Vatican City, Oct 31, 2007 (CNA) - Steady rain fell on St. Peter’s Square today, but that did not stop 30,000 people from attending the Pope’s Wednesday audience. He pointed the gathered pilgrims to the example of St. Maximus of Turin, who teaches Christians that they are called to be good citizens of earth and of Heaven.
Maximus became bishop of the Italian city of Turin in the year 398 just as it was being threatened by various barbarian tribes. Since Turin was protected by a military garrison, it served as a safe haven for people fleeing rural areas.
Faced with such a situation the activities of Maximus, "bear witness to his commitment to react to the degradation and break-up" of civil society, said the Pope. The bishop censured the faithful when they sought to turn another's disadvantage to their own benefit, thus highlighting "the profound relationship between a person's duties as a Christian and as a citizen." And Maximus was concerned "not only with people's traditional love for their hometown" but also proclaimed "the specific duty of paying taxes."
A historical and literary analysis of the figure of St. Maximus, said the Pope, "demonstrates his growing awareness of the political responsibility of the ecclesiastical authorities at a time in which they were, in effect, substituting civil authority."
"It is clear that today's historical, cultural and social context is completely different," the Holy Father went on, "but in any case, ... the duties of believers towards their city and their homeland remain the same. The link between the obligations of the 'honest citizen' and those of the 'good Christian' has not changed in the least."
Pope Benedict then pointed the faithful to the Vatican Council II Pastoral Constitution "Gaudium et spes" which had the aim "of illuminating one of the most important aspects of the unity of Christian life: coherence between faith and life, between Gospel and culture."
Vatican Council II, he concluded, "exhorts Christians, as citizens of two cities, to strive to discharge their earthly duties conscientiously and in response to the Gospel spirit. They are mistaken who, knowing that we have here no abiding city but seek one which is to come, think that they may therefore shirk their earthly responsibilities. For they are forgetting that by the faith itself they are more obliged than ever to measure up to these duties, each according to his proper vocation."
, Oct 31, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Apostolic Nuncio leading the Holy See's permanent observer mission to the United Nations, gave an address to the UN Tuesday stressing the importance of human rights in forming a culture of peace.
The archbishop connected human rights to transcendent sources, saying that the recognition of human rights presupposes "a universal and transcendent truth about man that is not only prior to all human activity, but also determines it." He described the Golden Rule "do unto others what you want others to do unto you" as conveying a principle of fundamental equality, and highlighted the importance of the right to life.
"Respect for the right to life at every stage, from conception to natural death, firmly establishes the principle that life is not at anyone’s disposal," he said
Explaining the need to respect the interests of other states, he nonetheless exhorted all governments to promote and defend the common good. In his view forgetting this responsibility is the origin of conflicts, environmental degradation, and social and economic injustices. He further emphasized the importance of moral concerns in guiding human advancement, saying "progress in every field cannot be measured by what is possible, but by its compatibility with human dignity."
Archbishop Migliore gave special attention to religious liberty. "In the same manner that the right to life cannot be disposed of at will, the right to religious freedom cannot be subject to human caprice." Difficulties for those trying to exercise religious freedom are a symptom of a lack of true peace. A fundamental human right is violated both by religious regimes that impose a single religion upon everyone and by secular regimes that denigrate religious belief and deny public space to religion.
He concluded his address with a request that all religions work for peace and reconciliation.
CNA STAFF, Oct 31, 2007 (CNA) - The Confraternity of Catholic Clergy voiced its support for a literal and accurate English translation of the 2000 Roman Missal.
In a recent announcement the confraternity denounced a letter that the National Coalition of American Nuns sent to the United States Council of Catholic Bishops. The letter encouraged rejecting literal accuracy in the upcoming translation of the Missal.
The Missal is the official altar book used by priests to celebrate the Mass.
Defending literal accuracy, the Confraternity called for the liturgy to be celebrated "worthily, with attention and devotion." This can only be done, the group claimed, through an accurate and literal translation from the typical Latin text.
The group responded to criticism that the laity would not understand more literal translations. "The congregation is more educated and sophisticated than purported by those who insist accurate and literal translations from the Latin into English would be confusing at best and frustrating at worst."
The confraternity defended the literal translation of the Nicene Creed, especially the words translated as "one in being." The Nicene Creed in its original languages uses a word whose literal translation is "consubstantial."
The group also endorsed restoring the descriptions of Christ that have a sense of divinity, words such as "holy," "sacred," "venerable," and "immaculate."
In a vigorous call for an elevated liturgy, the confraternity explained the need for a dignified translation. "We live in a culture where the vulgar, crass and obscene are part of everyday conversation. It proliferates the media at all levels: radio, television, movies, theater, magazines, and the internet. Yet, good taste and graceful language are not archaic. Sacred worship requires a sacred vocabulary and nomenclature which expresses the value and need for reverence for 'the Holy' and which transcends the secular world and allows the worshipper to approach the threshold of heaven."
Rome, Italy, Oct 31, 2007 (CNA) - Several thousand residents in Rome face eviction from their homes rented from the Vatican and other Catholic organizations.
Appealing in a letter to Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco, the head of the Italian bishops' conference, a committee formed by tenants said: "We have always paid the rent and taken care of our flats. None of the evictions is for non-payment of rent; they are all because of expired leases."
Last month Archbishop Bagnasco decried in a speech the shortage of low-cost housing, sympathizing with evicted tenants who cannot find alternative housing.
The former Archbishop of Siena, Gaetano Bonicelli, who advises the bishops' conference on social policy, stressed the evictions were being carried out, not by the church directly, but by the property agents of organizations linked to it. He said the agents' conduct was "certainly not in line with the teachings of the popes on the right to housing."
He added: "It would be better to take below-market rents than to refuse to give a hand to those who can't make alternative arrangements."
The organizations behind the property agents include religious orders and papal colleges, but also certain charitable foundations with only tenuous links to the Church.
Chicago, Ill., Oct 31, 2007 (CNA) - A 14-year-old girl and her outspoken atheist father have filed a federal lawsuit Friday challenging an Illinois law requiring a brief period of prayer or reflective silence at the start of the day, the Associated Press reports.
Dawn Sherman, a high school freshman, and her father Robert Sherman, a radio talk show host, are asking the court to rule the law unconstitutional. Their attorney Gregory Kulis claimed the law attempts to inject religion into the public schools and is a violation of the First Amendment. The suit also seeks a temporary restraining order preventing schools from following the law until the case is decided.
“What we object to is Christians passing a law that requires the public school teacher to stop teaching during instructional time, paid for by the taxpayers, so that Christians can pray," Mr. Sherman said.
The Illinois law was initially vetoed by Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, who doubted its constitutionality. Lawmakers overrode the veto this month.
Mr. Sherman has in the past filed various lawsuits seeking to remove religious symbols from city seals and to ban Boy Scout meetings at public schools.
Washington D.C., Oct 31, 2007 (CNA) - The president of Georgetown University, the oldest Catholic university in the United States, has promised funding by next fall for a campus center for homosexual activists.
President John DeGioia explained his decision to the press: “How do we respond to legitimate requests for a more supportive environment? We can continue to do this in a somewhat informal manner … or we can move forward in a more organized way, through more formal and institutional structures and processes. In this case, it is time for the latter.”
The campus activist group GU Pride began pressing for concessions from the administration after an alleged hate crime in September when a Georgetown sophomore was arrested for assaulting another student. They have demanded a full-time staff member for their concerns and the elimination of what they consider the college's "intolerance" of homosexuality.
The group was supported by four faculty professors and the Georgetown Voice. In an editorial the Georgetown Voice asked its readers to e-mail the president in protest. The editorial made a vague recommendation, saying that if the university did not act to meet activists' demands, “GU Pride should look to more direct means of enacting change.”
President DeGioia made some remarks about preserving Georgetown's Catholic character. “At a Catholic and Jesuit university, [we] cannot advocate for policies or practices that are counter to Catholic teaching. Part of my responsibility as an administrator … is to ensure that nothing can compromise the integrity of our mission and identity,” he said.
However, he expressed to the activist group "sadness" that Georgetown has been "hostile" toward the homosexual community. An editorial in the campus newspaper The Hoya reports that DeGioia "repeatedly committed himself" to the demands made by GU Pride.
The co-president of GU Pride, Scott Chessare, responded to the president's remarks, saying “We won!”
“I don’t think we would have believed less than two months ago that there would be so much institutional change in such a short amount of time,” he added.
In September many Catholics protested the Georgetown law school's funding for students to engage in pro-abortion lobbying with groups like Planned Parenthood. Georgetown has been repeatedly criticized for poorly maintaining a Catholic identity.
Madrid, Spain, Oct 31, 2007 (CNA) - Socialists and leftists in the parliament of the Spanish region of Andalusia have rejected a proposal to establish an initiative that would assist pregnant women and provide them with alternatives to protect them and their children from abortion.
Benigno Blanco, president of the Spanish Forum for the Family, called it “unfortunate that ideological prejudices have led the majority of Andalusian parliamentarians to be unconcerned with the problems of pregnant women. It is a true shame that they insist on abortion as the only solution for a woman who becomes pregnant in difficult situations.”
Even though the initiative was supported by 92,000 voters, it was rejected by the Andalusian parliament. Blanco said the voters should not be ignored and that their support indicated that such a program is needed in the region.
Pointing out that data from the Ministry of Health in 2005 showed the number of abortions to be 91,664, the Forum explained that seventeen different legislative initiatives are being considered throughout Spain in order to create a true network of solidarity to support pregnant women and help them find alternatives to abortion.
“The idea is to extend to all of Spain through law an experience that has already functioned successfully in the Community of Madrid,” the Forum reported.
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Oct 31, 2007 (CNA) - During a pro-life march organized by the Catholic Church last weekend in protest of a bill that would legalize abortion in the Dominican Republic, Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez of Santo Domingo defended the march as necessary for expressing the position of the Catholic majority in the country.
“The defense of life began two thousand years ago,” the cardinal said, noting that “although the work must be left to Congress, the protest on Sunday was specific regarding the position of the Church.”
“We must be clear that we must fight against that which cannot be accepted,” the cardinal added.
“The unscrupulous doctor does not need laws to kill. He does it hidden from the entire world, with or without the law,” he continued, noting that because a crime is committed does not mean its legalization is justified.
Cardinal Lopez Rodriguez also criticized the United Nations for promoting abortion and said the major producers of contraceptives and the promoters of abortion are only seeking “useful fools” to follow them.
Caracas, Venezuela, Oct 31, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Reinaldo Del Prette of Valencia reaffirmed the recent statements by the bishops of Venezuela calling President Hugo Chavez’s constitutional reform “morally unacceptable” because they restrict the rights of citizens and grant absolute power to the State, “with a president who is re-elected indefinitely.”
In speaking to local media, the archbishop referred to the recent document by the Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela in which the bishops said the reforms Chavez seeks to impose will not give “Venezuelans the country they aspire to have, and for this reason we felt obliged in conscience to express our opinion.”
“It is clear that, when we speak of the Constitution, we are referring to the social contract of all Venezuelans. We are not acting as representatives of any party,” the archbishop said. “We must continue saying we are speaking as pastors. This is not a problem between the opposition and the government, between the rich and the poor. This is the social contract in order for us to live in peace,” he said.
Archbishop Del Prette said constitutional reform is not needed in Venezuela. He pointed to Argentina and Brazil as examples, noting that in Argentina Cristina Fernandez, the wife of Nestor Kirchner, was elected president without “a reform of constitution or the creation of a Socialist State monopolizing all power.” “And Lula in Brazil, a politician with a broad 21st century mentality, opposes indefinite re-election and said the changing of power is obligatory for the country to progress democratically,” he added.
Therefore, he continued, “the attacks on Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino by some members of the government are totally unjustified and irrational.”
Vatican City, Oct 31, 2007 (CNA) - Today, the press office of the Vatican made public the Holy Father’s intentions for November.
Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for this month is: "That those dedicated to medical research and all those engaged in legislative activity may always have deep respect for human life, from its beginning to its natural conclusion."
His mission intention is: "That in the Korean peninsula the spirit of reconciliation and peace may grow."
, Oct 31, 2007 (CNA) - After a meeting this week with the governor of Sonora, Eduardo Bours, the Apostolic Nuncio in Mexico, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, said that while the Church is not in crisis, she is facing difficult times.
Speaking to local reporters, the archbishop pointed to the world’s changing values that are leading to the conflict between the culture of life and the culture of death and how the Church has an important role to play in the fight.
“It is a call to the Church, to the bishops, to the priests to study some issues better and to really know where we are at in order to reclaim some values that society is tending to lose at this time of transition,” he said.
Archbishop Pierre was invited by the Archdiocese of Hermosillo to ordain nine priests and two deacons at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption.
“This has been a very important event for me,” he said. “In my own country there is a crisis of priestly vocations, and so I am thrilled that the archbishop (Jose Ulises Macias Salcedo) has invited me to ordain nine young priests. It means the Pope has sent me to a country where there is a response to the call of God,” Archbishop Pierre said
Mexico City, Mexico, Oct 31, 2007 (CNA) - As many people prepare to celebrate Halloween today, the Catholic Church in Mexico has published an article describing the holiday as “damaging and against the faith.” The celebration of the American holiday has filtered into Mexico with monster costumes now competing in sales with flowers, which are sold for the traditional Day of the Dead festivities.
The Archdiocese of Mexico stated in a letter that it sees the celebration of Halloween as, "worshipping a culture of death that is the product of a mix of pagan customs. The worst thing is that this celebration has been identified with neo-pagans, Satanism and occult worship."
As an alternative, the archdiocese recommended that parents not allow their children to go trick-or-treating, but instead attend costume parties where they can dress as Biblical figures. The article also urged that these events be held on All Saints’ Day, November 1st.