Vatican City, Jun 15, 2007 (CNA) - Recalling the founding of the Pontifical Council for Culture by the Servant of God John Paul II, the Pope received participants of the congress gathered to celebrate its 25th anniversary today. In his address to the congress, he stressed the importance of culture for helping man encounter the love of God in his life and the lives of those around him.
The Holy Father recalled how Servant of God John Paul II created the council on May 20, 1982 with the aim "of giving renewed impulse to the Church's commitment to ensure the Gospel encounters the plurality of cultures in the various parts of the world."
Benedict pointed out that Christian culture is always at the service of the good of people. "In its dealings with the world of culture, the Church always places man at the center, both as the instigator of cultural activity and as its ultimate recipient."
Benedict XVI then recalled that to celebrate its 25th anniversary, the pontifical council has organized this congress "to meditate upon the relationship between evangelization and culture," and "to consider how that relationship presents itself today in Asia, America and Africa."
He noted that evangelization can find expression in the meeting of culture and faith. "The history of the Church is - also and inseparably - the history of culture and art," said the Pope. "Works such as St. Thomas Aquinas' 'Summa theologiae,' the Divine Comedy, Chartres Cathedral, the Sistine Chapel and the Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach are syntheses…between Christian faith and human expression.
However, the fusion of faith and culture is not always so extraordinarily expressed. There is also a more hidden, and in some ways more beautiful demonstration of the melding of faith and culture. “These qualities also come together every day in the life and work of all the baptized, in that hidden work of art which is the story of love of each of us with the living God and with our fellow man, in the joy and fatigue of following Jesus Christ in our daily lives.”
Referring to our present society the Pope said that a, “reciprocal openness between cultures” is the way that human society will advance. The Church’s greatest gift that humanity ignores at its own peril is, “the most powerful force for renewal and elevation: the Love of God that becomes human love."
Philadelphia, Pa., Jun 15, 2007 (CNA) - The City Council reversed its previous declaration today by a vote of 13-4. The declaration passed last week stated the city’s support for "women's reproductive rights and freedom" and defended "the right to choose a legal and safe abortion as a final but critical option for women."
The original resolution passed by a 9-8 vote, surprising sponsor Blondell Reynolds Brown who had not expected the declaration to be controversial. As previously reported by CNA, the resolution was swiftly condemned by Cardinal Justin Rigali. Other sources reported that complaints flooded into some council members' offices.
The resolution rescinding last week's proclamation was sponsored by Councilman Frank Rizzo, who said the entire episode had been an embarrassment.
"I think that we should stay away from issues like this that cause division in our city," Rizzo said.
Another council member Marian Tasco seemed confused as to how such issues should be handled calling it both a personal and a legal issue. "The issue of pro-choice or pro-life is personal. The issue of choice is something we do not deal with in city council. It's a legal issue dealt with by other forms of city government."
Councilman Tim Kenney also expressed his internal conflict saying that he personally was pro-choice, but had decided upon reflection that it was an inappropriate issue for council to wade into.
In an attempt to make peace Councilwoman Reynolds Brown said, "I've learned, as an enlightened pro-choice advocate, that there may have been other ways to make my position known," said Reynolds Brown.
Switching sides from last week were council members, Jim Kenney, Frank DiCicco, Donna Reed Miller, Daniel Savage and Wilson Goode Jr.
Vatican City, Jun 15, 2007 (CNA) - Today, Pope Benedict XVI addressed further secularization in Eastern Europe with bishops from the Slovak Episcopal conference.
As an Eastern European country known for its rich history in Catholic tradition, Slovakia is moving toward "the dynamic typical of other European countries of ancient Christian tradition, strongly characterized in our time by a vast process of secularization.”
Addressing the current state of Slovakia, the pontiff said, “currently [Slovakia is] exposed to the risk of seeing that heritage, which the communist regime did not manage to destroy, severely affected by characteristic elements of Western society: consumerism, hedonism, laicism, relativism, etc."
In response, the Pope drew attention to the current Plan for Pastoral Care and Evangelization, which is striving to rediscover the evangelization works of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, great missionaries and patrons of the Slavic people.
"This is a pastoral undertaking that aims to embrace all areas of society, ... giving particular attention to the spiritual requirements of young people and families. ... Quality formation in the field of education is extremely important for the future of new generations and, in this area, a precious contribution comes from Catholic schools which are very numerous in Slovakia."
After highlighting the declines in marriage and birthrates, he called upon the Church "to intensify its prayers and to continue to commit herself forcefully to support families in facing the challenges of the present."
Valencia, Fla., Jun 15, 2007 (CNA) - The secretary of the organization Pro-Life Youth of Valencia (Spain), Juan Rivera, denounced the State and society for their “de facto protection of abortion,” saying, “Its hypocrisy to speak about human rights and at the same time pay no attention to those who walk down the street with their hands stained with blood.”
In an interview about the inaugural conference for pro-life youth in Spain, Rivera said, “Our society needs to wake up and defend life with all of its consequences. That’s why we decided to organize the conference, because we believe the youth must awaken our country’s conscience.”
“It’s not true that young people are asleep,” he continued. Rather, they have become conveniently enslaved to consumerism and to entertainment, “and thus when we say something that rings true we are ignored.”
Likewise, Rivera pointed out, “If a society does not protect life, it destroys itself, and since this is about our future, we want to avoid this.” “We want to “free ourselves of a future without hope” which some adults are proposing, “and to do that we need to start at the beginning which is defending the right to life of everyone.”
Rivera said abortion in Spain is “practically free-of-charge” and is “the first cause of death in the country” (some 100,000 in his estimate) compared to the “one thousand victims of domestic violence that is talked about so much. “Abortion is also criminal and bloody violence in the heart of the family itself,” he added.
“We’re facing the dilemma of an egotistical, destructive world without hope—which is the world of the culture of death that comes from abortion—versus a world of peace, hope and forgiveness which is the one we want to build through the culture of life. We want to break with the abortion past and with a future without hope,” Rivera stated.
“We are fed up with so much hypocrisy, of hearing people talk about solidarity and peace and at the same time not offering it to those who need it most who are the unborn human beings. We young people are for authenticity and for ideals, and the defense of life is the most necessary and beautiful ideal we can hold up.”
Boston, Mass., Jun 15, 2007 (CNA) - The Massachusetts Legislature yesterday voted against a measure that would have put a marriage amendment on the 2008 ballot. The vote has thus denied state citizens their right to vote on the future of marriage in the state.
Proponents of the amendment sought to reverse the impact of the Supreme Judicial Court's Goodridge decision that legalized same-sex marriage in 2003. Massachusetts remains the only state that recognizes the union of same-sex couples as "marriage".
Volunteers gathered more than 170,000 signatures to place an amendment to the state constitution — which would define marriage only as the union of one man and one woman — on the 2008 ballot. The process required approval in two successive legislative sessions to qualify as a statewide referendum.
The measure gained approval in last year's constitutional convention but failed yesterday under leadership by Democratic Governor Deval Patrick and pressure from the homosexual lobby.
The Catholic bishops of Massachusetts said in a statement that this action of, “Ignoring the will of more than 170,000 people who signed the marriage petition and blocking the people from exercising their right to vote is tragic.”
“In the Commonwealth, our state laws provide for the process whereby the citizens have a right to vote on a constitutional amendment,” they wrote. “However, the leadership of the Democratic Party refuses to allow citizens and elected officials to vote their conscience on social issues. Their ideological positions undermine the common good. Today, the common good has been sacrificed by the extreme individualism that subordinates what is best for children, families and society.”
”It is obvious from the unprecedented amount of pressure that was put upon elected officials that opponents of the amendment believed that the voters of the Commonwealth would have voted in favor of the traditional definition of marriage. The pressure tactics were engineered to insure that the will of the people would not prevail,” they stated.
“The question for those elected officials who opposed allowing the marriage amendment to be voted on by the people is: do we live in a country where people are free to vote their conscience or are we controlled by what is viewed as politically correct and by powerful special interest groups?” they asked.
“For legislators to flout the expressed will of the people is a travesty. It is clear they don't represent the people, but only their own narrow social and political agenda,” said National Clergy Council president Rev. Rob Schenck. “The outcome of this violates the spirit of the law, denies citizens their right to self-government and breaks the moral law of God.”
The Alliance for Marriage, which drafted the Marriage Protection Amendment before Congress, warned that the vote by the Massachusetts legislature will only plunge the nation deeper into a debate over marriage and the family.
Matt Daniels, president and founder of the Alliance for Marriage, says radical activists will now move to strike the 1913 law in Massachusetts requiring state residency for a marriage license.
He expects activists from all 50 states will travel to Massachusetts, obtain a marriage license and then sue in federal court to strike down any laws or state amendments protecting marriage in other states.
This plan, he says, “is intended to make sure Massachusetts ‘gay marriages’ become the new social norm for America. This is nothing short of a plan to create a national blitz of lawsuits challenging state marriage laws, state marriage amendments, and the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act.”
Vatican City, Jun 15, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy may hold a historic meeting within a year, Cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the Vatican's department for Christian Unity, was quoted as saying yesterday.
It would be the first meeting between a Pope and Russian Orthodox patriarch. The Western and Eastern branches of Christianity have been split since the Great Schism of 1054.
The cardinal made the comment during a visit to the Vatican by an Orthodox bishop who has offered to try to set up the meeting.
"There is hope that Benedict and Alexy could meet within a year," Cardinal Kasper said, according to SIR. However, the meeting would depend on world events and the "internal situation" of the Russian Orthodox Church, he added.
Cardinal Kasper told reporters that Vienna has been suggested as a possible location for such a meeting.
The Orthodox archbishop of Cyprus, Chrysostomos II, who is visiting the Vatican, has reportedly said he would be willing to mediate between the two sides to try to arrange the meeting. He is scheduled to meet the Pope on Saturday.
San Diego, Calif., Jun 15, 2007 (CNA) - Christians and concerned citizens gathered today to draw attention to the plight of persecuted Christians in Iraq.
Bishop Sarhad Jammo of San Diego’s Chaldean/Assyrian Catholic Diocese of St. Peter the Apostle spoke at the rally, held in front of the Federal Building in downtown San Diego.
The bishop was in Mosul, Iraq, on June 3, when Fr. Ragheed Ganni and three deacons were killed in front of Mosul’s Church of the Holy Spirit. The bishop saw what happened and said one of the deacons was even shot in front of his wife.
The deteriorating situation of Iraq’s Christians has taken a back seat in the media to the struggles between Shiite and Sunni Muslims. Many Christian refugees have fled to Syria and Jordan.
Dr. Noori Barka of St. Peter’s Chaldean Catholic Parish has been working with Bishop Jammo by lobbying the State Department to do more to help Iraq’s persecuted Christians.
Barka said they have had some success. “They are going to start allowing Christian refugees to come here from Iraq, probably in September or October,” Barka was quoted as saying. “We are trying to get more aid for these people and get the new government in Iraq to help.”
Barka said the community is hoping that pressure from the Pope and other world leaders will help.
The Chaldean community in Michigan is planning a similar rally next week.
Johannesburg, South Africa, Jun 15, 2007 (CNA) - The Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) is calling for the public servants strike in the country to be carried out in lawful manner and for both parties to return to the negotiating table to find a speedy solution.
In a press release this week, the bishops expressed concern about the deteriorating situation of the labor strike, which began June 1.
“Our constitution upholds the democratic right to strike, but only as a last resort, when all avenues of negotiation have been exhausted,” wrote SACBC president Archbishop Buti Tlhagale of Johannesburg. “The fact that there were eight months of negotiation before the strike began in June 1 begs the question whether these negotiations were done in good faith.
“Public servants are a vital element in the running of any state and should be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve,” he continued. “In this regard, the debate around large salary increases at the level of Parliament and the Executive and refusing to pay a just salary at other levels of the state does pose a serious moral problem.”
The bishops said they were concerned about the increasing levels of intimidation being reported daily in schools and hospitals. According to the New York Times, public schools have been shut since the strike began, and some private schools began closing this week as strikers threatened to picket them.
The government has fired thousands of striking nurses, arguing that they violated a constitutional ban on strikes by essential workers, and has deployed army medical workers in public hospitals, reported the Times.
“Preventing children going to school and abandoning sick patients can never be condoned,” the bishops’ press release reads. “Those bent on harassing and intimidating non-strikers should desist from their bullying tactics.
“The right to strike should not endanger lives, particularly in our hospitals where an adequate staff must be present at all times. Unions, while rightfully pressing for a just salary, cannot ignore the right of others to life,” the bishops insisted.
Violence has been limited and Patrick Craven, a union spokesman, told the Times that “the unions are absolutely committed to keeping this strike peaceful, legal and disciplined.”
The strike was called by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), an amalgam of 1.8 million workers, mostly employed by national, provincial or local governments. The unions had demanded a 12 percent salary increase and other benefits, but lowered their wage demand to a 10 percent increase.
During the talks, the government raised its initial offer of a 6 percent increase to 6.5 percent, although it was expected to make a new offer when negotiations resumed late Wednesday.
The walkout, which the union says includes 700,000 of its members, has been confined largely to teachers, hospital workers and some government functionaries like court orderlies and stenographers.
Currently, a beginning teacher earns about $700 a month, and nurses may earn as little as $500. At the same time, food costs are rising 8.6 percent a year.
President Thabo Mbeki’s government has shown little sign of a move toward a settlement during the negotiation process.
Rome, Italy, Jun 15, 2007 (CNA) - Speaking to the Notimex news agency from Rome, Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iñiguez of Guadalajara (Mexico) said the Holy See continues to be interested in the investigations into the murder of Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo.
Cardinal Sandoval, who was named archbishop of Guadalajara following the death of Cardinal Posadas, said he met with the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, together with the two lawyers who are following the case, Fernando Guzman Perez Pelaez and Jose Antonio Ortega.
“We requested a meeting with Cardinal Bertone to inform him of what we know about the Posadas case. The Holy See has always been kept informed. He welcomed us and showed much interest and reiterated his desire to know the truth,” Cardinal Sandoval told Notimex.
Cardinal Sandoval stressed that the struggle to find the truth has been going on for 13 years, “and the ones who should tell it are the judicial authorities of Mexico. They should tell [the truth] to the Mexican people who anxiously await it.”
The cardinal said right now is a “good opportunity to achieve a definitive solution for the matter, with the new government in Mexico and with a new Secretary of State at the Vatican.”
Cardinal Posadas was brutally murdered on May 24, 1993, at the Guadalajara airport by a group of gunmen.
At that time the government said the cardinal’s death had been “accidental” because he was caught in the crossfire between to rival drug trafficking gangs. However, numerous investigations placed responsibility for the murder on forces of the government linked to the more radical sectors of Mexican masonry, which may have been behind the murder of presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio, whose death has never been satisfactory explained either.
In October of 2006, shortly after being named Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Bertone met with Cardinal Sandoval and with lawyers who have investigated the case.
According to attorney Jose Antonio Ortega, Cardinal Bertone was very attentive and interested, he showed he had a lot of information about the investigations, especially since Cardinal Sandoval was a prince of the Church and his murder remains unsolved. All of us Catholics want to know the truth.”
, Jun 15, 2007 (CNA) -
A woman devoted to San Antonio de Santa Ana Galvao, or Friar Galvao, as he is known in Brazil, said she was miraculously cured of a grave illness after praying the prayers she found on a website devoted the new Brazilian saint.
The official Friar Galvao website said the woman is a 41 year-old Brazilian who resides in Tennessee wrote a letter to the St. Friar Galvao museum in Guaratingueta, telling her story.
In her letter she wrote that when she learned of her illness, she spoke with a friend who lives in Brazil, who told her to pray to the saint and to swallow the “paper pills” with which devotees of the saint ask for his intercession. However, since she had difficulty obtaining the “pills,” she visited the website where she found prayers and instructions on lighting a series of online candles in honor of the saint.
“Not having the pills, she lit the candles daily with great faith, and said the prayers. A few days later she went for more medical tests. The results were different, and she no longer had the illness,” the website reported.
The Estado news agency reported that the woman in question is Ana Maria Dykes. It also quoted Thereza Maiz, the vice president of the brotherhood of the saint, who said she was bit shocked by the news, but she said, “We know it’s not the virtual candles but the faith of the person in Friar Galvao.”
Leonardo Cipoli, who operates the website, said that up to now, “We haven’t seen any grace won over through this technology, unless this one was from Friar Galvao. It’s a real grace through a virtual medium. The truth is, it was definitely faith.”
Friar Galvao is the first saint born in Brazil, and he was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on May 11 during his recent trip to the country.
The official website of Friar Galvao is http://www.saofreigalvao.com/
Quito, Ecuador, Jun 15, 2007 (CNA) - The Committee on Ecclesiastical Law of the Bishops’ Conference of Ecuador reiterated this week that the Church cannot allow Father Fernando Vega to participate in the upcoming elections for the Constitutional Assembly.
The committee pointed out that both Canon Law and the international treaty between the Holy See and the Ecuadorian state, entitled “Modus Vivendi,” clearly prohibit priests from participating in politics. It said Archbishop Vicente Cisneros acted in accord with Church and civil law by prohibiting Father Vega from being a candidate in the elections for the Constitutional Assembly.
Father Vega, who is in charge of Social Ministry in Cuenca, declared himself a candidate for the leftist political party “Acuerdo Pais.” Archbishop Cisneros asked him to renounce his candidacy, but Father Vega instead proposed he take a “sabbatical year” in order to devote himself “temporarily” to politics.
The committee pointed out, however, that the sabbatical year for this purpose is not an alternative contemplated in Church law.
Father Vega insists he will continue his political career and said if he is elected he will make put his office at the disposal of the archbishop.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 15, 2007 (CNA) -
The archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, presented his new book this week entitled, “The Tree of Life,” which offers a collection of his teachings on different issues of importance to Catholics.
Describing it as “a synthesis of the teachings of the Catholic Church on issues such as abortion, organ donation and euthanasia,” the cardinal said the book was “a contribution to the education of the faithful.”
Cardinal Rivera said his intention in putting together the book was not to cause “controversy” or to “discredit anyone,” but rather “to explain my convictions, the teaching of the Church, the teaching we find in Scripture.”