Vatican City, May 2, 2007 (CNA) - In a message addressed to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, which just completed its 13th plenary assembly in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI stressed that full justice can only come about in the world if human beings, “male and female”, are recognized for their true human dignity.
The Holy Father’s letter was addressed to Mary Ann Glendon, president of the Pontifical Academy, whose recent assembly carried the theme; "Charity and Justice in the Relations among Peoples and Nations."
In his message, the pope emphasized that “everything that the earth produces and all that man transforms and manufactures, all his knowledge and technology, is meant to serve the material and spiritual development and fulfillment of the human family and all its members."
Specifically, he pointed to "three specific challenges facing our world,” which, he said, “can only be met through a firm commitment to that greater justice which is inspired by charity.”
The first challenge, the Pope explained, "concerns the environment and sustainable development”, adding that “The international community recognizes that the world's resources are limited and that it is the duty of all peoples to implement policies to protect the environment in order to prevent the destruction of that natural capital whose fruits are necessary for the well-being of humanity.”
He also pointed out the need “to assess and forecast, to monitor the dynamics of environmental change and sustainable growth, and to draw up and apply solutions at an international level."
"If development”, he said, “were limited to the technical-economic aspect, obscuring the moral-religious dimension, it would not be an integral human development, but a one-sided distortion which would end up by unleashing man's destructive capacities."
Pope Benedict explained the second challenge as "our conception of the human person and consequently our relationships with one other.”
“If human beings”, he said, “are not seen as persons, male and female, created in God's image and endowed with an inviolable dignity, it will be very difficult to achieve full justice in the world.”
He added that “Despite the recognition of the rights of the person in international declarations and legal instruments, much progress needs to be made in bringing this recognition to bear upon such global problems as the growing gap between rich and poor countries."
The third challenge, the Holy Father said, "relates to the values of the spirit…unlike material goods, those spiritual goods which are properly human expand and multiply when communicated. Unlike divisible goods, spiritual goods such as knowledge and education are indivisible."
The Pope concluded his letter saying that "To meet these challenges, only love for neighbor can inspire within us justice at the service of life and the promotion of human dignity.”
“Only love within the family,” he stressed, “founded on a man and a woman, who are created in the image of God, can assure that inter-generational solidarity which transmits love and justice to future generations. Only charity can encourage us to place the human person once more at the center of life in society and at the center of a globalized world governed by justice."
Mexico City, Mexico, May 2, 2007 (CNA) - Eduardo Verastegui, one of the most successful Mexican actors in Hollywood today, has become one of the strongest voices against the legalization of abortion in Mexico City.
He rediscovered the faith of his parents in the most unlikely place on the planet and he has no fear of public rejection for his denouncing of the holocaust of abortion. Verastegui has revealed his pro-life convictions to various Mexican media outlets and he has created an organization in California to help those in need, especially women who are seeking abortions.
In an interview with the magazine “Hola,” he said he was “very frustrated over what is happening in Mexico today. I think there is tremendous manipulation of the news that the Mexican people are being given. The law cannot be based on lies, because abortion is a crime. That is a scientifically proven fact,” Verastegui said. Abortion “is a terrible holocaust in which millions of innocents are ‘legally’ dying. It’s something so grave, so profound, it goes beyond any philosophy or religion,” he added.
The Mexican actor went on to say there is no justification for abortion. “Let women do with their bodies what they wish, but the baby? What happens to the baby who has no voice and can defend himself? Perhaps 100 years ago there could have been doubts, only by faith could one think that there was life from the moment of conception. But today it is something scientifically proven, there is no doubt.”
He said that his own experience has shown that “most women who go there do not want to do it. It is something completely unnatural. I have been to clinics and when I talk with young women, they are scared, they feel alone and without help.
We must think about how to help them more. We must help them see other options,” he said. The 33 year-old actor tasted fame at an early age and recently became a rising star in Hollywood.
His most recent film, “Bella,” was warmly received by critics. For many years Verastegui said he sought happiness in fame and in success but as time went on he realized he was “empty.”
“In my search to know what was beyond this emptiness, I began to ask myself the great questions that everyone asks at some point in life: What am I doing in this universe? Where do I come from? Where am I going? What’s the meaning of all this? And in this search I began to meet with other kinds of people in another setting.” “I realized I had been selfish. Thats the things that had made me walk ahead blindly were vanity and pride. I lived in a constant contradiction; I wanted to do good things and I was not doing them,” he said.
The actor said he promised himself he would never do anything contradicts his moral principles or that would misrepresent Hispanics, “neither in film, nor in television nor in any other media.”
He said that his parents suffered greatly when he quit studying to become an actor and began to lead an immoral life. His mother turned to prayer. “I think the prayers of my mother have had a lot to do with all of this. You know the saying: ‘There is nothing more powerful than the prayers of a mother for her children.’ After seeing my case, I am convinced of it. All the change I have experienced in my life, the new people that drew close to me during my crisis, were undoubtedly the fruit of the prayers of my mother,” the actor said.
When asked what he learned most from his parents, Verastegui replied, “My faith. It is a gift that God gave me through them.”
Vatican City, May 2, 2007 (CNA) - In his weekly general audience, held this morning in a rainy St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict XVI recalled the words of Origen, one of the earliest Fathers of the Church, who reflected that true study of scripture and of Christ himself must begin with an enamoring with him.
During last week’s audience, the Holy Father focused on the life Origen and his literary works, this week turning to the 2nd century theologian’s teachings on prayer and the Church.
Origen, the Pope told the 30,000 people gathered in the square, "constantly intertwines his exegetical and theological works with experiences and suggestions concerning prayer."
For Origen, he stressed, "the understanding of Scripture requires, more even than study, intimacy with Christ and prayer. He is convinced that the best way to know God is love, and that there can be no true 'scientia Christi' without being enamored of Him."
The pope added that "The highest level of knowledge of God flows from love," pointing out that Origen "bases himself upon a meaning sometimes given to the verb 'to know' in Hebrew: when it is used to express the act of human love. ... Just as man and woman are 'two in one flesh,' so God and the believer become 'two in one spirit'."
Pope Benedict also used this morning’s audience to reflect on Origen's teachings on the Church and the "common priesthood" of the faithful.
"Purity and honesty of life," the Holy Father said, as well as "faith and study of the Scriptures are the indispensable conditions for exercising the universal priesthood.”
“Even more so, then,” he added, “are they indispensable for the exercise of the priestly ministry.”
The Pope explained that "These conditions - integrity of life and welcoming and studying the Word - create a true 'hierarchy of sanctity' in the common priesthood of the Christian faithful…Origen places martyrdom at the peak of this journey of perfection.”
He concluded his address saying that “This tireless journey of perfection concerns us all, so long as the gaze of our hearts is turned to contemplation of the Knowledge and the Truth that is Jesus Christ."
San Salvador, El Salvador, May 2, 2007 (CNA) - The president of El Salvador, Elias Antonio Saca, said this week, “In El Salvador, we are an army of defenders of our Christian faith, we are an army opposed to abortion,” in commenting on the recent approval of a law that legalizes abortion in Mexico City.
“Those of us who love life, those of us who believe in God, those of us who believe in life cannot be in favor of abortion in any form,” the president said, adding, “I respect what has happened in Mexico, I am not going to meddle in the internal decisions of the Mexico City congress.”
“Thank God the constitution of our country and our leaders are opposed to abortion,” he went on, although there are some members of the government who “believe in these kinds of things, in this kind of dangerous modernisms.”
“All Christians must share the sentiment of the Holy See, whether we are Catholics or Evangelicals,” the Salvadoran president said in reference to the statement by the Secretary for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Angelo Amato, who called abortion and euthanasia expressions of “terrorism with a human face.”
He also stressed that abortion is “a crime, and the Vatican has gone even further and has called it terrorism, because it is the killing of a baby in the womb of its mother, it is true terrorism.”
Dallas, Texas, May 2, 2007 (CNA) - A new bishop was installed for the Diocese of Dallas yesterday afternoon. Bishop Kevin Farrell succeeds the long-serving Bishop Charles Grahmann, who turned 75.
The downtown Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe was packed for the 2 p.m. installation mass.
Hundreds of faithful sat and stood outside under a tent that overcast afternoon to watch the mass on a big-screen TV.
Some of the faithful demonstrated their joy for the occasion with exuberant song and dancing before and after the mass.
After the mass, several hundred people filled a reception room across from the church. Bishop Farrell stood in front of a table adorned with a 4-foot bouquet of flowers, shaking hands and posing for photographs.
The 59-year-old Farrell was born in Dublin, Ireland, and served as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., since 2002. There, he administered the archdiocese's sexual abuse policy for members of the clergy, employees and adult volunteers. He would also meet with people who alleged incidents of abuse.
"Certainly I believe there is zero tolerance for anyone who harms a child. I cannot emphasize that more," Farrell had said at the March news conference.
Bishop Farrell was appointed to Dallas in March. The new metropolitan bishop says he looks forward to working with ecumenical leaders and civic officials to "build a community that truly respects the dignity of every human person."
The Dallas diocese is the 10th-largest in the nation with about 1 million members in 74 parishes. Bishop Charles Grahmann had served the diocese since 1990.
Vatican City, May 2, 2007 (CNA) - As the month traditionally set aside for devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary begins, the Vatican has announced that Pope Benedict XVI’s general prayer intention for the month of May will center on imitation of the woman whom the Church considers the “first Christian.”
The Holy Father’s general intention is that, “following the example of the Virgin Mary, all Christians should allow themselves to be guided by the Word of God and always remain attentive to the signs of the Lord in their own lives."
Similarly, the Pope’s mission intention for May is that “in mission territories there may be no lack of good and enlightened teachers in the major seminaries and in the institutes of consecrated life."
Washington D.C., May 2, 2007 (CNA) - The Alliance for Marriage has urged citizens of Washington state to send an urgent request to their state legislators asking them to organize, support and defend the common sense definition of marriage in the state.
Governor Chris Gregoire recently signed a bill recognizing same-sex couples as domestic partners. While this bill avoids using the word "marriage", the bill extends marital rights to homosexuals, the group noted.
The Alliance for Marriage is working with pro-marriage state legislators to establish the Washington State Marriage Protection Caucus.
In South Carolina, the Marriage Protection Caucus already introduced and passed the Marriage Protection Resolution, proposed by the Alliance for Marriage, in the South Carolina house.
Washington D.C., May 2, 2007 (CNA) - Women for Life International is urging Amnesty International not to adopt a policy that would recognize access to abortion as a human right.
In an April 25 press release, Women for Life stated that Amnesty’s policy would be seen "as an endorsement of the inhumane treatment of pregnant women who are forced to abort their children."
Amnesty rebutted the pro-life group’s claim and asked for a correction of this statement based on AI's long history of opposition to forced abortion.
Women for Life said it acknowledges and appreciates AI's opposition to forced abortion, but says Amnesty must be more consistent and persistent in ending this violation against humanity and women.
According to AI's website, the last reported incident of AI's opposition to forced abortion in China was in 2005. It has not responded to reported incidents of forced abortion since then.
Women for Life says Amnesty’s adoption of a policy on “selected aspects of abortion” flies in the face of the United Declaration of Human Rights, particularly articles 3 and 6.
Women for Life says it foresees “an increase in forced abortions in every country that legalizes abortion, no matter the reason.”
According to "Forced Abortion in America" by the Elliot Institute, 30 to 60 percent of women having abortions feel pressured to do so by other persons. (See www.afterabortion.org)
"Calling upon countries to legalize abortion, no matter what the justification, will only open the door for more human rights violations (forced abortions) against women and their pre-born children," Women for Life said in a press release.
“Every conceived (fertilized) child has the right to be born and to life no matter how the child was conceived," the group says.
Lima, Peru, May 2, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estevez, the former prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, said this week the upcoming 5th General Conference of the Latin American Bishops’ Council will be addressing some of the main challenges facing the region, including the family and the attacks against it, priestly vocations and the need for renewed catechesis.
In an interview with CNA, Cardinal Medina Estevez said the family “is very threatened in Latin America by the existence of divorce laws, by cultural customs, in conflict with Christian morality, such as cohabitation outside marriage” and the legalization of such unions, “including between persons of the same sex.”
The cardinal also underscored the importance of the family in promoting priestly vocations. “If the family structure is not sound, it is much more difficult for priestly vocations to come about.”
Referring to the issues to be discussed at the 5th CELAM conference, Cardinal Medina said, “There is a need for strong emphasis on catechesis, based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, either in its abbreviated form or in the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which are both high quality pastoral tools.”
Everything that has to do with faith should be a priority for the bishops, he went on, as faith is what changes attitudes and peoples’ situations. External pressures can only bring about change in the short term, but faith leads to a conversion of the heart, Cardinal Medina said.
He also pointed to the socio-economic challenges in the region, such as poor education, illiteracy and poverty.
Excesses in the Liturgy
Cardinal Medina stressed the importance of the liturgy in the life of the Church and emphasized that the Apostolic See “is responsible for definitively evaluating whether or not proposed adaptations are suitable.” He decried the lack of uniformity in the celebration of the Mass throughout the Catholic world, pointing to such abuses as the substitution of the readings from the Lectionary with texts from other sources.
Benedict XVI in Brazil
The cardinal said Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Brazil would primarily be pastoral, as the Pope is “fulfilling his task by coming to visit and confirm in the faith first of all his brother bishops of each diocese, and secondly, of the Christian faithful who see in the successor of Peter a guarantor of the unity of the faith.” “Undoubtedly the Pope has a special closeness to Latin America and this is evident in the fact that he speaks Spanish very well, he understands it perfectly,” Cardinal Medina said.
Asked about the future of the Church in the region, the Chilean cardinal said his hopes lie in parish life, in the new ecclesial movements and in diocesan life. “This is more important, more permanent, more relevant than things at the international level, which exist and without a doubt are of great use, but upon which, in my view, the future of the Christian faith does not depend.”
Cardinal Medina called on the faithful to pray for the success of the CELAM conference, that the participating bishops might have the strength and courage to speak clearly about the issues facing the region.
Wellington, New Zealand, May 2, 2007 (CNA) - The Catholic bishops of New Zealand are calling on government to support and help parents make the best possible decisions for the upbringing of their children.
Last week, the Catholic bishops issued a statement about the need to protect children against violence. They were critical of the legal status quo where parents have been able to defend violence against children as ‘reasonable force’ under the Crimes Act, which has not given adequate protection to children.
At the same time, they wrote that government should respect and not interfere unnecessarily with decisions that families are able to make for themselves, unless a child’s safety is at risk. They do not see minor and infrequent acts of physical punishment, such as spanking, as putting a child’s safety at risk.
They believe that the extremely polarized positions dominating the public debate, endorsing either violence against children in the name of discipline, or seeking the elimination of minor or intermittent acts of physical restraint of children by their parents, are unhelpful.
Caritas, the Catholic Church agency for justice, peace and development, called for more clarity and definition about the threshold for police prosecution of parents using physical punishment.
While recognizing that there are better means of discipline than physical punishment, Caritas does not believe that parents should be prosecuted for minor or intermittent acts of physical punishment of children. If this is the government’s intention, Caritas said, the law should say so.