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Archive of April 16, 2007

Pope holds surprise meeting with Roman Curia

Vatican City, Apr 16, 2007 (CNA) - In what could be a sign of an important upcoming announcement, Pope Benedict XVI convened a surprise meeting on Saturday with the leaders of the Roman curia.

The Holy See’s Press Office simply reported that the meeting took place on Saturday morning at the Apostolic Palace, where the Pontiff resides.

Although the Holy See has not revealed the nature of the meeting, several Vatican analysts said the Holy Father has prepared two important documents that merit the opinion of curial officials.

The first is a the possible Motu Propio—which could be accompanied by a study on the subject by experts—that would allow the universal celebration of the Mass of St. Pius V, the Latin Rite that was universally celebrated prior to the liturgical reform of Vatican II.

The second document is the expected letter to Chinese Catholics, which Benedict XVI himself announced would be forthcoming during the Easter season and which could mark an historic turn in relations between the Holy See and Communist China.

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Cardinal Bertone discusses Pope’s “profound” reflection on Christ

Vatican City, Apr 16, 2007 (CNA) - The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said that in his new book “Jesus of Nazareth,” Pope Benedict XVI offers a profound look at Christ’s friendship with a suffering humanity in search of the eternal.

In statements to Vatican Radio, the Cardinal said, “Without a doubt, the figure of Christ, the revelation of Christ is the foundation of our faith - as another author has said - and He is the foundation of history.”

In response to the modern-day debate about the person of Christ, “a debate often misguided by the ignorance of so many people who ascribe to themselves the right, the competence to speak too broadly on an issue about which they know nothing, the Pope gives his vision of Christ,” Cardinal Bertone stated.

“The Pope is passionate about Christ; he has profound knowledge of Jesus Christ and of Christianity.  We see that in his first book [written as Joseph Ratzinger], ‘An Introduction to Christianity,’ which could be read today with much benefit.  And today he offers us this panorama, this deepening on the person of Christ.  Christ as the way of interpreting life, the destiny of all human persons and of all of humanity.  And therefore, Christ also as friend of this humanity on a journey, of this tormented humanity that is also fixed on the eternal and on things that give meaning to life.”

Additionally, Cardinal Bertone also spoke about the first two years of Benedict XVI’s Pontificate, emphasizing a series of important milestones such as his meeting with young people in Rome and his trip to Turkey.

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Pope to meet with President Bush and Iranian President Mohamed Jatami

Vatican City, Apr 16, 2007 (CNA) - The director of the Holy See’s Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, confirmed this week that Pope Benedict XVI will meet with US President George W. Bush on June 9th or 10th and with the former president of Iran, Mohamed Jatami, on May 4th.

According to the Vatican spokesman, the exact date for the meeting with Bush has yet to be determined, but it is expected to take place during the G8 Summit that will be held in Germany June 6-8.  

This would be the first meeting between the current Pope and President Bush.  In April of 2005, Bush traveled to the Vatican to attend the funeral of Pope John Paul II.  Pope Benedict XVI met with First Lady Laura Bush and her daughter Barbara in February of 2006.

President Bush met with Pope John Paul II on three occasions: in July of 2001, May of 2002 and June of 2004.

Father Lombardi also announced that the Holy Father would meet with former Iranian President Mohamed Jatami on May 4, during Jatami’s visit to Italy.  The two were unable to meet in October 2006 due to a last-minute change in Jatami’s scheduled trip to the country.

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Bishops lead Zimbabwe prayer meetings, renew calls for change

Harare, Zimbabwe, Apr 16, 2007 (CNA) - Catholics in Zimbabwe, supported by Archbishop Pius Ncube and other prelates, have helped to organize two prayer meetings this past week. The meetings, held in Catholic churches, were organized to express opposition to the government of President Robert Mugabe, which has been under fire for its human rights abuses.

Zimbabwe police allowed the prayer meeting to take place on Saturday at St. Patrick’s Community Church in Makokoba despite earlier threats to stop the gathering as an illegal anti-government protest.

Police officers, in uniform and in plain clothes, reportedly watched opposition figures, labor and student leaders, rights activists, and clerics filing in and out of the prayer meeting from a distance.

Organizers of the vigil, the Save Zimbabwe Campaign, said in a statement they were determined to defy any attempt to stop the prayer meeting despite fears of a police crackdown.

"The leadership of the campaign once again reiterates its commitment to the resolution of the Zimbabwean crisis in total defiance of the brutality being perpetrated by the state security agents," it said. "We deplore the use of violence by those that are in power."

The meeting was co-organized by Archbishop Pius Ncube, who has been very critical of Mugabe's government. Zimbabwe's Catholic Bishops' Conference last week joined Archbishop Ncube in accusing Mugabe and his officials of running a corrupt government and abusing the political rights of Zimbabweans.

At the prayer meeting on Thursday, the archbishop was joined by two South African bishops, who were active in the struggle against apartheid. According to the Harare Herald, the "Candles for Peace and Prayer" service, held at St. Mary's Cathedral in Bulawayo, started at 5:30 p.m. It was attended mostly by civil activists, including members of the Save Zimbabwe Campaign and officials from the opposition party.

Archbishop Ncube told the crowd that the meeting was organized to "pray for peace and denounce oppression.”

Archbishop Buti Tlagale of Johannesburg likened the situation in Zimbabwe to the "apartheid era in South Africa" and said the Church had a duty to provide "mediating leadership in the case of a leadership vacuum.”

Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg attacked Sadc leaders for criticizing the West, for imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe, and for not committing to help improve Zimbabwe's economy.

The Harare Herald made reference to accusations that the protests are being sponsored by the United States and Britain to illegally remove the Mugabe government from power.

Mugabe accuses Zimbabwe's former colonial power, Britain, of leading a Western campaign to oust his government as punishment for seizing and redistributing white-owned commercial farms to landless blacks. London denies there is such a plot.

Mugabe, a practicing Catholic, and his officials have not responded publicly to criticism from Catholic officials. Some analysts believe could have a greater influence in persuading him to discuss political reform than attacks from elsewhere. Catholicism is the largest Christian denomination in Zimbabwe.

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Catholics urge Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform

Washington D.C., Apr 16, 2007 (CNA) - Catholics from across the country will visit Capitol Hill this week and urge lawmakers to pass comprehensive immigration reform that is in line with proposals presented by the U.S. bishops.

The march on Capitol Hill is part of an April 17-19 conference that will bring together social justice leaders, diocesan directors, and others active in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Justice for Immigrants campaign.

Mark Franken, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services office, will give the opening presentation. The theme for the gathering is “Offering Hope, Promoting Justice.”

Participants will share ideas, strategies and best practices for educating the Catholic community about key elements of the bishops’ immigration reform proposals.

The U.S. bishops have consistently advocated for comprehensive immigration reform that includes:

  • An earned legalization program that allows undocumented persons to earn permanent residency
  • A guest worker program that protects foreign-born workers and safeguards against the displacement of U.S. workers
  • Family-based immigration reform that reduces waiting times for family reunification
  • Restoration of due process protections for immigrants 
  • Policies that address the root causes of migration.

Other speakers at the three-day conference, held at the Hilton Washington, include Kevin Appleby, the director of the U.S. bishops’ Migration and Refugee Policy office; Frank Sherry, the executive director of the National Immigration Forum; and Mirna Torres, the director of legalization and advocacy for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.

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Lay Catholic-Jewish conference intended to intensify community relations

Washington D.C., Apr 16, 2007 (CNA) - Lay Catholics and Jews will meet at the Vatican for a five-day conference aimed at intensifying relations between the two faith groups and developing increased local activities on humanitarian issues. The conference will run from Oct. 21 to 25. Representatives from 20 or more U.S. cities are expected to participate.

The meeting is being organized by the Interreligious Information Center in cooperation with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Council of Synagogues and the Religious Action Center of the Union for Reform Judaism.

Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore is working with Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews to facilitate the meeting.

Cardinal Keeler is the episcopal moderator of Catholic-Jewish Relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

It is hoped that this meeting will be expanded in 2008 to include Muslim representatives and held in the United States.

Those interested in participating should click on: www.iicreligion.com

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Judge approves priest-abuse settlement in Portland

, Apr 16, 2007 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Portland’s $75-million settlement plan for about 175 alleged victims of abuse was approved by a judge on Friday.

Of the $75 million, $52 million will come from insurers. The archdiocese will not have to sell any churches or schools. The archdiocese’s plan also limits how much money it would pay to any sex-abuse victims who come forward in the future.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Elizabeth L. Perris is expected to sign an order making the settlement official on Tuesday. The gag order, which has prevented accusers, church officials and their lawyers from talking publicly since August, will also be lifted on Tuesday.

The bankruptcy plan calls for the archdiocese to separately incorporate parish churches and schools to protect them from future lawsuits.

Joseph Claude Harris, a noted Catholic Church financial analyst based in Seattle, told The Oregonian that separately incorporating the parishes and schools could spark disagreements over who gets control.

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Pius XII saved thousands of Jews, “black legend” spread by the Soviets

Rome, Italy, Apr 16, 2007 (CNA) - Italian historian and professor Gian Maria Van of the Sapienza University of Rome said the “black legend,” which claims that Pope Pius XII did not help the Jews during World War II, was originally spread by the Soviets during the years of the conflict.

Van’s comments came in response to the recent refusal of the Apostolic Nuncio to Israel, Archbishop Antonio Franco, to participate in the annual ceremony of the commemoration of the Shoah at the Museum of the Holocaust in Jerusalem. Museum officials had denied a request to remove or change of photo of Pius XII with a caption that indicated his “ambiguous” position regarding the Jews, when history shows that in reality he saved thousands. “This is an undeniable fact,” explained Professor Van.

Commenting about the way in which Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI combated the black legend about Pius XII, Van said there are “three points of continuity between these three Pontiffs: one, the historical defense of the memory of Pius XII, of his actions during the World War II and in response to the scandalous tragedy of the Holocaust;” second, “the honor to the memory of the six million victims of the Shoah,” and third, “the unquestionable will, on both parts, to proceed down the road of peace and reconciliation, as Benedict XVI has said in Auswitz, as John Paul II constantly and tenaciously preached and as Paul VI did during the time of the Council and during his pontificate.”

Israel’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Obed Ben-Hur, said this week, “We say one simple thing: as soon as it is possible to investigate, see and read the documents at the Vatican that pertain to the years of the war, an historical judgment will be able to be made.”

“After the letter by then-Nuncio Pietro Sambi (who also requested the caption be changed or the photo be removed), there was a response, there was consideration, a promise to re-examine, to the see the possibility of healing this situation, looking at it together.  Meanwhile, apart from this, the memory of the Holocaust is what is being respected,” Ben-Hur said.

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Founding bishop of Catholic magazine in Cuba hopeful closing will be temporary

Havana, Cuba, Apr 16, 2007 (CNA) - In statements to the website EncuentroEnLaRed.net, Bishop Emeritus Jose Siro Gonzalez of Pinar del Rio and founder of the Catholic magazine “Vitral” expressed his hope that the closing of the publication would be temporary, and he explained that the lack of resources on the island is real.

After the magazine said it was closing down due to lack of resources, Bishop Gonzalez acknowledged that there were many “difficulties with expenses, paper, ink and many things.”

“Vitral is like by baby…The new bishop doesn’t have the same commitment to the cause as me, as I did the possible and the impossible.  He doesn’t.  He’s new.  He does have the same appreciation.  He told me we’ll go on when we have paper…That is what he told me.  That’s the way I understood it.  To say anything else would be to distort things,” he said, in reference to Bishop Jorge Serpa, who became the new ordinary last January.

Bishop Gonzalez said the problem of resources is real and he dismissed the idea that the closing of Vitral is part of a plan by the Bishops’ Conference of Cuba, as has been reported in some secular media.

“I don’t believe that,” the bishop said.  “All of the bishops, the priests, and all of Cuba know that Vitral is a magazine very much focused on social problems, as the Social Doctrine of the Church calls us to be.  Vitral is something that interests people in high positions, average people and the poor,” he said.

“Sometimes the paper that is obtained is only for catechesis and for the Church’s internal use.  That is the problem.  There are many people who would like to distort things about the Catholic Church in Cuba.  That’s all it is,” the bishop stated.

Referring to the director the magazine, Dagoberto Valdes Hernandez, Bishop Gonzalez called him “a model layman in the Church.  For this reason, the Church, the Conference and the nuncio esteem him greatly.  They have always shown great concern for him.”

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Pope Benedict celebrates birthday, gives thanks to God for His Mercy

Vatican City, Apr 16, 2007 (CNA) - On the eve of his 80th birthday, the Holy Father celebrated Mass with 60 Cardinals, Bishops and Archbishops, and the Metropolitan of Pergamo, sent by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Sunday in St. Peter’s Basilica.  Following the proclamation of the Gospel, The Holy Father gave a short homily.

Beginning with a brief history of "White Sunday," the Pope reminded those present that "on this day, the Neophytes of the Paschal Vigil would put on their white clothes again as a symbol of the light that the Lord had given them in Baptism."  Recently, however, John Paul II "wanted this Sunday to be celebrated as the Feast of Divine Mercy."

"It is in this word 'mercy,'" he continued, "that the entire mystery of the Redemption is summarized and interpreted anew in our times." Despite living under two totalitarian regimes, John Paul II "experienced the presence of God, which is not weaker [than the darkness of the world]." In fact, John Paul II "told us, 'Trust in the Divine Mercy!'"

Pausing a moment, the Pope thanked all those present as he celebrated a significant day, "I can look back over 80 years of my life." He especially noted the presence of the Metropolitan of Pergamo, saying that he "appreciate[s] that kind gesture and look[s] forward to a renewed Catholic-Orthodox theological dialogue."

Conscious that "the liturgy should not be used to speak about me," Benedict decided to focus on how "life itself can serve to announce the Mercy of God." Mentioning how much we owe to God the Father, the Holy Father noted that "at the same time, He trusts us because His mercy and goodness, with which He accepts even our weakness, always shine through His justice."

Turning to the readings for the day, the Pope mentioned that in the early Church, "people would bring the ill into the plazas so that when Peter passed by, his shadow would cover them." This shadow, the Holy Father continued, is the shadow of a "man with all the weaknesses of a human being, but above all of a man who was filled with a strong faith in Christ, filled with love of Him." The Pope asked all those present at the Mass to "search for the shadow of Peter today, in order to be in the Light of Christ!"

"The great gift of the multiple mercies of God," the Pope continued, "is birth and rebirth, an earthly family and the great family of God." Benedict recalled that when he was ordained in 1951, he felt "consolation in the fact that the protection of God's saints, of all the living and the dead, was invoked" over him. "I knew that I would never be alone," he added.

The Pope then directed his attention of the words of the Gospel, in which the Apostle Thomas "is allowed to touch His wounds, and thereby recognizes Him; he recognizes Him beyond His humanity as Jesus of Nazareth, in His true and most profound identity, "My Lord and my God!" Because Jesus kept His wounds, "He is a wounded God; He; remains wounded by love of us."

"The mercy of God accompanies us day by day," the Holy Father said while concluding his homily, "all we need is a vigilant heart to perceive it." The Pope concluded with a prayer by Pope Leo the Great that he had written on the holy cards for his Episcopal Ordination, "Pray to our good God, that he might strengthen faith, multiply love and increase peace. May He make me, his miserable servant, capable of doing His will, and useful for your edification, and may He allow me to carry out His service so that, along with the time He has given, my devotion may grow. Amen."

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Christ brings mercy and peace, Holy Father recalls on Divine Mercy Sunday

Vatican City, Apr 16, 2007 (CNA) - Sunday, thousands of pilgrims flocked to St. Peter's square on a hot April day to hear the Holy Father speak at his weekly Regina Caeli address. The Pope drew attention to the importance of this first Sunday after Easter, reminding those present that it "is traditionally called White Sunday."

However, he continued, “my venerable predecessor, Servant of God John Paul II, who died just after the first vespers of this feast” changed its name to Divine Mercy Sunday.

"This Sunday . . . concludes the week, or, more properly, the Octave of Easter," the Pope said, highlighting the fact that "the liturgy considers [the Octave] like one day, 'the Day the Lord has made.'"

By raising Christ from the dead, "the Creator Spirit . . . has completed the work of creation, giving a 'primacy' at the beginning: the primacy of a new humanity that, at the same time, is the primacy of a new world and a new era."

According to His Holiness, this primacy can be summed up in the words "that the risen Jesus pronounced as a greeting, and as an announcement of His victory to His disciples, "Peace be with you." Peace, in the Holy Father's view, "is the gift that Christ left to His friends, as a blessing destined to all men and all people."

The Pope, however, was quick to point out that "this is not peace according to the world's mindset, an equilibrium of forces, but a new reality, the fruit of the Love of God." This peace is none other than "the peace that Jesus Christ purchased with the price of His Blood, and that is given to all who confide in Him, "Jesus I trust in you."

Before closing and praying the Regina Caeli with the pilgrims, the Pope ended with a prayer to Mary, the "Mater Misericordiae, the mother of Jesus, Who is the incarnation of Divine Mercy." He asked for her help to "let us allow ourselves to be renewed in the Spirit to cooperate in the work of Peace that God is completing in the world."

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