Vatican City, Mar 10, 2008 (CNA) - On March 8, Pope Benedict XVI told a conference organized to address the increasingly secularized state of the world, that he thinks believers are being conditioned by a “culture of images which imposes contradictory models and impulses” and that these images replace the need for God.
"Today more than ever", the Holy Father said to the attendees, "reciprocal openness between cultures is an important field for dialogue between men and women committed to seeking authentic humanism, over and above the differences that separate them".
Secularization, he said, "invades all aspects of daily life and causes the development of a mentality in which God is effectively absent, entirely or in part, from human life and conscience".
The threat from this void is far-reaching, and the Church is even affected. This "is not just an external threat to believers,” the Pontiff said, “but has for some time been evident in the bosom of the Church herself".
According to Benedict XVI, secularism spreads its Godless worldview by conditioning people with a "culture of images which imposes contradictory models and impulses, with the effective negation of God". Hence people come to believe "there is no longer any need for God, to think of Him or to return to Him", said the Pope. "Furthermore, the predominant hedonistic and consumer mentality favors, in the faithful as in pastors, a drift towards superficiality and selfishness which damages ecclesial life".
The dangers of this way of living are "the risk of falling into spiritual atrophy and emptiness of heart", the Holy Father warned.
Fighting these conditions can be done by re-appropriating "the exalted values of existence which give meaning to life and can satisfy the disquiet of the human heart in its search for happiness," he said. These include "the dignity and freedom of the person, the equality of all mankind, and the sense of life and death and of what awaits us at the end of earthly existence".
The Holy Father also noted the Enlightenment development of enthroning of reason over and above God is becoming commonplace.
"The phrase 'etsi Deus non daretur' [as if there were no God] is becoming a way of life which has its roots in a kind of 'arrogance' of reason", he said. Reason "was actually created and loved by God" but is now "held to be sufficient unto itself and closes itself off from contemplating and seeking a Truth that lies beyond it".
Benedict XVI indicated that the Pontifical Council for Culture must remain committed to "fruitful dialogue between science and faith", respecting the ambit and methodology of each of them, in order "to serve man and humanity, favoring the integral development and growth of each and of all.
"Above all", he added in conclusion, "I exhort pastors of the flock of God to a tireless and generous mission to counteract - in the field of dialogue and meeting between cultures, of announcement and testimony of the Gospel - the worrying phenomenon of secularization which weakens man and hinders his innate longing for the entire Truth".
Vatican City, Mar 10, 2008 (CNA) - The Holy Father told about 200 youth gathered for the 25th anniversary of the San Lorenzo Youth Centre on Sunday that while man always retains his dignity whether he is an embryo or in a coma, he is called beyond the limits of medicine to the immortality that only the infinite love of Christ can give.
Pope Benedict was at the center to help begin their 25th anniversary celebrations for the by celebrating Mass for nearly 200 young people who help run the center, which is near St. Peter’s Square.
The San Lorenzo International Youth Centre was inaugurated by John Paul II on March 13, 1983. During a Eucharistic celebration held that day, the then Pope expressed the hope that the center may become "a forge for the formation of authentic young Christians who are capable of bearing coherent witness to the Gospel in today's world."
The Pope began by reading his prepared homily before adding his improvised remarks on the meaning of life and death in light of the Sunday’s Gospel reading, the raising of Lazarus.
"Human beings, though part of this cosmos, transcend it", he said. "Of course man always remains man in all his dignity, even if in a coma or in the embryonic state, yet if he lives only biologically he does not realize and develop all the potential of his being. Man is called to open himself to new dimensions.”
The Pontiff went on to explain the two dimensions. The first is knowledge. In this context he noted how, unlike the animals, "man wishes to know everything, all of reality. ... He thirsts for knowledge of the infinite, he wishes to arrive at the font of life and to drink therefrom, to find life itself.”
This, he continued, leads to the second dimension of love: "Man is not just a being who knows, he also lives in relationships of friendship and of love. Beyond the dimension of knowledge of truth and of being, there also exists, inseparable from it, the dimension of relationships, of love. And it is here that man comes close to the source of life from which he wishes to drink in order to have life in abundance, to have life itself.”
Man also faces a great struggle for life, which is found in science – especially in medicine. However, even if medicine were to find "the prescription of immortality" it would still "be confined within this biosphere.”
"It is easy to imagine what would happen if man's biological life were endless, if he were immortal", the Holy Father added. "We would find ourselves in an aged world, a world full of old people, a world that would leave no space for the young, for the renewal of life. Thus we understand that this cannot be the kind of immortality to which we aspire. ... Drinking from the font of life is to enter into communion with this infinite love which is the source of life.”
The Pope pointed the youth to the teachings of the Fathers of the Church who called the Eucharist "medicine of immortality". In this Sacrament, “we enter into communion with the body [of Christ] which is animated by immortal life and thus we enter, now and always, into the space of life itself."
Vatican City, Mar 10, 2008 (CNA) - A commission formed by the Pope on the Church in China is meeting March 10-12 to examine the reaction from the Chinese Church to the recent letter he wrote to them and to analyze its implications for the daily life of their Church.
The commission is made up of superiors from the different Vatican-based offices that help the Pope with issues related to the life of the Church in China and certain members of the Chinese episcopate and religious congregations.
According to a statement released by the Holy See’s Press office today, "This first meeting will examine the reactions to the Letter which the Holy Father sent to Chinese Catholics on 27 May 2007. The rich contents of the pontifical document will be analyzed in-depth and, in the light thereof, the principal aspects of the life of the Church in China will be considered".
Denver, Colo., Mar 10, 2008 (CNA) - Photos of three Mormon missionaries mocking the Catholic Church, which recently surfaced on the Internet, have upset Catholics and shocked Mormon leaders, reports the Denver Post. The men have also been accused of breaking the head off of a statue of saint at the Shrine of the Mexican Martyrs in San Luis, Colorado.
In 2006, three missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) visited a Catholic shrine in the San Luis Valley in Colorado. While at the shrine, the Mormon missionaries photographed themselves in poses that demeaned the Catholic Church.
The pictures, which were posted last week on the photo-sharing site Photobucket, show the men preaching from the Book of Mormon behind the altar; holding the head from a statue of St. Manuel Morales, a young Mexican who died opposing anti-religious laws; and one of the missionaries pretending to sacrifice a fellow missionary on the altar.
According to The Pueblo Chieftan, the three missionaries face possible charges of desecrating a venerated object, criminal trespass, defacing property and bias-motivated crime.
The LDS mission president who oversees the area of the San Luis Valley, Robert Fotheringham, told the Denver Post, "We have a history of people doing things like this to us, so we're mortified that our missionaries would do it to someone else. It's beyond embarrassing. It's inexcusable."
The only vandalism from the incident was the beheaded statue. The missionaries had placed the head back on the neck of the statue and the damage went unnoticed until the photos were discovered last week.
After a vote the parish council decided to report the matter to the Costilla County Sheriff’s Office.
Fr. Pat Valdez told parishioners at their meeting on Friday night that, “What they did was extremely imprudent, extremely uncharitable and inflammatory. You have worked hard and this whole community has worked hard to build that shrine as an expression of our faith and an expression of our love of God."
While no damage estimate was available, Alonzo Payne, a lawyer in San Luis, said that the parish would not exclude the possibility of a lawsuit to recover the costs of repairing or replacing the statue.
In a written statement to the parish, one missionary, R. Thompson apologized for the disrespectful actions of the trio.
"I realize that my companions and I have made a mockery of that which is most sacred to many of the residents of San Luis and the rest of the world. I should have known better because I have seen many of the same types of blasphemies made against my own church and I have been appalled," the statement read.
A statement from the LDS church went further to address the vandalism: "We are deeply saddened to hear that the actions of three missionaries have resulted in the destruction of property."
Berlin, Germany, Mar 10, 2008 (CNA) - The Germany state of Brandenburg has announced the creation of a cultural center to honor the handicapped that were killed by the Nazi government’s euthanasia program called “Operation T4.”
The center will be located in one of the six institutions that the Nazis disguised as homes for the elderly but in reality were extermination camps. According to historians who spoke to Reuters, “more than 100,000 people were killed between 1940 and 1945 as part of the euthanasia policy put in place by Adolph Hitler.”
The Ministry of Science, Research and Culture of Brandenburg, which is overseeing the project, said that “almost $800,000 has been earmarked for the construction of the new center.” The date of inauguration for the new building has not been set.
“Hitler prepared the way for Operation T4 with propaganda films that portrayed the mentally and terminally ill as ‘useless mouths to feed’ who could be relieved from their suffering by a ‘sensible doctor’,” the Ministry said, adding that “Operation T4 was a precursor to the Holocaust.”
The Nazi euthanasia program ended in 1941 after widespread protests. However, the practice of killing patients by starvation or lethal injection continued.
Havana, Cuba, Mar 10, 2008 (CNA) - The abbot of the Congregation of the Benedictines of Saint Ottilien, Father Jeremias Schroder, said the religious order will open a new house in Cuba by the end of the year in response to a request from the Archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino.
According to the Fides news agency, Cardinal Ortega hopes the new community and the exemplary life of its four members will help bring about a spiritual renewal in Cuban society.
Father Schroder said that after the visit by Pope John Paul II ten years ago and the recent visit by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, “the role of the Church in Cuban society is not only no longer rejected, it is even appreciated.”
“I hope that this openness continues,” he said. “Our community has also been supported by Cuban officials, for example, concerning the simplification of bureaucratic procedures,” Father Schroder emphasized.
, Mar 10, 2008 (CNA) - Some 350 young people from the island of Guam will travel to Australia to attend World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, thanks to the efforts of local Catholics. The young people have raised the money for their trip through cultural events, fairs, sporting events and donations from foreign organizations.
The local WYD coordinator, Tarsila Muth, said this time of preparation is of great spiritual benefit to the young people and has created strong bonds between them.
Muth said the Church in Guam hopes “that young people of Guam will have the chance to rediscover their baptismal call and the centrality of the sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation, and thus discover a new apostolic zeal for bearing fuller witness to the Gospel in the modern world.”
Many organizations and communities, such as the Sisters of Mercy of Australia, are also providing help to young people traveling to WYD from Peru, South Africa, Papua New Guinea, Cambodia, East Timor, Samoa, the Philippines and other countries.
Madrid, Spain, Mar 10, 2008 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Spain reminded the Christian community last week that it needs to be committed to the promotion and formation of priestly vocations and said the decline in the number of priests should not be passively accepted as a “sign of the times.”
In their message for Seminary Day, the bishops encouraged the faithful to strengthen their faith and hope “in the conviction that God continues calling people” who are capable of devoting themselves to service in the priesthood. He added that no matter how many seminarians there are—currently there are 1,300 in Spain—they are always “a gift from God for which we must show appreciation and gratitude.”
Considering the need that the Church has of more priests, the bishops continued, listening to the call of God and following this vocation is “to understand the essential place of this ministry in the life of the Church and the importance of its mission in the world.”
The bishops said that the theme for Seminary Day this year, “If you hear his voice,” refers to the inability to listen that characterizes the dominant culture, where “noise and so-called sound pollution” prevail, as well as the loss of interior silence. “It is urgent that we recover the concept of silence, because listening and silence go hand in hand,” the bishops explained.
In their statement, the bishops invited the faithful to pray that the Lord “would continue granting priests to his Church,” since praying for vocations is a fundamental aspect of priestly vocation ministry.
Madrid, Spain, Mar 10, 2008 (CNA) - The Spanish Committee of Representatives of Handicapped People has called a statute that allows for abortion of fetuses with birth defects “discriminatory” and “against human rights,” stressing that “one of the rights of the handicapped is the right to be born.”
Roser Romero, member of the committee, said the statute in the law on abortion “goes against the rights of persons.” “If nobody should suffer discrimination, and the current Government talks about equality a lot, that statute does discriminate,” he said.
Romero said abortion is a “delicate issue involving ethical convictions and religious beliefs,” adding that the question is “not about when life begins.”
“Many women do not choose abortion freely,” he added, “but rather find themselves in a situation in which they don’t know how to move forward, sometimes out of ignorance,” and “sometimes they are quietly pushed to abort by family members or doctors.”
“One part of the problem is that handicaps are continued to be viewed as negative,” Romero went on. “Nobody wants them,” he noted, but “people don’t understand handicaps and what a person is able to accomplish if society will let them.” “It is amazing that in this age of information, there is still a failure to provide access to such basic information as this,” he said.
Roser stated that even after a prenatal diagnosis that detects an abnormality, “the doctor is not able to determine how much the handicap will affect the baby or how it will evolve after birth.”
He stressed that whether or not a handicapped person advances or regresses in development depends on the kind of care he receives and the means that are given to him. “It is not the same to be born into a society that helps people as it is to be in one that leaves the problem only in the hands of the parents,” he said.
Denver, Colo., Mar 10, 2008 (CNA) - As John McCain looks towards the open waters of the general election he is trying to consolidate his support amongst what he sees as a key demographic—Catholics.
Speaking to members of his National Catholics for McCain Committee this afternoon in a conference call, the senator addressed issues of concern to Catholics.
One Catholic supporter from South Carolina voiced his concern about the endorsement of Pastor John Hagee, an evangelical Christian who has made comments derogatory of Catholics both in his preaching and his writing. McCain responded by repeating his repudiation from this past Friday of any anti-Catholic comments made by Hagee.
David Adams from Florida speculated that perhaps the Catholic vote could be won by McCain on more centrist issues such as human rights and religious freedom. He asked the senator, “What will you do as president to promote human rights in places like Darfur or those persecuted for their religious beliefs in, say for example, Afghanistan…?”
Sen. McCain replied by saying that he believes that his “very clear record” on human rights, his statements and speeches on Darfur and his support for stopping the genocide that took place against Muslims in Bosnia are issues that Catholics can unite behind him on.
While McCain is pro-life on the issue of abortion, he differs with the Catholic belief that embryonic stem cell research is immoral. The Catholic Church teaches that embryonic stem cell research is immoral because it involves the killing of embryos.
Austin Ruse from Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) raised the issue with the Arizona senator by asking him whether he had considered changing his position on embryonic stem cell research given the dramatic scientific advances of the last two months. McCain responded to Ruse’s question by saying that while he is “very encouraged” by the advances, he has yet to see “sufficient scientific evidence” to change his support for the practice. He added that he will continue to examine the issue and receive briefs on any progress being made.
The McCain campaign is actively recruiting Catholics around the country, including at the parish level, as the Republican nominee plans for his run against the still undetermined Democrat competitor.
Front Royal, Va., Mar 10, 2008 (CNA) - Human Life International has launched a web site to help priests, deacons and seminarians teach and evangelize using Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae.
The site producers plan to supply offering reflections, commentaries, homily aids and solid practical resources for priests to preach about and defend Catholic teachings concerning marital love and contraception. The site is located at http://www.humanaevitaepriests.org/
According to John Mallon, director of HumanaeVitaePriests.org, the site will examine the “disastrous aspects of widespread contraception,” including its “medical, sociological, hormonal, psychological, cultural, pastoral, spiritual, even environmental aspects.” It will feature the commentary of special guest experts.
The site includes a special supplement from the magazine Inside the Vatican’s 1998 issue commemorating the 30th anniversary of the encyclical. The free supplement, titled “A Prophecy for Our Time,” includes interviews with Human Life International founder Father Paul Marx, Priests for Life president Father Frank Pavone, Dr. Janet Smith, and Dr. Alice von Hildebrand. It also contains a pastoral letter from Archbishop Charles Chaput and an article from then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before his election to the papacy.
“Our prayer is that this project will be a positive effort to spread the light and truth of God’s plan for love, marriage and sexuality,” said Mallon.
London, England, Mar 10, 2008 (CNA) - Catholic Labour Party MPs have refused an offer from the British ruling government to allow them to abstain from voting on a bill that would allow the creation of human-animal chimera embryos and would permit in-vitro fertilization treatments to single or homosexual women, The Telegraph reports.
A defeat of the bill would be considered a major setback for Prime Minster Gordon Brown.
Geoff Hoon, the Labour Chief Whip, offered to allow objecting party members to stay away from the vote on the Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill rather than to follow their consciences and vote against the government’s legislation.
Several MPs told the Sunday Telegraph that the deal was not acceptable and that they will vote against the bill.
Greg Pope, the Labour MP for Hyndburn, said, "I have had hundreds of letters from constituents about human-animal hybrids. The idea that I turn round to them and say the Chief Whip has given me the day off from voting will cut no ice at all."
Dozens of backbenchers and as many as twelve ministers are thought to oppose the bill. If they join with bill opponents, the bill could be defeated.
The Telegraph has reported that prominent Catholics in the Brown government are prepared to resist orders to vote for the legislation. They include Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly and Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy.
Prime Minister Brown is expected to tell them that though they can abstain from voting on religious grounds, voting against the bill could mean their removal from the government.