Castelgandolfo, Italy, Sep 20, 2007 (CNA) - The Bishops of Benin, a country in western African situated on the northern coast of the Gulf of Guinea, completed their “ad limina” visit with Pope Benedict XVI today at Castelgandolfo. During the meeting, the Holy Father encouraged the prelates to continue to speak out for justice and human rights and to work for the proper integration of the faith with the culture of their country.
The Pope began his address by noting how, over recent years, the bishops had "shown great evangelical courage in guiding the people of God through numerous difficulties, ... showing pastoral concern for the great questions facing society, especially in the field of justice and human rights."
After encouraging the African prelates "to develop an authentic spirituality of communion," both among themselves and with their priests, the Holy Father called on priests to maintain "an intense spiritual life."
Referring then to the influence of tradition on social life, the Pope highlighted the need "to stimulate the best aspects of tradition and to reject its harmful elements, which cause damage, and nourish fear and exclusion.” Benedict XVI counseled the bishops that the faithful must be formed properly so that they can make good judgments about what is compatible with the faith.
This integration of the native culture and the tradition of the Church should also affect their liturgies, the deepest expression of culture. Pope Benedict noted that their liturgies are “enthusiastic and animated liturgical celebrations [that] have a pre-eminent place” in their society. “They are an eloquent testimony of the faith of your communities at the very heart of society. For this reason, it is important for the faithful to participate in the liturgy fully, actively and fruitfully."
The pontiff also warned the prelates that they should guard against the practice of mixing incompatible African religious traditions with the Christian faith. He told them that the cure for this is better seminary training for priests and improved formation of those priests who are already ordained.
The Holy Father also had some words of praise for the bishops. He recalled how the bishops had publicly defended, "courageously and in various circumstances, the values of the family and of respect for life" against "ideologies that propose models or attitudes opposed to an authentic concept of human life. I encourage you," he added, "to continue this commitment, which is a service to the whole of society."
Having encouraged the bishops, the Pope then emphasized how the need to form young people and prepare them for the life-long commitment of marriage should be one of the bishops’ pastoral priorities.
Benedict XVI concluded his talk by expressing satisfaction for "the atmosphere of mutual understanding that characterizes relations between Christians and Muslims" in Benin. "In order to avoid the development of any kind of intolerance and to prevent all forms of violence, it is necessary to pursue sincere dialogue, founded on an ever greater mutual understanding, especially through human relationships, agreement on the values of life, and mutual cooperation in everything that promotes universal wellbeing. Such dialogue also requires the training of competent individuals to help people know and understand the religious values we share, and respect differences faithfully."
Ibiza, Spain, Sep 20, 2007 (CNA) - The Diocese of Ibiza in Spain announced on Wednesday it would launch legal action against the Ibiza Museum of Contemporary Art if it does not take down a series of pornographic religious images by Ivo Hendricks and that are being displayed at the old Hospitalet church.
In a statement the diocese said those responsible for the art show should ensure that “such incidents do not happen again,” pointing out that the art is offensive to Catholics.
The old Hospitalet Church was entrusted to the Isidor Macabich Foundation by the Diocese of Ibiza in 1997. The Foundation in turn transferred the church to the Ibaza Museum of Contemporary Art.
The diocese reminded Museum director Elena Ruiz that the agreement allowing the Museum to take possession of the church stipulated that it would not be used for events or activities that would be “offensive to the sentiments of Catholics and insulting to individuals.”
The agreement also required that each year the schedule of activities would be reviewed by both parties, a norm that has not been fulfilled “to the surprise” of the Foundation.
Jose Luis Moya, Communications Director of the Diocese of Ibiza, said the exhibit was “obviously offensive” to Catholics. “It is incomprehensible that the abuse of the freedom of art and of expression can be used to wound the sentiments of Catholics in a place that is the property of the Church and where religious worship took place for many years,” he said. Moya criticized the Museum for being intolerant, as 70% of the residents of Ibiza profess to be Catholic.
The controversial exhibit include three collages by Ivo Hendricks which feature pictures of Jesus, Pope John Paul II and various icons of the Catholic faith mixed with explicit sex scenes.
Fargo, N.D., Sep 20, 2007 (CNA) - Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo is strongly urging his priests to imitate him by praying for one hour in front of an abortion facility during this year's national Forty Days of Life.
The Forty Days for Life will begin Sept. 26 and conclude Nov. 4. According to organizers, churches and groups in 89 U.S. cities and 33 states have agreed to participate by conducting vigils in front of abortion clinics, praying, and fasting.
Bishop Aquila, who has committed to one hour of prayer at the abortion facility Sept. 28 at 10:30 a.m., wants to encourage participation by all of the faithful through his own example and the example of his priests.
“As your bishop, I ask you to sign up for an hour of prayerful vigil, as well,” he wrote in a letter to his priests. “Tell your parishioners when that hour will be and challenge them to meet or exceed your example.”
The bishop suggested that parishioners could each volunteer for a particular hour on a given day so that the parish is represented throughout an entire day.
“Even if only two parishioners join you in your hour of prayer at the abortion facility, lives will be changed and some -- those of the unseen unborn -- may be saved," he wrote to his priests.
In a press release, the bishop thanked those who are committed to pro-life efforts, including education, prayer and good works. “Those efforts save lives and change hearts. They help to keep abortion numbers low in North Dakota," he said.
"But low numbers are not enough," he continued. "Not even one abortion per week is acceptable. Not one per month. Not one per year. Not one in our lifetime."
Quoting the U.S. Declaration of Independence, the bishop wrote: "The dignity of the human person begins at the moment of conception, not at birth. The dignity, as recognized by the signers of the Declaration of Independence, is bestowed by the Creator, and no one has the right to destroy innocent unborn life."
For more information on the Forty Days for Life, go to: http://www.40daysforlife.com/about.cfm
Rome, Italy, Sep 20, 2007 (CNA) - A man has rowed his gondola from Venice to Rome in an effort to raise money for African children and kids with rare diseases around the world.
"I'm pretty tired but it was worth it," said professional gondolier Vittorio Orlo after his craft was placed in a prominent location in St. Peter's Square ahead of a Wednesday audience with the Pope.
Orlo, 43, left Venice Sept. 2. He took 17 days to row along the Adriatic coast from Venice, before crossing Italy on a network of canals and rivers to the source of the Tiber and then to Rome, reported ANSA.
He thanked the coast guard for shepherding him through the choppy waters of the Adriatic Sea. The gondola is a flat-bottomed boat that is well suited to Venice's canals but not to the open sea.
Funds raised by the charity will help children in Togo, as well as research fund at a Venetian hospital that specializes in rare pediatric diseases.
Children suffering from some of those ailments were on hand with their families to see Orlo's gondola arrive.
Naples, Fla., Sep 20, 2007 (CNA) - As has occurred every year for the last 400 years, the liquefaction of the blood of St. Januarius took place in the city of Naples on the martyr’s feast day of September 19.
Upon witnessing the miracle, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, Archbishop of Naples, called it “a prodigious sign that manifests the closeness and fondness of the Lord for our beloved and suffering land which, blessed by God, strives to move forward amidst many difficulties in order to show her pure and transparent faith in Jesus Christ.”
Cardinal Sepe, who presided at the ceremony in the Cathedral of Naples, also mentioned the upcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI on October 21. “This will be a providential occasion to give new encouragement to a land John Paul II put at the center of his unforgettable pilgrimage.”
“From one Pope to the next, Naples is called to take the lead role again in a future of justice, peace and freedom. There is no hurt that is incurable: Naples is ready to take its history and its future by the hand. The only thing that is incurable in this city is its capacity to love,” the cardinal stated.
Madrid, Spain, Sep 20, 2007 (CNA) - In only two years Spain’s express divorce law has lead to an increase of 50% in the number of children who are victims of family breakups. According to the Institute for Family Policy, together with Belgium, Spain is now the country with the highest rate of marriage failures in the European Union.
Children under the age of 18 affected by divorce reached 80,849 in the year 2004. That figure rose to 117,877 in 2006.
According to Mariano Martinez-Aedo, vice president of the Institute, “family breakups are a social drama that affects not only the spouses but especially underage children.”
He said it was catastrophic that on the one hand norms that facilitate easy divorce are implemented and on the other, mechanisms, public helps, and social support are not developed to avoid it or at least reduce it. The express divorce law is truly suicidal legislation that must urgently be rectified, he added.
The Institute for Family Policy has suggested preventive measures be adopted at the national level to help families, including campaigns to make people aware of the issue, increases in family aid and granting higher status to the family as a constitutional good.
Vatican City, Sep 20, 2007 (CNA) - On September 25 the new Philatelic and Numismatic (Stamp and Coin) Museum on the Vatican Hill will be inaugurated as part of the Vatican Museums.
The announcement was made by the Philatelic and Numismatic Office of the Governor of the Vatican City State.
The Museum showcases the entire Vatican City philatelic and numismatic production from 1929 to date, including a wide selection of postmarks, sketches, typographic plates, plasters, bronze casts and other items illustrating the different stages in the productions of stamps and coins. There is also a collection of philatelic material and postal history (1852-1870) relating to the Papal State. The paintings on display in the Museum are all original artist sketches used to create stamps, postcards and aerograms.
Rome, Italy, Sep 20, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has sent “most cordial and sincere best wishes” to the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni, on the occasion of the Jewish feasts of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot, which are celebrated in the month of September.
"These festivities," the Holy Father wrote, "can be occasions for many blessings from the Eternal and a source of immense joy, so that the will to promote the peace that the world so greatly needs will grow within each one of us. May God in his goodness protect your community and grant that the friendship between us deepen, in this city of Rome and everywhere."
Newburgh, Ontario, Sep 20, 2007 (CNA) - Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty of Ontario has ruled out ending state funding for Catholic schools after one his key education advisers suggested in a radio interview that it could eventually be eliminated.
Education guru Michael Fullan said on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning that the issue of publicly bankrolling any faith-based schools would have to be addressed down the line.
Fullan’s comments are controversial during the current provincial election campaign given Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory’s promise to extend funding to other faith-based schools beyond just the Catholic system. The move could also have a broader, nationwide impact since Ontario is Canada’s most populous province.
Speaking to reporters at a rural school in Newburgh, close to Kingston, McGuinty played down the comments, according to The Star.
“I’ve got all kinds of advice from all kinds of people with respect to the future of publicly funded education in Ontario,” the Liberal leader was quoted as saying. “I’m always appreciative of the advice, but at the end of the day I’m the one charged with the responsibility to serve Ontarians as their premier.”
Denver, Colo., Sep 20, 2007 (CNA) - The Christian Defense Coalition has announced its plans to protest the August 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.
Christian Defense Coalition organizers said Tuesday they will seek city permits and liaisons with the police and other agencies to make sure their presence is safe and legal, reported Rocky Mountain News. City permit applications will be accepted, beginning Nov. 1.
Coalition director Patrick Mahoney said he hopes to recruit 1,500 to 2,000 volunteer protesters. Volunteers will hold peaceful prayer vigils, form chains of message-bearing signs, and offer pro-life concerts and speakers, he said.
Mahoney told a press conference that posters depicting aborted fetuses will also be part of the protest “to show the reality of what abortion is.”
Mahoney is a minister in the Reformed Presbyterian Church and has been a pro-life activist for 20 years.
Konigstein, Germany, Sep 20, 2007 (CNA) - The well-known pastoral charity, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), has requested that Catholics around the world unite in prayer for the Church in Zimbabwe as they face extreme spiritual and material challenges.
ACN has said that they share the view of bishops of Zimbabwe, who have described the campaign against the former archbishop as “outrageous”. “Pius Ncube had raised his voice to defend the oppressed,” the charity’s spokesman added, “and the Church had been among the few to defend the poor and oppressed, and now the Church herself is being attacked in a scurrilous manner.”
The people of Zimbabwe are also struggling for food to survive. Inflation is now over 7,500%, and according to local reports, there is no food, due to the fact that the government has been holding it back and then selling it at inflated prices. One local observer told ACN, "if someone is hungry and has the money, then he will pay whatever price is demanded." In addition, all vehicles are checked by the police and if food is found in them, it is confiscated. The owners are able to do nothing to protest this because the courts are controlled by the government.
ACN also reports that though the Church has been striving tirelessly to help all she can, she is able to do less and less to support the people of Zimbabwe. The Catholic Church does not have an import or transport license with which to provide materials to the people.
For further information regarding the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe, click here to view CNA’s coverage of the resignation of Archbishop Pius Ncube.
Geneva, Ill., Sep 20, 2007 (CNA) - In a statement to the UN in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi addressed the President regarding the delicate balance of freedom of religion and expression, the respect of religious and non-religious beliefs, and the defamation of members of a religion in the world today.
Addressing the United Nations Office and other international organizations on September 14th, the archbishop, who is the permanent observer of the Holy See, referred to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 that demonstrated that religious freedom can act as a bridge among human rights. His recommendation was that religion should be part of not only civil and political arenas, but also the consideration of economic, social and cultural rights.
He continued, “the presence and influence of the principal world religions have often been a means of transcending the subjective limitations of the positivist juridical order with objective moral norms that serve the common good of all humanity.”
The archbishop also pointed out that acknowledging religious freedom does not mean “that public powers should work in such a way that the profession of a religion limits civil rights or political and institutional participation.” Religious freedom is never something that should be used “to deny economic, social and cultural rights to individuals or to communities.”
The archbishop asked that the Council consider the need to address cases of real religious defamation and discrimination, instead of regulating all religious expressions. He noted that such demands need to recognize that expression of a religious creed assumes a public function, “it contributes to social cohesion and therefore to the peaceful living together of all people, minorities and majority (sic), believers and non believers, within the same country.”
Archbishop Tomasi concluded by asking the president to protect all human rights, with the including the profession of a religion. If the UN acts upon this recommendation, it is implied that the it accepts that “human rights are interrelated and that international standards should be translated into judicial and legal national provisions for the equal benefit, protection and freedom of every person.”
CNA STAFF, Sep 20, 2007 (CNA) - Go into any bookstore, and you are sure to find numerous books on the sexual abuse crisis that the Catholic Church has been plagued with during the last few decades. But what you won’t find is a book that looks at both sides of the unprecedented tragedy—the stories of the abused and those of the abusers.
The authors of the newly published book, Broken Trust, zero in on the sexual abuse scandals within the Catholic Church by examining the lives and histories of the abusive priests, the experiences of the victims, and by offering suggestions about how all involved can heal.
While media coverage often exposes the abhorrent specifics of sexual abuse cases, this book takes care to look at the lives of the priest-abusers. Broken Trust brings to light the untold life-events of five different priests whose past ordeals set them on the path to continue the cycle of abuse.
Sexual Abuse Has More Than One Victim
While never excusing their shocking behavior, the authors are able to see the priest’s wounds as the cause of their abusive actions. “We came to realize that they too had a trauma and abuse history, which was the root cause of their behavior.” The priests’ stories in this book were from abusers who have taken responsibility for their behavior and have recovered from it.
The priest’s stories are told from their point of view while discussing their struggles with childhood abuse, familial issues, homosexuality, alcohol, and the loss of loved ones.
The book also shares three stories from survivors of clerical sex abuse. Their stories of fear, pain and manipulation are truly heartbreaking, but their steps forward are nothing short of acts of tremendous strength as they move on with their lives.
Each story from the priests and the victims is followed by a commentary providing psychological and spiritual perspectives. “The commentaries elaborate on what created the horrible abusive cycle these individuals were caught up in and what helps to heal them, stop the abuse cycle, and prevent it from continuing.”
Solutions for Real Healing
In the final section, the authors present ideas for healing. One of the authors has already started to treat those who were involved in abusing through a residential program. The facility houses priests who are no longer serving in active ministry. This program helps the residents in finding a new role within the world.
These stories are told for several reasons, but first and foremost, to prevent sexual abuse from ever happening again.
“The more we know and understand these men, the more we will know how to protect children and others who are vulnerable.” The authors add that another motivation “is to promote a healing dialogue between abusers and victims.” “In the limited number of situations where the abuser has been able to personally apologize for his abuse to the victim, we have seen healing for both parties greatly facilitated.”
The authors point out this is a major way that the Church can help to heal the wounds of the victims as well as the abusers.
“The Church could sponsor and organize such healing dialogues between priest victim-abusers and victim. These dialogues could be part of a Church-sponsored program of what is called restorative justice. This approach attempts to avoid the adversarial relationships of civil suits. These suits may bring some victims significant monetary compensation, and tort lawyer’s sizable fees, but they are certainly not designed for healing victims. They, in fact, tend to keep the victim stuck in the anger stage of healing. Restorative justice, with professional mediation between the Church and the victim, could lead to a healing settlement of monetary compensation and payment for the victim’s counseling.”
While addressing the needs of the victims and the abusers, “healing is possible. There is hope.”
Broken Trust was published by The Crossroad Publishing Company in May of 2007 and is authored by Patrick Fleming, Sue Lauber-Fleming, and Mark T. Matousek.