Rome, Italy, Mar 26, 2007 (CNA) - On Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI paid a pastoral visit to the Roman Church of Saint Felicity and the Children Martyrs. After the reading of the Gospel, his Holiness addressed those present with a brief homily, encouraging them to continue the renewal of their parish and their personal lives, by the Grace which God provides.
The Pope opened noted the many problems faced by men and women today, “situations,” he said, “that demand your constant testimony to the love of God.” This love of God is manifested in “Christ, crucified, and risen, Who embraces the world without distinction of race or culture.”
This, the Holy Father noted, is “the mission of every parochial community, called to announce the Gospel.” And the fulfillment of this mission is made possible, he continued, referring to the first reading, “by Divine Intervention, which actually makes it easy [to live this out].”
Pope Benedict recalled that all Christians ought to be animated by this knowledge that God provides the means by which they can live out their evangelical life and be able to “cross the desert of this world, turning it into a fertile garden.”
In order to spread cross the desert, the Holy Father added the Lord offers us, “the Word, the Sacraments, and every other spiritual resource of the liturgy and personal prayer."
Above all, however, "the true provision is love,” he said, it is the love of Christ that makes this journey possible.
The Pope reminded the congregation of last week's Gospel, saying that it “helps us to understand that only the Love of God can change human existence from the inside . . . because only His infinite love can free us from sin, which is the root of all evil.” While it is true that God is Just, “one must not forget that He is - above all - Love.” God hates sin, “and because of this, He loves every individual person infinitely.”
Turning to this Sunday's Gospel, Benedict pointed out that there are “two scenes: the first is a discussion between Jesus and the Scribes and Pharisees . . . the second is the brief and touching dialogue between Jesus and the sinner.” The Scribes asked Jesus His opinion because the Law of Moses left no room for doubt, and they “knew of His mercy and love for sinners.”
Jesus, however, “immediately takes the side of the woman, writing the mysterious word on the ground . . . and saying the famous sentence: ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.’” The Pope noted that this is the only place in the entire New Testament where the phrase “without sin” is used.
Continuing his explanation of the Gospel, the Pope added that once “all had left the Divine Master was alone with the Woman.” He then cited St. Augustine's interpretation of the Gospel, saying, “Only those two remained, Misery and Mercy.”
The Holy Father asked those present to pause for a moment here and contemplate “man's misery and the Divine Mercy, a woman accused of a terrible sin and He Who is without sin.” Again citing St. Augustine, Benedict concluded, “The Lord condemns the sin, but not the sinner.”
“Jesus,” the Pope added, “does not engage his interlocutors in a theoretical discussion, He is not interested in winning a debate on the interpretation of the Mosaic Law." Instead, “His goal is to save the soul and to reveal the salvation that is only found in the Love of God.”
Jesus came to tell us “that He wants us all to be in Paradise, and that Hell, something that very few talk about these days, exists eternally for those who close their hearts to His Love.” Jesus tells the woman, “Go and sin no more.” The real enemy of our existence is sin.
Benedict also noted that forgiveness is granted if “from now on she sins no more.” This shows that “there is no pardon without penance.” It is the Divine Love that “gives us the strength to resist evil and to ‘sin no more.’”
In closing his homily, the Pope reminded all, that God “never abandons us and His love is the source of joy and peace, it is the strength that pushes us along the road to Holiness and, if it is necessary, to martyrdom.”
This is exactly what happened “to the children and then their courageous mother, Felicity, the patrons of this Church.” The Holy Father turned to Felicity and the Children Martyrs, asking them to help all Christians, "to meet Christ more profoundly and to follow him with a faithful docility."
Detroit, Mich., Mar 26, 2007 (CNA) - Thousands of men packed Calihan Hall at the University of Detroit Mercy for the Catholic Men's Conference on Saturday. The event offered the 3,000 men who visited the fifth annual conference throughout the day an opportunity to grow in their personal relationships with God and to make a firmer commitment to living their faith.
A key part of the conference was for participants to commit to their faith and family the way they would to their favorite team or sport, reported the Detroit News.
John Morales, a former Fox sportscaster who has made a movie about Catholic baseball players, was one of a series of speaker at the conference, which ended with a 2:30 p.m. Mass.
The conference attracted men of all ages, including teens. Dominic Zack, 14, told the Detroit News that the event broached topics that he could relate to.
Tom Stephanoff, 21, attended with his father and older brother. "It is always good to refuel the fire," Stephanoff was quoted as saying by the newspaper. "You get excited again about trying to be a good person."
Washington D.C., Mar 26, 2007 (CNA) - The Committee on Doctrine of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has declared that pamphlets published by Professor Daniel Maguire of theology at Marquette University on contraception, abortion, and same-sex marriage, “do not present authentic Catholic teaching.”
“The views about contraception, abortion, same-sex marriage, as well as the very nature of Church teaching and its authoritative character, cross the legitimate lines of theological reflection and simply enter into the area of false teaching,” the doctrine committee said.
“Such mistaken views should not be confused with the moral teaching of the Catholic Church.”
Maguire sent two pamphlets to all Catholic U.S. bishops on June 19. One is entitled “The Moderate Roman Catholic Position on Contraception and Abortion.” The other is “A Catholic Defense of Same-Sex Marriage.”
In a statement issued by the committee last week, the bishops said it was important to “offer a public correction of the erroneous views” in the pamphlets since it is apparent Maguire went to considerable efforts to give his views wide distribution.
The committee refers to the Catechism of the Catholic Church to demonstrate “the mistaken character” of Maguire’s positions.
In his pamphlets, Maguire argues that “there is no one position” on contraception, abortion, homosexual acts and same-sex marriage that can be called “Catholic.” He pursues his argument, stating that “there is no authentic Church teaching [on these issues] that is binding on all members of the Catholic Church.”
Regarding same-sex marriage, Maguire asserts that “Catholic teaching is in transition … and Catholics are free to let their consciences decide either for or against same sex marriages. Both views – for or against homosexual marriage – are at home in the Catholic world and neither one of them can be called more orthodox or more official or more Catholic than the other.”
“While there may be individuals who disagree with the teaching of the Church, such divergent views cannot be considered authentic Catholic teaching or the basis for reliable guidance regarding faithful Catholic moral life,” the committee stated.
“The views of Professor Maguire on contraception, abortion, and same-sex ‘marriage’ are not those of the Catholic Church and indeed are contrary to the Church’s faith,” the committee concluded.
“We deplore as irresponsible his public advocacy of his views as authentic Catholic teaching. Lastly, we trust that this statement will clarify the Church’s teaching for all of the Catholic faithful throughout the United States.”
The members of the doctrine committee include: Bishops William Lori, Leonard Blair, Edward Clark, Robert McManus, Arthur Serratelli, and Allen Vigneron, as well as Archbishops Jose Gomez and Donald Wuerl.
Washington D.C., Mar 26, 2007 (CNA) - Calling access to adequate health care a basic human right, the leaders of three national Catholic organizations have urged Congress to strengthen and expand a federal health program that provides health insurance coverage for children.
In a letter to the House and Senate Budget Committees, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Health Association of the United States, and Catholic Charities USA urged Congress to adequately fund the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) so that all children eligible for the program get health care.
“The SCHIP program was enacted to provide coverage to low-income children who do not qualify for Medicaid because their family income is too high,” the Catholic organizations wrote.
“Over 4 million children have health care coverage through SCHIP. But there are still almost 9 million uninsured children in the United States, over two-thirds of whom are eligible for SCHIP or Medicaid but are not enrolled.”
In their letter, the Catholic leaders said that they were encouraged that President George Bush’s proposed 2008 budget includes more funding for children’s health care, but they noted that the proposed $5-billion increase over five years will not be sufficient to continue coverage for those children now in SCHIP. It could cost about $60 billion over five years to maintain current enrollment in the program and to enroll all eligible children, the leaders estimated.
The three major Catholic organizations also raised concerns about deep cuts proposed in the president’s budget for Medicaid and Medicare over the next five years, and called on Congress to reject any funding reductions in either of these programs.
”Much of the proposed Medicaid savings would result not from substantively improving the program but simply by reducing the federal contribution. This could result in low-income families, people with disabilities, and seniors facing higher payments for services or even losing coverage altogether,” the leaders wrote in their letter.
“The proposals could also severely threaten the ability of many Catholic hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities to serve their communities, and could further unravel an already frail health care safety net,” they added.
The Catholic community is one of the largest, nongovernmental providers of health and human services in the country. One in six Americans receives health care through Catholic health care institutions.
In a related action, the three organizations, along with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the Conference of Major Superiors of Men; Ladies of Charity United States of America; the Leadership Conference of Women Religious; and the Catholic schools of social work worked to mobilize Catholics across the country to contact their U.S. representatives and senators on March 21 to support increased funding for children's health insurance coverage through reauthorization of SCHIP.
Milwaukee, Wis., Mar 26, 2007 (CNA) - Adult faith formation programs in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee will have a new home at the John Paul II Center as of July 1. Archbishop Timothy Dolan announced his vision for the center last spring, after announcing that academic formation of priests would no longer take place at Saint Francis Seminary. Planning began immediately.
The center will provide adult catechesis and formation to the faithful of southeastern Wisconsin. It will be located in space rented from the School Sisters of St. Francis on South Layton Boulevard in Milwaukee, reported the Catholic Herald.
The archbishop noted the need to expand the formation for lay faithful and to increase the number well trained lay faithful in the current cultural context.
The center will offer diaconate formation; preparation and formation for lay ecclesial ministry; programs that prepare, support, and strengthen marriage and family life, and enrichment opportunities for Catholics to learn about their faith.
Fr. Javier Bustos, a priest of the archdiocese, was asked to lead the planning for the center. Archbishop Dolan named the native Venezuelan priest the center’s director in January.
The center, which will offer programs within four major streams, was modeled on the image offered by the parable of the mustard seed, said Fr. Bustos.
The center will include the Ministry Formation Institute, which will provide formation for the permanent diaconate and non-degreed lay ministry.
The Pentecost Mission will provide faith formation to average Catholics, Catholic schoolteachers, catechists and those considering a vocation, especially in lay ministry.
The Emmaus Project will offer ongoing education and formation for individuals involved in specific ministry, Catholic faithful with an interest in learning more about the faith and parish ministry teams. Much of the work will be done in conjunction with other institutions in the diocese, including Catholic colleges and universities.
Programs such as Theology on Tap, opportunities for people in their 20s and 30s to discuss faith issues in social settings, and the Pallium Lecture series, will fall into the latter category.
The Nazareth Project will provide formation and support for adults entering into and living the sacrament of marriage. Specific areas of ministry include engaged ministry, newly married, marriage, parenting, and separated and divorced Catholics.
The center will use online education and video conferencing. There will be a small fee for the offerings, which will be in English and Spanish.
Sao Paulo, Brazil, Mar 26, 2007 (CNA) - Little Marcela de Jesus Galante Ferreira has broken all the records of survival. The anencephaly she suffers should have caused her death hours or days after birth, but to the amazement of many, she is now four months old, becoming the new pro-life symbol in Brazil and the most uncomfortable celebrity for some pro-abortionists who have criticized doctors for helping the infant.
The case of Marcela de Jesus could not have been more opportune. She was born in November 20, 2006, amidst a passionate debate over the legalization of abortion in cases of anencephaly, a condition in which a baby is born without a large part of its brain and usually dies with hours.
According to the Brazilian daily Folha de Sao Paulo, the case of Marcela de Jesus was the symbol of a pro-life demonstration this past weekend, which was attended by popular Catholic priest Father Marcelo Rossi and by the outgoing Archbishop of Sao Paulo, Cardinal Claudio Hummes.
The event was organized by Catholics and Evangelicals in order to gain the attention of the Brazilian Congress, where a bill to legalize abortion is being considered.
Attorney Nadir Pazin of the State Committee for the Defense of Life said Marcela’s case is emblematic because it contradicts all of the medical diagnoses that she would die shortly after birth. “It dealt a serious blow to the thesis of feminist groups who defend the legalization of abortion. She showed that what happens is what God wants and not science,” she said.
An uncomfortable life
Nevertheless, the promoters of abortion see Marcela’s case as a mere exception and they argue it “should not jeopardize the right of parents to choose abortion in cases of anencephaly.”
According to Folha, it is obvious that pro-abortion forces are worried about the repercussions of Marcela’s case in the country’s Supreme Court, where a ruling is expected on anencephaly abortions.
“We fear that this isolated and rare case will change the Court’s opinion and that everything that we have achieved up to know could be jeopardized by this case,” said Dr. Jorge Andalaft Neto, who performs abortions at the Jabaquara Hospital.
Fatima Oliveira of the Feminist Health Network said Marcela’s case would make it “more difficult” for abortion to be legalized in cases of anencephaly.
Some abortion supporters, such as attorney Debora Diniz, questioned the medical assistance provided to Marcela and accused doctors who helped her of using her for the pro-life cause. “Marcela is an exception,” she said. “She survives because of intense medical intervention in order to transform her into a heroine.”
Marcela remains hospitalized in the town of Ribeirao Preto, where she receives nutrition through a feeding tube and is cared for by her mother Cacilda Galante and her pediatrician Dr. Marcia Beani. She currently weighs 8.3 pounds and is 58 centimeters long. She was born with only a partial section of her brain and brain stem.
Right now she is only being fed formula but next week she will begin receiving some solid foods.
Madrid, Spain, Mar 26, 2007 (CNA) - In response to the constant wave of blasphemous attacks against Jesus and the Virgin Mary in Spain, the association “Amistad en Cristo” has been founded to make reparation.
According to the Spanish daily “La Razon,” the association is made up of members of the faithful, the infirm, and cloistered religious who seek to be united in prayer in reparation for acts against the work of the Church and against Jesus, the Virgin Mary and the saints.
The religious association will have as its main task the promotion of a series of Masses on the first Thursday of each month to bring together the faithful to pray in reparation for such acts.
It will also organize prayer services and Christian formation talks for young people, as well as meetings with parish pastors and visits to the Blessed Sacrament.
The association is currently present only in Madrid but members hope to soon have a presence in Barcelona as well.
Managua, Nicaragua, Mar 26, 2007 (CNA) - A delegation of the Bishops’ Conference of Nicaragua met with the country’s Supreme Court on March 21st to express the importance of maintaining laws that protect the life of the unborn and penalize illegal abortions, including so-called therapeutic abortion.
The bishops’ message came in response to a series of constitutional challenges that different pro-abortion groups put forward last December after the approval of a law criminalizing “therapeutic” abortion in Nicaragua.
During their meeting with the Supreme Court justices, the bishops were accompanied by doctors, lawyers, and other experts. Father Henry Moreno, spokesman for the bishops’ conference, said the delegation presented various legal and scientific arguments in support of a pro-life position.
The Court is expected to rule in May on various constitutional challenges to the country’s abortion laws.
Konigstein, Germany, Mar 26, 2007 (CNA) - Visiting the international headquarters to Aid to the Church in Need recently, Father Benno Benes SDB a former Provincial of the Salesian Brothers requested prayers for the people of the Czech Republic, who he said are in danger of loosing their faith as society is increasingly liberalized.
“The liberal pressure today is so strong that words are not enough to give the faith to following generations.”
“The faith, “Fr. Benes said, “must be passed on by concrete deeds, by personal relations. To bear true witness to the faith – that is what we need.”
“In communist times, the people stuck together, because they could feel that the Church was under enormous pressure. But today, the freedom and the liberalisation of life are so strong, that the Church does not belong any more to the priorities of people’s life,” the Salesian father lamented. “Society is not interested in the Church.”
Fr. Benes also spoke to ACN about his apostolate and thanked them for their assistance. He and 5 other Salesian brothers are living in Teplice, in the Diocese of Litomerice, where they take care of poor families and help in the pastoral work of the parish.
The Salesians have also started a youth center in the parish, which ministers in large part to youth from the Roma, or “gypsy,” community. Benes said around 40 Roma young people come there everyday.
Vatican City, Mar 26, 2007 (CNA) - The Vatican’s top foreign diplomat, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, said the Holy See would not support any expansion policy of the European Union that would threaten “the principles and values forged by Christianity and that have made Europe a beacon of civilization for the world.”
According to the EFE news agency, the archbishop’s statements came during a meeting with the Committee of the European Bishops’ Conference to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome.
Archbishop Mamberti explained that only by preserving Christian values could the risk of cheapening the identity of the continent be avoided, and he called on European leaders not to abandon Christianity like one abandons a travel companion who becomes a foreigner.”
Europe cannot understand itself without Christianity and if the EU “betrays” Christianity, “it betrays itself.”
Likewise, he expressed his confidence that the future European Constitution would mention Christianity and would defend the family based on marriage between one man and one woman.
Havana, Cuba, Mar 26, 2007 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino, has called on priests, parents and teachers to combat the spread of hedonism that is making inroads among young people with education that favors “the path to true love.”
In a column published by the archdiocesan bulletin “Aqui la Iglesia,” the Cardinal calls on teenagers, young people, and even children to be “introduced step by step by their elders to the beautiful and fulfilling atmosphere of love” through sexual education that is “authentic education for love.”
In a statement entitled, “And Love, Where is it?” the Cardinal offers a diagnosis of Cuban young people who from their infancy “have heard, especially on radio and television, information about safe sex and the risks of pregnancy or diseases that is almost always accompanied by a moral preaching that is based on fear: be careful, use a condom, you could fall into a problem.”
“Poor boys and girls! You happen to be living during a decadent time in the history of humanity, there have been other times, but the world was not yet global (…) No adult, no parent, no serious teacher wishes it were so,” the Cardinal said, “but pansexualism envelops the entire world and it also affects us.”
According to Cardinal Rivera, “the eroticized world of today will have to encounter not an armed resistance, but rather clear counterbalance against eroticism in families, schools and in the Church. We must offer alternatives to that false eroticism that permeates human behavior in our day.”
He expressed regret that schools in Cuba repeat the same mistakes and follow the same advice from organizations like the United Nations on matters related to sexual education. “The message that teens get can be summarized thus: Have fun, but be careful.”
The Church’s message is ignored in today’s secular world, he continued, which seeks to silence her voice and exclude her from any social involvement. “This is even sharper when the Church does not have her own means of communication and her access to them is forbidden,” he said.
Christian faith, he went on, “has not rejected eros, but rather has exalted its greatness, the infinite beauty of love.” Teens and young adults understand the language of love in a privileged way, he said, and thus they need to be taught that abstinence, sacrifice, and maturity provide the foundation for love that is “solid and strong.” Only by understanding these truths can young people understand the different between immediate gratification and true love, he added.
Vatican City, Mar 26, 2007 (CNA) - Benedict XVI received cardinals, bishops, parliamentarians and other participants in a congress promoted by the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community (COMECE), on Friday. The event is being held to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome on March 25, 1957.
The Pope recalled how over these fifty years the continent has travelled a long journey leading "to the reconciliation of the two 'lungs,' East and West, joined by a shared history and arbitrarily separated by a curtain of injustice." And he referred to the search, "still painstakingly underway, for an adequate institutional structure for the European Union, which ... aspires to be a global player."
Benedict XVI noted how Europe has sought to conciliate "the economic and social dimensions through policies aimed at producing wealth, ... yet without overlooking the legitimate expectations of the poor and marginalized. However, in demographic terms, it must unfortunately be noted that Europe seems set on a path that could lead to its exit from history."
"It could almost be imagined that the European continent is actually losing faith in its own future," said the Holy Father, and he recalled how in some fields such as "respect for the environment" or "access to energy resources and investments, solidarity finds scant incentives, in both the international and the national fields." Moreover, "the process of European unification is clearly not shared by everyone," because "various 'chapters' of the European project were 'written' without taking adequate account of the wishes of citizens.
"What emerges from all this," he added, "is that it is unthinkable to create an authentic 'common European home' while ignoring the identity of the people of our continent. ... An identity that is historical, cultural and moral, more even than geographical, economic or political; an identity made up of a collection of universal values which Christianity contributed to creating, thus acquiring a role that is not only historical but foundational for the continent of Europe."
"If, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, the governments of the EU wish to 'get closer' to their citizens, how can they exclude such an essential element of European identity as Christianity, in which a vast majority of that people continue to identify themselves? Is it not surprising that modern Europe, while seeking to present itself as a community of values, seems ever more frequently to question the very existence of universal and absolute values? And does this singular form of 'apostasy' - from oneself even more than from God - not perhaps induce Europe to doubt its own identity?
"In this way," he added, "we end up by spreading the conviction that the 'balance of interests' is the only way to moral discernment, and that the common good is a synonym of compromise. In reality, although compromise can be a legitimate balance between varying individual interests," it is bad "whenever it leads to agreements that harm the nature of man."
"For this reason it is becoming ever more indispensable for Europe to avoid the pragmatic approach, so widespread today, that systematically justifies compromise on essential human values, as if the acceptance of a supposedly lesser evil were inevitable. ... When such pragmatism involves laical and relativist trends and tendencies, Christians end up being denied the right to participate as Christians in public debate or, at the least, their contribution is disqualified with the accusation of seeking to protect unjustified privileges."
Benedict XVI went on to affirm that at this moment in history the European Union, "in order to be a valid guarantor of the State of law and an effective promoter of universal values, must clearly recognize the definite existence of a stable and permanent human nature." This nature is "the source of rights shared by all individuals, including the very people who seek to deny them. In such a context protection must be afforded to conscientious objection" in cases where "fundamental human rights are violated."
"I know how difficult it is for Christians to defend this truth. ... But do not tire and do not be discouraged! You know your task is to contribute to building, with God's help, a new Europe, realistic but not cynical, rich in ideals and free of naive illusions, inspired by the perennial and life-giving truth of the Gospel."
Vatican City, Mar 26, 2007 (CNA) - At midday Saturday in St. Peter's Square, the Pope met with more than 80,000 people from 50 countries who are taking part in a pilgrimage organized by the Communion and Liberation association (CL). The event is being held to mark the 35th anniversary of pontifical recognition for the association.
The Holy Father began his address to them by recalling how two years ago in the cathedral of Milan he had presided, in the name of John Paul II, at the funeral of Msgr. Luigi Guissani, the founder of CL. "Through him the Holy Spirit inspired in the Church a movement that testifies to the beauty of being Christian, in an age marked by the ever more widespread opinion that Christianity is something oppressive and difficult to practice." Don Giussani used to repeat that only the Lord "is the way towards realizing the desires of the human heart."
Pope Benedict recalled that in one of John Paul II's meetings with members of CL, the late pontiff had highlighted how "the original educational contribution of Communion and Liberation lies in the way it re-proposes - in a fascinating way that harmonizes with contemporary culture - the Christian message, considered as a source of new values, ... capable of orienting an entire existence."
"Communion and Liberation is a community experience of faith born within the Church, not through an organizational initiative of the hierarchy but originating from a renewed encounter with Christ and thus, we may say, from an impulse that derives in the final instance from the Holy Spirit. Even today it offers the possibility of living Christian faith in a profound and modern way, on the one hand in complete fidelity and communion with Peter's Successor and the pastors who ensure the governance of the Church, and on the other with a spontaneity and freedom that give rise to new and prophetic apostolic and missionary achievements."
After reiterating that ecclesial movements "are a sign of the fecundity of the Spirit of the Lord," the Holy Father recalled the words he had used during a recent meeting with pastors of the city of Rome, referring to St. Paul's call "not to extinguish charisms. If the Lord gives us new gifts, we must be grateful even if they are difficult."
The Holy Father also recalled John Paul II's parting message to CL members on the occasion of an earlier meeting: "'Go throughout the world to bring the truth, beauty and peace of Christ the Redeemer.' Don Giussani made those words the program of the entire movement, and for Communion and Liberation this was the beginning of a missionary journey that has taken you to 80 countries. Today," he concluded, "I invite you to continue along this path, with profound faith ... solidly rooted in the living Body of Christ, the Church, which guarantees Christ's daily presence among us."
Rome, Italy, Mar 26, 2007 (CNA) - The Holy See’s Undersecretary for Relations with States, Monsignor Pietro Parolin, addressed an international conference sponsored by the United Nations Committee for the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People last week on behalf of the Holy See. Msgr. Parolin told the group, who was meeting in Rome to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, that the Holy See maintains a strong conviction that Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the Holy Land can work together to bring peace in the region.
Parolin began by noting the positive steps which have occurred of late, bringing an end to “several months of severe, armed and violent conflict, which resulted in many victims, often innocent ones, among the Palestinian people who have already suffered so much.”
“The international community is hopeful that the new Government will be an authoritative and trustworthy interlocutor, capable of leading its people, with a sense of responsibility and realism, to the conclusion of a just peace with the Israelis – who have the right to live in peace in their own State and to the setting up of the free, independent and sovereign State which all hope to see established for the Palestinians,” he said.
Parolin also noted the tremendous import the Holy Land holds for Catholics, not only because many Catholics live there presently, but also because “it preserves the living memory of the events which have marked our history of salvation.”
“Millions of Catholics and Christians throughout the world look to this land, with the hope of being able to travel there on pilgrimage,” he said.
“Recently,” Msgr. Parolin noted, “Pope Benedict XVI himself wished to emphasize this attentiveness by addressing a letter to the Catholics who live in the Middle East. He noted that ‘in the present circumstances, marked little by light and too much by darkness, it is a cause of consolation and hope for me to know that the Christian communities in the Middle East, whose intense suffering I am well aware of, continue to be vital and active communities, resolute in bearing witness to their faith with their specific identity in the societies in which they are situated. They wish to contribute in a constructive manner to the urgent needs of their respective societies and the whole region.’”
In the Pope’s letter, Parolin, continued, “the Pope sets out in concrete detail how this constructive contribution should take place.”
Certain passages from the letter, “contain very useful recommendations as to the spirit in which the work of creating the conditions for a true and just peace between Israelis and Palestinians should be undertaken,” Parolin said, before quoting a large section of the Holy Father’s letter.
Msgr quoted the following from Pope Benedict XVI’s letter: “The daily news coming from the Middle East shows a growth of alarming situations, seemingly with no possible escape. They are events which naturally give rise, in those involved, to recriminations and rage, leading them to thoughts of retaliation and revenge. We know that these are not Christian sentiments; to give in to them would leave us callous and spiteful, far from that ‘gentleness and lowliness’ which Jesus Christ proposed to us as the model of behavior. Indeed, we could lose the opportunity to make a properly Christian contribution to the solution of the grave problems of our time. It would not be at all wise, especially now, to spend our time asking who has suffered the most or presenting an account of injustices suffered, listing the reasons which reinforce one’s own argument. This has often happened in the past, with results which to say the least were disappointing. Suffering in the end affects everyone, and when one person suffers he should first of all wish to understand how much someone else in a similar situation suffers. Patient and humble dialogue, achieved through listening to each other and being intent upon understanding someone else’s situation has already borne positive results in many countries previously devastated by violence and revenge. A little more trust in the compassion of others, especially those suffering, cannot but bear efficacious results.”
Today, many parties rightly plead for this interior disposition.... Through you, my dearly beloved, I wish to make an appeal to your fellow citizens, men and women of the different Christian confessions, of different religions and all who honestly seek peace, justice and solidarity by listening and sincere dialogue. I say to you all: persevere with courage and trust!”
I appeal to those who hold positions of responsibility in guiding events to cultivate that sensitivity, attentiveness and closeness which surpass schemes and strategies so that they can build societies that are more peaceful and just, truly respectful of every human being.”
Parolin concluded his quotation of the Holy Father and stated the Holy Sees firm conviction that, “the different religious confessions present in the Holy Land can make a decisive contribution to the relaunching of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, precisely by working to promote among their members the attitudes which I mentioned.”