Rome, Italy, Apr 23, 2007 (CNA) -
Enjoying the second day of his pastoral visit Lombardi Dioceses of Vigevano and Pavia, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Holy Mass at the Borromeo College of Pavia. The Holy Father focused his homily on the conversion of Saint Augustine, whose bodily remains the Holy Father visited at an Augustinian Monastery in the area. The conversion of St. Augustine, Benedict said, was not an event, but a path.
The Holy Father began his homily by examining the work done by the Apostles in the work of preaching conversion in this Sunday’s Gospel. “During Easter time,” His Holiness began, “the Church presents us, Sunday by Sunday, some parts of the preaching with which the Apostles, particularly Peter, invited Israel to faith in Jesus Christ.” Before the Sanhedrin today, Peter “responded with a brief catechesis on the essence of the Christian faith.”
“This brief catechesis,” Benedict continued, “is not valid only for the Sanhedrin. It speaks to all of us.” Jesus is, according to the Pope, “the ‘head’ that leads us on the way and the ‘savior’ that justifies our life.” In fact, he said, the keywords of Peter’s catechesis are “conversion” and “pardon for sin,” “which correspond to Christ’s two titles, ‘head’ and ‘savior.’”
The Pope asked what one needs to do to convert. Noting that “conversion has its own, proper form for each life,” he added that “throughout the history of Christianity, the Lord has sent us models of conversion, so that we may orient ourselves by looking at their example.”
Benedict XVI then noted the moving story of conversion found in Augustine’s Confessions. By reading The Confessions Benedict said, “one can see that the conversion was not an event that happened in a particular moment, but was, instead, a path.”
Moreover, “this path did not end at the Baptismal font.” St. Augustine’s conversion was a gradual process, and “we can, therefore, speak of the ‘conversions’ of Augustine that were one large conversion that took place in his search for the Face of Christ and then while journeying along with Him.”
The Pope continued by expressing his desire to list “the three great steps on this path to conversion.” “The first, fundamental conversion,” he said, “is the interior journey towards Christianity - that is, the desire to want to know Christ.”
“The second conversion is described by St. Augustine at the end of the second book of his Confessions.” After having been baptized, St. Augustine returned to Africa “and there he founded, together with his friends, a small monastery.” However, the second step was his being called “to live with Christ for all. He had to translate his knowledge and sublime thoughts into the language and thinking of the simple people of his city.”
Citing his humility as the “third decisive step on St. Augustine’s path to conversion,” the Pope told those present that Augustine had found “the highest level of humility . . . the humility to recognize that the bountiful mercy of God was continually necessary for himself and the entire pilgrim Church.”
Benedict ended his homily by thanking “God for the great light that shines forth from the wisdom and humility of Saint Augustine.” The Holy Father prayed that “the Lord give all of us, day by day, the necessary conversion and lead us towards true life.”
Washington D.C., Apr 23, 2007 (CNA) - The Catholic Bishops of Korea have written a letter to Bishop William S. Skylstad, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, expressing the profound shock and sorrow of all Catholic people in Korea over the tragic events at Virginia Tech University.
In the letter, dated April 18th and made public over the weekend, the bishops asked Skylstad to, “kindly to convey our heartfelt condolence and prayers for all the innocent young victims and the wounded, to their families and dear ones, and indeed to all the good people of the United States at this hour of their deep grief.
“We are particularly pained, as Koreans ourselves, to learn that this incomprehensible, dreadful act of violence was committed by a Korean student,” the Bishops wrote. “But we sincerely hope also that this tragedy does not generate new prejudice or violence among people, but rather be an occasion for all of us today to reflect anew on the suffering of our neighbors and the supreme dignity and value of human life.”
“We also hope it moves us to look with a caring heart whether people around us live in isolation and desperation, and embrace them with brotherly love.”
The letter was signed by Bishop John Chang Yik of Chunchon, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Korea.
In response, Bishop Skylstad said the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is grateful for the Korean Bishops’ expression of solidarity.
“I am sure that your kind expression of condolence and prayer will help to bring healing to our people,” he wrote.
Bishop Skylstad said he would share the message of the Catholic Bishops of Korea with Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo of Richmond, the diocese in which Virginia Tech is located, and with the wider community in the United States.
Rome, Italy, Apr 23, 2007 (CNA) -
On Sunday morning, Pope Benedict XVI paid a visit to Saint Matthew’s Hospital in Pavia. After meeting with workers and patients, the Holy Father gave a short speech in which he acknowledged the tremendous gift of scientific progress, but called for a corresponding growth in the respect for fundamental human values, such as a respect for life.
The Pope began his talk by wishing everyone present his “personal closeness and solidarity, with a spiritual embrace for the sick, the suffering and all those who find themselves in difficulty in your diocese.” In addition, Benedict wished to offer “words of encouragement and hope.”
Calling hospitals a “sacred” place, the Pope continued by explaining that hospitals are “where one experiences the fragility of human nature, but also the enormous potential and resources of man’s ingenuity and technology at the service of life.” This life, His Holiness affirmed, “no matter how much we explore it, always remains a mystery.”
The Holy Father emphasized that all scientific and technological progress must, “be constantly accompanied by the desire to promote, together with the good of the sick, also fundamental values, like the respect and defense of life in all its stages.”
Interrupting himself briefly, the Pope mentioned how he began “spontaneously to think about Jesus, Who, during His existence on Earth, always showed particular attention for the suffering.” He also found himself thinking “about the first Christian community, where, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles these days, many were healed after the preaching of the Apostles.”
The Pope told those present to use their illness for their own sanctification, since “it has always been true that when one welcomes it [illness] with love and is illuminated by faith, it becomes a precious occasion for uniting oneself in a mysterious way to Christ the Redeemer.”
Closing his speech, His Holiness said that he would remember all those present in his prayers, and prayed “so that most holy Mary, Salus infirmorum (Health of the Sick), may protect you and your families, the directors, doctors, and the entire community of the Hospital.”
, Apr 23, 2007 (CNA) - In a message emailed to priests this weekend, the Most Rev. Samuel J. Aquila, Bishop of the Diocese of Fargo, said partial birth abortion is “inhumane by any standards” and that the Supreme Court’s April 18 decision to uphold the ban on partial birth abortion “brings the United States one step closer to protecting all human life through its legal system.”
The bishop expressed cautious optimism, noting that the Court decision contains an affirmation of the life of the unborn child, even if it is not a complete understanding, but warning those who work to end abortion against becoming lax in their efforts. “Promotion of the dignity of human life and education efforts at all levels must continue in order to change the hearts and minds of those who support abortion,” he stated.
“Despite its many limitations, this partial birth abortion ban decision provides hope,” Bishop Aquila wrote, pointing out that the Court stated, “No one would dispute that, for many, D&E is a procedure itself laden with the power to devalue human life. Congress could nonetheless conclude that the type of abortion proscribed by the Act requires specific regulation because it implicates additional ethical and moral concerns that justify a special prohibition. Congress determined that the abortion methods it proscribed had a ‘disturbing similarity to the killing of a newborn infant’.”
The bishop continued, “In full truth, the Church understands that there is an equality, not a mere similarity, between the death of a child through abortion and taking a life after birth. Still, this is a positive step by the government in protecting the common good, which the Church teaches it must do. That begins with protecting inalienable rights, beginning with the right to life from the moment of conception. The dignity of human life begins at the moment of conception and extends through natural death. The dignity of the human being is not less prior to birth than after birth.”
Bishop Aquila also noted that the decision addresses “the reality of the post-abortion grief that is experienced by many of the parents who have chosen to abort their babies. As priests who celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation we are well aware of the suffering in the lives of women who have aborted their child. We also recognize that this grief and need for forgiveness and healing extends to the fathers of the children and other family members involved in this decision.”
While noting that he is thankful for the Supreme Court’s decision, he cautioned priests and the faithful to “not lose sight of the fact that much of the good work that is accomplished toward the protection of human life has its roots within our own families and our own communities.”
“Here in North Dakota,” the bishop wrote, “we can enact a trigger ban on abortion. This ban would acknowledge the inalienable right to life which is intended by our Constitution, and it would go into effect when it is deemed that prevailing constitutional interpretation would allow this positive affirmation of the right to life to stand. The recent Supreme Court decision may be the first step toward that goal.” He encouraged the priests and the faithful to act on Action Alerts provided by the North Dakota Catholic Conference in regard to HB 1466.
Lima, Peru, Apr 23, 2007 (CNA) - Some of the world’s most controversial promoters of liberation theology have announced their participation in a “Latin American Theology Seminar” that will serve as a counter event to the 5th General Conference of the Latin American Bishops’ Council (CELAM) in Brazil in May.
The gathering of liberation theologians will take place May 18-20 at the Institute of the Eucharistic Heart in the town of Pindamonhangaba, near Aparecida, Brazil, in an attempt “to impact the meeting of the bishops from the perspective of liberation theology.”
Among those speaking at the seminar will be Peruvian priest Father Gustavo Gutierrez, whose book “Liberation Theology—Perspectives” was condemned by the Vatican, suspended Chilean priest Pablo Richard, Agenor Brighenti of Brazil, a member of the Marxist group “Amerindia,” and others.
On the last day of the meeting, two members of the National Council of Laity of Brazil will address participants on “secularism in a Latin American Church committed to the building of justice.”
Recently the National Council of Laity in Brazil published a document on the upcoming CELAM meeting. The document, centered on political, ideological and economic issues, began by pointing out that “in Latin America and the Caribbean there is an expectation that unjust structures, aggravated currently by the neo-liberal system, will be overcome…the abyss between the rich and the poor continues to be an offense to God the Father-Mother of humanity.”
The document calls on the bishops participating in the CELAM meeting to become social and political agents of economic change in the region, and it concludes by underscoring that the Christian communities of Latin America and the Caribbean “feel committed to the defense of the environment and the preservation of human, animal and plant life and of bodies of water. Without a new comprehensive spirituality of struggling for ecological liberation, there will be no future and we run the risk of destroying the place of God’s covenant with human beings and with all of creation.”
Lima, Peru, Apr 23, 2007 (CNA) - The President of the Committee on the Family and the Defense of Life of the Peruvian Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Jose Antonio Eguren, said this week that he hopes the family will be a “priority in our apostolic work of evangelization” at the 5th General Conference of the Latin American Bishops’ Council (CELAM).
In an exclusive interview with CNA, Archbishop Eguren said that while there is still a “strong sense of the family” in Latin America, it is true that the family “is being seriously threatened and we must protect it much more.” He called on society to strengthen the family and to preserve it as “the cenacle of faith and love and a sanctuary of life.”
Healthy families where the fullness of love is lived out bring good to society, the archbishop said, noting as well that “authentically Christian families” are “seedbeds of faith” and guarantors of abundant vocations.
Archbishop Eguren also pointed out that Marian devotion in the family is “a beautiful way” to make Christ “the center of family relationships,” because “the presence of the Virgin Mary always attracts the presence of her Son.”
Prayer and action to defend life
On the other hand, the Peruvian archbishop expressed his concern about pressure from pro-abortion organizations to legalize abortion in Latin America. He called on Catholics to greater prayer, which he said “should always be the first recourse of a believer,” that the efforts of those who are seeking the legalization of the practice would not prosper.
Archbishop Eguren also called for “decisive action” in combating pro-abortion forces, especially in the print and television media. Such efforts, he said, would help “sensitize public opinion about this issue” and give people the tools they need to defend life.
Asunción, Paraguay, Apr 23, 2007 (CNA) - Catholics and Protestants came together outside the Cathedral in the Paraguayan capital of Asuncion to express their rejection of a new healthcare law that would promote abortion and same-sex unions.
The protest took place last week as Catholics and evangelical leaders issued a statement denouncing the new law on “sexual and reproductive health” as a way to open the door to abortion.
The statement noted that the law would allow for the “massive distribution of contraceptives,” as well as “publicly-funded sterilizations,” underscoring that the law would also violate the rights of parents by encouraging minors to make decisions “related to sexual acts of any kind, and the use of contraceptives” or to have recourse to abortion without informing their parents.
“We believe this law will harm families and will lead to the physical, psychological and moral deterioration of young people,” the statement warned.
Cape Town, South Africa, Apr 23, 2007 (CNA) - According to a report on the Lifesitenews.com website, African Health Ministers have adopted a new proposal that will increase legal abortion throughout the continent, under the policies of the controversial Maputo Protocol on the rights of women.
"A wider women's health programme should be institutionalised including broad coverage of family planning (repositioned into wider reproductive health programmes),"the proposal states. "Amongst other factors, …safe abortion services should be included, as far as the law allows."
South African Acting Health Minister and Conference Chairman Jeff Radebe said in a statement, "I am sure that with our partners, both local communities as well as our development partners we shall do all we can to ensure the full implementation of the Strategy.”
But opposition to the proposal came from Dr. Philip Njemanze, chairman of the Nigerian African Anti-Abortion Coalition, who accused some international organizations of violating the Nigerian Constitution in promoting abortion. In Uganda the Deputy Secretary for Finance and Administration of the Uganda Joint Christian Council, Sylvester Arinaitwe, said, “We request President Museveni and the delegation that will represent Uganda at the upcoming meeting of the African Union in Addis Abba to reject any policy that would expose Uganda in particular, and Africa as a whole, to mass murder through the legalisation of abortion.”
Cardinal Polycarp Pengo of Tanzania called on African leaders to reexamine certain sections of the Maputo Protocol, at a recent press briefing in Accra after a five day meeting of Catholic leaders in Africa. "We, the Catholic Church, teach that 'human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person -among which is the inviolable rights of every innocent being to life,'" Cardinal Pengo said.
Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 23, 2007 (CNA) - In a letter to the Mexican bishops made public last Friday, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his concern over efforts to legalize abortion in Mexico City, calling on the nation to “firmly protect and defend the right to life of every human being from the moment of conception.”
The Holy Father “joins the Church in Mexico and so many other persons of good will in their concern for a new law in Mexico city that threatens the life of the unborn,” the letter, signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone indicates.
“In this Easter Season, with the resurrection of Christ we are celebrating the triumph of life over death. This great gift motivates us to firmly protect and defend the right to life of each human being from the moment of conception in the face of any manifestation of the culture of death,” the letter states.
The Pope concluded his message “commending all of the sons and daughters of this beloved nation to the maternal intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe.”
The Pope’s letter was made public after a committee vote in the Mexico City Legislative Assembly on Friday to legalize abortion during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy.
On April 24 the full body will vote on the proposal.
In the wake of the Pope’s support for the defense of life in Mexico, the bishops gathered for their general assembly called on all men and women “Catholics and non-Catholics alike,” to reject proposals that attack human life.
In a letter to the people of Mexico, the bishops noted that abortion “is a grave moral disorder” that no law can ever make licit.
“One of the primary obligations of the State,” the bishops stated, “is to keep watch over and defend the natural right of every human being to life and physical integrity from conception to natural death. If a law deprives a category of human beings the protection which it is owed by the civil order, the State is then denying the equality of all before the law.”
“When the State odes not put its power at the service of the rights of all citizens, and particularly of those who are weakest, the very foundations of the rule of law are broken,” they said.
“It should be clear that direct abortion, that is, desired as an end or as a means, is a grave moral disorder in that is the deliberate elimination of an innocent human being,” the bishops stated.
San Diego, Calif., Apr 23, 2007 (CNA) - San Diego’s major daily newspaper has provided sloppy and imbalanced reporting of the sex-abuse cases involving the Diocese of San Diego, alleges the editor of the diocesan newspaper.
In a recent issue of The Southern Cross, editor Cyril Jones-Kellett published a lengthy commentary outlining how the Union-Tribune’s coverage of the issue over the last few years has been biased and in favor of the plaintiffs and their lawyers.
Jones-Kellett gives a chronological account of his conversations with the newspaper’s reporters and editorial staff regarding their reporting. He clears up several major gaffs that the daily has published and presented as fact.
The editor also acknowledges that the diocese has not cooperated with the newspaper or given the newspaper interviews because diocesan officials, it seems, are wary of the newspaper and “its penchant for confusing or exaggerating aspects of its stories on the Church”.
Reporters admit their frustration to Jones-Kellett about this. Still, the Catholic editor says, this does not permit reporters to favor one side over another.
For example, the Union-Tribune has repeatedly reported that the diocese is “flush with money and that it could satisfy all the claims of those who are suing it simply by selling some assets and writing big checks,” writes Jones-Kellett.
“And by repeatedly implying that the diocese is awash in superfluous real estate, the newspaper almost certainly contributed to the public relations efforts of attorneys who are involved in ongoing lawsuits against the diocese,” he continues.
The daily’s editors have written that the diocese could afford to pay claims up to $200 million by simply selling "some of its unusually diverse real estate holdings, including commercial projects, apartment buildings, condominium complexes and undeveloped land."
“The diocese does not own apartment buildings, condominium complexes and commercial properties,” Jones-Kellett clarifies, adding that the daily had simply “accepted uncritically the assertion by plaintiffs' lawyers that the diocese owns the properties of parishes and schools.”
The Union-Tribune failed to explain that churches, schools, rectories and other parish properties are owned by local parishes. The diocese simply holds the title in trust. There’s a big difference between ownership and trusteeship, says Jones-Kellett.
Furthermore, the newspaper has also run inaccurate claims about the value of the diocese’s assets, he says.
When the diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February, it declared $156 million in assets and $100 million in liabilities.
In a report published on July 31, 2006, the Union-Tribune claimed its accounting of diocesan properties “placed tax-assessed value at more than $500 million.” The newspaper did not indicate which buildings were included in the assessment.
In a later report, the daily newspaper said plaintiffs' attorneys “pegged the assessed value of the diocese's holdings at $600 million.” The Union-Tribune seemingly revised its own assessment of the diocese’s property records and published that it assessed the value of diocesan real estate at about $400 million.
However, the Union-Tribune told Jones-Kellett that the original reporting of $500 million was a typo and that it would not print a correction because the error was made months earlier.
Jones-Kellett suspects that the $400-million figure was derived by including parish properties, such as schools and parish centers, which are not owned by the diocese.
“By continuing to report that the diocese is worth $400 million,” writes Jones-Kellett, “the Union Tribune is publicly siding with plaintiffs’ attorneys on the issue of parish and school properties.”
Fair reporting would have shown that the diocese, under the leadership of Bishop Robert Brom, has taken sexual abuse seriously, writes the Catholic editor. In addition, it would have shown that the bishop’s apologies to victims and his vows to keep abusers out of ministry “were consistent with longstanding policies and practices of this diocese.”
“Fair reporting also would have shown that the diocese was telling the truth about its inability to pay scores of settlements for mammoth sums,” he states.
“Why does it matter what the Union-Tribune reports?” Jones-Kellett asks. “Because other news outlets [such as radio and television] around town rely on the Union-Tribune for much of their reporting.
“When people hear the same reporting coming from multiple sources, the ‘facts’ begin to seem very solid.”
Last week, the diocese proposed a $95-million settlement plan.
Rome, Italy, Apr 23, 2007 (CNA) - After his visit to the University of Pavia on Sunday, Benedict XVI traveled to the basilica of San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro to celebrate Vespers. Before entering the basilica, the Holy Father paused on the patio of the convent of St. Augustine where he blessed the cornerstone of a new Augustinian cultural center, which the Order intends to dedicate to him.
Once inside the basilica, the Pope incensed the urn containing the relics of St. Augustine and, after greeting Bishop Giovanni Giudici of Pavia and Fr. Robert Francis Prevost, prior general of the Augustinian Order, pronounced his homily.
"In this moment of prayer I would like to gather here, at the tomb of the 'Doctor gratiae,' a significant message for the journey of the Church," said the Pope. "This message comes to us from the encounter between the Word of God and the personal experience of the great bishop of Hippo. Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, ... is the revelation of the face of God Love to all human beings as they travel along the paths of time towards eternity.”
“This is the heart of the Gospel,” the Holy Father declared, “the central nucleus of Christianity. The light of this love opened Augustine's eyes and brought him to encounter the 'beauty, ever ancient and ever new' in which alone the human heart finds peace."
"Here before the tomb of St. Augustine," the Pope continued, "I would like once again to consign ideally to the Church and to the World my first Encyclical, which contains this central message of the Gospel: 'Deus caritas est,' God is love," and which is "greatly indebted to the thought of St. Augustine who was enamoured of the Love of God."
"In the wake of the teachings of Vatican Council II and of my venerated predecessors, I am convinced ... that contemporary humanity has need of this essential message. ... Here everything must begin and here everything must lead, all pastoral activity and all theological treatises."
"Love is the heart of Church life and of her pastoral activity. ... Only those who have a personal experience of the Lord's love are able to exercise the task of guiding and accompanying others on the road of following Christ. ... Following Christ is above all a question of love."
The Holy Father went on: "May your membership of the Church and your apostolate always stand out for their freedom from any kind of personal interest and for their unreserved adhesion to Christ's love. Young people in particular need to receive the announcement of freedom and joy, the secret of which is in Christ. He is the most authentic response to the expectations of their hearts which are troubled by the many questions they carry within."
"Following the footsteps of St. Augustine, you too must be a Church that frankly announces the 'good news' of Christ. ... The Church is not simply an organization for collective expression nor, at the other extreme, is she the sum of individuals living a private religion. The Church is a community of people who believe in the God of Jesus Christ and commit themselves to living in the world the commandment of love that He left us."
"I encourage you," the Holy Father concluded, "to pursue the 'exalted degree' of Christian life which considers charity as the bond of perfection, and which must also be translated into a form of moral life inspired by the Gospel."
At the conclusion of Vespers, the Pope went to Pavia's "P. Fortunati" stadium where he traveled by helicopter to the airport of Milan. There he boarded a plane that took him back to Rome where he landed shortly before 8.30 p.m.
Vatican City, Apr 23, 2007 (CNA) - Made public today at the Vatican were letters exchanged by Pope Benedict XVI and German Chancellor Angela Merkel a few months ago. In his letter to the German Chancellor, the Holy Father urges Merkel to keep poverty and aid for Africa, “high on the international political agenda,” during the German presidency of the EU and in the run-up to the next G8 summit.
The Pope noted that Merkel had announced her intention to keep the question of global poverty and assistance to Africa would remain on the agendas of upcoming G8 and EU summits.
“I therefore write to you in order to express the gratitude of the Catholic Church and my own personal appreciation for these announcements,” Pope Benedict said.
“I welcome the fact that the question of poverty, with specific reference to Africa, now appears on the agenda of the G8; indeed, it should be given the highest attention and priority, for the sake of poor and rich countries alike.”
“The Holy See has repeatedly insisted that, while the Governments of poorer countries have a responsibility with regard to good governance and the elimination of poverty, the active involvement of international partners is indispensable,” the Pope said, adding that this should not be seen as an ‘extra’ or as a concession which could be postponed in the face of pressing national concerns. It is a grave and unconditional moral responsibility, founded on the unity of the human race, and on the common dignity and shared destiny of rich and poor alike, who are being drawn ever closer by the process of globalization.”
“Trade conditions favorable to poor countries, including, above all, broad and unconditional access to markets, should be made available and guaranteed in lasting and reliable ways.”
The Holy Father encouraged policies that would lead to debt reduction for poor countries, continued support from developmental countries, a renewed investment for research in and development of medicines to treat Aids, tuberculosis, malaria and the like, as well as policies that would lead to a reduction of arms.
“While these challenges should be undertaken by all members of the international community,” Pope Benedict said, “the G8 and the European Union should take the lead.”
The Holy Father concluded his letter by offering prayers and blessings to participants in the G8 and European Union.