Archive of November 17, 2006

Pope says the goal of Ecumenical dialogue remains unchanged: one single visible Church

Vatican City, Nov 17, 2006 (CNA) - Speaking to the participants at the plenary session of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Pope Benedict recalled that the primary goal of ecumenical dialogue remains the same: to reach one, single, visible Church.

“We live in a period of great change in almost all areas of life," said the Holy Father, “and we must not be surprised if this also impinges upon the life of the Church and on relations between Christians."

Nonetheless, he added, "the aim of the ecumenical movement remains unchanged: the visible unity of the Church.”

“The Second Vatican Council considered the re-establishment of full unity among all Christians as one of its principal concerns. It is also my concern," the Pope said.  Recalling one of the halls in which Vatican Council II took place, "where the observer delegates from other Churches and ecclesial communities sat attentive, but in silence. Over subsequent decades, this image has given way to the reality of a Church in dialogue.”

“Silence, “he continued, “has been transformed into the word of communion.  An enormous amount of work has been done at both the universal and local levels.”

“Fraternity among all Christians has been rediscovered and re-established as a condition for dialogue, cooperation, common prayer, and solidarity."

The Holy Father also recalled that “at the time of the Council, many of the venerated Eastern Churches were oppressed by dictatorial regimes.”  

“Today they have regained their freedom and are committed to a wide-ranging process of reorganization and revitalization ... The eastern and western parts of Europe are coming closer together, and this encourages Churches to coordinate their efforts to safeguard the Christian tradition.”

“Fortunately,” he added, "following a period of multiple difficulties, theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches has taken on fresh impetus," while "bilateral, open and friendly" dialogue is making progress with the ecclesial communities of the West.

Pope Benedict, nevertheless, listed the still present obstacles, such as “the difficulty of finding a shared conception of the relationship between the Gospel and the Church, of the mystery of the Church and her unity, and of the question of ministry in the Church. New difficulties have arisen in the field of ethics and, as a consequence, the different standpoints taken by the Christian confessions on current problems have reduced their possibility of guiding public opinion."

"What must be promoted above all," the Pope concluded, "is the ecumenism of love, which descends directly from the new commandment left by Jesus to His disciples. Love accompanied by coherent acts generates trust ... Ecumenical formation must also be intensified, on the basis of the fundamentals of Christian faith, in other words from the announcement of the love of God which was revealed in the face of Jesus Christ."

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Film has duty to educate on human dignity, says archbishop

Rome, Italy, Nov 17, 2006 (CNA) - Movies have an educational value and must be used as a means to “knock down the wall of indifference” to violations of human dignity, said Archbishop John Foley, President of the Vatican’s Council for Social Communications at a recent conference held by his office.

Cinema can teach young people "how dangerous hatred is, how unacceptable racism is, how destructive religious ignorance is," said the archbishop in closing the tenth Tertio Millennio International Congress on Cinema and Spirituality.

The congress was held at the Pontifical Gregorian University, under the theme, The Conspiracy of Silence.

Films have also been able to give a voice to the marginalized and rejected in society, with whom the Church is always in solidarity, he noted.

In addition, he said, films "can be, above all, the means to which the historic memory of all these forgotten, silent realities can be entrusted, thanks in part to the extraordinary power of the image, the universal language that is able to reach the heart and cannot leave one indifferent.”

The congress is an initiative of the pontifical councils for Social Communications and for Culture. Every year, they join Italy's Entertainment Bureau and a pontifical university of Rome to promote cinema with values, reports Zenit.

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Vatican: Milingo’s future depends on him, not the Vatican

Vatican City, Nov 17, 2006 (CNA) - A Vatican official who attended yesterday’s meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and the heads of Vatican dicasteries to discuss the case of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo and priestly celibacy, told CNA that the future of the rebellious former Archbishop of Lusaka (Zambia) “depends almost exclusively on his own decisions.”

Yesterday evening, after the almost 3 hour long meeting with the Holy Father, the Vatican released a statement confirming the centrality of celibacy in priestly life, but made no reference to the future of Milingo.

“In the Apostolic Palace this morning, November 16, the Holy Father presided at one of the regular meetings of the heads of dicasteries of the Roman Curia, for a moment of shared reflection,” the official statement released yesterday said.

"The participants in the meeting had at their disposal detailed information concerning requests for dispensation from the obligation of celibacy presented during recent years, and concerning the possibility of readmission to the exercise of the ministry of priests who currently meet the conditions established by the Church.”

"The value of the choice of priestly celibacy in accordance with Catholic tradition was reaffirmed, and the need for solid human and Christian formation was underlined, both for seminaries and for ordained priests," the official statement concluded.

Asked by CNA what was decided about Archbishop Milingo, the Vatican official, speaking on condition of anonymity, emphasized that the meeting between the Pope and the heads of the Vatican dicasteries “was one of consultation, not an executive one,” and therefore, no immediate policies were established.

“The Holy Father listened carefully to all opinions, and from there it is up to him how and even if he will act upon the recommendations,” the source told CNA.

Nevertheless, the Vatican official recalled that at present Archbishop Milingo has been excommunicated, and that “the only way (for him) to change that condition is to repent, make a public statement of his repentance and make the proportional material and spiritual reparations for the damage and scandal created by his latest decision.”

The official admitted that such reparations would include “changing completely his lifestyle and disappearing from public life altogether,” especially considering that “this is the second time he is a source of a major scandal.”

Asked if he though it was likely to convince Milingo to come back to the Church for a life of penance, considering the level of public exposure he enjoys and also considering he has signed a commercial agreement with “Da Vinci Code’s” Dan Brown to advise him in his next project, the official responded: “the Church works always on the assumption that the human heart can always open itself to God’s grace and come back to God’s path.”

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Sharpshooters, security cameras for Pope’s visit to Istanbul

Istanbul, Turkey, Nov 17, 2006 (CNA) - Turkish authorities have announced that security will be tight during Pope Benedict XVI’s first visit to their country later this month.

The Pope is scheduled to visit the predominantly Muslim country, from Nov. 30 to Dec. 1. The purpose of the trip is to discuss Christian unity with Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I.

However, concerns about the Pope’s safety emerged after a series of protests were staged against his visit. The protests were in reaction to the Pope’s comments in September, when he cited a 14th-century emperor’s views that Islam is a violent religion.

Authorities in Istanbul say they will deploy police sharpshooters on rooftops and install closed circuit television surveillance cameras during the pontiff’s scheduled visit to the city Nov. 30, reported AKI.

The Pope is expected stay at a church residence near the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit. And authorities have said that police will carry out checks on people moving in the vicinity.

Protests will be allowed by the police but may be staged only in pre-determined locations. Police will also monitor groups suspected to be hostile to the Pope. A total of 4,000 police will be tasked with protecting the Pope and well-wishers while he is in Istanbul, reported AKI. 

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Catholic, Protestant churches agree to produce common Urdu Bible

Lahore, Pakistan, Nov 17, 2006 (CNA) - Catholic and Protestant Church leaders in Pakistan have agreed to use one Urdu Bible instead of two different versions, reported UCA News this week.

The Pakistan Bible Society and Catholic Bible Commission Pakistan organized a national consultation for the Inter-Confessional Bible Project in Lahore. Representatives from both Churches signed an agreement on Nov. 10 to produce a joint translation in their national language.

Catholic and Protestant speakers stressed the need for a common translation of the Scriptures. They said they believe the agreement to produce a common Urdu Bible is a major step forward toward Christian unity.

They also cited Dei Verbum (Word of God), the Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, which emphasizes the importance of the Scriptures in the life of the Church, as the "foundation stone" for their collaboration.

The United Bible Societies will be consulted in the translation project, which is expected to take five to 10 years. Anicia del Corro, translation consultant with the United Bible Societies spoke to church leaders about the challenges of the Bible project and made practical suggestions.

She said verses with distinct deviations in translation could be highlighted and accompanied by footnotes giving references to textual meanings in the original Greek sources.

She also suggested placing the seven deuterocanonical books between the Old and New Testament sections. The Catholic Church accepts these books as part of the Old Testament, while Protestant Bible translations either omits them or place them as an appendix called the Apocrypha.

A common translation of the New Testament for the Catholic and Protestant Churches was done in Sindh province in 1996, when Bishop Joseph Coutts, then bishop of Hyderabad and now bishop of Faisalabad, commissioned a translation into the Parkari language. 

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Jerusalem archbishop says formation needed for dialogue with Islam and struggle against relativism

Jerusalem, Israel, Nov 17, 2006 (CNA) - Coadjutor Archbishop Fouad Twal of Jerusalem said this week that in order for there to be inter-religious dialogue people need “a formation that will overcome prejudices, deter religious relativism, and tear down the barriers raised by unjustified fear - a formation in the Christian identity itself in order to peacefully affirm the faith.”

During a lecture in Jerusalem, as part of a course on Islam for the Franciscans of the Holy Land, the archbishop said, “Dialogue is not only a search for common ground in order to build peace together.  Peace must be built on solid formation and knowledge of religions, including Islam.”

Archbishop Twal also said that religious freedom, reciprocity, and integration are necessary for confronting Muslims and for “making qualitative advances in dialogue and in the faith, in order to lay out the conditions for an open and respectful dialogue.  In order to assure for all a future of peace, today and for future generations, we have no other choice but coexistence and dialogue.”

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Group seeks protection for Christians in India

Bangalore, India, Nov 17, 2006 (CNA) - A Christian group has appealed to a government agency to extend protection for Christians and their institutions across India, after reports of continued persecution in some parts of the country.

The Global Council of Indian Christians filed the appeal on Nov. 14 with India’s National Commission of Minorities and Ministry of Home Affairs saying Christians face “persecution” because of their faith, especially in Karnataka state, reported the Indian Catholic News Service.

Since the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) came into government in Karnataka in February, “there have been sporadic but growing numbers of incidents against Christians in the state,” a press release from the group said.

Hindu radicals, many BJP supporters, are "unleashing terror” in Karnataka by targeting Christians, churches and Christian institutions, the release alleged. These actions are creating an environment that could “facilitate operations of international terrorists in southern states of India,” it added.

The press release described several cases of violence in which pastors and their relatives were attacked and intimidated in the past months by suspected Hindu radicals, reported ICNS.

The council requested prayers for peace and “for good sense and the rule of law to prevail in the situation.”

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Cardinal Schönborn to celebrate jubilee Mass of St. Peter’s Basilica

Rome, Italy, Nov 17, 2006 (CNA) - In an Austrian tribute to the jubilee celebration of the 500th anniversary of the laying of the first stone of St. Peter’s Basilica, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn will celebrate Mass there on Sunday.

Cardinal Schönborn was invited to celebrate the special Mass by the Archpriest of the Basilica of St. Peter’s Cardinal Francesco Marchisano. The Philharmonic Orchestra of Vienna and the Vienna Boys’s Choir will provide the music for the Mass, which will be taken from Mozart’s Mass of Coronation.

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Cuban young people ask government to reopen Catholic university

Havana, Cuba, Nov 17, 2006 (CNA) - Young people from different religious denominations have asked Cuba’s Department of Religious Affairs to reopen the University of St. Thomas in Villanueva, which the government closed in 1961.

The young people made their request in writing, sending additional copies of the request to the Bishops’ Conference of Cuba and to the Apostolic Nuncio in Havana.  They said the request was not to be interpreted as “a demand from a dissident organization,” but rather should be seen as an initiative “backed by a large group of Cuban young people concerned about the sudden attacks from the chilling crisis of values” that has affected the island nation and that “targets the Cuban youth,” the statement stressed.

The young people also emphasized that the initiative is a “citizens’ petition” of the faithful to the Church and the State, and not a political position.

Speaking to El Nuevo Herald, the leader of the Cuban Movement of Young People for Democracy, Nestor Rodriguez Lobaina, called the project a “valuable contribution to the soul of Cuban society.”  

“Our main concern is for young people, because they are the support and hope of the nation,” he said.

Rodriguez said the “existential emptiness and the crisis of identity” that affects young people in Cuba is cause for worry.  “We cannot carry out a social project for the future without spirituality,” he warned.

Rodriguez clarified that the group is not asking for the university buildings, “but rather for the reestablishment of the institutions and the right to freedom of religious instruction.”  He said the group has asked the bishops to make the statement known in all the parishes and Christian communities of the country.
The University of St. Thomas at Villanueva was created in 1946 and closed by the Communist government in June of 1961 through a law nationalizing the schools and resulting in the closure of all religious schools. 

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Mama Margarita, mother of John Bosco, declared venerable

Rome, Italy, Nov 17, 2006 (CNA) - Margarita Occhiena, mother of Salesian founder St. John Bosco, was declared venerable by Pope Benedict XVI through a decree that was published Thursday by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

The news came a few days before the 150th anniversary of the death of Mama Margarita, as she is referred to by the Salesian family.  “The Salesians recognize that the Salesian Congregation was born in the lap of Mama Margarita, as everyone knows, giving her maternal and feminine presence to the Preventive System,” the website indicates.

“Be it known that the Servant of God Margarita Occhiena Bosco, mother, heroically practiced the theological virtues of faith, hope and love, both towards God and towards neighbor, as well as the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, and temperance and other virtues connected to these,” the declaration states.

After the ceremony, the Salesian Superior General, Father Pascual Chavez called it a “memorable day for the Salesian Family” and “a long-awaited event.”

“A strong woman with clear ideas and robust faith” is how the website describes Mama Margarita.  When she was 58 she decided to leave her quiet town and follow her son “in his mission among the poor and abandoned young people of Turin.”

“Here, during ten years, mother and son united their lives with the beginnings of the Salesian Congregation. She was the first and principal cooperator of Don Bosco, and with her kindness of life, she gave her maternal presence to the Preventive System,” the website states.

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