Rome, Italy, Jun 8, 2007 (CNA) - Christ’s incarnation and presence in the Eucharist “puts into crisis the wisdom of men”. So the Pope spoke this past Thursday, at 7 p.m., on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi).
To mark the feast, Benedict XVI celebrated Mass in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, and afterwards presided over a Eucharistic Procession from St. John’s Basilica until the Basilica of Saint Mary Major. The Pope greeted the Romans gathered there, together with the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, Mons. Camillo Ruini, and other cardinals and bishops present at the celebration.
During the homily, the Pope said: “a moment ago, we have sung in the Sequence: It is certain for us Christians, / that the bread becomes flesh, / the wine becomes blood’. Today we affirm with enthusiasm our faith in the Eucharist, the Mystery which constitutes the heart of the Church.” It is also, “the gift which Jesus Christ makes of himself, revealing to us the infinite love of God for every man.”
Making reference to the counter-Reformation, the Pope noted that the feast has its origins in the desire of the people to reaffirm their belief in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. The purpose of the feast, he said, is “to adore, praise, and thank publicly the Lord, who ‘in the eucharistic Sacrament continues to love us ‘until the end’, to the point of giving his body and his blood.’” The Apostles received the gift of the Eucharist from the Lord in the intimacy of the Last Supper, but the gift was intended for everyone, for the whole world.
Linking Thursday’s celebration with the heightened spiritual tension of the last days of Lent, the Holy Father commented: “This evening’s Eucharistic celebration leads us back to the spiritual climate of Holy Thursday, the day in which Christ, on the eve of his Passion, instituted in the Cenacle the most holy Eucharist. The feast of Corpus Domini constitutes in this way a taking up of the mystery of Holy Thursday, as if in obedience to the invitation of Jesus to ‘proclaim from the rooftops’ what He has said in secret (cf. Mt 10:27).”
As he prepared to begin the Solemn Procession, the Pope declared, “This is why [the Eucharist] is proclaimed and exposed openly, so that everyone may encounter “Jesus who passes” as he passed through the roads of Galilee, of Samaria and of Judea; so that everyone, in receiving him, may be healed and renewed by the strength of his love.”
Calling the assembly’s attention to the miracle of the Eucharist, Benedict XVI noted that “when the priest proclaims after the consecration, ‘This is the Mystery of our faith!’ he proclaims the mystery just celebrated, and manifests his stupor in front of the substantial conversion of the bread and wine into the body and blood of the Lord Jesus, a reality which surpasses all human understanding.”
Noting the disbelief today of many Christians in the real Presence of Our Lord, the Holy Father explained: “Precisely because we are dealing with a mysterious reality which surpasses our comprehension, we should not be amazed if even today many find it difficult to accept the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. It could not have been otherwise…Today, just as back then, the Eucharist remains a ‘sign of contradiction’ … because a God who becomes flesh and sacrifices himself for the life of the world puts into crisis the wisdom of men.”
Besides an incredible miracle, the Eucharist is nourishment: “The Eucharist is ‘the bread of pilgrims’… the food which sustains them on their long exodus journey throughout the desert of human existence.” The Holy Father remarked that this world is like a ‘desert’, ‘dried up by ideological and economic systems which do not promote life, but instead put it to death; a world where the logic of power and of having dominate, rather than that of service and of love
As an antidote and answer to the culture of death, the Pope noted that the procession would be made “as if to bring ideally the Lord Jesus through all the streets and neighbourhoods of Rome. We will immerse Him, so to speak, in the ordinariness of our life, so that He may walk where we walk, so that He may live where we live.”
Rome, Italy, Jun 8, 2007 (CNA) - At noon today the Pope spoke to Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of more than 150 aid organizations, about the Christian way to be charitable. Benedict told those gathered that, “every act of charity should be inspired by a personal experience of faith” that leads those who receive it to experience the “self-giving” love of Jesus Christ.
Speaking in English, the Pope recalled that Caritas Internationalis today numbers more than 150 national organizations and that Servant of God John Paul II conferred public and canonical legal personality upon the confederation. "This means," he said, "that your confederation does not simply work on behalf of the Church, but is truly a part of the Church, intimately engaged in the exchange of gifts that takes place on so many levels of ecclesial life.
The mission of the confederation, said Benedict XVI, is "to assist in the Church's mission to spread throughout the world the love of God. ... Charity has to be understood in the light of God Who is 'Caritas': God who loved the world so much that he gave His only Son. In this way we come to see that love finds its greatest fulfillment in the gift of self. This is what Caritas Internationalis seeks to accomplish in the world. The heart of Caritas is the sacrificial love of Christ, and every form of individual and organized charity in the Church must always find its point of reference in Him, the source of charity.
"This theological vision," he added, "has practical implications for the work of charitable organizations. ... The first is that every act of charity should be inspired by a personal experience of faith, leading to the discovery that God is Love. ... Only when charitable activity takes the form of Christ- like self-giving does it become a gesture truly worthy of the human person created in God's image and likeness."
"The second implication follows closely from the first. God's love is offered to everyone, hence the Church's charity is also universal in scope, and so it has to include a commitment to social justice."
"For this reason, the great challenges facing the world at the present time, such as globalization, human rights abuses, unjust social structures, cannot be confronted and overcome unless attention is focused on the deepest needs of the human person: the promotion of human dignity, well-being and, in the final analysis, eternal salvation."
The Holy Father’s parting words to the group were to encourage them, "there are countless men and women whose hearts are filled with joy and gratitude for the service you render them. I wish to encourage each one of you to persevere in your special mission to spread the love of Christ, Who came so that all may have life in abundance."
Heiligendamm, Germany, Jun 8, 2007 (CNA) - President George W. Bush vowed to veto the bill passed in the U.S. House of Representatives on June 7, which would allow federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.
With the vote, lawmakers “chose to discard existing protections on human life,” he said in a statement from Germany, where he is participating in the G8 conference.
The U.S. president said he was disappointed that “the leadership of Congress recycled an old bill” that would overturn the 2001 Bush administration’s “carefully balanced policy on embryonic stem cell research.” Bush said his policy encourages ethical research but does not require taxpayer funds to support embryonic stem cell research.
“This [current] bill puts scientific research and ethical principle into conflict, rather than supporting a balanced approach that advances scientific and medical frontiers without violating moral principles,” he stated.
On the day before the vote, Cardinal Justin Rigali issued yet another message, urging lawmakers to reject the legislation. Cardinal Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia, is chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities.
In his June 6 letter to House members, Cardinal Rigali referred to two bills — S.5, on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, and H.R. 2560, also referred to as the DeGette bill, which would allow human cloning.
The cardinal warned that embryonic stem cell research would require lawmakers and others to embrace “more and more egregious violations of moral norms in the effort to bring its ‘promise’ to fruition.” The cardinal was referring to the DeGette bill.
The DeGette bill, he said, “allows unlimited cloning of human embryos for research – and then makes it a crime to transfer the embryo to a womb to allow the new human being to survive.
“What it actually prohibits is the act of becoming pregnant – a kind of law seen chiefly until now in the People’s Republic of China, where women can be punished for carrying an unauthorized child,” he wrote.
“For the first time in U.S. law, Congress would define a class of new developing human beings that it is a crime not to destroy,” he stated.
Washington D.C., Jun 8, 2007 (CNA) - Pro-life and church groups are optimistic about a new scientific breakthrough that provides yet another ethical alternative to embryonic stem cell research, reports Time Magazine.
According to the scientific journals Nature and Cell Stem Cell, researchers have succeeded in reprogramming ordinary cells from the tips of mouse tails so they are virtually indistinguishable from embryonic stem cells.
Three research groups said they accomplished their feat in mature cells by turning on four genes that are always active in days-old embryos. Some of the rejuvenated cells were able to mature into new mice, demonstrating the cells' ability to create every type of tissue in the body.
Researchers are optimistic that the discovery can be applied to human cells, which would offer an ethical way to create a limitless supply of cell lines tailor-made for patients.
"This would be a win for science, ethics and society," said Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities. "It may offer a way for people of all faiths and all ethical backgrounds to study, use, subsidize and enjoy any therapeutic benefits of … stem cell research."
Researchers say the method for human cells could eventually start by simply taking a cheek swab or some skin cells, and turning them into stem cells in a laboratory.
While researchers admit that there are lots of technical hurdles to overcome, reprogrammed cells could become the long-sought ethical substitute for embryonic stem cells.
This ground-breaking research was based on a Japanese study at Kyoto University, published last year, in which cells from the tails of adult mice were reprogrammed to become "pluripotent" — able to grow into many kinds of tissues.
In one of the new studies, published in the journal Nature, the Japanese scientists modified their procedures and succeeded in reversing the cell development toward an embryonic stage — which they were not able to do previously. When the resulting cells — which they dubbed induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells — were injected into mouse embryos, they contributed to the development of all parts of the animals.
Some of their offspring also inherited genes from the iPS cells. Senior author Dr. Shinya Yamanaka, from Kyoto University's stem cell biology department, said that genetic inheritance was an important sign because only cells that behave like embryonic stem cells can be passed from parent to child.
While the new Japanese study presented numerous positive results, more than 10 percent of the mice used in the study developed tumors—an obstacle that must be tackled in future research.
As a result, some scientists are concerned that it is too premature to use this method in humans because it might pose a health risk.
Washington D.C., Jun 8, 2007 (CNA) - The U.S. Catholic bishops and Catholic Relief Services are calling on all members of Congress to reinstate funding for the “ABC” model of AIDS prevention, which promotes abstinence and fidelity.
This comes after a House Subcommittee decided to alter the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) by eliminating in 2008 the modest level of designated funding that currently promotes abstinence and fidelity as ways to combat the spread of HIV.
“Without requiring this funding, Congress risks diluting our nation’s effort to prevent and treat the modern-day scourge of HIV/AIDS,” said Bishop Thomas Wenski, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Policy.
In a statement, the bishop said the U.S. bishops’ conference deeply regretted the action by the House Subcommittee “that seriously undermines U.S. leadership in the global fight against HIV/AIDS.”
“This action rejects tried and true methods that have proven to actually reduce HIV infections. If allowed to go forward, this change could cost lives,” he said.
The ABC model stands for abstinence, be faithful and condoms, when necessary. The U.S. bishops and Catholic Relief Services consider abstinence and fidelity the only sure methods of preventing HIV infection.
The actions of the subcommittee seem to ignore the success rate of the ABC model. In at least 7 of the 15 focus countries that have been operating according to the ABC model, HIV/AIDS prevalence rates has declined.
“In our extensive experience, we have seen that only an approach to HIV prevention that has sufficient funding for groups to conduct abstinence and faithfulness education has yielded meaningful advances in stopping the spread of HIV,” said Ken Hackett, president of Catholic Relief Services.
“Without adequate public debate, the Subcommittee has signaled that it is prepared to abandon the consensus on how best to fight HIV/AIDS,” he added.
The U.S. bishops and Catholic Relief Services are urging Congress “to pursue evidence-based interventions that have a proven track record and that fully respect the lives and dignity of those struggling with this tragic disease,” Bishop Wenski said.
Panama City, Panama, Jun 8, 2007 (CNA) - Spokesmen for radical homosexual organizations said this week top officials at the Organization of American States (OAS) have expressed their commitment to promoting the homosexual agenda throughout the region.
According to the newspaper “La Prensa,” “for the first time, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transvestite, transgender and inter-sexual organizations had a voice in meetings taking place parallel with the General Assembly of the Organization of American States, which took place in Panama.”
Gay and lesbian activists met with the Secretary General of the OAS, Jose Miguel Insulza and with leaders of the delegations of member states.
Members of the “transsexual community” denounced the violence that some transsexuals are subjected to in different countries and that is “promoted by a legal system that fosters cruelty, repression, violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender expression and identity.”
Silvia Rosibel, who represents Nicaraguan transsexuals, said that while many members of the OAS are ignorant of “the reality that we experience,” Secretary General Insulza and the Panamanian ambassador to the organization, Aristides Royo, expressed their commitment “to working for respect for the rights” of gays, lesbians and other sexually defined social groups.
Natasha Jimenez, a prominent gay rights activist in Costa Rica, told La Prensa homosexuals groups have achieved results at the OAS, and that the organization has respected the gender identity of homosexuals. “The name tag I had as participant at the assembly identified me as a woman, and not by my legal name as a man.”
Rome, Italy, Jun 8, 2007 (CNA) - The Brazilian soccer superstar known as Kaka has said that both he and his wife, Caroline, were virgins when they married. Kaka has long been known for both his outspoken Christian faith and his remarkably good looks.
“The Bible teaches that true love waits until marriage,” Kaka told the Italian edition of Vanity Fair. “If our life today is so beautiful, I think it is because we waited," he said about his marriage.
The soccer star admitted that it was not easy to stay a virgin until his wedding night, and that even still there are challenges to living faithfully. “There are always temptations,” but the sacrifices the couple made for each other have been more than worth it, he said.
The couple’s chaste relationship prior to marriage "was important, as it tested our love," said Kaka.
Kaka’s interview was published shortly after Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen called the Church’s teachings on sex “ridiculous”.
Bundchen’s remarks in an interview with a Brazilian newspaper followed closely on the heels of Pope Benedict’s visit to Brazil, during which he repeatedly restated the Church’s teachings on social issues, exhorting Brazilians to live up to Catholic ideals.
Bundchen said no one in the modern world can be chaste or wait until marriage to have sex. "Today no one is a virgin when they get married ... show me someone who's a virgin!" she said. She criticized the Church’s moral teachings saying: "How is it possible to not want people to use condoms and also not have abortions? It's impossible, I'm sorry."
"It's ridiculous to ban contraceptives,” she continued. “You only have to think of the diseases that are transmitted without them. I think it should be compulsory to use a contraceptive."
Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 8, 2007 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Jalapa has been given the Episcopal ring of St. Rafael Guizar y Valencia, which the saint had sold to help the poor.
For years the whereabouts of the ring was unknown. An American family had bought the ring from the bishop, and recently the family decided to give it to Archbishop Emeritus Patrick Flores of San Antonio. The archbishop held on to the ring and this week traveled to Jalapa to give it as a gift to the archdiocese.
St. Rafael Guízar y Valencia--
The saint was born in 1878 to a family of eleven brothers and sisters in the Mexican state of Michoacan. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on January 29, 1995, in St. Peter’s Square. He endured many trials and persecutions because of the Mexican revolution of the 1920s.
As bishop he was responsible for a vast expansion of territory and would often travel on mule or foot to make pastoral visits to different areas. He was known most especially for his missionary zeal in preaching Christ.
Plagued by various diseases and exiled from his diocese, he died in Mexico City on June 6, 1959. His body was found to be incorrupt in 1959 and his remains were transferred to the Cathedral of Jalapa in Veracruz.
Pope Benedict XVI canonized St. Rafael Guizar y Valencia on October 15, 2006, at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Madrid, Spain, Jun 8, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the International Federation of Associations of Catholic Doctors, Jose Maria Simon, accused the NGO Doctors Without Borders of promoting “illegal abortions in countries where the practice is prohibited,” even providing information on how to “escape justice.” Simon referenced an internal protocol of the organization that authorizes doctors to carry out abortions in countries where the practice is outlawed or not socially acceptable.
The protocol lays out the directives to follow in case doctors must carry out an abortion to save the life of a mother in countries where it is illegal. “Only a foreign team is authorized to carry out an abortion, in a confidential location, without the assistance of any citizens of the country if possible.”
Simon called the protocol “unacceptable,” because in addition to the fact that the abortion is the “killing of a person and leaves another person wounded—the mother—this document goes even further and incites doctors to act illegally,” something which “international law does not allow.”
DWB not only incites its staff to commit crimes, he said, it also gives them information on “how to do so with impunity,” since if these practices are discovered by authorities, it is easier to escape justice if the abortion has been carried out by foreigners.
The medical director of DWB, Luis Villa, said this week the protocol refers to “speculations” about “cases that could occur” rather than to real cases. In any case, he added, “if a clear medical indication exists, the priority is the survival of the mother, and the law cannot be above that.”
He said application of the protocol “is not common” because “in the places where DWB works the means necessary for diagnosing a life-threatening pregnancy are not available.”
Rome, Italy, Jun 8, 2007 (CNA) - The Catholic Anti-Defamation League of Italy published a strong criticism of the comments by the former president of the Italian Hebraic Communities, Amos Luzzatto, who ridiculed Pius XII in an interview with “Corriere della Sera.”
Luzzatto attacked Pius XII saying that he, “never publicly opposed the mass exterminations…never said one word against the ghetto assault that took place” and “even that the German ambassador to the Holy See claimed the Vatican would not protest.”
In a press release the Catholic Anti-Defamation League of Italy pointed out that the telegram from the German ambassador cited by Luzzatto “is dated October 28, 1943, and therefore came after, not before, the assault on the Jewish ghetto in Rome.
After the raid on the Jewish ghetto, the German Ambassador Von Weizsäcker was called to the Vatican immediately by Secretary of State Cardinal Maglione, who asked on behalf of the Pope that the raid be stopped, “in the name of humanity and of Christian charity.”
On October 17, Von Weizsäcker informed German Chancellor Ribbentrop that the reaction from the Vatican against the raid was harsh and that “comparisons have begun to be made between this Pope and the more energetic Pius XI.”
The British ambassador to the Vatican, Osborne, told his government on October 31, 1943, that the reaction of the Pope to the deportation of the Jews was strong and that due to Vatican intervention many were set free.
When Pius XII, was warned by Princess Pignatelli of the Nazi plans, he quickly intervened through two German religious and through the protest of Cardinal Maglione. Two hours after the intervention, the raid on the ghetto was suspended and 4000 Jews found refuge in convents and Catholic schools.
In order to avoid accusations by the Jews against him, Von Weizsäcker maintained his story after the war that Pius XII did nothing, while the British kept to their own version of the events.
The Rabbi of Rome, Israel Zolli, publicly recognized the role Pius XII played in saving the News, including his contribution to collecting 50 kilos of gold demanded by General Kappler as a condition for stopping the massive deportation.
The League has offered documents in Italian backing up its arguments on its website at www.cadl.it.
In its statement the League said, “The statements by Amos Luzzatto seem to overlook the extensive documentation historians have gathered up to now, in addition to the numerous and authorized testimonies that the Jewish community and the Israeli government have expressed since 1944 in tribute to Pope Pacelli.”
“The repeated and vigorous attempt to obscure the venerated memory of the great Pontiff Pius XII is shocking,” the statement indicated. The League said it hoped “statements not in accord with the historical truth and that lend arguments to those who breathe hatred against the Church would be avoided.”
Vatican City, Jun 8, 2007 (CNA) - Members of Caritas International have chosen a new Secretary General and made history in the process. The new Secretary General is Lesley-Anne Knight, who by the accepting the position, becomes the first woman to ever hold the position.
The newly elected Secretary General said that, “Caritas is a treasure. I look forward with great honor to the next four years at Caritas Internationalis. The work we do here has a lasting impact on the lives of the poor, and I feel humbled to be given this responsibility by my brothers and sisters in the Caritas family.”
As the Caritas Internationalis Secretary General, she will be responsible for the coordination and joint work of the 162 member network, the largest Catholic and the second largest global aid network.
Delegates also elected Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga as the Caritas Internationalis President at the beginning of their week-long meeting in Rome .
Lesley-Anne Knight is the first woman to occupy the position. She replaces Duncan MacLaren , who leaves office after eight years.
Speaking about her goals as Secretary General, Knight said, “Caritas will need to strengthen its coordination, its communications, and its advocacy to achieve its potential for transforming the world through our living faith in Jesus Christ.”
Lesley-Anne Knight, 51, originally hails from Zimbabwe and is of British nationality. joins Caritas Internationalis from CAFOD (Caritas England and Wales ), where she was International Director since 2004, managing over 200 staff. She has over 25 years experience working on development and humanitarian issues around the world.