Archive of February 4, 2008

Benedict XVI tells seminarians that the world needs “the adventure” of the priesthood

Rome, Italy, Feb 4, 2008 (CNA) - On Friday afternoon the Holy Father visited the major Pontifical Seminary of Rome, which he called “his seminary,” for the feast of its patroness, Our Lady of Trust. After presiding at Vespers, the Pope spoke to the seminarians and their parents, telling them that the priesthood is “the most interesting of adventures and the most necessary for the world.”

"Because the gift of being adoptive children of God has illuminated your lives", the Pope told the seminarians, "you have felt the desire to share this with others. That is why you are here, to develop your filial vocation and prepare yourselves for your future mission as apostles of Christ. ... Savoring the joy of life with God the Father means that you feel the ever more urgent need to become messengers of the Gospel of His Son, Jesus."

Pope Benedict also noted the Marian dimension of the priestly call, "All this cannot but induce great trust, because the gift received is amazing, it fills us with wonder and sates us with intimate joy. And thus you are able to understand the role Mary has in your lives. ... Just as 'the Son was born of woman', of Mary Mother of God, the fact that you are children of God means you have her as mother".

The Pope then addressed the parents of the priests-in-formation, saying "you are probably the most surprised of all about what has happened and is happening to your children. You had perhaps imagined for them a mission different from the one for which they are now preparing. ... Let us look to Mary. The Gospel helps us to understand that she too asked herself many question about her Son Jesus, and reflected on Him for a long time.

"It is inevitable that the vocation of children in some way also becomes the vocation of the parents", he added. "You have found yourselves participating in your sons' marvelous adventure.”

The Holy Father said that he sees the priesthood as “the most interesting of adventures and the most necessary for the world: the adventure of demonstrating and realizing the fullness of life to which everyone aspires. It is a very demanding adventure and could not be otherwise because a priest is called to imitate Jesus.”

He then referred to two aspects that characterize the lives of seminarians. First of all, there is “listening to the voice of the Lord which, he said, ‘requires an atmosphere of silence.’”  The second facet of priestly studies mentioned by the Pope is the serious dedication to studying. He instructed the seminarians that “by praying and studying, you can create within yourselves the man of God that you must become and that people expect a priest to be.”

The Pope added one other experience: "There is also another aspect to your lives: ... the community aspect, which is of great importance. ... Your communion is not limited to the present but also concerns the future. The pastoral activity that awaits you must see you acting together united in a single body, an 'ordo' of priests who, with the bishop, watch over the Christian community.”

"All this serves as a reminder that God calls you to be saints, and that sanctity is the secret of real success in your priestly ministry. From this moment on, sanctity must be the final goal of all your choices and decisions. Entrust this desire and this daily commitment to Mary, Mother of Trust.”

“Follow your journey at the seminary with your hearts open to truth, to transparency, and to dialogue with those who guide you, and this will enable you to respond simply and humbly to the One who calls you, freeing yourselves from the risk of pursuing a personal project of your own.”

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Catholic protests listing of reputed relics for auction on eBay

Los Angeles, Calif., Feb 4, 2008 (CNA) - The internet auction site eBay is listing for sale the reputed relics of Catholic saints, Newsweek reports, though a layman has taken up the task of preventing the site’s sale of both sacred items and the bodily remains of holy men and women.

Recently, alleged strands of hair from the head of St. Therese of Liseux were put up for auction with bids starting at $40.  Another auction opening at $49.99 purported to be a fragment of bone from St. Philomena, a 13-year-old girl who is said to have been flogged, drowned, and beheaded for refusing marriage to the Roman Emperor Diocletian.

A “splendid, rare, antique” reliquary containing bone fragments from six different saints from a dealer at Belgium was posted for auction at an opening price of $625.

If the relics are genuine, their sale would violate Catholic canon law, which states, "it is absolutely forbidden to sell sacred relics."

These items also apparently violate eBay’s policies prohibiting the sale of human remains.

Tom Serafin, a Catholic layman who manages a Los Angeles photography studio, has often worked to remove relics from eBay auction lists.  He records on his website items he believes violate eBay’s terms of sale. 

"As a dad and a Catholic, I just wonder where the heck is the accountability?" he said to Newsweek.

An eBay spokeswoman responded to Newsweek about the items, saying, "We have a team of 2,000 people working around the clock to identify and remove prohibited items."

"With nearly 7 million new items being listed every day …we may not immediately identify infringing items, but if concerned individuals bring them to our attention we will promptly take action," she added.

Serafin himself collects relics, which he acquires not through purchases but through writing letters.  Over 17 years he has collected 1,200 relics, keeping them in two large safes in his house and sometimes taking them on tour.  Later this month he is taking to Manila eight reputed relics from the Passion, including a piece of the True Cross and a shard from the Crown of Thorns.  The Archbishop of Manila expects 1.5 million people to come to venerate them.

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Pope Benedict prays for those who defend life

Vatican City, Feb 4, 2008 (CNA) - With Lent approaching, Benedict XVI set aside yesterday’s Angelus gathering as a time of prayer for the different areas around the world in need of peace and for those who work to defend life in all its stages.

The Holy Father began his prayer intentions by recalling that Saturday marked the Day of Consecrated Life.  He then called on the faithful to offer prayers for all those people whom "Christ calls to follow Him more closely with a special form of consecration.”

"Another prayer intention", said the Holy Father, "is offered to us by the Day for Life which is being celebrated today in Italy and which has as its theme 'Serving life'".

This Day for Life should draw each person, according to their ability, to “feel in themselves an obligation to love and serve life, from its beginning to its natural end. It is, in fact, everyone's duty to welcome human life as a gift to be respected, protected and promoted, even more so when it is fragile and in need of attention and care, either before birth or when it is in its final stages," the Pope said.

Those who help the elderly were prayed for by the Pontiff.  He described these servants as those who "with exertion but with joy, without fuss but with great dedication, assist elderly or disabled relatives", and those who "regularly consecrate part of their time to helping people of all ages whose lives are burdened by so many different forms of poverty".

On the subject of Lent, which begins next Wednesday, Benedict XVI asked that it "be a time of authentic conversion for all Christians, who are called to an ever more authentic and courageous witness of their faith".

The Holy Father finished his remarks by reminding everyone that, from yesterday and up to and including February 11, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and the 150th anniversary of the apparitions there, "it is possible to receive a plenary indulgence, which may be applied to the deceased, under the usual conditions (sacramental Confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer in keeping with the intentions of the Holy Father) and by praying before a blessed image of Our Lady of Lourdes exposed to public veneration. For the sick and elderly this is possible if they formulate such a desire in their hearts".

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President of Kosovo meets with the Pope, position on Kosovo’s independence unchanged

Vatican City, Feb 4, 2008 (CNA) - On Saturday, the Holy Father met with Fatmir Sejdiu, president of Kosovo.  In the audience, Benedict XVI recognized the importance of those who serve the citizens of Kosovo, their quest for independence and emphasized the rights of the people living in the region.

The Holy Father received the president of Kosovo, so that he could express his closeness “to the entire population of that land, where Christianity has been present since the first centuries of our era,” the Holy See’s press office said.

Currently the Catholic Church in Kosovo numbers about 65,000 faithful and performs an important service (especially in the fields of healthcare and education) in favor of all Kosovars, regardless of their ethnic or religious background.

“The meeting also served to enable the Holy Father to receive first-hand information on the current situation and future prospects.”

Wishing to allay any unfounded speculation that the Vatican has changed its position on the independence of Kosovo, the Holy See’s communiqué said: “The audience …does not represent any change in the position of the Holy See vis-a-vis the definitive juridical status of Kosovo.”

“As for any possible declaration of independence by Kosovo, the Holy See will follow developments on the ground with particular attention and, in her appraisal thereof, will bear in mind the position of the international community,” it continued.

“The Holy See neglects no opportunity to exhort everyone to reconciliation, justice and peace. In this case, she reiterates what the Holy Father said to the diplomatic corps on January 7, 2008, when he expressed the hope that security and respect for the rights of those who live in that land be guaranteed, that the threat of violent conflict be definitively dispelled, and European stability reinforced,” the statement concluded.

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Patriarch of Syrian-Catholics resigns, Benedict XVI appoints committee in his place

Vatican City, Feb 4, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has decided to accept the resignation of the Patriarch of Syrian-Catholics and in a letter to him, explains that he will temporarily entrust the patriarch’s position to a committee of bishops.

In his letter to His Beatitude Ignace Pierre VIII Abdel-Ahad, the patriarch of Antioch of the Syrian Catholics, the Pope refers to another letter, which the patriarch sent him explaining the reasons for his decision. He notes that he presented his resignation from the office of patriarch “following a period of reflection and prolonged prayer before the Lord".

"I very much appreciate", the Holy Father goes on, "this gesture of ecclesial love, motivated above all by your concern for the spiritual progress of the faithful and for harmony among bishops, and in which I perceive an admirable confirmation of your apostolic zeal".

Having reflected deeply and having listened to the views of your collaborators, the Pope writes, "I felt it my duty to accept your resignation for the noble pastoral reasons that motivated it".

The Pope also explained his reasons for deciding to have a committee of bishops take over the patriarch’s position until a successor can be found.

"I wish to inform you that having given the matter careful attention - and consenting to certain requests of the extraordinary Synod which met in the Vatican from 26 to 28 April 2007 - I have decided that the government of the Syrian-Catholic Church should be entrusted for an appropriate period of time, until the election of your successor, to an episcopal committee composed of three members: Archbishop Theophile Georges Kassab of Homs, Hama and Nabk of the Syrians, who will also administer the patriarchal eparchy; Archbishop Athanase Matti Shaba Matoka of Baghdad of the Syrians; and Archbishop Gregorios Elias Tabe of Damascus of the Syrians. The patriarchate will be presided by each of the three members in turn".

The Holy Father concludes his letter by expressing the certainty that His Beatitude "will continue to offer the precious gift of prayer, wise counsel and the sacrifice of heart, as well as the trials and the joys that Divine Providence does not fail to dispense to good pastors".

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L’Osservatore Romano praises movie on meaning of life

, Feb 4, 2008 (CNA) - The Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano has praised the new film “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” which recounts the real-life story of a French journalist who became completely paralyzed at the age of 43 and was only able to communicate by blinking an eyelid.
The film tells the story of husband and father of three Jean-Dominique Bauby, the successful editor of the magazine Elle, who suffered a stroke on December 8, 1995, and was afterwards stricken with “Locked-in Syndrome,” in which all physical functions cease but mental faculties remain intact.

“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” was directed by American Jewish director Julian Schnabel.  Actor Mathieu Amalric plays Bauby, “who is a complete prisoner of his own body and is only able to blink his left eye-lid,” L’Osservatore Romano reports.

“Completely in tune with his situation of handicap and suffering, listening to the voices of his brain and not his mouth, as if we were a privileged audience, we witness Bauby’s slow realization of his new and precarious existence.  First, as a complete rejection of life and of the future,” and later with “the acceptance of this unnatural and incredible reality.”

Thanks to the help of a Christian speech therapist, “he is able to communicate with the outside world and thus dictate his memoirs, which would be published ten days before his death under the title of ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’.”

“Schnabel’s movie, written with passion by Ronald Harwood, is fortunately not a thesis, it does not inevitably promote rejection, it does not play with the emotions or take part in any kind of moral campaign in support of euthanasia, like the movie ‘The Sea Inside’ by Alejandro Amenabar did without shame or impartiality,” the Vatican newspaper stated.

The movie shows the complex relationship between Bauby and his family, his doctors, a priest and various colleagues, underscoring that appreciation for human life can overcome the most extreme situations. 

L’Osservatore Romano stressed that Schnabel’s efforts echo the words Paul VI spoke to actors and film directors in May of 1967, when he exhorted them to use their craft to show the mystery of human life, “even when that life, as in the case of Bauby, seems to have absolutely no meaning.”

The film won the Golden Globe award for best foreign film and best director.  It has four Oscar nominations, and Schnabel won the award for best director at the last Cannes film festival.

Click here to view a trailer of the movie.

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Spanish bishop: pastors cannot remain indifferent to suffering of young people

Madrid, Spain, Feb 4, 2008 (CNA) - During a celebration for Mission Youth, in which hundreds of young people will take to the streets in Spain to bring the Gospel to their contemporaries, Bishop Juan Antonio Reig Pla of Cartagena said, “Young people are suffering greatly, and pastors cannot remain indifferent, because Jesus was not indifferent.”

Mission Youth is aimed at young people between the ages of 14 and 30, who are being trained as youth missionaries in parishes throughout the Diocese of Cartagena to go out two by two to bring the message of Christ to public places.

According to the diocesan sources, the commissioning of the missionaries will take place in Murcia on the first Sunday of Lent with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Reig Pla, with the initiative ending on Pentecost Sunday.  “Preparation for Mission Youth has already begun in Cartagena and Lorca, and beginning in February, sign-up for volunteers will be held in Caravaca-Mula and Cieza-Yecla,” they said.

“Young people will thus be the missionaries of this diocese at the beginning of the Millennium, amidst a society characterized by indifference,” officials stated.

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Connecticut parents seek tax breaks, textbook funding for Catholic schools

Hartford, Conn., Feb 4, 2008 (CNA) - A Connecticut parents’ organization is lobbying the state legislature to pass two laws that would assist Catholic schools’ scholarship funds and textbook acqusition, the Hartford Courant reports.

The Connecticut Federation of Catholic School Parents is lobbying for a tax credit for businesses that donate to private school scholarship funds.  The federation also advocates an initiative that would allow municipalities to subsidize textbooks for private schools.

"Catholic schools save the taxpayers over $400 million a year, which is obviously a significant amount of money," said John Cattelan, director of the federation. "And government, at all levels, has a role to play in making sure our children receive a proper education."

To pursue its goals, the federation has formed a coalition with other religious and private schools and educational organizations including the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools, the Connecticut Association of Christian Schools, and the Connecticut and Western New England Jewish Day School Forum.

The Connecticut Catholic Conference will also assist the legislative effort.

One initiative would require school boards to buy and loan non-religious textbooks on an equitable basis for all students.  Parents of school children would apply to their local school board to take part in the program.  State law currently allows the lending of books by public school districts, but there is no state funding for the project.  Cattelan said 19 states provide some kind of financial support for textbook loans. 

The federation is asking the legislature to allocate $2.3 million solely for the purchase of textbooks.

Under another planned initiative, a tax credit of up to $50,000 will be granted to any corporation or business that donates to private school scholarship programs.  The scholarships would benefit families with incomes up to three times the requirements for the school lunch program, $78,000 per year for a family of four.  It would cost the state about $5 million, which Cattelan said would be offset if enough students transferred from public to private schools.

State Representative Andrew Fleischmann, the Democratic House chairman of the education committee, said school expenses did not change so quickly.

"It's not clear that children opting out of the public schools actually save the state much money because for years now we've had school systems that have had a drop in their student census numbers and we have not reduced their educational funding in any way," Fleischmann said, according to the Hartford Courant. "So while the argument sounds compelling on its face, I'm not sure it holds true here in Connecticut."

Representative Fleischmann said the proposals would be controversial because lawmakers would be allocating money for schools over which they have no oversight and because it would direct tax dollars to religious schools that only some parents would choose for their children.

"The only kind of state support you will find for private schools is transportation," Fleischmann said.

David Reynolds, legislative liaison for the Connecticut Catholic Conference, said the proposals would help low-income children attending Catholic schools.  He also said the proposals enjoyed the support of Archbishop of Hartford Henry Mansell.

"The archbishop views this as a very important way to help Catholic schools and to get low-income kids to attend them," he said.

The website for the Connecticut Federation of Catholic School Parents is found at

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Australian Catholics to build affordable housing for mortgage crunch

Melbourne, Australia, Feb 4, 2008 (CNA) - In an effort to alleviate housing problems in the Australian southeast state of Victoria, Catholic and other church charities are seeking approval to become developers and operate housing associations, The Age reports.

The charities say that they want to use prime real estate that they own to develop affordable rental homes for the needy.  Up to 300,000 Australians are at risk of losing their homes this year by defaulting on their mortgages.  750,000 households are estimated to struggle to pay food and essential service bills.

Martin North, an analyst with Fujitsu Consulting, linked the housing problems to an expected interest rate increase at the Reserve Bank of Australia.

"This is a problem that is now hitting middle Australia … Rates will go up by another 0.5% to 1% over the year, so people who are in an already fragile position are going to be hard-hit," he said, according to The Age.

The Catholic-affiliated St. Vincent de Paul Society, Unity church-associated UnitingCare Victoria, and the Salvation Army want to develop land owned by their churches, including city properties and large tracts of land.  The St. Vincent de Paul Society has land and property in Victoria worth at least $57 million, and hopes to partner with the Catholic Church in Victoria and others to acquire surplus property for development.

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Bishops say providing moral guidance is not meddling in political campaigns

Madrid, Spain, Feb 4, 2008 (CNA) - The spokesman for the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, responded to Socialists attacks on the Church this week and said a statement issued by the bishops is not a declaration of support for any particular party, but rather a series of orientations that Catholics must bear in mind as they go to the polls on March 9.

“The bishops don’t say who to vote for.  We have given a series of moral criteria so that those who want to listen have an idea (…) It is some guidance on issues such as abortion or education,” Bishop Camino told the TV network Telecinco.

“The bishops respect those who vote differently,” he continued, but that does not mean they should not speak out about social ethics.  “What is more worrisome is that some say that because the Church exercises her pastoral duty and her freedom of expression, she is acting outside of democracy,” Bishop Camino stressed in reference to attacks by Socialists who claim the bishops are supporting the Popular Party.

“This statement is based on pastoral ministry. It is not a doctrine invented yesterday,” the bishops pointed out, adding that no political party meets all of the directives given by the bishops, and therefore people have to vote for “the lesser of evils.”

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Colombian cardinal: Chavez is not necessary to achieve agreement with FARC

, Feb 4, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Bogota, Cardinal Pedro Rubiano Saenz, said last Thursday that the intervention by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is not necessary for achieving an agreement over the exchange of prisoners with the Marxists rebel group FARC.

The inclusion of Chavez in the mediation efforts with the FARC was proposed last week by left-wing Senator Piedad Cordoba, who has been accused of being too close to the guerilla movement and to President Chavez.

Cordoba said in Washington D.C. that the intervention of President Chavez, who is unpopular in Colombia, “is essential” because “both the exchange and the peace of Colombia must pass through Caracas.”

“The only thing left is to kneel down before Chavez!” Cardinal Rubiano exclaimed.  “I believe we Colombians have dignity,” he added.

He went on to note that the Catholic Church “welcomes foreign cooperation in the humanitarian exchange, as long is it is never in order to manipulate.”  For his part, the president of the Colombian Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro, pointed out that “President Chavez has been excluded as a mediator because of the problems he poses (to the government of President Uribe).  We must find a solution between all Colombians,” the archbishop said.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe removed Chavez and Cordoba from the team of mediators when he realized that Colombians were upset over their involvement with the FARC.

Uribe delegated the work of mediation to the Church and to the governments of Spain, France and Switzerland, which are working on an agreement.


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