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Archive of November 30, 2006

Pope Benedict recommits Church to working towards reunification with Orthodox

Istanbul, Turkey, Nov 30, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI successfully completed his top objective today in Istanbul, joining Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in celebrating one of the most solemn feasts of the Orthodox calendar, the Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle.  Both the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Holy Father offered words during the Byzantine liturgy celebrating the Patron of the Church of Constantinople and brother of St. Peter.  The Holy Father recommitted himself, during his homily, to seeking the reunification of the two Churches.

The Holy Father was invited to join the Patriarch for this important feast shortly after his election as Pope and the celebration was the primary reason for his trip to Turkey.

The Pontiff arrived at the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George to the ringing of numerous bells, which in the Orthodox tradition signals the call to prayer and honors important visitors.  According to a press release from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, “The ringing of the church bells at the Ecumenical Patriarchate joyfully celebrated Pope Benedict’s arrival and the of visit Orthodox-Catholic relations.”

As the traditional Orthodox Doxology was intoned, the Patriarch took his place at the episcopal throne and Pope Benedict took a seat of honor across from him.  The Pope prayed silently during the liturgy, standing to embrace Patriarch Bartholomew and exchange a kiss of peace.

"The kiss of peace is a sign of reconciliation,” noted Fr. Dositheos Anagnostopoulos, Patriarchal Press Officer, “a symbol of fellowship of the faithful in the Holy Spirit.”

The Patriarch offered a theology of the Liturgy during his homily, considering the ancient nature of the Orthodox liturgy and its unification of heaven and earth.  

“Your Holiness and beloved brother in Christ,” Patriarch Bartholomew told Pope Benedict during his homily, “this con-celebration of heaven and earth, of history and time, brings us closer to each other today through the blessing of the presence, together with all the saints, of the predecessors of our Modesty, namely St. Gregory the Theologian and St. John Chrysostom,” mentioning again his thankfulness for the returning of the relics of these two Saints by Pope John Paul II.

“The Liturgy teaches us to broaden our horizon and vision, to speak the language of love and communion, but also to learn that we must be with one another in spite of our differences and even divisions,” Bartholomew continued. “In its spacious embrace, it includes the whole world, the communion of saints, and all of God's creation. The entire universe becomes ‘a cosmic liturgy,’ to recall the teaching of St. Maximus the Confessor. This kind of Liturgy can never grow old or outdated.”

The Patriarch concluded his remarks by offering a prayer of thanksgiving for the presence of the Successor of Peter, “on the festive commemoration of the Apostle founder and protector of this Church,” St. Andrew.  “Once again, we gratefully greet this presence as a blessing from God, as an expression of brotherly love and honor toward our Church, and as evidence of our common desire to continue – in a spirit of love and faithfulness to the Gospel Truth and the common tradition of our Fathers – the unwavering journey toward the restoration of full communion among our Churches, which constitutes His divine will and command. May it be so.”

Following the Patriarch’s words, Pope Benedict also offered a reflection on the communion of the two Churches and two Apostles. “Today, in this Patriarchal Church of Saint George, we are able to experience once again the communion and call of the two brothers, Simon Peter and Andrew, in the meeting of the Successor of Peter and his Brother in the episcopal ministry, the head of this Church traditionally founded by the Apostle Andrew. Our fraternal encounter highlights the special relationship uniting the Churches of Rome and Constantinople as Sister Churches,” the Pope said.

The Holy Father recalled, once again, the steps taken by Popes Paul VI and John Paul II and recommitted himself to, “advancing along the road towards the re-establishment – by God’s grace – of full communion between the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople.”

“I can assure you,” the Pope continued, “that the Catholic Church is willing to do everything possible to overcome obstacles and to seek, together with our Orthodox brothers and sisters, ever more effective means of pastoral cooperation to this end.”

Benedict also reflected on the, “even more urgent and necessary,” cooperation of the successors of Peter and Andrew for the evangelization of the world.  The need for the two Churches to work together extends not only to new lands, where Christianity is not established, the Pope continued, but even in Europe, where the Christian tradition is being eroded.  “The process of secularization has weakened the hold of that tradition; indeed, it is being called into question, and even rejected,” Pope Benedict lamented. “In the face of this reality, we are called, together with all other Christian communities, to renew Europe’s awareness of its Christian roots, traditions and values, giving them new vitality.”

“Our efforts to build closer ties between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches are a part of this missionary task. The divisions which exist among Christians are a scandal to the world and an obstacle to the proclamation of the Gospel,” the Pope said.

During this Feast of St. Andrew, the Holy Father also mentioned a theological sticking point which stands between the two Churches, “the issue of the universal service of Peter and his Successors.”  However, the Pontiff added, the disagreement on the issue of the primacy of Peter is one, “which we hope to overcome, thanks also to the theological dialogue which has been recently resumed.”

Continuing the plan laid out by Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict invited Patriarch Bartholomew to cooperate in, “identifying ways in which the Petrine ministry might be exercised today, while respecting its nature and essence.”

“May our daily prayer and activity be inspired by a fervent desire not only to be present at the Divine Liturgy,” the Holy Father concluded, “but to be able to celebrate it together, to take part in the one table of the Lord, sharing the same bread and the same chalice. May our encounter today serve as an impetus and joyful anticipation of the gift of full communion. And may the Spirit of God accompany us on our journey!”

Following the liturgy, the two prelates processed to the balcony of the Chief Secretariat’s Synod where they offered a joint blessing to the crowd below.

The two also read and signed a mutual Declaration concerning Orthodox Christian and Roman Catholic relations later in the day.

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Youngest bishop in the U.S. ready to “propose the mystery” of the Church to Detroit

Detroit, Mich., Nov 30, 2006 (CNA) - The youngest bishop in the United States was ordained yesterday for the Archdiocese of Detroit. Bishop Daniel Flores will assist Cardinal Adam Maida as one of six auxiliary bishops.

The 45-year-old bishop was ordained at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral. He is the first bishop of Latino descent in the archdiocese.

Bishop Flores came to Detroit from Corpus Christi, Texas, where he most recently served as vicar of Corpus Christi Cathedral.

Cardinal Adam Maida, Archbishop of Detroit, was the principal consecrator at the ordination Mass. Bishop Edmond Carmody of the Diocese of Corpus Christi, and Bishop Rene Gracida, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, were selected as co-consecrators.

The cardinal said he was “delighted” that Bishop Flores agreed to the nomination and that he will be the first Hispanic bishop in the diocese.

After the mass, Bishop Flores remarked that, "the presence of so many family and friends here is a personal reminder that Catholicity begins with professing ones faith, and bears fruit in a real communion of life and love."

In an interview with The Detroit News, the new bishop said he will initially spend time getting to know the parishes and then eventually focus in on the large and growing Hispanic community of the Archdiocese.

His priority will be to “preach and propose the mystery of what the Catholic Church offers; the mystery of the sacraments, the mystery of the life and of grace, the mystery of the communal life of the Church,” he told the newspaper. “I think if we set about doing the good that Jesus asks us to do then by God's grace people are attracted to that.”

Growing up, he said, he had thought of becoming a lawyer. But by age 16, the priesthood became the most appealing choice for him.

“I've always been very happy as a priest and I expect to be very happy in just kind of getting to know people,” he told the newspaper. “I think one of the most important things a priest does is that he has an opportunity to spend time with people and … I'm looking forward to that."

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Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic prelates pray for papal trip to Turkey

Boston, Mass., Nov 30, 2006 (CNA) - As many around the globe pray for Pope Benedict’s current trip to Turkey, the Orthodox and Roman Catholic prelates of Boston, as well as those of Denver, have issued statements committing their own prayers for the success of the Holy Father’s visit with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul this week.

In their joint statement, Metropolitan Methodios and Cardinal Seán O'Malley said they are praying for “the safety and fruitful ecumenical dialogue of their respective Church world leaders.”

The prelates said they are hopeful that the meeting between Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Benedict, “the two ‘bridge builders’ and ‘peacemakers’ of Apostolic Christendom, will influence ties between their respective churches and have a profound impact on religious freedom and on the recognition of minority rights.”

The Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic prelates of Denver did the same. Archbishop Charles Chaput each said it was important to pray for the success of the trip in order to “establish dialogue with Muslims but also to be of support to the Greek Orthodox Church.”

Metropolitan Isaiah, in a recent address to his parishes, said the papal visit would have “a positive effect on the way the Turkish government regards the Christian minority in Turkey.”
 
“The Orthodox Churches and the Roman Catholic Church formed the one, single, unified Christian Church of the first millennium,” said the Denver prelates in their statement.  “Historical, political, and cultural forces unfortunately created an unnatural wedge between eastern and western Christendom over a thousand years ago.  It has been the heartfelt desire of both Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christians to see this divide narrowed, and to once again resume the unity of the Church.” 

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Pope and Patriarch sign common declaration on Orthodox-Catholic relations

Istanbul, Turkey, Nov 30, 2006 (CNA) - Following the celebration of the Divine Liturgy for the Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle and Patron of the Church of Constantinople, Pope Benedict XVI and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I signed a common declaration on the relationship between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.  The two gave thanks to God, who by His work has given them the gift of this “fraternal encounter.”

“We give thanks to the Author of all that is good, who allows us once again, in prayer and in dialogue, to express the joy we feel as brothers and to renew our commitment to move towards full communion,” the two prelates said. “This commitment comes from the Lord’s will and from our responsibility as Pastors in the Church of Christ. May our meeting be a sign and an encouragement to us to share the same sentiments and the same attitudes of fraternity, cooperation and communion in charity and truth.”

The Pope and Patriarch then began their declaration by first recognizing, as they have several times in the last two days, the important steps already taken by their predecessors in the path of returning to full communion.

The two specifically mentioned the monumental act by which Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I retracted the medieval declarations of excommunication made against each other’s Churches.  Benedict and Bartholomew lamented that, “we have not yet drawn from this act all the positive consequences which can flow from it in our progress towards full unity,” and exhorted the faithful of their two Churches, “to take an active part,” in the process of achieving full unity, “through prayer and through significant gestures.”

The document notes the importance of the resumption of theological dialogue by the mixed Commission, which occurred recently in Belgrade, Serbia.  “We expressed our profound joy at the resumption of the theological dialogue,” the declaration said, noting that the Commission had been interrupted for several years.  

“In treating the topic ‘Conciliarity and Authority in the Church’ at local, regional and universal levels, the Commission undertook a phase of study on the ecclesiological and canonical consequences of the sacramental nature of the Church,” the two leaders said. “This will permit us to address some of the principal questions that are still unresolved. We are committed to offer unceasing support, as in the past, to the work entrusted to this Commission and we accompany its members with our prayers.”

The two prelates reaffirmed their joint mission to proclaim the gospel and combat, “the increase of secularization, relativism, even nihilism, especially in the Western world.”

“All this,” they said, “calls for a renewed and powerful proclamation of the Gospel, adapted to the cultures of our time.”

Benedict and Bartholomew praised the formation of the European Union and urged the furthering of basic human rights to all people, specifically mentioning religious freedom, which they called, “a witness and guarantor of respect for all other freedoms.”

The two noted that although Europe must remain open to other religions and their cultural contributions, “In Europe, while remaining open to other religions and to their cultural contributions, we must unite our efforts to preserve Christian roots, traditions, and values, to ensure respect for history, and thus to contribute to the European culture of the future and to the quality of human relations at every level.”

Mentioning other rights of mankind, the Pope and Patriarch called for the, “respect for the rights of every human being, created in the image and likeness of God,” and urged further work, “to foster economic, social, and cultural development.”

“Our theological and ethical traditions can offer a solid basis for a united approach in preaching and action,” the statement said.

“Above all, we wish to affirm that killing innocent people in God’s name is an offence against him and against human dignity. We must all commit ourselves to the renewed service of humanity and the defense of human life, every human life.”

Making mention of the Holy Land, the two declared their fervent hope, “that peace will be re-established in that region, that respectful coexistence will be strengthened between the different peoples that live there, between the Churches and between the different religions found there.”  The document especially urges Christians to work for unity with one another and to enter into an, “authentic and honest interreligious dialogue, with a view to combating every form of violence and discrimination.”

The declaration even turned to environmental issues, as the two offered their encouragement and, “support all efforts made to protect God’s creation, and to bequeath to future generations a world in which they will be able to live.”

The two prelates concluded by greeting the faithful of their two Churches and offering their prayers and blessings.

Read the full text of the joint statement here.

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Documentary on Marian images to debut in December

Washington D.C., Nov 30, 2006 (CNA) - No one knows what she really looked like, yet the Blessed Virgin Mary stands among the most popular artistic subjects in history. Now, a stunning new documentary will explore how images of the Virgin, around the world, reflect numerous traditions, devotional practices and cultures.

Picturing Mary will debut next month on public television. Narrated by actress Jane Seymour, the one-hour program leads viewers on a pictorial journey through history from the earliest times to the present day, and presents a stunning array of art from 12 locations in eight different countries.

Picturing Mary is a joint effort of the U.S. bishops’ Catholic Communication Campaign and New York public television station Thirteen/WNET. The documentary follows their previous collaboration on the 2001 Emmy award-winning The Face: Jesus in Art.

Already more than 100 Public Television stations have scheduled the program to air in December.  For a list of air dates and times, visit www.picturingmary.com.

“This program is a Christmas gift from the Catholic Communication Campaign to TV viewers,” says CCC Director of Production Ellen McCloskey. “In fact, many stations will present it on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Like The Face: Jesus in Art, Picturing Mary will become a perennial television favorite during the Advent and Christmas seasons.”

DVD copies of Picturing Mary can be purchased from USCCB publishing at, http://www.usccbpublishing.org.

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Missionaries of Charity offer Muslim girls professional training

Dushanbe, Tajikistan, Nov 30, 2006 (CNA) - The Missionaries of Charity have launched a new professional training program for girls in Tajikistan, a predominantly Muslim country.

The sisters set up a small room with sewing machines and began offering courses in basic sewing, knitting, stitching and embroidery on Oct. 20. To date, 11 Muslim girls, aged 15 to 18, have registered for the course, offered in the sisters’ residence on Mondays and Tuesdays in Dushanbe, the capital city.

"We wanted to start these courses for Catholic girls, but we realized most study in school and wouldn't have enough time to attend our lessons," Sr. Lamola told UCA News. So they decided to give Muslim girls who live in the area the chance to learn, she explained. The nuns speak Russian, while the girls speak Tajik and a little Russian.

"Muslim girls need this service much more than Christians, because their parents usually don't allow them to finish school," the Indian missioner told UCA News. "They want them to marry." As a result, these girls rarely have professions and typically get married between 19 and 21. The young women reportedly attend the classes with great joy.

The focus of the course is on practical help. "We can't pray or talk about Jesus during classes, because the girls would leave us, or their parents would forbid them to come. But by this service and by our life we can show the love of Christ for all," Sr. Lamola said.

There are four Missionaries of Charity community in Tajikistan — two from India, one from Poland and one from Kenya. Their main ministry has been to the elderly, providing free food through a soup kitchen, medicine and help with household chores during home visits.

Five Incarnate Word priests serve the 250 Tajik Catholics in three parishes. Three Servants of the Lord and Holy Virgin of Matara nuns, also part of the Incarnate Word family, based in Argentina, help with youth ministry and other parish work in Dushanbe.

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Bishops issue urgent call to create “conditions for peaceful coexistence” in Oaxaca

Mexico City, Mexico, Nov 30, 2006 (CNA) - The bishops of Mexico’s southern region of Oaxaca have called on all sectors of society, from political leaders to average citizens, to establish new “conditions for peaceful coexistence” that will ensure lasting peace through the “improvement of relations at all levels.”

“The challenge for everyone is to urgently create the conditions for peaceful and healthy coexistence; that means that our efforts must be directed toward establishing better relations at various levels: in all of society, in neighborhoods and communities, in families.  Only then will we be able to aspire to a society of greater justice and solidarity,” the bishops said in a statement.

“All social crises,” they noted, “are an expression of the disequilibriums that are experienced by all of society” and which can only be overcome “inasmuch as the profound causes that spawn them are acknowledged and confronted.”

The bishops stressed that all members of society “have a place and a task to carry out for the good of Oaxaca,” but that, “those invested with political, judicial, or professional responsibilities” have an especially important role to play.

They also underscored that next to the family, neighborhoods and local communities are the most important places where socialization takes place.  Thus, “they have an important task in fostering peaceful coexistence.”

Authentic social change is effective and lasting, the bishops continued, “only if it is founded upon a change in personal behavior.  One can never expect others to perform this important task nor can it be delegated to institutions because nobody can change us but ourselves.  Oaxaca urgently needs this collaboration from all families,” they added.

Faithful to her mission, the bishops said, the Church “will continue call on everyone to genuinely seek out reconciliation, justice and peace.  She will also be at the service of all, regardless of social conditions, beliefs or political opinions.”

The statement was signed by Archbishop Jose Luis Chavez Botello of Oaxaca and his auxiliary, Bishop Oscar Campos Contreras.

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Cardinal sees Christian identity as a link between EU and Ukraine

Brussels, Belgium, Nov 30, 2006 (CNA) - Speaking to a representative of Aid to the Church in Need during a recent trip to Belgium, Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church (UGCC), said that Christian identity is the link between Ukraine and the European Union (EU).

“Our people share Christian roots with the rest of Europe. That is why I feel they want to join the EU,” the Cardinal told a representative of the international charity while attending a Nov. 28th meeting organised by the Commission of European Episcopal Conferences in Brussels.  “Without its Christian values Ukraine would dismember,” he added.

Reflecting on his country’s bitter experiences with Nazism and communism, Cardinal Husar said, “It is clear from our history, that justice must be the foundation of our own state and also of Europe.” In this respect, he took courage from the fact that the ‘orange revolution’ that brought democracy to Ukraine had taken place in a peaceful way.  “Now we are open to give and to receive,” he said.

The meeting in Brussels was held to commemorate the 1932-33 famine in Ukraine. The artificial famine was inflicted by Joseph Stalin on the Ukrainian peasantry to break their resistance to Soviet rule.  In its wake an estimated 10 million people died of starvation.

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Evangelization requires holy priests, Paraguayan bishops say

Asunción, Paraguay, Nov 30, 2006 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Paraguay is thanking priests for their efforts at evangelizing the country and inviting them to embark upon the path to holiness in order to build up the Kingdom of God.

During a Mass initiating a novena to the country’s patroness, Our Lady of Caacupe, the bishops read a pastoral letter to priests, thanking them for their “generous service” in the priestly life despite the problems they face.  “We know that together we can overcome the great difficulties that come before us,” they said.

The bishops also pointed to the challenges of the priestly life that the entire Church in Paraguay must face, such as “poverty,” “the lack of economic support by the faithful” and “the lack of organization in ensuring a more dignified priestly life.”

In their letter the bishops also highlighted the “spiritual riches” of the Paraguayan people, whose enthusiasm should “awaken a new dynamism” in the work of evangelization.  “In the cause of the Kingdom, there is no time to look back, much less to become absorbed by laziness.  There is much that awaits us and therefore we must embark upon the path of our own sanctification and pastoral renewal,” they added.

The bishops concluded their letter assuring priests, “You have been very present in our thoughts and we have prayed for you, as we will continue praying with you.”

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Argentinean diocese calls for distinction between recreational gaming activities and addictions

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 30, 2006 (CNA) - The Social Ministry Department of the Diocese of San Carlos de Bariloche issued a statement this week stressing that for the good of individuals, families and society, clear distinctions should be made between legitimate recreational activities, such as sports, and addictions, such as those fostered by games of chance.

In the document entitled, “Games: Health Diversion or Dangerous Addiction?,” the diocesan office noted that casino games facilitate pathological addictions, especially affecting poor families, “who see in them a magic solution to their economic problems, and young people who are ensnared by the egoism of an essentially individualistic game that is an affront to the culture of work and to solidarity.”

While clarifying that diversion and games, “can be something very positive and worthy of promotion,” the document states that games “can lose their meaning and become a risky activity for the comprehensive development of the person and of society, especially when they are based on bets.”

“Many betting games are capable of impacting people of all sorts, no matter their age, sex, educational level, economic states, personality, or social class, resulting in a growing addiction difficult to overcome, and they are addictive because the urge to play is irresistible and progressively consumes the psychiatric and physical energies of the compulsive player,” the statement emphasizes.

Addiction to such games can often not only consume all of one’s finances but also wreak havoc on personal relationships and work habits.  Compulsive gambling is an “illness,” the statement observes, but unlike others in which a substance is abused, gambling is a “behavioral addiction.”

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Secularism equals rejection of God, Spanish cardinal warns

Madrid, Spain, Nov 30, 2006 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, is calling on Catholics to respond to secularism - or laicism, as it is referred to in Europe - because behind the phenomenon is “a rejection of God” and a belief that man can “go it alone.”

During an interview on the Spanish radio network COPE, the cardinal commented on the message of a new pastoral statement on morality in current-day Spain, approved by the bishops at their last general assembly.

Cardinal Rouco explained that the purpose of the statement is “to lay out the consequences of faith in Jesus Christ for daily life and the current situation of society and the world in Spain…in that Spain that is journeying through history with difficulties and serious problems, but also with much hope.”

The cardinal exhorted Catholics to respond to laicism, “first of all, with the testimony of faith.”  Those whose hearts burn with love for Jesus “must turn their attention, and thus their behavior and actions, towards the reality that surrounds them in this life.”

The love of Christ must be present in everyday life, he stressed, “where sin, suffering, and pain continue to be very much alive, but where also the yearnings and desire for hope and to re-emerge with new life are also vibrant and alive,” the cardinal stated.

Proclaiming and living the Gospel, “has consequences for the way in which we practice democracy,” Cardinal Rouco added, “for the relationship between morality and democracy, for how we see and understand service to the common good, for how we respect and promote religious freedom.”

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