Vatican City, Apr 4, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI gathered today with tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square on the day before the Church enters its most solemn and holy season. The Holy Father reminded the faithful that what the Holy Triduum celebrates Jesus Christ’s victory over sin and death.
"What we are celebrating over the coming days," he said, "is the supreme confrontation between Light and Darkness, between Life and Death. We too must place ourselves in this context - aware of our own night, our own sins, our own responsibilities - if we wish to gain spiritual benefit from reliving the Paschal Mystery, which is the heart of our faith."
The Holy Father recalled how on Holy Thursday, during the Chrism Mass, diocesan bishops and priests "renew the promises they made on the day of their priestly ordination," and "the oils used for catechumens, to anoint the sick and for confirmation" are blessed. During Mass "in Cena Domini" the Christian community relives "the events of the Last Supper. In the Cencacle, the Redeemer wished, in the Sacrament of the bread and wine transformed into His Body and Blood, to anticipate the sacrifice of His life, His definitive gift of self to humanity."
Following Mass "in Cena Domini" the faithful are invited "to adore the Blessed Sacrament, reliving Jesus' agony in Gethsemane. ... Thus they can better understand the mystery of Holy Thursday, which incorporates the supreme triple gift of priestly ministry, the Eucharist and the new Commandment of love."
Holy Friday, Pope Benedict continued, "is a day of penance, of fasting and of prayer, of participation in the death of the Lord. ... The community adores the Cross and takes the Eucharist, consuming the sacred species conserved from the Mass 'in Cena Domini' of the preceding day." On Holy Friday, Christian tradition also includes "the Way of the Cross, which offers us the chance ... to imprint the mystery of the Cross ever more deeply in our hearts."
On Holy Saturday, the Pope proceeded, "Christians are called to interior meditation, ... something often difficult to cultivate in our own times, in order to prepare for the Easter vigil" in which "the veil of sadness shrouding the Church for the death and burial of the Lord will be shattered by the cry of victory: Christ is risen and has overcome death forever!"
"The Paschal Mystery we relive in the Easter Triduum is not just a memory but a current reality. Even today, Christ overcomes sin and death with His love. Evil in all its forms does not have the last word. The final triumph is of Christ, truth, love! If we are prepared to suffer and die with Him, as St. Paul reminds us in the Easter vigil, His life become out life. It is upon this certainty," the Pope concluded, "that our Christian lives are built."
Vatican City, Apr 4, 2007 (CNA) - Sister Marie Simon Pierre, the French nun who was cured of Parkinson’s after praying for the intercession of John Paul II and whose case is under study for the late Pontiff’s beatification, said this week about her sudden cure “with faith all things are possible.”
In an interview with Vatican Radio, the French nun said, “Words are not sufficiently strong to say what has really happened. Surely it is a great grace. I have felt great interior peace, something that has coursed through my entire body, a sort of lightness, I felt light, distinct, completely different. Moments later I felt an attraction towards adoration of the Eucharist. As a religious, I already practiced Eucharistic adoration and attended Mass daily. It was a powerful moment. In reality it was in the middle of the night when I felt the need to go and pray before the Most Blessed Sacrament.”
In recalling the experience of praying with her entire community for the intercession of the beloved Pontiff, Sister Marie Simon said, “All of my little sisters prayed, the entire Congregation was praying. Therefore we were part of the communion of saints, with all those who are in Heaven.”
“Ours is a Congregation at the service of life and the family; John Paul II always defended the value of human life, he always proclaimed throughout the world, and we are at the service of life, the family and of the unborn. I was ill with the same disease as John Paul II, Parkinson’s,” she added.
Regarding the changes she has experienced in her spiritual life, Sister Marie Simon said, “My interior life, my prayer life is different. How it so is difficult to explain! For me it’s the Eucharist, adoration. They were first in my life but now I feel an even stronger call. Before I loved Mary, and now Mary is more important for me. John Paul II was very close to Mary.”
“I was ill and I now I am cured. That is all. It’s true that now in Rome they have to study the case and decide whether or not the cure is miraculous. For the moment what I can say is that I was sick and now I am cured. Nothing is impossible for God. I think I should say it: With faith all things are possible and everything is in the Father’s hands,” she said.
Madrid, Spain, Apr 4, 2007 (CNA) - The bishops of the Spanish region of Catalonia issued a statement this week in which they equated the “large terrorist acts” of recent years and the mistreatment of women with other “forms of violence” such as abortion and euthanasia, which attack the inalienable right to life of every human being.
Auxiliary Bishop of Barcelona Joan Carrera and Archbishop Jaume Pujol of Tarragona presented the statement in which the bishops of Catalonia expressed their complete rejection of all forms of violence.
“The large terrorist attacks of recent years, like in New York, Madrid, London or Mumbai, and the violence against women in the home are equal to two forms of violence that are taking place at the beginning and at the end of life,” Bishop Carrera said.
Abortion “cuts off the life of the unborn,” he said, and euthanasia entails “the elimination of persons when they are no longer apt for work,” both of which are anti-life practices that “put human existence in jeopardy.”
“We would like to see more recognition in Catalonia for fundamental values such as the gift of life from conception to natural death,” the bishops said in their statement. They also denounced excessive violence in the media, which can have “unfortunate consequences” directly related to “a climate of absolute permissiveness.”
While the bishops expressed their opposition to discrimination against the Muslim community, they expressed their hopes “to see the right of mothers and fathers to chose the kind of education—including that of a moral or religious nature—more fully respected, and to see the historical contribution of Christian education in Catalonia more fully appreciated and supported.”
Vatican City, Apr 4, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI met on Monday with the president of Poland, Lech Kaczynski, who was visiting Rome for the celebrations in honor of John Paul II, the second anniversary of his death and the closing of the diocesan phase of his cause of beatification.
During an interview for Vatican Radio’s Polish programming, Kaczynski said it was a “private meeting” during which he spoke with the Holy Father “as a member of the faithful.”
“Obviously we spoke about the cause of beatification of John Paul II. I reiterated again the enormous significance this event will have for Poland, although we also spoke about questions related to the European Constitution and the presence of Christian roots in the Constitutional Treaty.” He said he told the Holy Father, “We will remain faithful to our promises regarding this,” but that he could not “guarantee” the outcome.
, Apr 4, 2007 (CNA) - Paying for an item with the new World Missions Visa Card will now allow shoppers to take everyday purchases and turn them into help for Catholic Church programs in more than 1,150 mission dioceses in the world's poorest countries.
The Society for the Propagation of the Faith, a Pontifical Mission Society, announced the availability of the World Missions Visa(R) Card yesterday. Through this credit card program, one percent of net purchases will be donated to support the Church's pastoral and evangelizing mission in more than 120 countries throughout the global south, including support for educational and healthcare efforts.
The World Missions Visa Card will be issued by Washington Mutual and has been developed in partnership with Follieri Capital, which provides financial products and services to Roman Catholic Church organizations in the United States.
World Mission Visa cardholders will enjoy full Platinum Visa benefits, free on-line FICO(R) credit-score access, money saving coupons, online bill payment, zero fraud liability and no annual fee.
More than a million Catholics in the United States are being contacted about the offer through a direct-mail campaign, as well as through advertisements in Catholic newspapers.
Just $10 generated from this program can buy clothing for 10 Catholic school children in the Sudan for a year; $4 buys enough food for one week for a kindergarten program in the Missions where children learn the basics and discover, through the service of local sisters, the love of Jesus.
For more information or to apply, go to: http://www.worldmissions-catholicchurch.org/
Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 4, 2007 (CNA) - Bishops of the ecclesiastical province of Monterrey in Mexico have expressed their concern and rejection of the legalization of abortion in Mexico City, which will be decided on April 24 and whose promoters are threatening to extend it to the entire country.
In a statement the bishops said they supported those who oppose the measure with “concrete actions” and they expressed their rejection of “the sophisms that seek to justify abortion, arguing that this is a matter of public health, the wellbeing of women and their right to choose regarding their own bodies, as well as arguing that it will diminish clandestine abortions.”
In affirming the right to life of every human being, the bishops noted that “there is a solid scientific basis” that proves that at a conception a new and unique human life is created. “Abortion is never valid in any case, as a new human life is taken,” they stated.
They went to affirm “the duty of the Church, civil authorities and all of society to confront the causes that lead to the decision to abort and to give medical, psychological, spiritual and material assistance to women in crisis pregnancies, women who are victims of abuse, desperation or poverty.”
The bishops reiterated their own commitment to create and establish centers of assistance for “women who have been raped or have suffered discrimination.”
“Let us bless our mothers who have given us life and let us be thankful they have shared this beautiful gift with us,” the bishops said, “and we invite all women to not succumb to the decision to put an innocent child to death, no matter what adversities they have to face. We are in solidarity with you, women, who are courageously and firmly a sign of love for life in our society.”
Rome, Italy, Apr 4, 2007 (CNA) - Local police have begun offer protection to the president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa, because of threats made against him over his comments on the legalization of homosexual unions in Italy.
Police officials decided to provide the archbishop with security after the Cathedral of Genoa was defaced with graffiti in an apparent reaction to the archbishop’s comments.
Archbishop Bagnasco became the target of harsh criticism from gay activists after he criticized a measure that would legalize same-sex and civil unions.
“Why not say no to various forms of living together, to the creating of alternative forms of the family? Why not say no to the incest of a brother and a sister who live together and have children in Great Britain? Why not say not to the party of pederasts in Holland?” the archbishop asked.
He warned that the passage of laws legalizing such unions would open the door to all kinds of perverse relationships and would be difficult to roll back.
Rome, Italy, Apr 4, 2007 (CNA) - Italian bishops are worried that living wills could open the way for general acceptance of subtle forms of euthanasia.
Several bills have been presented to the Italian parliament proposing the legal recognition of living wills, which detail what sort of medical treatment people would like to receive in given situations if they are unable to communicate with doctors themselves. They are being discussed by parliamentary medical committees.
According to ANSA, Italian bishops are concerned that legislation on living wills "could open the way to a drift towards de facto euthanasia," said Bishop Giuseppe Betori.
The bishops fear the law would fail to distinguish between medical practice and treatment. Bishop Betori said feeding tubes or artificial respirators should be seen as standard medical practice in certain situations, not treatment which a patient could decide to do without, reported ANSA.
"If they are seen as treatment, then you are opening the way to euthanasia," Bishop Betori said, because then a doctor might be obliged to switch off life-sustaining machines and provoke the patient's death.
The head of the Senate health committee, centre-left MP Ignazio Marino, said on Tuesday that the law would “reiterate the ban on euthanasia and assisted suicide and guarantee the patient the possibility to refuse excessive therapy.”
Italian representatives of the Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist religions last week gave conditional approval to living wills.
Washington D.C., Apr 4, 2007 (CNA) - Thousands of people will join the Catholic Church in the United States on Holy Saturday, April 7, having followed the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). Thousands more will be welcomed into the Church on the same day around the world, a press release from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has announced.
Adults will enter the church in every one of the country’s 195 dioceses and in virtually every one of the nation’s nearly 19,000 parishes.
In the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the nation’s largest archdiocese, 1,294 people are catechumens, which means they will be baptized. Another 1,500 people are candidates, which means they will either be confirmed or be received into full communion with the Catholic Church, having been baptized in another Christian denomination.
Some of the largest groups coming into the church are in the Archdiocese of Detroit, which is welcoming 612 catechumens and 913 candidates. In the Diocese of San Diego, there are 851 catechumens and 1,036 candidates. The Archdiocese of Atlanta reports 457 will be baptized and 631 received into full communion. In the Archdiocese of Seattle, there will be 636 catechumens baptized and 520 candidates welcomed.
The catechumens and candidates come from a variety of faiths and cultural groups. They range in age from teens to seniors. Each faith journey is unique.
One priest in the Archdiocese of Washington is preparing his father to join the Church. Fr. Scott Woods, parochial vicar at Mt. Calvary Church, Forestville, Maryland, joined the Catholic Church in the ninth grade while a student at Archbishop Carroll High School. His father, James Woods, a former Baptist, began learning about the Catholic faith around the time of his son’s conversion and recently formalized his faith formation. Fr. Woods was ordained a priest five years ago and will preside over his first Easter Vigil when his father is welcomed into full communion with the Church.
In the Diocese of Austin, high school junior Meghan Avery is joining the Catholic Church after enrolling at a Catholic high school. She was baptized in the Presbyterian Church. While helping a family friend at a Catholic Bible camp, she befriended a Catholic teen who encouraged her to enroll in Holy Trinity Catholic High School last fall. Prior to changing schools she read up on Catholicism, then grew even closer to the faith while attending Mass at her new school.
An entire family of 10 is eagerly anticipating reception into the church at St. Anne Catholic Church in the Diocese of Wichita. They grew interested in the Church when Jennifer Eastman, 29 weeks pregnant with her daughter, Victoria, was admitted to Via Christi-St. Joseph Hospital. There, she prayed the rosary for the first time while watching the EWTN Global Catholic Network. Less than a week after delivering Victoria, the entire family attended its first Mass together. Jennifer and her husband say they had considered becoming Catholic for some time and wanted to help their children grow spiritually. They found added appeal in the church’s universality.
The 2006 Official Catholic Directory reported 80,817 adults baptized in the Catholic Church and 73,684 coming into full communion in 2006. In addition, there were 943,264 infant baptisms.
London, England, Apr 4, 2007 (CNA) - The Catholic Bishops Joint Bio-ethics Committee — the group of experts form the Catholic Church in Britain and Ireland charged with monitoring bio-ethical issues — has welcomed news of a recent breakthrough in the treatment of heart disease using adult stem cells.
Scientists, led by Sir Magdi Yacoub at Imperial College London, have grown part of a human heart from adult stem cells found in bone marrow. While the procedure is years away from being used in humans, it is a medical advance that offers hope for millions of cardiac patients.
Scientists said the new tissue works the same way that the natural valves in the human heart do. The tissues could eventually be used in patients with heart damage and could be a better replacement than artificial valves. Scientists expect to begin animal testing in about three years.
Adult stem cell-based tissues present an advantage over embryonic stem cell research because they can involve the patient's own cells, which is important because embryonic stem cells have problems with being rejected by the immune system.
The bishops’ committee lauds the technique as ethical because stem cells were taken from the patient's own bone marrow rather than from an embryo.
"This development vindicates the consistently held position of the Church, of Catholic ethicists and many other experts in the field who have always maintained that the greatest potential for actual cures lay with adult rather than embryonic stem cells,” said committee chairperson Fr. Paul Murray.
Now that adult stem cells have proven their capacity to provide cures, the committee is calling for the science community to leave behind “the fruitless and destructive research on embryonic stem cells.”
Vatican City, Apr 4, 2007 (CNA) - The Vatican announced this morning that on Friday, April 13th, Pope Benedict XVI’s first book will be released with a press conference. The book, titled “Jesus of Nazareth,” is certainly not the first written by the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, but the first released by him after his taking his seat on the Chair of Peter.
Starting on Monday, April 16th, which is also the Pope’s birthday, the book will be available in its Italian, German, and Polish editions. The English, Spanish, and French versions are expected to follow soon after.
The book is said to be the first of a two part series on Pope Benedict’s personal reflection about the life of Jesus Christ. According to an excerpt published in Italian daily, “Corriere della Sera,” the book also touches on current troubles in the world. The book reportedly contains an implicit appeal to the developed world to do more to help Africa, both materially and spiritually.
Benedict says Africa is a symbol of the "wounds" created by "the cynicism of a world without God, in which only power and profit count.”
"Yes, we must provide material help and we must look at our way of life. But we give too little if we give only material things.”
However, according to several sources including hints from the Pope himself, the book is primarily a historical and theological presentation of the figure at the center of Christianity, which draws on hundreds of works of modern research into the figure of Jesus Christ.
It consists of 10 chapters covering the life of Jesus from his baptism in the River Jordan to the 'transfiguration', when the Bible says his appearance changed and revealed his divine nature to his watching disciples.
Vatican City, Apr 4, 2007 (CNA) -
Benedict XVI has written a letter to Cardinal Eduardo Martinez Somalo, Camerlengo (Chamberlain) of the Holy Roman Church, whose resignation from office was accepted today. The Holy Father also named Cardinal Martinez’s successor – Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
In the text of his letter, which bears today's date, the Pope thanked Cardinal Martinez, who celebrated his 80th birthday on March 31, "for the diligence, competence and love with which you undertook such a delicate task in the service of the Holy See and the Universal Church.”
The Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church is basically that Cardinal charged with the Church’s material affairs; he is the administrator of the property and the revenues of the Holy See. According to the Apostolic Constitution “Pastor Bonus:” “When the Apostolic See falls vacant (the Pope dies), it is the right and the duty of the cardinal camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church, personally or through his delegate, to request reports from all the administrations dependent on the Holy See on their patrimonial and economic status as well as information on any extraordinary business that may at that time be under way, and, from the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See he shall request a financial statement on income and expenditures of the previous year and the budgetary estimates for the following year. He is obliged to submit these reports and estimates to the College of Cardinals.”
Pope Benedict expressed to Cardinal Martinez his particular appreciation "for the great dignity and solemnity with which you carried out the role of camerlengo of Holy Roman Church at the time of the death of the lamented Pope John Paul II, for the occasion of the extraordinary expression of faith during the funeral of the beloved Pontiff, during the entire period of sede vacante, and in the work of the conclave for the election of the new Pope.”