Vatican City, May 30, 2007 (CNA) - In his general audience today, Benedict XVI resumed his series of catecheses on leading figures of the early Church, turning his attention to Tertullian. He is known as the first great Christian author to write in Latin and was born in Carthage around the year 150.
Addressing a throng of 32,000 people gathered for the audience, the Pope noted how Tertullian, "yielded vital fruits that it would be inexcusable to undervalue." His influence extended "from language and the recovery of classical culture to the identification of a shared 'Christian soul' in the world and the formulation of new prospects for human coexistence."
Tertullian "converted to Christianity because it seems he was attracted by the example of the martyrs. ... However, an overly individual search for the truth as well as the intemperance of his character gradually led him to abandon communion with the Church."
In his apologetic writings, Tertullian set two objectives for himself: "refuting the terrible accusations made by pagans against the new religion and, in a more constructive and missionary sense, communicating the Gospel message in dialogue with the culture of his time."
Tertullian also "made a significant contribution to the development of Trinitarian dogma," said the Pope. "Using Latin, he gave us a language appropriate for expressing this great mystery, introducing the terms 'one substance' and 'three Persons'."
"No less important," the Pope added, "is Tertullian's Christology," as well as his writings "on the Holy Spirit, ... on the Church (which he always recognizes as mother), ... on the moral conduct of Christians and on the life to come, ... on Mary, ... on the Sacraments, ... on the Petrine primacy and on prayer."
Pope Benedict focused in on the hopeful tone of the theologian’s writings, "In particular this apologist exhorted Christians to hope, which according to his writings is not just a virtue in itself but something that invests every aspect of Christian life. Thus the resurrection of the Lord is presented as the foundation for our own future resurrection and represents the principal object of Christians' expectations."
Tertullian "remains an interesting witness of the early Church, when Christians found themselves as the real protagonists of 'new culture' in the encounter between classical heritage and the evangelical message." His work "evokes the perennial continuity between authentic human values and Christian values."
Another important affirmation of Tertullian, is that "Christians cannot hate even their own enemies" from which arises the "ineluctable moral consequence" that non violence is "a rule of life. And the dramatic relevance of this teaching today," the Pope concluded, "is also evident in the light of the animated debate over religions."
Vatican City, May 30, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI compassionately held the hands of the parents of 4-year-old Madeleine McCann, blessing them and a photo of the girl at the Wednesday audience today. The couple, who is Catholic, went to ask prayers for their daughter who disappeared while the family was vacationing in Portugal.
Thirty two thousand people were present at the general audience, but the pope took time to meet with Gerry and Kate McCann. "He was very kind, very sincere," Kate McCann told a packed news conference. According to the Associated Press, she said Benedict reassured them that he would "continue to pray for Madeleine's safe return."
"It was more personal than I ever could have imagined," said Gerry McCann. When Benedict saw a photograph of Madeline he recognized her right away. "His touch and thoughts and words were more tender than we could have hoped and that will sustain us during this most difficult time," he said.
When the Catholic couple expressed their desire to meet with the Holy Father to ask for his prayers the Holy See was quick to say yes.
A Vatican spokesman, Fr. Ciro Benedettini, said British Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor asked for the meeting to be arranged.
"We are talking about a family drama that has touched world public opinion. It could not but touch the Holy Father, especially since these people are Catholics," Benedettini said.
"The Holy Father is considered the father of all, therefore he was personally touched as a father," the spokesman said.
"Obviously we have very mixed emotions about being here, and of course why we are here." Gerry McCann said as the couple arrived in St. Peter's Square. "In normal circumstances it would be one of the most exciting things we could do in our own lifetimes, but very much on our minds is the fact that we are here without Madeleine." Expressing his gratefulness for the support they have received he said, "One evil act seems to be generating so much good.”
Madeleine McCann disappeared May 3 when her parents left her and her 2-year-old twin siblings alone in their hotel room while they went to a restaurant in their hotel complex in Praia da Luz, a resort town in Portugal's Algarve region. Gerry and Kate McCann have said they will not return to Britain without their daughter.
Kate McCann is traveling with a pink stuffed animal — Cuddle Cat — that her daughter took to bed with her every night.
Vatican City, May 30, 2007 (CNA) - Speaking about the theologian Tertullian at the general audience today, Benedict XVI offered his insights on the necessity of humility for being a theologian.
The pope spoke of the, "drama" of Tertullian's life" and used it to make a point about being faithful to the Church. “With the passing of the years he became ever more demanding towards Christians expecting them to behave heroically in all circumstances and especially during persecution." This rigorous expectation led Tertullian to eventually break with the Church.
Benedict offered this thought on his departure, "I often think of this great moral and intellectual figure, this man who made such a great contribution to Christian thought. It is clear that in the end he lacked the simplicity and humility to be part of the Church, to accept her weaknesses. When one sees only one's own ideas, in all their greatness, in the end it is precisely this greatness that is lost. The essential characteristic of great theologians is the humility to remain with the Church, to accept her weaknesses and their own, because only God is truly holy. We, on the other hand, always have need of forgiveness."
Aparecida, Brazil, May 30, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the committee charged with drafting the final document at the 5th General Conference of the Latin American Bishops’ Council, Archbishop Jorge Enrique Carvajal, said Tuesday the strength, capacity and experience of the movements would be essential for the Great Continental Mission.
In statements to CNA, Archbishop Carvajal said the new movements and communities “will have to help us in a special way in the missionary work as they have a lot of missionary experience.”
“The great majority of the new movements and communities are missionary and they must help us,” the archbishop said, adding that the bishops are counting on their “strength and missionary capacity.”
Commenting on the approval of the four-page final message, the archbishop said five bishops and an advisor made up the committee charged with overseeing the drafting of the document. “We tried to capture what was happening in the assembly,” he explained, “and we received more than 380 interventions, which took more time to review than we had planned.”
Archbishop Carvajal said the purpose of the final message is to breathe “new life in Latin America,” to overcome the problems facing the region "with the light of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
Caracas, Venezuela, May 30, 2007 (CNA) - In statements on Union Radio, Archbishop Roberto Luckert of Coro, who is vice president of the Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela, said the decision to close Radio Caracas Television was “the biggest political mistake” of President Hugo Chavez, and he said it has wounded all Venezuelans.
Venezuela’s "Radio and Television Caracas" station was known as one of the few media outlets that criticized Chavez’s government. When the station’s broadcasting license came up for renewal, President Chavez decided to let it expire and shut the station down.
The archbishop said that up until now the government’s actions have affected select individuals or groups, but “the closing of Radio Caracas Television wounds the Venezuelan sentiment because it is one of the oldest communications company of the country and in every corner of the country people watch Channel 2,” he explained.
“Venezuelans are feeling all of this in their hearts, the people are feeling that not only the ruling class is being hurt, but the entire people, they feel the government is getting involved in matters that belong to the people.”
He also lamented the decision by the country’s Supreme Court to “confiscate the goods of Channel 2 and hand them over to the government.”
“The president decided he should shut down Channel 2, he announced it and closed it, and afterwards the petty lawyers showed up to try to justify the unjustifiable” he said, explaining that the Court’s decision proves it is bowing to the regime.
Sao Paulo, Brazil, May 30, 2007 (CNA) - According to LifeSiteNews.com, the government of Brazil announced Monday a plan to provide artificial hormonal contraceptives to the public at a discounted cost in drug stores across the country.
Brazil’s socialist president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, told media that the plan will give poor Brazilians “the same right that the wealthy have to plan the number of children they want.”
Government-run pharmacies already distribute chemical contraceptives and condoms for free, but the new program will make the pills available at low cost in 3,500 privately owned businesses. The government hopes to have the discounted pills available at 10,000 stores by the end of the year.
The government also plans to increase the number of male sterilizations at Brazilian hospitals.
During his recent 10-day visit, Pope Benedict XVI condemned the government’s capitulation to the population control mentality. Throughout his some thirty speeches and homilies during his visit, the Pope repeatedly urged the Brazilian people to reject birth control and abortion calling it a threat to the “future of the peoples” of Latin America.
“Among the initiatives to create a normal and balanced population growth, the public powers do not have the right to promote abortion, mass sterilization and the indiscriminate spreading of artificial methods of birth control,” Pope Benedict asserted.
But the practice of the Catholic faith among most Brazilians has declined sharply, coinciding with the growth of Marxist-inspired liberation theology and broad secularization. The CIA World Factbook lists the main religious affiliation of Brazil as “Roman Catholic (nominal)” with 73.6% of the population being Catholic. The US State Department’s 2005 religious freedom report noted, however, that “only a small percentage” of Brazilians regularly attend Mass.
As the devotion of Brazil’s people to their traditional religious beliefs wanes, so does their birth rate. 2007 statistics show a general fertility rate that has just dipped below replacement level with 1.88 births per woman, down from1.91 in 2006.
Aparecida, Brazil, May 30, 2007 (CNA) - In his homily during Mass at the 5th General Conference of the Latin American Bishops’ Council, Archbishop Ubaldo Santana of Maracaibo (Venezuela) said “the spirituality of thankfully giving back” that is, tithing, consists in giving back “that which belongs to God.”
“When the disciple discovers, with the light of grace, that Jesus wants to share everything with his friends, for whom he is willing to give his very life, in which he gives all and demands nothing, a desire is ignited in his heart that is transformed into a decision: respond to God with the same decision,” Archbishop Santana said.
“Here is the origin of what we could call the spirituality of thankfully giving back, the origin of tithing, that which belongs to God and which the believer gives back. Give to the most High as generously as you can because the Lord knows how to repay.”
“The greatest gift we can take from Aparecida (the bishops’ conference),” the archbishop continued, “is a renewed and clearer conviction that Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man in the womb of Mary, has given us everything. “May the Lord give us the strength to not only tithe but, like Peter, the first missionary disciple of Jesus, may we also be willing to leave everything for Him and have Him as the center of our churches.”
“May Mary accompany us and help our peoples to begin to live a new time of true life, of unbreakable hope,” Archbishop Santana said in conclusion. At the end of the Mass he presented the Shrine of Aparecida with a statue of Our Lady of Coromoto, the patroness of Venezuela.
Madrid, Spain, May 30, 2007 (CNA) - The Viktor E. Frankl Association in Valencia (Spain) has gathered together a group of psychologists, doctors and nurses for a seminar this Wednesday for families who are dealing with the disease of cancer in a loved one.
The seminar, designed for family members and friends of cancer patients, aims “to help them understand the experience of the illness in its different stages and how to act during each one,” organizers told the AVAN news agency.
Speakers will explain how to help loved ones during the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, whether through chemotherapy, radiation or surgery, as well as how to deal with “the fear of relapse” and how to act “when the disease becomes chronic.”
Since its creation in 2001, the Viktor E. Frankl Association has reached out to more than 300 people, providing free psychological, legal, ethical and spiritual assistance to those battling cancer in their families or dealing with the death of a loved one from cancer.
The association is named after the Austrian psychiatrist who was born in 1905 and died 1997 and who dedicated his professional life to developing the “Existential Analysis” method for finding meaning in suffering.
Madrid, Spain, May 30, 2007 (CNA) - The Bioethics Observatory of St. Vincent the Martyr Catholic University in Spain has launched a new website providing analysis on medical research and developments including human cloning, euthanasia, experimentation with embryos and stem cells.
The purpose of the site is to provide analysis of the advances in medicine, research and bio-technology, proposing concrete actions for professional life,” university officials told the AVAN news agency.
The Observatory provides counseling and continued formation to professionals and others interested in this subject, enabling them to evaluate and address problems related to bioethics. It also sends out an email newsletter that includes commentary and analysis by experts from St. Vincent the Martyr University and other universities.
The website will also offer users important Church documents on medical research and bioethics, the right to conscientious objection for health care workers, and the key teachings of the magisterium of Benedict XVI.
Washington D.C., May 30, 2007 (CNA) - At a news conference today at the National Press Club, a coalition of groups headed by the Washington, DC based Faith and Action will publicly ask Postmaster General John Potter to issue an official Ten Commandments U.S. Postage Stamp.
Representatives of Faith and Action, the Christian Defense Coalition and others will unveil tens of thousands of petitions signed by citizens in all 50 states and several territories asking for the stamp, said the Christian Newswire.
U.S. Postal Service regulations do not require petitions or any number of requests before issuing a stamp. One citizen may request a particular stamp theme, but it must meet certain guidelines in its design and content.
Faith and Action was previously denied its request for a Ten Commandments stamp after the advisory commission responsible for evaluating stamp proposals deemed its content "religious." Yet, shortly after the denial, the Postal Service issued two stamps honoring Islamic religious feasts.
Rev. Rob Schenck, president of Faith and Action and chairman of the committee on church and society for the Evangelical Church Alliance said:
"A Ten Commandments postage stamp is long over due. We have Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and even Star Wars stamps. The Ten Commandments are the most universal and enduring of all ancient law codes. Jews, Christians and Muslims all revere the Ten Commandments and virtually all religions acknowledge them as good for people to follow. The Ten Commandments also factor large in the history of our country and its culture."
Large posters of an artist's rendering of a possible Ten Commandments stamp will be displayed at today's news conference along with 30 boxes of petitions.
Harare, Zimbabwe, May 30, 2007 (CNA) - Zimbabweans are praying for an end to the "autocratic" and "brutal" regime of President Robert Mugabe that has brought untold suffering to the country, says outspoken Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo.
"There is a lot of prayer in Zimbabwe right now - praying of the rosary, night prayers to Our Lady for the country," the archbishop says in an interview to be published in the June-July issue of Inside the Vatican magazine.
He says it was "imperative" for the bishops of Zimbabwe to write their Easter Pastoral Letter which blamed the crisis in the country on bad governance. Mugabe dismissed the letter as political meddling and told the bishops to choose between religion or politics.
"The situation of the people was becoming worse and worse. Among the young people, there was a growing anger and a growing sense of uncertainty and desperation. We were in the hands of a man who for 27-plus years had been autocratic and using his army to be brutal on the people."
He says Mugabe's regime tries to intimidate the clergy for their solidarity with the people. "We were told: 'You keep to the Bible, to religious affairs, don't comment on political matters. If you want to come into politics then give up your religious garb, and be a politician and then we will deal with you properly.'" Despite such rhetoric, the authorities dragged at least one priest out of Mass as he read the bishops’ pastoral letter to the congregation.
But the church will not be intimidated. "We feel duty bound to stand with the people in a time when there is so much suffering; in times when the humanitarian situation of the people food wise, education-wise, health-wise, is getting worse and worse."
Nairobi, Kenya, May 30, 2007 (CNA) - A Catholic radio station in rural Uganda has won the admiration of an international panel of judges for contributing "significantly to knowledge and development in the area."
Radio Pacis, based in Arua in the West Nile District, was named Africa's New Radio Station of the Year in a competition celebrating radio excellence in the continent, organized by the British Broadcasting Corporation.
In at the awards ceremony in Nairobi on Saturday, the judges described Radio Pacis as "a fine example of what a community radio station based outside the capital can do."
With a small staff and modest resources, the station "still addresses challenging local issues, including providing advice on medical and health problems and debating matters of local interest alongside local and national news.
While the station does not have perfect sound quality, the judges are still convinced that Pacis contributes significantly to knowledge and development in the area." Besides a trophy, the station will also receive $5,000 worth of equipment from the BBC.
An ecstatic Sherry Meyer, the station manager, told Catholic Information Service for Africa (CISA) that, “the win was a moment of joy for not just the station but also for all Catholic media initiatives in Africa.”
Radio Pacis was started with the assistance of the Comboni Missionaries in 2004, following "a cry from the people that they wanted a radio station," the programme manager, Anecho Sam, said.
He said the focus of the station is development of the human person, and targets Catholics and non-Catholics alike. "It is the station that the people asked for."
Radio Pacis can be heard in the West Nile area, parts of southern Sudan, and the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.