Vatican City, Dec 11, 2006 (CNA) -
Shortly after returning from the dedication of a new Roman parish, Pope Benedict XVI appeared at the window of his study Sunday to pray the Angelus with the thousands of pilgrims gathered below in St. Peter's Square. The Holy Father encouraged the pilgrims to consider how the season of Advent reminds the Church of its mission to continue building the house of God among mankind.
The Pope recalled how his inauguration of the new church of the Roman parish of St. Mary Star of Evangelization, was an event that "assumes symbolic significance within the liturgical period of Advent as we prepare to celebrate the Nativity of the Lord. In these days the liturgy constantly reminds us that 'God is coming' to visit His people."
"The church-building is a concrete sign of the Church-community, made up of the 'living stones' that are the believers," said the Pope.
The Holy Father pointed out how the two princes of Rome, St. Peter and St. Paul highlighted in their writings that Christ is the ‘cornerstone’ of the spiritual temple, which is the Church. United to Christ, the Pope said, “we too are called to participate in the construction of this living temple. If, then, it is true that it is God who takes the initiative to come and live among men, and that He is the principal architect of this project, it is also true that He does not want to accomplish it without our active collaboration.”
“Therefore, preparing for Christmas means commitment to building the 'house of God with men.' ... At the end of time it will be complete, and it will be the 'heavenly Jerusalem,'" the Pope pointed out.
"Advent invites us to turn our gaze towards the 'heavenly Jerusalem,' which is the final goal of our earthly pilgrimage. At the same time, it exhorts us to commit ourselves with prayer, conversion and good works, to welcoming Jesus into our lives, to constructing together with him that spiritual building in which each of us - our families and our communities - is a precious stone," he concluded.
Vatican City, Dec 11, 2006 (CNA) - Saturday Pope Benedict XVI received participants in the 56th national study congress, promoted by the Union of Italian Catholic Jurists, which is being held in Rome on the theme: "Secularity and secularities." The Holy Father told the lawyers how the idea of secularity has been corrupted and challenged them to create a society in which the Church and the moral law are returned to their rightful place.
The concept of secularity, said the Holy Father in his address to the group, originally referred to "the condition of simple faithful Christian, not belonging to the clergy or the religious state. During the Middle Ages it acquired the meaning of opposition between civil authorities and ecclesial hierarchies, and in modern times it has assumed the significance of the exclusion of religion and its symbols from public life by confining them to the private sphere and the individual conscience. In this way, the term secularity has acquired an ideological meaning quite opposite to the one it originally held."
Secularity today, then, "is understood as a total separation between State and Church, the latter not having any right to intervene in questions concerning the life and behavior of citizens. And such secularity even involves the exclusion of religious symbols from public places."
In accordance with this definition, the Pope continued, "today we hear talk of secular thought, secular morals, secular science, secular politics. In fact, at the root of such a concept, is an a-religious view of life, thought and morals; that is, a view in which there is no place for God, for a Mystery that transcends pure reason, for a moral law of absolute value that is valid in all times and situations."
The Holy Father underlined the need "to create a concept of secularity that, on the one hand, grants God and His moral law, Christ and His Church, their just place in human life at both an individual and a social level, and on the other hand affirms and respects the 'legitimate autonomy of earthly affairs'."
The Church, the Pope reiterated, cannot intervene in politics, because that would "constitute undue interference."
However, he said, "'healthy secularity' means that the State does not consider religion merely as an individual sentiment that can be confined to the private sphere." Rather, it must be "recognized as a ... public presence. This means that all religious confessions (so long as they do not contrast the moral order and are not dangerous to public order) are guaranteed free exercise of their acts of worship."
Hostility against "any form of political or cultural relevance of religion," and in particular against "any kind of religious symbol in public institutions" is a degenerated form of secularity, said the Holy Father, as is "refusing the Christian community, and those who legitimately represent it, the right to pronounce on the moral problems that today appeal to the conscience of all human beings, particularly of legislators.
"This," he added, "does not constitute undue interference of the Church in legislative activity, which is the exclusive competence of the State, but the affirmation and the defense of those great values that give meaning to people's lives and safeguard their dignity. These values, even before being Christian, are human, and therefore cannot leave the Church silent and indifferent, when she has the duty firmly to proclaim the truth about man and his destiny."
The Pope concluded by highlighting the need "to bring people to understand that the moral law God gave us - and that expresses itself in us through the voice of conscience - has the aim not of oppressing us but of freeing us from evil and of making us happy. We must show that without God man is lost, and that the exclusion of religion from social life, and in particular the marginalization of Christianity, undermines the very foundations of human coexistence. Such foundations, indeed, before being of the social and political order, belong to the moral order."
Vatican City, Dec 11, 2006 (CNA) - After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father spoke of his concern for the situation in the Middle East, "where glimmers of hope for resolving the crises that afflict the region alternate with tensions and difficulties that cause us to fear fresh violence."
In this context, he made special mention of Lebanon. There, he said quoting John Paul II's 1997 post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, “A New Hope for Lebanon,” "yesterday as today, 'men from different cultures and religions are called to live together, to build a nation of dialogue and coexistence and to work together for the common good.' Hence, in the face of recent developments, I share the great concern expressed by the patriarch, His Beatitude Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, and by Maronite bishops in a communique made public last Wednesday.”
"Together with them, I ask the Lebanese and their political leaders to have as their exclusive concern the good of the country and the harmony of its communities," in order to achieve "the unity which is the responsibility of all and of each, and which requires patient and persevering efforts and a trusting and permanent dialogue.
“I also hope," the Pope concluded, "that the international community will help to find ... the peaceful and balanced solutions so necessary for Lebanon and for the entire Middle East, and I invite everyone to prayer at this difficult moment."
Newark, N.J., Dec 11, 2006 (CNA) - An excommunicated Roman Catholic archbishop attempted to ordain another two married men as priests on Sunday. The Vatican has not commented on these, the latest antics of the former Archbishop of Lusaka, Zambia or the separatist archbishop’s admission that his movement is largely funded and supported by a man who claims to be, "humanity's Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord, and True Parent."
Emmanuel Milingo illicitly ordained Raymond Grosswirth of Rochester, N.Y., and Dominic Riccio of Newark at Trinity Reformed Church, in New Jersey, reported The Associated Press.
The ceremony concluded a two-day convention of Milingo's advocacy group, Married Priests Now! The group claims that celibacy for priests in the Roman Catholic Church should be optional.
Milingo, 76, was excommunicated after he installed four married men as bishops in September. A summit was later held at the Vatican, reaffirming mandatory celibacy for clergy.
Milingo was married in 2001 to a Korean acupuncturist chosen for him by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon in a wedding performed by Moon's Unification Church. Moon, who himself is on his third marriage, is known for matching couples and marrying thousands of them in a single ceremony.
This weekend Milingo confirmed Moon’s continuing association with his organization. He announced this weekend that Moon’s American Clergy Leadership Conference paid for much of the conference and is also funding Married Priests Now!
“Today we are present as beneficiaries of Rev. Moon," Milingo wrote in a statement he distributed this weekend. "In order to ensure the success of our convocation he dedicated his key organizations to give their utmost support in every way needed to the Married Priests Now!"
"I have witnessed the zeal of Rev. Sun Myung Moon for the realization of the Kingdom for God," Milingo wrote. "His concern for the welfare of the whole world makes him not only a world benefactor, but more importantly a person whose vision, humility and saintly life has awakened our own courage and determination to organize and do what we ourselves know is right from God."
Milingo’s association with Moon has caused evermore concern among Catholics. According to the AP, Moon’s followers regard him as "Lord of the Second Advent" who is providing the "physical salvation" that Jesus was unable to accomplish because he was executed and didn't marry. Jesus gave only "spiritual salvation," Moon says.
About 150 priests and their wives attended the weekend conference, along with leaders of other denominations who were invited as observers. Events included a renewal of vows by married priests and their spouses, who donned veils for the procession alongside their husbands, who were wearing clerical vestments.
One of the speakers was Margaret Starbird, an author who says Jesus was married to Mary Magdelene and they had a child. Author Dan Brown cites Starbird in his book "The Da Vinci Code."
Rome, Italy, Dec 11, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI consecrated a new parish church for the city of Rome yesterday. Celebrating Mass for the second Sunday of Advent at St. Mary Star of Evangelization Parish, the Holy Father recalled the important role Catholic parishes and their church buildings should play in communities.
“The parish is a beacon that radiates the light of faith," the Pope said, "above all in our largely secularized world. Thus it meets the most profound and authentic desires of the human heart, giving meaning and hope to the lives of individuals and families."
St. Mary Star of Evangelization is a young parish, noted the Pope, both because it was founded in 1989 and because most of its families are young. "Your community," he went on, "has the arduous but fascinating task of educating its children in the life and the joy of the faith. I trust that together, in a spirit of sincere communion, you will prepare the Sacraments of Christian initiation, and help your boys and girls ... to grow in love and faithfulness to the Lord."
A sacred building, the Holy Father explained, "exists so that the Word of God may be heard, explained and understood. ... It exists so that the Word of God can work among us as a power that creates justice and love."
“The church exists so we can meet Christ there, Son of the living God. God has a face. God has a name. In Christ, God became flesh and gives Himself to us in the mystery of the Blessed Eucharist," he said.
"We humans," the Pope added, "live from Truth. This Truth is a Person, it speaks to us and we speak to it. The church is the place we meet the Son of the living God and thus it is also the place we meet one another. This is the joy God gives us: that He became one of us, that we can almost touch Him, and that He lives with us. Truly, the joy of God is our strength."
The Virgin Mary, said the Pope, also shows us why church buildings exist, “they exist so that within each of us a space may be created for the Word of God, so that within us and through us the Word can become flesh today."
Benedict XVI had previously visited two Roman parishes. On December 18, 2005 he visited the parish of Santa Maria Consolatrice which was his titular church from 1977 to 1993, and on March 26, 2006 he visited the parish of God the Merciful Father.
In his homily, Benedict XVI, praised the efforts made by the people of Rome to create awareness for the needs of many parishes in Rome and to raise funds for building new churches on the city outskirts, especially in the season of Advent. “The new church Pope Benedict pointed out, "joins the more than 50 parish structures already built over these years thanks to the Vicariate of Rome's economic efforts, the contributions of so many faithful, and the concern of the civil authorities.”
"I ask all faithful, and all citizens of good will to continue their generous commitment, so that neighborhoods that are still deprived may, as soon as possible, have a home for their parish,” the Holy Father said.
Asunción, Paraguay, Dec 11, 2006 (CNA) - Catholics throughout Latin America gathered in great numbers to mark the feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, with more than a million gathering in Paraguay and over 600,000 in Chile.
45 kilometers east of the Paraguayan capital of Asuncion more than one million people gathered to celebrate the solemnity at the Shrine of Our Lady of Caacupe, the patroness of Paraguay.
Police and public service officials were out in full force to provide security and sanitation service for the large crowds that attended Masses at the Shrine.
In Chile more than 600,000 people participated in the traditional pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception located southeast of the city of Valparaiso.
New Haven, Conn., Dec 11, 2006 (CNA) - The Knights of Columbus have made a $1-million gift to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. The contribution makes the Order the lead donor of a 3,780 square-foot mosaic dome in the Shrine’s Great Upper Church, which will depict themes relating to the Incarnation.
The donation continues the Knights’ historic relationship with the shrine. In 1959, the Order donated $1 million for the construction of the shrine’s bell tower, also known as the Knights’ Tower, which contains a carillon of 56 bells.
In the 1980s, the Knights established and have continually maintained a Knight-staffed usher ministry at the shrine. The Order also created a $1-million memorial endowment, named in honor of Past Supreme Knight Luke E. Hart, to promote Marian devotion at the shrine and to preserve and maintain the building.
Since 1989, the Order has regularly funded televised liturgies or other spiritual broadcasts from the shrine.
The announcement of the Knights’ gift came on the day the Church celebrated the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
Edinburgh, United Kingdom, Dec 11, 2006 (CNA) - In his Christmas message this year, Cardinal Keith O'Brien criticized public institutions which, in an effort to be politically correct, have avoided using the word "Christmas” in recent years.
The cardinal laughed at public groups who have defended their actions, saying that the word “Christmas” offends or alienates people of other faiths.
"I am certain that there never was a real risk of alienating or marginalizing those of other faiths, as was often claimed,” said the primate of Scotland and archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh.
"I am hopeful that the pinnacle of politically correct posturing in recent years has passed,” he said. "I hope that councils, parliaments and other public bodies will no longer feel they have to contort their language to avoid mention of the word Christmas.”
He also commended Scottish president of the Muslim Association of Britain, who wished Christians well for the season.
This message "underlined the true meaning of tolerance and respect," he said.
"If members of other faiths can extend their good wishes to their Christian brothers and sisters as many have done recently, hoping that we have a peaceful and holy season, surely we must do the same to one another and to all people of goodwill," he added.
The cardinal-archbishop said he believed the Christian foundation of Christmas was finally being recognized.
Washington D.C., Dec 11, 2006 (CNA) - Thanks to the work of a leading Catholic layman hundreds of classic talks and homilies by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen are now available online and on demand at Fulton Sheen Radio.
Fulton Sheen Radio was recently launched at http://www.fultonsheen.com/. The talks can be downloaded onto computers or mobile devices.
Archbishop Sheen became renowned worldwide for his effective and accessible television programs, which offered faith instruction in the mid-20th century.
Fulton Sheen Radio founder Anthony Buono, who is also the founder of Ave Maria Singles and Road to Cana, said the goal of the website is to make the late archbishop known and accessible to people worldwide.
Buono also hopes the website will be a vehicle to help propagate the cause for the canonization of Archbishop Sheen. He said the archbishop’s talks were instrumental in his coming back to the Catholic faith.
Membership is free and allows for 10 free downloads. VIP members pay $19.95 for unlimited downloads.
Toledo, Spain, Dec 11, 2006 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Toledo, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, called on the faithful this week to strive to renew Christian initiation without fear of today’s difficulties, because “this is God’s hour and He will not leave us orphans in such a fundamental endeavor.”
In his Advent pastoral letter, the cardinal recalled the words of Pope Benedict XVI when he was still a cardinal: “The central problem of our time is the absence of God,” which is reflected in the “problem of morality” and of “moral reconstruction” that is occurring in society.
Thus, Cardinal Cañizares said, then Cardinal Ratzinger called for “returning to the essential, we should return to God.” “This is fundamental, he stressed, as mankind is so divided by “fragments of truth” and is in great need of that which is essential in order to find meaning in life.”
For this reason, the Spanish cardinal urged the faithful to participate in strengthening Christian initiation, in order to “form Christians strong and vigorous in their faith, courageous and animated by hope, alive and committed in the charity of Christ.”
He also encouraged Catholics to make use of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and its Compendium as “fundamental instruments” for Christian education in the family and to bear witness to their faith in the midst of a plural society.