Kissimmee, Fla., Nov 10, 2006 (CNA) - Back in August Catholics and non-Catholics alike were dismayed to hear the story of a priest who was issued a parking ticket while rushing to administer the Sacraments to a hospitalized woman. Several people responded with prayers, donations, and words of support for the priest and his ministry, but none had quite the same effect as 6-year old Brandon Rodriguez.
Young Rodriguez was at the family dinner table in Kissimmee, Florida listening to his father and mother recount the story of Fr. Cletus Forson--ticketed by the city of New York while he made an emergency hospital call to what he thought to be a dying woman. Despite Fr. Forson’s placing a “Clergy on Call” placard in his window before rushing into the hospital, city officials ticked his vehicle alone among the many others left by hospital employees.
“I was very upset and sad,” Rodriguez’s father Izzy told CNA. In the middle of dinner, Brandon suddenly jumped out of his seat and ran to his room, returning with a t-shirt sagging with change and his suitcase.”
“How much do I have?” Brandon asked.
Knowing what his son was up to, Rodriquez told him he had enough to do whatever he wanted.
Brandon replied, “I want to go to New York and help the Father!”
Rodriguez didn’t think much of the idea until the next evening when he returned from work. Walking into the house from the auto shop he runs, Rodriquez was confronted by an insistent Brandon, “So, when are we leaving to New York?”
With that, Rodriguez’s wife Karen booked a flight for father and son and soon they were off.
The Rodriguez pair met with Fr. Forson at his Brooklyn parish, offering their moral and spiritual support. Izzy also gave the priest a check which more than paid for the ticket.
But Fr. Forson told CNA that the financial support was not the most moving part of the story. “This 6 year old Brandon who came and said, ‘well Father, carry on and good job,’ that short sentence of encouragement…does more for me than the money they came to give.”
The priest added that the wave of support he has received from around the nation has greatly moved him. “Its certainly revitalizing,” he said. “It gives me a sense of hope and strength that I’m not alone in my ministry; there are people out there who support the ministry that I’m doing.”
Fr. Forson is ordained for a diocese in Ghana, Africa, and is helping out at a Brooklyn parish while he works on his doctorate. He said that although the city went ahead with charges, he has nonetheless been inspired by the whole event.
“There has been so much said about the ticket… on our side, the story has been closed. For me it’s a time to go ahead with vitality and hope that in spite of everything there are people out there who still value the work that we do as priests. In the midst of all the notes from among Catholics there are also not-Catholics who have spoken in favor of what I did. That really gives me and other priests a sense of edification.”
If anyone is not surprised by the event, it’s Brandon’s parents. The elder Rodriquez boasted to CNA that “We have an awesome 6 year old son and are we blessed…Brandon is just a giver with God in his heart.”
He recounted that Brandon, who is an asthmatic, “blesses his little brother every night with the sign of the cross on his forehead. He donates toys he buys on his own” to local charities and he “has collected over $3000.00 for the Children’s Miracle Network in Orlando Florida--all on his own.”
Vatican City, Nov 10, 2006 (CNA) - Meeting with a group of German bishops for their “ad limina” visit today, Pope Benedict XVI said that the “crisis of secularization” is the providential challenge of our day. The Holy Father emphasized the urgent need to offer convincing answers to the many that seek and look with hope to the Christian message.
According to a report from Vatican Radio, the Pope affirmed that, “the Republic of Germany shares, with the whole Western world, the situation of a culture dominated by secularization, in which God seems to disappear more and more from the public conscience.”
“The German Church,” he said, “has the spiritual roots and the ability to promote the faith and support the needs of those in the country.”
“Above all,” the Pope emphasized, “the Church in Germany must again show the power and the beauty of the Catholic Faith.”
Benedict then spoke about the growing Muslim population of Germany and the necessity of dialogue between the two religions.
Muslims, the Pope said, "who hold to their convictions and their rites [ceremonies] with such seriousness, have the right to our humble and resolute witness to Jesus Christ. To make that witness credible requires a great commitment, and for this reason it is necessary that in places where there is a large Muslim population, there also be Catholic interlocutors who have the essential knowledge of the language and religious history that makes them capable of engaging in dialogue with Muslims,” he stressed.
But, he added, a full understanding of the truths of the Catholic faith are a pre-requisite for entering into a fruitful dialogue.
The Holy Father also addressed the teaching of religion, Catholic schools, and the formation of Catholic adults. One key focus of Catholic education should be, he said, "above all, the matter of the curriculum of the teaching of religion so that the entire scholarly journey can transmit the fullness of the Faith and of the life of the Church."
“In Catholic schools it is fundamental that the introduction to the Catholic view of the world and the practicing of the Faith are not only transmitted during religion classes, but in a convincing way in the daily routine of the scholastic life and by means of the personal testimony of instructors," Benedict said.
He also encouraged a profitable collaboration between lay people and clergy, but warned that such collaboration should not confuse the specific rolls proper to each state of life. The Pontiff mentioned, for example, that the homily at Mass is reserved to the preaching by clergy. “It is the Sacrament of Orders that allows the person to work and speak sacramentally, in persona Christi.”
Vatican City, Nov 10, 2006 (CNA) - On the eve of Pope Benedict XVI’s highly anticipated trip to Turkey, President Tassos Papadopoulos, head of the divided island of Cyprus, which is now partially occupied by the Turkish army, visited with the Holy Father and presented him with two gifts, one of which was an album containing photographs of numerous Orthodox churches destroyed by the Turks since their most recent invasion of the Mediterranean Island.
After 20 minutes of private dialogue, Papadopoulos gave the Holy Father a beautiful 19th Century Byzantine icon of the Virgin and Christ child originating from one of the Orthodox churches within the Turk dominated zone, which has since been destroyed.
The President’s second gift was a large photo album featuring photographs of over 300 Orthodox churches destroyed by the Turks or used for secular and non-religious activities. After reviewing the album, the Pontiff reportedly exclaimed, “What destruction!”
Vatican City, Nov 10, 2006 (CNA) - Just in time for the Christmas season, the Italian film distributor has announced that the Vatican will host the world premier of a new movie based in the Nativity story of Jesus.
The $35 million film, which features ‘Whale Rider’ star Keisha Castle-Hughes as Mary, will be shown November 26th in the Vatican’s John VI Hall--sometimes home to the Pope’s general Wednesday audiences.
New Line Cinema is producing the film, which was partially filmed in Matera, Italy, the same locale used by ‘The Passion of the Christ.’ It is being hailed by many as a “Biblically faithful” account of the tale of Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus.
"We are very proud of 'The Nativity Story' and extremely grateful that the Vatican has embraced the film in this way," said New Line executive Rolf Mittweg according to UPI news. "We believe it is the perfect venue to present the film's universal message of hope and faith, a message we are sure will resonate around the world."
Stefano Dammicco, chief executive officer of Eagle Pictures agrees. He told the BBC that "Nativity is an extraordinary event, a real message of hope, peace and love that unites all believers."
A crowd of 7,000, including religious leaders from around the world are slated to be on hand for the Vatican premier.
Philadelphia, Pa., Nov 10, 2006 (CNA) - Catholics can now join Cardinal Justin Rigali in praying the Rosary from anywhere and anytime, in English and Spanish, by accessing the archdiocesan website.
In early June, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia posted Pray the Rosary in English to the website, which featured sixth grade students from Visitation Blessed Virgin Mary Parish School praying the Rosary with Cardinal Rigali.
This month, State-of-the art streaming video allows viewers to join Cardinal Rigali as he prays the Rosary with students from Saint Peter the Apostle Parish School in Philadelphia in Spanish. The text of the prayers is included on the site.
Access the site at: www.archdiocese-phl.org.
Washington D.C., Nov 10, 2006 (CNA) - Catholic female students at George Washington University now have a new student organization on campus that strives to build a solid community for young Catholic women.
The Catholic Daughters of America was officially installed on campus Oct. 8. The group was introduced to the university by students Michelle Huntley and Emily Karrs.
"We are similar to a sorority, because we all are women who share a bond of sisterhood," Huntley told one of the university’s student newspapers, The Hatchet.
"We are women on the GW campus who are striving to actively and enthusiastically practice our faith,” said the junior, who founded the chapter - or Court 2577 - last spring.
The GW chapter now has 25 members. Installation Mass, the final step for becoming an official daughter, happens once a semester.
The CDA focuses three pillars - spirituality, social affairs and community service. Its motto is "unity and charity".
"Prayer is important," said Karrs, a senior and CDA president. "For example, every time we meet we say a prayer."
CDA social events include Daughter Dinners, where group members build community over toasts and prayers. Last week, the CDA sponsored a costume-themed All Saints Day party at the university’s Newman Center, where partygoers dressed up as their favorite saint.
The CDA, which was founded by the Knights of Columbus in 1903, initially targeted older women, such as working mothers. However, there has been greater outreach to youth in recent years and some college courts have sprouted.
The CDA has approximately 95,000 members worldwide, with 1,400 courts in the United States, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Guam, Saipan and the Virgin Islands.
Nairobi, Kenya, Nov 10, 2006 (CNA) - Faced with the growing threat that some 1.27 million Kenyans are living with HIV, the Catholic Church in that country has announced a dramatic new plan to prevent exposure and unite major religions behind new national policy.
The program, called “This We Teach and Do”, was launched November 7th during the plenary meeting of the Kenya’s Catholic bishops.
A statement released by the task force which prepared the new policy said that "’This We Teach and Do’ aims to encourage and fortify Kenyan Catholics, Christians and Muslims and believers from other faiths, to unite in the fight against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS."
Reports say that the prevalence rate of Kenyans living with HIV has dropped from 6.1 percent in 2005 to 5.9 percent this year, suggesting modest gains on the problem.
While specific details on the plan are still forthcoming, the Church’s statement point out that the new plan will hold fast to traditional Catholic teaching with condemns artificial contraception.
In 1987, the Church in Kenya released its first ever statement on HIV/AIDS, saying that promiscuity, education and lack of fidelity were the primary causes of the country’s AIDS scourge.
A national conference on AIDS--marking the 20th anniversary of the pastoral letter--has been proposed for 2007.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 10, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata said this week that thanks to the “generous intelligence” of Pope Benedict XVI, expressed in his magisterium, the Church presents herself today as the “bulwark of reason in the face of ‘weak thought’ and the unhealthy cultivation of uncertainty and relativism.”
During the inauguration of the 8th Catholic Book Fair in La Plata, the archbishop explained that the “style and language of Benedict XVI” cannot be characterized as “a kind of clerical rhetoric” but rather they manifest “a power intellect, capable of expressing itself with clarity, simplicity and depth.”
“If there is anyone who can be called a herald of the truth it is the Pope. Each Wednesday, a large crowd gathers in St. Peter’s Square or in the Paul VI Hall to listen to him and to learn. It seems there is sort of popular instinct to see him as a teacher,” he said.
Archbishop Aguer referred to several books about Pope Benedict, including some biographical works, which he said, “point out the intellectual vigor, the extremely vast culture, the spiritual fineness and the fidelity of this great theologian.”
“Today this man is much more. He is called Benedict XVI: he is the successor of Peter and the Vicar of Christ par excellence. As such he is the teacher of the truth that guides us, the one to whom we want to listen, the one from whom we want and hope to learn, the one to whom we show our filial obedience and our love,” the archbishop said.
Madrid, Spain, Nov 10, 2006 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, said this week during a Mass honoring the devotion to Our Lady of Alumdena that what is happening today with the right to life of the unborn, “even in the last months of pregnancy,” that is, with the practice of late-term abortions, “cries out to heaven.”
The cardinal said that Spain is in great need of a renewed appreciation and respect of the “fundamental ethics” regarding the “inviolable dignity of the human person, created and redeemed by Christ, of his fundamental rights, and of those of authentic marriage and of the family.”
The devotion to Our Lady of Almudena, especially popular in the Spanish capital of Madrid, provides “a fundamental detail for understanding the history of Madrid in the second millennium: Madrid during all this time was a believing human community.”
“Its families, practically all of its inhabitants, have always believed in God,” he stressed.
During the ceremony Madrid’s mayor, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon, renewed the city’s traditional Madrid Vow. The vow dates to 1648, when the members of the municipal council vowed to attend the feast of Our Lady of Almudena “perpetually and forever.”
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 10, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata called on Catholics in Argentina this week to have greater devotion to the Virgin Mary as a means of deepening their relationship with Jesus and the Most Holy Trinity.
In his program “Keys to a Better World,” Archbishop Aguer expressed the need for Argentineans to allow Mary to have a more important role in their lives. “Mary is the model of assimilation of the truth revealed by God, the truth that is expressed concretely in Christ himself,” the archbishop said.
The archbishop said it is important to “elaborate, meditate, and pray” that Mary lead one to Jesus, saying this “is not some kind of detour but rather it is finding and taking a better shortcut, a shortcut that directly and securely leads us to the Lord.”
In drawing close to Mary, he continued, believers will enter into an “intimacy with her” and discover that “her intentions are the intentions of God, the will of God,” and letting themselves be guided by her in their relationship with Jesus and their Christian conduct.
Mexico City, Mexico, Nov 10, 2006 (CNA) - Following an announcement that the Archdiocese of Mexico City might suspend liturgical celebrations due to the threat of some radical groups, a top government official in Mexico has offered to provide security at the Cathedral of Mexico City. According to a press release, the archdiocese was concerned that protests similar to those which occurred during a Mass on November 5th could happen again.
“The city government, in collaboration with church authorities and the federal government, is willing to guarantee security during the celebration of religious acts at the Cathedral,” said Alejandro Encinas said during a press conference.
His statements came as the Archdiocese of Mexico City announced that in the event of “another violent intrusion and if authorities are not able to guarantee freedom of worship and the well-being of the faithful, we reserve the right to order a suspension of worship” in order to prevent “profanation of the most sublime and sacred Sacrament for Catholics, which is the Eucharist.”
The archdiocese called on national and local authorities to provide the necessary guarantees to the Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, and to the faithful, who are exposed “to the barbarian sacrilege of the aggressors, who have threatened to return.”