Vatican City, Nov 16, 2007 (CNA) - Leaders of missionary communities from around the world gathered at the Vatican today to meet with Pope Benedict. During his discussion with the missionaries, he praised the increase in the number of lay faithful involved in evangelization and encouraged the heads of the religious orders to draw inspiration from their founders.
"Your assembly" the Pope told the group "bears eloquent witness to the continuing vitality of the missionary impulse in the Church and the spirit of communion uniting your members ... to the Successor of Peter and his universal apostolic ministry."
Their connection to the Peter’s Successor “remains the criterion and guarantee of the spiritual fruitfulness of all missionary activity,” Benedict XVI explained. Without this unifying connection, a foretaste of “God's plan in Christ for the whole human family” could not be experienced here on earth.
Looking at the worldwide effort to spread the Gospel, the Holy Father pointed to one of several promising signs of renewal over the last few decades. This beacon of hope "has been the growing desire of many lay men and women ... to cooperate generously in the 'missio ad gentes' (to the world). As Vatican Council II stressed, the work of evangelization is a fundamental duty incumbent upon the whole People of God."
"Given the extent and the importance of the contribution made by [lay people], ... the proper forms of their cooperation should naturally be governed by specific statutes and clear directives respectful of each institute's proper canonical identity."
Benedict XVI expressed his gratitude to all the missionaries who, "today as in the past, ... continue to leave their families and homes, often at great sacrifice, for the sole purpose of proclaiming the Good News of Christ and serving Him in their brothers and sisters. Many of them, also in our time, have heroically confirmed their preaching by the shedding of their blood, and contributed to establishing the Church in distant lands."
Despite the "decrease in the number of young people who are attracted to missionary societies, and a consequent decline in missionary outreach, ... the mission 'ad gentes' is still only beginning," said the Pope.
"While conscious of the challenges you face, I encourage you to follow faithfully in the footsteps of your founders, and to stir into flame the charisms and apostolic zeal which you have inherited from them, confident that Christ will continue to work with you and to confirm your preaching with signs of His presence and power."
, Nov 16, 2007 (CNA) - Some upscale hotels are no longer stocking their rooms with a Bible and are replacing them with technology or “kits” promoting sex.
For instance, the Soho Grand Hotel in Manhattan provides guest rooms with iPod docking stations, flat-screen TVs, and a complimentary goldfish, but not a Bible. Hotel spokeswoman Lori DeBlois told Newsweek magazine that adding Bibles to rooms would mean she "would have to take care of every guest's belief."
The American Hotel and Lodging Association reported that since 2001 the number of luxury hotels with religious materials in their rooms has dropped by 18 percent.
Newsweek magazine reported that upscale accommodations nationwide are "doing away with the Bible as a standard room amenity." Some hotels stock complimentary condoms, but not Bibles. Newsweek suggests the removal of Bibles is due to a decrease in business travel and an increase in leisure travel.
"The new Indigo hotel in Scottsdale, Ariz., a 'branded boutique' launched by InterContinental, also has no Bibles," the report said.
Officials at that hotel, however, did offer a promotion on a "One Night Stand" package.
"Our 'One Night Stand' summer packages provide a cost effective way to enjoy our lower rates and remain in the heart of the active art, shopping, dining and nightlife venues of Old Town Scottsdale," said Laura Godfrey, sales manager for the hotel. "With this package, you'll feel good about the decision you made to stay in the area and stay the night."
That package includes a "late check-out time" of 1 p.m.
The American Family Association commented on the decline of hotel Bibles in an e-mail alert, saying "Now is the time to let the motel chains know that you want them to keep the Gideon Bibles." It stated "for [the hotel corporation] Accor, providing travelers with sexual paraphernalia is more important than the Bible. Accor hotels owns several chains including: Motel 6, Sofitel, Pullman, Novotel, Mercure, Suitehotel, Ibis, All Seasons, Etap, Formule 1. While these chains are mostly located in Europe, Accor is expanding to many U.S. markets."
The AFA said "without action now, it is simply a matter of time before other chains remove the Bibles."
Washington D.C., Nov 16, 2007 (CNA) - Several U.S. senators have weighed in on the Chinese Olympics web site's recommendation that entering visitors bring no more than one Bible into the country, Cybercast News Service reports.
Senator Ken Salazar (D-Col.) was asked whether Americans traveling to China should disobey the restrictions. "I think so," said Salazar. "It's a trampling on a freedom that we cherish in this country that's a universal freedom. I don't think that kind of constriction on something that is such an international global celebration is something that ought to be tolerated."
Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said he wasn't aware of the Chinese policy. He declined to comment specifically on the matter, except to say, "That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard of. That's really strange."
Advice for visitors to the 2008 Olympic Games on the Beijing Olympics official web site initially read: "Any printed material, film, tapes that are 'detrimental to China's politics, economy, culture and ethics' are also forbidden to bring into China."
This was immediately followed by a caution about Bibles:
"Note: Each traveler is recommended to take no more than one Bible into China."
Wang Hui, executive deputy director of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games, explained the policy, telling the South China Morning Post last week: "Athletes and other individuals can bring with them their own Bibles. But no one can bring in multiple copies for public distribution."
Wang Baodong, spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., said to Cybercast News Service that the prohibition would extend to a movie about the Dalai Lama or a U.S. State Department report on human rights in China, among other things, if they are intended for distribution and not "private use."
Asked how officials would know if visitors bringing the State Department report intended it for distribution or for private use, Wang said, "I think the people at the customs and border-check at the Chinese airports are very much professional. They know how to handle the situation, I think."
"In addition to violation of religious liberties, the Chinese government is guilty of gross hypocrisy," Catholic League President Bill Donohue said in a November press release "On the Web site of the Beijing Olympic Games, there are several comments lauding religious rights."
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), while not advising anyone defy the law on purpose, suggested anyone who can bring a Bible into the country should, "and then leave it there afterwards."
"I would not advise anybody to defy the rule, but I would have every American and everybody in the world bring a Bible in there," Hatch said in an interview. "If they can bring one, let's bring as many as we can. That means hundreds of thousands of Bibles. So it would be good for China to have the Holy Word, but I'd be the last to advise them or insult them or to violate their law."
Sydney, Australia, Nov 16, 2007 (CNA) - A $40 million taxpayer-funded compensation package to the horseracing industry has pushed the costs of Sydney's upcoming World Youth Day close to $100 million, The Australian reports.
The agreement confirms Randwick racecourse as the site of World Youth Day’s overnight vigil and Papal Mass.
Negotiations with Randwick trainers and horse owners over lost race revenues, the stabling of horses, and the necessity of renovating the site for the event were quite heated over the last several months.
However, Racing NSW chief executive Peter V'landys said the anger had subsided and the vice-president of the NSW Trainers Association, John O'Shea, described the result as "acceptable".
"The best result for us was always that World Youth Day was not going to be held at Randwick," Mr O'Shea said.
The costs will cover the relocation of some 700 horses to other racetracks and the refurbishment of the site after World Youth Day ends.
The Archdiocese of Sydney is paying between $15 and $20 million towards the event, while funds from corporate partners and pilgrims will also help defray the costs. The federal government is paying $55 million for the event, while the state government is dedicating $20 million.
Australian government officials hope for $150 million in economic benefits from the event, which may attract 100,000 foreign visitors.
World Youth Day events will begin July 15. As many as 500,000 people are expected for the Papal Mass.
London, England, Nov 16, 2007 (CNA) - For the first time since its 1992 approval of female clergy, the Church of England reports that more women than men were ordained in 2006.
Last year 244 women and 234 men were ordained for ministry in the Church of England. A recent report indicates that the number of men serving as ministers may drop in half by 2025.
According to the Daily Telegraph, the church's Sunday attendance for the first time dropped below one million, out of a total population of 51 million. About 1.7 million attend a Church of England service each month.
The Church's General Synod approved the ordination of women in 1992. Some commentators believe the move has accelerated the decline in observant Anglicans.
Among them is Joel Hilliker, who claimed in The Trumpet that the 400,000 members of the Traditional Anglican Communion seeking union with Rome represent a trend. Though a Protestant, he suggested the decline of Anglicanism would benefit the Catholic Church in England. “What is left in this nation is a spiritual vacuum - a vacuum that provides the Church of Rome the perfect opportunity to move in. For as Britain has become more liberal, Roman Catholicism has grown more conservative, increasingly presenting itself as a rock of stability in an uncertain world,” he wrote.
The Church of England's General Synod is debating allowing women to be ordained to the episcopacy, which other churches in the Anglican Communion have already done.
Rome, Italy, Nov 16, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the Italian Soccer League, Antonio Matarrese, announced the creation of an ethics committee for soccer and said Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone to be a member.
“We will entrust soccer to the Church,” Matarrese told the website Petrus, adding that “after the tragic events of last Sunday (which left one person dead after fans rioted at a soccer game) we are preparing to establish a consultative body on soccer made up of leaders, journalists and security officials, and an invitation to join has been extended to Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.”
“There was a sincere rapport with Cardinal Bertone, and so I consider it opportune to receive his wise counsels in order to come out of this critical phase through which Italian soccer is passing,” he said.
London, England, Nov 16, 2007 (CNA) - A study published by the prestigious British medical journal “The Lancet” has revealed that the contraceptive pill increases the risk of developing uterine cancer.
According to a new study, the risk is greater if a woman uses the pill during long periods of time and only disappears ten years after she has stopped taking it.
Experts analyzed 52,000 cases of women who participated in 24 different studies around the world. It is not first time experts have found a link between the pill and uterine cancer, but until now the link with the period of time the pill is used was not clear.
In the case of the United Kingdom the risk of developing the cancer in women who never took the pill averages 3.8 women out of a thousand, but it increases to 4 out of a thousand for those who took the pill for five years and 4.5 out of a thousand in those who took the pill for ten years.
Nicosia, Cyprus, Nov 16, 2007 (CNA) - Two miraculous cures have been reported in Cyprus as a result of contact with the skull of St. John Chrysostom, according to the Associated Press.
Father Paraskevas Agathonos claimed the visiting relic, which normally resides in a monastery in northern Greece, had healed a partially paralyzed teenager and a woman with a broken leg.
"The pain left, she got rid of the crutches and took off the cast," he said of a 42-year-old woman who allegedly recovered after visiting the relic Saturday.
The other cure is said to have involved 16-year old Panayiotis Panayiotou, who had been paralyzed in his right arm and the right side of his face following a brain hemorrhage. He reportedly regained full mobility after venerating the skull.
Panayiotou told private TV station Sigma that "the numbness was gone...yes, it was a miracle."
One layman, Kyriakos Kyriakou, was lined up with his wife and children among thousands of other Cypriots. "We came because we believe ... they said the relic worked miracles," Kyriakou said. "I might have reservations, but I still believe."
78 percent of Cypriots have been baptized into the Orthodox Church.
Saint John Chrysostom was a Father of the Church and a Patriarch of Constantinople. He was the author of the liturgy still celebrated in many Eastern churches. He died on November 14, 407.
His skull was kept in Constantinople, present-day Istanbul, until it was looted by crusaders in 1204. It later came to rest in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. In 2004, Pope John Paul II returned the relic to Orthodox officials as part of an effort to reconcile the two churches.
London, England, Nov 16, 2007 (CNA) - LifeSiteNews.com is reporting that a well-known British doctor could be forced out of a job for helping women decide against having an abortion. Dr. Tammie Downes is under investigation for professional misconduct after she said in an interview with the Daily Mail that she had been instrumental in helping many women patients decide to continue to carry their children to term.
In the Daily Mail interview, Dr. Downes said she asked women in crisis pregnancies, “What would have to change to make you see things differently? What would help you to see this baby as good news and not bad news?”
Dr. Downes is under investigation by the General Medical Council and may lose the right to practice medicine.
The Guardian reports that Liberal Democrat MP, Dr. Evan Harris, Parliament’s most vigorous abortion-crusader, denounced Dr. Downes to Health Minister Dawn Primarolo and asked for an investigation.
Downes responded that she had let her personal feelings about abortion influence her relationship with patients. She told The Observer, “I don't try to persuade anybody. I give them the facts and allow them space to think through the decision that they are making. It has to be the mother's choice. I have no right to make that choice for them.” “But I do think it's my duty as a doctor to help a woman make that choice,” she added. She said that about one third of women change their minds about abortion after seeing her.
Warsaw, Poland, Nov 16, 2007 (CNA) - The Catholic Church in Poland is encouraging young people to wear the “chastity ring” as a symbol of purity. The campaign’s goal is to encourage young people to wear the ring as a sign of their desire to remain virgins until marriage.
According to the EFE news agency, the rings can be obtained at the Shrine of Blessed Karolina Kozka in southern Poland.
Karolina Kozka is considered the “Maria Goretti” of Poland. She was killed in 1914 for resisting a Russian soldier’s attempt to rape her. She was 16 years old.
John Paul II beatified Karolina in 1987 and for Poles she is a symbol of the purity of young people.
The ring was designed by a local artisan and will soon be available in parishes across Poland and on the internet.
, Nov 16, 2007 (CNA) - Sources at the Holy See have confirmed to CNA that Pope Benedict XVI is set to finish an encyclical on the virtue of hope that, according to the Italian daily La Repubblica, will be called “Spe Salvi” (Saved by Hope). In addition, they said the Pontiff is also working simultaneously on two other important texts, including one on social issues.
After the announcement of the theme of the next encyclical, which according to the Italian daily, could be published before Christmas, Vatican sources consulted by CNA said the Pope is also working on a social document, confirming what was informally said during the Pope’s vacation last summer.
This new document, “which may or may not be an encyclical, would be an updating of the themes contained in Populorum Progressio from the perspective of the social and ethical challenges posed by globalization,” the sources said.
This year marked the 40th anniversary of Populorum Progressio, the encyclical by Paul VI that addressed the issue of human development as an integral phenomenon that should have political, social, ethical and spiritual effects.
“There has not been, therefore, ‘a change’ in what the Holy Father is interested in, but rather he is working on different texts at the same time, as he did as a theologian and as a Cardinal,” sources explained.
They also said Benedict XVI is working on a third text: the second and last part of his book on Jesus Christ. In this second part, he will write about the Gospel passages on the Passion, Resurrection and the infancy of Jesus. “This theological and personal work of the Pope, which will be the second part of ‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ is also being written, without impacting the other official documents which he is considering publishing as part of his Magisterium,” sources said.
Vatican City, Nov 16, 2007 (CNA) - The impact of globalization has led to changes in society that would have been unthinkable 40 years ago. Given this new societal atmosphere, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace will be holding a meeting November 20 and 21to talk about Pope Paul VI’s social encyclical “Populorum progressio”.
"Problems and prospects of human development today, 40 years after 'Populorum progressio'," will also be examined at the second world congress of ecclesial organizations, to be held in Rome from November 22 to 24.
According to a communique from the pontifical council, its members and consultors "will reflect on the current validity of the historical papal document, with particular emphasis on the moral aspects of development, on new forms of poverty and globalization, on conflicts and disarmament, and on safeguarding and protecting human rights."
Among those due to participate in the plenary assembly alongside Cardinal Renato Martino and Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, respectively president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, are Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga S.D.B., archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and Archbishop Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kisangani, Democratic Republic of the Congo, president of Pax Christi.
More than 300 delegates from more than 80 countries on five continents are expected to participate in the second world congress of ecclesial organizations active in the sector of justice and peace. The specific theme of their meeting will be: "The 40th anniversary of 'Populorum progressio:' the development of all of man, the development of all mankind."
Participants, the communique reads, "will study the new situations that have come into being in the world since the publication of the historic document, and the current challenges of development in the light of the Church's social doctrine, in particular the questions of human ecology, pluralism and inter-cultural dialogue, and new forms of government in the context of globalization.”
Baltimore, Md., Nov 16, 2007 (CNA) - In an exclusive interview with CNA earlier this week, Bishop Thomas Wenski took time to explain why the Bishop’s Conference supports a two state solution to bring peace to the Holy Land. The USCCB Chairman of the Committee on International Policy made his comments in light of the upcoming Annapolis peace conference, due to begin on November 27.
Bishop Wenski began by pointing to a letter published by the Orlando Sentinel this past week, in which he was joined by leaders from the Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions, who voiced their belief that “peace between Israelis and Palestinians is possible.”
In their letter, the religious leaders all agree that the way to bring peace about is “the creation of a two-state solution, a recognized and secure Israel and an independent and viable Palestinian state, comprising the West Bank and Gaza, living side-by-side in peace with each other.”
Endorsing dialogue as the means to achieve peace, the leaders wrote, “[p]eace in the land holy to the three major monotheistic religions will not be won by military means, but only through a negotiated settlement that is built on realistic compromises and concrete reciprocal steps that inspire confidence and help overcome decades of mutual suspicion and hostility.”
Causes of the Stalemate
Bishop Wenski lamented the fact many factors are contributing to “the continuing stalemate in the region.” Among the causes he cited were: weak leadership on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides, Hamas’ role in the Gaza Strip, the building of the security wall by the Israelis, and the continuing expansion of Jewish settlements in the Western bank.
In addition, “Israel seems to be reducing the Palestinian territories into a series of cantons…and cutting them off from each other,” the bishop said.
Another obstacle to peace is “the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where most of the population lives on less than a dollar a day, threatens the sustainability of any political settlement and thus the security of Israel,” the leaders wrote.
Ascendancy of Iran
Wenski also mentioned the fact that the situation in Israel and Palestine is linked to the recent ascendancy of Iran. “I think that a lot of the neighbors of Israel understand that the continuing conflict between Israelis and the Palestinians strengthens Iran’s efforts to gain influence in the region. Most of the Arab states recognize that as a threat to their interests,” he said.
The international policy chairman also gave some advice on what the Israelis and Palestinians should do to make the Annapolis peace summit a success. The preparation for the conference should include “Palestinian steps to strengthen policing and improve security and the recognition of Israel; Israeli steps to halt expansion of settlements and improve freedom of movement to help revive the shattered Palestinian economy; and the recognition of a Palestinian state. An effective ceasefire is indispensable.”