Vatican City, Mar 7, 2007 (CNA) - During today's general audience Benedict XVI continued with his series of catecheses on the origins of the Church, focusing on the Apostolic Fathers. The audience was held in the Paul VI Hall in the presence of 16,000 people.
The Pope turned his attention to the figure of St. Clement, the third successor of St. Peter after Sts. Linus and Anacletus, who reigned in the late first century. Clement, as Bishop St. Irenaeus of Lyon writes, had known the Apostles personally and "still had their preaching in his ears and their tradition before his eyes."
The author of an important Letter to the Corinthians, which represents "the first exercise of the primacy of Rome after the death of Peter," Clement returns to "the perennially important theological dialectic between the indicative of salvation and the imperative of moral commitment." And he invites people to respond to "the announcement of salvation with a generous and courageous journey of conversion."
The Letter gives Clement the possibility to describe "the identity of the Church and her mission" and, recalling the liturgy of ancient Israel, he "unveils his idea of the Church," in which "the clear distinction between the laity and the hierarchy does not mean conflict but the organic interconnection of a body, an organism with various functions."
For this Apostolic Father, the Pope went on, "the Church is not a place of confusion and anarchy," but "an organized structure in which each member undertakes his or her mission according to their vocation. ... St. Clement highlights how the Church has a sacramental and not a political structure. The action of God, which we draw near to in the liturgy, precedes our own decisions and our own ideas."
The "great prayer" with which the Letter ends is particularly important, said the Holy Father, being "an invocation on behalf of political leaders. After the texts of the Old Testament this is the oldest prayer for political institutions," and contains "a teaching that, down the centuries, has guided the attitude of Christians towards politics and the State."
Clement wrote his Letter shortly after the death of the emperor Domitian and his persecution of Christians who, "though aware that the persecutions would continue, did not cease to pray for those same authorities that had unjustly condemned them.
"Praying for the authorities," the Holy Father added in conclusion, "Clement recognized the legitimate authority of political institutions in the order established by God. At the same time he expressed his concern that those authorities ... should exercise their power with peace and gentleness, Caesar is not everything. There is another kingship, the origin and essence of which are not of this world."
Vatican City, Mar 7, 2007 (CNA) - After months of anticipation, the Italian Bishops Conference has a new leader. 64 year-old Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco has been appointed the new president of the CEI, replacing Cardinal Camillo Ruini.
Archbishop Bagnasco will remain the ordinary of Genoa, a post he took to replace current Vatican Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone.
Bagnasco is said to be “close” personally to Cardinal Ruini, who retires at age 76, after holding the presidency for 16 years. Ruini who served as an auxiliary Bishop of Rome during his reign as CEI president became a visible spokesman for the Italian Church and arguably wielded more power than any of his predecessors. The decision to keep Archbishop Bagnasco in Genoa is thought to be an attempt to keep the CEI from stepping on the toes of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope.
According to Italian news agency, ANSA, the new head of the bishops' conference (CEI) is seen as a “reserved but affable man with a keen interest in social affairs, partly because of his working class background. His views on key questions of Church policy are reportedly always in the middle.”
The archbishop was ordained a priest of Genoa in 1966. In January 1998 he was named a Bishop of the Diocese of Pesaro, which in 2000 was named an Archdiocese. Bagnasco was made the Archbishop of the Italian Military Services in 2003 and in August of 2006 tookover the Archdiocese of Genoa for Cardinal Bertone.
Although Bagnasco is not yet a cardinal, he is expected to receive a red hat from Pope Benedict at the next consistory, which some sources say could be late in the spring.
ANSA reports that one of Bagnasco's first jobs will be to present a document which Ruini promised recently, amid a political debate over an Italian government bill giving certain rights to cohabiting couples, including same-sex ones.
After Ruini made it clear the Church opposes any legal recognition for unmarried couples, he said the CEI would issue a document offering guidance to Catholic lawmakers on how to act on the question.
For his part Ruini, will remain in active service to the Church as Vicar of the Archdiocese of Rome.
, Mar 7, 2007 (CNA) - A 48-year-old man allegedly sought out the pastor at St. Anthony of Padua Church and beat him with a cane, just 11 days after being released from prison for setting fire to the church.
The New York Daily News said Calvin Bostick arrived at the church in Queens on Feb. 23. He confronted Fr. Christopher Ezeoke outside the rectory and allegedly began to beat the priest with a cane repeatedly. Bostick then pushed Ezeoke into the rectory, where he continued to beat him.
The 44-year-old priest eventually restrained Bostick until authorities could arrive. Fr. Ezeoke is a native of Nigeria and was not assigned to the parish at the time of the arson.
According to a report in the New York Daily News, Bostick, who had been homeless since his release, had approached the priest for money a few times in the days leading up to the attack. This time, the priest refused to give him money and walked away. The attack followed.
Bostick could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted of the assault. He served eight years for setting fire to the church in 1999. Bostick has served time in prison for arson, robbery and grand larceny. He also has been arrested at least 20 times, mostly for drug crimes, a police source told the Daily News. Bostick and was reportedly carrying a crack pipe when he was arrested last week.
Steubenville, Ohio, Mar 7, 2007 (CNA) - According to a recent press release, the Franciscan University of Steubenville is offering another series of exciting and spiritually refreshing Catholic conferences this summer.
The overall theme of the seven summer sessions is "Come, All Who Are Thirsty".
This year's lineup features dozens of well-known speakers, scholars and Church leaders, including Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Harrisburg and Bishop Sam Jacobs of Houma-Thibodaux.
Some of the speakers include: Scripture scholar Fr. Thomas Acklin, OSB; Fr. Benedict Groeschel, founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal; EWTN host Fr. Mitch Pacwa, SJ; author and speaker Jeff Cavins; and Scott Hahn.
The Catholic Charismatic Conference, June 8-10, is focused on helping young adults discover the power of the Holy Spirit. It will feature internationally known charismatic speaker Sr. Briege McKenna, OSC, among the speakers.
The conferences include:
June 1-3: Young Adults: "Becoming a C-4 Catholic"
June 8-10: Catholic Charismatic: "A New Pentecost for a New Evangelization"
June 11-15: Priests, Deacons, Seminarians: "Stir Into Flame the Gift You Received"
July 10-12: Religious Sisters: "Prayer and Healing for Yourself and Others"
July 18-22: Catechists and Religious Educators: "Come, Drink of the Holy Spirit"
July 25-27: Applied Biblical Studies: "Feasts of Israel, Feasts of the Church"
July 27-29: Defending the Faith: "The Truth Shall Set You Free"
In addition, there will be 17 youth conferences organized across North America. The theme — "All Access" — focuses on God's closeness to teens and calls them to let God into every aspect of their lives and transform them from within. Fr. Stan Fortuna, CFR; Fr. Dave Pivonka, TOR; Mark Hart; and Melanie Welch are among the speakers.
Four of the youth conferences will be in Steubenville. Others will be in Massachusetts, Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, Minnesota, California, Colorado, Arizona, and, for the first time, in Nova Scotia, Canada.
For more information, go to www.franciscanconferences.com. For information about youth conferences, go to www.franciscanyouth.com.
Prague, Czech Republic, Mar 7, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal Miloslav Vlk is defending the Church’s ownership of St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague after the Supreme Court nullified a verdict it issued in the fall, under which the cathedral came under the jurisdiction of Church authorities, and returned the case to a lower level court.
The Supreme Court announced its decision in February. The lower court, which had previously ruled that the cathedral belonged to the state, is to start discussing the case on May 3.
The Catholic Church in Czech Republic and the state have been engaged in court disputes over the ownership of Prague’s 14th-century St. Vitus Cathedral for more than 13 years. The cathedral forms part of the Prague Castle where the Presidential Office is located.
"The Supreme Court's verdict does not at all state that we should hand the cathedral over. This is just the interpretation of the Presidential Office. As we see it, the dispute returned to the district court and the verdict is yet to come," Cardinal Vlk told the Czech daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD).
But, according to a report in the Prague Daily Monitor, Supreme Court deputy chairman Pavel Kucera said the verdict "actually meant that no further court decisions were needed for the cathedral to be returned to the state."
There are some obvious misunderstandings about what the Supreme Court decision means. Petr Hajek, spokesman for President Vaclav Klaus, said the Church is expected to hand the cathedral over to the state. Hajek interpreted the Supreme Court decision to mean that the Administration of the Prague Castle is obliged to take over the cathedral and that it can do so immediately.
Both parties were to discuss the handover at a meeting yesterday. Hajek said he expected the handover to happen then. Cardinal Vlk said he did not understand this to be the case.
Budapest, Hungary, Mar 7, 2007 (CNA) - During the 7th Meeting of the Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences of Southern Europe, the Catholic bishops of that region said the Catholic party in a mixed marriage must have the “determination to not abandon the faith and to do everything in his or her power to baptize and raise his or her children in the Catholic faith.”
The bishops noted that mixed marriages are an “extremely lively” reality in southeastern Europe, where Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim faithful live together, and that “they are spreading all over Europe, as a consequence of a powerful migratory phenomenon.”
“The tradition of the Catholic Church,” their statement continued, “gives priority to marriages between Catholics, not just with a view to preserving and handing down the family’s faith, but above all in the interest of the married community itself.”
However, for right and appropriate reasons, “mixed marriages and marriages with differences in religion” are allowed, “provided the bride and groom state they are willing to stay away from the danger of abandoning their faith and commit themselves to do all they can for their children to be baptized and raised in the Catholic Church.”
Regarding marriages between Catholic and orthodox faithful, the bishops noted, “there is the fundamental foundation of a shared faith, but they do not share the same theological view of the sacramental nature of the marriage and as a consequence their approach to the value and stability of the marriage tie and divorce differs as well.”
The bishops also addressed the issue of marriage between Catholics and Muslims, emphasizing that such unions present a series of “problems and risks,” such as “falling into religious indifferentism, separations, dependency on families, impositions that are often placed on women, isolation from one’s ethnic group, loss of identity, problems in raising one’s children.”
Brussels, Belgium, Mar 7, 2007 (CNA) - The Van Thuan Observatory for the Social Doctrine of the Church has called a manifesto on the definition of Europe, produced by the organization Christians For Europe Initiative, “completely inadequate in its contents and in its general cultural premises.”
The manifesto was published to mark the 50th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome (March 26, 1957) and was signed by, among others, the former president of the World Monetary Fund, Michel Camdessus. According to the Observatory, the manifesto “states the obvious” and “demands little of European policies,” and it “says nothing at all” about “norms that legalize abortion” or laws “that extremely jeopardize the dignity of the family” or that “legalize euthanasia.”
The Van Thuan Observatory’s press release claims the manifesto lacks serious “reflection about the relativistic culture that is so widespread” in Europe, as well as about “the relationship between faith and reason, laicism itself and the public role of religions, especially Christianity.”
Madrid, Spain, Mar 7, 2007 (CNA) - The Institute for Family Policy in Spain unveiled a report today entitled “Assistance for Children in Spain,” which indicates a lack of interest in supporting families on the part of the government of President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. The report also confirms that of the 25 countries that make up the European Union, Spain provides the least amount of assistance to the family.
“Today out of the 25 EU [countries], Spain is the one that provides the least assistance to families, allotting only 0.5% of its GDP. Moreover, it’s the only European country that does not allot at least 1% of its GDP,” the report explains.
The Institute notes that although the cost of raising a child during the first 18 years is more than $6500 per year, the State only provides $382 in assistance, which does not even cover 5% of the expenses. This discrepancy is aggravated by the fact that only about 10% of families can receive this assistance given the strict conditions set by the government.
The president of the Institute, Eduardo Hertfelder, said that the most serious aspect of the situation is that there has been no increase in assistance during the last six years, despite a 25% increase in the cost of raising a child. This is evidence, he asserted, of the lack of importance the government gives to the family and to children.
“The lack of assistance is keeping families from having the number of children they would like,” the report goes on to say. Although Europeans would like to have an average of 2 children, in Spain it is only possible to have one child and still make ends meet.
“We are an aging country with increasingly fewer children, with more and more empty homes, with fewer and more broken marriages,” the report states.
The Institute announced it would present a series of measures aimed at helping families with children and preventing the family in Spain from continuing to decline.
Madrid, Spain, Mar 7, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal Antonio Cañizares of Spain has weighed in again on the controversial request of a Spanish woman who is seeking euthanasia, saying relativism and breakdown of morals are underlying her case.
In an article published by the Spanish daily “La Razon,” the Cardinal said “relativism,” the “perversion of language,” and “moral breakdown” are symptoms of a “society on the verge of losing its morals.” The case of Inmaculada Echevarria, who suffers from muscular dystrophy and wants to have her artificial respirator disconnected, is an example of euthanasia and thus constitutes an attack on life, the Cardinal stated.
“I am saddened by her physical and spiritual suffering, and I pray for her,” Cardinal Cañizares said. “But no matter what they say, this is a case of euthanasia. According to the medical information I have, a respirator is an ordinary means for keeping these individuals alive,” he stated. “Moral norms forbid the removal of ordinary means of nourishment and respiration from a sick person, even if the illness is terminal. The omission of these ordinary means constitutes an act of euthanasia,” the Cardinal said.
“With his action of taking away the respirator,” he continued, “this simple and without a doubt good woman, who is exhausted, will die. An attack against life will have been carried out. And, moreover, with all of the blessings and authorization, to even greater shame, of the Hospital of San Rafael, the same one that was practically founded by St. John of God and is administered by his spiritual sons.”
In his article, the cardinal noted the paradox that on the one hand, officials are allowing the voluntary suicide of Echevarria, and yet on the other, are calling for “humanitarian treatment” of Basque terrorist Ignacio de Juana, who is carrying out a hunger strike, in order to save his life. “While efforts are made to keep DeJuana alive, at the same time in Andalusia, in my beloved Granada, the removal of an ordinary means to stay alive, even though she is requesting it, is being officially allowed,” he said.
“The ‘controlled’ fast during the last 100 days of this unrepentant ETA member constitutes another act of violence and terrorism: ‘refined and intelligent,’ but terrorism nonetheless. It’s not an action with arms nor is it carried out against other persons. But it is violence against himself,” the cardinal explained, “in keeping with the purposes of ETA” (the Basque separatist movement).
“What we are seeing here,” he added, “is the deliberate execution of a prolonged act of violence against his own life, as part of a terrorist plan, in order to paralyze individuals and social institutions and create an atmosphere in which people cannot act freely. He has succeeded in getting many to foolhardily and blindly take his side for ‘humanitarian reasons’.”
Cardinal Cañizares lamented the relativism evident in these situations. “What is okay in one case, is not okay in the other. What is said here doesn’t apply over there. Everything is strategic and calculated. We are immersed in a host of contradictions, in an ocean of confusion, in pure relativism, which undermines and destroys society. There is no way out of that, no progress.”
“Relativism is destructive,” the cardinal stated. “Neither man or nor society has a future if it is embraced. Neither can democracy be based on relativism, which has no basis whatsoever. Relativism leads to the destruction of democracy and generates violence and totalitarianism: that of the dictatorship of relativism. We are for life, not for relativism!” he said in conclusion.