Vatican City, Dec 17, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI will be keeping up his usual flurry of activity during the Christmas season this year, as the Office of Liturgical Celebrations made apparent today. The following is the Holy Father’s schedule for the upcoming feasts.
Monday, 24: Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord. The Pope will celebrate Midnight Mass in the Vatican Basilica.
Tuesday, 25: Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord. At noon from the central balcony of the Vatican Basilica, the Pope will deliver his Christmas message to the world and will impart the "Urbi et Orbi" blessing.
Monday, 31: At 6 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, the Holy Father will preside at first Vespers on the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God. This will be followed by the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, the singing of the traditional "Te Deum" hymn of thanksgiving for the conclusion of the civil year, and the Eucharistic blessing.
Tuesday, 1: Solemnity of Mary Mother of God and 41st World Day of Peace which has as its theme: "The Human Family, a Community of Peace." In the Vatican Basilica at 10 a.m., the Holy Father will preside at the celebration of Mass.
Sunday, 6: Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. Holy Father to preside at Mass in the Vatican Basilica at 10 a.m.
Sunday, 13: Baptism of Our Lord. Benedict XVI will preside at Mass in the Sistine Chapel at 10 a.m., during which he will impart the Sacrament of Baptism to a number of children.
San Antonio, Texas, Dec 17, 2007 (CNA) - Twelve hours after he was reported missing, retired Archbishop Emeritus Patrick Flores was found pumping gas at 3 a.m. at a West Texas convenience store, 200 miles from his home.
According to the Associated Press, Archbishop Flores was reported missing on Tuesday afternoon when he didn’t return to his assisted living facility, Padua Place, after a shopping trip.
Fr. Ed Loch, the archdiocesan archivist, said that Archbishop Flores “lives at the facility for retired priests who are in declining health. He has diabetes, difficulty with balance and a bad back — resulting from being roughed up when he was taken hostage by a distraught man in 2000.”
Twelve hours after he was reported missing, an officer responded to a call that a car was driving the wrong direction on the interstate near Ozona, Texas. Crockett County Sheriff Shane Fenton said that the deputy found Flores pumping gas.
"He seemed really disoriented and didn't know exactly where he was at," Fenton said. He was trying to drive home but didn’t realize he was driving the wrong way on the road.
Flores served as the archbishop for 25 years before retiring in 2005.
, Dec 17, 2007 (CNA) - In his fifth visit as Pope to a Roman parish community, the Holy Father visited “Santa Maria del Rosario ai Maritiri Portuensi” to consecrate their new church. His message to the parishioners was that they should be ready to give a witness for their hope, taking inspiration from the martyrs who are buried nearby.
In his homily, Pope Benedict said, "The liturgy of Advent constantly repeats how we must awake from the slumber of habit and mediocrity, how we must abandon sadness and discouragement ... because the Lord is near." He recalled the fact that the new church is located very near the catacombs of Generosa where, according to tradition, three young Christian martyrs were buried: Simplicius, Faustinus and Beatrice.
"Are not the young martyrs who died to bear witness to Christ a powerful stimulus for you, the Christians of today, to continue to follow Jesus faithfully? And does not the protection of Our Lady of the Rosary call upon you to be men and women of profound faith, just as she was? Today too, though in different ways, Christ's salvific message is attacked and Christians, no less than yesterday, are called to give reasons for their hope, to offer the world the testimony of the Truth of the One Who saves and redeems."
"The living community is more sacred than the actual church we have consecrated," said the Holy Father after the rite of consecration. "May the concern we show for this temple ... be a stimulus to show more intense concern in defending and promoting the temple of the individual person."
"It is Jesus," said the Pope, "Who lives in the parish community. Everything then, in the church building and in the Church community, speaks of Jesus. ... The Lord gathers us into the great community of the Church of all times and places, bound in communion with Peter's Successor as a rock of unity."
Vatican City, Dec 17, 2007 (CNA) - At five o’clock in the evening on Friday, the Pope presided at the funeral of the Austrian Cardinal Alfons Maria Stickler S.D.B. in St. Peter's Basilica. The Pope praised Cardinal Stickler as a man who lived a life always motivated by humble adherence to God’s will and faithfulness to the Church.
The diseased cardinal, who was the archivist and librarian emeritus of Holy Roman Church, passed away on December 12 at the age of 97.
In his homily the Pope recalled how, in his spiritual testament, the late cardinal had written that "as a Salesian I follow the three ideals handed down to us by Don Bosco: love for the Eucharist, devotion to the Virgin Mary and faithfulness to the Holy Father."
Cardinal Stickler "well knew," said the Holy Father, "that to love Christ is to love His Church, which is ever holy despite, as he himself notes in his spiritual testament, 'the sometimes scandalous weakness of we her representatives, in both past and present'."
"Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven," said Benedict XVI quoting the Gospel of Matthew's account of the Sermon on the Mount. "All of us, who through Baptism have been called to serve Jesus, know that we cannot and must not await praise and recognition in this world," he added.
"The faithful disciple's true reward is 'in heaven;' it is Christ Himself. Let us never forget this truth! Let us never give in to the temptation to seek human success and support rather than counting only and always on Him Who came into the world to save us, and Who on the cross redeemed us. Whatever the service to which God calls us in His vineyard, let it always be motivated by humble adherence to His will."
This, the Holy Father went on, "despite human frailties and weaknesses, was the guiding principle of the earthly life of the beloved Cardinal Stickler. ... A life totally dedicated, first to teaching and subsequently to the service of the Holy See."
Pope Benedict recalled how as a young man Cardinal Stickler entered the novitiate of the Salesians. He was ordained a priest in 1937 and, between 1958 and 1966, was rector of the Salesian University. In 1971 he became prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Library, and in September 1983 was appointed to the post of pro-librarian of Holy Roman Church. Two months later he was consecrated a bishop by John Paul II who, the following year, appointed him pro-archivist of Holy Roman Church and, in 1985, made him a cardinal.
Vatican City, Dec 17, 2007 (CNA) - Upon completing their “ad limina” visit with Pope Benedict, a delegation of bishops from Japan are returning to their homeland with the mission of imparting a message of the true hope to Japanese society.
On Saturday, the group of Japanese prelates heard the Pope encourage them to “seek new ways of bringing alive the message of Christ in the cultural setting of modern Japan. Even though Christians form only a small percentage of the population, the faith is a treasure that needs to be shared with the whole of Japanese society." As an example of this evangelistic fervor, Benedict pointed to St. Francis Xavier, who was born 500 years ago this year.
Message of Hope
The Holy Father told the bishops that, “The world is hungry for the message of hope that the Gospel brings. Even in countries as highly developed as yours, many are discovering that economic success and advanced technology are not sufficient in themselves to bring fulfillment to the human heart.
Concerned about the secularizing trend in Japan, Benedict XVI exhorted the bishops to “Remind people that there is more to life than professional success and profit."
Going on to quote from his Encyclical "Deus caritas est," the Holy Father encouraged the Japanese churchmen to lead their faithful "towards 'that encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens their spirits to others.' This is the great hope that Christians in Japan can offer their compatriots; it is not foreign to Japanese culture, but rather it reinforces and gives new impetus to all that is good and noble in the heritage of your beloved nation.
The Pontiff also explained that they can use the Church’s reputation and many contributions to Japanese society as an opportunity to engage in dialogue and share the joy they have found in Christ.
Young people, the Pope warned, "are at risk of being deceived by the glamour of modern secular culture" and its "false hopes." The resulting disillusion "not infrequently leads to depression and despair, even to suicide."
Instead of succumbing secular society’s values, Benedict XVI called on the bishops to help the youth direct their "youthful energy and enthusiasm… towards the things of God, which alone are sufficient to satisfy their deepest longings."
Since over half of Japan's Catholic population is formed of immigrants, the Holy Father also counseled the Church leaders to “experience the true catholicity of God's people” through them.
“By taking steps to ensure that all are made to feel welcome in the Church," he told the bishops, "you can draw on the many gifts that the immigrants bring. At the same time, you need to remain vigilant in ensuring that the liturgical and disciplinary norms of the universal Church are carefully observed."
The pontiff closed his talk with the Japanese delegation by praising their country’s "accumulated wisdom” and "her stance on the world political stage in the last 60 years." He told the prelates: "you have made the voice of the Church heard on the enduring importance of this witness, all the greater in a world where armed conflicts bring so much suffering to the innocent."
Before parting with the bishops, the Pope recalled the forthcoming beatification of 188 Japanese martyrs, saying it "offers a clear sign of the strength and vitality of Christian witness in your country's history."
Manchester, N.H., Dec 17, 2007 (CNA) - The Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester on Saturday began distributing voting guides to parishioners, the Nashua Telegraph reports. The guides recommend voters choose the candidate whose presidency would cause the least harm to human life.
The guide, a six-page pamphlet titled “Conscience and Your Vote,” does not endorse any candidate or party. Over 50,000 copies were distributed at weekend Masses.
“We've never had one before a primary vote," Bishop of Manchester John McCormack said of the guides. "The Church says that there are social issues in society that have moral dimensions, and that Catholics should form their consciences on those social issues and then vote for a candidate who supports those issues the best way possible."
The guide acknowledges that candidates rarely fully adhere to Catholic teaching on life issues like abortion, embryonic research, or the death penalty. Therefore, the guide says that Catholics must review whether "candidates support or tolerate policies that include intrinsically evil acts" and then "carefully assess the situation and decide which candidate will produce the least harm to innocent life, if elected."
Explaining that voters couldn’t support an evil act in itself, Bishop McCormack said, “The best thing to say is they would be choosing a candidate who would produce the most good for people in terms of dignity or, in terms of human life, who would produce the least harm.”
He added: “There are some matters, for example, that are always wrong. Whether it’s abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research – those are destroying human life. With other issues, Catholics adopt a variety of positions – immigration, health care, ending the war. Those are matters in which people can’t agree on the best thing.”
The guide also reminds Catholics that they must oppose torture, unjust war, and the unnecessary use of the death penalty. It also notes the moral imperative to pursue peace and overcome poverty, racism, and other conditions that demean human life.
“This is informed by reason and then affirmed by our faith,” Bishop McCormack said. “It’s natural law about the human person, about human life, and that applies to everyone.”
, Dec 17, 2007 (CNA) - Italian film, stage and opera director Franco Zeffirelli has said Pope Benedict XVI needs a makeover of his “cold” image and his “showy” clothes, BBC News reports.
Speaking to the newspaper La Stampa, Zeffirelli said the Pope communicated in a cold way that was little suited to what was happening around him.
Pope Benedict XVI has revived some traditional papal clothing such as a red velvet cape trimmed with ermine, which was last worn in public by Pope John XXIII.
Some mistook for a Santa Claus cap Pope Benedict’s fur-trimmed red cap, called a camauro.
Zeffirelli was confident that he would make an excellent image consultant.
"If they gave me an official supervisory role, I would dedicate myself to it full time," Zeffirelli said.
"I know [Joseph] Ratzinger personally," he added, using the German-born Pope's name before he was elected to the papacy.
"He is very attentive to the importance of how the sacred is represented," Zeffirelli concluded.
Washington D.C., Dec 17, 2007 (CNA) - The White House has sent out its annual Christmas card, featuring a seven-line excerpt from the Bible.
The card quotes from the Old Testament Book of Nehemiah 9:6, which in the New International Version of the Bible reads:
You alone are the LORD.
You made the heavens, even the highest heavens,
and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it,
the seas and all that is in them.
You give life to everything,
and the multitudes of heaven worship you.
The card closes: “May the joy of all creation fill your heart this blessed season 2007.” The Christmas card, signed by both George and Laura Bush, was paid for by the Republican National Committee.
The card raised a few eyebrows among media personalities. Barbara Walters, host of the ABC talk show The View, wondered on the show why the card was so religious and how it would be received by non-Christians. She asked "Don't you think it's a little interesting that the president of all the people is sending out a religious Christmas card?"
Ms. Walters clarified her intention later in the show: "By the way, I don't want to put down the President of the United States and his wife. I think it's very nice that they sent me a Christmas card."
Ankara, Turkey, Dec 17, 2007 (CNA) - A Catholic priest was stabbed in the stomach and hospitalized on Sunday, the Associated Press reports, adding to the numbers of Turkish attacks on Catholic clergy in recent years.
Father Adriano Franchini was in the Agean port city of Izmir when a man in his early 20s approached him, saying he wanted information on Christianity. An argument broke out between the two, and the man stabbed the priest. The attacker was later detained by authorities.
An Italian embassy official said the priest was in surgery. He said there was no information on the motive for the attack or its precise details.
Father Franchini heads the Church of St. Mary in nearby Ephesus.
The attack recalls other recent violent incidents against clergy. In February 2006, a 16-year-old boy shot a Catholic priest to death as he prayed inside his church in the Black Sea city of Trabzon. A priest was attacked and threatened in Izmir later that year, and another was stabbed in the Black Sea port of Samsun. In November 2007, an Assyrian cleric was abducted in southeast Turkey and rescued by security forces.
San Francisco, Calif., Dec 17, 2007 (CNA) - Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., will lead an estimated 20,000 people in the Fourth Annual Walk for Life West Coast on January 19, 2008.
“If the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is to live, our babies must live. Our mothers must choose life,” said Alveda King, who lost two children to abortion and is the mother of six living children. “The greatest injustice we face is the denial of the right to life. Without life, no other rights exist,” she said.
Other speakers include Dr. Clenard Childress, Jr., founder of the Black Genocide organization, and Gianna Jessen, a woman who as an infant survived a saline abortion.
“The Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco continues to be a galvanizing event for people of conscience who seek social justice for all of our citizens, born and unborn,” said Childress, a Baptist Minister who has spoken at the Walk each year since it began in 2005.
Gianna Jessen, who suffers from cerebral palsy because of the attempted abortion, summarized the goal of the event: “We need to get back to valuing human beings based on their intrinsic value rather than on whether or not they fit into our plans or whether or not they serve our purpose.”
“Women are being hurt every day by the abortions that take their babies’ lives,” said Walk for Life organizer Dolores Meehan. “We are here to reach out with compassion and support.”
A pregnancy resources and abortion recovery information fair will be held at the Walk for Life’s conclusion.
Madrid, Spain, Dec 17, 2007 (CNA) - Officials in Madrid closed down the Mayrit clinic for irregularities including the falsification of documents in order to justify abortions, signed by a psychologist before he actually met the patients.
The Spanish newspaper “El Mundo” reported that the closing was due to “major irregularities” at the clinic.
Health care officials said “various patient histories were bound together by a rubber band, labeled ‘destroyed’ and signed by patients and by employees who work at the center.”
In addition, patient forms were found at the clinic with many questions left blank but with the box “serious danger to life or physical health of the patient” checked, signed and sealed by the clinic’s psychiatric specialist.
The scientific policy group Hay Alternativas praised the closing of the clinic, although it said officials took too long to do so.
“Both in Madrid and in the rest of Spain, a fraud of the law is being carried out in practically all of the abortion clinics, and government officials have always looked the other way. Fortunately, the events that have taken place recently in Barcelona seem to have somewhat awakened those politically responsible from their lethargy, and we hope that this is only the beginning,” the group said.
, Dec 17, 2007 (CNA) - A number of Catholic churches were “inaugurated, consecrated and opened” in China during the months of October and November, some of which “have been rebuilt, and others newly built.”
Among the churches is the newly restored parish of Nan Liang in the Diocese of Ba Meng, north of Mongolia, which was originally built in 1874, and the newly constructed parish of St. Joseph in the Diocese of Lan Zhou, built “in the form of a boat in order to symbolize the pilgrimage of the faithful towards the house of the Father,” the Fides news agency reported.
In addition, the parish in the district of Yun Xiao in the Diocese of Xia Men was dedicated to Our Lady of China and built exclusively with the donations of the faithful, which reached $100,000
At the new parish of Liu He in the Diocese of Tai Yuan, new statues of the Sacred Heart, the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, St. Anthony and St. Francis were unveiled.
The consecrations of the new parishes also included other religious and cultural events, such as ordinations to the deaconate, which local officials described as “a sign of the liveliness and hope of our Catholic community.”
CNA STAFF, Dec 17, 2007 (CNA) - The Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Gynuity, which promotes chemical abortion worldwide, has published a new paper on its website aimed to promote widespread access to abortion and undermine national laws against it in Latin America.
Janet Ramos Barrientos of the Legal Committee of the Latin American Alliance for the Family told CNA that Gynuity has published on its website the document “Choices for Introduction of Medical Abortion in Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Peru,” in which it describes how to cover up the crime of abortion. The document indicates that “non-vaginal routes may be preferred by some women and will decrease the possibility of discovery of the tablets if the abortion is clandestine.”
According to Ramos, the document aims to promote the “consumption of a drug that begins the abortion process in order to justify finishing it later as an incomplete abortion. The NGO Gynuity has been in charge of this worldwide strategy since 2003. Its president, Dr. Beverly Winikoff, worked for 25 years as Director of Reproductive Health at the Population Council.”
Ramos told CNA that, the project for introducing abortion in these four countries was developed by Gynuity at the request of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), the largest promoter of abortion in the world.
“Although the first paragraph says the document aims ‘to identify the best strategies for introducing medical abortion technology and increasing access throughout the region to the fullest extent allowed by the law,’ in the rest of the document there is no respect shown for current law. It’s practically a manual on how to ridicule the law,” Ramos said.
“In relation to the drug they recommend using for initiating an abortion, they know perfectly well that it is only allowed for specific purposes and belongs to a field of medicine distinct from gynecology. They analyze the willingness in these four countries, detailing brand names and even prices. An important part of this analysis is pointing out how his drug can be obtained in these countries without a prescription, using ‘informal channels’,” Ramos stressed.
He also noted that Gynuity simplifies the risks of the drug. “The risks, side effects and counter indications of the drug are so many that the FDA has not authorized its use in gynecology. For Gynuity, on the other hand, with this drug a woman can deal with the matter at home,” Ramos said.
“Both Gynuity and its sponsor, the IPPF, do not hide their desire to see abortion legal in Latin America very soon, since they point out that this ‘counseling service’ for chemical abortions should be the option as long as a surgical abortion service is not implemented in the same public health centers,” Ramos said in conclusion.
, Dec 17, 2007 (CNA) - After a meeting of the bilateral commission of Israel and the Holy See on December 12 and 13, which is working to establish an accord between the two parties, the Apostolic Nuncio to the Holy Land, Archbishop Antonio Franco said, “There is nothing new. The important thing is that the work is being carried out with determination by both parties. Decisive will exists to reach a solution.”
Archbishop Franco told the SIR news agency, “What is under discussion is not simply an accord between the state of Israel and the Holy See but also something that has to do with the local Church here. We are also working in the Church at the local level examining the problems that afflict it. All of this takes time, study and clarification.”
He said progress was made during the meeting and officials from both sides will meet again “in May of 2008 at the Vatican.”
“Among the decisions assumed during the course of the work is also that of re-activating the work group dealing with the individual properties of the Church, which for various reasons have been taken away or used for other ends, and an effort is underway to re-acquire them,” the nuncio said.
“This work group,” he explained, “sent a report in 2007 to the commission but was not able to meet again. Now it will be able to work again to carry out new studies of the problems and find a solution.”
Regarding the issue of visas for religious, which has been a problem for Catholics wishing to travel to the Holy Land, Archbishop Franco said, “This was also discussed and is being addressed. We have been assured that they are seeking a solution to the problem.”
Vatican City, Dec 17, 2007 (CNA) - In the Vatican today, Pope Benedict XVI received members of the College of Postulators from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. His message to them was that their work offers the Church witnesses who demonstrate how to lead a holy life in the world today and therefore indispensable.
The Pope began his address to them by mentioning the forthcoming 25th anniversary of the promulgation of the Apostolic Constitution "Divinus Perfectionis Magister" with which, in 1983, John Paul II revised the procedures of the causes of saints in order to respond to the wishes of experts and pastors who were calling "for a more manageable procedure, while still maintaining solidity of research in this field, which is so important for the life of the Church.”
"Through beatifications and canonizations," the Pope said, the Church "gives thanks to God for the gift of those of His children who have responded generously to divine grace, honoring them and invoking them as intercessors."
"Saints, if correctly presented in their spiritual dynamism and historical reality, contribute to making the word of the Gospel and the mission of the Church more believable and attractive. Contact with them opens the way to true spiritual resurrection, lasting conversion and the flowering of new saints."
"All those who work in the causes of saints," said Benedict XVI, "are called to place themselves at the exclusive service of truth. For this reason, during the diocesan inquiry, witness statements and documentary evidence should be gathered both when favorable and when contrary to the fame of sanctity or of martyrdom of the Servants of God."
"Hence, the postulators' role is fundamental, both in the diocesan and apostolic stages of the process; their actions must be above criticism, inspired by rectitude and marked by absolute probity," Benedict said.
Madrid, Spain, Dec 17, 2007 (CNA) - India and China, the Asian giants with more than one billion inhabitants each, have been forced to prohibit the use of ultrasounds in order to determine the sex of unborn babies in order to prevent the selective abortion of girls, since the number of baby boys far exceeds the number of baby girls being born in the two countries.
An article published by the Spanish daily “El Pais” reports that throughout Asia “there are on average more men than women, especially among the younger generations.” However, “if proportions between the sexes on this continent were the same as in the rest of the world in 2005, there would need to be an additional 163 million women. That is the conclusion of a study by the UN Population Fund presented this week at the Congress on Health and Sexual and Reproductive Rights of Asia and the Pacific in Hyderabad in southern India.”
“This lack of women is especially grave in China, India, South Korea, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, where for every 100 girls there were at least 108 boys in 2005. Other countries such as Nepal and Vietnam are closely following suit,” the newspaper reports.
“In addition men are ‘more profitable’ because they support their parents or carry on the family business. On the other hand, women are seen as a burden. ‘Girls require an investment and they don’t bring any profit later on, because they go to live with the families of their in-laws,” the story noted.
“Although abortion is legal in India,” El Pais reports, “sex selection and the elimination of female fetuses is not. Therefore private clinics and corrupt doctors are making huge profits, somewhere near $172 million.”