Vatican City, May 29, 2007 (CNA) - In anticipation of World Mission Sunday, the Holy Father released his message on missions today. Benedict’s call to the Church is to respond to, “the urgent need to re-launch missionary activity to meet the many grave challenges of our time."
Pope Benedict also recalls, that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Servant of God Pius XII's Encyclical "Fidei donum," which "promoted and encouraged cooperation between Churches for the mission 'ad gentes,'” or to the nations.
Contrary to those that claim that the Church is one that is humanitarian only, Benedict insightfully asserts that evangelizing efforts necessarily impact the whole of society.
"Missionary commitment, then, remains ... the Church's primary service to humanity today, in order to guide and evangelize cultural, social and ethical transformations, and to offer Christ's salvation to modern mankind, humiliated and oppressed in so many parts of the world because of endemic poverty, violence, and the systematic negation of human rights."
The Holy Father also highlights how "all Christian communities are born missionary." Hence, "for the individual faithful it is not just a matter of collaborating in evangelizing activity, but of being protagonists in and jointly responsible for the mission of the Church."
The experience of the Church shows that when the faithful share in the mission of the Church collectively it, "brings about the growth of communion between communities and an increase of reciprocal aid, both in terms of personnel (priest, religious and lay volunteers) and of the means necessary to evangelize today."
Nonetheless, the Pope continues, it must not be forgotten that "the first and principal contribution we are called to make to the Church's missionary activity is prayer. ... May all communities join in the choral invocation to 'Our Father Who art in heaven,' that His kingdom may come on earth!
The Holy Father makes his final appeal to the young and the infirm. "I appeal particularly to children and young people, always ready for generous missionary commitment, ... to the sick and suffering, recognizing the value of their collaboration, so mysterious and indispensable for the work of salvation, ... and to consecrated people."
Benedict XVI concludes by calling on the Virgin "to guide our footsteps" to "a Pentecost of love. In particular, may she make us aware that we are all missionaries, ... called by the Lord to be His witnesses in every moment of our lives."
The full text of the Holy Father's letter is available only in Italian at: http://188.8.131.52/news_services/bulletin/news/20316.php?index=20316&lang=en
Aparecida, Brazil, May 29, 2007 (CNA) - Bishop Noberto Strotmann Hoppe of Chosica (Peru), in statements to CNA, gives the faithful a glimpse into some of the problems occurring within the Latin American Bishops’ Council (CELAM) and what has led the bishops to make procedural changes to ensure that the 5th General Conference in Aparecida would run smoother.
The Peruvian bishop said, “It’s nothing new if I tell you that evidently there have been problems,” not so much in Aparecida as in previous meetings. “One thing that is very clear is that the preparation for events such as these needs to change and should be streamlined, but the methodology of the assembly itself should be profoundly changed and streamlined so that the 250 bishops gathered together can work with great efficiency and effectiveness,” he said.
Bishop Strotmman noted that despite different temperaments among the bishops in their small groups, discussions have been cordial, “even though there have been many differences of opinions.”
Asked what his own suggestions might be, Bishop Strotmann called attention to “serious deficiencies in the area of preparation for the conference, both in social as well as theological questions. With all due respect to those involved, there were no bright lights,” he said in reference to some of the preparatory documents of the 5th General Conference.
He said more information was needed in order to determine what the main problems are that people are facing the region. Regarding the lack of priestly and religious vocations, Bishop Strotmann said, “What should be hope for the Church is actually a tremendous headache from an institutional perspective. I have witnessed many bishops here saying, ‘No, vocations are on the rise.’ They don’t say the same thing about religious vocations because evidently that would be a lie as the numbers are very clear.”
Bishop Strotmann was cautious about the idea of a “Great Continental Mission,” saying such an initiative must be well-planned and must provide appropriate preparatory materials that indicate beforehand what the main problems are in the culture.
Asked about the final document of the Aparecida conference, the bishop said it was “too late to make serious changes. No conference of this type can address problems, whether at the international level or in Latin American society, nor from a theological perspective as well, in such a short period of time.”
“I have read the Holy Father’s book, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Nobody addresses the subject of discipleship like he does, in a short chapter of 10-15 pages that is exegetically and theologically very fascinating. Meanwhile here we are juxtaposing quotes and one asks, where the connection is,” he said.
Aparecida, Brazil, May 29, 2007 (CNA) - During the daily press briefing at the 5th General Conference of he Latin American Bishops’ Council, the archbishop of Quebec, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, revealed details about the next International Eucharist Congress, which will take place June 15-22, 2008, in Quebec.
During the conference, the Cardinal said the Holy Father has insisted the congress be “truly international, that there be participation from the different continents. We are working hard with contacts and invitations so that the people can stay free-of-charge with families.” He also said efforts are being made to raise funds to help the poor in Africa and Latin America as part of the outreach of the Eucharistic congress.
In statements to CNA, the cardinal explained that the theme of the 2008 congress would be, “The Eucharist, Gift of God for the Life of the World,” and that the event would have a missionary dimension by “insisting on the fostering of peace, international solidarity, contact between the north and the south.”
“The Eucharist is precisely the memorial of the paschal mystery, of the Lord’s sacrifice to the end and the victory of love over sin, hatred and death,” the cardinal said, noting that when one receives Communion one enters into that victory.
Santiago, Chile, May 29, 2007 (CNA) - Auxiliary Bishop Fernando Chomali of Santiago questioned the latest report from Amnesty International regarding human rights in Chile because it applauds the distribution of the morning-after pill to patients as young as fourteen.
Bishop Chomali said the report’s conclusions about Chile were plagued with contradictions, since while it criticizes various actions of the government, it also praises the distribution of the abortion pill.
He said it was ironic that on the one hand, Amnesty International faults the Chilean government for “using violence to resolve conflicts, but at the same time it praises the use of violence in taking the lives of the most defenseless,” the bishop said. “I find this to be absolutely contradictory,” he added. “This is a very poor analysis.”
The executive director of Amnesty International in Chile, Sergio Laurenti, praised the country’s decision to abolish the death penalty while at the same time applauding the distribution of the morning-after pill to girls as young as fourteen.
In recent weeks, AI has come under intense fire after it was revealed it plans to include the promotion of abortion as part of its official policy.
Rome, Italy, May 29, 2007 (CNA) - The head of the United Nations World Food Program thanked the Pope and the Vatican for the ongoing support her agency has received from the Catholic Church.
“It is a great honor to express in person my gratitude to His Holiness for his invaluable support in favor of the world's hungry,” said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran. The Pope received Sheeran in a private audience on Monday.
“I hope that the already excellent collaborative work with the Catholic Church … can be strengthened further,” she said.
WFP works with a number of Catholic organizations, including Caritas Internationalis which, through its network of over 40 member organizations distributed 85,000 tons of food in 2006.
The partnerships the agency has include: the Jesuit Refugee Service in six countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the Community of St. Egidio in Colombia, and many other Catholic-inspired NGOs.
“The moral authority of the Holy Father and his appeals for peace, justice and security are highly encouraging for us. We know we can always count on the partnership and precious help of Catholics and Catholic organizations,” Sheeran was quoted as saying.
Lansing, Mich., May 29, 2007 (CNA) - Dr. Jack Kevorkian, an infamous foe of the pro-life movement, is scheduled to be released from prison on June 1st raising questions about his plans once he is back in public. The 79 year-old was sent to prison in 1999 after he was convicted of killing a patient on national television.
He was sentenced to serve 10 to 25 years for the second degree murder of Thomas Youk, a Michigan resident who suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease. However, according to the rules of his sentencing, Kevorkian is now eligible for parole and will be released June 1st.
According to LifeNews.com, Kevorkian plans a change of tactics in his promotion of assisted suicide. The former pathologist will take his cause to the speaking circuit to try and “legally” promote assisted suicide laws around the country.
In a telephone interview with Michigan TV station WJBK, Dr. Kevorkian said he would promote making the grisly practice legal in more states other than Oregon, the only one to allow it, but reconfirmed that he won't break any laws.
Mayer Morganroth, Kevorkian’s lawyer, is quoted as saying, “the man who once bought his clothes from thrift shops, drove old cars and lived in inexpensive apartments has several offers to speak about legalizing assisted suicide for between $50,000 and $100,000.”
Burke Balch, director of the Powell Center for Medical Ethics at the National Right to Life Committee, responded to Dr. Death’s plans saying, "The solution here is not to kill people who are getting inadequate pain management, but to remove barriers to adequate pain management."
"We need to come up with better solutions to human suffering and human need," Balch said.
Catholic News Agency also sought comment from the Oregon Catholic Conference on Dr. Kevorkian’s release, but a reaction was not available by the time of publication. Oregon remains the only state in the U.S. with a law allowing assisted suicide at this time.
Marseilles, France, May 29, 2007 (CNA) -
Bishop Tom Burns, promoter of the Apostleship of the Sea in England & Wales, has dedicated a new cruise ship the Costa Serena to the protection of Our Lady.
The military prelate joined the president of Costa Cruises and the company's directors in the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde on a hilltop overlooking Marseilles last Saturday.
In his homily, Bishop Burns noted that for centuries seafarers sailing out of Marseilles had saluted Notre Dame de la Garde to ask for her protection while they were away at sea, separated for long months from their families and loved ones. On returning to the port, they would again salute Mary and thank her for bringing them home safely.
The blessing of a ship is to commend to God the new ship's architects and constructors, the crew, and the passengers, the bishop explained. He then asked the crew to remember that when seafarers leave home or a port, Christ goes with them.
A large model of the Costa Serena was placed in front of the statue of 'the Guardian Lady', and the ship, and all who will sail in her, were dedicated to the care of Mary, Star of the Sea (Stella Maris).
About 2,000 invited guests attended the evening 'christening' ceremony on the quayside in the port of Marseilles, and witnessed the breaking of a bottle of champagne against the ship's bow.
After the gala dinner, the ship sailed out of the harbor and guests witnessed a 30-minute firework display and light-and-sound show.
Pittsburgh, Pa., May 29, 2007 (CNA) - Answering his detractors claims of causing division, Episcopal Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh says his efforts to realign Episcopalian doctrines with those of traditional Christianity serve as a common ground and a bridge to ecumenical dialogue.
Bishop Duncan is one of 110 diocesan bishops and numerous laity within the Anglican Communion who were upset by the ordination of openly gay bishop, Eugene Robinson, in New Hampshire.
He has emerged as the leader of a movement, which includes about 900 of the 7,000 congregations within the Episcopal Church in the United States, to realign Episcopalian doctrines with those of traditional Christianity.
The movement is called the Anglican Communion Network. It “seeks to hold to the truth that the church has received and has always taught, as opposed to the innovations that are being held up now,” he told Our Sunday Visitor in an interview.
The bishop said he and the members of his movement believe the church is in the midst of a major Christian reformation.
“Pope Benedict XVI wrote, when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, that the Western church will not be fruitful again until it was severely pruned - referencing John 15,” he said in the interview. “We're in the midst of a significant pruning, and not only of the Anglicans but also of the whole of the Western Christian church.”
The bishop does not identify with the conservative label. “My understanding is that it's (ACN’s teaching against homosexuality etc.) simply what the gospel says, and that it is what the mainstream of Christianity has always held,” he was quoted as saying.
The prelate said his group is often criticized for being “just worked up over sex.”
“That's not it at all. We're actually worked up over what scripture says, and in every regard,” he continued in the interview. The Episcopalian Church has been lax about allowing remarriages after divorce, and on what scripture says about human life and its sanctity.
Bishop Duncan agreed that his position serves as a common ground and a bridge to ecumenical dialogue with Catholics.
“As we began this movement … in the fall of 2003 … then-Cardinal Ratzinger wrote to us, to a meeting of almost 3,000 Episcopalians gathered in Plano, Texas, and he wrote from Rome saying, ‘We are watching you, our brothers, you who are standing against these innovations, are standing with us,’” the bishop recounted.
“When the cardinal became Pope Benedict XVI, the letter was hung in our office.”
Rome, Italy, May 29, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has sent a donation to the Ivory Coast to help the poor with their basic necessities.
The Pope’s donation and message of spiritual closeness to the African nation was conveyed by Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Councils for Justice and Peace and for Migrants and Itinerants, who is visiting the Ivory Coast on behalf of the Pontiff.
The cardinal encouraged the faithful in that country to continue down the road of peace and reconciliation and that public life should be open to all people of the nation, regardless of political affiliation, race or ethnicity.
The cardinal’s visit came at the invitation of the Bishops’ Conference of the Ivory Coast, which has been plagued by a series of armed conflicts and wars. Cardinal Martino was in the country from May 15-20 and visited several cities, including Bouake, a rebel hold-out.
In addition to presenting the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, the cardinal also presided at several Masses and met with the bishops and political leaders of the country.
Cannes, France, May 29, 2007 (CNA) - The Cannes Film Festival has once again confirmed its radical reputation by choosing to give its top award this year to a controversial Romanian film on abortion.
Despite the fact that the film did not have the majority support of the public, the Cannes jury decided to give the top award to Romanian director Cristian Mungui, whose film “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” recounts the attempts of young girl to obtain an illegal abortion in Communist Romania.
The film has caused much controversy as some consider it pro-abortion propaganda, while others see it as brutal warning of the consequences of taking the life of the unborn.
The film tells the story Gabita, a timid student from a small Romanian town, who desperately wants to end the life of her unborn child, even though that she is more than half-way along in her pregnancy.
The friend that helps her get an abortion has to navigate through a world of corruption and political repression, in which anything can be bought if one has the right connections with the black market, and is presented as a hero.
On the other hand, the director also shows an extended and shocking scene of the aborted baby, and portrays how corrupt the doctor is, who is heard graphically describing the abortion in all of its rawness and repugnance. He said the decision to show the unborn child on screen “is intended to send a message: people should be aware of the consequences of their decisions.” Mungui was presented the award by actress Jane Fonda, who despite her “conversion” after separating from media mogul Ted Turner, continues to be an avid abortion-rights supporter.
The controversial film beat out 29 other films, including new productions from Quertin Tarantino, the Coen brothers and Wong Kar-wai.
, May 29, 2007 (CNA) - Bishop Michael Saltarelli of Wilmington, Deleware celebrated the dedication Mass for a statue of Our Lady Queen of Peace, outside Holy Spirit Church. The statue has drawn the criticism of some in the local community who believe that Catholics worship Mary.
The statue is the result of nearly10 years of effort by parishioners, and its impact was evident at the Mass. The consecration ceremony packed the church, which seats around 800 people, with close to 1,000 attendees.
Bishop Saltarelli used the consecration of the statue as an opportunity to respond to the non-Catholics who objected to the statue on the grounds that it is an idol and that the parishioners would be worshipping her.
"What we are doing here today sadly disturbs many." Saltarelli went on to respond directly to one particularly "respectful and kind" inquirer, the News Journal reported. "We do not worship Mary," Saltarelli said. "She is not a goddess."
But the use of Mary as intercessor to Jesus Christ and God the Father, he said, is an integral part of the Catholic doctrine of the "community of saints" -- the spiritual solidarity that binds together the faithful on earth, in purgatory, and the saints in heaven.
"We pray for each other as wayfarers on earth," Saltarelli said. "So, why can't we reach out to the Blessed Mother also to intercede for us?"
The statue -- like those statues of patriots and historical figures that clutter the Capitol rotunda in Washington -- are not to be worshipped, he said, but to act as inspiration.