Sydney, Australia, Feb 21, 2008 (CNA) - World Youth Day officials organizing the live depiction of the Stations of the Cross are still looking for an actor to play Jesus, the AM show on Australian Broadcasting Corporation Radio reports.
The re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross, which will be broadcast globally, will be directed by Father Franco Cavarra, who has directed operas in Australia and other countries.
Father Cavarra told the AM show that actors had been selected for all the other parts, such as Mary, Mary Magdalene, Judas, the rest of the twelve Apostles, and Roman soldiers.
“We've been able to cast some very good people tonight as Roman soldiers. We've got all of the people that we need as the 12 Apostles. We've got some very good Judases and some excellent good thieves and bad thieves and I have to say, we've seen one or two people for Jesus, but we are still looking,” he said.
“Still looking for Jesus. Sounds like a good title for a book, doesn't it?” he continued.
Father Cavarra said he was looking for an actor between his early 20s and early 30s, preferably a tall one. “I suppose the physical presence is important - someone who dominates in some ways, someone who presents strength and gentleness and vulnerability at the same time,” he said.
At least 200,000 people are expected to attend the World Youth Day events in July, which will conclude with a papal Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI.
Sacramento, Calif., Feb 21, 2008 (CNA) - A man who said he was angry at God drove a minivan through a Catholic church in Rancho Cordova, California late on Saturday night, the Sacramento Bee reports.
Harold David Zequeda, 36, drove a silver Ford Windstar through St. John Vianney Church.
Witnesses said the driver pulled onto the church’s front lawn and floored the gas pedal.
The van broke through a set of locked steel doors, and then a second set of heavy wooden doors. It collided with a 100-pound communion table, which was propelled across the sanctuary.
Eight solid-oak pews bolted to the floor were destroyed. The car then bounced onto the altar platform, leaving black skid marks across a carpeted area.
The car traveled 50 yards across the large, modern church, slamming into a second set of pews and stopping just short of a statue of Jesus.
Police arrested Zequeda and were able to back the minivan, which only sustained minor damage, out of the church. No one was injured in the incident.
One witness said the driver had dropped a photograph of several young children and told police he was angry at God.
The church’s pastor, Father Martin Moroney, said he was stunned at what happened.
"It seemed like a cry for help," Father Moroney said, according to the Sacramento Bee. "I just wish he had cried out in some other way."
The priest was surprised that no religious statues or artwork had been damaged. In the church vestibule, a smiling statue of St. John Vianney was untouched, even though a flying steel door had damaged a heavy table just nearby.
Father Moroney did not recognize Zequeda as a parishioner. He said he was glad no one had been hurt or killed.
"We prayed for the man," he said. "It's our house of worship, but we're a forgiving people, and we have to go on."
Sunday morning Masses, at which parishioners prayed for Zequeda, were held in the nearby church hall.
Zequeda is charged with vandalizing a house of worship, a felony, and driving with a suspended license. He is being held on $1 million bail.
, Feb 21, 2008 (CNA) - An Italian endeavor to promote Christian values in sports through a partnership with an Italian soccer team has ended due to a dispute over finances, The Times reports.
Last October, the Catholic sports organization Centro Sportivo Italiano (CSI) agreed to back the Italian third division club Ancona. CSI complained that the soccer club did not fund Catholic charities in Italy and Africa, as agreed.
"Divorce will be inevitable unless the club opens up its purse strings,'' said Edio Costantini, head of CSI. “The club will have to accept full responsibility if the scheme collapses. Let's hope they repent. Fine words are not enough, we need money.”
The soccer club accused CSI of reneging on the deal by failing to provide one million Euros in sponsorship. Giampiero Schiavoni, the Ancona club chairman, told the newspaper La Stampa that the accusations have been “a bolt from the blue.”
“We expected quite different behavior from a Catholic institution," he continued. Though he said the original concept was a very good idea, he said it was "ridiculous that an attempt to inject moral values into sport has ended in a quarrel about money."
Ancona’s mostly left-wing fans had objected to the deal as an example of Church “interference” in Italian life.
Though the Vatican approved of the project, it was not directly involved.
Vatican City, Feb 21, 2008 (CNA) - With the recent turmoil in Serbia, Pope Benedict’s reception of the new ambassador from Serbia today gave him an opportunity to offer his assessment of the situation in Kosovo. The solution to the conflict embroiling the region must come from the values found in Europe’s Christian roots, the Pope said.
Vladeta Jankovic, Serbia's new ambassador to the Holy See, listened as the Pope spoke to him about the high value that the Holy See places on its diplomatic ties with Serbia. Through these ties, he said, the Vatican hopes “to offer encouragement to the continuing efforts to build a future of peace, prosperity, reconciliation, and peaceful coexistence throughout the region, as Serbia and its neighbors seek to take their proper place within Europe".
Few countries in the continent of Europe escaped the ravages of war in the last century", said the Holy Father, "and all can learn from the lessons of the recent past.”
“As you work towards a more secure future,” the Pontiff said, “it is vital to remember that the identity and the rich cultural tradition of your nation, as of all European nations, is deeply rooted in the heritage of Christian faith and the Gospel of love".
"If we choose to live by the values drawn from our Christian roots", Benedict XVI observed, "we discover the courage to forgive and to accept forgiveness, to be reconciled with our neighbors, and to build together a civilization of love in which all are accepted and respected. I know how deeply the Serb people have suffered in the course of recent conflicts and I wish to express my heartfelt concern for them and for the other Balkan nations affected by the sad events of the last decade".
While maintaining its neutrality on the issue of Kosovo’s recently declared independence, the Pope added that, "The Holy See shares your earnest desire that the peace which has been achieved will bring lasting stability to the region. In particular, with regard to the current crisis in Kosovo, I call upon all interested parties to act with prudence and moderation, and to seek solutions that favor mutual respect and reconciliation".
"Not least among the various divisions between the peoples of Europe are those resulting from the tragic loss of Christian unity over the past thousand years", the Pope recalled. He then expressed joy for the progress in relations between the Catholic and Orthodox Christians in Serbia in recent years and for the beneficial collaboration made in various areas.
In addition to the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue, Serbia's geographical situation on the border between Eastern and Western Christianity offers "a unique opportunity to promote ecumenical dialogue, while its familiarity with Islam … opens up rich possibilities for progress in inter-religious dialogue,” Benedict XVI noted.
Rather than seeing these situations as negative, the Pope pointed to them as “processes are of the utmost importance in establishing greater mutual understanding and respect between peoples and nations in the modern world".
"Freedom of religion is an indispensable element in building the kind of society in which such harmony can develop, and the steps taken by Serbia in recent years to guarantee this fundamental human right are greatly appreciated", Benedict XVI said.
"The plan to restore to churches and religious communities property which had been nationalized by the Yugoslav Federation and the introduction of religious teaching in schools have contributed to the spiritual renewal of your country, and in this regard an important example has been given from which other governments can learn".
"I pray that this openness to religious values in society," he concluded, "will continue to grow, so that public debate may be truly nourished by the principles derived from faith".
Vatican City, Feb 21, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI addressed the participants of the Society of Jesus’ general congregation and encouraged them to continue in fidelity to their original charism and to “find the fullest sense of your ‘fourth vow,’” which is a professed obedience to the Holy Father in matters of where they are sent on mission and in the ‘spirit of the Church.’
The Pope continued saying, "The Society of Jesus, faithful to its best tradition, should continue forming its members with great attention to the sciences and to virtue, without conforming to mediocrity, because the task of confrontation and dialogue in very diverse social and cultural situations with the different mentalities of today's world is one of the most difficult and costly there is."
"In the attempt to build bridges of understanding and dialogue with those who do not belong to the Church or who have difficulty in accepting its positions and messages, you must loyally take charge of the Church's fundamental right to remain faithful to its mandate and adhere completely to the Word of God as well as to the Magisterium's charge of conserving the truth and unity of Catholic doctrine in its entirety."
Pope Benedict said that this fidelity to the Church's doctrine is "a particularly sensitive point" for many Jesuits, especially theologians and those involved in inter-religious dialogue. "Precisely for this reason I have invited you [here] and I invite you to reflect on how to find the fullest sense of your 'fourth vow' of obedience to the successor of Peter that is so characteristic of you, it implies not only the readiness to be sent in mission to far away lands, but also– in the most genuine Ignatian spirit of 'sensing with the Church and in the Church' – to ‘love and serve’ the Vicar of Christ on earth with that ‘affective and effective’ devotion which must make of you valuable and irreplaceable cooperators in his service to the Universal Church."
The Pope emphasized that "this holds not only for the vow of each Jesuit” but also to the works of social justice and charitable activities they carry out.
“As you work as members of an apostolic body you have to also remain attentive that your works and institutions always maintain a clear and explicit identity so that the goal of your apostolic activity is neither ambiguous nor obscure and so that many others might share your ideals and might effectively and enthusiastically join with you, collaborating in your vow of service to God and to human beings," the Pope said.
Addressing dialogue between the faith and the modern culture, the Pontiff told the Jesuits that, "The themes that are debated and questioned today, such as the salvation of all in Christ, sexual morality, and marriage and the family, should be considered in the context of contemporary reality, maintaining, however, that harmony with the Magisterium that avoids the provocation of confusion and uncertainty in the People of God."
The Holy Father encouraged the Jesuit fathers to "continue and to renew" their mission among and with the poor. "For us, the option for the poor is not ideological but rather is born of the Gospel." Besides making the "effort to understand and fight the structural causes" of injustice and poverty, he added, "it is necessary to fight the deep roots of evil in the very heart of the human being, the sin that separates us from God, without forgetting to care for the most urgent needs of others in Christ's spirit of charity."
Havana, Cuba, Feb 21, 2008 (CNA) - High-level officials of the Cuban government were present on Wednesday night to welcome Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who will be visiting Cuba until February 26 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 1998 visit by Pope John Paul II.
The plane carrying Cardinal Bertone arrived at the Jose Marti International Airport at 9:30pm local time, where the cardinal was greeted by Felipe Perez Roque, Cuba’s Foreign Relations Minister; Caridad Diego, head of the Religious Affairs Office of the Communist Party; Eumelio Caballero, vice chancellor; and Raul Roa Kouri, Cuba’s Ambassador to the Holy See.
Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino of Havana and Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi, as well as several other bishops, were also on hand to welcome Cardinal Bertone.
During his stay in Cuba, the Vatican Secretary of State will visit Havana, Santa Clara, Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo. He will also meet with Cuban officials, although it has yet to be determined if he will meet with Raul Castro, who has yet to be officially elected president in light of the recent retirement by Fidel Castro.
Havana, Cuba, Feb 21, 2008 (CNA) - On Thursday morning, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone met with the Cuban Conference of Catholic Bishops (COCC) and delivered a message from Pope Benedict to the people of Cuba. While praising the legacy of Christianity, he also called on Cubans to renew their efforts to evangelize.
The meeting with the Cuban bishops marks the beginning of a 6-day visit by the Vatican’s Secretary of State to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s 1998 visit to the island nation.
In his speech delivered at the Saint John Marie Vianney Priests’ House in Havana, Cardinal Bertone began by recalling Pope John Paul II’s visit. “Remembering, ten years later, those days that were unforgettable for the Cuban Church and the Cuban population, lived in front of the excited eyes of the whole world,” began Benedict XVI , “is no doubt a duty of gratitude for my revered predecessor” and an opportunity to “renew the evangelizing impulse that he left deeply imprinted in everybody’s heart.”
“I spiritually feel amongst you, as is proven by the presence of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone”, Pope Benedict wrote, professing his “esteem” for the local clergy and “sympathy with the aspirations and concerns of all Cubans”.
The Holy Father also had words of praise for the Christian legacy of Cuba. This faith “has taken root in the Cuban soul”, because the “values” of the Gospel, which arrived five centuries ago on the island, “have had great influence over the birth of the nation” and remain “a vital factor, not least for the harmony and the happy future of the country,” Benedict XVI wrote.
“The believers’ job,” the Pope recalls in his message, is to show “that the Church, in focusing its glance on Jesus, tends to do good, to promote the dignity of man, and, while sowing feelings of understanding, mercy and reconciliation, it helps improve man and society”.
The Holy Father also spoke about the priorities that the Cuban Church should have. “Announcing the right doctrine, introducing to, listening to and learning more about God’s Word, promoting participation in the Sacraments and in the life of prayer”; these are the “main goals of pastoral work”, since “bringing everyone to the salvation of Christ is the very core of the mission of the Church.”
The problems faced by the Church in Cuba were also addressed in the Pope’s letter. “Sometimes some Christian communities feel oppressed by problems, by the scarcity of resources, by indifference or even by timidity, which can lead them to lose heart”, the believers “know they can always place their hopes on Christ Jesus, who never disappoints.”
With this encouragement, the Holy Father pointed to the “great importance give to the mission that the Church in Cuba carries out in favor of the needy ones, working in the service and care of men and women of every status, who deserve not only to be supported in their material needs, but also to be welcomed with affection and sympathy”.
Benedict XVI closed his letter by reminding Cubans that they should look to the servant of God, Félilx Varela, and José Marti, the “propagator of love among Cubans and among all men.”
Vatican City, Feb 21, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict was quite busy this morning with audiences, but notable among them was his meeting with Professor Renato Guarini, the president of La Sapienza University. The rector is in charge of the same university that the Pontiff could not visit because of angry protests from a small group of students and professors.
According to Vatican sources, Guarini brought the presents with him that he was supposed to give to the Pope on January 17, the date of his cancelled commencement speech at Italy’s largest university.
According to the Vatican Press Office, the meeting between Pope Benedict and Guarini lasted 30 minutes, during which both spoke about "the role of the University in contemporary society," and its contribution to "building a new Humanism."
There were also "some reflections" about the cancellation of the Pope's visit, but the possibility of a new invitation for the Pope to visit La Sapienza, was not discussed.
Guarini gave the Pope two presents: a medal with the university's coat of arms and a facsimile copy of the 1303 Pope Boniface VIII's bull creating the 'Studium Urbis,' which would later become La Sapienza.
The Pope’s mid-January commencement speech was canceled in part because of 67 La Sapienza professors who wrote a letter protesting against the Pope's visit. Since the episode, several of them have retracted their protest, among them noted Italian physicist Andrea Frova, the author of a scientific biography of Galileo.
Vatican City, Feb 21, 2008 (CNA) - On Friday, February 22, in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel, in the presence Pope Benedict XVI, the preacher of the Papal Household, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap, will begin the traditional Lenten preaching, which will focus on the Word of God, in tune with the upcoming Synod of Bishops. The general theme of the preaching will be “The Word of God is Living and Efficacious”—a quote from the Letter to the Hebrews.
The Pontifical Household said the sermons will be an invitation to reflect on the proclamation of the Gospel in the life of Christ and in the mission of the Church, on the Word of God as means of personal sanctification and on the relationship between the Spirit and the Word.
The members of the Roman Curia are all invited to attend the sermons, which will take place February 22-29 and March 7-14.
Strausburg, Pa., Feb 21, 2008 (CNA) - The Apostolic Administrator of Kosovo, Archbishop Dodë Gjergji said the Catholic Church there supports the creation of a new state, and he underscored the need to unite the people, saying “forgiveness and reconciliation are the only way to follow.”
During a speech at the European Parliament in Strasburg, Archbishop Gjergji said the role of the Catholic Church in Kosovo is to build “a bridge between two entities, the Muslims of Albania and Christians, who are mostly Serbian Orthodox.” He also emphasized that guaranteeing the rights of the Catholic minority in Serbia must be a priority.
“In general Albanians are supportive of Europe and of Christians, because they cannot and don’t want to deny our common values developed throughout history,” the archbishop explained. He also pointed to the great efforts being made to establish “an ecumenical dialogue with the Serbian Orthodox Church, as we are both Christian churches.”
Archbishop Gjergji called on the people of Kosovo to “live together in peace,” and he said the formation of the new state, which is supported by most of the countries of the European Union, should guarantee stability, peace and the rights of minorities, “especially those of the Serbs.”
Seville, Spain, Feb 21, 2008 (CNA) - In a pastoral letter published for Seminary Day 2008, the Archbishop of Sevilla, Cardinal Carlos Amigo Vallejo, said the entire ecclesial community should “help” God so that young people called to the priesthood would respond to their vocation.
“When we speak of the Seminary,” the cardinal wrote, “we should not only consider it the place of formation for seminarians, but also as a place that belongs to us all, and that we must always consider as a personal duty.”
The cardinal explained that the new candidates preparing to be priests “are also our responsibility. We must ‘help’ God so that his call may find an answer in the hearts of men.”
Therefore, he continued, in order to launch an “enthusiastic and effective vocations campaign,” we need to begin by “talking to God and tell him of the need his Church has for priests. Pray to him and trust that his help will not falter,” the cardinal stressed.
“Then, we should talk about God to families and young people and tell them what the Lord wants and what the Church needs: priests who serve the community. May there be young people willing to be these kinds of servants,” he added.
“The Lord continues to inspire the hearts of young people with the desire to serve Jesus Christ and his Church,” the cardinal continued, but often times they are fearful of making a “generous and brave decision” to “take the path towards the priesthood.”
Therefore, he said, “let us draw young people close to Christ, let us put them at his side and let them see the face of the Lord. Everything else will be added besides.”
“The family is where, with the support of the parents, the call to the priesthood can be best heard. The family is the school of the highest ideals. It is also the school of the vocation to the priesthood. May parents remind their children that if Jesus calls them, they should not be afraid,” Cardinal Amigo said.
“We hope to have your help to maintain the Seminary, but above all, to have your prayers imploring the Lord, Father and Shepherd of our Church, to grant us the vocations that we need,” he wrote in conclusion.
Havana, Cuba, Feb 21, 2008 (CNA) - Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tariscio Bertone, who is visiting Cuba to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s historic visit, expressed his hope that the visit would renew Christian life and improve relations between the Church and the Cuban government.
After delivering a message from Pope Benedict XVI to the Cuban people, Cardinal Bertone encouraged the Cuban bishops to extend their pastoral work.
Commenting on the anniversary of John Paul II’s visit, the cardinal said he hoped it will be “a time of abundant grace and a special opportunity to boost intensive pastoral work” that will strengthen spiritual fruits and renew Christian life.
“I cherish the hope that the celebration of the anniversary of John Paul II’s visit in this blessed land,” the cardinal said, “will help give new impulse to the relations between the State and the Catholic Church in Cuba, so that, in a spirit of mutual respect and understanding, the Church will be able to fully accomplish its mission, which is strictly pastoral and at the service of the congregation, with the required freedom.”