Vatican City, Nov 20, 2006 (CNA) -
Greeting the thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square to pray the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the importance of men and women joining the cloistered monastic life. Those who accept such a vocation are a reminder that God provides an unfailing support in the midst of an uncertain world, the Pope said.
The Holy Father recalled that tomorrow, November 21st, the Church celebrates a day “pro Orantibus,” dedicated to cloistered religious communities. “This is a particularly appropriate occasion," the Pope said, “to give thanks to the Lord for the gift of so many people who, in monasteries and hermitages, dedicate themselves entirely to God in prayer and silence.”
"Some people ask themselves, what meaning and value can the presence of such people have in our time, in which the situations of want and poverty we have to face are so numerous and urgent,” the Pontiff noted. “Why 'cloister' oneself forever within the walls of a monastery, thus depriving others ... of one's abilities and experiences? What effect can prayer have for resolving the many concrete problems that continue to afflict humanity?”
In addition to such sentiments, Pope Benedict noted, there are also many who are surprised people would, “abandon often promising careers to embrace the austere rule of a cloistered monastery.”
“What is it that pushes them to such a radical step if not having understood, as the Gospel teaches, that the Kingdom of heaven is 'a treasure' for which it is truly worthwhile to abandon everything,” the Pope exclaimed.
Such people, he said, "bear silent witness to the fact that in the midst of the uncertainties of daily life...the only support that never fails is God, a steadfast rock of faithfulness and love.”
“And in the face of the widespread need, felt by many, to escape the daily routine of the great urban centers in search of spaces suitable for silence and contemplation, monasteries of contemplative life are like 'oasis' in which man, a pilgrim upon earth, can better draw upon the sources of the Spirit and quench his thirst on his journey,” he continued.
"These places, then, apparently useless, are in fact indispensable,” the Pope said. “Like the green 'lungs' of a city, they are good for everyone, even for people who... perhaps do not know of their existence."
Vatican City, Nov 20, 2006 (CNA) - Meeting with a second group of German bishops, in Rome for their “ad limina” visit, Pope Benedict XVI reminded that, in the light of decreasing numbers of priests, any reforms undertaken by the bishops should be “in full harmony with the Church’s teaching on the priesthood.”
The bishops, who customarily send a letter to the Pope discussing the pastoral concerns of their conference, told the Holy Father that they are in need of developing “adequate pastoral structures to meet the present situation,” of falling numbers of priests and faithful in their areas of Germany.
The German Pope told his countrymen that while he agreed with their assessment, he was concerned by the implementation of models for restructuring pastoral care, in which the image of the pastor, “risks being obscured.”
I am sure, he told the prelates, "that you will give your approval only to those structural reforms that are in full harmony with the Church's teaching on the priesthood and with her juridical norms, ensuring that the implementation of reforms does not diminish the power of attraction of the priestly ministry."
The Holy Father also reminded the bishops that while the Church must be continuously renewed, “every ecclesial reform is born of a serious effort to come to a more profound understanding of the truth of the Catholic faith and of the persistent striving for moral purification and virtue.”
“The search for reform can easily slip into an exterior activism if those who seek do not lead an authentic spiritual life and do not constantly verify the motivations of their work in the light of faith,” Benedict warned. “This applies to all members of the Church: for bishops, priests, deacons, religious, and the faithful.”
"The encounter with the living Christ,” the Holy Father said, “is always at the heart of our service, an encounter that confers a decisive orientation upon our lives."
Referring to the question of lay participation in ecclesial structures, the Holy Father recalled "the broad and open field of the lay apostolate...and its multiple tasks." These include, he said, announcing the Gospel to the world, catechesis, charity work, the media of social communication, and "social commitment for the integral protection of human life and social justice."
Of particular importance, the Holy Father said, is "announcing the faith to the young people of our time," who live "in a secularized culture" in which God is absent.
As for ecclesial movements, the Pope told the bishops that "we must respect the specific nature of their charisms, and be happy that shared forms of faith come into being in which the Word of God becomes life."
Moving on to discuss the German Church's charitable activity, Pope Benedict said such interests must, "be kept apart from the confusion of political interests ... and used for the good of people." In this field, he called individual groups to "close collaboration with bishops and with episcopal conferences."
The Holy Father also touched on the need to protect the institution of marriage, the order of which, he said, was “established at creation," and, “is becoming progressively obscured today.”
In the face of a materialist culture, the Pope continued, "it is difficult for young people to commit themselves to one another definitively," to have children, "and to offer them that lasting space for growth and maturity which only the family based upon marriage can provide."
In such a situation, he went on, "it is vitally important to help young people to pronounce that definitive 'yes,' which does not contrast with freedom but, rather, represents its greatest opportunity. In the patience of remaining together for a lifetime, love achieves its true maturity. And in such an environment of lifelong love, children also learn to live and to love."
Finally, the Pope turned to the question of ecumenism. "In Germany," he said, "our efforts must be directed, above all towards Christians of Lutheran and Reformed faith.”
Ecumenical commitment cannot be entirely fulfilled with joint documents,” he said. “It becomes visible and effective where Christians from different Churches and ecclesial communities - in a social context that is ever further removed from religion - profess, together and convincingly, the values transmitted by the Christian faith, and emphasize them forcefully in their political and social activities.”
Vatican City, Nov 20, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal Francis Arinze, the Vatican’s Prefect of the Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, reportedly sent a letter to Church prelates worldwide, instructing them to adjust the translation of a phrase in the middle of the Catholic Mass’s words of consecration. The translation of the expression “pro multis” is to be changed to read “for many” rather than “for all,” as it currently appears.
In the next few years, the cardinals letter says, the bishops should make adjustments so that when the priest celebrates the Mass in English he will say over the chalice, “…It will be shed for you and for many so that sins may be forgiven…” rather than, “…for you and for all…”
The change of one word may seem inconsequential for many Catholics, but “pro multis” has been the subject of heated debate among linguists and an especially contentious issue for traditionalists since the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.
The gravity of the issue is magnified due to its place in the liturgy. The proper pronouncement of the words of consecration is believed by Catholics to be paramount to the valid changing (transubstantiation) of bread and wine into the true Body and Blood of Christ.
Many schismatic Catholics have even argued that the Mass promulgated by Vatican II, when celebrated in English or many other translations, is invalid due to its improper translation Christ’s words.
Cardinal Arinze’s letter says that, as supported by previous declarations from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “there is no doubt whatsoever regarding the validity of Masses celebrated with the use of a duly approved formula containing a formula equivalent to ‘for all.’”
“Indeed,” the cardinal continued, “the formula ‘for all’ would undoubtedly correspond to a correct interpretation of the Lord’s intention expressed in the text. It is a dogma of faith that Christ died on the Cross for all men and women (cf. John 11:52; 2 Corinthians 5,14-15; Titus 2,11; 1 John 2,2).”
Nonetheless, while “for all” is, “an explanation of the sort that belongs properly to catechesis,” Arinze said, “’for many’ is a faithful translation of ‘pro multis.’”
The cardinal therefore instructed the Bishops’ Conferences, “of those countries where the formula ‘for all’ or its equivalent is currently in use,” to, “undertake the necessary catechesis of the faithful on this matter in the next one or two years to prepare them for the introduction of a precise vernacular translation of the formula ‘pro multis’ (e.g, “for many”, “per molti”, etc.) in the next translation of the Roman Missal that the Bishops and the Holy See will approve for use in their country.”
Arinze gave as reasons for change the Gospels’ specific reference to “many” rather than “all,” the consistent Latin use of the phrase “pro multis” and never “pro omnibus,” the consistent use of translations equivalent to “pro multis” in the various Oriental Rites, and the document “Liturgiam authenticam’s” insistence that “efforts should be made to be more faithful to the Latin texts in the typical editions.”
The Vatican’s Sacraments chief also noted that, “the expression ‘for many,’ while remaining open to the inclusion of each human person, is reflective also of the fact that this salvation is not brought about in some mechanistic way, without one’s willing or participation; rather, the believer is invited to accept in faith the gift that is being offered and to receive the supernatural life that is given to those who participate in this mystery, living it out in their lives as well so as to be numbered among the ‘many’ to whom the text refers.”
You can find a copy of the cardinal's letter here at Domenico Bettinelli's site.
Vatican City, Nov 20, 2006 (CNA) -
At the conclusion of a concert performed by the Berlin Philharmonic Quartet and offered in his honor by the President of Germany, Pope Benedict XVI recalled that music has the power to bring harmony to the inner being of man.
Following the concert, which was offered in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall, the Pope offered his thanks to the four musicians, in German, for a “masterfully executed concert.”
“Music,” the Pope continued in Italian, “…offers the listener…the possibility of scrutinizing, as in a mirror, the events of our personal histories as well as that of the universe.”
“But it offers us even more,” he said, “by way of its sounds, it carries us to another world and harmonizes our intimate being. Finding thus a moment of peace, we are gradually able to see, as from a high vantage point, the mysterious realities that man seeks to decipher and which the light of faith helps us to better understand.”
“In effect, we are able to imagine the history of the world as a marvelous symphony that God has composed and which He Himself leads as a wise conductor. Even if to us, the score may often seem complex and difficult, He knows it from the first to the last note,” the Pope assured.
In this way, the Pontiff continued, each member is given particular instruments and parts to play in His harmonic plan. “Faithful to His commandments, and respecting His salvific plan, we can construct together a world which will resound with the consoling melody of a transcendent symphony of love.”
“And so, dear friends,” the Pope concluded, “we see how music can lead us to prayer: it invites us to lift our minds towards God to find in Him the reason for our hope as well as support in the difficulties of life.”
Istanbul, Turkey, Nov 20, 2006 (CNA) - The spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians cautioned Turks, in an interview published in Sunday’s Sabah newspaper, against creating potential "unpleasant incidents" during Pope Benedict XVI's trip to Turkey next week.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I said the Pope's trip, scheduled for Nov. 28-Dec. 1, was a great opportunity for the country, and one that should not be disrupted by violent protest.
He warned that if protests turn violent, they could cause problems for Turkey in its efforts to join the European Union.
"The Pope has a say in all Catholic countries," Bartholomew reportedly told Sabah. "If there are psychologically unpleasant incidents, then this would be an issue in Brussels in December. Even if not at the official level, they would talk about it between themselves."
Bartholomew, however, said he would tell the pontiff that "it is not wrong for Turkey to become a member of the EU as a Muslim country because it would bring mutual richness."
"The EU should not remain as a Christian club," the newspaper quoted Bartholomew as saying.
Hanoi, Vietnam, Nov 20, 2006 (CNA) - President George W. Bush joined Vietnamese Protestants and Catholics in prayer on Sunday at the Cua Bac Catholic Church in Hanoi. He also made statements underlining the importance of freedom of worship.
The president prayed silently with the congregation during Mass, which was celebrated in the local language The Associated Press reported.
According to the AP, the people were moved by the visit, saying that it symbolizes the reconciliation between the United States and Vietnam and shows that faith is universal.
Bush said later that he and his wife were pleased to spend a "moment to converse with God."
"We were touched by the simplicity and the beauty of the moment. We appreciate very much the congregation for allowing us to come and worship with them," he said.
"A whole society is a society which welcomes basic freedoms and there's no more basic freedom than the freedom to worship as you see fit," Bush said.
“My hope is that people all across the world will be able to express [religious] freedom. And it's our way of expressing our personal faith and, at the same time, urging societies to feel comfortable with, and confident in saying to their people, if you feel like praising God you're allowed to do so in any way you see fit,” he said.
Bush's visit to the church came just days after the United States removed the communist country from its list of the world's worst violators of religious freedom.
Members of Vietnam's six government-approved faiths, including Catholicism, have been packing churches and temples across the country for several years now. While the Communist Party still oversees church administration, many ordinary worshippers say they feel free to express their faith, reports the AP.
The country continues to come under international criticism for harassing members of unapproved Protestant faiths as well as the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, but in its recent report the U.S. government says such harassment has eased in the last year.
Washington D.C., Nov 20, 2006 (CNA) - Three pro-life leaders are expected to hold a press conference today, asking Amnesty International to keep its neutral position on abortion, reported LifeNews.com.
The human rights watchdog group, which was founded by a lay Catholic, has been in an intense debate about whether it should remain neutral on abortion or begin lobbying for access to abortion as a human right.
Rep. Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican who is the leader of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, will be calling on Amnesty International (AI) to resist pressure from abortion advocates to adopt a pro-abortion position.
He will be joined by Deirdre McQuade, the pro-life spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Kristen Day, the director of Democrats for Life of America.
Smith will discuss a "strongly worded" letter he and 73 members of Congress have sent to Larry Cox, AI's executive director.
The letter urges the organization to maintain a neutral position or adopt a pro-life view that abortion destroys the human rights of women and children. It argues that a decision to support or condone abortion would "significantly undermine Amnesty's reputation and effectiveness."
"The killing of an unborn child by abortion can never be construed to be a human right," Smith said in a statement provided to LifeNews.com. "Therefore, taking a position that supports violence against children is antithetical to everything Amnesty International stands for."
A final decision on whether AI will retain its neutral position could be made at the organization’s next international meeting in Mexico in August 2007.
Catholic leaders in various countries have spoken up against AI supporting abortion. However, AI affiliates in Canada, England and New Zealand have voted in favor of supporting abortion. The British and New Zealand groups want the international organization to back all abortions while the Canadian affiliate said abortion should only be supported in limited cases such as rape or incest.
To urge AI not to support abortion as an international right, go to http://web.amnesty.org/contacts/engindex .
CNA STAFF, Nov 20, 2006 (CNA) - Church officials in Brazil have informed CNA that Pope Benedict XVI is determining the final details of his travel to the South American country to attend next year’s 5th General Conference of the Latin American Bishops’ Council, and they said the visit may include a massive gathering with young people in the city of Sao Paulo.
Although the Holy See has not yet confirmed the reports, according to local sources the Pontiff may begin his visit to Brazil with a massive gathering on May 10 with young people at the Campo de Marte airport in northern Sao Paulo.
On May 11 the Pope may meet with the members of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil.
The Pope would then travel to the Marian Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, some 170 kilometers north of Sao Paulo, where he will open the 5th General Conference of the Latin American Bishops’ Council, which will bring together cardinals, archbishops, and bishops from across the Americas.
Managua, Nicaragua, Nov 20, 2006 (CNA) - The president of Nicaragua, Enrique Bolanos, signed a new law last Friday that modifies the country’s Penal Code and outlaws abortion.
The reform of the Penal Code of Nicaragua, which previously had allowed for “therapeutic” abortion, was passed by the Nicaraguan Congress on October 26 by a vote of 52-0 with 9 abstentions.
President Bolanos stressed that the new law put the Penal Code “in complete conformity with the Constitution” of Nicaragua, which establishes that the right to life of the human person is inviolable and that the family is the basic unit of society.
The reform of the Penal Code was undertaken so that Nicaragua “would no longer continue carrying out criminal acts disguised as therapeutic abortions, through which innocent children are executed in their mothers’ wombs each day, in open violation of the Constitution that gives complete protection to the unborn child.”
Konigstein, Germany, Nov 20, 2006 (CNA) - The provincial superior of the Franciscans in Bosnia, Father Mijo Dzolan, said last week that because talks over reform of the post-war constitution of Bosnia-Herzegovina have collapsed, many Catholics have been forced to flee the country to escape discrimination.
During a visit to the international headquarters of Aid to the Church in Need in Germany, Father Dzolan explained, “Nothing has changed for the better for the Church. Catholics are still discriminated against by the constitution of Dayton (the Balkan peace agreement reached in 1995).”
Talks aimed at relieving discrimination against Catholics by altering the constitution have failed to bring about any solution, Fr. Dzolan revealed. “At a political level there is still division – some are pressing for the first steps of change, while others simply don’t see it as essential,” he said. Until the constitution is changed, the priest said it is difficult to see an end to the crisis which has driven more than half of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Catholics out of the country since the start of the Balkan war.
“We need to adjust the constitution to make people feel they can live safely and prosperously in Bosnia-Herzegovina,” Father Dzolan explained, adding that Catholics continued to seek refuge abroad, especially in Croatia, the USA, and Australia. “Catholics do not have a good political or cultural frame to live in. They feel helpless. They have no confidence that there will be any improvement,” he said.
Seoul, South Korea, Nov 20, 2006 (CNA) - Japanese and Korean bishops gathered for their 12th Japanese and Korean Bishops' Interchange Meeting last week, but they hope their next meeting will include the bishops of from other East Asian countries, including China.
The bishops shared their concern for quality priestly formation in the region during their closed-door meeting at Hanti Martyrs' Shrine near Daegu, 230 kilometers southeast of Seoul.
Eighteen bishops from Korea, 16 from Japan, and one from Hong Kong attended. Auxiliary Bishop John Tong Hon of Hong Kong came as a special guest to discuss about the Church in Hong Kong and mainland China, reported UCA News.
"In Japan, priestly vocations are very few, so the formation of the small number of seminarians into intellectually and spiritually competent pastors is an important task," Bishop Augustine Jun-ichi Nomura of Nagoya, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan, told UCA News. "It was a good chance to share these concerns with Korean bishops."
Bishop John Chang Yik of Chunchon, president of the Korean bishops’ conference, told UCA News that discussions among bishops from throughout the region would be "very helpful for the pastoral work of local Churches.”
Korean and Japanese bishops hope for a "close relationship with the Chinese Church in the near future," he reportedly said.
The next Korean-Japanese bishops' meeting is scheduled for November 2007 in Japan.
Bamberg, Germany, Nov 20, 2006 (CNA) - For the tenth time Archbishop Ludwig Schick of Bamberg has received the golden award of German sports, and in response he said, “People should know that the body is a gift from God, and as such it should be given great care.”
According to the Kath.net, the archbishop of Bamberg participated in a popular strength endurance contest, in which he ran the 50 meter sprint in 8.08 seconds. His quick times have earned him the title, “the fastest bishop in Germany.”
The 57 year-old archbishop also participated in other races. He swam 200 meters in 6.57 minutes and leapt 2.2 meters in the standing long jump. In the shot put the archbishop threw for 9.6 meters and finished a 3 kilometer race in just over 15 minutes.
“I very much like participating in these contests,” Archbishop Schick said. “It is very important that the Church strives both spiritually and physically, and it is good to remember that the body is a gift from God and should be given great care.”
Heinrich Hoffmann, the representative in Bamberg of the popular sports awards, and the director of the contests, Manfred Ratzke, bestowed the golden award on Archbishop Schick for the tenth time.