Castelgandolfo, Italy, Aug 8, 2007 (CNA) - “Without God, man loses his greatness; without God, there is no true humanism”.
With these words, Pope Benedict XVI today recalled the great legacy of another early Church father, Saint Gregory of Nazianze, theologian, preacher and poet from fourth-century Cappadocia.
A friend and admirer of St. Basil, whom the Holy Father remembered last week, St. Gregory was inspired to seek Baptism and to enter monastic life, devoting himself to prayer, solitude, and meditation.
The Pope recalled how St. Gregory “loved to leave behind the things of this world and enter into intimate communion with God, so that the depths of his soul became like a mirror reflecting the divine light”.
“Here was a man who sensed the primacy of God and so speaks to us today, to this world of ours”, the Pope said. “Without God, man loses his greatness; without God, there is no true humanism. That’s why we listen to this voice and also try to come to know the face of God”.
The Pope recalled how St. Gregory reluctantly, but in a spirit of obedience, accepted priestly ordination. He was then sent to Constantinople, where he preached his five Orations: “beautifully reasoned presentations of the Church’s teaching”, the Pope said.
The Orations, known as "The Theologian", stressed that “theology is more than merely human reflection”, the Pope explained. “It springs from a life of prayer and holiness, from wonder at the marvels of God’s revelation”.
Gregory was elected Bishop of Constantinople and presided over the Council that took place there in the year 381. But the Pope recalled how he encountered so much hostility that he withdrew once more to lead a life of solitude.
“His spiritual autobiography from this final period includes some of his most beautiful poetry”, the Pope said. “As we admire the wisdom with which he defended the Church’s doctrine, let us be moved by the love that is conveyed in his poetry”.
At the end of the audience in the Paul VI auditorium, the Holy Father greeted the faithful present, and remembered the young, the sick and newlyweds.
He also recalled St. Dominic of Guzman, tireless preacher of the Gospel, and pointed out that tomorrow is the Feast of St. Teresa Benedetta of the Cross, also known as Edith Stein, co-patron of Europe. “These two saints help you, dear young people, to have simple faith in Christ,” the Pope said. “Their example sustains you, dear sufferers of illness, to participate with faith in the salvific power of the Cross. They encourage you, dear newlyweds, to be spread the light of God through your reciprocal faith”.
Fort Worth, Texas, Aug 8, 2007 (CNA) - The retired Episcopal Bishop of Fort Worth, Bishop Clarence C. Pope, Jr., has joined the Roman Catholic Church. Bishop Pope is the second Episcopal bishop to join the Catholic Church this year, and the fifth to resign from the House of Bishops since January.
In an Aug. 6 e-mail sent to the clergy of the Diocese of Fort Worth, Bishop Jack Iker announced that his predecessor had “telephoned me this morning” to say that he and his wife had “returned to membership in the Roman Catholic Church.”
Bishop Pope was a long-time advocate for corporate reunification with the Roman Catholic Church, which he and his wife joined upon his retirement in 1994.
He was received by Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston at a ceremony in a former Episcopal church in Arlington, Texas. He then applied for ordination as a Roman Catholic priest in the Diocese of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The bishop of Baton Rouge gave his conditional approval, subject to the agreement of his diocesan priests’ council, but the council refused his request. Bishop Pope therefore returned to The Episcopal Church in 1995 and served there for 10 more years.
Caracas, Venezuela, Aug 8, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Reinaldo Del Prette of Valencia (Venezuela) responded to the attacks by Hugo Chavez against the Church saying, “The Catholic Church is not political. To think thus is so warped and petty. The Church has been fulfilling her mission for twenty centuries and when she speaks, it is not out of partisan politics or as an opposition party. Which opposition party?” the prelate said.
In an interview with the Venezuelan daily El Carabobeño, the archbishop said, “If we were the opposition we would seek to gain power. We cannot hold any public office in any branch, whether electoral, judicial, legislative or executive. In this sense the Code of Canon Law is very clear. So we are not going there,” he stated.
“Where we see things that are not good for Venezuela because of our experience and our love for the country, we are going to speak up unashamedly because that is part of our mission,” the archbishop said.
Asked about his opinion regarding the attacks on the Church hierarchy by Hugo Chavez and his officials, Archbishop Del Prette said he had nothing to add to the latest statement by the bishops, which “caused the president and some members of his cabinet so much grief.”
“In that document we said nothing more than what we should have said. That is the normal position of an episcopate before a country that is decidedly on the path to Socialism,” the archbishop said, adding that Chavez’s reforms are cause for concern about the future of Venezuela.
He compared the actions of the Venezuelan bishops to those of Pope John Paul II, “who gave impetus to the Solidarity movement, a party born from the Polish trade unions, and who worked against absolute State-sponsored Socialism and Communism.” “Did he meddle in politics? I don’t think so. He was simply the supreme pastor of the Church whose principles were based on the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ and who said the right thing at the right time. We think the same,” Archbishop Del Prette said.
“Therefore Pope John XXIII was wise when he said the Church has been the mother and teacher of humanity during twenty centuries and has lived side by side with every kind of regimen,” he went on. “We knew Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin and Roosevelt. Today we are in the presence of other leaders: Chavez, Lula, Kirchner,” he said.
Santiago, Chile, Aug 8, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Chile, Bishop Alejandro Goic, said during a press conference this week that the Catholic Church in Latin America needs to sincerely examine its conscience in order to determine why Catholics are not on the forefront of social justice reform.
In an interview with the Italian news agency ANSA, Bishop Goic recalled the discourse of Pope Benedict XVI upon inaugurating the V General Conference of the Latin American Bishops, in which he pointed out “the injustices of the continent that cry out to heaven and cause us pain, as this is a majority Catholic country.”
“I think we have an extraordinary treasure in the Compendium of the Social Teachings of the Church, which gives us the entire social dimension of the Christian faith,” Bishop Goic said. He stressed that the Compendium could be appreciated by Catholics and even by all people of good faith “who consider these ideas to be useful in building a more just and humane society.”
He reminded Catholics that not only the clergy, but all the baptized have the task of uniting faith and daily life and avoiding the “dichotomy of faith from some things and daily life for others.”
Asked about the Church’s view of modern-day economics, Bishop Goic responded, “We live in a global society, and John Paul II clearly said we must also globalize solidarity.” He said that while the prevailing economic model in today’s world does not completely live up to this, “it is the one that exists and therefore we need to humanize it.”
Nashville, Tenn., Aug 8, 2007 (CNA) - The Knights of Columbus received a greeting from Pope Benedict at their annual report on the state of the order yesterday afternoon. The Holy Father told them to continue the "yes" of that their founder gave when he founded their order.
As per their tradition, the assembled Knights stood to hear Holy Father’s message, which was read in Italian by Cardinal Bertone and then translated by the apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Pietro Sambi.
In his letter, which he wrote during his vacation, the Pope recalled that Father McGivney gave a courageous “yes” when he answered the call to found the Knights of Columbus and that the Knights should continue to live that “yes”.
He praised the Knights saying that, “they will be the first front of the new humanity redeemed and saved by Jesus Christ.”
The Knights also received messages of congratulations and encouragement from President Bush, the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, the president of the Philippines, the president of Poland, and, for the first time ever, from the president of Mexico, Felipe Calderon.
Madrid, Spain, Aug 8, 2007 (CNA) - In a ferocious column published by the Spanish Socialist daily, “El Pais,” Professor Gregorio Peces-Barba, considered the inspiration behind the current Socialist anti-clericalism in Spain and author of the course ”Education for Citizenship,” has threatened the Catholic Church, warning it to either be silent or “suffer the consequences.”
In a column entitled, “Regarding Education for Citizenship,” Peces-Barba said the massive opposition by the Church to the government-sponsored course is illegitimate, since “faith cannot be set against the law in a democratic society like ours.”
The Church, he continued, which “embraces an anti-modern and clerical traditional culture and opposes many legal conclusions of the democratic State” has no basis for its opposition.
Peces-Barba accuses parents who have opposed the course of “extreme arrogance, an attitude of impunity, and an unbearable sense of superiority, derived from the idea that they hold to ‘superior truths,’” and he accuses the Church of years of “challenging legitimate authority, the Constitution and the law by seeking to impose its views as opposed to the general interest and the popular sovereignty which resides in Parliament.”
He said Catholics in Spain are un-democratic and hearken back to “the anti-Enlightenment principles expressed in the pontifical documents of the 19th century, from Mirari Vos in 1832 to Libertas by Leo XIII.”
The Spanish bishops, he went on, have “Iran as their model, where Islam is above the leaders and the president himself, and where the death penalty is not only active but is applied frequently.”
The bishops “cannot and should not continue down this road or pull so tightly on the rope. They are responsible for the agitation that prevents social peace and belligerent toward the policy of the government and toward any progress,” he stated.
“They should have more respect for dissents and avoid condemning things all the time,” Peces-Barba said. “If this new climate is not achieved during the next legislature, the issue of the actions and situations of the Church and of establishing new status, that puts her in her place and respects the autonomy of civil authority, should be taken up,” he said in conclusion.
Panama City, Panama, Aug 8, 2007 (CNA) - The bishops of Central America will gather in Panama August 8 and 9 with the ministers of education from the region and those from the Dominican Republic to study ways to eliminate child labor.
The meeting, organized by the Episcopal Secretariat of Central America (SEDAC) and the Central American Educational and Cultural Coordination (CEEC), aims to apply the norms of the International Organization of Work (IOW) for the eradication of the exploitation of children in the workplace.
The meeting will be inaugurated by the president of the Bishops’ Conference of Guatemala, Bishop Alvaro Ramazzini, the secretary of SEDAC, Bishop Angel San Casimiro, and the First Lady of Panama, Vivian de Torrijos, who is head of the Committee for the Eradication of Child Labor and the Protection of Adolescent Workers.
According to a press release by the IOW, the bishops and the ministers of education will analyze “concrete steps that should be taken to fulfill commitments that have been made” in this area.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug 8, 2007 (CNA) - Thousands of pilgrims gathered at the Shrine of St. Cajetan in the Buenos Aires suburb of Liniers to pray to the patron of Divine Providence for their needs and to thank him for blessings received during the year.
At midnight on August 7, the bells of the Shrine were rung, fireworks were set off, and the national anthem was sung as Auxiliary Bishop Raul Martin of Buenos Aires opened the doors of the Shrine.
Many of those waiting to enter had camped out for more than one month in order to be the first in line. 64 year-old Delia Noris Lencina was the first to enter, continuing her annual tradition of crawling on her knees from the door to the altar in a sign of penance and prayer. She was followed by a group of handicapped.
During the main Mass of the day at 11am, the celebrant, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio told those gathered, “We pray to St. Cajetan for peace and the recognition of our dignity and our work. The focus of the theme is dignity, a word that the speak with veneration, because it is a beautiful word, a word of absolute value.”
The vigil was marked with prayerful music and popular hymns. Over one million people were expected to visit the Shrine for the feast.
Sydney, Australia, Aug 8, 2007 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Sydney is considering opening its own preschools in order to tend to the spiritual development of preschoolers and to help bolster the Catholic school population.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the bishops’ Catholic Education Office commissioned a report on the provision of early childhood education. The report recommended a trial of three preschools on parish or school land.
At the same time, Australia’s bishops released a statement on education, warning that the Catholic school system was at a "crossroads". The identity of the Catholic school system is threatened by falling enrolments of Catholic students and growing numbers of students from different religious backgrounds, they said.
As many as one-in-four students at Catholic schools are not Catholic and up to half of Catholic students attend public high schools, they noted.
The bishops have dismissed suggestions to downsize the Catholic school system and open it only to students and staff who "embrace the mission of the Catholic school".
Instead, they are calling on school leaders to maximize enrollment of Catholic students, particularly those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, to ensure a "critical mass" of Catholic students.
The bishops have also suggested numerous ways to reinforce a school’s Catholic identity: regular participation in Mass and Confession, prayers at assemblies and in class, and displaying student religious artwork. They also suggested promoting the priesthood, religious life and Christian marriage in schools.
Nashville, Tenn., Aug 8, 2007 (CNA) - Yesterday evening, Cardinal Bertone was the recipient of the Gaudium et Spes award from the Knights of Columbus. The award is given only infrequently and with it the prelate joins the ranks of the likes of Mother Teresa, Cardinal John O’Connor, and Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche.
In receiving the award, Bertone spoke about his position as Secretary of State and how it requires that he apply the Second Vatican Council document to his work. “The Church aims solely to carry on the work of Christ who enters into the world…We are called to serve and not to be served.”
He also noted that, “among the previous recipients are two apostles of charity, Mother Teresa and Jean Vanier.” In living out our faith, we must be rooted in prayer and have our hearts moved with Christ’s love (Deus Caritas Est) as they do.
Des Moines, Iowa, Aug 8, 2007 (CNA) - The right of a Catholic school to demand consistency between the teachings of the Church and the behaviors of its staff has been defended by Church hierarchy and upheld by the law in the case of a teacher who resigned.
The Waterloo Cedar Valley Catholic Schools Board on Monday voted unanimously to accept the resignation of Tom Girsch, 59, a longtime Catholic schoolteacher and coach at Columbus High School, reported the Des Moines Register.
This was the second vote in less than a month concerning Girsch's employment. It came at the request of Archbishop Jerome Hanus of Dubuque and the superintendent of schools. In its first vote in July, the board voted 6 to 8 to reject Girsch's resignation. Archdiocese officials argued that, in its first vote, Cedar Valley had acted contrary to archdiocese policy and Church law.
Girsch divorced in 1997 and was asked to resign when school officials found out he had remarried in August 2006. In an attempt to save his job, Girsch sought an annulment. When it was denied, he submitted his resignation.
Girsch failed to block the second vote when Black Hawk District Judge George Stigler said he would not interfere with the right of the Church to conduct its business, "even if an individual does suffer injury."
Nashville, Tenn., Aug 8, 2007 (CNA) - In a press conference this afternoon, Cardinal Bertone spoke about his recent conversation with the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. According to the Cardinal, they talked mainly about the plight of Christians in the Middle East—in Iraq and in Lebanon.
He thanked the Secretary of State for her untiring efforts to bring peace to the region and told her that the angels accompanied her flights and efforts.
“If the angels did not accompany her, then she would not be able to knit back together all of these relationships that have been so fragile.”
Bertone said that he hopes to continue their discussions by “a future visit of Condoleezza Rice to Rome.”
Speaking about the war in Iraq, the Cardinal proposed roundtable discussions at an international level as a way to bring the world out of this “critical moment.” He pointed out that “we are not in a blind alley, but that it is a critical moment [in Iraq].”