Vatican City, Sep 5, 2007 (CNA) - Yesterday evening, Pope Benedict XVI was treated to a concert performed by the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra for celebrations marking the 1000th anniversary of the archdiocese of Bamberg, Germany.
In remarks made at the end of the concert, the Pope indicated that music "has the power to lead us back ... to the Creator of all harmony, creating a resonance within us which is like being in tune with the beauty and truth of God, with the reality which no human knowledge or philosophy can ever express."
After thanking the conductor and the members of orchestra, as well as the organizers and promoters of the event, the Holy Father described the concert as "a gift which I interpret as being the sign of a special bond of affection between the archdiocese of Bamberg and Peter's Successor."
Pope Benedict XVI left them with the blessing, "May your jubilee pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles and to Peter's current Successor, strengthen your faith and joy in God, that you may become His witnesses in daily life."
Vatican City, Sep 5, 2007 (CNA) - This past weekend, Pope Benedict spoke out in defense of the environment at the “Saving Creation Day” in Loreto, Italy. Speaking at the end of today’s general audience, the Pope turned his attention to protecting Creation again.
Benedict XVI mentioned in particular, an international symposium on the defense of the Arctic, which begins tomorrow on the west coast of Greenland under the presidency of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople. The theme of the meeting is: "The Arctic: Mirror of Life."
Speaking in English, the Pope said: "Care of water resources and attention to climate change are matters of grave importance for the entire human family. Encouraged by the growing recognition of the need to preserve the environment, I invite all of you to join me in praying and working for greater respect for the wonders of God's creation."
Rome, Italy, Sep 5, 2007 (CNA) - This Thursday Pope Benedict XVI will meet in separate audiences with the Chancellor of Saudi Arabia, Prince Saud Al-Faisal Bin Adbul Aziz Al-Said and with Israeli President Shimon Peres.
The ANSA news agency reports that the meetings will take place at the Pope’s summer residence of Castelgandolfo, some 25 kilometers south of Rome.
As was announced in Jerusalem and confirmed by the Holy See Press Office, that same day the Pope will meet with Israeli President Shimon Peres, who will be visiting Italy and the Vatican on his first foreign trip since taking office in July.
Washington D.C., Sep 5, 2007 (CNA) - In its new bulletin in Spanish, the Population Research Institute will unmask a new strategy by pro-abortion forces to change laws in Latin America that protect human life. The report outlines a “systematic and international strategy” designed to “introduce abortion into countries where it is illegal.”
The new strategy consists in “promoting the consumption of a drug that initiates the abortion process in order to later finish it under the pretext of medical care for an incomplete abortion.” Pro-abortion forces aim to provide “counseling” for pregnant women at risk for abortion, but the real intention is to teach them how to use abortifacient drugs.
“Therefore this type of ‘guidance’ is nothing other than manipulation, as the choice they are presenting is the one they have already decided on for these women from the beginning,” the report warns. It points to documented cases at the Pereyra Rosell Hospital in Montevideo and the anti-life NGO BenFam in Brazil.
The full report can be read at:
Beijing, China, Sep 5, 2007 (CNA) - Beijing officials have decided to build a church in the Olympic Village for religious services during the 2008 Olympic Games, following the long-standing tradition established by host countries. This will be done despite the usual restrictions on religious practices imposed by the Communist regime.
“Everything will be done according to the practices adopted by other Olympic cities,” said Liu Bainian, vice president of the Patriotic Catholic Association of China—the official state-run Church—in statements published by China Daily.
In addition to the church, Beijing has begun offering language courses to local pastors to enable them to celebrate Mass in other languages. Officials will also open a center for religious services in order to respond to the spiritual needs of Olympic athletes.
According to the newspaper, the government recently organized a several day-long seminar which was attended by 60 volunteers from the largest religious groups in the country: Buddhism, Taoism, Islam and Christianity.
Vatican City, Sep 5, 2007 (CNA) - This morning, the Pope traveled by helicopter from his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo to the Vatican, where he landed shortly before 10 am. He then made his way to St. Peter's Square where he presided at his weekly general audience, attended by 16,000 people.
In keeping with his plan to extol the holiness of the Early Church Fathers, the Pope returned to consider the figure of St. Gregory of Nyssa (335-395) - who was also the subject of last week's catechesis –noting how the bishop saint always "showed a highly elevated sense of man's dignity."
For St. Gregory, "man's aim is to make himself like God ... through love, knowledge and the practice of virtues, ... in a perpetual and dynamic adherence to good, like a runner stretching forwards."
The Holy Father warned that our ability to take part in the sanctity of God is not a one-time gift, but rather, it is "a permanent journey, a constant commitment to progress ... because complete likeness to God can never be achieved. The history of each soul is that of a love ... open to new horizons, because God continually expands the possibilities of the soul, so as to make it capable of ever greater good."
"In this journey of spiritual ascent, Christ is the Model and the Master Who shows us the beautiful image of God. Looking at Him, each of us discovers ourselves to be 'the painter of our own life' in which our will undertakes the work and our virtues are the colors at our disposal."
"The value that St. Gregory gives to the word Christian is very important," said Pope Benedict, "because a Christian is one who bears the name of Christ, and one who bears the name of Christ must be like Him also in this life. ... But Christ, Gregory recalls, is also present in the poor," and he invites people to recognize the dignity of the poor, precisely because "they represent the Person of the Savior."
The Holy Father concluded by saying that "the path to God, then, passes through prayer and pureness of heart, and through love for others. Love is the stairway that leads to God."
Pope Benedict brought the audience to a close by addressing the Missionaries of Charity who have come to Rome for the tenth anniversary of the death of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. He also highlighted how "the life and witness of this true disciple of Christ ... are an invitation for you and for the entire Church always to serve God faithfully in the poorest and the most needy."
Vatican City, Sep 5, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Nigerian priest Msgr. Fortunatus Nwachukwu as the Chief Protocol Officer for the Secretariat of State.
Msgr. Nwachukwu was born in Ntigha, Nigeria, in 1960 and ordained in 1984. After further studies in theology, he joined the Vatican diplomatic corps and has served in Ghana, Paraguay, Algeria, and UN offices in Geneva.
He speaks various languages including English, Italian, German, Modern Hebrew, French, Spanish and Arabic.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Sep 5, 2007 (CNA) - A Redemptorist priest recently organized an online writing contest to promote love and understanding among Catholic parents and children in Vietnam.
Fr. Joseph Le Quang Uy told UCA News he organized the contest for his youth group, named Fiat, to encourage them to take the celebrations of Mother's Day and Father's Day more seriously.
Twenty-five young writers submitted 28 pieces about their relationships with their parents. On Aug. 1, the writers, their family and friends attended a thanksgiving Mass at the Redemptorist residence in Ho Chi Minh City. Some writers, accompanied by their parents, read their stories after Mass.
"Today, children talk little to their parents," the priest explained. He lamented that young people can chat for hours but do not tell each other about their parents. They are proud of being fans of some music, film or football star but do not take pride in their parents, he said.
The contest did not have any prizes. "Children's biggest prize is their parents, and parents' biggest prizes are their beloved children," the priest said.
These letters were collated in a book. One thousand copies were printed and are on sale. Each of the writers received a copy to give to their parents. They also received paintings of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
Fr. Uy founded Fiat with a group of young Vietnamese Catholics this past April. It has now grown to 149 members, aged 16 to 73. After Sunday Mass, they break into small groups and visit hospital patients, centers for disabled people, orphans, people with HIV/AIDS, and retired religious and clergy.
The group’s letters can be viewed at www.360.yahoo.com/fiat.xinvang
Los Angeles, Calif., Sep 5, 2007 (CNA) - Thanks to local preservationists and an astute developer, the former cathedral of Los Angeles was returned to its previous structural glory last week.
The former St. Vibiana Cathedral, now simply named Vibiana and converted into a concert and events hall, got its 3,500-pound cupola back Aug. 30, reported the L.A. Times. The moment ended an 11-year campaign to save the downtown landmark.
The historic cathedral was marked for demolition after it suffered structural damage in a 1994 earthquake. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles decided that repairs would cost more than the Baroque-like 1,200-seat building was worth and made plans to build a new, larger cathedral.
Local preservationists launched a campaign to save the 131-year-old church after the sudden dismantling of the cathedral bell tower on a Saturday morning in mid-1996.
Archdiocese officials insisted they were only following a city order issued the previous day that called for them to "abate" the imminent danger posed by the quake-damaged tower.
But leaders of the Los Angeles Conservancy obtained a temporary restraining order just in time to halt the demolition. By that time, a crane had lifted the 20-foot wood-framed cupola off the top of the tower.
Developer Tom Gilmore eventually purchased St. Vibiana in 1999 for $4.6 million. He has spent a reported $6 million renovating it, including $2.5 million to restore the church's 83-foot-tall bell tower. Vibiana is now a venue for special events, receptions and concerts.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles built its new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels at Temple Street and Grand Avenue. The remains of St. Vibiana, which were in the former cathedral, were relocated and entombed in the new cathedral.
Lahore, Pakistan, Sep 5, 2007 (CNA) - The writer and director of a controversial Pakistani film, currently screening at the Venice Film Festival, said he hopes his film will "reform the fundamentalists in Pakistan in particular, and the Muslim world in general."
Shoaib Mansoor’s film, In the Name of God, is a box office hit in Pakistan despite fatwas [scholarly edicts based on Islamic law] and legal threats from Muslim leaders, such as the radical cleric of Islamabad's Red Mosque, Abdul Rashid Ghazi. Ghazi was one of more than 50 people killed in the assault on the mosque in early July.
In another attempt to block the film, a petition was filed at the Lahore High Court in August, but the court eventually ruled against it.
The film is currently playing on 11 screens in 10 cities in Pakistan. It reportedly took $180,000 in its opening weekend last month and grossed $500,000 in its first three weeks.
In an interview with Adnkronos International (AKI), Mansoor said he was thrilled by the response his three-hour film has received in his home country.
The movie tells the story of two brothers, who are musicians. One of them gives up music and becomes radicalized, grows a beard and tries to get his mother to wear a hijab [headscarf]. The other brother moves to Chicago to study music but ends up getting arrested after 9/11 and is tortured by US interrogators until he is paralyzed. It also addresses other hot topics in Pakistan, such as marital rape, forced marriage and jihad. It includes anti-American sentiments.
The film has caused debate in Pakistan about Islam between the modernized elites, who carry the banner of moderation, and the radical segments of society.
Mansoor said that he believes Pakistan “is heading towards a win of the moderate majority. Up until now, this section was totally docile and quiet. I have tried to be a representative voice.” He said he hopes the film will generate discussion and debate.
The vice president of Italian Muslim group Coreis, Yahya Pallavicini told AKI that attempts by Islamic clerics to use fatwas against films only bolster claims that Islam is incompatible with Western values.
Pallavicini was commenting on the film’s participation in the Venice film festival.
"While maintaining their religious identity, clerics need to integrate in a post-modern, secular society," he was quoted as saying. "While a sense of modesty is legitimate, such disproportionate reactions militate against the possibility of true understanding between peoples and religions.”
Rome, Italy, Sep 5, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the outspoken Vatican Secretary of State, addressed the political figures who have questioned the tax advantages received by the Catholic Church.
Politicians have argued that Catholic institutions in Italy are receiving an exorbitant amount of tax breaks. However, the Church maintains that its work to assist society at all levels would be compromised if it was forced to pay full taxes.
According to ANSA, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said “critics were stoking ‘cheap’ polemics and ‘falsifying’ reality by presenting the tax breaks as undeserved and unjustifiable privileges.”
"If Catholic organizations stopped work, many tens of millions of people throughout the world would be deprived of the only support they can count on every day," he said.
Nevertheless, the cardinal reassured those tens of millions that the Church would never consider a “strike” to prove its point.
ANSA also reported that Bertone, “complained that the Church's opponents were taking advantage of this [investigation] to undermine the credibility of ‘institutions which are the most active in healing society's wounds.” The prelate was apparently referring to Italy's Rose in the Fist (RNP) party, a government ally made up of Socialists and libertarian free-market Radicals, which has been vocal in complaints about the Church's ‘privileges’. “Those that systematically stoke these polemics should review their strategy which damages not only Italy's public image but also the beneficiaries of the Church's charity and social work," Bertone said.
The controversy emerged last year when a complaint regarding the Church’s tax status was raised by a group of Italian businessmen supported by the Radical party. The accusations of unfair advantages are the result of recent investigations by the EU into whether or not the tax-exempt status of the Church’s social service organizations should be curtailed.
London, England, Sep 5, 2007 (CNA) - Plans for the creation of human-animal embryos were approved in principal today by British officials at the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).
As previously reported by CNA, scientists submitted their most recent request to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to approve the technique of merging human and animal embryos, which they say will help advance research into medical treatments such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
The Guardian reports that a study administered by HFEA found that 61% of people agree with the creation of human-animal embryos in order to understand diseases. “Most support was expressed for the creation of so-called cytoplasmic hybrid embryos, in which a human cell is inserted into an empty animal egg. Other hybrid embryos, such as those created by fertilising an animal egg with human sperm, or vice versa, were less well supported.”
However, religious officials disagree saying that “the work blurs the distinction between humans and animals, and creates embryos that are destined to be destroyed when stem cells are extracted from them. Bishops have previously spoken out saying they did not believe the hybrid embryos should be destroyed once they are brought into existence.
Now that the creation of these embryos has been approved, the two already-submitted applications for creating the human-animal embryos, will be forwarded to a committee which will make a decision within three months.
Aurora, Ill., Sep 5, 2007 (CNA) - Pro-life advocates are calling on the city of Aurora to launch an official investigation into the application process for the construction of a multi-floor building, revealed to be a new abortion facility.
The pro-life advocates discovered that Planned Parenthood had concealed its ownership of the new building, set to open soon in the Chicago suburb. Planned Parenthood officials admitted they concealed ownership to avoid opposition to the construction, reported WorldNetDaily.com.
About 1,200 pro-life advocates assembled over the Aug. 27-28 weekend to protest the structure that had initially been described in the permit application as an office building. The project was proposed to the city by Gemini Office Development.
Alderman Richard Irvin was among the protesters. He was not on the board when the project was approved, but says he is concerned that the building was brought into the city under false pretenses. The municipality could sue Planned Parenthood for being deceptive, he said.
The permit application for the construction did not indicate that the building was to be an abortion facility. However, it was revealed as such after a pro-life construction worker on the 22,000-square-foot site became suspicious of the bulletproof glass and surgical suites, reported WorldNetDaily.com.
Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, said the deception was likely motivated by another Planned Parenthood construction project in Austin, Texas, which was delayed for months because contractors refused to work on the project.
Newman said Planned Parenthood recently practiced the same deception in Denver, where it purchased a building without announcing its presence.
Cheryl Sullenger, also of Operation Rescue, said community residents have legitimate concerns when a Planned Parenthood facility decides to move in.
"They're concerned about …what their children are going to be taught as far as sex education. They don't want their daughters getting abortions without their knowledge, and in some states Planned Parenthood is famous for promoting that," she said.
Prayer vigils already have begun at the site. "This is not just a local abortion clinic; this is regional headquarters," Eric Scheidler of the Pro-Life Action League told the Chicago Tribune. "We want the city of Aurora to see clear as day that Aurora does not want Planned Parenthood as a neighbor."
Scheidler noted that another abortion clinic was shut down in Aurora just last year.