Vatican City, Sep 17, 2007 (CNA) - On Saturday, Pope Benedict XVI received the new ambassador of Ireland to the Holy See, Noel Fahey. The Pope used the occasion to speak about the new found Irish affluence and the importance of not letting materialism choke Ireland’s soul.
The Holy Father began the audience by recalling how "for over 1600 years Christianity has shaped the cultural, moral and spiritual identity of the Irish people, ... and it remains as a 'leaven' in the life of your nation. Indeed, the Christian faith has lost nothing of its significance for contemporary society since it touches 'man's deepest sphere.'
Benedict XVI had words of praise for a recent initiative to promote a "structured dialogue" between Church and government in Ireland. "Some might question," he said, "whether the Church is entitled to make a contribution to the governance of a nation. In a pluralist democratic society should not faith and religion be restricted to the private sphere?"
"The Church, in articulating revealed truth," he stated, "serves all members of society by shedding light on the foundation of morality and ethics, and by purifying reason, ensuring that it remains open to the consideration of ultimate truths and draws upon wisdom. Far from threatening the tolerance of differences or cultural plurality, or usurping the role of the State, such a contribution illuminates the very truth which makes consensus possible and keeps public debate rational, honest and accountable.
The Pope pointed out what happens when relativism takes over a culture under the guise of tolerance. "When truth is disregarded, relativism takes its place: instead of being governed by principles, political choices are determined more and more by public opinion, values are overshadowed by procedures and targets, and indeed the very categories of good and evil, and right and wrong, give way to the pragmatic calculation of advantage and disadvantage."
The Holy Father also brought up an issue that has become more and more prominent in his speeches over the last month, the care of the environment. "Ireland has in recent years made care of the environment one of its priorities in both domestic policy and international relations. The promotion of sustainable development and particular attention to climate change are indeed matters of grave importance for the entire human family, and no nation or business sector should ignore them."
However, the Pope noted, "while the majesty of God's hand in creation is readily recognized, the full acknowledgement of the glory and splendor with which He has specifically crowned man is at times less readily understood.
"A kind of split morality ensues," he continued. "The great and vital moral themes of peace, non-violence, justice, and respect for creation do not in themselves confer dignity on man. The primary dimension of morality stems from the innate dignity of human life - from the moment of conception to natural death - a dignity conferred by God Himself."
"How disturbing it is that not infrequently the very social and political groups that, admirably, are most attuned to the awe of God's creation pay scant attention to the marvel of life in the womb. Let us hope that, especially among young people, emerging interest in the environment will deepen their understanding of the proper order and magnificence of God's creation of which man and woman stand at the center and summit."
Castelgandolfo, Italy, Sep 17, 2007 (CNA) - On Saturday morning, the Holy Father received in an audience the cloistered Poor Clares from the convent of the Immaculate Conception at Albano, which is located in the same area as the Pope’s summer retreat house in Castelgandolfo.
Addressing the nuns, Benedict XVI expressed his gratitude "for your daily support through prayer, and for your intense spiritual participation in the mission of the Pastor of the Universal Church. In the silence of the cloister and in the total and exclusive giving of self to Christ in accordance with the Franciscan charism, you provide a valuable service to the Church."
"The Pope expects you to be burning torches of love, your hands joined in a vigil of incessant prayer, completely detached from the world in order to sustain the ministry of he whom Jesus has called to guide His Church."
"Not always," said the Pope, "is public opinion aware of the silent dedication of people who, like you, seek to put the Gospel into effect 'sine glossa' with simplicity and joy. Nonetheless, you may be sure that the contribution you make to the apostolic and missionary activity of the Church in the world is truly extraordinary, and God will continue to bless you with the gift of many vocations, as He has up to now."
"May St. Francis, St. Clare and the many male and female saints of your order help you to 'persevere faithfully unto the end' in your vocations," the Pope concluded. "May the Virgin of Sorrows grant you the gift of following her divine crucified Son and of embracing with serenity the difficulties and trials of daily life."
Thiruvananthapuram, India, Sep 17, 2007 (CNA) - Worried over a dwindling Christian population in Kerala, a Catholic prelate in the southern Indian state is encouraging families to have more babies.
Archbishop Andrews Thazhath of Trichur has called for a parish poster campaign against birth control and abortion, reported UCA News. The prelate notes that Kerala Christians recorded zero growth in terms of percentage of the population during the decade between the last two national censuses.
In 1991, Christians accounted for 19.5 percent of Kerala's 29 million people. The state's population increased to nearly 32 million in 2001, but the percentage of Christians dropped to 19 percent.
The decline in Christian population has worried the Church for some time. In an August 2006 pastoral letter, Syro-Malabar Major Archbishop Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil of Ernakulam-Angamaly also urged his people to have more babies.
Fr. Jose Kottayil, secretary of the KCBC Commission for Family, says large-scale migration and the "micro-family" syndrome have kept Kerala Catholics from increasing relative to other communities.
Thousands of families migrate annually to Australia, Canada, Europe, the Persian Gulf and the United States.
"Our community is well educated and economically better off. Many young parents are having only one child to ensure social security," even if they have the means to afford to raise more children, the priest told UCA News.
The priest said Catholic Church plans to give educational scholarships to children from big families.
"We will also educate (Catholics) to share their resources and provide job opportunities,” he told UCA News. "We have to change the mindset of the people. It may take some more time."
Los Angeles, Calif., Sep 17, 2007 (CNA) - The man who accused Bishop Tod Brown of Orange of sexually abusing him in the 1960s spoke publicly for the first time about his allegations Friday, saying he was molested three times when he was a boy living in Bakersfield.
Scott Hicks, 54, said he decided to go public to lend credibility to his allegations. Hicks said he had no desire to take legal action against the bishop or the diocese but believed the public should be aware of his story. Hicks told the Los Angeles Times he hoped his testimony would lead to the bishop’s resignation.
In a telephone interview with the paper Hicks said, "I just want to cause him some trouble. Maybe they'll take him out and send him away.” He also commented, "It would be nice if [this helps] someone else who was affected to be brave enough to come forward."
The bishop has repeatedly denied the accusations. Ryan Lilyengren, a spokesman for the Diocese of Orange, told the Los Angeles Times that the allegations had been thoroughly investigated and were found not credible by law enforcement.
"Bishop Brown was cross-examined extensively regarding this issue by an adversarial lawyer in the presence of a judge with a certified court reporter and fully answered all appropriate questions,” said a press statement released by the diocese on Friday. “The transcript has been made available to the public."
"I have never abused any person sexually or any other way," said the bishop in a recently released court deposition stemming from another unrelated molestation case in Orange County. The bishop said he was "shocked by the accusation" when church officials first brought it to his attention in July 1997.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Kern County Dist. Atty. Edward R. Jagels said he vaguely remembered his office reviewing the case and determining that it amounted to a "completely uncorroborated allegation."
Sacramento, Calif., Sep 17, 2007 (CNA) - A new initiative is being proposed in California to stop teenage girls from obtaining “secret” abortions under pressure from the older adult men who get them pregnant.
The proposed plan called “Sarah’s Law—the Teen Safety and Stop Predators Act,” is named after Sarah, a young girl who decided to have an abortion without her family’s knowledge. Her cervix was torn during the procedure and she died as a result.
The initiative that will be on the California ballot for November 2008 reads, “The People of California have a compelling interest in protecting minors from the known risks of secret abortions, including the danger of not obtaining prompt care for health- and life-threatening complications when a minor’s parent or responsible family member is unaware that she has undergone a secret abortion. The People also have a compelling interest in preventing sexual predators from using secret abortions to conceal sexual exploitation of minors.”
If passed, this bill will expose the fact that many young girls are secretly getting abortions because they are being pressured to by the older, adult men who impregnate them.
Also, instead of emphasizing parental notification, family notification will be stressed. If the girl signs a statement that she has a parental abuse history, the clinic can notify another relative such as a grandmother, aunt, stepfather or an adult sibling.
Based on research on other notification laws in other states, this initiative will cut the teen abortion rate as well as the teen pregnancy rate.
Sydney, Australia, Sep 17, 2007 (CNA) - Australia’s bishops are reaching out to those who have suffered the distress of marital breakdown and divorce with a new easy-to-read booklet, which outlines the Church’s teaching in this area and offers pastoral care and support.
The booklet, entitled Divorce and the Catholic Church: Frequently Asked Questions, was published with the support of the entire Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.
It is presented in a question-and-answer format. It explains clearly why the Church believes that marriage is so important, the process of annulment and whether divorced people can receive Communion. The booklet also addresses the common misunderstanding that annulments are just “Catholic divorce” and gives an explanation of them.
Bishop Eugene Hurley, chairman of the bishops’ Commission for Pastoral Life, said the bishops produced the booklet because they were deeply aware of a pressing pastoral need for such information.
In the introduction to the booklet, the bishops say that the hurts and concerns of divorce are compounded when they impact on the sacrament of the Eucharist.
“It is hoped that [the booklet] provides encouragement and guidance to all who are grappling with the pain of divorce and, in particular, with its implications for their life as members of the body of Christ, the Church,” said Bishop Hurley.
To access a pdf version of the booklet click on this link: http://www.acbc.catholic.org.au/documents/20070913267.pdf
Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2007 (CNA) - Details about Pope Benedict XVI’s much-anticipated apostolic journey to the United States next year have begun to emerge. Anticipated stops for the Pope’s first-ever US visit include, New York, Washington, Boston and possibly Baltimore.
The tentatively scheduled April 15 to 20 trip is centered around a papal speech before the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon personally invited the pontiff to address the UN.
However, plans for the voyage remain unconfirmed. George Weigel, in comments to CNA, said that "[i]f the Pope comes to the UN next spring, he'll obviously do one or two other American cities.” “Nevertheless, there is no decision I'm aware of on which it would be.”
Sources familiar with the plans for the papal visit say that the pontiff will visit New York, where he will celebrate Mass at Central Park, give an address in St. Patrick's Cathedral, and pause for a moment of reflection at Ground Zero.
The trip, however, will reportedly begin in Washington, where the Pope is expected to meet with the president, visit Catholic University of America and say Mass on the National Mall.
The last stop is Boston, where he is expected to address the sexual abuse scandal. His visit there would end with a Mass on Boston Common.
Lincoln, Neb., Sep 17, 2007 (CNA) - In two weeks, Cathedral of the Risen Christ parishioner and graduate of Pius X High School Patrick Obrist will board a flight to his second home: Africa.
Mr. Obrist is a Peace Corps veteran who served for a little more than three years on the Ivory Coast and in Madagascar. Last November, he applied for one of around 30 International Development Fellowships with Catholic Relief Services (CRS).
After an arduous interviewing process, Mr. Obrist was recently notified that there was a year-long position for him in Senegal. A tropical country on the Western African coast, Senegal is plagued by chronic unemployment, socioeconomic disparity, drug abuse and other social concerns that are addressed by CRS.
“I’m heading to Baltimore for orientation at CRS headquarters on July 22 and then it’s on to Senegal on July 29,” Mr. Obrist grinned.
There, his role will include project management, translation, regulatory issues, and many other aspects of the organization’s mission to assist communities in developing nations.
Mr. Obrist is eager to get back to Africa again, having returned to the states to earn his master’s degree in international development and social change from Clark University in Worcester, Mass. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in English and French from the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK).
After graduating from UNK, Mr. Obrist intended to teach at the college level. Between the discouraging news of cut-throat competition for few such teaching positions and his older brother Brian’s experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in Costa Rica, Mr. Obrist decided to join the Peace Corps as well.
It’s just the sort of thing that the three sons of Larry and Lori Obrist would be expected to do.
“My parents are very socially conscious,” Mr. Obrist explained. His dad, a Vietnam veteran, recently retired from Veterans Affairs after 35 years of counseling soldiers returning from military action. His mother is a nurse at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Both have always taken their Catholic calling to practice works of mercy seriously, as servers at Matt Talbot Kitchen and Outreach and in numerous other ways.
“I got drenched in being socially aware,” Mr. Obrist said with a noticeable measure of gratitude.
He remembers the whole family spending the first part of Thanksgiving and Christmas days serving the hungry and homeless before they went home to enjoy their own family dinner.
As children, he and his brothers were taught that being pro-life means understanding that, as Mr. Obrist put it, “Life doesn’t end with birth.”
His parents encouraged him to remember that the mother and child rescued from abortion often need a great deal of assistance, as do others who suffer from poverty, political oppression and social injustices.
“We are responsible for those people as much as we are for our friends and family,” Mr. Obrist stated.
His first position as a Peace Corps health volunteer for a small village on the Ivory Coast involved supplying HIV/AIDS education, information on pre- and post-natal care, and more. He expanded his contributions by experimenting with raising chickens and goats to increase the animals’ value to the local families.
“Animals are their bank accounts,” Mr. Obrist explained. “They don’t have cash, so if they need something, they sell a goat or chicken.” He was devastated when he was unexpectedly evacuated from the village because of a political coup, without having a chance to say goodbye to most of the people who had befriended him.
Mr. Obrist was able to transfer to Madagascar to finish out his three-year commitment to the Peace Corps as an environmental volunteer. He also made time to provide small business training and the like to the local villagers.
His growing affection and concern for the African people led him to give up any lingering thoughts of becoming an English professor. When his Peace Corps work ended, he focused on international studies, planning to secure a job with an organization that matched his understanding of how best to help the people of developing nations.
CRS was one of those organizations, because rather than creating dependency on regular handouts, CRS focuses on helping communities help themselves with training and the creation of self-sustaining economies.
Mr. Obrist is looking forward to his new job, although he’s a bit apprehensive of what it will be like to be the guy who shows up in the “shiny white Land Cruiser” to check on a project, as opposed to being the fellow with the machete who lives in the village and helps dig latrines, raise goats and chop firewood.
“Hopefully, I won’t feel too disconnected,” he said. He hopes that more young people will practice works of mercy the way he and his brothers were raised to, saying there’s no need to go halfway around the world to do it.
“They should first look in their own communities,” he encouraged. “Flip open the phone book, inquire with the parish priest…. Realize that we have a responsibility because of our prosperity, and that sometimes our prosperity comes at the expense of others.”
He also hopes that adults will follow his own parents’ example by encouraging their children and educating them about what is happening throughout society and the world. Mr. Obrist considers working in service together as a family is another important element that raised his own social consciousness as he was growing up.
“You get so much out of it, it’s mind-boggling,” he said.
The next year will hold both adventure and sacrifice for Mr. Obrist. He lived without the sacraments for much of the time he was in the Peace Corps, simply because they were not available to him in the predominantly Muslim areas where he was stationed. He expects that to be different in Senegal, but he again will be far from his family, girlfriend, and network of friends.
“Technology makes it easier,” he said, referring to computer-to-computer communication with web cams. “And I think if I stay on with CRS, I get a home leave once a year.”
However, Mr. Obrist is less concerned with what he is giving up and more focused on the fact that he will have a job that supports his morals. “This is pro-life,” he declared.
Article submitted by Fr. Kenneth Borowiak from the Southern Nebraska Register
Sydney, Australia, Sep 17, 2007 (CNA) - Organizers of the next World Youth Day in Sydney, which will be held July 15-20, report that some two thousand handicapped young people have registered to participate in the event.
As during previous World Youth Days, special care will be given to handicapped youth, with organizations such as Unitalsi of Italy and Dunital of Germany are working to bring to Australia any handicapped youth who wishes to attend.
WYD 2008 General Coordinator, Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney, explained that a Eucharist adoration campaign has begun in all of the dioceses of Australia, and he invited young people around the world to join together in prayer in preparation for the event.
Bishop Fisher said young people from more than 150 countries are participating in the campaign, including young people from China, Iraq, East Timor, the United States and many other places.
Handicapped pilgrims from Europe can find assistance at http://www.worldyouthday2008.eu
Castelgandolfo, Italy, Sep 17, 2007 (CNA) - At the conclusion of the recitation of the Angelus yesterday at Castelgandolfo, Pope Benedict XVI called on the international community to greater cooperation in promoting “the common good, the development and protection of creation, strengthening the alliance between man and the environment.”
The Holy Father’s request came on the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, which commemorates the adoption on September 16, 1987, of the Montreal Protocol regarding substances that damage the ozone layer and cause “serious harm to man and to the environment.”
In referring to the international treaty, the Pontiff underscored that, “In the last two decades, thanks to exemplary collaboration between politicians, scientists and economists within the international community, important results have been obtained with positive repercussions on present and future generations.”
"I desire that, on the part of everyone, cooperation intensify to the end of promoting the common good, development, and the safeguarding of creation, returning to the alliance between man and the environment, which must be a mirror of God the Creator, from whom we come and toward whom we are journeying,” the Pope said.
Madrid, Spain, Sep 17, 2007 (CNA) - Fundacion Vida in Spain is criticizing that county’s government for contributing almost $7 million to the UN Population Fund to be used for controversial sexual and reproductive health programs in Latin America and Africa.
In the case of Latin America, the funds are earmarked for “the sexual and reproductive health of young people in vulnerable situations mainly in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Guatemala,” according to data from the Spanish government.
The president of Fundacion Vida, Conchita Gonzalez-Aller, said the organization “laments this contribution of $7 million dollars to the UN Population Fund, an entity opposed to the human right to life. One of the components of this right is the freedom of each woman to decide how many children she should have, without being coerced by institutions that impose undesired family planning methods, or having to resort to abortion.”
Gonzalez-Aller noted that the UN Population Fund is known for its promotion of abortion throughout the world as part of reproductive health. “The pressure from various institutions to get Latin America to legalize abortion is sad,” she said.
Instead of wasting these resources, she added, “they could be used to create new jobs in Latin America. Regarding Africa, it needs more children, who are the treasure of a family and of African society.”
Rome, Italy, Sep 17, 2007 (CNA) - The Procurator of the Chaldean Church at the Holy See, Msgr. Philip Najim, said last week, “Nobody can deny that a real persecution of Christians in Iraq is taking place.”
“It’s clear to those who imagined a different future, reality is difficult to face and now they find themselves in the uncomfortable position of refugees,” Msgr. Najim said. “For this reason, they need material assistance and moral consolation,” he said, explaining the purpose of his visits to the Chaldean communities in Europe.
Msgr. Najim is scheduled to visit Germany, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. “I will meet with the families and communities of believers who have the need to be heard and feel the unifying and consoling presence of the Church. Many families, who in the past suffered from wars and embargos, are now integrated into the social fabric of these countries,” he added.
La Paz, Bolivia, Sep 17, 2007 (CNA) - A spokesman for Archbishop Tito Solari of Cochabamba, Bolivia, said last week that the prelate would not respond to recent attacks on the Church by President Evo Morales because as a man of peace, he desires reconciliation for all Bolivians.
Last Friday, Morales criticized the archbishop’s call for peace in the country. “Who is the Church to be asking for peace for peasants? They accuse us of seeking confrontation and violence. Peasants are humble and live in peace, but with social justice,” Morales said.
In response, Mariluz Bustamante, an official of the archdiocese, told the EFE news agency Archbishop Solari received the comments of the president “with humility,” although “some of his statements were unjust.”
Bustamante said the archbishop “is not a confrontational man” and that instead he desires “peace and reconciliation.” “He is a man of great peace, which allows him to take these kinds of hits,” she said.
The Church “will never cease to seek out peace and reconciliation,” she continued. “Neither will she cease in her preferential work for the poor.”