Vatican City, Apr 30, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI marked Sunday’s 44th annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations by conferring priestly ordination on 22 men from the Diocese of Rome. He told the new priests that their newly received sacrament makes them “participants in Christ’s own mission.”
In his homily, the Pope used the well-known Gospel story of the Good Shepherd, to emphasize the missions of the priests. Their group included graduates from the Major Roman Seminary, the "Redemptoris Mater" College, the Seminary of Divine Love, the "Almo Collegio Capranica," and the Seminary of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ, respectively,
"Christ," the Holy Father said, "knows His sheep and His sheep know Him, just as the Father knows Him and He knows the Father.”
“This”, he assured the priests, “is not merely intellectual knowledge but a profound personal relationship; a knowledge of the heart typical of those who love and are loved, of those who are faithful and who know that, in turn, they can trust. It is a knowledge of love by virtue of which the Shepherd invites His followers to follow Him, and that finds full expression in the gift He gives them of eternal life."
The Pope explained to the new priests that "The Sacrament of Holy Orders makes you participants in Christ's own mission. You will be called to spread the seed of His Word, the seed that brings people to the Kingdom of God, to dispense divine mercy and to nourish the faithful at the table of His Body and His Blood.”
“In order to be worthy ministers”, he stressed, “you must constantly nourish yourselves from the Eucharist, source and summit of Christian life.”
Pope Benedict further charged the men to "listen to [God] meekly…follow Him faithfully…[and] learn to translate His love and His passion for the salvation of souls into life and pastoral ministry. Each of you will become, with Jesus' help, a good shepherd ready to give, if necessary, even your lives for Him."
As the pope concluded his homily, he expressed his prayer "that in all parishes and Christian communities concern for vocations and the formation of priests may grow."
He likewise charged the newly-ordained priests "to be faithful to the mission to which the Lord calls them today, and to be ready to renew every day their 'yes ' to God, their unreserved 'here I am.'”
, Apr 30, 2007 (CNA) - The St. Louis media seems to be running a campaign against the Catholic Church, following Archbishop Raymond Burke’s protest of abortion-activist Sheryl Crow’s performance at a Catholic hospital fundraiser.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and KMOV (CBS affiliate), in particular, have invited the public to voice its opinion over the archbishop’s decision.
Catholic League president Bill Donohue says the “voyeuristic posture assumed by these two media outlets is not legitimate.
According to Donohue, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch “is inviting non-Catholics to opine about an internal matter of the St. Louis Archdiocese, beckoning the bigots to post their hatred on its website.
“It has even gone so far as to run a punch line cartoon on this issue, asking the public to submit a caption,” reported Donohue.
“KMOV is also playing voyeur by asking Protestants, Jews, Muslims, agnostics and atheists to stick their noses into the business of another religion,” he added.
Furthermore, the station has four surveys on its website on the Catholic Church. However, Donohue notes, “no other religion is open for question.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 30, 2007 (CNA) - The bishops of Mexico called on doctors in Mexico City not to perform abortions and reminded them of their human right to conscientious objection.
In a letter issued on Sunday, the bishops lamented the city's decision to legalize the procedure in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, reported The Associated Press.
Mexico City legalized abortion within its jurisdiction last week. It is the only jurisdiction in the country where abortion is legal.
Officials have said doctors at city-run hospitals cannot refuse to perform abortions based on personal moral objection. But Cardinal Norberto Rivera, in a letter issued on Sunday, said they could.
"We call on all of those of good conscience not to be responsible for the abominable act," the letter reportedly states. "We remind the doctors, nurses, health care workers and all those affected by this unjust law, that they can invoke their human right to conscientious objection."
The church is currently under investigation for possibly violating Mexico’s laws forbidding church participation in politics, but it says it will continue its pro-life battle.
Archdiocese spokesman Hugo Valdemar Romero has said doctors and nurses who perform abortions and lawmakers who supported the legalization will be excommunicated.
New Haven, Conn., Apr 30, 2007 (CNA) - The Connecticut Catholic Conference has warned that a new bill passed in the Senate threatens religious freedom in the state.
The Act Concerning Compassionate Care For Victims of Sexual Assault (Bill 1343) passed in the Senate April 25. The bill would require all hospitals, including Catholic hospitals, to provide emergency contraception to rape victims, regardless of whether the woman has conceived.
The bishops argue that this bill violates the separation of church and state and that the state should not determine the guidelines for Catholic institutions.
They are urging Catholics to contact their lawmakers in the House of Representatives and urge them to vote down the legislation.
“Senate Bill 1343 should contain language that respects the religious beliefs of Catholic hospitals and not force them to cooperate, either directly or through a third-party contract, in an abortion,” the bishops’ conference said.
Vatican City, Apr 30, 2007 (CNA) - As an historic Synod of the Syrian Catholic Church concluded Sunday in the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI charged the gathered bishops to be a witness in the Middle East to the rich history and fraternal communion of the Catholic Church and her particular rites, as well as to “announce the Gospel decisively.”
The extraordinary Synod met from April 26th to the 28th and was presided over in the by Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. In attendance were was His Beatitude Ignace Pierre VIII Abdel-Ahad, Patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians in Lebanon, as well as thirteen other bishops.
Pope Benedict told the group that had called for the assembly in order "to revive the secular ties that bind your Church to the Apostolic See and, at the same time, to express the esteem and interest of the Bishop of Rome for each one of you.”
He called the bishops “pastors of a part of the People of God that is not large but ancient and important."
Drawing from the day’s readings from the Acts of the Apostles and recalling the history of the ancient Church, the Holy Father noted that progress has not always been easy, “but was rich in apostolic fruits. From the beginning there was no lack of external hostility and persecutions, nor of ... tensions and contrasts within the communities themselves."
He pointed out however, that "despite the shadows and difficulties of various kinds which the first Christians had to face, the shining light of the Church's faith in Jesus Christ has never been extinguished."
The late Pope John Paul II was known for his particular concern over what are known as “Oriental” or eastern Churches. Pope Benedict reaffirmed his words calling on the bishops "to seek unity and reconciliation;" and stressed that "today too, as at the dawn of Christianity, each community is called to give a clear witness of fraternity."
The Pope recalled the numerous challenge which Catholic communities face “all over the world" because of dangers and problems that "can obscure the values of the Gospel.”
“As for your own Church,” he said, “the violence and conflicts suffered by a part of the flock entrusted to you represent supplementary difficulties that further endanger not only peaceful coexistence, but even people's lives."
The solution to this problem, the Holy Father concluded is for the Syrian Catholic ecclesial community “to announce the Gospel decisively, promoting appropriate pastoral activities to face the challenges of post-modernity, and as a shining example of unity in a fragmented world."
Pope Benedict concluded his address recalling the words Vatican Council II, which charges the Oriental Catholic Churches “to play a special role in furthering the ecumenical journey."
“Continue with enthusiasm, trust and perseverance”, the Pope told the Synod, “in the missionary activity of St. Paul, following the footsteps of St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Ephraim and the patron saints."
Vatican City, Apr 30, 2007 (CNA) - Shortly after ordaining 22 men from the diocese of Rome to the priesthood, Pope Benedict XVI charged the throngs of faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly Regina Coeli prayer to pray for a greater nurturing of priestly vocations within the Church.
The Pope also called for prayer "for those preparing themselves for the priestly ministry, and for formators in the seminaries of Rome, Italy and the entire world.”
Similarly, he prayed for families, “that in them, the 'seed' of the call to priestly ministry may continue to nurture and ripen."
Sunday marked the 44th annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations. This year’s theme was "vocation to the service of the Church as communion."
On this point, the Pope said that all the baptized "are called to contribute to the work of salvation,” but that “in the Church there are, however, a number of vocations especially dedicated to the service of communion. The person primarily responsible for Catholic communion is the Pope, Peter's Successor and Bishop of Rome. Alongside him, custodians and masters of unity are the bishops, successors of the Apostles, assisted by priests. But consecrated persons and all the faithful are also at the service of communion.”
Concluding his brief address, the Pope said that "In the heart of the Church as communion is the Eucharist: the various vocations all draw from this supreme Sacrament the spiritual strength to build ... the one ecclesial Body."
Madrid, Spain, Apr 30, 2007 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Spain has published a message upon concluding its Plenary Assembly to mark the beatification next fall in Rome of 498 martyrs from the 1936 Civil War saying, “The martyrs, who died forgiving, are the greatest encouragement for all of us to foster the spirit of reconciliation.”
The bishops invited Spaniards to prepare themselves well “for this feast and to participate in such a way that it becomes a new stimulus for the renewal of Christian life. We need it in a special way in these times in which, at the same time a secularist mentality is spreading, reconciliation appears threatened in our society.”
Likewise, they prayed that “through the witness and the intercession of the martyrs, may our hope be invigorated and our charity be ignited. Motivated by the hope of eternal Life, they learned to put love and obedience of the evangelical law above their own lives, the new greater law of love and promoter of the dignity and freedom of each person. The martyrs are supreme witnesses of the truth that makes us free.” The bishops pointed out that “the martyrs are above the tragic circumstances that lead to their deaths. With their beatification, we seek above all to glorify God for the faith that overcomes the world and transcends the darkness of history and faults of mankind.”
“They have given glory to God with their lives and with their death and they have become for us all signs of love, of forgiveness and of peace. The martyrs, by uniting their blood to that of Christ’s, are prophets of redemption and of a divine future, truly better, for each person and for all of humanity,” they explained.
The bishops recalled that 479 martyrs of 20th century Spain “have been beatified in 11 ceremonies since 1987, and 11 are now saints.”
“Almost 500 have been brought together, this time, in a single ceremony. And, as on other occasions, each case has been studied uniquely with great care throughout the years. These martyrs gave their lives, in different places in Spain, in 1934, 1936, and 1937. They are the bishops of Cuenca and Ciudad Real, several diocesan priests, and numerous religious…seminarians, lay people, young people, married, men and women.”
“We can underscore as common traits of these new martyrs: they were men and women of faith and prayer, particularly centered on the Eucharist and on devotion to the Most Holy Virgin; therefore, as long as they could, even in captivity, they participated in the Holy Mass, they received Communion and they prayed to Mary with the rosary; they were apostles and were valiant when they had to confess their faith; they were available for comforting and sustaining their companions in prison; they rejected proposals to undervalue or renounce their Christian identity; they were strong when they were mistreated and tortured; they forgave their executioners and prayed for them; at the moment of their sacrifice; they showed serenity and profound peace; they praised God and proclaimed Christ as the only Lord,” the bishops said.
Rome, Italy, Apr 30, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal Carlo Caffarra of Bologna said last week equating marriage with homosexual unions means introducing into the legal order “an element that objectively distorts it,” because such a situation “constructs a legal social edifice on the foundation that each person desires.”
In a conference on the value of marriage for society, the cardinal explained that making homosexual unions equivalent to marriage by claiming that marriage is a “social convention” and that each person is free to establish whatever kind of sexual-affective relationships he or she chooses and to demand they be given public recognition is to introduce into the legal order “an element that objectively distorts it.”
“Building society upon the basis of the desires of each individual is equivalent to building a society every more foreign morally speaking,” the cardinal said.
According to Cardinal Caffarra, the recognition of homosexual unions “is an absolutely new fact in the history of humanity.” “The marriage institution is seen as if it had no natural foundation but was merely a social convention.” Thus, “civil law can call ‘marriage’ or make equivalent to marriage as it has been understood up to now, any other kind of community,” with the idea of “extending rights” to these, the cardinal said.
“To favor other types of living arrangements with the same title with which the State favors marriage means to diminish that guardianship of the marital institution that is a grave duty for those who have political responsibilities,” he said.
He also noted that those who have responsibility for the common good should “promote and defend” the marital institution and that civil law cannot “make homosexual union’s equivalent to marriage, which is defended by the Italian constitution.
The marital institution “constitutes the original form, the archetype and the paradigm of human society and also the place in which the human person begins—in a strong sense of the word—his life,” he said.
“Therefore, to say that those responsible for the common good should promote and defend this institution is a consistent conclusion. The entire legal order gives favor to marriage,” the cardinal noted. “In Italy, as in other countries, it is an obligation sanctioned by the Constitution,” he added.
Washington D.C., Apr 30, 2007 (CNA) - The Episcopal Church continues to experience further division as the Anglican archbishop of Nigeria is expected to arrive this week to install a bishop to lead conservative congregations in the United States.
Archbishop Peter J. Akinola is expected to preside at the May 5 installation ceremony of Bishop Martyn Minns in Virginia. Minns will serve as the bishop of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, reported the New York Times.
The new convocation is considered to be an offshoot of the Nigerian church. It was created to oversee congregations that no longer want to be in the Episcopal Church but would like to remain in the Anglican Communion. Archbishop Akinola is the primate of the largest region in the Anglican Communion.
The tension in the Episcopal Church began in 2003 when it decided to consecrate an openly homosexual priest, V. Gene Robinson, as the bishop of New Hampshire.
Katharine Jefferts Schori, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, said in a statement that Archbishop Akinola's actions are contrary to "the ancient practice in most of the church" that bishops minister only within their own jurisdictions.
"This action would only serve to heighten current tensions, and would be regrettable if it does indeed occur," the statement said.
Bishop Minns said the convocation does not interfere with the Episcopal Church.
"The reality is that there is a broken relationship between the Episcopal Church and the rest of the communion," he told the Times. "We want to give people a freedom of choice to remain Anglican but not under the Episcopal Church as it is currently led."
In March, Episcopal bishops rejected three demands by Anglican primates: that they create a parallel leadership to serve the conservative minority of Episcopalians; that they pledge not to consecrate partnered gay bishops, and that they stop other bishops and priests from blessing same-sex couples.
Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 30, 2007 (CNA) - Lawmakers of the National Action Party (known as PAN in Mexico) in the Legislative Assembly of Mexico City have launched a legal offensive to stop the legalization of abortion in other states, after it was approved up to the twelfth week in the Mexican capital.
The PAN party has proposed modifying the constitution of the State of Guanajuato to stipulate that the person be defined as “every human being from conception to natural death, and whose full rights and the exercise thereof shall be guaranteed by the State.”
“The members of the parliamentary group of the National Action Party are convinced that the embryo is invested with human dignity and therefore deserves respect for his life and has the right to an identity and to the protection of the State,” PAN lawmakers said. Embryos “should not be the objects of manipulation or aggression that leads to their destruction,” they added.
Parliamentarian Antonio Ramirez Vallejo said that all human beings have the right to life. “It doesn’t matter if we are old, adults, young people, teenagers, children, babies, newborn babies, unborn babies, fetuses, embryos or zygotes. Independently of the stage of development in which we find ourselves, we do not cease to have the human essence and the corresponding dignity that deserves full respect,” he said.