Vatican City, Sep 12, 2007 (CNA) - More than 12,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s square to hear Pope Benedict XVI deliver the Wednesday audience. The Holy Father recalled his recent pastoral visit to Austria to commemorate the 850th anniversary of the shrine of Mariazell, a visit, he said, "that was above all a pilgrimage on the theme of 'looking to Christ,' that is, of going towards Mary who shows us Jesus."
The Pontiff said that he wanted “to pause and reflect on my pastoral visit, which I have had the joy of completing in these past days in Austria.” The Holy Father noted his closeness with the country both because it borders his native Germany, and because of many points of contact he has had with it.
The main purpose of the visit was a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Mariazell, on its 850th anniversary. The venerable statue of Our Lady pointing to her infant Son inspired the theme of the visit (to look to Christ).
Benedict commented on the importance of this moment of his pilgrimage: “It was only when we arrived at the sanctuary that we fully understood the sense of that motto: to look to Christ. In front of us was the statue of the Madonna, who with one hand points to the child Jesus, and up above the altar of the Basilica, the Crucified Christ.”
He continued: “There our pilgrimage had reached its goal: we have contemplated the face of God in that Child in the arms of Mary and in that Man with his arms wide open. To look to Jesus with the eyes of Mary means to encounter God-Love, who for us became man and died on the cross.”
In meeting with the President and the Diplomatic Corps, Benedict “expressed the Church’s support for global efforts to foster peace and authentic development, and I encouraged the process of Europe’s unification on the basis of values inspired by its shared Christian heritage.”
Explaining this statement, the Holy Father remarked: “How can we forget that Europe is the bearer of a tradition of thought that links faith, reason, and sentiment? Illustrious philosophers, even independently of the faith, have recognized the central role Christianity has played in protecting the modern conscience from nihilistic and fundamentalist tendencies.”
Benedict remarked how, “At the end of my journey, I met with representatives of Austria’s impressive network of volunteer organizations and expressed appreciation for their generosity to others.”
Benedict ended his address on a hopeful note regarding the church in Austria: “Throughout my visit, I saw the vitality of the Church, which, in today’s Europe, is called "to look to Christ" ever anew, as she carries out her mission in service of the Gospel and the true progress of the human family.”
In its coverage of the papal trip, the secular press seemed to think that support for the faith and the Pope were lacklustre. However, they failed to take into account the rural setting of Mariazell, its accessibility only by bus and train, since automobiles were banned, the poor weather and the intentional limiting of the crowd size by using tickets for the main events.
Hollywood, Calif., Sep 12, 2007 (CNA) - The Emmy’s are usually an opportunity for performers to thank all of those who helped them deliver their award-worthy performances. Many stars thank God for their abilities, but comedian Kathy Griffin decided that she would prove that she has no fear of God by blaspheming Jesus in her acceptance speech.
Griffin made her inflammatory comments on Saturday night as she took the stage of the Shrine Auditorium to collect her Emmy for the best reality program for her Bravo channel show "My Life on the D-List."
"A lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award. I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus," an exuberant Griffin said, holding up her statuette. "Suck it, Jesus. This award is my god now."
Kathy Griffin was asked by the L.A. Times backstage about her anti-Christian speech. Without any sign of remorse, she said, “I hope I offended some people. I didn't want to win the Emmy for nothing.”
Bill Donahue of the Catholic League pointed out how a double standard is being applied when it comes to anti-Christian speech. “It is sure bet that if Griffin had said, ‘Suck it, Muhammad,’ there would have been a very different reaction from the crowd [which laughed at Griffin’s comments] and from the media who covered this event. To say nothing of the Muslim reaction.”
Griffin's comments also upset her former Suddenly Susan co-star Sherri Shepherd, who is also a stand-up comic. Appearing on the TV show The View on yesterday morning, Shepherd raged, "I love Kathy but I was trying to text her, 'Girl, you know you ain't supposed to be saying no mess like that.' "There's just a line that you shouldn't cross, there's a reverence for God that we should have."
Nevertheless Griffin seemed unabashed. In a statement issued by her publicist she said: "Am I the only Catholic left with a sense of humor?" Strangely, the comic also describes herself as a militant atheist.
In response to calls by the Catholic League for the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences to censor Griffin's acceptance speech, her taped comments will be heavily edited before it airs on cable television's E! Entertainment Network this coming Saturday, the night before the live Fox network broadcast of the main Primetime Emmy Awards.
Stamford, Conn., Sep 12, 2007 (CNA) - A Chinese underground bishop, arrested 11 times by Chinese authorities during his episcopacy, died Sept. 9. He was imprisoned at the time.
Bishop Han Dingxiang of Yong Nian in Hebei Province died at the end of his almost eight years of imprisonment by Chinese authorities at the age of 71.
According to the Cardinal Kung Foundation, the government authority ordered that the bishop’s remains be cremated at approximately 5 a.m. the next morning. His ashes were buried immediately in a public cemetery and no priests or other faithful were allowed to be present at his burial.
With the exception of a few of his very close relatives, who were suddenly summoned by the government authority to his bedside before his death, none of his priests and other faithful were aware of his grave illness or the cause leading to his death. His last request before drifting into a coma was for his congregation to recite more rosaries.
Bishop Han was born on May 17, 1937. He was sent to a labor camp by Chinese authorities, from 1960 to 1979. He taught high school, from 1979 to 1982, and operated a medical clinic between 1982 and 1986 while he was a seminarian. He was ordained a priest November 21, 1986, and ordained a bishop three years later.
During his episcopacy, the Chinese authority arrested Bishop Han 11 times, according to the Cardinal Kung Foundation. His last arrest was on November 20, 1999 while he was conducting a religious retreat for some nuns. After approximately four years of detentions in various locations, he was moved to an apartment on the four floor of a police family unit where he stayed for another two years. On September 23, 2005, Bishop Han was secretly moved to an unknown location, which is where he remained until his death. He spent a total of about 35 years either in the labor camp, or in a prison, or in house arrest.
Joseph Kung, president of the Cardinal Kung Foundation, urged the Vatican to open an official inquest into the cause of the death of Bishop Han.
The Vatican press office said it had no information on the death, but noted that the Cardinal Kung Foundation has been a reliable source of information about the underground church in China in the past.
Washington D.C., Sep 12, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Donald Wuerl has proposed converting eight of the District's 28 Catholic schools into secular charter schools in an effort to save them from closure. The archbishop said the archdiocese can no longer afford to keep them open.
The schools, which are located in some of the city's poorest neighborhoods, would receive operating and facilities funds from the District if converted. At this time, the archdiocese subsidizes a large portion of the students’ tuition. The schools would remain in their current buildings and pay rent to the parishes.
According to a report by the Washington Post, the archdiocese sent letters home with students yesterday explaining the proposal, which would take effect as soon as fall 2008 and impact 1,400 current students. Starting next week, individual schools will hold information sessions to solicit parent and community feedback. Archbishop Wuerl is expected to make a final decision next month.
The reaction to date has been negative. Some parents argue that the proposal strips the majority black student population of high-quality education.
Under a charter model, archdiocese officials said, the schools would still have strong values, but the schools' names would change and specific religious references would be removed from the curriculum.
The plan, which has been vetted by two church bodies and floated to city officials, would require the District to increase its budget for charter schools. Victor Reinoso, deputy mayor for education, said that the diocesan proposal is a possibility, reported the Washington Post.
The archdiocese’s proposal stems from a decade of financial losses at 12 inner-city schools and a yearlong study by a committee of 40 parents, teachers, and archdiocesan staff.
Of the 12 inner-city schools, eight would be converted to charters managed by a single secular entity selected by the archdiocese. The four others would remain Catholic.
Soon after Archbishop Wuerl arrived in Washington D.C. in June 2006, he said that he heard from Catholic education officials that the inner-city schools were no longer financially viable. Part of the reason was that many poor families were choosing charter schools, which are free.
"One by one, families left to go to charters . . . and it was a kind of steady drifting away," said Monsignor Charles Pope, pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Roman Catholic Church in Southeast Washington, whose parish school, which dates to the 1920s, would be converted to a charter.
Msgr. Pope looks at the plan as a better alternative than shutting down. He told the Washington Post, "At least we'll be able to serve children in some capacity in our neighborhoods."
Portsmouth, United Kingdom, Sep 12, 2007 (CNA) - Today Bishop Crispian Hollis of Portsmouth, England issued a statement regarding yesterday’s resignation of Archbishop Pius Ncube of the Archdiocese of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.
The Bishop of Portsmouth, a diocese located on the southern coast of England, expressed his sadness over the recent resignation and his respect for the trials that the prelate faced while confronting the Mugabe regime.
“No one could have done more to highlight the plight of that country’s suffering people and I can only stand in admiration of his courage and in gratitude to him for all that he has achieved.”
Bishop Hollis continued, “It is good to know that, far from being silenced, he will continue to campaign vigorously and courageously for justice for the oppressed people of Zimbabwe.”
“I am certain that Archbishop Pius’ many friends and supporters throughout Africa and in the wider world will continue to hold him in their prayers.”
Warsaw, Poland, Sep 12, 2007 (CNA) - A Catholic priest, who runs several Catholic media outlets, is believed to wield enough influence among the people to greatly impact the upcoming federal elections.
The coalition led by Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his twin brother, President Lech Kaczynski, fell apart last month and an election campaign has begun.
However, in addition to the candidates, political analysts and pundits are keeping their eye on Fr. Tadusz Rydzyk, who has reportedly become a crucial political ally of the conservative Kaczynski twins and has much influence among voters.
Fr. Rydzyk runs the Radio Maryja Catholic media network, which has up to two million listeners, made up of mostly older, dedicated voters.
However, concerns about Fr. Rydzyk run high. He has been accused of making xenophobic and anti-Semitic comments on his radio program and he claims that his power comes from a higher authority.
Radio Maryja is run from a fenced compound in the city of Torun, 75 miles northwest of Warsaw. The priest founded it in 1991. He also runs a newspaper and a television channel.
Jacek Kucharczyk from the Polish Institute of Public Affairs said the Kaczynskis won the last election with just 3.5 million votes. Given the low voter turnout rate, a voting block of one million voters is huge. “It has made Rydzyk a king-maker," said Kucharczyk.
Kucharczyk said Fr. Rydzyk’s large audience base has allowed him to impose Radio Maryja's agenda on national politics in Poland. This agenda, claims Kucharczyk, is “xenophobic, notoriously anti-Semitic, anti-German, homophobic.”
Seoul, South Korea, Sep 12, 2007 (CNA) - The Catholic Church in South Korea presented a “Declaration for the Defense of Life” during a recent march in opposition to the government’s position against the dignity of human life.
More than four thousand Catholics and non-Catholics marched the streets during the protest, with a closing Mass celebrated by Cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jin-Suk of Seoul.
The statement calls on the South Korean government “not to authorize the use of human life for industrial purposes,” “to abolish a law on the health of the mother and the child that promotes abortion,” “to prohibit research with human embryos and the practice of cloning,” “to abolish the death penalty” and “to promote policies that encourage couples to have children and that promote natural birth.”
In addition, the Church emphasized in the statement, “We always proclaim the Gospel of life,” “we oppose the death penalty and any form of terrorism and violence,” “we condemn research with human embryos and cloning because they go against human dignity” and “we pledge to defend all forms of human life in every moment.”
The declaration was distributed in parishes, schools, associations, social groups and newspapers.
Rome, Italy, Sep 12, 2007 (CNA) - The only surviving person to witness the opening of the third Fatima secret has denied claims that the Vatican is hiding details about a predicted apocalypse.
Archbishop Loris Capovilla, 91, who witnessed Pope John XXIII open the envelope of the third secret, said there was no truth in the rumor that the Vatican was suppressing a vision of the end of the world.
“There are not two truths from Fatima and nor is there any fourth secret. The text which I read in 1959 is the same that was distributed by the Vatican,” said Archbishop Capovilla.
“I have had enough of these conspiracy theories. It just isn't true. I read it, I presented it to the Pope and we resealed the envelope," he reportedly said.
The three "Secrets of Fatima" were written down by one of the children, Lucia Dos Santos, who later became a Carmelite nun. The nun revealed two of the secrets in 1941.
The first was a vision of hell, while the second apparently predicted the two world wars and the return of Russia from communism to Christianity.
The third secret was sent to Pope John XXIII in a sealed envelope in 1959. Pope John Paul II only revealed it in 2000 and said it referred to the 1981 assassination attempt on him.
Madrid, Spain, Sep 12, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Spain, Bishop Ricardo Blazquez, told the government this week that in discussions between politicians and church officials, there must be “mutual independence and healthy collaboration,” and he noted that “independence is not the same as confrontation.”
During a speech on democracy in Spain, Bishop Blazquez said that despite “a new wave of secularism,” the Church “will continue contributing to improving democracy and to establishing greater peace and justice for all.”
He recalled the Church’s contributions over the decades to the democratic life of the country, with numerous documents that show how “from the beginning the Church was completely willing to collaborate in the process of democratization in Spain.”
“The Bishops’ Conference warns of the problems in order to correct a path that seems dangerous,” the bishop explained, noting that abortion is not a right, “neither is euthanasia, nor is marriage between homosexual persons strictly speaking.”
Speaking to reporters afterwards, Bishop Blazquez reiterated the bishops’ opposition to the Education for Citizenship course, saying their goal is “to support the freedom of parents to educate their children according to their own convictions.”
Commenting about the frustrated attack by ETA in the city of Logrono, the bishop said the Basque separatists group “should completely and totally disappear as soon as possible, without compensation, because it represents nobody.”
Rome, Italy, Sep 12, 2007 (CNA) - The ANSA news agency reports that Msgr. Alfred Xuereb has been named Pope Benedict XVI’s second personal secretary.
The Maltese priest will work with German Father Georg Gaenswein, who has been the Pope’s secretary since 2003 before his election to the papacy.
Msgr. Xuereb replaces Polish Father Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, who was personal secretary to John Paul II and then to Benedict XVI. In July he was named Latin-rite coadjutor Archbishop of Lviv in the Ukraine.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sep 12, 2007 (CNA) - The Corporation of Catholic Lawyers has denounced a ruling by a court in the city of Parana allowing a handicapped young woman to undergo an abortion, saying the ruling is based on “eugenic and racists doctrines” in the country’s Penal Code, and therefore called for the ruling to be revoked.
The case involves a mentally-disturbed young woman in Parana who became pregnant through rape. Judge Claudia Salomon’s initial ruling was in favor of the unborn child, but a higher court recently ruled to allow the abortion. The group of Catholic lawyers pointed out that the 1919 law upon which the ruling was based “was founded upon eugenic and racists doctrines that were in vogue, but whose proponents did not reveal that they were intended to sustain the National Socialist regime established in Germany in 1933.”
A Senate committee at that time recommended abortion be allowed “for the purposes of the perfection of the race.” “With these racists arguments,” the lawyers said, “the absolutory excuse was introduced into the Penal Code which they now wish to apply, in order to leave the unborn without protection.”
The lawyers also pointed out that the “absolutory excuses” foreseen in the Code violate the Constitution, which protects human life from the moment of conception. “For this reason, in a recent ruling the country’s Supreme Court recalled that ‘the right to life is the first natural right of the human person, pre-existing all positivist legislation and is guaranteed by the National Constitution,” they said.
“The rulings issued by all of the justices of the country and that leave the unborn without legal and judicial protection lack constitutional validity, making it irrelevant whether those affected are in their first week or ninth month of gestation. Everyone has the same right to life,” the doctors stated.
Santiago, Chile, Sep 12, 2007 (CNA) - Just days before Pope Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio allowing for the universal celebration of the Mass according to the 1962 Missal takes effect, Bishop Juan Ignacio Gonzalez Errazuriz said more than “putting an end to the schism of Archbishop Lefebvre and his followers,” one of the most important objectives of the initiative would be the promotion of unity among Chinese Catholics.
In an article entitled, “Much more than Mass in Latin,” the bishop explained the “profound meaning” of this “transcendent” decision; the dynamic of “continuity and change;” the liturgical abuses that have “darkened the face of the Church;” the need for a serious revision on the part of those who propose “liturgical creationism;” and the attitudes to have and those to avoid.
After underscoring the complete validity as of September 14 of the two forms of the celebrating the liturgy—the ordinary form in place since Vatican II, and the extraordinary form contained in the Missal of 1962 approved by John XXIII—Bishop Gonzalez Errazuriz noted that Benedict XVI “has not asked for a return to the ancient rite or that Mass be celebrated in Latin,” and much less “has he asked that the current right be abandoned in favor of using the old books.”
Explaining the pontifical decision, Bishop Errazuriz indicated, “Never in the two thousand year history of the Church has it occurred that a more modern form of celebrating the liturgy leaves the previous form out of use, in a sort of tacit derogation.” He rejected arguments that the decision would mean rolling back the reforms of Vatican II. Nevertheless, he pointed out, “The opinion that everything should simply continue as is, is simply wrong.”
Continuity and change, and liturgical abuses
Bishop Errazuriz said one of the reasons behind the papal decision is the dynamic of “continuity and change.” “One papal or conciliar document doesn’t contradict the teaching of a previous one, but rather perfects it or illuminates with new information and focus,” he said.
Referring to the “liturgical abuses, a problem that has sullied the face of the Church,” he recalled that in the letter to the bishops that accompanied the Motu Proprio, the Holy Father lamented the liturgical abuses carried out in the name of a misunderstood “creativity.” He also described very succinctly the common experience of many Catholics who have seen the liturgy undergo radical changes and be transformed into a show in which the priest is the star, “with all kinds of abuses and faults—some very serious—against the sanctity of the sacraments and Jesus Christ truly present in the Eucharist.”
More for China than for Lefebrvists
Bishop Errazuriz also questioned the idea that the Pope’s intention was primarily to “put an end to the schism of Archbishop Lefebvre and his followers” whose roots go “much deeper than the liturgy.” Therefore, he continued, it is not clear that the decision to allow the use of the 1962 Missal will put an end to the division, “which has much more complex theological elements. The Pope himself says so in the aforementioned letter to the bishops,” he said.
Bishop Errazuriz noted that the Pope’s recent letter to Chinese Catholics provides an “interesting clue” as to the reasoning behind the Motu Proprio. “All of those Chinese Catholics are unfamiliar with any other liturgical form besides the previous one, and most assuredly in full communion with Rome, in the case of many Catholic faithful of communities not fully united with Rome, would not mean a change in liturgical form.” “Now,” he added, “many will be able to return to the unity of the faith and will be able to do so without any change to the liturgy.”
Stressing that one of the reasons behind the Pope’s decision was to achieve “internal reconciliation in the heart of the Church,” Bishop Errazuriz expressed his desire that it also lead to a profound personal examination, especially in those who have fallen into a “a personal protagonism” and in those who “have promoted or practiced ‘liturgical creationism’ which has gravely deteriorated the content of the mysteries we celebrate in the liturgy.”
Bishop Errazuriz next pointed out two negative attitudes regarding the use of the 1962 Missal and on the other hand the positive attitude “true Catholics” should have. “The first would be to try to return to the old rite, thinking that this is the way to solve all the problems of the Church. The second would be to ignore what the Pope has said and continue down the path of ‘creationism’, as we hadn’t already tasted the bitterness of the fruits of that tree.”
“The authentic attitude is to strongly adhere to what the Pope says and live in the freedom of God’s children, fully respecting the rights of persons, groups and communities to love one or the other form of celebrating the great mysteries of our faith, which is what is truly important.”
“This decision by Peter will be a sort of test of the uprightness of intention, of the adherence and love there is in the Church for the Pope. It will also be an appropriate opportunity to improve our priestly service to the people of God, and for some, a chance to correct the errors that have been proposed as the right way in liturgical praxis,” Bishop Errazuriz said in conclusion.