Church that is asleep, a Church that gets used to small things in order to assuage its consciences,” Cardinal Terrazas warned.
During his homily, the cardinal noted that the faith of Bolivia grew thanks to the missionaries who came from different countries, and he praised new initiatives that encourage children to be missionaries and become involved in spreading the faith.
“This is the model that the Lord proposed to his followers, become like them, because only the one who has the soul of a child surrenders to God. Only the one who does not trust in his own plans, his own money, his own power, can proclaim the liberating word of God,” he said.
Mexico City, Mexico, Oct 26, 2006 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Mexico, Bishop Jose Guadalupe Martin Rabago, told reporters this week that religious freedom is not a privilege for the Church, but rather a right of all persons and one which must be respected.
Bishop Martin Rabago, who together with other bishops had a meeting with President-elect Felipe Calderon, did not disclose any specific issue that was discussed with the Mexican leader.
“(Religious freedom) is innate to the human person and in no way is it a request for some kind of privilege for the Catholic Church,” the bishop said, adding that persons should be free to make their own decisions regarding religious affiliation.
In this sense, Bishop Rabago expressed the desire of the bishops to see that this right is “clearly enshrined in the Constitution of Mexico.”
During the meeting the bishops also invited Calderon to attend their next general assembly in November, when a new conference president will be elected.
Mexico City, Mexico, Oct 26, 2006 (CNA) -
Archbishop Francisco Robles Ortega of Monterrey has called for security forces to be investigated in response to indications that drug traffickers have infiltrated positions of power.
“It’s a fact that has been pointed out by several groups. We ourselves (the bishops), in our document on drug trafficking, said that it becomes more powerful and grows when certain leaders become involved. The advance of drug trafficking cannot be understood apart from the complicity of certain people who, in their time, were in positions of power,” he said.
At the same time, the archbishop cautioned against assigning blame to every member of a given institution and said that instead, “those persons responsible for our security” should be investigated if warranted.
Archbishop Ortega also said that the recent kidnappings in Nuevo Leon are an indication of “the seriousness of organized crime.” He said the incidents ought to be of concern not only to the populace but also to authorities.
Madrid, Spain, Oct 26, 2006 (CNA) - In comments this week about the recent financial accord between the Spanish government and the Church, Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Tarazona said, “The Catholic Church is not a parasite on Spanish society, but rather is of great benefit to mankind.”
In a letter entitled, “The Financing of the Church,” Bishop Fernandez said the State’s contribution to sustaining the Church “was not some kind of privilege,” because “there was a historical debt for the lands and possessions unjustly seized” by the State during the 19th century. “And the Church acquiesced in this because her objective is not the accumulation of possessions, but rather to serve the Gospel worthily.”
“The accord is important because from now on the Government will not give one penny to the Catholic Church. Catholics themselves will directly support their Church through collections, donations, subscriptions, bequests, and tax allocations,” he explained.
Bishop Fernandez also underscored that through her charitable works the Church in Spain saves the State some $10 million each year —“five thousand times more than what the Church received from the State.”
“If the Church ceased doing everything she is doing now, it would be a huge expense for the State to take over such tasks,” he added.
The Catholic Church in Spain, he continued, provides tremendous benefits for society, even for non-believers. “When an AIDS patient receives care from a Catholic facility, that person is not asked about his or her religious practices, but rather simply receives care. The same thing occurs in parishes throughout Spain with regards to immigrants, no matter what their color or religion.”
“Catholics will have to wake up, since the support of the Catholic Church will depend on them and on their responsibility as the faithful,” Bishop Fernandez said, adding that Catholics should be conscious of “the importance of helping the Church in her needs.”
“Let me take this opportunity to thank you for everything you do. Let us continue making ourselves aware of the financing of the Church. It is our task,” he concluded.
Chiang Mai, Oct 26, 2006 (CNA) - More than 1,000 Catholics from across Asia gathered in Chiang Mai, Thailand, for a five-day congress to discuss incorporating their cultures and their faith, reported UCA News.
The theme of the Asian Mission Congress, held from Oct. 18 to 22, was: “The Story of Jesus in Asia, A Celebration of Faith and Life.”
UCAN reported how speakers spent a good part of the conference focusing on how to place the story of Jesus and to live the Gospel of Jesus within Asia's richly varied cultures, with its many religions and dealt particularly with youth and media, migration and consumerism.
Paul Mary Suvij Suvaruchiporn, a Thai businessman, shared with participants about overcoming consumerism; Singapore's Sherlyn Khong talked about a life-changing exposure to poverty she experienced as a youth; sociologist Maruja Asis of the Philippines reflected on how her faith grew while studying in the United States; and Albertus and Clara Rose Ajisyksmo, an Indonesian couple, spoke on interfaith dialogue in their life, reported UCA News.
Msgr. Pietro Nguyen Van Tai, a Vietnamese who directs programming at Manila-based Radio Veritas Asia, related how he learned to appreciate the importance of media in telling stories of Jesus in local cultures.
Fr. John Mansford Prior, a UK-born Divine Word missioner based in Indonesia, closed the afternoon sessions with a reflective theological synthesis.
"Inculturation [is] more than simply a pastoral issue or a question of methodology," he was quoted as saying. "Inculturation is an ongoing quest of immersing the local Churches and faith communities into the diverse and pluralistic Asian milieu with its myriad cultures, religions and extreme poverty, sharing life in solidarity with the Asian peoples and serving life as Jesus has done."