Washington D.C., Mar 16, 2008 (CNA) - As Pope Benedict XVI’s first visit to the U.S. draws near, interest in his address on Catholic education is on the rise. Some, including a prominent American archbishop, say the speech will call Catholic institutions to be more faithful to their Catholic identity, the Washington Post reports.
The Pope requested the meeting with more than 200 Catholic school officials from around the country. Though 195 diocesan education directors have been invited, the lecture will also be attended by presidents of most of the Catholic colleges and universities in the country. The speech is expected to focus upon Catholic higher education.
Debates in Catholic education have focused on questions of Catholic identity, such as whether a Catholic campus’ theology department must maintain Christian orthodoxy. Other questions include whether a campus should host pro-abortion rights political candidates or obscene plays such as “The Vagina Monologues.”
"One thing the pope will emphasize is the importance for all [Catholic] schools to realize that they aren't independent contractors, they are part of the church," said Father David M. O'Connell, the president of Catholic University, which is hosting the Pope’s April 17 speech.
John J. DeGioia, the president of Georgetown University told the Washington Post that academic freedom was a key concern for Catholic universities.
"Every university is committed to the pursuit of truth," said DeGioia, "and we want to ensure that there is the opportunity for both academic freedom and for the free exchange of ideas and opinions across all issues."
Some observers believe the Pope’s address will be the most enduring aspect of his visit. Others also expect a rebuke from the Pope about controversial issues.
According to the Washington Post, Archbishop Timothy Broglio, who heads the Catholic U.S. military services, said the speech would have “very clear and distinct ideas.”
"There will be no mistaking what he wants to say," he said.
Some hope Pope Benedict’s speech will reprimand universities that have let their Catholic identity weaken.
"This is something that's been simmering for so long that it's reached a boiling point," said Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society. The Cardinal Newman Society says only 20 of the 235 Catholic colleges in the United States are sufficiently orthodox.
According to Reilly, a number of bishops and Vatican officials privately say that the speech will “raise a lot of eyebrows.”
David Gibson, the author of a Benedict biography, said he believes the Pope will ask, "If you're not going to be an authentically Catholic, orthodox institution, why should you exist?"
Washington D.C., Mar 16, 2008 (CNA) - Tens of thousands of people around the United States will be received into the Catholic Church in less than a week at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, March 22.
The Easter Vigil is the most important ceremony of the church year. It celebrates the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and is also the time when catechumens, those who come from a non-Christian background, are baptized, confirmed, and receive Holy Communion.
Prior to becoming members of the Catholic Church, potential converts will usually have undergone the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA), a roughly six month course on Catholicism.
While most are adults, some children will be received into the Church along with their families.
The Diocese of Orange, California will baptize more than 650 catechumens and receive more than 500 into full communion. The Diocese of Austin reports that 314 catechumens and 522 candidates (those who are already validly baptized in another church) will be received into the Church this Easter.
In the Archdiocese of Detroit, 589 catechumens will be baptized and 497 candidates will enter the Church. In addition, 289 baptized Catholics will receive Confirmation and Holy Communion.
In Ohio, 437 catechumens will be baptized, while 541 candidates will be received into the Church in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. The Diocese of Cleveland reports 327 catechumens and 526 candidates will receive the sacraments at the Easter Vigil.
Smaller dioceses are also attracting converts. Birmingham, Alabama, a mission diocese, reports 97 catechumens and 306 candidates. The Diocese of Colorado Springs reports 119 catechumens and 192 candidates, while the Diocese of Savannah, Georgia will receive 267 candidates and baptize 84 catechumens, including a young quadriplegic man.
Mark Ma, one catechumen, is a sophomore economics major at the University of Virginia. Born in Beijing to agnostic parents, he was a self-described “hard-line atheist” through high school. He started talking to Christians of different denominations and reading Christian works, eventually beginning to pray. After discernment and historical research, he decided to convert to Catholicism.
Steven Parceluzzi, a 41-year-old resident of the Tuscon area, met a Catholic hospital chaplain during his stay at a hospital last year. The chaplain, Father Bill Kohler, told Parceluzzi he recognized the struggle he faced and that the priest and the parish community would be there to support him if he needed them. Parceluzzi entered the RCIA program at St. Cyril of Alexandria parish. His wife, Terri, his mother, Nina, and his niece, Jennifer, later joined him in embracing the faith.
Last year almost 64,500 adults in the United States were baptized into the Church, while another 93,000 came into full communion.
Vatican City, Mar 16, 2008 (CNA) - Beneath the gaze of the towering figures of Sts. Peter and Paul, Pope Benedict presided over the annual Palm Sunday liturgy in St. Peter's Square this morning. He reminded the audience that God's power is in the power of love - which is present in the sacrifice of his Son.
Young people from all parts of Italy filled the square to hear the Holy Father address them on the 23rd Youth Day for the Diocese of Rome. Many of the students waving baseball caps and holding banners welcomed the Holy Father and listened as he told them that Jesus Christ did not come as a "destroyer with the sword of a revolutionary."
Rather, he said that Jesus came as a healer and reveals God in our midst as "the One who loves; his power is the power of love."
The Pope said Jesus' ascent from Galilee to Jerusalem is also an interior ascent that ultimately ends on the Cross, "the definitive place of contact between God and man “that shows Jesus' "love to the end" (cf. Jn 13, 1).
In the Old Testament, Pope Benedict said the temple is the place where God, the creator of heaven and earth, who cannot be contained, chose to dwell, so that all men would be able to revere Him in a tangible way as one present in our midst.
But after his entry into Jerusalem, Jesus arrives at the temple, which had become a "den of thieves." (Mt 21, 13) Pope Benedict explained that the system in place in the temple was itself corrupt, and rather than being a place of prayer where God of all peoples eagerly awaited even the pagans, the temple itself had become a pagan marketplace.
"But, as usual since the fall of Adam, the failure of men becomes an opportunity for an even greater commitment of God's love towards us. "Pope Benedict said. He went on to explain that in this, Jesus shows himself as a healer and to be in his own person the place of encounter between man and God.
"In Jesus Christ himself the love of God stoops to men. He, in his life, is the new and living temple. He, who has passed through the Cross and rose, is the living space of spirit and life, who performs just adoration."
Thus, the Holy Father said, the purification of the temple, "is both a sign of impending ruin and of the building and the promise of the new temple; the promise of the kingdom of reconciliation and love that, in communion with Christ, is established beyond any border.
Echoing themes from encounters with young people during the week, the Pope urged the faithful to abandon pride and be reconciled to God, even amidst the challenges of society, in order to become with and from Jesus, true "messengers of peace."
But, he added, "To meet God must become capable of seeing with the heart. We must learn to see with a young heart, which is not hindered by prejudices and is not blinded by interests."
"Together with young people from all over the world go to meet Jesus…Let us pray, so that we, so that in us and around us His kingdom grows."
Vatican City, Mar 16, 2008 (CNA) - At the end of the solemn celebration, Pope Benedict XVI expressed again his deep sorrow over the death of Archbishop of Mosul for Chaldeans, Monsignor Paulos Faraj Rahho, who tragically disappeared on February 29 and was found buried in a shallow grave outside of Mosul last week.
The Pope said the Archbishop's life is "a beautiful witness of fidelity to Christ, the Church and its people" and that despite numerous threats, the Archbishop remained with them.
Pope Benedict said these events prompted him to "raise a strong and heartfelt cry: enough with massacres, enough violence, enough hatred in Iraq!
With strong words of encouragement, he then addressed directly the people of Iraq.
"Beloved people of Iraq who have for five years born the consequences of a war that has destroyed civilian and social life…Lift your heads and in the first place rebuild your national life. Let reconciliation, forgiveness, justice and respect for civil coexistence among tribes, ethnic groups, religious groups, be the way of solidarity to peace In the name of God!
The Holy Father imparted his apostolic blessing upon the faithful and proceeded through the crowd in his popemobile.