, Sep 7, 2007 (CNA) - This morning Pope Benedict XVI began his seventh trip outside of Italy on a good note saying that he “felt at home” in Austria. The pontiff’s trip is in Austria to celebrate the 850th anniversary of the Marian shrine at Mariazell, the most important shrine in central Europe.
The Holy Father departed Rome this morning at 9:50 am local time and arrived in Vienna two hours later. Upon landing, the Pope was greeted by Heinz Fischer, president of the Republic of Austria, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn O.P., the archbishop of Vienna and the melodious welcome of a children’s choir.
In his opening speech, the Pope gave his listeners a clue as to why he feels so at home in Austria. "The culture of this country," he said, "is deeply imbued with the message of Jesus Christ and the activity which the Church has carried out in His name."
He also praised the virtues that the Austrian shrine brings to life saying, “[t]his Marian sanctuary in some way represents the maternal heart of Austria…It symbolizes an openness which not only transcends physical and national frontiers, but, in the person of Mary, reminds us of an essential dimension of human beings: their capacity for openness to God and His word of truth.”
The pontiff joined himself to this openness to God by expressing his desire to be a pilgrim as well. "I would like, during these three days here in Austria, to go as a pilgrim to Mariazell" on "a journey made in the company of all the pilgrims of our time. ... Mariazell does not only represent 850 years of history, but shows us on the basis of that history, the way to the future."
Pope Benedict finished his speech by calling on all pilgrims to make the act of pilgrimage a part of their everyday life as many Austrians do.
He noted how “in Austria many people, on Sunday, the day of rest from work, and also during their free time on other days of the week, engage in volunteer activities and service to others. Such commitment, offered generously and disinterestedly for the welfare of others, also marks the pilgrimage of our life."
As most pilgrims know, every pilgrimage contains difficulties and this one proved no different for the Pope as his speech was cut short by microphone difficulties.
CNA is providing daily coverage of the Pope's visit to Austria. Resources can be found here: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/austria07/index.html
Nairobi, Kenya, Sep 7, 2007 (CNA) - The Vatican refused a request by the Archdiocese of Nairobi for an early start in the cause of Cardinal Maurice Michael Otunga.
The process would only start five years after his death, as required by Church law, said Archbishop Raphael Ndingi Mwana, announcing the Vatican’s decision. Cardinal Otunga died in Sept. 6, 2003, at the age of 80.
“We were advised to wait for five years, and we accepted the advice obediently,” Archbishop Ndingi told reporters yesterday at Holy Family Basilica after a memorial Mass for his predecessor. According to a CISA report, thousands of people attended the Mass.
He added that the beloved cardinal’s beatification would be on the agenda when the Kenyan bishops make their ad limina visit to the Vatican in November.
Cardinal Otunga had served as archbishop of Nairobi for 26 years. His remains are interred in a special chapel at the Resurrection Garden, a retreat centre in Nairobi.
The Vatican has waived the five-year rule recently, in the cases of Blessed Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II.
Vienna, Austria, Sep 7, 2007 (CNA) - Following a ceremony in which he dedicated Austria and all of its people to the protection of Mary, Pope Benedict XVI traveled to the nearby Judenplatz, which contains a commemorative monument to the Shoah (Holocaust).
The Holy Father was received there by the Chief Rabbi and the president of the Jewish community in Vienna. He paused to pray in silence and speak with members of the Jewish community that had gathered to greet him.
Onboard the plane to Vienna, the Pope told the AP that the visit to the Holocaust shrine would be a “moment to express our sadness, our repentance and our friendship towards the Jews.”
The Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn also reminded those assembled, that Jesus and the apostles were Jewish and that "we must never forget our roots."
"It is part of this city's tragedy that it is indeed here that these roots were forgotten, even denied, to the point of wanting to destroy a people to whom God gave his first love," he said.
The Judenplatz contains a commemorative monument to the Shoah by the artist Rachel Whiteread, an archaeological excavation revealing a medieval synagogue and a museum on the Jewish presence in the Middle Ages. Engraved in the paving stones around the monument are the names of the places in which more than 65,000 Austrian Jews lost their lives under Nazis rule.
Rome, Italy, Sep 7, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Bishop Elio Sgreccia denounced as a “monstrosity” the new norms approved this week in Great Britain by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which allow the creation of animal-human embryos for the purpose of extracting stem cells for use in the treatment of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.
Proponents of the new ruling held up a “support” survey of two thousand people who have no knowledge of the issue as evidence that the research should go forward.
With the newly granted permission to create hybrid embryos (part animal, part human) three teams of British scientists—one from King’s College London, one from the North East England Stem Cell Institute, and one led by Ian Wilmut, whose team cloned the sheep Dolly—will begin experiments to introduce human DNA into a cow egg in order to create embryos that would be 99.9 percent human and .01 percent animal.
Investigators argue that this macabre norm is needed because of the lack of human ovums for research. In response Bishop Sgreccia explained that up to now, international law prohibited this kind of genetic manipulation “because of the offense against human dignity” that it constitutes, “because of the risk of producing monsters” and “because of the morally high significance.”
He said the British government had “caved into a request from a group of scientists that it seems to me goes against the will of the majority and certainly against the morality of not only of Catholics but also of other religious groups and defenders of life, and against all rational morality, which up to now has been quite clear in all of the international treaties.”
Bishop Sgreccia said the scientists’ justifications were “mere excuses” for defending the indefensible and that experiments that are inhumane and illicit “cannot be carried out, not even with the hope of achieving a degree of success.”
“Success, if it exists, should come through human means. Good should be achieved through decent means; otherwise we are applying pure Machiavellian ideology to science and to scientific experimentation when what is at stake is human dignity,” he emphasized.
Likewise, the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life recalled that experimentation on a living human being and its subsequent elimination has up to now only occurred in concentration camps. These experiments were forbidden by the Nuremberg Codes and the Helsinki Declaration. It’s important to emphasize that even though some labs are going to carry them out, that does not make them licit,” he said.
Bishop Peter Smith of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, also weighed in on the unprecedented ruling saying, “Human begins have one sole nature, specifically separate from animals,” and therefore nobody should wonder if it is “correct to exceed the limits of the species and try to mix human and animal natures.” “Instead of promoting this kind of ethically problematic research, why not encourage research with adult stem cells which is not controversial?” the bishop asked. “The Catholic Church is not against this kind of research and encourages that which is done with stem cells extracted from the blood and from the umbilical cord,” he stressed.
Brussels, Belgium, Sep 7, 2007 (CNA) - The government of Poland has asked the European Union to expand its opposition to the death penalty to include abortion and euthanasia.
"We don't think that the idea is reasonable because the death penalty is not a problem in Europe. There is no use to promote the law that is already in force in every European country," the spokesman for Polish foreign minister Ana Fotyga told the EUobserver.
Polish representatives told their fellow EU members that the idea of the "right to life" cannot be reduced to the death penalty problem alone. Poland has said therefore it opposes establishing October 10 as European day against the death penalty
"We think that when anybody wants to discuss a problem of death in the context of the law it is also worth to discuss euthanasia and abortion in this context," Fotyga explained.
The EU Commission has rejected linking the issue of the death penalty to other issues related to the right to life.
Washington D.C., Sep 7, 2007 (CNA) - The United States bishops and their overseas relief organization are urging the US Senate to offer “active support for essential funding for urgent humanitarian and development activities.”
A letter, dated Sept. 5, was sent to senators as they consider the State/Foreign Operations Appropriations bill for 2008.
In it, Bishop Thomas Wenski and Ken Hackett said a priority should be adequate funding for the Millennium Challenge Account/Corporation (MCA). Bishop Wenski is chair of the U.S. bishops’ International Policy Committee. Hacket is president of Catholic Relief Services.
The MCA was designed to help vulnerable countries, particularly in Africa, make key reforms that include improved governance, anti-corruption measures, expanded rights for underrepresented groups such as women and rural landholders, and commitments to health and sanitation, Bishop Wenski and Hackett stated.
They noted that the full Senate committee mark reduces MCA funding to $1.2 billion, far below the president’s request of $3 billion and $700 million below the committee’s mark from last year.
“We urge Senate leaders to fund the MCC at a minimum of $1.8 billion, the level contained in the Fiscal Year 2008 House bill,” they wrote. “Unless sufficient funds are provided for the MCA, important reforms may lose momentum in bringing meaningful development to some of our poorest brothers and sisters.”
They also urged the Senate to reinstate funding designated in the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief in the form of abstinence programs.
Bishop Wenski and Hackett also urged restoration of a policy “that prohibits support for organizations that support or help manage programs using coerced abortion and sterilization.”
“The persistence of abject hunger, poverty, and disease in God’s world is a significant moral challenge,” they wrote. “Reliable programs that have proven results in combating or reducing poverty and disease deserve the full support of the U.S. Congress.”
Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Sep 7, 2007 (CNA) - Renowned Presbyterian minister and pro-life advocate James Kennedy died Wednesday at the age of 76.
Kennedy was the longtime pastor of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He arrived at the modest mission church of 45 people in 1959 and proceeded to transform it into 10,000-member Christian mega-church. He incorporated media into his ministry and broadcasted his church services to three million Americans and 200 nations.
He founded several organizations focused on training Christians to carry the Gospel into all parts of society.
Messages of sympathy and gratitude for Kennedy’s ministry poured in from numerous Christian leaders.
"America has lost a strong and consistent voice for the most helpless in society," said Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life. "The unborn and the physically impaired had a great advocate in Rev. D. James Kennedy, who always pleaded for the vulnerable with love.”
Richard Thompson, president of the Thomas More Law Center, described Kenney as “a true Christian leader for our time.”
“We are grateful for his example, wisdom, and uncompromising commitment to spreading the Kingdom of God. He was an outspoken foe of the ACLU and activist judges who were de-Christianizing our nation,” he said.
Beverly LaHaye, founder Concerned Women for America, said Kennedy “left a legacy of profound spiritual leadership and effective evangelism.”
Kennedy preached his last sermon on Christmas Eve 2006. Four days later, he suffered cardiac arrest and had been unable to return to the pulpit. He only retired as senior pastor of Coral Ridge Ministries in August. James Kennedy passed away in his sleep from cardiac complications on Wednesday.
Toronto, Canada, Sep 7, 2007 (CNA) - After 18 years, the Vatican has put a final stamp of approval on the Canadian lectionary, granting a recognitio to the inclusive language of the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible in English.
Canadians have been reading the NRSV at Mass since 1992, when the first edition of the new Sunday lectionary was published with approval from the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
The Canadian NRSV lectionary for weekdays was published in 1994. It was only then that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith objected to NRSV translations.
The NRSV uses inclusive language, referring to both men and women, when the text refers to people. References to God use the pronoun “He.”
Pope John Paul II used the Canadian lectionary at World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto.
“The main issue was not the question of inclusive language,” Archbishop James Weisgerber, vice president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, told the Register. The Vatican’s concern has been a matter of technical issues and accuracy, he said.
A committee of Canadian bishops had been meeting regularly with Vatican officials to work on the details of the text since 2003. With the recognitio in place, the bishops can begin publishing a second edition to the books already in use, starting with Year B, Nov. 30, 2008.
Rome, Italy, Sep 7, 2007 (CNA) - According to press reports, the historic visit to Austria by Pope Benedict XVI September 7-9 will be covered by some 1,700 journalists, who will be among the 33,000 people expected to attend the Mass at the Shrine of Mariazell.
On September 8, some five thousand people from various countries are expected to attend the 850th anniversary celebrations at the shrine, among them a group of Germans from Bavaria, the native region of Benedict XVI.
On Sunday, September 9, after the recitation of the Angelus at St. Stephen’s Square, five hundred children of the “Missio Austria” will present the pontiff with letters and drawings. Local officials said the purpose is to raise funds for child soldiers in Uganda.
Another unique aspect of the papal visit is that the faithful who are unable to attend the Mass at Mariazell will be able to receive text messages on the cell phones with the papal blessing at the end of the celebration.
This is the fourth time a pope has visited Austria in the last 25 years and the first trip to a European country by Benedict XVI in 2007.
Caracas, Venezuela, Sep 7, 2007 (CNA) - A commission of bishops named by the head of the Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela and other Conference leaders will study the constitutional reforms proposed by President Hugo Chavez and prepare a response that will be addressed to the Venezuelan people.
The members of the commission include Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino of Caracas, Archbishop Diego Padron of Cumana, Archbishop Reinaldo del Prette Lissot of Valencia and Bishop Jesus Zarraga of San Carlos.
“It’s important that all Venezuelans of every sector and ideology take part in the debate and seriously study the suggested changes, so that the National Constitution will be a peace treaty for the country, and not a declaration of war,” the bishops said in a press conference.
In that sense they reaffirmed the need for “true national dialogue about this matter of such transcendence for the future of the country, and the opinions of all should be heard and respected.” The Constitution, they emphasized, should belong to the entire nation and not just a particular faction.
In response to the recent polarization of the country over the proposals by Chavez to implement his socialist agenda, several bishops have insisted on the need for dialogue in order to bring about a consensus in the context of respect for the basic rights of the person, such as freedom of expression, and in accord with the democratic process.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sep 7, 2007 (CNA) - In the wake of a scandal caused by school professor who dresses up as a woman, the Consortium of Catholic Doctors of Buenos Aires rejected the idea that sexuality is sentimental and not biological, noting that science demonstrates that only two sexes exist: male and female.
The group of experts issued a statement referring to the case of a school teacher in Tierra del Fuego, who “dresses up as a woman and wears makeup.” Radical groups have backed the teacher saying, “What is important is what the person ‘feels’ and one’s sex is not biological, but rather the result of psychological and emotional impulses that attract the person to others of the same or of the opposite sex.”
“The natural, biological and scientific truth is that there are only two sexes: male and female,” the doctors countered. This has been demonstrated genetically, hormonally, anatomically and physiologically, they added.
The doctors rejected arguments by school officials that to discipline or fire the teacher would violate anti-discrimination laws. “This is an absolutely incorrect interpretation (of the anti-discrimination laws),” they said. “One cannot claim discrimination while violating natural rights. The freedom and rights of one person end with the freedom and rights of others,” the doctors explained.
They acknowledged that schools should not discriminate against teachers and students, “but there are clear limits that should not be violated, such as when the psychology, emotions and current and future conduct of the students would be affected.”
“One of the most important characteristics and values that teachers must impart to their students is an appropriate image of what the human person anthropologically should be and how he should act. This is precisely done by giving an example of living in an ethically and morally correct way,” they added.
They called the actions by the teacher in question “absolutely inadmissible” and an example of “deviant conduct.”
Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sep 7, 2007 (CNA) - Not everyone was expected to be impacted by the Pope’s visit to Brazil last summer, however since Benedict XVI visited Fazenda da Esperança, a drug rehabilitation center, hundreds have been inspired to seek treatment and to strive to find happiness in Christ.
ACN reports the story of one 23 year old woman, Maria de Campo who was an addict and worked occasionally as a prostitute. She relates how at first she had no interest in meeting the Pope. Describing herself as an “unbeliever,” she had previously told her friends on the Fazenda, “I don’t listen to the Church. I am here to get myself off drugs, not to see someone you call the ‘Pope.’”
She ended up attending the Pope’s visit and found herself standing in the front row. The Pope took her hand and blessed this young woman. She tells ACN: “He looked me straight in the eyes, and it was as though he could see everything in me. I’ve never experienced anything like this before.” She broke into tears. “This meeting converted me. I had the feeling that God was reflected in him. I cannot explain it, but since then everything has changed.”
Since his visit, hundreds have visited the Fazenda drug rehabilitation center as well as the community church which is the first church dedicated to St. Antonio Galvao.
In his letter to Austrian Catholics, Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “In Brazil, in the Fazenda da Esperança, in a way that I will never forget I encountered young people who had fallen victim to drugs and had therefore lost their joy in life and their faith in the future. Discovering God meant for them – so they told me – finding hope again and once more gaining joy in life and in the future. Precisely because faith has deep roots, it can unlock the future and bestow life.”
There are currently Fazendas throughout South America, Philippines, and Germany.