Rome, Italy, Jan 26, 2007 (CNA) -
Presiding at the celebration of vespers Thursday afternoon in the Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside-the-Walls, Pope Benedict XVI challenged all Christians to be courageous in proclaiming the word of God and said that what the world “awaits above all” is the united testimony of Christians.
The Pontiff was joined by representatives of other Churches and ecclesial communities to mark the end of the Week of Prayer For Christian Unity, on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.
In his homily, the Holy Father recalled how the theme of this year's Week of Prayer, taken from the Gospel of St. Mark - "He even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak" - had been proposed by Christian communities in South Africa. "These words," he said, "are good news announcing the coming of the Kingdom of God and the healing of the incapacity to communicate."
"Listening to the Word of God ... is a priority in our ecumenical efforts. Indeed, it is not we who organize the unity of the Church; the Church does not create herself and does not live by herself, but by the Word that comes from the mouth of God," he said.
"Whoever undertakes to listen to the word of God can and must then speak out and transmit it to others, to those who have never heard it, or to those who have forgotten it and buried it under the 'thorns' of the cares and illusions of the world.”
"We Christians must ask ourselves," the Pope added, "whether we have not become too silent. Whether we do not lack the courage to speak out and bear witness. ... Our world has need of such witness, it awaits above all the joint testimony of Christians.”
“Unity can clearly not be imposed,” the Holy Father continued, “it must be shared, and founded on a joint participation in a single faith. Listening and speaking, understanding others and communicating one's faith are, then, essential dimensions of ecumenical practice. Honest and faithful dialogue is the ... indispensable instrument of unity."
"It is crucial," he said, "that 'doctrine should be clearly presented in its entirety,' for a dialogue that confronts, discusses and overcomes the differences that still exist between Christians. Yet, at the same time, 'the way and method in which the Catholic faith is expressed should never become an obstacle to dialogue with our brethren'."
The Pope highlighted the fact that "ecumenical dialogue ... leads to reciprocal spiritual enrichment in the sharing of true experiences of faith and Christian life. For this to happen, we must tirelessly implore the assistance of God's grace and the illumination of the Holy Spirit."
At the end of his homily, the Holy Father entrusted to St. Paul, "indefatigable builder of unity in the Church, the fruits of the dialogue and shared testimony we have experienced in many fraternal meetings ... during the course of 2006."
Benedict XVI closed by thanking all those people who "have contributed to intensifying ecumenical dialogue through prayer, and by offering their suffering and their tireless activities."
Khartoum, Sudan, Jan 26, 2007 (CNA) -
Speaking this week to representatives of Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Daniel Kur Adwok, Auxiliary Bishop of Khartoum said the government of Sudan is “playing games” with people regarding the country’s tenuous peace plan. The bishop criticized the Islamist regime of President Omar al Bashir, describing the government as “not at all serious” about the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), a January 2005 power-sharing plan between Khartoum and a rebel movement in southern Sudan.
“In Khartoum,” Bishop Adwok said, “the government is playing a game – they are just letting things carry on as they are. They are not at all serious about addressing the real issues. The militia is free to do whatever they want.”
The bishop said the government has also failed to take steps to assist the return of internally displaced Sudanese – many of them Christians – who are longing to return home now that there is more peace in the south after 25 years of war.
Adwok said he is thankful that the government has given approval to allow three sites in and around Khartoum to be allocated for the construction of churches – two for the Protestants and one for the Catholics, but said the concession was minimal compared to ongoing government restrictions on church building projects. The Catholic Archdiocese of Khartoum currently has requested approval for 20 planned Churches in the area, according to the bishop.
Washington D.C., Jan 26, 2007 (CNA) - A new CBS News poll has found that a majority of Americans want to prohibit abortions in all or most cases or want greater restrictions. The poll results are consistent with the results of a 2006 poll, reported LifeNews.com.
According to the poll, 47 percent of Americans want to prohibit all or most abortions and 16 percent want them to be greatly restricted.
About 30 percent of those polled want to limit abortions to the very rare cases of rape, incest or danger to the life of the mother. Twelve percent want abortions allowed only when the pregnancy threatens the mother's life. Five percent said abortions should always be illegal. Only 31 percent of those polls want to permit abortion in all cases.
The poll was conducted from Jan. 18 to 21 and it surveyed 1,168 adults nationwide.
The CBS poll is backed-up by other recent polls, such as one by Zogby, which found that 69 percent of voters think that federal funds should not be used for abortions. 69 percent also support parental notification for girls 16 or younger and 55 percent say the notification law should apply to girls 18 and younger.
Zogby also found 56 percent of Americans back a 24-hour waiting period on abortion, 64 percent would charge criminals with a second crime for killing or injuring an unborn child in the course of an attack on a pregnant woman, and 69 percent don't want their tax money to pay for abortions or promoting abortion in other nations, according to LifeNews.
A third poll, conducted by Newsweek in November 2006 found the number of pro-life Americans rose 5 percent while the number of Americans who support abortion fell four percent compared to a previous poll it conducted in 2005.
Vatican City, Jan 26, 2007 (CNA) - The newly appointed Prefect for the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, released a letter this week, encouraging the world’s priests in their ministry and committing himself to their service.
In the letter, posted on the dicastery’s website (www.clerus.org) for the Feast of Saint Francis de Sales, the Cardinal expresses his desire to offer a “service of love” for the world’s clergy and to encourage them to be proud and joyful in their priestly identities.
Below is the full text of the Cardinal’s letter:
My dear brother Priests,
I have felt a desire to address a cordial greeting to you, even if only through our Internet site.
I have been in Rome for a brief time, called by our beloved Pope Benedict XVI to cooperate with Him in the service of love towards the priests, deacons and catechists of the Church.
In the first instance, you know that I must offer a deferential note of gratitude to Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, my immediate predecessor. It is thanks to his vision that I can now entrust my words to the mysterious paths of the ether.
He has been a true friend of priests. He has carried you in his heart as a pastor; he has prayed for you; he has loved you.
Dear friends: it now falls on me to carry to you in my heart, to pray for you, and to love you.
I cannot hide that I still feel like something of a “novice.” I have also had a bit of nostalgia upon leaving São Paulo in Brazil. But, like Abraham, I trust in my Lord and my God. I am here to be a Bishop for you and a priest with you.
To serve the priests! What a mission! What an amoris officium!
We are bearers of a specific identity that constantly characterizes us in our existence and in our activity. We are consecrated and incorporated into the activity of Christ. The gestures and the words of Jesus become reactualized in time and in history to provoke in those who fulfil them “the same sentiments of Christ” and the same effects of salvation.
The Church, in conferring the sacrament of Orders, ontologically constitutes the Priest as an alter Christus, or as some say, an ipse Christus; and it establishes him as a minister of the Word and as a minister of the prophetic action and pastoral love of Christ. His function, therefore, is not to exhaust himself exclusively in the dimension of worship, but to complete himself in the prophetic dimension by proclaiming the Word and in the pastoral dimension by being a guide for the community.
Among the beautiful expressions of the Second Vatican Council is the following statement, which synthesizes the functions of the priest while delineating his identity : “Priests, while engaging in prayer and adoration, or preaching the word, or offering the Eucharistic Sacrifice and administering the other sacraments, or performing other works of the ministry for men, devote all this energy to the increase of the glory of God and to man's progress in the divine life.” (PO 2).
Dear brothers, we are proud and joyful of our sacerdotal identity. We are proud to be priests.
It is true: ours is not an easy mission. But united to Christ the Eternal High Priest, and with Mary, Mother of the first Priest and of all Priests, we will always be mindful of giving testimony to the hope that is within us to our numerous brothers and sisters who, even today, long for the Way, the Truth and the Life.
I give you my blessing with the greatest affection
From the Vatican, 24 January 2007
Memorial of Saint Francis de Sales
Claudius Cardinal Hummes
Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy
Madrid, Spain, Jan 26, 2007 (CNA) - During a ceremony for the re-opening of the Cathedral of Getafe outside Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela said the hedonistic, agnostic, and carefree message that young people are bombarded with today “is what leaves them morally and spiritually ill-equipped for the challenge of responsibly planning their future.”
In his homily the cardinal stressed that the evidence of such a phenomenon lies in the “disconcerting acts of violence in which young people take a lead role.” He said the passing on of the faith from one generation to the next is a task “that is especially urgent today given the dramatic and progressive de-Christianization of our people, which jeopardizes the survival of the faith and of the Christian life.”
“Is this not the sad spectacle of many Christians,” the cardinal asked, “whose lives are obstreperously destroyed by the attacks of those who, from a materialistic and secularist vision of life, seek to make us live as if God did not exist and to build our society outside the law of God that is written in the heart of man? Does not Pope Benedict XVI constantly remind us that we should act in response to the danger of considering the faith as a merely private matter of individuals?”
In response to this challenge facing young people, Cardinal Rouco encouraged them to actively participate in the “Youth Mission” which is being implemented in the three dioceses in the area of Madrid.
In proclaiming the Gospel and building a civilization according to the plan of God, Christians must overcome obstacles and adopt “an attitude of apostolic strength in order not to be discouraged by the powers of this world and instead trust in the power of the Gospel and in the ‘help of the Holy Spirit who abides in us’,” the cardinal said.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 26, 2007 (CNA) - Bishop Felipe Arizmendi of San Cristobal de las Casas in southern Mexico has issued a clarification regarding the Holy See’s request that he implement a reform of the diocesan deaconate program. The bishop said he does not promote the priestly ordination of married deacons but rather that he only listens to “the petitions of some of the faithful in this matter.”
In a statement released to the media, Bishop Arizmendi said, “It should be very clear: We do not encourage the hope for ‘a permanent deaconate oriented toward the married priesthood.’ We do not promote the ordination of married deacons. We listen to the petitions of some of the faithful in this matter, but we do not encourage them to have hope. Permanent deacons are permanent deacons, and we are not directing them towards the priesthood.”
“We thank the Holy See for its concern for our diocese and we appreciate its work to conserve orthodoxy,” the bishop said in his statement. “We sincerely apologize for the headache we have caused. But we have the obligation to make you aware of the concerns of our people, to dialogue and clarify that which we believe does not correspond to reality, and to propose solutions to the concrete needs of our local Churches.”
“For some time we have been reviewing some of the contents of the Diocesan Directory for the Permanent Deaconate, which was drafted by my predecessors, so that it conforms to the national and universal directories,” he added.
This week the Notimex news agency published another letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments—the third such missive in the last 14 months sent to the Diocese of San Cristobal de las Casas asking for the deaconate program to be corrected.
Managua, Nicaragua, Jan 26, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Nicaragua, Archbishop Leopoldo Brenes of Managua reiterated this week that the Church in that country would not change its position, which supports the defense of life from the moment of conception and opposes all types of abortion.
In response to efforts by pro-abortion feminists to get so-called therapeutic abortion reinstated in Nicaragua after it was outlawed three months ago, Archbishop Brenes said, “The only option is to oppose therapeutic abortion. We are standing firm in our principles.”
“In those cases (when the health of the mother is in danger) the Church logically speaks up in defense of those who are the weakest,” he told reporters. He also proposed that a forum be held which would inform people that the medical sciences have advanced to the point that it is no longer necessary to perform abortions to save the life of the mother.
Msgr. Rene Sandigo, Secretary for the Nicaraguan Bishops Conference, said the Church’s proposal was not hasty but rather well thought-out after consultations with many doctors as well as national and international experts.
“Currently there is a campaign of misinformation so that people get confused and stop opposing therapeutic abortion. Likewise the government could be under pressure from international organizations to back away from the position it took at first in support of the people,” Msgr. Sandigo stated.
“Therefore a forum would be very important to inform not in order to reconcile, because the two positions are irreconcilable. The Church will never be in agreement with the culture of death. The idea here is to inform the people,” he added.
Msgr. Sandigo called on the Sandinista government to resist external pressures and not to fail “a people in need, a people upon whom you cannot impose a law that does not square with our culture of life.”
Rome, Italy, Jan 26, 2007 (CNA) - A Paris priest has been awarded the “Cardinal Henri de Lubac” literary prize for his thesis on the respect for human life.
Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, presented the award to Father Brice de Malherbe. The literary prize was created by the French Embassy at the Holy See and is awarded for the best thesis in philosophy or theology written in French and sent to the one of the Pontifical universities in Rome.
Father Malherbe said he chose the subject of his thesis after living for two months at a home for the terminally ill. His advisor during the work was Msgr. Livio Melina of the John Paul II Institute at the Pontifical Lateran University.
Father Stephane Henaux received honorable mention for this thesis on the metaphysics of liberty in the writings of Joseph de Finance. Among those in attendance at the ceremony were Cardinal Georges Marie Cottier and Jacques de Larosière, president of the international association "Cardinal Henri de Lubac".
Columbus, Ohio, Jan 26, 2007 (CNA) - A Catholic teacher in Ohio was told she could only be exempt from paying union dues to the Ohio Education Association (OEA), if she changed religions. The teacher had requested and exemption after learning that the dues would assist in the promotion of abortion.
Carol Katter, a mathematics and language arts instructor in the St. Mary’s district, filed a federal complaint in the U.S. District Court in Columbus this week over an Ohio law that prevents her from diverting her dues from a union that supports abortion on demand, reported CNSNews.com.
The state law allows only those public employees who belong to two particular denominations, who have history of objection to union membership — Seventh-Day Adventist and Mennonite — the right to claim religious objection to paying union dues.
Katter filed the complaint against top officials of the State Employment Relations Board (SERB) for religious discrimination. She filed a related charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against her union. She claims a union official told her to pay forced dues or "change religions."
Katter's complaint says the Ohio statute amounts to an unconstitutional establishment of religion. She wants a federal injunction prohibiting SERB from further enforcing the law against other state employees.
Katter explained that her request was turned down "basically because I could not come up with proof that my individual church -- not the Catholic faith, but my individual church -- had a record of anyone having successfully fought a union. In my little parish church, no one's ever done this, and that's what threw it out."
Buffalo, N.Y., Jan 26, 2007 (CNA) - The Buffalo Regional Right to Life Committee on Wednesday praised a deacon who blasted Rep. Brian Higgins during Mass on Respect Life Sunday in St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church.
Deacon Tom McDonnell's admonishment of the Buffalo Democrat for voting for federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research led Higgins and his family to walk out of the church. Higgins also has a clear history of supporting abortion and Planned Parenthood.
"God bless the deacon a thousand times. He did his job," said Stacey Vogel of the Buffalo Regional Right to Life Committee. “If every bishop, every clergy member of all faiths did their jobs, we wouldn't have the shedding of innocent life in our country.”
Higgins apologized for walking out of the church, saying that the people of St. Thomas deserved better. He said his relationship with the parish, where he was baptized and married, is "very deep, very meaningful and very long."
"The lesson here is that the Catholic Church has enough problems and should take greater care before allowing nonpriests to use the church as a forum to advance what clearly was a political agenda," Higgins said.
The pastor, Fr. Art Smith, said he felt "horrible" about the Higgins family's departure and offered an apology from the pulpit.
Bishop Edward Kmiec of Buffalo later issued a statement criticizing Deacon Tom McDonnell's action.
"The pulpit is not the appropriate place for confronting a member of the congregation. It is my belief that in situations like this, we are more effective when we have substantive, one-on-one conversations with individuals outside the context of the Mass," said the bishop.
Charleston, S.C., Jan 26, 2007 (CNA) -
The Diocese of Charleston, in South Carolina, announced today the preliminary approval of an agreement to settle several child sexual abuse cases in advance. In a press release announcing the settlement, Bishop Robert Baker of Charleston expressed his tremendous desire to “heal the hurts” of those abused.
According to the diocese and the Richter & Haller law firm, which is handling cases for the claimants, A judge has signed the order giving preliminary approval to the agreement. It still must pass a Fairness Hearing for final approval.
The agreement will create two classes of plaintiffs, one for those born before August 30, 1980 who claim to have been abused by a clergy member as a minor, a second class of plaintiffs is for spouses and parents of those claiming abuse. A court appointed, neutral arbitrator will then review and validate each claim and determine a monetary award for each victim.
The Diocese will set forth and initial pool of $ 5 million dollars for victims, with the possibility of creating a second pool of $ 7 million, if the claims require.
“The demands of justice and the desire to heal the hurts of those abused by those sent to minister to them weigh heavily upon my heart,” the Charleston Bishop said today. “I deeply regret the anguish of any individual who has suffered the scourge of childhood abuse and am firmly committed to a just resolution of any instance in which a person who holds the responsibility of protector has become a predator.”
“I believe that a proactive approach to healing the evil that has been done is not only constructive, but absolutely necessary,” Bishop Baker added.
Lawrence Richter, lead counsel for the claimants, said, “Hopefully this class settlement will bring to a close this sad and shameful chapter, and enable victims to have some closure, compensation, and peace. These brave and long suffering victims who have stood firm and demanded accountability should be applauded. These individuals can never be fully compensated, nor their suffering taken away. I anticipate they will find comfort in the hope that their actions may serve as a deterrent to future victimization by those who hold a public trust.”
According to the press release, there were significant moral requirements as well as civil and ecclesiastical legal issues that were addressed and worked through in the process of coming to this final agreement.
“Throughout the negotiations, the victims’ needs were always in the forefront of everyone’s mind. The good will with which the parties worked to bring this settlement to fruition cannot be overstated,” the attorney and bishop agreed.
The Diocese of Charleston is encouraging victims to come forward and to file their claim by contacting Class Counsel at Richter & Haller, Attorneys and Counselors at Law, at (843) 849-6000.
According to the diocese, the class action agreement is another step forward in meeting the demands of justice and the needs of victims. Since 1994, the Diocese of Charleston has instituted strict policies in regard to hiring staff and investigating allegations of child sexual abuse.
Washington D.C., Jan 26, 2007 (CNA) -
A former high-ranking officer with the KGB claims that the Kremlin and the Russian intelligence agency in the 1960s were set on executing a smear campaign against the Catholic Church, and the main target was Pope Pius XII.
In a recent issue of the National Review Online, Lt. General Ion Mihai Pacepa, who eventually defected from the former Soviet bloc, recounts how the KGB and the Kremlin designed the deliberate campaign to portray the Pius XII “as a coldhearted Nazi sympathizer.”
“In February 1960, Nikita Khrushchev approved a super-secret plan for destroying the Vatican’s moral authority in Western Europe,” writes Pacepa. “Eugenio Pacelli, by then Pope Pius XII, was selected as the KGB’s main target, its incarnation of evil, because he had departed this world in 1958. ‘Dead men cannot defend themselves’ was the KGB’s latest slogan.”
The code name for this operation against Pope Pius XII was “Seat-12.”
The KGB used the fact that Archbishop Pacelli had served as the papal nuncio in Munich and Berlin when the Nazis were beginning their bid for power against him. “The KGB wanted to depict him as an anti-Semite who had encouraged Hitler’s Holocaust,” says Pacepa.
To do this, the KGB wanted some original Vatican documents to “slightly modify”. So they called in Pacepa, who was working for the Romanian intelligence service.
Pacepa says he became the Romanian point man. He was authorized to falsely inform the Vatican that Romania was ready to restore its broken relations with the Holy See, in exchange for access to its archives — in order to find historical roots that would help the Romanian government publicly justify its change of heart toward the Holy See — and a one-billion-dollar, interest-free loan for 25 years.
Between 1960 and 1962, the Romanian spy sent hundreds of archival documents connected in any way with Pope Pius XII to the KGB. Pacepa says none of the documents were incriminating in themselves, but they were sent to the KGB in any case.
The KGB used these documents to produce a powerful play attacking Pope Pius XII, entitled The Deputy. It eventually saw the stage in Germany in 1963, under the title The Deputy, a Christian Tragedy. It proposed that Pius XII had supported Hitler and encouraged him to go ahead with the Jewish Holocaust. The German director claimed to have 40 pages of documentation attached to the script that would support the thesis of the play.
The play ran in New York in 1964 and was translated into 20 languages. The play then led to a flurry of books and articles, some accusing and some defending the pontiff.
“Today, many people who have never heard of The Deputy are sincerely convinced that Pius XII was a cold and evil man who hated the Jews and helped Hitler do away with them,” Pacepa writes in the National Review Online. “As KGB chairman Yury Andropov, the unparalleled master of Soviet deception, used to tell me, people are more ready to believe smut than holiness.”
Pacepa says the truth has finally begun to emerge with the canonization process of Pius XII, which was opened by Pope John Paul II.
“Witnesses from all over the world have compellingly proved that Pius XII was an enemy, not a friend, of Hitler,” says Pacepa.
He also refers to the book The Myth of Hitler’s Pope: How Pope Pius XII Rescued Jews From the Nazis, by David G. Dalin, which has compiled further proof of Archbishop Pacelli’s friendship for the Jews.
“At the start of World War II, Pope Pius XII’s first encyclical was so anti-Hitler that the Royal Air Force and the French air force dropped 88,000 copies of it over Germany,” he concludes.