Vatican City, Feb 5, 2007 (CNA) - In preparation for this year’s World Youth Day, to be celebrated on Palm Sunday, April 1st, in all Catholic Dioceses of the world, Pope Benedict XVI offered a reflection on the theme, “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” The Holy Father challenged the world’s Catholic youth to look at Christ’s love demonstrated on the Cross and to “dare to love,” through a life of service, prayer, and charity.
The Holy Father also invited young people to take the opportunity of this year’s diocesan-based World Youth Day to prepare for 2008’s gathering in Sydney, Australia.
The Catholic Church holds a World Youth Day, involving the Pope and hundreds of thousand (if not millions) of young people, approximately every three years. 2005’s World Youth Day drew more than 1.2 million people to Cologne, Germany.
While the large-scale triennial World Youth Days draw a lion’s share of media attention, the Church celebrates a World Day for the Youth every year at the diocesan level.
“Everybody feels the longing to love and to be loved,” the Pontiff began his message, noting the difficulties, mistakes, and failures which arise in mankind’s attempts at love.
However, he said, "Love is possible, and the purpose of my message is to help reawaken in each one of you - you who are the future and hope of humanity- trust in a love that is true, faithful and strong; a love that generates peace and joy; a love that binds people together and allows them to feel free in respect for one another."
The Holy Father then discussed the way in which the love of God is revealed to mankind: “In Christ, true God and true Man, we have come to know love in all its magnitude,” he said.
“The manifestation of divine love is total and perfect in the Cross. ... Redeemed by His blood, no human life is useless or of little value, because each of us is loved personally by Him with a passionate and faithful love, a love without limits."
"Moreover, the Crucifix, which after the Resurrection would carry forever the marks of His passion, exposes the 'distortions' and lies about God that underlie violence, vengeance and exclusion. Christ is the Lamb of God Who takes upon Himself the sins of the world and eradicates hatred from the heart of humankind. This is the true 'revolution' that He brings about: love."
Christ desired to teach mankind from the Cross, the Holy Father said, “the need and urgency to love Him as He has loved us.” And, he added, “to love as He loves us means loving everyone without distinction, even our enemies, 'to the end.'"
The Pontiff then recommended three particular areas in which young people are “particularly called to demonstrate the love of God.”
“The first area,” he said, “is the Church, our spiritual family. ... You should stimulate, with your enthusiasm and charity, the activities of the parishes, the communities, the ecclesial movements and the youth groups to which you belong.”
"The second area,” Benedict continued, “is your preparation for the future that awaits you. If you are engaged to be married, God has a project of love for your future as a couple and as a family. Therefore, it is essential that you discover it with the help of the Church, free from the common prejudice that says that Christianity with its commandments and prohibitions places obstacles to the joy of love and impedes you from fully enjoying the happiness that a man and woman seek in their reciprocal love."
"The period of engagement, very necessary in order to form a couple, is a time of expectation and preparation that needs to be lived in purity of gesture and words. It allows you to mature in love, in concern and in attention for each other; it helps you to practise self-control and to develop your respect for each other. These are the characteristics of true love that does not place emphasis on seeking its own satisfaction or its own welfare. In your prayer together, ask the Lord to watch over and increase your love and to purify it of all selfishness.
"Do not hesitate to respond generously to the Lord's call, for Christian matrimony is truly and wholly a vocation in the Church. Likewise, dear young men and women, be ready to say 'yes' if God should call you to follow the path of ministerial priesthood or the consecrated life. Your example will be one of encouragement for many of your peers who are seeking true happiness."
"The third area of commitment that comes with love is that of daily life with its multiple relationships. I am particularly referring to family, studies, work and free time.”
“Develop your capacities, not only in order to become more 'competitive' and 'productive,' but to be 'witnesses of charity.' In addition to your professional training, also make an effort to acquire religious knowledge that will help you to carry out your mission in a responsible way. In particular, I invite you to carefully study the social doctrine of the Church so that its principles may inspire and guide your action in the world."
Pope Benedict concluded his message by challenging all young people to, “dare to love,” urging them, “Do not desire anything less for your life than a love that is strong and beautiful and that is capable of making the whole of your existence a joyful undertaking of giving yourselves as a gift to God and your brothers and sisters.”
“Love is the only force capable of changing the heart of the human person and of all humanity, by making fruitful the relations between men and women, between rich and poor, between cultures and civilizations.”
The Pontiff encouraged the youth to seek the help of the Lord in their endeavors of love through prayer and the Eucharist.
“May Mary, the Mother of Christ and of the Church, help you to let that cry ring out everywhere, the cry that has changed the world: 'God is love!'”
For the full text of the Holy Father's message see CNA's link here: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/document.php?n=150
Vatican City, Feb 5, 2007 (CNA) - On Saturday Pope Benedict XVI met with various members of congregations, institutes, societies of apostolic life, and new forms of consecrated life, for the occasion of the World Day of Consecrated Life, an annual celebration instituted by John Paul II. The Holy Father acknowledged, before the many religious gathered, that there is a tremendous, “need to meet God,” in the present age and encouraged all religious to proclaim to the world, “that God is the Lord of existence.”
Following a Mass celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica, the Holy Father affirmed that the World Day of Consecrated Life "is an appropriate opportunity to ask the Lord together for the gift of an ever more incisive presence of male and female religious, and of consecrated people, in the Church on her journey in the world."
The Pope reminded the religious that "your evangelical witness, in order to be truly effective, must arise from an unreserved response to the initiative of God, Who consecrated you for Him through a special act of love."
"In our time there exists, especially among the young, a widespread need to meet God. Those who are chosen by God for consecrated life make this spiritual longing definitively their own. ... With their example, they proclaim to the world - which is often disoriented but in reality searching for meaning - that God is the Lord of existence."
Consecrated men and women, "by choosing obedience, poverty, and chastity for the Kingdom of Heaven, show that all ties of love to things and to people are incapable of definitively satisfying the heart." Their lives "constitute a total and definitive, unconditional and passionate response to God."
"When they renounce everything to follow Christ," the Pope added, "consecrated people ... necessarily become a 'sign of contradiction,' because their way of life and thought often contrasts with the logic of the world. ... When faced with such courage, many people who thirst for truth are inspired and attracted by those who do not hesitate to give their lives for that which they believe."
The Pope encouraged those present never to forget that "consecrated life is a divine gift and that it is, in the first instance, the Lord who brings it to success. ... This certainty must be a comfort to you, keeping you from temptation and discouragement in the face of the inevitable difficulties of life and the many challenges of the modern age."
The Pope concluded his remarks by recalling how that day's liturgy of the Presentation of the Lord Jesus in the Temple is characterized by the symbol of light, "indicating Christ, the true light of the world, which shines forth in the night of history and illuminates all searchers after truth. Dear consecrated men and women, burn with this flame and make it shine in your own lives, so that everywhere may be lit by a fragment of the brilliance irradiated by Jesus, splendor of truth."
Vatican City, Feb 5, 2007 (CNA) -
Vatican Radio reported this weekend that Archbishop Jose Meng Ziwen of Nanning died on Saturday in the province of Guang Xi.
The archbishop, who served the Catholic Church in Communist China in a region located 2,700 kilometers southeast of Peking, was 103 years old and was the oldest Chinese prelate and one of the oldest in the world.
Archbishop Meng Ziwen was arrested in 1951 during the brutal “cultural revolution” of Mao Tse Tung and was condemned to 20 years of forced labor.
He was freed in 1970 and afterwards survived by selling fertilizer. When possible he devoted himself to evangelization and to the pastoral care of the faithful.
According to Vatican Radio, “after the government’s modest changes in its religious policies, Archbishop Meng Ziwen convinced Chinese authorities to return Church property.”
Khartoum, Sudan, Feb 5, 2007 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Khartoum in Sudan, Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir Wako, has called on the Sudanese government to defend and promote human rights in the troubled African nation.
During an ecumenical prayer service for peace, held last Monday in the Sudanese capital, the cardinal said that serious violations of human rights continue occurring in most of the Sudan, even after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, Sudan radio reported.
Cardinal Wako pointed to the displacement of people from their homes in the northern part of the country as an example of such violations.
“When you leave a person in his home, there is peace, and when you displace a person from his home, the problems begin. This is what is happening, and a person who is not in his home, who does not have food, or clothing, or education or healthcare services, experiences problems, and that is the beginning of war,” the cardinal stated.
He also called on Christians and Muslims in Sudan to work together for the implementation of the peace agreement and for stability in the country.
In his recent discourse to the diplomatic corps, on January 8th, Pope Benedict XVI referred to the crisis in Sudan: “The drama of Darfur continues and is being extended to the border regions of Chad and the Central African Republic.”
“The international community has seemed powerless for almost four years, despite initiatives intended to bring relief to the populations in distress and to arrive at a political solution,” the Pope continued, “Only by active cooperation between the United Nations, the African Union, the governments and other interested parties will these methods achieve results. I invite all those concerned to act with determination: we cannot accept that so many innocent people continue to suffer and die in this way.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 5, 2007 (CNA) - Bishop Luis Felipe Gallardo Martin del Campo of Veracruz is calling on local officials not to approve a new law for the state of Veracruz that would legalize gay unions and make them equivalent to marriage.
Recently the Lesbian, Gay, Transsexual, Transvestite and Transgender Collective announced it would introduce legislation similar to that passed other Mexican states that granted legal status to homosexual unions.
Speaking to reporters, Bishop Gallardo said the Church defends human nature and the value of the family founded upon marriage between one man and one woman.
“The big problem is that they want to make all of these things that are simply covenants, reciprocity contracts and mutual support equal to the family nature of marriage, without the need for calling it family, marriage, wedding and consequently they want to give them the same rights as homosexual marriage,” he explained.
“People are free to associate with each other for honest ends, that is a constitutional right,” the bishop said. “What’s reprehensible from not only a Catholic but from an anthropological, basic and fundamental point of view, is to put oneself above the human nature that we all share.”
Jerusalem, Israel, Feb 5, 2007 (CNA) - The Franciscan Custodians of the Holy Land are hoping to stem the exodus of Christians from the Holy Land with a project that will construct 70 new homes in Jerusalem for poor Christian families, the Fides news agency has reported.
The homes will be handed over on Palm Sunday, as part of the traditional Lenten Pilgrimage to the village of Bethpage, located on the eastern slopes of mount Har Ha-Zetim, near the Garden of Olives.
In the last forty years an increasing number of Christians have been motivated to leave the Holy Land due to poverty, insecurity, general restrictions, and a lack of work. The Franciscans hope the free homes will give them incentive to stay. In 1965, Christians made up 65 percent of the population in the Holy Land; today, they are less 12 percent.
Pope Benedict has also expressed particular concern regarding Christians in the Holy Land. At Christmas, the Holy Father addressed a special message to them, offering his prayers and echoing the concerns expressed by the bishops of the Middle East.
He also expressed his concern during a Feb. 1 meeting with members of the Commission for Catholic Orthodox Theological Dialogue.
, Feb 5, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb expressed his gratitude and relief after having had his episcopal crosier returned to him this past weeked. The crosier, along with several other items was stolen from his car on Christmas Eve.
According to a report in the Mobile Register, Clinton McInnis bought the sterling-silver metal crosier, also known as a bishop’s staff, at a local thrift shop on Jan. 26, thinking it would be an interesting addition to his cane collection. He paid it $10.96.
Four mitres, a pectoral cross, a pallium and Church papers were stolen along with the crosier on Dec. 24. Church officials said the crosier alone is valued at $6,000.
It was only when McInnis got home and assembled his new purchase that he realized that it wasn’t really a cane. He didn’t know what it was and only figured it out after reading a report in the newspaper that the pectoral cross had been purchased at the same thrift shop and returned last week.
He and his wife, Donna, immediately called the archdiocese to inform them of their find. They returned the crosier to the archbishop personally on Saturday.
Archbishop Lipscomb said he was glad to have it back because it was a gift from another bishop. He thanked the couple with a photographic history of the archdiocese.
According to the Register, Archbishop Lipscomb said Church officials would be on the lookout for the mitres during the Mardi Gras parades.
St. Louis, Mo., Feb 5, 2007 (CNA) -
Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis will lead a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, from June 4 to 9. The archdiocese has planned the trip in honor of the Patroness of the Americas.
According to a press release from the Archdiocese, the archbishop has long revered Our Lady of Guadalupe and has frequently led several pilgrimages to the shrine.
In December 1531, Mary appeared to a Mexican Indian named Juan Diego and left a miraculous impression of herself on his cloak, called a tilma. She appeared to Juan Diego a total of four times and asked him to build a church on the site of her first apparition. She also appeared to his uncle, which resulted in a miraculous healing.
One of the astounding results of the apparition was the surge of devotion that developed among formerly pagan peoples. "There were 9 million baptisms in eight years," the archbishop noted.
"She brought the mercy of God to that place. When you are there, you feel you are in the presence of the Mother of God," said Archbishop Burke.
The trip will include Mass at the shrine and veneration of the tilma, on which Mary’s image is imprinted. There will also be Mass at the Church of the Fifth Apparition, the one to Juan Diego’s uncle.
Pilgrims will also tour the ruins of the Pyramids of the Teotihuacan, which recalls the pagan civilization that converted to Catholicism after Our Lady’s apparition.
In addition, there will be a Mass celebrated at the Basilica of Our Lady of Ocotlan in the city of Tlaxcala, where Juan Diego received an apparition of the Blessed Mother in 1541, and eucharistic adoration at Tepayac Hill, which is the site of the first apparition.
Ankara, Turkey, Feb 5, 2007 (CNA) - The President of the Italian Conference of Catholic Bishops celebrated a memorial Mass in Trabzon, Turkey, today for an Italian priest who was murdered there last year.
Cardinal Camillo Ruini celebrated the private Mass at Santa Maria Church, located in the Black Sea port city.
A 16-year-old Muslim boy shot Fr. Andrea Santoro, 60, twice after the priest had concluded Mass at Santa Maria Church, on Feb.5, 2006. The teen allegedly shouted "Allah Akbar" (God is great) after he opened fire. He was sentenced to nearly 19 years imprisonment for the priest’s murder.
The Cardinal said his intent for the Mass is to bring peace and healing among Christians in Turkey, "I hope this service will help deepen friendship," Ruini said. "I hope it will help us to find the truth and bring us closer to God."
Msgr. Luigi Padovese, the Apostolic Vicar for Turkey, told AKI that the mass was private “as we wish that the media will not give it too much emphasis.”
While the media was not invited to attend the Mass, a small group of faithful attended, including Fr. Santoro’s mother and sister. The Mass was concelebrated by Archbishop Antonio Lucibello, the Apostolic Nuncio.
"The moment is very delicate and we prefer to maintain discretion to avoid problems," Msgr. Padovese reportedly said. The AKI report claims the prelate was referring to tensions in Turkey, which have been triggered by the assassination of a prominent ethnic Armenian, Christian Orthodox journalist, Hrant Dink, on Jan. 19.
Vatican City, Feb 5, 2007 (CNA) - A day after the Super Bowl of American football, the Pope tackled an increasingly prevalent problem in the other sport known as football. Speaking by way of a telegram delivered by his Secretary of State, Pope Benedict XVI condemned all forms of violence surrounding soccer - the sport known as football in the rest of the world.
"In reiterating his firm condemnation of all forms of violence that disfigure the world of football, the Holy Father exhorts its protagonists to promote respect for legality with greater determination, favoring loyalty, solidarity and healthy competitiveness,” Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone wrote on Monday.
Though European officials have been cracking down on football “hooliganism,” fan violence still results in thousands of arrests and injuries each year, as well as dozens of deaths.
The Holy Father’s message was contained within a telegram of condolence to the family of a police inspector who was recently killed in the riots following a soccer match in Catania, Italy.
Archbishop Salvatore Gristina presided at a funeral for Chief Inspector Filippo Raciti, today.
"Informed of the tragic killing of Chief Inspector Filippo Raciti, the Supreme Pontiff expresses his spiritual closeness to the wife and children of the victim, as well as to the injured and the police who, with other law enforcement forces, work to safeguard the security of citizens,” the telegram says.
In the hope that the virtues of the game will be promoted, the message continues, “His Holiness raises fervent prayers for the soul of the faithful servant of the State and, while invoking heavenly consolation upon the relatives and colleagues and all those stricken by such dramatic loss, he sends a comforting apostolic blessing, which may also be extended to those present at the funeral rites."
Footage of the funeral has already circulated around Italy. And many Italians have been replaying the words of the deceased’s wife, who also condemned the violence surrounding football. “I hope that my husband, who was an educator in life, will remain an educator in death, that this death can really bring about change…" Marisa Raciti said. "These youngsters should think a little. Sports is something beautiful, violence is not. Violence just causes pain, too much pain, too much pain."