San Salvador, El Salvador, Apr 8, 2008 (CNA) - A group of 13 Salvadorans and one Guatemalan are working full time to put to the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C. in shape for Pope Benedict XVI’s meeting with the U.S. bishops on April 16, the second day of his upcoming visit.
According to the site Elsalvador.com, the workers’ tasks include everything from installing the papal throne to cleaning every corner of the Cathedral.
Esdras Segovia and Edwin Argueta are in charge of polishing up the gold and pastel colored mosaics. Argueta, who has been in the US since 1980, said, “We are polishing all of the mosaics and statues because the church needs to be spotless and a part of the team will have to be inside the church when the Pope enters.”
Maximiliano Perez Cubas, also from El Salvador, is responsible for decorating and coloring the wooden platform upon which the papal throne will be installed for Benedict XVI’s meeting with the US bishops.
Perez Cubas came to the U.S. 27 years ago and works with his sons William and Cristian near the main altar of the Basilica. “They brought in a solid marble platform but it was very small and the team from the Vatican said ‘No’, so they sent the measurements and height off to have this other one made, because not only will the Pope be sitting here, there will be seats on both sides of him as well,” he said.
Cristian and William follow the detailed instructions of their father in preparing the papal platform. “The first thing is to prepare the panels that will go on the floor so that it is read for the throne to be installed—which they have already brought in—and then will come the final touches,” Perez Cubas said.
Kansas City, Mo., Apr 8, 2008 (CNA) - Efforts to encourage vocations that now include marketing campaigns featuring polished, modern posters of seminarians are seeing success, the Kansas City Star reports.
In the Diocese of Raleigh in North Carolina, the faces of 2008’s 20 seminarians appear against the background of a priest’s black cassock on a poster bearing the words “Heroes of Sacrifice.” In the Archdiocese of Houston, seminarians were photographed holding a giant fishing net to illustrate the theme of “Fishers of Men.” And in Austin, Texas, photos of this year’s seminarians are displayed on a treasure map similar to “Pirates of the Caribbean,” bearing the motto “Discover the Priesthood.”
Adam Haake of the Diocese of Kansas City-Saint Joseph is one seminarian displayed in a similar vocations poster. One poster shows him and his peers from the diocese in a group shot before the ornate altar of Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church.
Haake said that he sees in the poster “a whole array of men who have answered the call.” He also commented that, “So many people tell us that when they see the poster, it causes a great hope for them.”
Jesse Garcia, the programs coordinator with the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, said no seminarians have decided to enter the priesthood because of a poster, but he thinks the posters are “part of an ongoing culture of vocations we’re trying to foster.”
Many of the poster designs give both the names of the students and the names of their home parishes.
When they see the posters, parishioners “feel that their efforts are producing fruit,” Garcia said.
The web site of the vocations office for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati said people should insist that their dioceses have such posters. “As young men see these faces that look just like their own, they can see themselves in the program. Also, they begin to realize that they are not the only ones feeling this call, others will walk the road along with them,” the site said, according to the Kansas City Star.
Father Mitchel Zimmerman, the vocations director for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, said the posters were ubiquitous in Catholic institutions throughout the diocese.
“In some ways it’s our most basic marketing piece in that people look forward to looking at it and seeing who the seminarians are,” he said.
Keith Jiron, director of the diocese’s vocation office, also discussed the motives for the posters.
“We thought that it would be good to also let the people in the parishes know who their future potential priests are so that everyone is in the loop and everyone is pushing in the same direction,” he said.
The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph has produced a vocations poster for each of the past six years.
Other efforts to increase vocations awareness include promotional videos and web sites featuring seminarian blogs. The Diocese of Raleigh has printed prayer cards so that area Catholics can pray for individual seminarians.
Topeka, Kan., Apr 8, 2008 (CNA) - The Kansas Senate on Thursday passed and sent to the governor a bill that would strengthen abortion reporting requirements, The Witchita Eagle reports.
However, the bill is expected to be vetoed by the state governor.
If signed into law, the law would require abortion clinic employees to report suspected abuse of underage girls.
The bill would also allow a woman’s husband or other family members to try to stop her from having a late-term abortion if they believe the law is being broken or the abortion would dispose of evidence of abuse or incest.
The legislation would increase the information physicians who perform partial-birth abortions must provide to the state when they perform the procedures.
Under the new provisions, county or district attorneys could obtain a woman’s medical records if they have probable cause to believe an abortion has been performed illegally.
The bill passed 25-13, two votes short of a veto-proof two-thirds majority.
Senator Phil Journey said he was concerned there would not be enough support to override an expected veto from Governor Kathleen Sebelius. He said he could only count on one additional vote, from a senator who was absent due to illness.
The provision increases county or district attorneys’ access to medical records when they have probable cause to believe an illegal abortion has been committed. The provision arose from former attorney general Phil Kline’s efforts to obtain the records of Wichita physician George Tiller, a notorious late-term abortionist.
Kline was voted out as attorney general in November 2006, but as a district attorney in Johnson County he has continued his efforts to prosecute abortionists.
The bill’s proponents said that the provision allowing family to intervene would help provide evidence of incest or sexual abuse before an abortion is performed.
"If that entity, the baby, can be eliminated, that's less evidence of the crime," Huelskamp said.
Bill opponent Senator Laura Kelly said that less than one percent of women who have abortions say it is because of coercion or abuse. She said the decision should be made by the pregnant woman, rather than family members.
Others debated whether provisions dealing with access to medical records would compromise the privacy of doctors and patients.
, Apr 8, 2008 (CNA) - During his April visit to New York City, Pope Benedict XVI will be the recipient of a unique gift—a papal themed skateboard. The unusual gift will be presented to the Pope when he meets with the youth in Yonkers, and is the fruit of a skateboard design contest for local youth.
The Archdiocese of New York has been holding a contest to design the best “Official Papal Skateboard”. In an effort to include the public, anyone with internet access is now able to vote for their favorite design from amongst the three finalists. http://www.papalskateboardjudge.com/
At least 70 children have entered the competition. The winner will receive three tickets to a youth rally at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, New York, where organizers hope to present a skateboard bearing the design to the Pope. Replicas with the winning design will be sold for charity.
NY1 News reported one entrant’s account. Kristina Melendez said, “I put ‘Christ Our Hope’ in Latin, because that was the main language of the church back then.”
“Christ our Hope” is the motto of the papal visit.
Father Peter Pomposello, one of the organizers of the event, spoke about the purpose behind the contest. “This was a vehicle for the children to learn about who the pope is,” Pomposello said, according to NY1 News. “What do the symbols on his flag mean? What does that motto ‘Christ our hope’ mean?”
He said the papal motto has a special meaning for young people. “They have hopes and dreams of growing up and he is showing them that their hope is answered in Jesus,” he said.
Father Pomposello told the New York Post that a skateboarding club at his parish suggested the idea.
"One of the kids said, 'Why don't we give him a skateboard?' and, boom, it was on," the pastor said.
Father Pomposello wrote a letter to contestants on March 31, telling them that their artwork is a reflection of their faith.
“To borrow from the words of Pope John Paul II,” he wrote, “your artwork ‘is an echo of the mystery of creation with which God, the sole creator of all things, has wished in some way to associate you.’ Many of your designs are far more than just passing symbols of pop-culture. Your artwork is a means of spreading Pope Benedict's message of hope to inspire all who have experienced your work.”
“Your participation in this contest,” the priest continued, “proves the love you have for Jesus Christ and His Church and your desire to witness to that love. The base and negative culture which at times is associated with skateboarding is simply blown away with the breath of the Holy Spirit through your artwork.”
Board designs will be put on display at the web site boardpusher.com, where viewers can have a skateboard made from a design they like.
The Archdiocese of New York has dedicated a web page to the contest at http://www.archny.org/papalvisit/papal-skateboard-art-design-contest/ . Internet readers may vote on the three finalists’ designs at http://www.papalskateboardjudge.com/ until one minute after midnight on April 12.
Vatican City, Apr 8, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI is just days away from arriving in the U.S. for his first visit. In anticipation of his arrival he released a video message today saying he is coming to share the message of hope in Christ with all those living in the U.S.
As the Pope began his message, he offered his “heartfelt greeting and an invitation to prayer. “As you know", he continues, "I shall only be able to visit two cities: Washington and New York. The intention behind my visit, though, is to reach out spiritually to all Catholics in the United States".
After thanking the people working to organize his trip and those who are praying for its success, Benedict XVI also mentioned his conviction that prayer is the most powerful way to prepare for his visit. “Dear friends, I say this because I am convinced that without the power of prayer, without that intimate union with the Lord, our human endeavors would achieve very little. Indeed this is what our faith teaches us. It is God who saves us, he saves the world, and all of history. He is the Shepherd of his people. I am coming, sent by Jesus Christ, to bring you his word of life.”
“Christ our hope”, the theme for the Pope’s visit was also central to the Pope’s address. "Together with your bishops, I have chosen as the theme of my journey three simple but essential words: 'Christ our hope'. ... Jesus Christ is hope for men and women of every language, race, culture and social condition. ... Through him, our lives reach fullness, and together, both as individuals and peoples, we can become a family united by fraternal love, according to the eternal plan of God the Father. I know how deeply rooted this Gospel message is in your country. I am coming to share it with you, in a series of celebrations and gatherings.”
"I shall also bring the message of Christian hope to the great Assembly of the United Nations", the Pope continued, "to the representatives of all the peoples of the world. Indeed, the world has greater need of hope than ever: hope for peace, for justice, and for freedom, but this hope can never be fulfilled without obedience to the law of God, which Christ brought to fulfillment in the commandment to love one another. Do to others as you would have them do to you, and avoid doing what you would not want them to do. This 'golden rule' is given in the Bible, but it is valid for all people, including non-believers. It is the law written on the human heart; on this we can all agree, so that when we come to address other matters we can do so in a positive and constructive manner for the entire human community".
Pope Benedict also took care to address Spanish-speaking U.S. Catholics in their own language, invoking the Blessed Mother’s protection and the blessing of God upon them.
Benedict XVI concludes his message by saying, “Dear brothers and sisters, dear friends in the United States, I am very much looking forward to being with you. I want you to know that, even if my itinerary is short, with just a few engagements, my heart is close to all of you, especially to the sick, the weak, and the lonely. I thank you once again for your prayerful support of my mission. I reach out to every one of you with affection, and I invoke upon you the maternal protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”
To watch the video message go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=me8whJa4p9g
Rome, Italy, Apr 8, 2008 (CNA) - Yesterday afternoon, the Holy Father presided over the Mass for the 40th anniversary of the foundation of the Sant'Egidio Community, a lay apostolate founded in Rome. In his homily to the group, Benedict XVI encouraged them to have the courage and perseverance of martyrs while proclaiming the Gospel.
The Pope began his address by asking why martyrs give their lives for Christ, "In this place we ask ourselves why did these our martyr brothers and sisters not seek at all costs to save the irreplaceable benefit of life? Why did they continue to serve the Church despite threats and intimidation?"
He continued, pointing out that we have heard the testimony of martyrs from the beginning of the Church who “have offered their lives to Christ in martyrdom" and "washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
This quote from the Book of Revelation explains their reason for martyrdom. The Holy Father describes that the language used “contains a precise reference to the white flame of love which made Christ spill His blood for us. By virtue of that blood we have been purified. Sustained by that flame the martyrs also spilt their blood and were purified in love.”
Benedict XVI then called to mind a phrase Jesus used while on earth: "No-one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends," and he added: “All witnesses of the faith experience this 'greater love'", conforming themselves to Christ and "accepting the extreme sacrifice without placing limits on the gift of love and the service of faith.”
Though “violence, totalitarianism, persecution and mindless brutality appear to be stronger and to silence the voice of witnesses of faith,” through Christ, “we understand the meaning of martyrdom. ... The blood of martyrs is the seed of new Christians. In the defeat and humiliation of those who suffer because of the Gospel is a power which the world does not know. ... It is the power of love, unarmed and victorious.”
The Holy Father reminded the community that martyrdom is not a thing of the past: "This 21st century also began under the sign of martyrdom. When Christians truly are leaven, light and salt of the earth they too become, as Jesus did, objects of persecution" and "signs of contradiction. Fraternal coexistence, love, faith, and choices in favor of the smallest and the weakest ... sometimes provoke violent aversion. How useful it is, then, to look to the shining witness of those who have gone before under the sign of heroic faithfulness, even unto martyrdom."
At the end of his homily, Benedict XVI invited the members of the Sant'Egidio Community to imitate "the courage and perseverance" of martyrs "in serving the Gospel, especially among the poor. Be architects of peace and reconciliation between enemies and those who fight one another.”
The Pope encouraged the community "not to fear the difficulties and suffering this missionary activity brings, they are part of the 'logic' of courageous witness of Christian love."
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Apr 8, 2008 (CNA) - A survey by the Data Folha firm has revealed that 7 out 10 Brazilians want abortion to be illegal in the country despite an intense campaign by pro-abortion organizations to get it legalized.
According to the poll, the number of those who oppose abortion grows each year in Brazil. Sixty eight percent of the four thousand Brazilians surveyed said abortion should not be legalized, up from 63% in 2006 and 65% in 2007.
Last year, Catholics for a Free Choice hired the Ibope firm to take a poll on the issue of abortion, but the results were never made public. The organization said the poll was not intended to determine Brazilians’ views on abortion but rather to find out if they knew how to find hospitals where abortions can be obtained in cases of rape.
Madrid, Spain, Apr 8, 2008 (CNA) - The Apostolic Nuncio to Spain, Archbishop Manuel Monteiro de Castro, compared euthanasia with Hitler’s racial purging and said both situations are “the consequence of a society without God.”
“When values have their foundation in man, they are very fragile. It’s enough to look at the 20th century,” the Portuguese prelate said in a recent interview.
He noted that in some countries, “euthanasia for children with defects” is being considered. They are doing so “because, they say, they are not useful for society,” the Nuncio said. A society based “solely on man with no regard for God is very fragile,” he stressed.
Regarding the role that religion plays in society, the Nuncio referred to the two encyclicals by Benedict XVI, “Deus Caritas est” and “Spe Salvi”, in order to point out the importance of charity and hope. “Hope means that our lives have a goal that is transcendental. Otherwise we just get lost,” he said.
He also pointed to the important role religion plays in fostering understanding, noting that in the wake of important events, “we have seen how leaders come to visit the Pope and nobody told them to,” such as the recent visit of the king of Saudi Arabia to the Vatican. “I am convinced that his visit was the result of the famous speech at Regensburg,” Archbishop Monteiro said.
Regarding the situation of Christians in Muslim countries, he acknowledged that “there are difficulties,” but “the Holy See is active and we are doing everything we can to improve the situation,” he said.
Rome, Italy, Apr 8, 2008 (CNA) -
On April 1, the Pontifical Lateran University presented the book, “Capuozzo, Indulge this Child: The Life of Giovanni Palatucci,” published by Saint Paul Editions. The new book tells the life of the heroic Italian police officer who saved five thousand Jews during World War II.
Written by Angelo Picariello, the book was presented by Msgr. Rino Fisichella, rector of the Pontifical Lateran University, who told the Fides news agency of his joy at learning about a man who “not only is on his way to sainthood, but also who was someone with an incredible sense of duty towards his country.”
Italy’s Chief of Police, Dr. Antonio Manganelli, shared his own experience of learning about the life of Patalucci some twenty years ago after reading the biography by Goffredo Raimo.
Normally, he said, we expect the actions of a hero to happen outside the context of ordinary life, but in the case of Patalucci, his heroism lasted seven years, “thus leaving a clear message to share with others,” Manganelli said.
Senator Giulio Andreotti, also present for the ceremony, said he hoped the story of Patalucci, which is relatively unknown, will soon be embraced and cherished by many.
Giovanni Palatucci was born in Montella, Italy on May 31, 1909. A devout Catholic, he graduated from law school at the University of Turin in 1932. He left medical school to become a policeman. When World War II broke out, Palatucci was in charge of the office of exterior affairs for the Italian region of Fiume. In his capacity as head of that office, he destroyed the records of some five thousand Jews and provided them with false documents. He sent them to an internment camp in southern Italy under the protection of his uncle, Bishop Giuseppe Maria Palatucci of Campagna.
During the German occupation, he became chief of police in Fiume and continued helping Jews until he was discovered by the Gestapo. He was arrested in September of 1944. At first he was condemned to death but a few weeks later his sentence was changed and he was sent to the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau. Palatucci died in Dachau on February 10, 1945 at the age of 36.
In 2002 his cause for beatification was opened.
Santiago, Chile, Apr 8, 2008 (CNA) - In an interview with the Catholic News Agency, attorney Carmen Dominguez said the decision of the Chilean Constitutional Court to declare the distribution of the morning after pill unconstitutional is a logical application of existing law, which protects the life of the unborn.
“We can’t give a more informed opinion because the final ruling by the court has not yet been made official, but no doubt it entails an application of the essential principle in Chilean law to respect unborn life,” said Dominguez, who has led the effort to get the pill declared unconstitutional by the Court.
The ruling to protect the life of the unborn does not constitute an “exceptional decision” or “any kind of innovation” in the law, she stressed, as it simply “reaffirms a principle that has always been protected by Chilean law, which is that the embryo has complete protection.”
She also pointed out that the Court was only asked to rule on the constitutionality of an order by the Chilean government to distribute the drug, “and therefore it is absurd to divert the discussion to other issues such as whether or not the pill will be available to the poor.”
Dominguez noted that the ruling cannot be appealed and that the high court “has the final word” on the issue.
Hanoi, Vietnam, Apr 8, 2008 (CNA) - Catholics who seek to recover government-confiscated land continued their demonstrations after the expiration of a Monday deadline set by a government ultimatum that threatened “extreme action” and demanded that the protests cease.
A standoff between demonstrators and police continues, CNA has learned. At last word from sources in Vietnam, hundreds of religious and lay people were gathered outside the compound praying when the ultimatum expired. Plain clothes and uniformed police officers could be seen resorting to previously used intimidation tactics involving photographing and videotaping the protesters.
Father J. B. An Dang, a Vietnamese priest, told CNA that the demonstrations have been taking place near the confiscated property, which consists of 15 acres of land purchased by the Redemptorist religious order in 1928. Most of the Redemptorists were jailed or deported after the Communist takeover in 1954, leaving a local priest in charge of the land.
Despite the pastor’s protests, local government authorities have seized the parish’s land one section at a time. The 15-acre plot has been reduced to about half an acre.
At the beginning of 2008, the government allowed construction to begin at the site for the Chien Thang sewing company. The confiscated property was then surrounded by a fence and guarded by security personnel.
Local Catholics began their protests in early January, leading prayer campaigns, demonstrations, and sit-ins at the site in an attempt to prevent any further construction work by the state-run company.
After three months of these protests, the People’s Committee of Dong Da District released a statement on April 6 warning the protesters that they are engaged in “illegal activities.” The statement threatened “extreme action” if demonstrations and sit-ins at land owned by the Redemptorist religious order were not halted by Monday. The statement also ordered the Hanoi Redemptorists to remove the cross and all statues of the Virgin Mary from the site, while all demonstrators were ordered to remove their camping tents.
One protestor argued with a local official that they had no other choice than “praying peacefully” to “attract the attention of the government on injustices they have suffered.”
“Their petitions have gone unanswered,” the protester said.
At the time of the deadline, hundreds of police came to the site, while the Redemptorists and their parishioners gathered more and more people at the demonstration.
Father Joseph Nguyen spoke from the site at 6 pm local time on Monday.
“At the moment,” he said, “hundreds [of] religious and lay people are praying. Large numbers of security police, in uniform and in plain-clothes, are on the site, surrounding the protesters and mingling in their ranks, taking photos and filming with video cameras. Despite all threatening acts from the government, more and more Catholics go to the site to pray, chant and sing. Some even sleep at the site to protect their cross and statues.”
In a message sent last January 7 to all the Redemptorists in the country, the provincial superior Fr. Joseph Cao Dinh Tri said the local government had illegally confiscated land belonging to their monastery at Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Hanoi, and is supporting the construction project there.
Father Cao said the Redemptorists in Hanoi have responded, asking the government to “respect justice and put peace into practice.”
“I would earnestly implore all of you, the whole province of Vietnam, to be in solidarity with our brother Redemptorists in Hanoi, in order to pray for our common apostolate," the priest said.
Other demonstrations by Vietnamese Catholics have sought the return of a confiscated Hanoi property that once belonged to the papal nuncio.