Vatican City, Oct 1, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict's intentions for the month of October are focused on the theme of bearing witness. They are as follows:
General prayer intention for October is: "That the Christians who are in minority situations may have the strength and courage to live their faith and persevere in bearing witness to it."
His mission intention is: "That Missionary Day may be a propitious occasion for kindling an ever greater missionary awareness in every baptized person."
, Oct 1, 2007 (CNA) - Yesterday afternoon when he had finished reciting the Angelus, Pope Benedict said that he hoped that a peaceful solution can be found to the confrontation between the military-backed government and the population which is protesting for democracy.
"I am following the grave events of these days in Myanmar with great concern," he said, "and I wish to express my spiritual closeness to that dear people at this moment of painful trial. As I give assurances of my solidarity and intense prayer and invite the entire Church to do the same, it is my heartfelt hope that a peaceful solution be found, for the good of the nation.”
The Holy Father also encouraged dialogue between North Korea and South Korea as a way to bring stability and peace to the entire region.
Addressing the faithful gathered to recite the Angelus with him he said, "I also entrust to your prayers the situation on the Korean peninsula where a number of important developments in dialogue between the two Koreas are giving rise to hope that the current efforts towards reconciliation may be consolidated, to the advantage of the Korean people and to the benefit of stability and peace in the entire region."
, Oct 1, 2007 (CNA) - The massive protests against Myanmar's military rulers have included thousands of Buddhist monks facing military troops and riot police armed with guns, clubs, and tear gas. Security forces raided Buddhist monasteries and hundreds of monks were also arrested. But the Associated Press reports that Catholic clergy and religious have been ordered to avoid open activism and street protest.
Archbishop Charles Maung Bo of the archdiocese of Yangon explained this policy in a Wednesday interview with Vatican Radio. "In accordance to canon law and the social teachings of the Catholic Church, priests and religious are not to be involved in any party politics ... and demonstrations."
Though the actions of clergy were restricted, the archbishop insisted that the laity were free to participate in the protests. "Catholics as citizens of the country are free to act as they deem fit. The clergy and the religious can give them proper guidance."
Bulletins conveying these orders have been posted at churches in Yangon, the former Myanmar capital city once known as Rangoon. The bulletins also urge Catholics to pray, fast, and offer Mass for their country.
One Western priest in Yangon, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, has disavowed silence. He used a sermon to call for more international pressure: "The situation now in Myanmar should not be deemed as 'business as usual.' What's happening can be likened to a rape." Some residents have sought shelter in his church, fearing security forces' raids on their homes.
Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday voiced concerns about Myanmar's political convulsions and conveyed hopes for a peaceful resolution to the turmoil, which has sometimes escalated into violence. Addressing a gathering of pilgrims in Italy, he said he was following "with great trepidation the very serious events" in Myanmar.
Though predominantly Buddhist, Myanmar has about 450,000 Catholics at around one percent of the population. Christians as a whole make up approximately four percent.
San Antonio, Texas, Oct 1, 2007 (CNA) - In an address to the annual conference of the Religion Newswriters' Association, Archbishop José Gomez of the Archdiocese of San Antonio exhorted journalists to pursue truth, clarity, and understanding among peoples. Citing the manifestations of religion ranging from terrorism to domestic policy activism, he declared "You have a great responsibility at this moment in history. Religion intersects with all the great issues of our day."
The archbishop also criticized increasing religious indifference in American society: "Our culture today tells us that God is irrelevant and that religious faith and values are things we have to keep to ourselves. More and more, in order to live in our society, to participate in our economic and political life, people are being required to conduct themselves as if God doesn’t exist."
Archbishop Gomez emphasized the importance of religion to moral values and the foundation of traditional morality. He further emphasized newswriters' professional duty to resist both secularism and materialism by presenting the vital role of religion in both private and public life: "...this division of faith and life isn’t natural. And it leads to lots of other problems in our society."
As an example of noteworthy religious influence the archbishop referenced the history of Catholicism in Texas, where the first Mass was celebrated in 1691. "Christianity was here long before America was even an idea," he said. "We can’t tell America’s story without religion. You need religion to understand America."
Archbishop Gomez closed his speech by affirming the journalistic vocation: "Whether you’re aware of it or not, each one of you has a special calling from God. A special role to play in his plan. Which is to help his kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven."
Rome, Italy, Oct 1, 2007 (CNA) - The SIR news agency is reporting that Father Nicholas Pillai Packiya Ranjith, a diocesan missionary priest, was killed in Sri Lanka by a mine detonated by remote control.
Father Ranjith coordinated the activities of the Jesuit Refugees Service, an international humanitarian organization of the Jesuits of the Diocese of Mannar, which is located in southern Sri Lanka.
At the time of the homicide, he was taking food and first aid supplies to an orphanage and to refugee camps in Vidathaltheevu.
According to the Jesuit Relief Service of Colombo, the priest was surprised by the explosion in a region controlled by the Tamil Homeland Liberation group. His assistant, Christopher Jujin, who was also riding in the truck that displayed a white flag, is listed in critical condition.
The Diocese of Mannar issued a statement saying, “It’s not clear yet who committed the act but no matter who it was, we strongly condemn these acts of violence against the innocent.” Archbishop Oswald Gomis of Colombo said, “Father Ranjith was a fearless, young and dynamic priest who always fought for the cause of justice. His death is an irreparable loss for
the entire family of the Jesuit Relief Service.”
Since the outbreak of civil war in Sri Lanka in 1983, 68,000 people have been killed, 5,000 of which died in 2006, after the end of a four year-long truce.
Detroit, Mich., Oct 1, 2007 (CNA) - Michigan Catholics will soon receive educational material about stem cell research from the Michigan Catholic Conference explaining how the use of adult stem cells is ethical, unlike embryonic stem cell research which destroys life.
The campaign, titled "Finding Cures and Protecting Life", will distribute an informational DVD and other material to more than half a million Catholic households in the state. The state's 800 parishes will also be encouraged to supplement the endeavor.
Michigan's Catholic bishops have included a letter with the campaign material promoting adult stem cell research and condemning as morally unacceptable embryonic stem cell research, which "involves the direct killing of human embryos and leads to human cloning."
Michigan banned human cloning in 1998, but some groups are considering amending the ban to permit somatic cell nuclear transfer, a method used in some forms of embryonic stem cell research. Proponents of embryonic stem cell research are also considering a 2008 ballot proposal to permit research that includes the destruction of human embryos, although this type of research is also currently banned. Under their proposal, which faces unlikely prospects in the legislature, such embryos would come from the stores of fertility clinics.
The Michigan Catholic Conference DVD presents two patients who suffered spinal cord injuries and were treated with adult stem cells. Stem cells in both embryonic and adult form are considered potential sources of treatment for severe spinal cord injuries as well as diabetes, Parkinson's Disease, and other debilitating ailments. Adult stem cell treatments have therapeutic results better than their embryonic counterparts, though defenders of embryonic stem cell research claim this difference is due to the relative novelty of embryonic research.
Paul Long, vice-president for public policy at the Michigan Catholic Conference, said on Friday that the "Finding Cures and Protecting Life" campaign is intended to oppose "the hype over embryonic stem cell research that has overshadowed the real hope" found in adult stem cell research.
San Francisco, Calif., Oct 1, 2007 (CNA) - Following controversy over San Francisco's Folsom Street Fair and its lewd, profane advertisements, United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has faced strident criticism for refusing to condemn the event and its publicity.
The Folsom Street Fair, a homosexual festival of hedonism scheduled for Sunday September 30, receives some taxpayer funding and is co-sponsored by the Miller Brewing Company. It has been advertised using a mocking re-creation of Leonardo da Vinci's painting The Last Supper, with costumed sadomasochists taking the place of Christ and His Disciples.
Concerned Women for America, the nation's largest public policy women's organization, has spearheaded national opposition to the festival. Matt Barber, CWA's Policy Director for Cultural Issues, assailed the event: "we have photographic evidence that the San Francisco government suspends indecency and child abuse laws for a day allowing fair goers to parade the streets of San Francisco, fully nude, engaging in illegal public sex while tax-payer funded police stand by and do nothing. Children are allowed to - and do - attend this event and are exposed to this activity which is illegal child abuse."
Mr. Barber has called on local politicians to distance themselves from the festival. "...we requested that California's elected officials, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, publicly condemn this anti-Christian, anti-Catholic ad. Instead, Nancy Pelosi responded to our request with a condescending and dismissive quip."
Speaker Pelosi, a Democrat, represents the San Francisco area in the House of Representatives. Her press secretary Drew Hammill is reported to have addressed the controversy: "As a Catholic, the speaker is confident that Christianity has not been harmed."
On October 6 Ms. Pelosi will receive the 2007 National Equality Award from the homosexual activist organization Human Rights Campaign.
Rome, Italy, Oct 1, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI sent a telegram last Friday expressing his condolences at the death of Cardinal Adam Kozlowiecki, a Jesuit missionary from Poland and Holocaust survivor who died in Lusaka, Zambia at the age of 96.
In the message sent to the current Archbishop of Lusaka, Telesphore George Mpundu, the Holy Father said he recalled “with gratitude the first archbishop of Lusaka's selfless years of zealous episcopal and missionary service” and his “unwavering commitment to the spread of the Gospel and service to the universal Church.”
Arrested by the Gestapo at the beginning of World War II at the Jesuit School in Krakow, together with 24 companions, he was a prisoner at the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Dachau, a long period of trials and suffering which he recounted in his book, “Oppression and Affliction: Diary of a Prisoner.”
After his liberation by US soldiers at the end of the war, he went to Rodesia, today Zambia, where he spent most of the rest of his life in the missions founded by Polish Jesuits.
In 1959 he was named the first Archbishop of Lusaka. He also participated in Vatican II.
After the country’s independence in 1964, he urged the Holy See to leave the see in the hands of a native African. The Vatican agreed and after retiring in 1969 he remained in Zambia, where he continued his work as a simple missionary.
John Paul II named him a cardinal in 1998.
Rome, Italy, Oct 1, 2007 (CNA) - During a dinner with 150 Muslim representatives marking the end of Ramadan, Archbishop Louis Sako said, “There is no Iraq without Christians.”
The Iraqi archbishop told participants, “This invitation is an expression of tolerance, harmony and coexistence. We are all brothers, children of the same God. We should not live like Cain and Abel. We should respect each other and cooperate for the good of the people and of our country.”
“The world needs Christians and Muslims. The conflict and isolation of some of us is a loss for all of humanity,” he continued. “We cannot live without reconciliation and collaboration, and especially without sincere dialogue,” the archbishop said.
According to the SIR news agency, Muslim leaders said they were pleased by Archbishop Sako’s remarks and were open to promoting a culture of dialogue and peace.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct 1, 2007 (CNA) - More than 800,000 people from across Argentina and other countries gathered at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary in the city of San Nicolas de los Arroyos on September 25 to celebrate the 24th anniversary of the Marian apparitions there.
After a Mass celebrated by Bishop Hector Cardelli of San Nicolas de los Arroyos, thousands of people filed their way through the shrine to pray and offer thanks to Our Lady of the Rosary.
At 3pm under a shower of rose petals, the statue of Our Lady of the Rosary was carried through the streets of the city to the field where the she appeared to Gladys Motta on September 25, 1983.
After the procession Bishop Cardelli celebrated Mass again, praying that “the constant presence of Mary would be the great sign of our times.”
“When we refuse to listen to Mary [when she tells us] to obey what He tells us, when our will does not conform to that of God out of ignorance and refusal to accept it, the feast of our lives is left without the best wine; we no longer celebrate, but rather we waste it and squander it on things that take us away from God, on pride and arrogance that supplant God.”
He noted that during the last century, “the number of Marian apparitions has multiplied,” and that people are being called “to return to the World, to do the will of God, to be converted in Jesus Christ. The merciful mother makes use of apparitions to call us to the urgency of conversion,” he stressed.
Vatican City, Oct 1, 2007 (CNA) - On Saturday in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Benedict XVI ordained six priests as bishops and spoke about how they should follow the examples of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, whose feast was on the same day.
At the beginning of his homily, the Holy Father addressed a special greeting to Msgr. Mokrzycki who had been secretary to John Paul II for a number of years, serving alongside the now-Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz. "Following my own election as Successor of Peter," said Pope Benedict, "he also served as my secretary, showing great humility, competence and dedication."
Referring to Saturday’s feast, Benedict XVI indicated how "the names of the three Archangels all end with the word 'El,' meaning 'God.' God is written into their names and into their nature." The angels "are messengers of God. ... And precisely because they are close to God, they can also be very close to man."
"If the early Church called bishops 'angels' of their Church, what this meant was that bishops must be men of God, that they must live with their faces turned towards God," the Pope said.
He then went on to identify the two functions of the Archangel Michael as defined by Holy Scripture, saying "he defends the cause of the oneness of God against the presumption of the dragon, of the 'old serpent'," and he is "the protector of the People of God.
Dear friends," the Pope told the newly- ordained bishops," be true 'guardian angels' of the Churches entrusted to you. Help the People of God - whom you must precede on their pilgrimage - to find joy in the faith, to learn the discernment of spirits, ... and ever more to become, by virtue of hope in the faith, people who love in communion with God- Love."
Gabriel is "the messenger of the incarnation of God. ... Through him God asks Mary ... to give her human flesh to the eternal Word of God."
Even today God "needs people who, so to say, put their flesh at His disposal," said the Pope, reminding the new bishops that their task "is to knock in Christ's name at the hearts of men and women. ... [Thus] you will assume Gabriel's own function: that of bringing the call of Christ to humankind."
Raphael "is presented to us ... in the Book of Tobit as the angel entrusted with the task of healing. ... To announce the Gospel ... means to heal because man has, above all, need of the truth and of love."
The Book of Tobit, said the Pope, mentions "two emblematic episodes of healing" by the Archangel. "He heals the unstable communion between man and woman. He cures their love ... and gives them the chance to accept one another forever. ... In the New Testament the order of marriage ... is healed by the fact that Christ accepts it within His redeeming love. He makes marriage a Sacrament."
"Secondly, the Book of Tobit speaks of the curing of blind eyes. ... How great is the danger - in the face of everything we know about the material world, and are capable of doing to it - that we become blind to the light of God! To cure this blindness through the message of faith and the witness of love is the service of Raphael, entrusted day after day to priests and, especially, to bishops. And thus we are spontaneously led to think of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Sacrament of Penitence, which, in the most profound sense of the word, is a Sacrament of healing."
Benedict XVI conferred episcopal ordination upon Msgrs. Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, coadjutor archbishop-elect of Lviv of the Latins, Ukraine; Francesco Giovanni Brugnaro, archbishop-elect of Camerino-San Severino-Marche, Italy; Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Patrimony of the Church and of the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archeology; Tommaso Caputo, apostolic nuncio-elect to Malta and Libya; Sergio Pagano, prefect of the Vatican Secret Archives, and Vincenzo Di Mauro, secretary of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See.
Managua, Nicaragua, Oct 1, 2007 (CNA) - Just yesterday, feminists and pro-abortion supporters interrupted Mass at the Cathedral of Managua in Nicaragua and attempted to receive Holy Communion. When they were refused, according to church law, they reacted violently and forced the celebrant to end the Mass.
The decision by the celebrant, Father Bismark Conde, to deny them Communion bothered the women, some of whom are members of “Catholics for a Free Choice.” They remained in the church and demanded to receive the Eucharist.
According to the Nicaraguan daily “La Prensa,” the others in attendance at the Mass began to demand out loud that the women leave the church, while Father Conde attempted to maintain calm and prevent a confrontation. Many began to call the women “killers” and “baby killers,” shouting, “God will punish you for what you are doing.
“At that moment the police were not inside the church, because the police agents were on guard outside the cathedral, where another group of women were protesting in favor of therapeutic abortion,” the newspaper reported. Police eventually forced the women inside to leave the church.
Father Rolando Alvarez, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Managua, said the incident sent a “negative message to the people, especially to the country’s children,” as the feminists’ attitudes “only display harmful elements, when civil conduct is what should prevail in society.”
People are able to sense when something isn’t right, Father Alvarez noted. “The people are the ones who end up passing judgment on these types of situations. We do not need to condemn an act of this nature because the people know what is good and what is bad,” he said.
One of those in attendance at the Mass, Maria Emilia Paredes, told La Prensa that the women “were profaning the house of the Lord, a protest that should have taken place outside, because as Christians, as Catholics, we should be respectful. They do not yet know the Lord. If they did, they would not have done this. They provoked what happened from the moment they came in with the phrases on their t-shirts.”
Ofelia Palacios, who was also in attendance, said the women who came into the church wearing shirts that read “Yes to Abortion” were committing a sacrilege. “They want to be famous,” she said, “but they should protest somewhere else.”
Current Nicaraguan law punishes the disruption of religious services recognized by the state with five to forty-five days in prison.
If the disruption is accompanied by threats, violence, insults or displays of scorn, the punishment can be increased to forty-five to ninety days.
Orlando, Fla., Oct 1, 2007 (CNA) - Comprehensive immigration reform midwifed by Florida Republican Sen. Mel Martinez was stillborn earlier this summer. The consequences of this failure are real.
Agriculture and business leaders in Florida and elsewhere contemplate the economic loss if willing workers are not available to do work that otherwise won't get done.
But, more tragically, the consequences are reflected more than just in economic indices.
They have human faces.
The faces of millions of men, women and children who because of the lack of legal remedies to address their immigration status live in a fearful limbo with their lives and the futures put indefinitely on hold.
However, the Senate can yet partially redeem itself -- at least by providing a small measure of relief to a rather discrete population:
These children are in "undocumented" status through no fault of their own. They came to this country with their parents -- in many cases as infants -- and many of them have excelled in school and would have bright futures if only they had legal status.
Sen. Dick Durban, D-Ill., has revived his Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM, as an amendment to a Defense Authorization Bill that will soon come to a vote in the Senate.
Immigrant students who have grown up in the U.S., graduated from high school here, and can demonstrate good moral character would initially qualify for "conditional lawful permanent resident" status, which would normally last for six years.
During the conditional period, the immigrant would be required to go to college, join the military, or work a significant number of hours of community service.
At the end of the conditional period, those who meet at least one of these requirements would be eligible for regular lawful permanent resident status.
The DREAM Act would give these young people an opportunity to meet their potential and to fully contribute to our society. This is not only good for them, but good for our country.
While some in the Senate are reluctant to attach such amendments to a defense bill, it is hard not to recognize that our armed forces would welcome some of these bright young men and women eager to prove their loyalty to the only country that they really know.
To be accepted as an amendment, the DREAM Act requires the affirmative vote of 60 senators.
If enacted, it would have a life-changing impact on the students who qualify -- and not only on the qualifying students but all of American society will benefit as the success stories of earlier generations of child immigrants -- like the Cuban children of the 1960's Operation "Pedro Pan" -- have amply demonstrated.
In the few past months, here in Central Florida I have met scores of similarly situated young people from Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Haiti and elsewhere. To deny our young neighbors a future is a tremendous waste of human talent and potential.
These children talk like Americans in perfect U.S. accents, think like Americans and certainly eat like Americans.
Will there be 60 senators willing to be "profiles in courage" so that these young people can dream like Americans?
Wenski is the Roman Catholic Bishop of the Orlando diocese, which includes Brevard County. He is also chairman of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops International Policy Committee.