Vatican City, Feb 15, 2007 (CNA) - From February 15 to 17, a meeting of Pontifical representatives to Latin America will be held in the Vatican. The gathering has been called by Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., in preparation for the Fifth General Assembly of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean (CELAM), due to be celebrated in Aparecida, Brazil from May 13 to 31.
According to a communiqué made public today, following an introduction by Cardinal Bertone, the 20 pontifical representatives, together with Archbishops Leonardo Sandri, substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State, and Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States, will exchange information and reflect upon the social, religious, and ecclesial situation in Latin America.
Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, will speak about the fifth general assembly of CELAM. Cardinal Re is one of three cardinals appointed by the Pope to preside at the forthcoming CELAM meeting, the other two being Cardinals Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, Archbishop of Santiago de Chile, and Geraldo Majella Agnelo, Archbishop of Sao Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, who are also due to speak at the current meeting.
Pope Benedict himself will inaugurate the General Assembly in Brazil. It will be this Pope’s first visit to the America’s since his election.
For his part Cardinal Claudio Hummes O.F.M., prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, will present some reflections on the situation of the clergy and sects. Moreover the Pontifical representatives will have the opportunity to study materials prepared by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and the Congregation for Catholic Education, and by the Pontifical Councils for the Family, "Justice and Peace," and for Promoting Christian Unity.
The meeting will come to an end on Saturday, when the participants will be received in audience by the Pope.
Beijing, China, Feb 15, 2007 (CNA) - In response to recent media reports, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong has reemphasized his desire to see negotiations and dialogue between China and the Vatican in order to move toward the normalization of diplomatic relations.
The Cardinal once again noted that episcopal ordinations for Chinese dioceses, unapproved by the Vatican, have created obstacles in China-Vatican relations, and denied insinuations that the Cardinal himself had obstructed communications between China’s Communist government and the Holy See.
Cardinal Zen made his remarks in response to comments made by Anthony Liu Bainian, Vice President of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), in a Feb. 11 Hong Kong news report.
Liu claimed that in 2006 China tried "four channels" to inform Rome about then-Fr. Joseph Ma Yinglin's upcoming episcopal ordination but "somebody obstructed" the process, causing the Holy See to ignore the matter. Liu did not name the person.
In a statement on Feb. 13th, Cardinal Zen said it was obvious that Liu was referring to him and it was necessary to clarify the matter. The cardinal refuted the charge that he "obstructed" the process of obtaining papal approval for Bishop Ma’s ordination as the bishop of Kunming, reported UCA News.
Cardinal Zen said he only found out about the April 30 ordination a few days before it took place, when a mainland bishop asked the cardinal to request Vatican permission to take part in the ordination. The Vatican subsequently replied that the candidate was not approved, Cardinal Zen reported, and the CCPA, along with Fr. Ma, were told to postpone the ordination.
For the three episcopal ordinations in Shanghai, Xi'an, and Wanzhou dioceses in 2005, the CCPA Vice President said, China elected the candidates and the Vatican approved them, showing the Pope's goodwill to further improve China-Vatican relations.
Liu admitted that the Ma ordination was not similarly approved but said that in his mind, Ma's ordination was not to be taken as “a challenge to the Vatican."
Currently, the Chinese church is considering episcopal appointments for Guangzhou, Guizhou and Yichang dioceses, UCA News also reported.
Liu told UCA News on Feb. 14 that the government-controlled China church intends to continue the election and ordination of its own bishops.
Vatican City, Feb 15, 2007 (CNA) -
Thursday morning at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI received the President of the Republic of Korea, Roh Moo-hyun. The Holy Father offered to the President his prayers and greetings for all the people of the Korean peninsula, encouraged greater respect for the sanctity of life and marriage, and urged peace and an end to the nuclear arms race in North Korea.
“I would ask you to convey my affectionate greetings to the people of Korea,” the Holy Father began, “and to assure them of my prayers for peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and throughout the region.”
“For over fifty years, the Korean people have suffered the consequences of division,” the Pontiff lamented. “Families have been split, close relatives have been separated from one another. Please let them know that I am spiritually close to them in their suffering.”
“On compassionate grounds, I pray for a speedy solution to the problem which impedes so many from communicating with one another.”
“Sadly,” Pope Benedict continued, “the modern world is marked by an increasing number of threats to the dignity of human life. I wish therefore to commend all those in your country who work to uphold and defend the sanctity of life, marriage and the family, areas in which, as you know, the Catholic Church in Korea is particularly active.”
Turning to North Korea’s attempts to procure nuclear capabilities, the Holy Father expressed the Holy See’s concern over, “the risk of a nuclear arms race in the region.”
“I urge all interested parties to make every effort to resolve the present tensions through peaceful means and to refrain from any gesture or initiative that might endanger the negotiations, while ensuring that the most vulnerable part of the North Korean population has access to humanitarian aid.”
In an encouraging sign, the North Korean government has, this week, agreed to close down its main nuclear reactor and to allow international nuclear inspectors back in the country. In exchange, North Korea would receive 50,000 tons of fuel oil, to help its struggling economy.
In contrast to the difficult economic situation of North Korea, the Republic of Korea has experience an economic boom, which the Holy Father also addressed. “Mr. President, your country has experienced remarkable economic growth in recent times, for which I give thanks to God,” the Pope said. “At the same time, I am conscious that not all citizens are yet able to benefit fully from this increased prosperity. I therefore urge your Government to work in harmony with all those who seek to promote the common good and social justice.”
“In the meantime, I call upon Saint Andrew Kim Taegon and the Korean martyrs to protect the citizen of your beloved nation, and I assure you of my prayers and good wishes for all the people of Korea.”
Following his meeting with the Holy Father, President Moo-hyun went on to meet with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. According to a press release from the Holy See, “during their discussions, mention was made of the cordial relations between the Holy See and the Republic of Korea, as well as of the understanding and cooperation that exist between the Catholic Church and the civil authorities.”
"Attention turned to the political and social situation of eastern Asia and, in particular, to the evolution of the process of reconciliation on the Korean peninsula and to the respect and promotion of human rights in that region," the message concluded.
Jerusalem, Israel, Feb 15, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop André Vingt-Trois of Paris is leading more than 600 French pilgrims, including clergymen, theologians, pilgrimage tour operators and journalists, on a visit to the Holy Land. They arrived in Israel on Monday.
The high-profile visit comes almost 10 years after Vingt-Trois’ predecessor, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, who was himself a convert from Judaism, established more cordial relations between the Catholic Church in France and Israel.
The French delegation visited Yad Vashem Holocaust museum on Wednesday. The archbishop placed an orange and green wreath at a large stone memorial for the six million Jews who were killed by the Nazis.
During meetings at the museum, the archbishop reportedly spoke about the importance of remaining hopeful while remembering the tragedy.
"Without hope, the remembrance of crime is the despair of man," Archbishop Vingt-Trois reportedly said. "Keeping the memory with hope, this is faith."
According to a report in the Jerusalem Post, Archbishop Vingt-Trois carried out the traditional ceremony of salt, wine, and bread upon landing at Ben-Gurion International Airport.
"We are happy to be in the Holy Land. Jerusalem is the center of religions and it must unite all the religions in line with the vision of Jesus for unity, peace and tolerance," he said.
His visit is meant to send a message of peace to Israel and the Palestinians, as well as encourage a rise in the number of Catholic pilgrims visiting the Holy Land.
The archbishop is also expected to sign a special treaty at Yad Vashem, committing the Catholic Church to joint research on the victims of the Holocaust. He is also expected to declare a visit to Yad Vashem as an important priority for Catholic pilgrims to the Holy Land, according to the Israeli paper
On Monday night the Archbishop took part in a dialogue on ethics and security in the 21st century, organized by Tel Aviv University. Later this week, his delegation will visit Nazareth and other holy sites in the Galilee.
Pensacola, Fla., Feb 15, 2007 (CNA) - The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is providing assistance to victims of the recent tornados in Florida.
HOPE, which stands for Help Our People Eat, is an emergency response vehicle owned and operated by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul under statements of understanding with FEMA, the American Red Cross, and other disaster-relief/mass-care agencies.
Called into service at the request of the Society's Orlando Council, the 42-foot-long, state-of-the-art mobile kitchen will feed not only the victims of the tornados, but the relief personnel on hand to help them as well.
Operating on its own generator and carrying a full complement of mass-care items, HOPE can feed up to 10,000 people per day. It can also act as a distribution center for essential personal care needs, such as toothbrushes and shaving kits.
"Our members have helped people in need for more than 160 years. Our person-to-person, grassroots approach allows us to fill the gaps left by other service organizations," said the Society's national executive director, Roger Playwin.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is currently seeking sponsors to offset the cost of outfitting and maintaining HOPE.
Beirut, Lebanon, Feb 15, 2007 (CNA) - Around 300,000 Lebanese gathered in Beirut’s Martyrs Square yesterday to honor Rafik al-Hariri, the former premier who was killed two years ago on Feb. 14. The crowd, made up of Muslims and Maronite Catholics called for justice regarding Hariri’s assassination and showed their support for the current anti-Syrian government.
The crowd also marked the UN Security Council’s approval of plans to establish a court to try Hariri's killers, despite objections from the Hezbollah-led opposition and from Lebanon's pro-Syrian president. Parliament's approval is required.
Hariri’s death in 2005 triggered international pressure, which forced Syria to withdraw its troops after 29 years in Lebanon.
Hariri, a Sunni Muslim billionaire tycoon with close ties to Saudi Arabia and France, masterminded Lebanon's reconstruction after its 1975-90 civil war. He had a falling out with Syria, then the dominant power in Lebanon, in the months before his death.
In fiery speeches, pro-government leaders denounced Syria, which they blame for the suicide bombing that killed Hariri and for later attacks on anti-Syrian figures.
The demonstration yesterday in Martyrs Square, where Hariri is buried, went ahead despite twin bus bombings in a Christian sector, on Tuesday. The ruling coalition accused Syria of organizing the blasts, which killed three people and wounded 20 others
According to Reuters, Christian Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea pledged that Lebanon would resist Syrian influence and would pursue the Hariri’s assassins “across the world and to the end of time."
Many of the demonstrators wore red caps commemorating Hariri, reading: "We really miss you."
Prime Minister Fouad Siniora declared Feb. 14 a national holiday and day of mourning. Shops, schools and businesses were closed.
Managua, Nicaragua, Feb 15, 2007 (CNA) - Pro-life doctors and leaders in Nicaragua have strongly denounced the lack of scientific basis and the clear pro-abortion slant of a supposed “technical report” that the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has published in response to the outlawing of therapeutic abortion in Nicaragua.
In noting the incongruencies of the “report,” pro-life leaders explained that those who prepared it “confuse the medical circumstances for so-called therapeutic abortion with miscarriage,” as both situations are not the same. They said the report dealt with “estimates rather than statistics. It’s an extrapolation of some percentages of causes of miscarriages to the number of pregnancies in Nicaragua.”
In order to back up their statement, pro-life leaders noted that on page 13 it clearly states that the report contains “estimates” and not “statistics that describe the social reality of Nicaragua.”
In addition, some sections of the report show that 77% of the abortions referred to are nothing more than miscarriages and not therapeutic abortions, as the PAHO attempts to erroneously and tendentiously claim.”
In speaking about the supposed negative impact of the norm that outlaws therapeutic abortion in the Central American country, the PAHO report engages in “mere suppositions about would happen and none of them establish statistically anything of much social impact,” pro-life leaders stressed.
Likewise, some “experts” of the PAHO suppose that clandestine abortions will increase and the cost of hospital care will go up” although they do not offer any specific data in the report.
These same “experts” falsely claim “that this norm has begun to have an impact on the quality of care, resulting in delayed care for obstetric complications” and “contributing to the increase in critical delays for care.”
“This document is not serious,” pro-life leaders argued, and it is not “a measure of the impact. There are no numbers for the three months since the norm was adopted. The PHO simply wants to “surprise the public.”
“To always opt for abortion when faced with a complication is a sign of ignorance or mediocrity in current gynecological practice,” they added. “This document identifies obstetric complications that would necessitate an abortion. What a health care professional would do is confront the complications in order to save both patients,” pro-life leaders stressed.
Lisbon, Portugal, Feb 15, 2007 (CNA) - The Dean of the College of Medicine of Portugal, Pedro Nunes, said this week that the Physicians’ Code of Ethics defends human life from conception and that most doctors oppose abortion. Nunes said that doctors, therefore, have the right to exercise conscientious objection in the event that abortion is imposed on the country.
In statements to the EFE news agency, Nunes recalled that the College of Medicine did not take an official position during the recent referendum on the legalization of abortion. Nevertheless, he emphasized that most doctors defend life from the moment of conception.
Article 47 of the Code of Ethics states, “Doctors must show respect for human life from its inception.” Likewise, it warns that the practice of euthanasia and abortion “constitutes a grave ethical violation,” except in cases of rape or life and health of the mother up to the twelfth week of pregnancy.
The referendum, which was held last Sunday, passed with 58% in favor of legalizing abortion for any reason up to the tenth week of pregnancy, and 42% voting against. Nevertheless, over half of the nation’s registered voters did not participate in the referendum and thus it is not considered binding.
Despite the lack of overwhelming public support, Prime Minister Jose Socrates announced his party would present a measure that would grant legalization. The bill would have to be approved by Congress and then signed by the President.
This is the second referendum on the legalization of abortion in less than 10 years. In 1998 voters rejected another referendum.
Madrid, Spain, Feb 15, 2007 (CNA) - In order to commemorate the 81st anniversary of the apparition of the Child Jesus to Sister Lucia in 1926, various activities will held on February 15 at the Shrine of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Pontevedra, where the apparition took place.
Activities will include Eucharistic adoration, spiritual talks, the recitation of the rosary and the celebration of Mass. “If time permits,” organizers said, a special procession with the statue of the Child Jesus will take place at the shrine.
Sister Lucia was a novice at the Convent of the Dorotea Sisters in Pontevedra, today the Shrine of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, where the Blessed Mother entrusted to her the great promise of the first Saturday devotion.
Sister Lucia was out on the patio of the old convent when a supernatural event she described in memoirs took place:
“On February 15, 1926, I was very busy with my work, and I almost forgot about that (the apparition that took place on December 10). And I was going to take a bucket of trash out to the garden. It was there where a few months earlier I had encountered a child who I asked if he knew the Ave Maria. Answering me yes, I told him to pray it so I could hear it. And since he did not want to pray just that, he was not able to only pray the Hail Mary, I asked him if he knew where the Church of Holy Mary was. He told me he did. I told him to go there everyday and to say: ‘O my Mother of heaven, give me to your Son Jesus.’ I taught him this and I left.”
On February 15, 1926, going back to the same place as usual, I found a child that I thought was the same one and I asked him, ‘Well, did you pray to the Mother of Heaven to give you to Jesus?’ The child looked at me and said, ‘And have you spread throughout the world what the Mother of Heaven asked you to?’ And with that he was transformed into a brilliant Child and I realized he was Jesus.”
Istanbul, Turkey, Feb 15, 2007 (CNA) - “In order to counter nationalist ambitions, Turkey must continue its journey towards a democratic process that will admit of pluralism and will acknowledge minorities. That’s the only way to show Europe that it is ready to join the Union,” said Bishop Luigi Padovese, Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia.
In an interview with the Italian news agency SIR, Bishop Padovese said, “Turkey is a bridge between the Islamic world and the Western world and the events of recent months have sparked interest that was unheard of before: from the murder of Father Andrea Santoro to the visit of the Pope, and from the request (by Turkey) to join Europe to the death of Armenian journalist Hrant Dink.”
Regarding Turkey’s entry into the EU, Bishop Padovese stressed that “the position of the Catholic bishops and non-Catholic bishops is a conditional yes. The European countries have great economic interests, but we believe that the cultural connection must be borne in mind: the issue of laicism and the acknowledgement of ethnic minorities cannot be pushed to the side.”
“The papal visit has positively changed the way Turks see the Church,” he said, adding that opinions have changed positively despite “the smear campaign against Benedict XVI and the Church, which began particularly after the speech at Regensburg,” and which he said was, “intense and profoundly affected public opinion.”
Rome, Italy, Feb 15, 2007 (CNA) - The Press Office of the Holy See announced this morning that Pope Benedict will preside at an Ash Wednesday Mass this Wednesday, February 21st at the Basilica of Santa Sabina.
At 4.30 p.m. on Ash Wednesday - the beginning of Lent - Benedict XVI will preside at a moment of prayer in the church of St. Anselm on Rome's Aventine Hill. Afterwards the Holy Father will lead a “penitential procession” of Cardinals, archbishops, bishops, the Benedictine monks of St. Anselm, the Dominican Fathers of Santa Sabina and lay faithful to the Basilica of Santa Sabina.
Following the procession, the Pope will preside at a Eucharistic celebration in the basilica of Santa Sabina, with the traditional rite of blessing and the imposition of the ashes.
The Basilica was built in the 5th Century over the remains of the Roman martyr Sabina. The Church is one of the most important church’s of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) having been entrusted to St. Dominic himself in 1219. The Saint’s cell is still identifiable in the monastery attached to the Church - though the room has been turned into a chapel - and a dining room remains intact, where St. Thomas Aquinas often took meals.
, Feb 15, 2007 (CNA) - Bishop Samuel Aquila, the Bishop of Fargo, has issued a strong challenge to Catholic politicians, reminding them that they have a responsibility to ensure that their actions reflect their Catholic faith.
In his diocesan newspaper column posted today on the Diocese of Fargo Web Site, the bishop reminds politicians that, “every act of violence that attacks an innocent human person from the moment of conception to natural death is against the will of God and rejects the inherent dignity of the human person.”
Therefore, the Bishop said, “every Catholic politician must recognize and act upon this truth to be a faithful Catholic.”
The column is an edited version of the homily Bishop Aquila presented at the Jan. 18 Legislative Mass celebrated at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck. It will appear in New Earth, the newspaper for the Diocese of Fargo, which will be printed Feb. 15.
“We cannot leave God at the door when we walk into the legislature,” the bishop tells Catholic politicians, “but rather we must allow the truth of God and the truth of the dignity of the human person to guide us in every decision we make. With each law or bill we consider, we must be, first, a people who recognize that there is the inherent dignity of human life that is bestowed by God and that can never be violated.”
“Once we begin to be the ones who determine what is good or what is evil, once we begin to be the ones who determine which human person has dignity and which one doesn’t, we will see…what happens to a society,” the prelate continues.
In his column, Bishop Aquila also refers to the recent movie “Blood Diamond,” saying, “In that society the lust for power, the lust for money, the lust for control overtakes and guides the human heart, with the result that violence and murder govern the society.”
In addition to the unborn, the column addresses the dignity of illegal aliens and those sentenced to the death penalty. The bishop questions how people who believe in God can express hatred for illegal aliens or “cheer when a capital punishment sentence is given.”
Finally, the bishop emphasizes that there are certain offenses against life which the Church considers most grave. “As faithful Catholics, we acknowledge that the gravest attacks against the dignity of human life are those that destroy innocent human life, as in abortion, euthanasia and genocide.”
The full column can be found at www.fargodiocese.org.
Vatican City, Feb 15, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI made major changes in leadership at the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Thursday, accepting the resignation of current President Cardinal Julian Herranz and naming a new president, vice-president, and secretary for the Pontifical Council.
The new president of the dicastery, which is responsible for offering authoritative interpretations of the Code of Canon Law, is Archbishop-elect Francesco Coccopalmerio, who was called from his duties as Auxiliary Bishop of Milan.
The archbishop-elect was born near Milan in 1938. The prelate holds degrees in Theology and Moral Theology from the Theological Faculty of Northern Italy and the Alphonsianum, respectively. He also holds a Doctorate in Canon Law from the Gregorian University and a Doctorate in Civil Law from the Catholic University of Milan. Prior to his appointment as Auxiliary Bishop of Milan in 1993, Coccopalmerio worked both in civil and canon law for the archdiocese. He also served as a professor of Canon Law for over 30 years.
Coccopalmerio’s predecessor, Cardinal Julian Herranz had served as president of the Pontifical Council since 1994 and presented his resignation over a year ago, after reaching the age of 75.
The Holy Father also appointed Bishop Bruno Bertagna, who was previously serving as the Secretary for the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts and auditor general of the Apostolic Camera, as vice president of the same Pontifical Council. With his appointment, Bishop Bertagna has also been elevated to the office of archbishop.
The archbishop-elect was born in Tiedoli di Borgo Val di Taro, Italy in 1935, he was ordained a priest in 1959 and consecrated a bishop in 1991.
To replace Archbishop-elect Bertagna as Secretary the Holy Father also appointed Msgr. Juan Igancio Arrieta Ochoa de Chinchetru of the personal prelature of Opus Dei.