Berlin, Germany, Apr 3, 2007 (CNA) - A source close to the governing body of the European Union has confirmed that Pope Benedict XVI was extended an invitation to address a plenary session of the Parliament. A staffer in the EU Assembly President, Hans-Gert Poettering’s office confirmed for Parliament.com that the President invited Pope Benedict during his March 23rd audience with the Holy Father.
A source in Poettering’s office yesterday said they were still awaiting a response but were “hopeful” it would be accepted.
Poettering, who has been President of the EU Parliament since January of this year, has been a German representative to the body since its founding in 1979. The statesman is a close ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, one of the lone Western European leaders who are calling for the Christian foundations of Europe to be more readily acknowledged – an issue about which the Holy Father has continuously spoken.
The Parliament leader’s aide said Poettering had raised the possibility of a Papal visit with each of parliament's political group leaders before his visit to Rome last month.
The idea would be for the Pope to address a plenary session, possibly in Strasbourg, on dialogue between religions and cultures, including the role religions can play in dialogue based on truth and tolerance, according to Parliament.com
“It would be wonderful if the offer is accepted, particularly as it is so long since a Pope visited parliament,” she said.
The last time parliament played host to a pontiff was in October 1988 when John Paul II spoke at a plenary session in Strasbourg.
“Poettering invited the Pope because he believes an exchange of views with such an important spiritual leader could be very, very useful,” said the source.
Harare, Zimbabwe, Apr 3, 2007 (CNA) - Shortly after receiving an aid package for his country’s starving children, the Archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube, praised the work of Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), noting that the group has helped the Church in its mission of hope.
The archbishop, who yesterday received a commitment of 10,000 Euro to help 460 children threatened by massive shortages of food and medical supplies from ACN told the charity that “You are helping to keep hope alive.”
Ncube had issued an urgent plea for help, especially for the children, whose lives are threatened by a lack of basic nutrition and medical treatment – a result of Zimbabwe’s dire poverty and the lowest life expectancy in the world, (about 36 years). The population of Bulawayo’s suburbs has soared as needy families, whose homes were destroyed in the government’s universal 2005 slum clearing program, flock to the city.
“I have seen for myself the suffering of these children. The families live next to a rubbish dump and they have to scavenge for whatever they need. Many of the children are sick with HIV and AIDS, and it is a struggle to get food or medicine,” said Archbishop Ncube.
The ACN grant will provide urgent medication and food for the children, who are at grave risk from a very high mortality rate, pay school fees, and help establish a support center at the parish. The project will also provide pastoral care and catechesis for the children. Trained counselors from the area will offer support to the children, many of whom are orphans who have lost their parents to poverty or to AIDS.
Archbishop Ncube recently called on the Church to step up its opposition to the failed government regime, saying he was prepared to stand “in front of blazing guns” with the people to demand President Robert Mugabe’s resignation. But speaking to ACN, he said it was very hard to motivate the people to demonstrate, because they fear a regime which has cowed dissenters – including opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai – with brutal violence.
“The Church must preach hope to the people, to help them keep up their morale through their faith,” stressed the Archbishop. “They must hope in themselves. The people need to master a bit of courage – Mugabe is not that secure in himself,” he added.
Los Angeles, Calif., Apr 3, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal Roger Mahony is urging Catholics to fight a proposed bill that would legalize assisted suicide for the terminally ill in California.
"Assisted suicide is totally unnecessary — not only is it against God's law, God's plan, we simply don't need something like that," said Cardinal Mahony during a noontime Mass on Monday at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, reported The Associated Press.
The Cardinal-archbishop of Los Angeles said Catholics must put pressure on legislators to vote against “this attack on life."
Cardinal Mahoney also fiercely criticized the Legislature's most prominent Democrat, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez. The Catholic politician recently met with the Cardinal to discuss the proposal.
Nunez, he said, “somehow has not understood and grasped the culture of life but has allowed himself to get swept into this other direction, the culture of death.”
In a statement, spokesman Steve Maviglio said while the Nunez respects the Cardinal's opinion "this is another issue of individual choice where the overwhelming majority of Catholics have a different perspective than the official position of the church.”
An Assembly committee last week approved the bill, which would allow patients, found by two physicians to have no more than six months to live, to request a drug to end their lives when they choose. The patient would have to administer the drug, which he or she would have to request in writing and orally. A physician could require the patient to have counseling before receiving the drug.
This is the fourth attempt to get the bill through the Legislature.
In a letter last month, Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco asked Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, to withdraw her support from the bill.
"Legalization of assisted suicide ... victimizes our poorest, weakest and most vulnerable members of society," Archbishop Niederauer wrote.
Front Royal, Va., Apr 3, 2007 (CNA) - Yet another pro-life organization is urging Amnesty International to stay out of the abortion debate.
Over the past few months, there has been a steady stream of pro-life groups, as well as pro-abortion individuals that have issued statements and letters to Amnesty International, urging the renowned human rights organization to abstain from entering the abortion debate.
They argue that a position in favor of abortion would contradict Amnesty International’s mission as a human rights organization since abortion does not recognize the right of the fetus.
"The failure to see the plight of the unborn for the injustice that it is represents a grave moral blindness, not a sensitivity to the oppressed," said Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, president of Human Life International, in a statement yesterday.
“If Amnesty International drops its neutral stance on abortion they will have become their own enemy, and become complicit in one of the greatest human rights abuses of all time: abortion on demand," the Catholic priest said.
According to reports, Amnesty International, UK, has endorsed legal abortion. An International Council meeting of Amnesty International is scheduled for August 2007 in Mexico to decide the issue worldwide.
"If they go through with this, they will have lost one of their strongest allies in the cause of human rights: the Catholic Church," Fr. Euteneuer said.
Peter Benenson, the Catholic lawyer who founded Amnesty International in 1961, "must be rolling in his grave," he added.
Moscow, Russia, Apr 3, 2007 (CNA) - The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church was launched in Russian today at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Moscow.
The Compendium is an accessible and comprehensive summary of the Catechism in the form of a dialogue between a catechist and a listener.
Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of the Diocese of the Mother of God in Moscow, who presented the Russian edition said the Compendium offers “a coherent and authentic idea of the faith and morality,” reported Interfax.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church was developed under John Paul II, in light of the Second Vatican Council, and officially published in 1992. In 2003, the pope decided that a compendium should be issued so that any person may study a brief and clear statement of the basics of the faith.
The work was completed two years ago and presented by Pope Benedict XVI in June 2005.
According to Interfax, Archbishop Kondrusiewicz expressed hope that the Compendium would become very popular, serve as an effective instrument of evangelization, and contribute to cooperation between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches in preaching and protecting Christian values.
Vatican City, Apr 3, 2007 (CNA) -
Pope Benedict XVI today named Monsignor Peter A. Libasci, 55, to be a new auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of Rockville Centre. The Holy Father also accepted the resignation of Auxiliary Bishop Emil A. Wcela, age 75.
The Diocese’s Ordinary, Bishop William Murphy introduced bishop-elect Libasci this morning, giving thanks to God, “whose hand is always guiding this Church. I express my fraternal and filial appreciation to the Holy Father for this latest expression of his care for our diocese as we celebrate our Golden Jubilee.”
Since 1999, Bishop-Elect Libasci has served as pastor of St. Therese of Lisieux parish in Montauk. Bishop-Elect Libasci presided over the entire construction process of a new church, which was dedicated by Bishop William Murphy on March 31, 2007. Bishop-Elect Libasci also possesses bi-ritual facilities to celebrate the Divine Liturgy of the Byzantine Ruthenian Church.
“Bishop-Elect Libasci is a blessing for us all,” said Bishop Murphy. A priest of our diocese for 29 years, a pastor beloved by his people in Montauk, our new bishop brings many gifts and talents that he now will share with the whole diocese, with particular care for the People of God in the eastern part of Suffolk County. I am personally thrilled that he has accepted this apostolic mandate from the Holy Father to serve this local church as auxiliary bishop.”
Prior to his arrival in Montauk, Bishop-Elect Libasci served for 11 years as administrator and then pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel parish, Inwood, N.Y. Previously, Bishop-Elect Libasci served for nearly six years as associate pastor of SS. Cyril and Methodius parish in Deer Park. Bishop-Elect Libasci’s first assignment as a priest was as an associate pastor of St. Raymond’s parish in East Rockaway from 1978-1982.
A native of Middle Village, N.Y., Bishop-Elect Libasci earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy from St. John’s University. Bishop-Elect Libasci was ordained in 1978 after earning his Master of Divinity degree from St. Meinrad Seminary, Indiana.
“It is with deep humility and joy that I accept this appointment as Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre,” Bishop-Elect Libasci said. “I’m grateful to the Holy Father for appointing me. I also thank my dear friend Bishop Murphy. I look forward to assisting him in serving the needs of the People of God of the Diocese of Rockville Centre.”
The outgoing Auxiliary, Bishop Emil A. Wcela has served as auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre since 1988. He has worked as the vicar for the Eastern Vicariate of the diocese and as Vicar General.
“Bishop Wcela has been a wonderful brother and has supported me and my predecessors,” said Bishop Murphy. “I want to express my deep gratitude to him for all his contributions to this local Church. He has been a good friend and wise counselor to me. I have the highest regard for him and know he will continue to be a presence whose priestly example and holy life will help and inspire us all.”
Bishop-Elect Libasci will be ordained as a bishop at St. Agnes Cathedral in the Village of Rockville Centre, N.Y.
The Diocese of Rockville Centre has two other active auxiliary bishops, Bishop John C. Dunne, 69, and Bishop Paul H. Walsh, 69. Auxiliary Bishop James Daly retired in 1996.
Warsaw, Poland, Apr 3, 2007 (CNA) - In an emotion filled ceremony this weekend Archbishop Kazimierz Nycz was formally installed as the new Roman Catholic Archbishop of Warsaw. Nycz took the helm of the archdiocese following a scandal which saw several Polish clerics admit to having succumbed to pressure to cooperate with the formerly ruling Communist regime.
At the Palm Sunday ceremony Archbishop Nycz urged Catholics not to “betray the Christian roots of Europe, the Christian concept of life from conception to natural death, the Christian understanding of marriage and family, freedom in raising children and everything which is human dignity,” according to the German Press Agency (DPA).
The archbishop also said his priorities will include establishing good relations among the clergy, with lay people and creating more open contacts with the young. He stressed that in a modern pluralistic society the Church cannot fulfill its mission without the lay. He added, he would welcome the faithful to address expectations with regard to his performance in duties.
Pope Benedict XVI appointed Nycz on March 3 on the heels of a scandal which erupted in January when Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus dramatically backed out of assuming the post over allegations he had co-operated with communist-era secret police.
Nycz, 57, was recently identified in a new book, 'Priests and the Security Police,' as being a clergyman of outstanding fortitude who did not succumb to pressure to co-operate with communist intelligence services, the DPA reported.
Nycz holds a doctorate in theology and carries the reputation of being humble and an open and effective communicator. He also played a pivotal role in organising visits of the late Pope John Paul II to his Polish homeland.
Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 3, 2007 (CNA) - During his homily on Palm Sunday, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, Archbishop of Mexico City, strongly defended the right of the Church to express her opinions publicly, especially regarding threats or attacks against human life. He also called on the faithful to take action and speak out in defense of the right to life.
Both during his homily and in a message read after Mass, the Cardinal rejected all attempts to legalize the killing of the unborn.
In recalling the second anniversary of the death of the Servant of God John Paul II, Cardinal Rivera said, “John Paul II repeats again to mankind today his reprobation of everything that is opposed to life, echoing thus the teachings of the traditional and official Magisterium of the Church.”
“The beloved John Paul II opposed everything that violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilations, physical and mental torture and even attempts at psychological coercion that offend human dignity,” Cardinal Rivera stated. He recalled that the Servant of God “always denounced the ignominy and gravity of abortion by calling it an ‘unspeakable crime’ and underscored the moral gravity of this issue, as he said, this is a matter of homicide.”
At the conclusion of Palm Sunday Mass, Auxiliary Bishop Marcelino Hernandez of Mexico City read a statement reiterating the Church’s position against abortion and its legalization.
“Let us have the conviction that without detriment to the dignity and rights of women, there are no causes that can justify the rejection of the precious good that is the life of a child, regardless of how she was conceived, of her condition or of the state of her development,” the statement indicated.
“May no Mexican dare to attack the life of a human being that is developing in the womb of his mother,” the statement warned, emphasizing that a woman who aborts is not making a decision about her own body, but about the life of a human being that can never be considered an unjust aggressor.
Quito, Ecuador, Apr 3, 2007 (CNA) - In a statement entitled, “Let’s Not Destroy the Country,” the Bishops’ Conference of Ecuador has expressed its concern over the growing political tension the country’s government and has called on all sides to come to a consensus in order “to build a new homeland.”
The bishops acknowledged in their statement that calls for a referendum on whether to establish a Constituent Assembly, which is being promoted by the executive branch, is “an aspiration of the Ecuadorian people.”
Nevertheless, they point out, this plan, which has been “enthusiastically adopted by President Rafael Correa,” is opposed by other political factions that have tried to prevent it from taking place, thus leading to a “confrontation between different powers of the State.”
This confrontation, the bishops continued, which is characterized by violent language, disregard for the law, and distortion of the country’s Constitution, “is leading to country to disintegration.” “At this moment we don’t know who to respect or support,” as the administration, the Congress and Courts are all “contradicting each other” and “creating confusion.”
The bishops warned that “one cannot see an adversary in everyone who thinks differently or has a different point of view. Nor can one characterize every different proposal as opposition,” they said.
The bishops encouraged politicians to consider all proposals and to work to establish consensus and unity, “the fundamental aspects of democracy.”
They conclude their statement with a plea “to God to open the minds and hearts of our government leaders to bring closeness, unity and fraternity to all Ecuadorians and to truly build a new homeland and a dignified and upright people.”
Rome, Italy, Apr 3, 2007 (CNA) - The founder and director of the most influential Catholic think-tank in Cuba, Dagoberto Valdes Hernandez, said in an interview this week that the Catholic Church is “the only institution in Cuba where there are still footprints of the civil society which otherwise has been annihilated.” The subject of the Catholic leader’s interview was the issue of transition to democracy in Cuba and the Catholic Church’s role in that process.
Valdes, who founded the Center for Civic and Religious Formation in the Diocese of Pinar del Rio and the magazine “Vitral,” said the situation in Cuba today is one of “uncertainty and of expectation” due to the lack of information about what is happening in the country and because the future “is in the hands of the those in the highest echelons of power and not in those of the sovereign citizenry.”
“Anthropological harm” combined with “totalitarian control” is preventing Cubans from fully developing their freedom and responsibility, he explained.
Valdes, who was appointed member of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace after the visit of John Paul II, said, “The Church has been the only institution present throughout Cuba” that has maintained “autonomy and independence from the State during half a century.”
This distinguishes the Church from the rest of the elements of Cuban society, he continued, “which were slowly dismantled by authentic socialism.”
Asked about the Church’s current relationship with the Cuban government, the renowned dissident said the Church “has maintained its own identity, its mission and its place with the limitations that come with being inserted in a State that seeks to control everything and everyone.”
Valdes said he is a witness of the existence of “many priests, religious and laity that have worked for decades as faithful witnesses, even at the risk of their own wellbeing and that of their families.”
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Apr 3, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata said this week the lack of knowledge and understanding in the media about the Pope’s Apostolic Exhortation “Sacramentum Caritatis” have left people with the impression that the document boils down to nothing more than prohibiting the divorced from receiving Communion and calling for Latin in the liturgy.
Archbishop Aguer said in some cases, ignorance went hand-in-hand with ill will. “I am sure they had not read the papal text. Nevertheless they allowed themselves to opine with unbelievable indiscretion,” he said during his program “Keys to a Better World.”
Archbishop Aguer recalled that news about the exhortation came through “canned news reports by international agencies” run by journalists who are ignorant about the issue “in a typical case of misinformation and manipulation.”
A comprehensive teaching
In referring to “Sacramentum Caritatis,” Archbishop Aguer called it a “comprehensive teaching on the mystery of the Eucharist,” which the Pope articulated in three parts.
The first part of the document “presents a present-day synthesis of what the Church believes” about this mystery. “The relationship of the sacrament of charity with the mystery of the Trinity, with the Church and with the other sacraments is studied,” he said.
The second part, he continued, is “a small treatise on the Eucharistic liturgy” which emphasizes the importance that it “be a meaningful expression of the beauty of God” and that by celebrating it we should be able to imagine “what the beauty of communion with God is.”
Regarding Latin in the Mass, Archbishop Aguer noted that the Pope has simply taken up anew the teaching of Vatican II. “When the liturgy was opened up to the vernacular, the Council said the faithful should be capable of reciting or singing together in Latin the parts of the ordinary of the Mass that correspond to them.”
Archbishop Aguer said the third part of the document is call to live the Eucharist. “We are Eucharistic persons, and our union with Christ in the Eucharist leads us to bear witness with a life in accord with the faith that we profess,” he stated.
He concluded by encouraging Catholics to read the document themselves rather than relying on media reports.
Bogotá, Colombia, Apr 3, 2007 (CNA) - Responding to a request for mediation by the National Army of Liberation (ELN), the second most destructive guerrilla group in Colombia, the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia said it was willing to hold meetings with the group in Cuba or in Venezuela.
The secretary of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, Bishop Fabian Marulanda, said the bishops are willing to mediate in the talks between the government and the Marxists, as long as there exists “the political will to find solutions for the situation of a country that is tired of so much procrastination by the rebels.”
On Saturday, the ELN asked to meet with the bishops in Cuba or in Venezuela in order to share their “point of view” about its attempts to reach out to the government, which the Church has called inefficient.
“The Church has always been willing to collaborate in the dialogue” with rebel groups, Bishop Marulanda said. “The Church, like other elements in society, feels somewhat disappointed because there seems to be no end to all of this,” he added.
The Colombian government and the ELN have agreed to re-start peace talks in Havana during the second week of April. It will be the sixth time the two parties have sat down since talks began in December 2005.
So far the talks have not yielded any results for the pacification of the country, the liberation of the hostages and the demobilization of the guerrilla forces.
“What the country wants is that these peace accords are no longer delayed. The country is tired of so much talk that never leads to anything solid and real,” Bishop Marulanda said.
Vatican City, Apr 3, 2007 (CNA) -
Young Catholics from around the world gathered at the tomb of the late Pope John Paul II last night for a prayer vigil, led by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz. Though he has been gone for two years, the archbishop said, today John Paul II “speaks to the world through you youth, and you youth have a great responsibility.”
“My hope is that you might fulfill his expectations,” the Archbishop of Krakow and long time assistant of the beloved Pope said, “certainly he, next to the Lord, is praying for you, so that you will always be morning sentinels.”
The Cardinal was gathered with thousands of young adults who filled the area surround Pope John Paul’s tomb. The prayer vigil included a Rosary with reflections from Arcbishop Angelo Comastri, Archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, according to the Religious Information Service of Italy (SIR).
Cardinal Dziwisz expressed his gratitude that so many were gathered around the tomb of the late Pope on the two year anniversary of their being gathered at the deathbed of John Paul. “Some people who are here today and I were next to John Paul II’s bed, and you were under the windows in Saint Peter’s Square, in the squares, in the streets of Rome.”
“He could hear you,” Dziwisz said of the Pontiff, “the windows were open and this was a great relief to him. He looked for you and you came to be with him at the time of his transition. I think he is not alone today either: he is with the youth that he loved so much, he loved you so much.”
“But,” the prelate asked, “what does John Paul II say to the youth today? Perhaps the same as he said on the first day of his papacy: ‘you are the hope of the Church, you are my hope.’ Today he tells you, be Benedict XVI’s hope. Be the hope of the Church!”
“We, who are here today,” he added, “are lucky because here we represent all the Church and you represent all the youth and take on your shoulders, and above all into your hearts, all that John Paul II has left behind, all his legacy.”
“At [the Roman University of] Tor Vergata he called you morning sentinels; Sentinels, those who herald the hope of a new day. Be today’s sentinels,” the Cardinal encouraged, “by carrying the Pope’s message.”
Dziwisz then noted the close relationship between John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. He speaks of him so many times, the archbishop noted, “with such great love. Today he gave a beautiful sermon during which he called [Pope John Paul] ‘Our Holy Father.’ We know who our Holy Father is today, but these words did enrapture our hearts.”
The Cardinal also spoke words of gratitude to Cardinal Camillo Ruini for starting and carrying on the process of beatification of John Paul II with “great commitment” and for “not having spared himself, in cooperation with the diocese of Rome.”
Cardinal Dziwisz also thanked the President of Poland, Lech Kaczynski, who at the end of the vigil laid an arrangement of white flowers and kneeled on the tomb of John Paul II next to the Cardinal.
During the vigil, the youth prayed the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary, which John Paul II expressly established. During his meditations on the mysteries Archbishop Comastri recalled the Polish Pope’s calling and his “yes” to Christ and Mary.
“The experience of the Nazi invasion, then the Communist invasion and then the dramatic experience of the Second World War made us feel the urgent need to bring God back into man’s life,” Comastri state.
The prelate mentioned Pope Wojtyla’s 104 international journeys and 146 journeys across Italy, which are “the picture of his missionary eagerness” and highlighted John Paul II’s fight in defense of human life at every stage and his “unheeded” appeals for peace.