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Archive of November 24, 2006

Christian art can serve as evangelization tool for non-believers, Pope says

Vatican City, Nov 24, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI discussed last night, how Christian art, especially that found in the Vatican Museums, can appeal to those who are not Catholic, or even believers at all and present them with certain Christian truths.

Receiving the directors and employees of the Vatican Museums in the Vatican’s Hall of Blessings, the Pontiff offered a reflection on the important mission the Museums fulfill in the life of the Church and in the world.  The Vatican Museums are celebrating their five-hundred-year anniversary this year.

The Holy Father pointed out how so far this year over four million people have visited the Museums, 200,000 more than in 2005. A large part of the visitors "are not Catholics," he said, "and many are not even believers."
 
"The approach to Christian truth, through artistic or socio-cultural expressions, has a greater chance of appealing to the intelligence and sensitivity of people who do not belong to the Catholic Church, and who may sometimes nourish feelings of prejudice or indifference towards her,” he said. “Visitors to the Vatican Museums, by dwelling in this sanctuary of art and faith, have the opportunity to 'immerse' themselves in a concentrated atmosphere of 'theology by images'."
 
There is, Pope Benedict continued, "a truth written into the 'genetic code' of the Vatican Museums: that the great Classical and Judeo-Christian civilizations are not in opposition to one another, rather they come together in God's unique plan. Proof of this is to be found in the fact that the earliest origins of this institution may be traced back to a work we could well define as 'profane' - the magnificent sculpture of Laocoon - but that, in reality, in the setting of the Vatican, acquires its full and authentic light. It is the light of human beings formed by God; of freedom in the drama of their redemption, drawn between earth and heaven, between flesh and the spirit. It is the light of a beauty that shines from within the work of art, and brings the spirit to open itself to the sublime, to the place where the Creator encounters the creatures made in His image and likeness."
 
"The Museum truly shows how Christianity and culture, faith and art, the divine and the human, constantly intertwine. And in this regard, the Sistine Chapel represents the insurmountable pinnacle," the Holy Father noted.
 
The Pope concluded his talk by stressing the importance of the example Vatican Museums employees show visitors, "offering them a simple but incisive witness of faith. A temple of art and culture such as the Vatican Museums requires the beauty of the works to be accompanied by the beauty of the people who work there: a spiritual beauty that renders the atmosphere truly ecclesial, impregnating it with the Christian spirit."

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Pope’s trip will encourage and strengthen Turkish Catholics bishop says

Rome, Italy, Nov 24, 2006 (CNA) - The Pope’s upcoming trip to Turkey will serve to encourage and strengthen the small minority of Catholics in the country, Bishop Luigi Padovese, Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia, said this week.  

Speaking at the Italian section of Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Padovese said that the presence of Catholics in Turkey – and “especially the presence of Catholic priests” – “is seen as something in contrast to Turkish nationalism.”

“Therefore,” the bishop said, “the Pope will not only come to encourage us, but also to strengthen us in our Christian identity, given that we are a small minority, which often must make itself ‘less visible’ in order to avoid serious problems of social and religious co-existence.”

Padovese said there is a desire on the part of many Turks to reduce the presence of Christians in the country.  “In small towns and villages,” the bishop lamented, “there are often churches without communities and, in those cases, the local authorities confiscate the buildings.”

“Those Catholics who have the means to do so send their children to study abroad and, in most cases, they do not return to Turkey…The major part of Christians here are in fact manual workers and so many are unemployed,” the bishop said.

As a result the bishop said, the Church in Turkey, “has made a choice of non-proselytism but is available for all those who are interested in Christianity. Our churches are always open in the afternoon for whoever wants to meet the priests.”

“Islam is religion and life in society, religion and culture, and, therefore, choosing another faith means isolating oneself from their own context, with, in some cases, serious consequences,” Padovese said.

At the same time, Bishop Padovese noted his diocese’s use of electronic means of evangelization and the help which Aid to the Church in Need provides for such endeavours, “A website of the Vicariate already exists, but it needs economic aid from outside, including from ACN, in order to be run and enlarged…A radio station would also be necessary, most of all for the remotest and smallest Christian communities.”

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Think only of the future of Lebanon, Cardinal tells mourners

Beirut, Lebanon, Nov 24, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, Patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church, appealed to the Lebanese people to show restraint in their reaction to Tuesday’s murder of Pierre Gemayel, Lebanon's industry minister.

The cardinal presided at the 34-year-old politician’s funeral yesterday at the Cathedral of St. George in Beirut. According to The Daily Star, the cardinal called the assassination “a disaster, not only for his family but for the whole country.”

“I appeal to the Lebanese people to seriously think about what has happened and that they hold back, think only about the future of Lebanon,” he reportedly said.

The “wave of crimes continues to destabilize the country” and “the Lebanese people must stay away from rivalries,” he said according to an ANSA report.

During the funeral, a Jesuit priest read a message from Pope Benedict XVI who condemned the “unspeakable” assassination and called for unity in Lebanon.

An estimated crowd of 800,000 Lebanese gathered in the nearby Martyrs’ Square holding a demonstration protesting the murder of Gemayel, which many attribute to Syrian action.  Many protesters waved anti-Syrian banners and flags, as they listened to speeches from political leaders. Some chanted slogans of revenge.

Pallbearers had struggled to make their way into the cathedral amid the huge crowds. Women threw flowers and rice on Pierre Gemayel's coffin, draped in the flag of his Phalange Party, as it was passed hand to hand over the dense crowd of mourners outside the cathedral.

The funeral rally energized supporters of the Lebanese government, who vowed to oust Lahoud and seal the anti-Syrian bloc's full control of Lebanon's politics.

Prime Minister Fuad Saniora went on national television Thursday night appealing to Hezbollah and its allies to resume a national dialogue broken off earlier in the month.

"Dialogue is the only and sure path that guarantees results," he said.

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Pope Benedict emphasizes value of sick and infirm in society

Vatican City, Nov 24, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI advocated today the integration of the sick into a society overly concerned with physical beauty, health, and biological vitality.  The Pontiff encouraged the participants in an international conference organized by the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care to continue the rich Catholic tradition of charitably caring for men and women suffering from illnesses.

Pope Benedict told the participants, who are meeting at the Vatican from November 23 to 25 on the theme: "Pastoral aspects of the treatment of infectious diseases," that although there are several examples of generous service and “concrete gestures of love,” shown to those suffering from infectious diseases, are often subject to terrible injustices.
 
"How can we forget," the Pope said, "the many people with infections illnesses forced into segregation, and sometimes marked by a humiliating stigma? The seriousness of these lamentable situations is highlighted by the disparity of social and economic conditions between the North and South of the world.”

“Such situations must be answered with concrete initiatives that favor proximity to the sick, enliven the evangelization of culture, and inspire the social and economic policies of governments," the Pope implored.
 
The Holy Father also mentioned, "the rich tradition of the Catholic Church," which, he said, "must be kept alive by exercising charity towards the suffering, so as to ensure the enduring visibility of values inspired by true humanity and by the Gospel: the dignity of the individual, mercy, and the identification of the sick with Christ. All initiatives are inadequate if they do not make love for man perceptible, a love nourished in the meeting with Christ.”
 
"This irreplaceable proximity to the sick," he added, "must be united to the evangelization of the cultural environment in which we live." In this context he mentioned "attitudes of indifference or even of exclusion and rejection," which are sometimes shown towards the sick in societies fixated with well-being. "Such an attitude is also favored by the image projected by the media of men and women prevalently concerned with physical beauty, health and biological vitality. This is a dangerous cultural tendency that encourages people to focus on self, to close themselves in their own little world, and to avoid committing themselves to serving those in need."
 
The Holy Father emphasized the need for, "a form of pastoral care capable of helping the sick bear their suffering, helping them transform their condition into an occasion of grace for themselves and others, through living participation in the mystery of Christ."
 
Pope Benedict encouraged the continued collaboration, "with various public institutions in order to ensure that social justice is practiced in a delicate field such as that of the care and assistance of people suffering infectious illness." In this context, he mentioned "the equal distribution of resources for research and therapy, as well as the promotion of living conditions that can prevent the outbreak and spread of infectious diseases."

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Sales of novel on Benedict’s murder soar ahead of Pope’s visit

Istanbul, Turkey, Nov 24, 2006 (CNA) - Sales of a controversial Turkish novel about a conspiracy to kill Pope Benedict XVI are soaring ahead of the pontiff's historic visit to Turkey next week, reported AKI.

“The Plot against the Pope”, by Yuvel Kaya, has Opus Dei, a subversive Masonic lodge, and the CIA colluding to make the Pontiff's murder a pretext for a U.S. attack against Iran.

The book cover features Benedict XVI in front of a burning cross with a bearded gunman aiming a rocket launcher at him.

Lale Yilmaz of Kabalci, one the country's biggest book stores, told AKI that sales are picking up, despite the absence of advertising. However, she said she could not give exact sales figures.

Zeynep Yaman an employee of Alfa Dagitim, one of the six companies distributing the books, told AKI that more copies of the book have been bought over the last 10 days than at any other time. To date, about 10,000 copies have been sold, which is considered high in Turkey, Yaman added.

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Cardinal advises evangelization through life example

Calcutta, India, Nov 24, 2006 (CNA) - A top Vatican official has told Catholic cultural workers in India that the life example of people involved in interreligious activities can promote evangelization of culture and inculturation of faith, reported UCA News.

Cardinal Paul Poupard, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, delivered the keynote address at a Nov. 21-23 conference of directors of Church-run cultural centers in India. These centers promote various aspects of local culture such as art, music and dance. The meeting was held at Pilar Theological College in Goa.

The cardinal told 40 cultural center directors at the meeting that their centers "have the ability to touch the very core of the human person, to dialogue with those belonging to various cultures and religions so that we may be able to strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ and may find new ways to witness to this faith."

According to a report by UCA News, he emphasized that “way of life” is the best example of preaching Christian faith and morals. "If we are to teach others to observe the commandments which [Jesus] has taught us, then it is imperative that we teach by the example of our lives."

If life example becomes the method of teaching, "no one can again say," as Mahatma Gandhi did, that "Christians are a hindrance to the spread of the faith in Christ," he reportedly said.

According to Cardinal Poupard, the mission of Christ fundamentally involves evangelization of cultures. For this, one must first be conscious of the fact that culture is a human reality to be evangelized, he stated. Evangelization must be understood in its total individual and social meaning, he added.

The cardinal cautioned, however, about a tendency toward relativism that sees Catholicism as one among several faiths that lead people to God. In the "inseparable pair" of inculturation of faith and evangelization of culture, "there can be no hint of syncretism or relativism," he asserted.

Nonetheless, dialogue should be held with proponents of culture and followers of other religions on existential questions, such as the meaning of life and death, inner human freedom, human problems that have religious dimensions and even faith itself, he said.

Dialogue also should focus on serious problems of social life such as poverty, human rights, peace, cultural pluralism and ethics in the economic and political spheres, as well as seek sense and beauty in everyday life, the cardinal said.

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New movie on Our Lady of Guadalupe to debut in Mexico

Mexico City, Mexico, Nov 24, 2006 (CNA) - A new feature-length movie about the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1531 is set to debut on December 8th, in theaters across Mexico.

The movie is set in current-day Mexico and presents the story of brother and sister, Jose Maria and Mercedes, both scientists who have dedicated their lives to archeology and history and decide to investigate the case of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Motivated by their curiosity and by the difficult situation they are experiencing in their lives, they discover something during their research that changes their lives forever.

Directed by Santiago Parra, the film was shot on location in Spain and Mexico, with collaboration from the Institute for Guadalupan Studies in order avoid any historical and religious errors.  “I must confess that it is a carefully packaged story that has been supervised by important clergymen in Mexico,” Parra said.

“Guadalupe” stars Spanish actors Aleix Albareda and Ivana Miño, and Mexican actors Fabian Robles, Angelica Aragon, Pedro Armendariz, Jose Carlos Ruiz, and Eric del Castillo.
 
According to Parra, the film offers “a different perspective, as it addresses not only the apparitions but above all what is behind them.  The stars of film begin to discover through science that the Virgin Mary is telling us to live in harmony and peace, to have faith and hope.”

Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City has endorsed the movie and said, “It puts the discovery of the numerous unknown aspects of Holy Mary of Guadalupe within reach of the public.”

To see the trailer and to learn more about the film visit www.guadalupelapelicula.com       

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Last goodbyes to German priest who saw three centuries

Berlin, Germany, Nov 24, 2006 (CNA) - He was born during the Pontificate of Leo XIII, was ordained to the priesthood before World War II, and was able to witness a fellow German become successor of St. Peter.  The oldest priest in Germany, Father Konrad Fuchs, died this week at the age of 109, after 83 years in the priesthood.

According to the Kath.net news agency, Father Fuchs died at a home run by the Sisters of Mercy of the Most Holy Cross in the city of Hegne, where he had been living since 2002, maintaining his interest in current affairs and in the lives of his friends and associates.

Father Fuchs was born on October 15, 1897 in the city of Dingelsdorf.  His family was very devout, and after completing grade school and high school he entered the seminary in the city of Freiburg.

Father Fuchs was a young German during the pontificate of St. Pius X and he fought in World War I, when Benedict XV was Pope.  He was ordained in 1923, during the pontificate of Pius XI.  He was pastor in Seebach, in the Black Forest, and in Freiburg, where he ministered to the faithful during the difficult times of World War II, under the pontificate of Pius XII.  He was pastor of the Church of the Holy Family in Freiburg for 32 years until he retired.

The German priest always had a great love and devotion for the liturgy, especially for choral music.  He maintained a deep relationship and friendship with the Benedictines, from whom who took the motto of his priestly life: “May God be glorified in everything.”

Father Fuchs was just few months shy of being the oldest priest in the world. That honor belongs to Father Nicolaus Kao Se Tseien, a Trappist monk in Hong Kong who was born on January 15, 1897.

Father Nicolaus was born in the Chinese city of Fuzhou and says the secret to his longevity is “to not smoke, get upset, covet, get drunk, eat too much, or stop exercising - or praying!”

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German judge says scientific progress subject to ethics and law

Madrid, Spain, Nov 24, 2006 (CNA) - Justice Winfried Kluth of the Constitutional Court of Germany said this week scientific advances must be subject to ethical principles and to the law.

During a seminar on bioethics at the University of Navarra in Spain, Justice Kluth defended palliative care against calls for euthanasia, stressing that faced the with the reality of terminally ill patients, the mission of medicine, research, and society is “to diminish suffering and help the families.”

In this sense, he criticized the suggestion that babies in the United Kingdom with severe abnormalities be subject to death.

Kluth also warned that research with embryos treats human persons as mere objects, such that, “their characteristic as bearers of universal human rights, as is acknowledged in
Germany, is not respected.”  Science can go down many paths, he said, “but the one chosen should be ethically and legally admissible.”

The German high court justice also recalled that there has been little success from research with embryos and therefore to promise cures for serious diseases from such studies “does not have a serious basis.”  

“More attention should be given to less spectacular work that is carried out to contribute to the health of human beings,” he said.

Science and legislation, he stressed, should make decisions “that conform to the principles of law and morality and should not be driven solely by the idea of progress.”

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Nativity Scene exhibit opens to honor Pope

Munich, Germany, Nov 24, 2006 (CNA) - In preparation for the seasons of Advent and Christmas, an exhibit of 35 nativity scenes, crafted in Naples, Italy, will open Nov. 25 in the Pope’s native Bavaria. The exhibit seeks to honor of the German pontiff and to “put God back into Christmas,” reported Fides.

The exhibit will run at Kunstraum Klosterkirche in the town of Traunstein until Dec. 26. The Pope lived in Traunstein as a boy.

The exhibit is titled, “God Becomes Man: The Neapolitan Art of Nativity Scenes.” It is a being promoted by officials in both Traunstein and in Naples, which has a tradition of making Nativity Scenes.

“The Neapolitan Nativity Scene has a tradition and a history which deserves to be told,” said Umberto Grillo, a professor and secretary of Amici del Presepio (Friends of the Nativity Scene).

At a press conference in Rome Nov. 22, he said the first Neapolitan Nativity Scenes were only for the nobility and were the work of great artists. Later, thanks to a Dominican priest, the scenes entered all Neapolitan homes, fostering tremendous devotion.

The Amici del Presepio association offers courses in this art. Among the most successful students are two former prison inmates. They took the course while in prison and have now opened a workshop and storefront on the famous San Gregorio Armeno Street, where most Nativity Scene artists work.

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Archbishop warns of dangers of new education law in Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 24, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata has decried a recently approved sex-ed law in Argentina and said its passage went unnoticed by most people, despite the grave consequences it will have for the education of youth.

During his weekly program, “Keys to a Better World,” the archbishop stressed that the new sex-ed law forces public schools to provide sexually explicit content to children as young as five years old.

Archbishop Aguer warned that in many public schools a “gender perspective” prevails and children are taught a “minimalist concept of man, stripped of his transcendent dimension, in which the nature of the person and his acts are not acknowledged,” and he explained that “in the gender perspective the true nature of human sexuality is altered.”

At the same time, the archbishop pointed out, the law contains “concepts that can be interpreted benignly,” such as one section that states that “sexual education should be comprehensive and progressive.”

Archbishop Aguer called for reflection on the consequences of the new law.  “What does it mean that the state assumes the right and duty to intervene in something so delicate and essential that has to do with the development of the personality of children,” he asked.

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