, Aug 16, 2007 (CNA) - Benedict XVI celebrated the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, yesterday at St. Thomas of Villanova parish in Castel Gandolfo. Reflecting on the readings from the book of Revelation, the Pope proclaimed that “[t]he love of God is more powerful than the materialism of this age.”
Benedict spoke specifically about the figures of the dragon and the woman clothed with the sun in Revelation 12. He explained that in the days of the early Christians “the evil red dragon was the anti-Christian Roman Empire and the Church, which is embodied by the woman, … outlasted the persecution of the dragon.”
He said that the dragon also represents the great dictatorships of the past century: Nazism and Stalinism and again the Church survived. Even in these dark circumstances the woman, that is, the Church, survived. In the end, “love proved stronger than hate”
“Today it [the dragon] exists in the materialist ideologies which tell people that it’s absurd to think about God; to observe the commandments, which are described as outdated; and that they should grab what they can.”
The Pope described how “it seems impossible to oppose this dominant mentality with all the media backing it. Once again, the dragon appears to be invincible.” But ultimately the Church will win out over the dragon. “In the end God is stronger; love triumphs in the end over selfishness,” Benedict said.
The Holy Father concluded his homily saying that the Feast of the Assumption should remind us that, “Mary helps to protect the Church” and that “it should help us to imitate her service to God.”
Madison, Wis., Aug 16, 2007 (CNA) - Police arrested a 41-year-old Madison man for breaking into the home of a Dominican sister and forcing her to assist him in his quest to commit other crimes.
The man broke into the 61-year-old Catholic nun's home shortly after 8 a.m. Tuesday. When she told him she had no access to money, a cash machine, or ATM due to her vow of poverty, he forced her to drive him around in her car for almost an hour, reported The Associated Press.
Eventually, the man gave up and had the nun dropped him off on Madison's south side. She then drove to the Catholic school where she works and called police.
As they drove, the robber apologized "to the victim and wonders if he's going to be forgiven by her and the Catholic Church," police spokesman Joel DeSpain told reporters.
"It was a very traumatic experience for sister, and we're grateful she is just fine and we're grateful that the person has been apprehended," said Msgr. Thomas Baxter, pastor at St. Joseph Catholic Church, where the sister is director of religious education.
According to the AP, police arrested the Madison man later Tuesday on a probation violation and tentative charges of kidnapping, burglary, battery and possession of drug paraphernalia. He has not yet been formally charged.
Sydney, Australia, Aug 16, 2007 (CNA) - Sydney’s Muslim leaders have offered to open their mosques and school halls to Catholic pilgrims for World Youth Day 2008. The announcement was made after WYD organizers met with more than a dozen Islamic religious and community leaders on Monday for a briefing about the international Catholic youth event.
WYD Coordinator Bishop Anthony Fisher said the briefing was also a chance to consider ways that the Islamic community might collaborate by offering hospitality, hosting interfaith activities, or volunteering at WYD. The Church has committed that it will not try to convert members of other religious denominations volunteering at WYD, reported The Sydney Morning Herald.
"World Youth Day is an opportunity like no other for the renewal of every aspect of faith life in Australia," Bishop Fisher said.
"Although a Catholic initiative, World Youth Days have historically had a positive impact on all faiths in the countries where they have been held. This was one of the key messages we wanted to convey."
The president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Ikebal Patel, told the Herald that Sydney's Islamic leaders had responded positively to the overtures of the Catholic Church and saw the largest religious gathering as an opportunity to "break down barriers" between the two faiths.
The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils is also considering staging mixed-faith sporting competitions and mosque open days to take place during WYD.
Some mosques will open their doors to inter-faith forums, and could even invite Catholics to Friday prayers. At least four or five schools represented at the meeting said they would be willing to offer their school halls for boarding.
"Peace and co-operation between people of faith - especially the three great monotheistic traditions of the book - is an aspiration of most young people and given the tensions in our world, it is an urgent message for us to all hear," Bishop Fisher said.
"World Youth Day will be a wonderful demonstration of the potential of faith to unite rather than divide our world," he continued.
A separate briefing is to be held with Jewish leaders.
Rome, Italy, Aug 16, 2007 (CNA) - A new Vatican-approved charter air service will launch later this month with a flight to the shrine of Lourdes in France. The guide will be Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the former head of the Italian Bishops Conference.
Mistral Air plans to shuttle Catholic pilgrims around the globe to holy sites, including the shrines of Fatima in Portugal and of Guadalupe in Mexico.
Its slogan is: "I'm Searching for Your Face, Lord".
"The spirit of this new initiative is to meet the growing demand by pilgrims to visit the most important sites for the faith," Fr. Cesare Atuire at the Vatican pilgrimage office, the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi, told La Repubblica daily.
, Aug 16, 2007 (CNA) - A Christian Church in Texas refused to hold the funeral for a homosexual man because the family wanted to display a multimedia memorial presentation that condoned his actively homosexual lifestyle, reported LifeSiteNews.com.
High Point Church is a large, non-denominational parish that believes that active homosexuality is a sin, Dallas News Morning reported.
When 46-year-old Navy veteran Cecil Sinclair died on Monday, High Point initially agreed to hold the funeral service for him because his brother is a member of the church. Sinclair was not affiliated with any church.
However, the church ministry was shocked that some of the photos for multimedia presentation explicitly portrayed Sinclair in a homosexual relationship. The church determined these pictures would be a public statement in support of the homosexual lifestyle and decided that it could not go ahead with the service.
During his Sunday sermon, Pastor Gary Simons firmly explained his rejection of the funeral. The congregation responded with applause. Simons said he did not object to having a funeral for a homosexual man. Rather, he objected to the blatant condoning of the man's homosexual lifestyle.
Sinclair's mother was upset by the decision, saying that a compromise could have been reached.
The church offered to pay for the service at another facility. When the family refused, the church sent food and representatives to the funeral.
Mariazell, Austria, Aug 16, 2007 (CNA) - The archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, said this week he hopes the Pope’s visit to Austria in September will mean a “profound strengthening of the Church in Austria” and of the faithful’s bond with the Holy Father.
In an interview with Kathpress, the cardinal warned, “With all of the euphoria prior to the visit, it’s good not to lose sight of what is central to the faith.”
Speaking about Our Lady of Mariazell, whose shrine celebrates its 850th anniversary this year, Cardinal Shonborn said he also hopes the visit of the Holy Father will serve to “deepen Marian piety reflected in a greater devotion to Mariazell, a Marian pilgrimage site not only for Austrians but for many Catholics of European countries.”
Cardinal Schonborn pointed out that Mariazell is “the pilgrimage site that is most related to the Austrian spirit, more than any other. As with many other Austrians, Mariazell inspires a sort of magnetism in me,” he said, noting that he visits the shrine frequently to receive “consolation and strength.”
Referring to Benedict’s 2004 visit to the shrine before being made Pope, Cardinal Schonborn said that during his homily on September 8, the Holy Father would probably “speak about what touched him so much during that visit in 2004.”
Lima, Peru, Aug 16, 2007 (CNA) - Last night around 6:40 pm, a gigantic 7.9 magnitude earthquake shook the South American country of Peru. The earthquake has resulted in at least 337 fatalities, hundreds of injured victims, and widespread structural damage to the country’s infrastructure.
Upon learning of the tragedy, the Holy Father sent a telegram to the Peruvian people through the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, which reads as follows:
His Holiness Benedict XVI, profoundly saddened upon learning of the tragic news of the earthquake that has left so many victims and great material destruction, offers his prayers to the Lord for the eternal rest of those who have died, and he requests you convey his sincere sympathy to the family members of the deceased, as well as his sentiments of spiritual paternal closeness to the numerous wounded and those who have lost their homes.
Likewise, he encourages institutions and persons of good will to provide the necessary help with charity and in a spirit of solidarity to those affected. With these sentiments, the Holy Father imparts his comforting Apostolic Blessing to those who have been affected and those who assist them, as a sign of his affection for the beloved Peruvian nation.
The U.S. Geological Survey said Wednesday's earthquake hit at 6:40 p.m. about 90 miles southeast of Lima at a depth of about 25 miles. Four strong aftershocks ranging from magnitudes of 5.4 to 5.9 were felt afterward.
Rescue workers struggled to reach the center of the destruction, the port city of Pisco about 125 miles southeast of the capital, Lima. Pisco's mayor said at least 200 people were buried in the rubble of a church where they had been attending a service.
"The dead are scattered by the dozens on the streets," Mayor Juan Mendoza told Lima radio station CPN.
"We don't have lights, water, communications. Most houses have fallen, churches, stores, hotels, everything is destroyed," he said, sobbing.
, Aug 16, 2007 (CNA) - Father Jose de Jesus Aguilar, director of Radio and Television for the Archdiocese of Mexico, warned this week that the Catholic Church does not approve of the devotion some Mexicans have to “St. Death,” saying it goes against Catholic teachings and Sacred Scripture.
Some Mexicans celebrate the “feast day” of St. Death on August 15, coinciding with the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary.
Father Aguilar said that this false devotion opens the door to the demonic, as was explained at a recent exorcism congress in Mexico. “To adore death is idolatry,” he noted, “but many people do so above all out of ignorance.”
Drug traffickers, criminals, ex-convicts and kidnappers are among those who “pray” to St. Death to grant success to their crimes. One group has even asked the Mexican government to grant approval to the devotion. Father Aguilar noted that while there is freedom of religion in Mexico, the government “should stress the difference between what should be considered faith and what should be considered some other kind of charlatanism, because that is a very sensitive point.”
There are some who at one point had a devotion to “St. Death” but realized that “what is behind this devotion is the occult,” which has led many to “seek out counsel from the Catholic Church,” Father Aguilar said.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug 16, 2007 (CNA) - The bishops who will participate in the 147th meeting of the Permanent Committee of the Bishops’ Conference of Argentina August 21-23 will study the application of the conclusions of the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American Bishops’ Council in Aparecida.
According to the AICA news agency, after sharing about the pastoral situation in the country, “the twenty-some bishops will dedicate a good part of their time to studying ways to apply the conclusions” of the Aparecida conference.
During the meeting the bishops will listen to committee reports, including ones dealing with social ministry to drug addicts, pro-life legislation, and priestly formation in Rome.
The bishops will also hear reports on health care ministry, consecrated life, the laity and the family, as well as a report on the Church’s financial status.
Madrid, Spain, Aug 16, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Spain, Bishop Ricardo Blazquez of Bilbao, said this week that the “obstinate persistence” of the Basque separatist group ETA is “unbearable” and he called for the “immediate, total and definitive” disappearance of the terrorist organization that ‘acts against the will of this people.”
During the Mass for the feast of the Assumption of Mary, Bishop Blazquez told the thousands of faithful gathered at the Basilica of Our Lady of Begoña, “Once again on this feast, we must unfortunately recall the terrible weight that has hung over our society for decades.” He said the founding of ETA was a “mistake” and that the criminal organization “represents no one.”
Bishop Blazquez expressed words of consolation to the victims of terrorism in Spain, “to those who have lost loved ones, those who have suffered extortion, and those who have had to leave in search of security.”
“Let’s unite our efforts to eradicate terrorist violence that has such negative repercussions for the vitality of this nation,” he said.
Mariazell, Austria, Aug 16, 2007 (CNA) - In a message to the participants of the International Pilgrimage of Youth, which has arrived in the Marian shrine of Mariazell in Austria, Pope Benedict XVI told the young people that “despite ‘material satisfaction,’ nostalgia for the eternal is very present and that the Church in Europe is alive.”
The Pope invited participants to seek an encounter “with Jesus Christ, in prayer, in the Sacred Liturgy, which you celebrate in visible communion with the Church, as well as at different times during your encounter, so that your friendship with Him can grow.”
“When so many young people come to Mariazell to encounter Christ there in the sacraments, one cannot help but see in that a sign that despite ‘material satisfaction,’ nostalgia for the eternal is very present and the Church in Europe is alive,” the pontiff said in his message which was read by Cardinal Cristoph Schonborn of Vienna.
“Under the theme of ‘Look at Christ,’ I will also go to this traditional pilgrimage shrine in a few weeks. I hope to meet many of you there, so that together we may praise the Lord and thank Him for the grace of faith in Jesus Christ, the only Redeemer of humanity,” the Pope continued.
Cardinal Schonborn called the International Pilgrimage of Youth “an important sign of the faith of young people.” The pilgrimage towards Mariazell began on August 12 and ended on August 15 with the celebration of the Assumption of Mary.