Vatican City, Jun 25, 2007 (CNA) - On a visit to the Papal Library and the Vatican’s Secret Archives this morning, Pope Benedict came to the defense of those whose work involves the case of Pope Pius XII. Accusations have been made by critics of the World War II era pope, in particular by the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, that the archivists have withheld incriminating documents.
The charges frequently leveled against Pope Pius XII include anti-Semitism and having aided Hitler. However, none of the charges has ever been substantiated.
The critics of the pontiff requested that Pope John Paul II open the secret archives from the reign of Pius XII before the normal period of secrecy ended so that they could prove their case. The late Holy Father granted permission to open the archives early.
A joint committee of Catholic and Jewish scholars was formed to study the secret records, but upon finding no evidence condemning Pius XII, some claimed that the Vatican was still hiding documents.
Benedict, fully aware of the situation, rose to the defense of the archivists today during his visit. He praised the work of the secret archive saying that it provides “disinterested and impartial service," which "steer[s] clear of sterile and often weak partisan historical viewpoints and give[s] researchers, without hindrance or prejudice, the documents in its possession, cataloged with seriousness and competency."
He also added that, "In your diverse activities, you make use of the most advanced techniques in computers, cataloging, restoration, photography and, more generally, in everything that concerns the protection and usage of the immense heritage you preserve."
The Holy Father noted that both the Library and the Archives receive "expressions of appreciation and respect from cultural institutes and individual scholars from various countries." "To me, this seems the best recognition to which the two institutions can aspire," he added.
The Pope left the archivists with the following words, "always to consider your work as a real mission to be undertaken passionately and patiently, with courtesy and a spirit of faith. Let it be your concern always to offer a welcoming image of the Apostolic See, aware that the evangelical message also passes through your own coherent Christian witness."
Vatican City, Jun 25, 2007 (CNA) - Earlier this morning Benedict XVI paid a visit to the Papal Library and the Vatican’s Secret Archives. During his address to the Library staff, he revealed that he had asked John Paul II for permission to resign from his post as the head of the Confraternity for Doctrine and Faith in 1997 to devote himself to research.
Benedict said that ten years ago, on his own 70th birthday, he "would have liked the beloved John Paul II to have granted me the chance of dedicating myself to study and research on the interesting documents ... you safeguard so carefully, real masterworks that help us to follow the story of humanity and of Christianity."
However, the late Holy Father providentially did not grant the request made by the then Cardinal Ratzinger to devote himself to further studies.
The closing words of the Pope perhaps give us some insight into his admiration for the work of the Library and Archives. “Always consider your work as a real mission to be undertaken passionately and patiently, with courtesy and a spirit of faith. Let it be your concern always to offer a welcoming image of the Apostolic See, aware that the evangelical message also passes through your own coherent Christian witness."
Washington D.C., Jun 25, 2007 (CNA) - US House votes to fund abortion abroad, cut funding for abstinence-education
The U.S. House of Representatives narrowly approved legislation on June 21 that would provide certain types of U.S. government assistance to private organizations that promote abortion as a method of family planning in foreign countries.
The legislation, authored by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), was approved as part of the State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill (H.R. 2764). Pro-life Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Bart Stupak (D-Mi.) offered an amendment but it failed by 13 votes.
President George Bush has threatened to veto the bill unless the pro-abortion provision is removed.
Under the Lowey provision, the U.S. Agency for International Development would be required to provide contraceptive supplies to any overseas private organization even if that organization promotes abortion as a method of family planning.
The provision would gut a vital pro-life policy, called the Mexico City Policy, which was created under President Ronald Reagan was re-instated by Bush by executive order after having been suspended by President Clinton. This policy specifies that federal funds for family planning are not available to non-governmental organizations that perform and promote abortion as a method of family planning in other countries.
Deirdre McQuade of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities was disappointed with the defeat of the amendment but encouraged by Bush’s pledge to veto the legislation.
She said Lowey’s bill “rewards in new ways organizations who actively defy the UN policy against promoting abortion as family planning," McQuade said. "While some claim that this measure will reduce abortions, logic and common sense dictate that we cannot reduce abortions by supporting groups dedicated to promoting abortions.”
The House also voted 200-226 to defeat an amendment by Representative Pitts (R-PA) to maintain current U.S. policy on funding abstinence-before-marriage programs for HIV-AIDS prevention.
"By setting aside the requirement that 33% of prevention funding focus on 'abstinence-before-marriage,' Congress is summarily rejecting sound evidence and experience of what actually works in reducing HIV and AIDS," said a joint letter to the House by Bishop Thomas Wenski, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Policy, and Ken Hackett, president of Catholic Relief Services.
Vatican City, Jun 25, 2007 (CNA) - Today it was revealed that the Pope has named that a head for the recently re-instated Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue. The new head of the council will be the current chief Vatican archivist and librarian, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran.
Many Vatican observers see the restoration of the council as a sign of Benedict XVI’s desire to increase dialogue with other religions, most notably Islam.
The council was previously absorbed into the Pontifical Council for Culture, but the Pope appears to have decided that this is not conducive to better dialogue.
To fill the vacancy left by Archbishop Tauran, the Holy Father promoted his assistant Bishop Raffaele Farina to the position of archivist and librarian of Holy Roman Church and simultaneously made him an archbishop.
Bishop Farina’s job as prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Library will be filled by Msgr. Cesare Pasini, the current vice-prefect of the Ambrosian Library in Milan, Italy.
Boston, Mass., Jun 25, 2007 (CNA) - Massachusetts’ Catholic bishops are running a statewide campaign to promote the vocation of marriage.
Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston launched the campaign in his diocese this past weekend, reported The Boston Globe. The yearlong campaign includes postings on bulletin boards, prayers — including one million prayer cards — and homilies during Masses. In the fall, an educational campaign will also be launched that will include video presentations and speakers, including married couples.
The campaign was introduced less than two weeks after an effort failed in the state Legislature to put a measure banning same-sex marriage on the ballot. A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston told the Globe that the campaign has little to do with the vote and had been in the works for months. It will be launched in the dioceses of Worcester, Fall River, and Springfield soon.
On the Archdiocese of Boston website, Cardinal O'Malley noted that more American couples are opting to cohabitate rather than to marry.
"Certainly, the vocation to marriage, which is the way most people live out their discipleship, is something that is very, very important. And it certainly is being obscured in our modern and secular culture," the cardinal wrote. "We hope this campaign will help people to refocus on the sacramental meaning of marriage."
From 1986 to 2006, the number of Catholic marriages in the Archdiocese of Boston plummeted, from 12,274 to 4,519. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the number of marriages in Massachusetts dropped as well -- from 47,696 in 1990 to 39,074 in 2005.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is in the midst of a multi-year National Pastoral Initiative on Marriage to respond to the declines, the archdiocese said.
This church campaign is the most intensive since the 1999 parish-based effort against assisted suicide, called In Support of Life, said Edward Saunders, executive director of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference.
London, England, Jun 25, 2007 (CNA) - A teenage girl, banned from wearing a chastity ring in class, took her case to Britain's High Court on Friday, arguing that her school had violated her religious freedom, reported The Associated Press.
Lydia Playfoot, 16, a pupil at the Millais School in Horsham, wears a ring as a sign of her commitment to abstinence until marriage. The ring is a thin silver band, engraved with New Testament verses encouraging Christians to be chaste.
The school prohibits all jewelry except for ear studs, but it does permit Sikhs to wear steel bracelets. The school said it would not make an exception for chastity rings because they do not form an integral part of the Christian faith.
According to the AP, Playfoot’s lawyer, Paul Diamond, argued that secular authorities and institutions “cannot be arbiters of religious faith.”
Speaking before the hearing, the girl’s father, Philip, said the family's three-year fight highlights the growing secularization of British society and the sidelining of Christian views and values.
Lydia’s ring was inspired by an American abstinence-education program, called "The Silver Ring Thing." The program was launched in 1996 and received more than $1 million from the U.S. government over 10 years.
Hartford, Conn., Jun 25, 2007 (CNA) - Connecticut’s Roman Catholic bishops consider a recent bill, which requires all Connecticut hospitals to offer emergency contraception to rape victims, as part of a national assault against religious freedom.
An attorney for Catholic hospitals in the state said the bishops are considering legal action, claiming that the new law, which takes effect Oct. 1, infringes on their constitutional rights, reported The Associated Press.
Similar bills have already passed in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Minnesota.
"If the religious liberty of a Catholic hospital can be violated on this issue, what's next?" asked Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport. "Will the law insist that Catholic hospitals further violate their ethical standards by performing abortions on demand? Or will the law someday force Catholic hospitals to euthanize those deemed not fit to live?"
Advocates for rape victims began pushing for the bill in Connecticut last year after learning that Archbishop Henry Mansell of Hartford had directed Connecticut's Catholic hospitals not to prescribe emergency contraception, known as Plan B, if a rape victim was ovulating or her egg had been fertilized. Taking Plan B in this case would result in a chemical abortion.
The archbishop based his directives on the Peoria Protocol, first developed at Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, Ill., which functions with the premise that if a woman is ovulating, conception may have taken place.
While Connecticut’s new law allows a hospital to conduct a pregnancy test before prescribing Plan B and to have a third party administer the drug, it prevents a hospital from conducting an ovulation test.
Barcelona, Spain, Jun 25, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Lluis Martinez Sistach of Barcelona, Spain, reminded Catholics this week that the Pope is “the beginning and the visible foundation of ecclesial unity, and he called for prayers for Benedict XVI on the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul.
In an article entitled, “You Are Peter,” the archbishop reflected on the apostle Peter and on how “he left his family and his boat” for Christ.
“Peter was one of the first disciples of Jesus and one of the favorites. We always find him at the Lord’s side and as the spokesman of the twelve. Peter appears in the Gospels and in the Acts of the Apostles as an outstanding figure among of the apostles, through the personal choice and decision of Jesus,” he said.
“The name of Peter which Jesus gave to Simon means rock,” the archbishop continued, “a word which the Bible applies to God and to Christ respectively.” “The role of primacy of Peter and his successors is of utmost importance for the Catholic Church, spread from East to West. It constitutes a very valuable service for the entire Church and for each one of the diocesan churches. The ministry of the successor of Peter is not something external to each diocese; it belongs to the internal life of each particular church as an essential condition without which there would not be a truly Catholic Church.”
“The Pope, as Peter, confirms his brethren in the faith,” Archbishop Martinez stressed. “During twenty centuries, the petrine ministry has made the promise of Jesus effective, even during the darkest periods of the history of Rome and of the papacy. The words of St. Ambrose resound: ‘Where Peter is, there is the Church.’ According to Newman, the Anglican who converted to Catholicism and whose cause for beatification is being processed, by uniting with the Pope, Christians rest in Catholic fullness,” he said.
Archbishop Martinez continued: “Benedict XVI is the successor of Peter who exercises this service for the good of the entire Church. With his magisterium and his clear and paternal guide he confirms in the faith the pastors and faithful of the entire People of God. He has done so for more than two years since the beginning of his ministry,” he added.
“We must thank God for this valuable service of Peter and his successors, and specifically, for that of Benedict XVI, and we must pray that the Lord will help and comfort him. We need to always do this, but especially on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul,” he said in conclusion.
London, England, Jun 25, 2007 (CNA) - In a letter to Msgr. Manuel Musallam of Holy Family Church in Gaza City, the vice president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, Archbishop Patrick Kelly of Liverpool, pointed to the “vibrant faith of the Christians in the Gaza Strip” and pledged the ongoing “determination” of the bishops from Europe and North America “to pray, reflect and walk with our Lord’s followers in the Holy Land.”
“For myself there is the constant clash of images: the children of Gaza, who greeted us with song and dancing, and the violent images of civil strife, fear and cries of revenge,” the archbishop said in his letter.
“May the peace of God descend on our brothers and sisters in Christ” who are in Gaza, he continued.
In January, Archbishop Kelly traveled to the Holy Land with a group of European and US bishops to bring aid to the Church in the Holy Land.
, Jun 25, 2007 (CNA) - The executive committee of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil has issued a statement entitled “Democracy and Ethics” affirming that the constant corruption in the country has its roots in a moral crisis.
The bishops said they were “perplexed” at the country’s current situation. There is increasing outcry over the “violation of values that are fundamental for society,” they added. The uncontrolled ambition for riches and power leads to corruption, while rampant impunity “discredits political activity and institutions, thus weakening democracy,” the bishops continued. “The crisis, which is a consequence of the lack of a moral conscience, is fed by the desire for profits on the part of large corporations that take advantage of the structures of power for their own benefit.”
The poor suffer the most, the bishops said, and they called on leaders to fight corruption and impunity. They also called for real political reform that is not limited solely to “revising the electoral system.” What is needed is improvement of the mechanisms of a representative democracy and of voter participation,” the bishops stressed.
They encouraged believers to become involved in political life saying, “Dedicating oneself to the noble cause of the common good is worth it. The responsible exercise of citizenship is an ethical imperative for all.”
Venice, Italy, Jun 25, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal Angelo Scola of Venice has issued an energetic call to the directors of a Venice dance festival to cancel the ballet Messiah Game because of its blasphemous treatment of the person of Christ.
The ballet consists of a musical choreography that presents a sarcastic and sadomasochist version of the Passion of Christ, in which Jesus himself and his disciples are depicted as depraved.
Another blasphemous ballet, created by German choreographer Felix Ruckhert, has not yet debuted in Italy but is scheduled to open June 27 at the Dance Festival.
Despite the complaints of various Catholic organizations and of the Catholic Anti-Defamation League of Italy, officials have confirmed the dates of the ballet’s debut.
Last Friday, Cardinal Schola again called for the cancellation of the show, which he called “a completely banal work created to be offensive.”
“I make this request because it is necessary that the figure of Jesus Christ be respected and because I care about Venice and about humanity; because our city has the right and duty to propose better things,” he added.
“What kind of a message does a city with such a great cultural heritage send with such a work?” the cardinal asked. The right to freedom of expression, he noted, does not include the right to directly offend the sensibility of the majority of Italians.
Madrid, Spain, Jun 25, 2007 (CNA) - European Parliamentarian Nirj Deva denounced a report on development for the new millennium entitled, "MDGs at the Midway Point", for its secret agenda of promoting abortion.
According to the Life Foundation in Spain, the British EU representative said, “This report by the European Parliament has little to do with the ‘a woman’s right to choose’ and everything to do with population control in the third world.”
Dava also said the while paragraph 41 of the report states that the UN is about to adopt a global objective in the area of reproductive health, the most radical positions of the UN, such as those espoused by the UN Population Fund, confirm that such a goal already exists.
The director of the Life Foundation, Manuel Cruz, said the report “incites the European Union to adopt a new global objective of universal access to sexual and reproductive health, which as we know is the way they refer to abortion and contraception.”
Cruz denounced the “political violence” that strips the human person of his dignity and imposes conduct that degrades the person by taking advantage of people in their weakest moments. “This political violence is also unacceptable in the promotion of abortion in the third world,” he said.