Vatican City, Jan 19, 2007 (CNA) - Greeting the new ambassador of Turkey to the Holy See in the Vatican this morning, Pope Benedict recalled his recent trip to the country and called for continued interreligious cooperation for peace, in the face of “increasing tensions.” After receiving the Letters of Credence of Muammer Dogan Akdur, the Holy Father reiterated his “esteem” Muslim believers.
The Holy Father underlined how during his "memorable visit" to Turkey he had repeatedly expressed "the Catholic Church's respect for Islam, and the esteem in which the Pope and the faithful hold Muslim believers."
"In the modern world, in which tensions seem to be increasing," the Pontiff observed, "the Holy See is convinced ... that believers from different religions must make every effort to work towards peace, beginning with the rejection of violence, which in the past was often used on religious pretexts, and learning to understand and respect one another.”
“Furthermore,” the Pope said, “religions can unite their forces to promote respect for human beings ... and for the fundamental rights that rule the lives of individuals and societies."
"The Holy See recognizes Turkey's specific role, and its geographical and historical status of being a bridge between the continents of Europe and Asia and a crossroads of cultures and religions," said the Holy Father.
He also expressed the Holy See's appreciation for Turkey's commitment "in favor of peace at the heart of the international community," and particularly "its efforts towards the resumption of negotiations in the Middle East" and its aid in Lebanon "for the reconstruction of a country devastated by war and for the furtherance of constructive dialogue between all sides of Lebanese society."
In this context the Pope reaffirmed the Holy See's interest in "efforts being made by nations to regulate, ... sometimes with the help of other countries and of regional and international authorities, situations of conflicts inherited from the past," and in initiatives in favor of bringing countries closer together.
"The universalization of exchanges, already evident in the economic and financial field, must obviously be accompanied by joint political commitments in order to guarantee organized and lasting development that excludes no one and ensures all peoples a harmonious future," Pope Benedict said
The Holy Father also reiterated his gratitude to the authorities and the people of Turkey for the welcome they showed him during his apostolic visit to the country in December last year.
Pointing out that his trip had led him in the footsteps of his predecessors Paul VI and John Paul II, Benedict XVI noted that it had also given him the opportunity "to witness the good relations" between Turkey and the Holy See.
The Pontiff recalled how, in his meetings with political leaders in Turkey, he had sought to reaffirm "the presence of the Catholic Church in Turkish society, thanks to the important heritage of the first Christian communities of Asia Minor" and the "existence of today's Christian communities, clearly minorities but dedicated to the country and to the common good of all society, and desirous of making their contribution to the construction of the nation."
"While enjoying the religious freedom guaranteed to all believers by the Turkish Constitution, the Catholic Church wishes to benefit from a recognized juridical statute, and to see the start of official dialogue between the episcopal conference and the State authorities in order to resolve any problems that may arise and maintain good relations between both sides. I do not doubt that the government will do everything in its power to progress in this direction."
Benedict XVI concluded his address by asking the ambassador to pass on his greetings to the Catholic communities in Turkey, as well as to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and the faithful of the Orthodox Church "to whom," he said, "we are bound by so many fraternal ties."
Vatican City, Jan 19, 2007 (CNA) - The Holy Father today received the superiors and students of the diocesan seminary of Rome, the "Almo Collegio Capranica," on the eve of the feast day of their patroness, St Agnes. The "Almo Collegio," which celebrates its 550th year of existence this year, forms seminarians from Rome and the rest of Italy as well as for dioceses from around the world.
The Pope recalled that the college’s founder, Cardinal Domenico Capranica, desired that the seminary "should be exclusively dedicated to the formation of future priests, with preference shown to candidates from less privileged backgrounds."
The cardinal's main reason for founding the institution was "his conviction that the quality of the clergy depends on the seriousness of their formation," said Pope Benedict. Cardinal Capranica ensured that all students were taught Aristotelian ethics, that students of theology dedicated particular attention to St. Thomas Aquinas, and that students of law studied the doctrine of Pope Innocent III.
Benedict XVI also recalled how the study program "was incorporated within a framework of integral formation, focusing on the spiritual dimension and having as its pillars the Sacraments of the Eucharist (every day) and of Penance (at least once a month), and supported by the devout practices prescribed or encouraged by the Church. Great importance was also given to education in charity, both in everyday fraternal life and in helping the sick, and in what today we call 'pastoral experience'."
The Pope expressed the hope that the " Almo Collegio Capranica" may continue along this path "faithful to is long tradition and to the teachings of Vatican Council II."
He concluded by calling on the students to renew their "offer to God and to the Holy Church, conforming yourselves ever more to Christ the Good Shepherd, Who has called You to follow Him and to work in His vineyard."
Vatican City, Jan 19, 2007 (CNA) - This morning in the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI received an ecumenical delegation from Finland, reminding them that Christians must be courageous in working together to spread the Gospel.
The Holy Father, who met with the delegation on the occasion of the Feast of St. Henry, patron saint of that country, recalled how, “in recent times relations between Christians in Finland have developed in a way that offers much hope for the future of ecumenism.”
“Readily they pray and work together, bearing common public witness to the Word of God,” the Pope continued.
"It is precisely this convincing testimony to the guiding and saving truths of the Gospel that all men and women seek or need to hear," he added. "On the part of Christians this demands courage."
"In the Joint Declaration on Justification, Lutherans and Catholics have covered a considerable distance theologically. Further work remains and so it is encouraging that the Nordic Lutheran-Catholic dialogue in Finland and Sweden is examining the topic of 'Justification in the Life of the Church'."
The Holy Father concluded by expressing the hope "that these conversations will effectively contribute to the quest for full and visible unity of the Church, while at the same time offering an ever clearer response to the fundamental questions affecting life and society."
Konigstein, Germany, Jan 19, 2007 (CNA) - Fr. Freddy del Villar, Vicar General of the Coroicu Diocese in Bolivia, said that while the Church there remains vigilant regarding the government of Socialist President Evo Morales, they are reserving judgement on the newly revised constitution. “The Church is worried, but at the same time optimistic about the new constitution the Morales government is preparing,” Fr. del Villar said during a Jan. 18th visit to Aid to the Church in Need headquarters.
“Obviously, the party of Evo Morales is socialist: For example, it says it wants to have a non-confessional education, or that religion is not important. But let us see what comes out of the new constitution when it will be finished in August,” Fr. del Villar said.
For the Church, human rights, justice for all, and help for the poor are the essentials of a new constitution, del Villar added. “The Church helps to maintain unity in the country,” he said referring to current movements trying to disintegrate Bolivia’s unity.
“For me,” he added, “the biggest problem that my country has, is that it does not have access to the Pacific sea.”
The Catholic hierarchy has previously spoken out against Morales’s attempts to remove religious education from the overwhelmingly Catholic country and to legalize abortion.
Washington D.C., Jan 19, 2007 (CNA) - More than 500 high school and college students from around the country are expected to attend Georgetown University’s eighth annual Cardinal O'Connor Conference on Life, which will take place Jan. 20- 21, 2007 and will feature pro-life heavy hitters Helen Alvaré and Carl A. Anderson.
The event gathers young people in advance of the annual March for Life demonstration on the National Mall each January. This year’s conference is expected to be the largest in its history.
The main speakers include Helen Alvaré, Esq., associate professor at The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law, and Carl A. Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus.
Alvaré is the former director of information and planning for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Office for Pro-Life Activities. Anderson Special Assistant to the President and acting director of the White House Office of Public Liaison during the Reagan Administration. He also served as a visiting professor of family law at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome.
The conference is named in honor of Cardinal John O'Connor, the late archbishop of New York and outspoken advocate of the unborn.
The second annual Evangelium Vitae Award will be presented to a college pro-life group for excellence in activities and pregnancy services. The award comes with a $1,000 honorarium to aid the group in future projects.
, Jan 19, 2007 (CNA) - Catholic League president Bill Donohue is requesting a federal investigation into the making of the soon-to-be-screened movie that features a 12-year-old actress in a graphic scene.
“Hounddog,” starring 12-year-old actress Dakota Fanning, is scheduled to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival Jan. 22.
Donohue wants federal officials to investigate whether child pornography laws were violated during the shooting of the film.
Premiere magazine has reported that the film features “a devastating rape by an older boy.” Film reviewer Allan Colmes on “Hannity and Colmes” said 12-year-old Fanning “plays a sexually promiscuous character who’s physically abused by her father and eventually raped on screen in a violently graphic scene.”
Canada’s Globe and Mail reported Jan. 18 that Fanning’s character “is violently raped and appears, at different times, either naked or in underpants.”
“It is unclear whether federal child pornography statutes have been broken in the course of filming this movie,” said Donohue.
“It matters not a whit whether Fanning’s mother, along with Fanning’s teacher/child welfare worker, gave their consent. What matters is whether they are an accessory to a crime,” he said in a statement.
Donohue said he intends to ask Andrew Oosterbaan, chief of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section within the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, to investigate the matter.
He is also writing to First Lady Laura Bush, requesting her assistance. The First Lady met with first ladies from France, Russia and Egypt yesterday to discuss the fight against child pornography and pedophilia.
“For the past five years, there has been a steady drumbeat of criticism aimed at the Catholic Church for allowing sexual abuse of minors to continue with impunity. Much of that criticism was right on target,” he said. “Let’s see now whether Hollywood will be held to the same level of scrutiny for promoting simulated child rape movies.”
Dublin, Ireland, Jan 19, 2007 (CNA) - The new Anglican Primate of All Ireland has called for an end to the ban on Catholics becoming the British monarch. In an interview with the Irish Times newspaper, Bishop Alan Harper, said it is now time to "move on."
Bishop Harper was elected the new Archbishop of Armagh on Jan. 10. The Act of Settlement of 1701 bans Catholics, or those married to Catholics, from ascending the British throne.
The Act "belongs to its time and we should move on," he reportedly said.
However, the repeal could have implications for the Church of England since the British monarch is also governor of the Church of England.
Bishop Harper told the Irish Times that the disestablishment of the Church of England and the separation of church and state is something it would "not only get over, but would be the better for it".
In the past, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, in London, has noted that the act would allow a prince to marry "a Hindu, a Buddhist, anyone, but not a Roman Catholic" and still be king.
Rome, Italy, Jan 19, 2007 (CNA) - Roman Catholic priests will work with Italian police to tackle a rising tide of crimes linked to satanic worship.
The Vatican has reportedly assigned clerics with experience in the field of devil worship and the occult to assist the Italian anti-sect squad. Church officials have become concerned about the number of churches being desecrated by Satanists. In recent months, there have also been a string of murders that have been linked to devil worship.
One of the Vatican's leading experts on Satanism and the occult, Fr. Oreste Benzi, told The Sunday Telegraph that young people were particularly attracted to the occult due to their natural curiosity, but that drugs are also used to influence and manipulate them.
"We are not just talking about murders but the psychological grip that these sects have on young people, especially taking them away from traditional social values and exposing them to all sorts of horrors,” the priest told The Sunday Telegraph.
Fr. Benzi estimates that there are at least 8,000 satanic sects across the country with more than 600,000 members.
The nationwide operation will be centrally controlled from Rome by Police Chief Gianni de Gennaro. A special free phone hotline has been set up to report occult activities.
Police say Satanists are particularly active in Piedmont, Veneto and Emilia Romagna in the north, and Tuscany, Umbria, Calabria and Puglie further south.
Havana, Cuba, Jan 19, 2007 (CNA) - The director of Caritas Spain, Bishop Alfonso Milian of Barbastro-Monzon, announced he would attend the General Assembly of Caritas Cuba, which will be held February 1-4, in order to become acquainted with the work being done on the island thanks to the collaboration between the bishops’ conferences of the two countries.
In an interview with the newspaper “Diario del Alto Aragon,” Bishop Milian underscored the importance of the Caritas Cuba gathering, which will also be attended by the President of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes.
Bishop Milian said he was pleased to be attending the event and that to be able to witness a Church that is blossoming even amidst immense difficulties would be of great “personal satisfaction.”
Referring to the aid Caritas Spain sends to Cuba, the bishop stated, “Archbishop Cordes asked us give us much help as possible to assist the elderly and people who live in poverty and difficult conditions.” He revealed that during the Assembly, “new homes built with this assistance will be inaugurated.”
Bogotá, Colombia, Jan 19, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro, said this week the Colombian bishops oppose the use of military action to liberate hostages being held by the Marxist group “Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia” (FARC).
On Wednesday, Archbishop Castro said the possibility of a military rescue being contemplated by the government of President Alvaro Uribe would put the lives of dozens of hostages at risk.
“It’s better for the families of the hostages to wait a few months (with the hope there will be an humanitarian accord) rather than welcoming home a corpse,” the archbishop said in response to recent statements by the Minister of Defense, Juan Manuel Santos, who said a military rescue “is being considered as an alternative.”
Although the military successfully rescued former government official Fernando Araujo two weeks ago, the families of the 58 politicians and military officers held by the FARC are opposed to any new rescue attempts.
The FARC is seeking to obtain the release of 500 of its members currently imprisoned for various crimes, including drug trafficking, murder and kidnapping. For now, President Uribe has suspended all negotiations with the Marxist guerillas after they broke a cease-fire agreement by attacking a military school in Bogota, leaving scores wounded.
Quito, Ecuador, Jan 19, 2007 (CNA) - Officials of the Archdiocese of Guayaquil announced that in April Pope Benedict XVI could approve the Decree of Canonization of Blessed Narcisa de Jesus Martillo Moran of Ecuador.
The canonization ceremony could possible take place in September or October of this year.
According to the Archdiocese of Guayaquil, doctors at the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints voted in favor a recognizing a miracle that took place through Blessed Narcisa’s intercession and which was presented in Rome in 2001.
The case brought forth was that of Edelmina Arellano, whose cure from a congenital defect in 1992 was determined to be “unforeseen, complete, lasting, and scientifically inexplicable.”
Edelmina was born without her genital organs, and at the age of 7 she was inexplicably cured after her mother took her to a shrine dedicated to Blessed Narcisa and prayed for the Ecuadorian’s intercession. That same day the child had an appointment with her doctor who testified that, suddenly and without any medical explanation, the girl was completely normal.
Blessed Narcisa was born on October 29, 1832 in the city of Nobol, Ecuador. Her parents were farmers and devout Christians. During her youth she was a seamstress and showed a great love for prayer.
She dedicated her early life to the service of her family, caring for the home and creating an atmosphere of charity, joy, and peace between her eight brothers and sisters. After the death of her mother, she also devoted herself to education her younger siblings.
Later she went to Guayaquil where she devoted herself to caring for abandoned children and young people. She lived in Cuenca and later moved to Lima, Peru, where she was renowned for her qualities as a catechist of children and young people, until her death on December 8, 1869.
In 1955 her incorrupt body was transferred from Peru to Guayaquil, and in 1972 her remains were returned to Nobol. Pope John Paul II beatified Narcisa on October 25, 1993.