Rome, Italy, Jul 2, 2007 (CNA) - While preparing for the celebration of Sts. Peter and Paul in Rome on Friday, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the importance of the Apostle Paul for Christians today and announced that the year dedicated to him will focus on ecumenism.
The Holy Father was at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls to begin the solemnity honoring the two saints who helped found the Church.
Speaking about St. Paul, the Pope said that he, "was 'set apart for the Gospel of God,' to spread the announcement of divine grace that, in Christ, reconciles man with God, with himself and with others."
The Apostle of the Gentiles, said the Pope, "was anything but a gifted speaker," and hence "the extraordinary apostolic results he was able to achieve are not to be attributed to brilliant rhetoric or to refined apologetics and missionary strategies. The success of his apostolate depended above all on his personal involvement in announcing the Gospel of Christ with total dedication to Him, a dedication that feared no risks, difficulties or persecutions."
"From this," he continued, "we can draw a very important lesson for all Christians: The activity of the Church is credible and effective only in as much as those who are part thereof are ready to pay their faithfulness to Christ in person. ... If such willingness is lacking, then the decisive argument of truth upon which the Church depends also fails. ... As in the beginning, today too Christ needs apostles ready to sacrifice themselves ... like St. Paul."
Benedict also officially announced that the Church will dedicate “a special jubilee year to the Apostle Paul from June 28, 2008 to June 29, 2009, for the occasion of the 2000th
anniversary of his birth, which historians place between 7 and 10 AD."
The Pope explained that the year’s events will be hosted primarily in Rome and consist of "a series of liturgical, cultural and ecumenical events, as well as pastoral and social initiatives." In addition, "special attention" will be given to penitential pilgrimages to the tomb of the Apostle while, all over the world in dioceses and places of worship dedicated to St. Paul, similar initiatives may be held.
The Holy Father highlighted the fact that the Pauline Year will be characterized by its "ecumenical dimension" because "the Apostle of the Gentiles, particularly dedicated to bringing the Good News to all peoples, concerned himself with the unity and harmony of all Christians.
"May he guide and protect us in this bi-millennial celebration," the Pope added in conclusion, "helping us to progress in a humble and sincere search for full unity among all members of the mystical Body of Christ."
Beijing, China, Jul 2, 2007 (CNA) - Several Catholic websites that are housed in mainland China were forced by the government to remove the Pope’s letter to the Catholics in China from their website, reports UCA News.
As of today, some sites still have the full 19,763 Chinese character text, but these are mostly all run by Catholics that are “underground.”
At 6:00 p.m. Beijing time on the day that the letter was issued, several mainland Catholic websites had already been forced to substitute a simplified version of the letter for the full length one they had published only hours earlier.
A priest in charge of such a website registered with the government told UCA News on July 2 he felt helpless because he strongly believes that "China church websites should publish the pope's letter."
The priest, who asked not to be named, said some government officials came to his office on June 29 and asked about the letter but did not explicitly say he could not carry it. The next evening, he uploaded the letter to his site, but was told on July 1 morning he was not allowed to upload the text.
Other popular Catholic websites in China were warned to remove or not upload the letter. Some sites even informed their readers on June 29 that the long-awaited papal letter would be released the next evening, and urged their readers to watch for it and related reports. But since then, the same sites have only carried Vatican news since the government has refused to let the letter or any news about it be published.
London, England, Jul 2, 2007 (CNA) - Britain would be justified to invade Zimbabwe to remove president Robert Mugabe, said Archbishop Pius Ncube, a leading Zimbabwean cleric.
Archbishop Ncube told London's Sunday Times that the deepening destitution in the former British colony, including millions going hungry and the world's highest inflation rate, meant Britain would be right to act.
Zimbabwe once had one of the strongest economies in southern Africa. Its economy is now in ruins, with unemployment at 80 percent and life expectancy dropping to 37 years for men and 34 years for women.
The archbishop said Zimbabweans would oust Mugabe themselves, but they are too afraid. Archbishop Ncube said he would lead the people against Mugabe “guns blazing, but the people are not ready."
Archbishop Ncube said the president was squandering money while the people starved. He said Mugabe had just spent $2 million on surveillance equipment while most people struggled along on $2 a week.
In May, Mugabe dismissed repeated criticism from the country's bishops as "nonsense" and warned that his government might start treating the clergy as political enemies. In the past, Mugabe's government has branded Archbishop Ncube a Western agent.
Warsaw, Poland, Jul 2, 2007 (CNA) - Polish-born Formula 1 driver Robert Kubica, who emerged unhurt from a spectacular crash, may be called by the Vatican to testify to an alleged miracle performed by the late Pope John Paul II, reported the PAP news agency.
The 22-year-old driver normally races in a helmet emblazoned with the late pope's name, and was also doing so when his car, moving at 230 kilometers per hour, spun out of control and crashed at the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal June 10. Few onlookers thought he had survived. To view the crash on YouTube click here
The car was completely wrecked, but Kubica suffered only a slight concussion and a sprained ankle.
Race car experts say special cockpit technology, called the Hans system, enabled the BMW-Sauber driver to survive the crash.
According to PAP, the story of Kubica's "miraculous survival" is likely to be featured in an upcoming issue of the Vatican's "Totus Tuus" magazine, a monthly devoted to the beatification of the late Polish pontiff.
La Paz, Bolivia, Jul 2, 2007 (CNA) - More than 20,000 people marched recently through the streets of the Bolivian city of Sucre demanding that the Constitutional Assembly, which is meeting in that city, includes protection for the unborn in the new constitution it is charged with drafting. They also called for respect for the family and for marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
Leaders from the Catholic Church and from evangelical denominations participated in the march. At the event’s conclusion, organizers presented the Constitutional Assembly with a manifesto demanding recognition of “the right to life from the moment of conception.”
The manifesto also called for the new constitution to protect marriage as a union between one man and one woman, based on natural law and on the values and principles of the Bolivian people. It encouraged members of the Assembly to be aware of pressure from feminist and pro-abortion organizations who seek to impose “sexual and reproductive rights.”
Sydney, Australia, Jul 2, 2007 (CNA) - Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney called the arrival on July 1 of the World Youth Day Cross and the icon of the Virgin Mary to the Australian capital a “historic milestone” and said “young people from all over the country are preparing for the arrival and pilgrimage that will follow.”
According to the Italian news agency SIR, Bishop Fisher, who is coordinating the 23rd WYD, said, “There have been unprecedented levels of collaboration, the expectations are evident.” “We are experiencing the fulfillment of the theme of WYD, because with the Holy Spirit, young people are becoming witnesses of the love of God.”
A day of celebration and prayer is scheduled for the arrival of the WYD symbols, and during the event the official WYD song, “Receive the Power,” will be sung for the first time. Afterwards the Cross and the icon will begin their long pilgrimage across Australia. “The eyes of all Australians will be on us,” Bishop Fisher said.
Thousands of young people are expected at the airport in Sydney for the arrival of the WYD symbols, including the president of the Australian Bishops’ Conference, Prime Minister John Howard and other officials.
As part of the preparations for the arrival of the Cross and the icon, WYD officials have created “E-pilgrimage,” a virtual pilgrimage that includes a monthly catechesis on a theme related to WYD and testimonies from young people.
Some 120,000 young people so far have signed up to attend WYD 2008.
Concord, N.H., Jul 2, 2007 (CNA) - New Hampshire became the first U.S. state to repeal a law requiring parental notification for teenage girls to get abortions.
The repeal took effect immediately after New Hampshire Governor John Lynch signed the bill on Friday, reported The Associated Press.
Lynch said he believes parents should be involved in these decisions regarding their children, reported the AP.
"Unfortunately that is not possible in every case,” he reportedly said. “The Supreme Court found this law unconstitutional because it fails to protect the health and safety of all women, which is why I am signing its repeal."
State Rep. Fran Wendelboe, who fought to keep the law, criticized Lynch for "siding with the abortion lobby against parents' rights.
"It's unsafe for young teens to have a surgical procedure like that without an adult aware of the possibility of complications," she said.
Republican Party Chairman Fergus Cullen said Lynch took a radical approach to a moderate law that could have been fixed.
"One can be pro-choice and still believe that parents have a right to know whether their minor daughter became pregnant," Cullen reportedly said. "Governor Lynch is saying that parents don't have a right to know their minor children became pregnant."
According to the AP, 44 U.S. states have parental notification laws. Nine, including New Hampshire's, were unenforceable because they were being challenged in court by Planned Parenthood.
Topeka, Kan., Jul 2, 2007 (CNA) - A well-known abortionist was charged Thursday with violating Kansas law on late-term abortion procedures.
Attorney General Paul Morrison filed 19 misdemeanor counts, alleging that Dr. George Tiller got second opinions from a doctor who was not financially and legally independent from him, as the law requires.
At a news conference Thursday, Morrison described the allegations as a "technical violation" of a 1998 law restricting late-term procedures.
The abortions in question involved cases in which patients were more than 21 weeks pregnant and the fetuses were able to survive outside the womb. Under such circumstances, Kansas law requires two independent doctors to conclude that if the pregnancy continues, the mother-to-be will face death or "substantial and irreversible" harm to "a major bodily function," which has been interpreted to include mental health.
Morrison said Tiller listed the second doctor as Ann Kristin Neuhaus. Morrison said they had a financial relationship but did not elaborate.
If convicted, Tiller could be sentenced to up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine on each charge.
Tiller's attorneys issued a written statement declaring their client's innocence. "Today's announcement simply involves a difference of opinion between lawyers regarding unusual technicalities in Kansas abortion law procedure," the statement said.
Bogotá, Colombia, Jul 2, 2007 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Colombia will reflect on the consecrated life as “a gift from God” during their upcoming 83rd Assembly, in order to encourage consecrated persons to assume their vocations “as disciples and missionaries of the Lord in each of the particular Churches.”
Church officials said the Colombian bishops want to “strengthen a spirituality of communion that motivates relations between pastors and those dedicated to the consecrated life for the building up of the local Church.”
Consequently, the bishops say it is important that the mission of religious life in the local Church be clearly recognized in order that it may be a “living testimony of passion for Jesus Christ and for humanity.”
The bishops hope to help improve collaboration between pastors and the members of religious communities “in order to respond with the courage of the Gospels to the challenges of both political and social relativism, indifference, violence and crisis, that Colombia is experiencing right now.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Jul 2, 2007 (CNA) - Msgr. Enrique Glennie, pastoral vicar general of the Archdiocese of Mexico City, announced the archdiocese would bolster its family ministry in order to make Christians more aware of the importance of the family and of human life.
Msgr. Glennie said the intensification of pastoral care for the family was requested by Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera in order to strengthen the work of parishes in the teaching the faithful about the importance of life, the faith, and devotion, especially in light of the recent legalization of abortion in Mexico City.
Madrid, Spain, Jul 2, 2007 (CNA) - The international association of the faithful, the Franciscans of Mary, has recently been granted pontifical approval for the fruits “it has produced in the lives of numerous Christian faithful, thus becoming an authentic path in the school of sanctity and apostolate.”
During a ceremony at the Vatican, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, which promotes “the active and responsible participation of the lay faithful in associations, a mission which has been entrusted to it by the Roman Pontiff,” read the decree granting the special status to the movement.
The Franciscans of Mary were founded 19 years ago in Madrid by a group of young people who felt called to live a spirituality based on devotion to St. Francis of Assisi and the Virgin Mary. Founded by Father Santiago Martin, the movement has some 10,000 members, including many priests and seminarians.
According to the Spanish daily, “La Razon,” “those first young people also felt the need to volunteer in service to the poor. Thus, in a short amount of time, new lay groups were formed that came to be called ‘schools of thankfulness,’ with the mission of remaining in a ‘constant state of gratitude to God’.” The Franciscans of Mary seek to live and spread this “spirituality of thankfulness not only to those in need, but also to those catechists and evangelists who ‘are misguided, lack spiritual motivation and are victims of secularism.”
Nowadays, the movement stresses, people “tend to do good works not for religious or transcendent motives, but only for human or humanitarian ones. The mission of this association will be to help the believer discover that in one’s neighbor in need—including on who is need of faith or of deeper formation—Christ is present.”
The Franciscans of Mary are present in nineteen countries, including Spain, the US, Canada, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Poland, Holland and Italy, and even in Asia where they are present in Sri Lanka. The movement’s website can be found at http://www.frmaria.org/