Archive of April 25, 2007

Benedict invites Catholics to “a prayerful reading” of scripture

Abuja, Nigeria, Apr 25, 2007 (CNA) - In today's general audience Benedict XVI dedicated his catechesis to Origen of Alexandria, a third century historian and "one of the greatest writers" of Church history. The audience was held in St. Peter's Square in the presence of more than 25,000 people.

Origen, said the Pope, "took up the legacy of Clement and carried it towards the future in such an innovative way as to effect an irreversible turn in the development of Christian thought. He was a true master ... and an exemplary witness of the doctrine he transmitted."

The "irreversible turn" effected by Origen, said the Pope, substantially involved "grounding theology in the explanation of Scripture, in other words, the perfect symbiosis between theology and exegesis. Indeed, the characteristic of Origen's doctrine seems to lie in the constant invitation to pass from the reading to the spirit of Scripture in order to progress in knowledge of God.”

"This 'allegorism' - to use the words of Von Balthasar - coincided with the development of Christian dogma through the teaching the Doctors of the Church who, in one way or another, learned the lesson of Origen. Thus tradition and Magisterium, the foundation and guarantee of theological research, come together as 'Scripture enacted.'"

The Pope recalled how Origen's interests ranged from "exegesis to dogma, to philosophy, to apologetics, asceticism and mysticism" and represented "a fundamental and overall vision of Christian life."

However, the "inspirational core" of Origen's work is "his three-level reading of the Bible." The first reading had "the aim of better identifying the text and presenting the most trustworthy edition. ... This is always the first step," said the Holy Father, "knowing what is written and knowing what historical scripture initially and intentionally meant."

"In the second place, Origen systematically read the Bible ... minutely, broadly and profoundly," adding "philological and doctrinal notes. Finally, he dedicated himself to preaching the Bible, adapting himself to a truly assorted public."

Also in his homilies, Origen "took advantage of every opportunity to recall the various dimensions of meaning of Sacred Scripture;" meanings that "assist or express a journey of growth in the faith. There is a literal meaning, but the literal meaning hides profundities that do not appear at first view."

"This second dimension is the moral meaning: what we must do to live the Word." Finally, there is also a "spiritual meaning, in other words the unity of Scripture which, throughout, speaks of Christ. It is the Holy Spirit which helps us understand the Christological content, and so the unity of Scripture in its diversity."

On this subject, Benedict XVI explained how in his recently-published book "Jesus of Nazareth" he had sought to show “this multidimensional aspect of the Word of Holy Scripture, which must first of all be respected in a historical sense." Although "this sense is transcended by Christ in the light of the Holy Spirit."

Origen, the Pope continued, "effectively came to promote the 'Christian reading' of the Old Testament, responding brilliantly to the challenge of heretics, above all Gnostics and Marcionites who set the two Testaments against one another and even went so far as to reject the Old Testament."

"I invite you," the Holy Father concluded, "to welcome in your hearts the teaching of this great master of the faith. He reminds us ... that the Church is renewed and rejuvenated in a prayerful reading of Scripture and a coherent life commitment. We pray to the Lord to give us today thinkers, theologians and exegetes who may discover this multidimensionality, this permanent relevance of Sacred Scripture."

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Australian Cardinal says Virginia Tech shootings demonstrate need for community

Sydney, Australia, Apr 25, 2007 (CNA) - The tragedy at Virginia Tech demonstrates the human need for others and the devastating effect of isolation and loneliness in contemporary society, said Cardinal George Pell in his weekly column in the Sunday Telegraph.

The Cardinal-Archbishop of Sydney reflected on the isolated life of gunman Cho Seung-hui, who was responsible for the massacre of 32 people at the university. The Cardinal noted the student’s social seclusion and twisted writings.

“Normal life today includes increasing levels of loneliness and individual isolation,” Pell wrote. “Individualism reinforces this, with its message that the successful person is the one who relies on no one to get ahead.”

“In many areas of life we are continually told that needing other people is a sign of weakness, and being needed by them is a trap which puts an end to our freedom,”
he wrote. “But to think that being completely self-reliant will protect us and make us strong is to get things exactly the wrong way around. We are weakest and most prone to self-harm and unkindness or selfishness to others when we are alone.”

Cardinal Pell emphasized that human weakness highlights our need for others. “When we accept this, goodness, happiness and hope become possible,” he continued. “When we reject it life becomes something we hate and all sorts of evils can follow, right up to suicide and murder.”  

“Cho will be remembered only as murderer, probably as a madman,” he concluded. “But he was not an alien or a demon, and perhaps there may be things we should learn from his blighted experience of life as we remember and pray for his victims.”

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Orlando Diocese to verify 'crying' statue of Mary

Orlando, Fla., Apr 25, 2007 (CNA) - Officials of the Diocese of Orlando are expected to visit a local shop and verify a marble statue of the Virgin Mary that has allegedly shed a black tear.

Castle Designs, an Orlando business, received the reproduction of Michelangelo’s Pieta — the famous sculpture of the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Christ — two weeks ago from overseas.

The black tear was just recently noticed at the store and owners said it appears to be coming from inside the statue, reported WKMG Local 6 News.

"We started noticing that there was a small gray line every day that kept getting darker and darker," Castle Designs CEO Les Roberts said.

Store owners say officials from the diocese plan to come to the store and look at the statue. The business has also offered the diocese the option to display the statue.

Groups of people have already come to the store to pray before the statue, which has been roped off. Store owners have decided not to sell it.

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Presidential candidates discuss politics and Catholic faith

Boston, Mass., Apr 25, 2007 (CNA) - Two 2008 U.S. presidential candidates — both Catholic — discussed their differing views and positions on politics and public policy decision-making from their respective interpretations of the Catholic faith this week.

Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) and U.S. Senator Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut) appeared at the first Boston College forum on faith and politics April 23rd and spoke on abortion, civil unions for same-sex couples and embryonic stem cell research, reported The Associated Press.

The forum, organized by Boston College's Church in the 21st Century Center, was moderated by NBC "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert. The center seeks to be a catalyst and resource for the renewal of the Catholic Church in the country by engaging critical issues facing the Catholic community.

The two senators suggested that Democrats and Republicans could bridge gaps between them with more tolerance for their respective positions, reported the AP.

They both urged President George Bush to work with Congress toward a solution that would allow continued funding of U.S. troops in Iraq but also promote a diplomatic solution and reduce the military death toll.

Brownback said he told Vice President Dick Cheney last week that the administration should consider a "three-state, one-country" solution in which Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis live independently but under the banner of a federal city in Baghdad. Brownback said his proposal was met with no reaction.

Brownback, who was raised a Methodist, said he became a Roman Catholic four years ago because of the Church’s rich faith tradition.

"I love the depth of thought that's there," Brownback was quoted as saying. "Coming from the Protestant tradition, you don't build as much on past people's comments, with saints. And going into the Catholic Church, you've got people thinking about something for 2,000 years, and it's a great source of wisdom, and maybe I can appreciate it better than many who have been raised in the Catholic Church."

Dodd and Brownback agreed that marriage should be reserved for a man and a woman, but they differed in their views on homosexuality.

“I think it's a good question to ask how you would like your children treated," Dodd reportedly said.

Brownback said homosexual acts are immoral and sanctioning them threatens the stability of marriage.

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Religious groups, leaders advocate U.S. Farm Bill reforms

Washington D.C., Apr 25, 2007 (CNA) - As Congress begins the work of reauthorizing the U.S. Farm Bill, more than a dozen Christian churches and faith-based organizations have banded together to form a Religious Working Group on the Farm Bill.

The coalition is urging Congress to adopt major changes to domestic agricultural policy, that they might help reduce hunger and poverty worldwide, as well as promote the livelihood of farmers and rural communities in the U.S. and abroad.

The Religious Working Group on the Farm Bill has developed legislative principles for farm-bill reform. They include:

  • Increase investments that combat rural poverty and strengthen rural communities
  • Strengthen and expand programs that reduce hunger and improve nutrition
  • Strengthen and increase investment in policies that promote conservation and good stewardship of land 
  • Provide transitions for farmers to alternative forms of support that are more equitable and do not distort trade in ways that fuel hunger and poverty 
  • Protect the health and safety of farm workers 
  • Expand research related to alternative, clean and renewable forms of energy
  • Improve and expand international food aid in ways that encourage local food security
Members of the coalition currently are in the process of visiting congressional offices and sharing these principles.

“Passing a new farm bill is an important opportunity to reshape our agricultural policies to build a more just framework that better serves rural communities and vulnerable farmers in the U.S., overcomes hunger here and abroad, and helps poor farmers and their families in developing countries,” said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn in an April 23 press release.

Bishop DiMarzio is chairman of the Domestic Policy Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

The USCCB is among the nine signatories to the legislative principles for farm-bill reform. Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Relief Services and the National Catholic Rural Life Conference are among the nine organizations endorsing the reforms.

Coalition members also are urging Congress to address the negative impact that current U.S. agricultural and trade policies have on people living in impoverished countries.

Lutheran Bishop Mark Hanson said lawmakers have a historic opportunity in 2007 to pass a farm bill that “strengthens the livelihood of rural communities, helps lift people out of hunger and poverty, and safeguards the integrity of God’s creation for generations to come.”

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Abortion legalized in Mexican capital

Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 25, 2007 (CNA) - On Tuesday evening the Legislative Assembly of Mexico City, dominated by members of the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution, voted to legalize abortion in the Mexican capital up to the twelfth week of pregnancy.  

The vote came despite a majority of Mexicans expressing their opposition to the proposed law in recent months, with thousands signing a petition calling for a referendum.  Debate on the new law ran into the night and was finally passed by a vote of 49-19.  Police officers stood outside to keep protestors away from the assembly building.

The new law defines illegal abortion in Mexico City as “the interruption of pregnancy after the twelfth week of pregnancy.”

However, the controversial norm also includes lighter penalties for women who decide to undergo an abortion after twelve weeks.  Public health care facilities will also be required to provide abortion to those who request it, and the Mexico City government will enact programs to promote “sexual health” and “reproductive rights.”

Many analysts believe the new law could lead to the legalization of abortion throughout Mexico.

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Pontifical Council sends message to Buddhists: education for peace begins with family values

Vatican City, Apr 25, 2007 (CNA) - Made public today was the annual message to the world’s Buddhists as they celebrate their Feast of Vesakh.  The message, issued by the Pontifical Council for Inter- religious Dialogue, is signed by Cardinal Paul Poupard and Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata, respectively president and secretary of the pontifical council.

Followers of the Theravada Buddhist tradition in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar will celebrate Vesakh, a moveable feast which marks important events in the life of Gautama Buddha, on May 2. In other countries where the Mahayana Buddhist tradition is followed (China, Japan and Korea), the events of his life are celebrated on different days.

The Message for Vesakh 2007 - published in English, Italian and French, and entitled "Christians and Buddhists: educating communities to live in harmony and peace" - begins: "Building a community requires concrete gestures which reflect the respect for the dignity of others. ... Yet, there are people today who still need to learn about others and other people's beliefs in order to overcome prejudices and misunderstandings."

"Education for peace is a responsibility which must be borne by all sectors of society. Of course, this starts in ordinary homes where the family, the fundamental pillar of society, strives to transmit traditional and sound values to children by a deliberate effort to inform their consciences. The younger generations deserve and indeed thrive upon value-based education which reinforces respect, acceptance, compassion and equality."

With reference to the communications media, the Message states: "The media's power to shape minds, especially of the young, cannot be underestimated. While the irresponsible elements within it are increasingly being recognized for what they are, it is also the case that much good can be effected through quality productions and educational programs. When people working within the media exercise their moral conscience, it is possible to dispel ignorance and impart knowledge, preserve social values, and portray the transcendental dimension of life which arises from the spiritual nature of all people."

Below is the message of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue in full:

Christians and Buddhists: educating communities to live in harmony and peace

Dear Buddhist Friends,

1. On the occasion of the festival of Vesakh, I am writing to Buddhist communities in different parts of the world to convey my own good wishes, as well as those of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

2. We, Catholics and Buddhists, enjoy a good relationship and our contacts, collaboration and implementation of diverse programmes have helped to deepen our understanding of each other. Dialogue is the sure path to fruitful interreligious relations. It deepens respect and nurtures the desire to live in harmony with others.

3. The Second Vatican Council teaches that the entire human race shares a common origin and a common destiny: God, our Creator and the goal of our earthly pilgrimage. Similarly, Pope Benedict XVI, in his 2007 Message for the World Day of Peace, observed: "As one created in the image of God, each individual human being has the dignity of a person; he or she is not just something, but someone, capable of self-knowledge, self-possession, free self-giving and entering into communion with others" (n. 2).

4. Building a community requires concrete gestures which reflect the respect for the dignity of others. Furthermore, as religious people, we are convinced that "there is a moral logic which is built into human life and which makes possible dialogue between individuals and peoples" (ibid, n. 3). Yet, there are people today who still need to learn about others and other people’s beliefs in order to overcome prejudices and misunderstandings. This sad reality, if it is to be overcome, demands much effort on the part of both civic and religious leaders. Even in places where people experience daily the ravages of war, fuelled by sentiments of hatred and vengeance, trust can be restored. Together we can help to create the space and the opportunities for people to talk, listen, share regrets and offer forgiveness for each other’s past mistakes.

5. Education for peace is a responsibility which must be borne by all sectors of society. Of course, this starts in ordinary homes where the family, the fundamental pillar of society, strives to transmit traditional and sound values to children by a deliberate effort to inform their consciences. The younger generations deserve and indeed thrive upon value-based education which reinforces respect, acceptance, compassion and equality. It is important therefore that schools, both government and faith-based, do all possible to support parents in the delicate but satisfying task of raising children to appreciate all that is good and true.

6. The media’s power to shape minds, especially of the young, cannot be underestimated. While the irresponsible elements within it are increasingly being recognized for what they are, it is also the case that much good can be effected through quality productions and educational programmes. When people working within the media exercise their moral conscience, it is possible to dispel ignorance and impart knowledge, preserve social values, and portray the transcendental dimension of life which arises from the spiritual nature of all people. Religious believers serve society admirably by collaborating in such projects for the common good.

7. Ultimately, the aim of true education is to bring the individual to encounter the ultimate purpose of life. This motivates the person to serve broken humanity. Together may we continue to contribute towards peace and harmony in our society and the world. We Catholics join you with our heartfelt greetings as you celebrate this feast and I wish you once again a happy Vesakh.

Paul Cardinal Poupard

Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata

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Martyrs of the Armenian holocaust remembered in Holy Land

Rome, Italy, Apr 25, 2007 (CNA) - On Tuesday the Franciscans charged with the care of the Holy Land celebrated the “Day of Memory of the Armenian People,” recalling the legacy of the missionary martyrs who worked in Armenian territory occupied by the Turks.

“From 1894 to 1923, an unheard-of tragedy befell the Armenian people without distinction for sex or age, almost completely annihilating this Christian people that was the first to accept Christianity in the year 301 as the religion of the nation,” the Franciscan Custodians of the Holy Land said in a statement released on the internet.

The statement also took note of the “indiscriminate massacre of Christians” in which “a large number of missionary Franciscans of the Holy Land lost their lives, and the Latin rite faithful of Armenia were also immolated.”

Among those remembered during the commemoration were “Blessed Salvatore Lilli and seven companion martyrs, killed by the Turks for their faith; Brother Vittore Urrutia, starved to death for helping to save other parishioners from the massacre; Brother Pasquale Boladian, starved to death; Father Patrizio Werkley, who was killed while taking care of typhus victims,” as well as many others.

“May the memory and sacrifice of this people obtain from God peace in the world and fraternal understanding between all believers,” the statement emphasized in conclusion.

Armenian genocide

On April 24, 1915, Turkey arrested and executed hundreds of Armenian leaders, initiating what many call the holocaust of at least a million and a half of the two million Armenians who lived under the Turkish Empire.

The Armenian people lived as second-class citizens in the Ottoman Empire.  Between 1884 and 1197, an estimated 300,000 were massacred.  Between 1915 and 1917, many were deported and possibly up to a million and a half were executed.

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Congress inspired in messages of Pope Benedict XVI at WMF Valencia 2006 concludes in Spain

Valencia, Fla., Apr 25, 2007 (CNA) - This past Sunday, the Diocese of Segovia concluded a congress on the messages of Pope Benedict XVI during the World Meeting of Families in Valencia in 2006.

The event, which was attended by nearly 350 people, including families and clergy members, focused on the identity of the family and its commitment within the Church, politics, trade unions, civil associations and Catholic family movements.

Likewise, one of the conference speakers, Manuel de los Reyes, underscored that the event “reminds us that the WMF 2006 should have a before and an after in the renewal of family ministry.”

During the congress participants also reflected on the different challenges facing family ministry in Spain in the coming years.

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Vatican official denounces “terrorism” of abortion and euthanasia

Vatican City, Apr 25, 2007 (CNA) - The Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Angelo Amato, said abortion and euthanasia represent “terrorism with a human face” which affect society day every day.

Archbishop Amato’s comments came during a conference organized by the Pontifical Council for Migrants. The theme of the conference was the role of airport chaplains in the struggle against terrorism. During his remarks he referred to abortion, RU 486, genetic manipulation and the passage of laws against the human person as expressions of “evil” in modern-day society.

The ANSA news agency reported that Archbishop Amato denounced the “almost invisible” evil that comes from “the most unthinkable places y that, paradoxically, is presented as good” and as an expression of “the progress of humanity.”

Archbishop Amato called abortion clinics, abortion drug laboratories, and houses of parliament where abortion is passed “true slaughterhouses of budding human beings.”

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Persecution of the Church comes with faithfulness, says Argentinean Cardinal

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Apr 25, 2007 (CNA) - In his opening address for the 93rd Plenary Assembly of the Bishops’ Conference of Argentina, conference president Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires said, “The Church was, is and will be persecuted” in “the measure in which she maintains her faithfulness to the Gospel.”

The Cardinal noted that as in the case of St. Stephen the first martyr, the faithfulness of the Church “disturbs and infuriates the world.”

Persecution, he said, is a result of faithfulness, and it is sometimes “frontal and direct.”  Other times it is hidden, within the culture of each age, disguised as worldly rationality or “common sense.”

“It takes on many and varied forms but what always provokes persecution is the madness of the Gospel, the scandal of the Cross of Christ, the yeast of the Beatitudes,” he said.

“In the case of Jesus, Stephen and that great ‘cloud of witnesses,’ the methods were and are the same: misinformation, defamation, calumny,” he continued.  

During the opening Mass of the assembly, the Cardinal mediated on the martyrdom of St. Stephen and prayed that through his intercession, “we may not be ashamed of the Cross of Christ or yield to the temptation, out of fear, convenience or comfort, to negotiating away the strategy of the Kingdom, which embraces poverty, humiliations and humility.”

By running away from the Cross, Cardinal Bergoglio said, the Church will not bear fruit and will remain sterile.  “This is price paid, the people of God pay it, for being ashamed of the Gospel, for yielding to the fear of bearing witness,” he said.

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Japanese Manga promoting vocations in the U.K.

London, England, Apr 25, 2007 (CNA) - In anticipation of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations – which the Church celebrates this coming Sunday, the 29th of April, the National Office for Vocation of the Bishops Conference of England and Wales has launched a new vocations program which utilizes Japanese-style "manga" illustrations.

“We have chosen the Manga cartoons for the 2007 campaign, because we hope it will appeal to young people under twenty as well as people in their thirties,” Fr. Paul Embery, Director of the National Office for Vocation, explained to the Italian Religious Service.

“Many of today’s priests and religious people say they first thought of their callings at the age of ten, sometimes even earlier.”

A poster with the cartoons showing the future priests and religious of England and Wales has been distributed in nearly five thousand Catholic churches, schools, and places of prayer around the country a dedicated website will be launched next Sunday (

The website tells the life of the five real characters with a real story to tell, experiences that will be told live by a priest, two nuns, a monk and a lay man who devoted his life to the Church.

For the occasion, the English Bishops have also published the latest statistics on callings, which see the number of applicant priests constantly rising over the last four years. Today there are 150 seminarians in the dioceses of England and Wales.

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