Vatican City, Oct 30, 2006 (CNA) - Speaking to the tens of thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square Sunday morning, Pope Benedict XVI reflected on the Gospel story of the healing of the blind man, Bartimaeus. Prior to praying the Angelus, the Holy Father pointed out how every Christian is like Bartimaeus in their faith journey - from blindness into illumination.
"In the essentiality of its narrative,” the Pope remarked, “this account evokes the catechumen's journey towards the Sacrament of Baptism, which in the early Church was also called ‘illumination.’”
"Faith," the Holy Father added, "is a path of illumination. It begins with the recognition of our need for salvation and arrives at the personal meeting with Christ, Who calls us to follow Him on the road of love. This is the model followed by itineraries of Christian initiation in the Church, as a preparation for the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist.”
"In places of long-standing evangelization, where the Baptism of children is widespread,” he continued, “young people and adults are presented with experiences of catechesis and spirituality enabling them to rediscover their faith with maturity and awareness, so that they can then take on a coherent commitment of witness" to that faith.
Benedict XVI praised the work of catechists and pastors in this field, highlighting how "the rediscovery of the value of their own Baptism lies at the root of all Christians' missionary commitment, because we see from the Gospel that people who let themselves be fascinated by Christ cannot but bear witness to the joy of following His footsteps."
The Pope concluded his message, recalling how the month of October is traditionally dedicated to missions. The Holy Father called on the intercession of the Virgin Mary, "that missionaries of the Gospel may proliferate," and that "all the baptized may feel themselves called to announce, with the witness of their own lives, God's love to everyone."
Vatican City, Oct 30, 2006 (CNA) -
Pope Benedict XVI greeted members of the Greek Episcopal Conference today at the Vatican. The Holy Father told the bishops, who were visiting as part of their “ad Limina” visit, to increase their prayers that one day the Greek Orthodox Church, which makes up the majority of the Greek population will one day be reunited with the Catholic Church.
The Pope told his brother bishops that there is a need, "to intensify prayer so as to accelerate the coming of that blessed day when it will be granted us to break the Bread together, and drink together from the same Chalice." On this subject, he expressed his hope for the opening of "ever greater prospects of constructive dialogue between the Greek Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church," and for an increase in "shared spiritual, cultural and practical initiatives.”
“Moreover,” the Holy Father continued, “it is my pleasure to send my best wishes to His Beatitude Christodoulos, archbishop of Athens and of all Greece," and through him "to the Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church and to all the faithful."
The Pope also encouraged and affirmed the Greek Catholic bishops in their desire to finally receive a “recognized juridical status,” in Greece. The Greek government currently only recognizes the Greek Orthodox Church, and there remain tensions between many Greek Orthodox and the minority of Greek Catholics who are present in their communities.
“Dialogue on this question is underway," the Holy Father offered, "a dialogue in which the Apostolic See is not the main player."
"Apart from dialogue, this question also requires perseverance,” the Pope said. “It is unnecessary to add that the Catholic Church seeks no privileges, but only asks for her identity and mission to be recognized, in such a way as to be able effectively to make her contribution to the overall wellbeing of the noble Greek people, of which you are an integral part. With patience and respect for legitimate procedures it will be possible, with everyone's commitment, to achieve the desired agreement."
As it is, the Pope noted, there is an “abundant influx” of Catholic immigrants to Greece who face the Greek bishops and clergy with, “"new requirements of ministerial service that are not easy to meet."
Bearing in mind the diversity of languages and rites of the faithful, said Pope Benedict, "I believe the development of constructive dialogue with other episcopates is more than ever appropriate." From this, he added, will emerge "prudent decisions" on how to find the ministers and resources necessary. "Obviously, respect for specific identities must be borne in mind, but without sacrificing ... the life and plans of the Churches that Christ entrusted to you."
The Holy Father called upon the prelates "to continue your efforts to encourage vocational pastoral care;" on the one hand "carefully cultivating the seeds of vocation," and on the other, "inviting Christian communities to pray more intensely" for a greater number of priestly and religious vocations, He also emphasized "the spiritual needs of so many immigrants who have found a dignified and cordial welcome in your country. This," he added, "is the style typical of your people."
The Holy Father concluded his talk by recalling the distress felt by many communities “at the internal displacement of their faithful. Many of them are scattered over the territory and this leads to difficulties in their relationships with their respective pastors. It is also phenomena such as this that reveal the importance of affective and effective unity among you bishops through greater internal coordination.”
Vatican City, Oct 30, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI urged the Catholic bishops of Ireland to deal effectively with the problems of clergy sexual abuse that have taken place to the “take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again.”
In his message to the Irish bishops, issued over the weekend on the occasion of their ad limina visit, the Pope acknowledged that the bishop have had to respond to “many heart-rending cases of sexual abuse of minors.”
“These are all the more tragic when the abuser is a cleric,” said Benedict. “The wounds caused by such acts run deep, and it is an urgent task to rebuild confidence and trust where these have been damaged.”
“In your continuing efforts to deal effectively with this problem, it is important to establish the truth of what happened in the past, to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again, to ensure that the principles of justice are fully respected and, above all, to bring healing to the victims and to all those affected by these egregious crimes,” he urged.
“In this way, the Church in Ireland will grow stronger and be ever more capable of giving witness to the redemptive power of the Cross of Christ.”
“The fine work and selfless dedication of the great majority of priests and religious in Ireland should not be obscured by the transgressions of some of their brethren,” the pontiff said. “I am certain that the people understand this, and continue to regard their clergy with affection and esteem.
“Encourage your priests always to seek spiritual renewal and to discover afresh the joy of ministering to their flocks within the great family of the Church,” he said.
The Pope also acknowledged the “outstanding contribution that Ireland has made to the life of the Church, and the extraordinary courage of her missionary sons and daughters who have carried the Gospel message far beyond her shores.”
The Church today continues to have an important role to play in leading the people through a time of change in Irish society, marked by immigration, as well as increased secularism and materialism, the Pope said.
He urged them to “be bold in speaking to [the people] of the joy that comes from following Christ and living according to his commandments.” At the same time, he said, the bishops must work to “correct the idea that Catholicism is merely ‘a collection of prohibitions’.”
“Sound catechesis and careful ‘formation of the heart’ are needed here, and in this regard you are blessed in Ireland with solid resources in your network of Catholic schools, and in so many dedicated religious and lay teachers who are seriously committed to the education of the young,” he continued.
The Pope warned against “superficial presentations of Catholic teaching” and urged the bishops to exercise vigilance over the quality of the syllabuses and school textbooks.
“Only the fullness of the faith can communicate the liberating power of the Gospel,” he emphasized.
The Pope noted that the number of vocations in Ireland has sharply fallen in recent decades and he said he was pleased to learn that many dioceses had taken up silent prayer for vocations before the Blessed Sacrament.
“This should be warmly encouraged. Yet above all, it falls to you, the bishops, and to your clergy to offer young people an inspiring and attractive vision of the ordained priesthood,” he said.
The Pope concluded by expressing his prayerful concern for Northern Ireland. “It is my prayer that the committed efforts of those concerned [with working toward peace in Northern Ireland] will lead to the creation of a society marked by a spirit of reconciliation, mutual respect and willing cooperation for the common good of all,” he said.
Vatican City, Oct 30, 2006 (CNA) - At the conclusion of the Angelus prayer this Sunday in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict XVI offered a special prayer for those around the world, who are victims of kidnapping.
The Pope told the gathered crowd that he receives numerous requests to intervene on behalf of people, “who, in different parts of the world, are victims of kidnapping."
"Reiterating my firm condemnation of this crime, I give assurances of my recollection in prayer for all the victims and their families and friends,” the Pope said.
“In particular, I endorse the urgent appeal recently sent to me by the archbishop and the community of Sassari, Italy, in favor of Giovanni Battista Pinna, kidnapped on September 14, that he may soon be restored to his loved ones."
Vatican City, Oct 30, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has named Msgr. Daniel Flores, 45, of Corpus Christi, Texas, to assist Cardinal Adam Maida as a new auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Detroit.
The installation and consecration of Bishop-elect Flores will be held Nov. 29 at Detroit’s Blessed Sacrament Cathedral.
Cardinal Maida said the new bishop’s ministry will include a special focus on the Hispanic community in the archdiocese. Bishop-elect Flores said in a press release that he was humbled by the appointment and looks forward to serving in his new diocese.
Bishop-elect Flores was born in Palacios, Texas, and grew up in Corpus Christi. He was ordained a priest in January 1988 and served the diocese as rector of Corpus Christi Cathedral and as chancellor. Flores completed his License in Sacred Theology in 1997 and his Doctorate three years later at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum) in Rome.
He also served in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston on the formation faculty, as vice-rector of St. Mary’s Seminary and on the teaching faculty at the University of St. Thomas School of Theology.
Detroit has 1.3 million Catholics and currently has three other active auxiliary bishops. They are Bishops Earl Boyea, John Quinn, and Francis Reiss.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct 30, 2006 (CNA) - In all letter to the faithful of his diocese, Bishop Rinaldo Fidel Bredice of Santa Rosa said the pagan feast of Halloween undermines the eternal truths of the Christian faith, and he exhorted Catholics to celebrate worthily the feasts of All Saints and November 1 and of All Souls on November 2.
“The preaching of the truth is our weapon: let us take advantage of the Feast of All Saints and the Memorial of All Souls to proclaim the four last things: death, judgment, hell, and heaven,” Bishop Bredice explained.
“Let us be encouraged to carry out the work of mercy of ‘praying for the dead’ (through personal prayer, the recitation of the Holy Rosary, holy hours offered in reparation, and most importantly, the Holy Mass), to visit their tombs in order to honor our roots and become aware of the temporariness of our lives on this earth. Thus we will be enlightening our brothers and sisters in the faith and all men and women of good will,” the bishop stated.
Lastly, Bishop Bredice included an “attachment about Halloween in order to point out the errors and to be able to explain the truth.” The bishop asked Catholics in Buenos Aires to spread his message to others “so that many others can discern and not observe this pagan feast.”
Philadelphia, Pa., Oct 30, 2006 (CNA) - The race for the U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania between Republican candidate Rick Santorum and Democratic candidate, Robert Casey Jr. continues to heat up. While both candidates are Catholic, some Catholic groups have pointed out the contradictions in Casey’s platform and positions on controversial issues.
Catholic League president Bill Donohue said Casey’s position on abortion makes Casey “a fraud.” According to Donohue, Casey has told reporters that as senator he would focus more on health care and jobs than on abortion.
With regard to abortion, Casey said he wants “to see more of an emphasis on what brings people together rather than what tears people apart,” Donohue reported. “I support initiatives which would reduce the number of abortions,” Casey reportedly added.
“If someone said he was opposed to racial discrimination, but would not commit to using the law as a means to affecting its reduction, we’d call him a fraud,” Donohue said in a statement. “That’s why Casey is a fraud: his reluctance to use the law as a means to reduce abortions speaks volumes.”
Fidelis, a national Catholic-based advocacy group, criticized Casey’s support of same-sex unions, which mirrors the decision by the New Jersey Supreme Court. The decision excludes the possibility of same-sex marriage but orders the state legislature to grant same-sex partners all the benefits of traditional marriage.
Fidelis reported that Casey recently stated: “I don't support gay marriage, but I also don't support a constitutional amendment banning it. That would be tremendously divisive. However, I do support same-sex unions that would give gay couples all the rights, privileges and protections of marriage.”
Fidelis reported that Casey is also on record for saying that he would work to defeat the Federal Marriage amendment if elected.
“Bob Casey should say ‘I am prepared to do whatever it takes to protect the traditional institution of marriage for the people of Pennsylvania.’ Instead he sides with homosexual activists who view the New Jersey ruling as a stepping stone to homosexual marriage,” Fidelis President Joseph Cella stated.
Cella noted: “It is interesting to note that in June of 1995 former Governor Casey, the deceased father of the current candidate for the U.S. Senate, founded the Campaign for the American Family and the Fund for the American Family to protect the traditional family. Now his son has staked out a position on homosexual marriage that would tear down the traditional family.”
In the polls, Casey has consistently come out ahead of Santorum. And according to the Associated Press, polls have also shown Santorum's approval rating below 40 percent for the last year, with roughly the same number of voters viewing him unfavorably as favorably.
In a Quinnipiac University poll released in last month, 39 percent of voters viewed Casey favorably, an increase from 31 percent about a year ago in the same poll.
Madrid, Spain, Oct 30, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Lluis Martinez Sistach issued a pastoral letter last week in which he reaffirmed the Church’s support for scientific research that “is at the service of the human being” and reiterated that “the Church also unites her voice to those who, in the name of ethics, “denounce scientific projects that attack human life.”
In his pastoral letter, Archbishop Martinez explained that in today’s world it is not at all easy “to harmonize the demands of bio-medical research with the demands of ethics.” “Not everything that technically can be done is licit from the point of view of ethics,” he said, adding that “technological advances cannot go beyond the purview of moral norms.”
The archbishop criticized the recent approval by the EU of a law allowing embryos to be used in research and said, “It is not easy for the Church to express her thought and reasons through the information media. Despite these difficulties, the Church desires to be at the service of the human person and to defend his transcendent character and the respect the human person deserves in all stages of his existence.”
Archbishop Martinez said the words of Vatican II regarding man’s questions about his discoveries and his place and mission in the universe are just as relevant as ever. “The Church knows she cannot impose her vision about mankind, but she cannot cease from proposing it, since if she did not do so, she would not fulfill her mission,” he maintained.
Citing a passage from “Lumen Gentium,” Archbishop Martinez said, “No human law can protect personal freedom and dignity as well as the Gospel that Christ has entrusted to the Church.”
London, England, Oct 30, 2006 (CNA) - The British government changed its plan to impose admission quotas on faith-based schools, after Catholics nationwide launched a letter-writing campaign to protest the measure.
Just four days before the measure was to be introduced to Parliament, Education Secretary Alan Johnson announced that faith schools would not be forced into reserving 25 percent of their admissions for students of other religions or of no religion at all, reported The Universe.
Last week, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham had written to all Catholic schools, which includes more than 2,000 head teachers, urging them to express their opposition to the measure.
The archbishop also met with Johnson last Wednesday. Johnson agreed that the government would come up with the money for extra places in schools should there be a demand from non-Catholics in the local community to attend a Catholic school.
The archbishop welcomed the decision to resolve the issue without legislation.
“We came to a broad agreement about how future Catholic schools could be planned in ways that ensure they always meet the needs of Catholic parents,” the archbishop said about his meeting with Johnson.
The archbishop thanked the Catholics who wrote their members of Parliament and the parliamentarians who took action in this regard.
Madrid, Spain, Oct 30, 2006 (CNA) - In his regular Sunday letter to his diocese, Bishop Carles Soler of Girona this week encouraged Catholics to have a “personalized and adult faith” amidst the crisis in Europe.
Bishop Soler said he sees “signs of socio-cultural changes of a secularist and neo-pagan nature that are unprecedented in the history” of Europe, and he stressed, “We are experiencing very profound and accelerated social and cultural changes” that “pose a great challenge to our living the Christian faith and to the ability of the Church to evangelize.”
The bishop called it a paradox that while the “personal and living God is excluded from daily life” and is replaced by “every kind of idol” and that Christianity is treated as “something archaic that must be overcome,” at the same time “Christian traditions, religious practices and customs are maintained.”
“This paradoxical situation speaks to our Christian conscience and urges it to respond creatively to the challenges posed by the faith and by the Church. Without a personalized and adult faith it is very difficult to confront the challenges of our time,” Bishop Soler stressed.
“The crisis we are going through cannot be attributed solely to the hostility of the Church’s adversaries. The crisis can be seen in society, in the Church herself, in her members, and in the profound and rapid social and cultural changes that are difficult to discern and responsibly assimilate,” he explained.