Washington D.C., Apr 17, 2008 (CNA) - Monsignor Paul Lenz has informed CNA that on Thursday, he will submit the Cause for the Canonization of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha to the Vatican. Tomorrow, April 17, is the feast day of the Native American blessed.
Bl. Kateri has been accorded the title of the patroness of the environment and ecology and is dear to the hearts of many Native Americans. She was born in upstate New York, near Auriesville. Both of her parents were Native Americans. Her father was a Mohawk chief and her mother an Algonquin, who was raised Catholic.
In her lifetime Kateri was frequently afflicted with illness and became partially blind. In order for her to walk, she groped her way around as she walked. She was then named, Tekakwitha which literally means, “One who walks groping for her way.”
Bl. Kateri was baptized when she was 20 years old after being catechized by Father de Lambertville S.J. After her baptism, Kateri was considered an outcast by her tribal community. Living on her own, she professed a vow of perpetual virginity. Poor health and the effects of small pox led to her death in 1680 at the age of 24.
In 1943 Kateri was declared venerable and then in 1980 she was declared blessed by Pope John Paul II. She is the first Native American to be declared blessed and was the patroness of the 2002 World Youth Day.
Washington D.C., Apr 17, 2008 (CNA) - Senator Robert Casey, Jr., a pro-life Democrat representing Pennsylvania, has defended his decision to endorse Senator Barack Obama, a staunch advocate of abortion rights, in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, Cybercast News Service reports.
“Some might characterize it as a [pro-abortion] vote, but I don’t think it is,” Senator Casey told Cybercast News Service. Casey said he has a long pro-life record, “and it’s a lot harder for me. It’s much easier to be a Republican and have that position.”
The Illinois Senator Barack Obama has supported permissive abortion laws, even opposing legislation when he was in the Illinois State Senate that would have protected babies who survived late-term abortions.
"We have a definitive and certain disagreement on abortion," Casey said, according to Cybercast News Service. "I'm pro-life. [Obama] is pro-choice. I have supported legislation to outlaw partial-birth abortion. He doesn't agree with that."
"I think it's possible in the next term of the president that they will directly or indirectly confront the issue of abortion, but they may not," Casey said. "But I'm certain that they will confront the issues,” which he described as the war in Iraq, a $10 trillion national debt, health care, and economic recession.
"You need to try to elect someone who you think can deal with a whole set of broad-based challenges," Casey said.
The senator said he believed all people could agree to give support to pregnant women, support that he called a “moral obligation.”
In his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae, the “Gospel of Life,” Pope John Paul II wrote that abortion is a crime “which no human law can claim to legitimize,” saying there is a “grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection.”
It is never licit to obey or to take part in a “propaganda campaign” for laws permitting abortion, the Pope wrote.
Moscow, Russia, Apr 17, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday released a message to Russia by way of a documentary that aired on a government-run television station in Moscow. The Pope lauded Russia’s “magnificent spirituality,” saying that the martyrdoms of both Catholic and Orthodox Christians in Russia during the last century showed the need to restore Christian unity.
The documentary film about the life of the Pope was sponsored and promoted by the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need. The film was produced in close collaboration with the Moscow Patriarchate.
“I am grateful,” Pope Benedict said in the film, “for the invitation offered me to extend to you my cordial greetings and I gladly take this opportunity to express the esteem, affection and high regard in which the successor of Peter and the Catholic Church have always held your people and the Russian Orthodox Church. Russia is truly great, in a variety of different ways -- in her sheer geographical scale, in her long history, in her magnificent spirituality, in her multiplicity of artistic expression.”
The Pope said that Russia’s nobility had been obscured by “shadows of suffering and violence, shadows that were however opposed and overcome by the splendid light of so many martyrs.” Among the martyrs, he counted Orthodox, Catholic, and other believers.
This unity in martyrdom reveals the “urgent need” to restore Christian unity, he said. The Pope said both Catholic and Orthodox Churches were moving towards unity, noting that a delegation from the Russian Patriarchate had even been present at the Second Vatican Council.
“Christians are called to meet with the followers of other religions and to establish with them a fruitful dialogue in truth and charity,” Pope Benedict said. “To this end I pray and hope that the millennial ecclesial experience of Russia may continue to enrich the Christian horizon in a spirit of sincere service to the Gospel and to the men of today.”
The Pope then delivered a message in Russian, saying he was “delighted” to address the people and government of Russia in their own language.
“I extend my warmest greetings to our beloved Orthodox brothers and sisters, especially to his Holiness, the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, and also to the Catholic bishops and their communities. To all of you I wish peace and well-being and a spirit of mutual love, and I invoke the blessing of God upon you all,” Pope Benedict said.
Washington D.C., Apr 17, 2008 (CNA) - A new poll reports that more than eight out of ten adult Catholics in the United States are satisfied with the leadership of Pope Benedict XVI. Of these same Catholics, the poll reports, about 23 percent attend Mass weekly, while the oldest observant Catholics share with the youngest observant adults a high level of devotion to their faith.
The poll results were reported by the Georgetown-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) in a report titled “Sacraments Today: Belief and Practice among U.S. Catholics.” The report was authorized by the Communications Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
In February, 2008 researchers polled 1,007 self-identified adult Catholics, comparing responses from those born between 1943 and 1960, called “pre-Vatican II,” those born between 1961 and 1981, called “post-Vatican II,” and so-called “Millennials” born after 1981.
The poll finds that those Millennial Catholics who attend Mass at least monthly have similar levels of religious practice as those categorized as pre-Vatican II. However, only 36 percent of Millennials, approximately 2.7 million individuals, attend Mass at least monthly, compared to 64 percent of pre-Vatican II Catholics.
Observant Millennials are just as likely to believe that Christ is really present in the Eucharist as their pre-Vatican II elders, and they are more likely than older Catholics to say they are at least somewhat involved in parish life. These observant Millennials are the group most likely to consider their faith the most important aspect of their life, and to say that receiving the Eucharist is “very” important to their Catholic identity. They are also the most likely to say that devotion to the saints is “very” important.
Of all Catholics, 39 percent said that they considered baptism the most meaningful sacrament, while 43 percent of Millennials said marriage is.
While more than eighty percent of Catholics labeled as “somewhat” or “very” meaningful to them the sacraments of baptism, marriage, Holy Communion, and Confirmation, only two-thirds said the same of the sacrament of Reconciliation.
Two-thirds of all Catholics said helping the poor and the needy is a moral obligation for Catholics. Sixty-eight percent thought one could be a good Catholic without attending Mass every Sunday, while 55 percent thought of themselves as practicing Catholics.
Six in ten Catholics have a statue or picture of Mary on display in their home, while a third say that they wear or carry a cross or a crucifix. Nearly a quarter of Catholics carry a rosary, while nearly three in ten carry religious medals or pins and one in five carry prayer cards or coins.
The report also found that though knowledge of the doctrines and obligations of Catholicism tends to be higher among older Catholics, knowledge of the Bible is “typically greater among younger generations.” Agreement with Church teachings is often relatively high among the oldest Catholics, though also for many Millennials.
“Older Catholics, especially those who came of age prior to the Second Vatican Council, are typically more involved in Church life and attend Mass more frequently than younger generations of Catholics,” the report said. “In general, they tend to score higher on most survey items that measure ‘commitment’ to Catholicism.”
The CARA report found that, though all Catholics are obliged to attend Sunday Mass each week, those who attended Mass at least monthly still held views similar to those who attended Mass weekly. Frequent Mass attendance usually correlated with a person’s greater knowledge of the Catholic faith, greater awareness of current events in the Church, and greater adherence to Church teachings.
The report estimates there are about 51 million adult Catholics in the United States, about 22-23 percent of the nation’s adults. Thirty-one percent attend Mass in any given week, while 23 percent of Catholics say they attend every week.
Mass attendance is highest among Catholics who are older, female, married to another Catholic, have a college degree or more, and who attended Catholic educational institutions, especially Catholic colleges or universities. Fifty-four percent of Catholics who attended a Catholic college or university said “living my life consistent with Church teaching” is “very” important to their Catholic identity, while 49 percent of those who attended Catholic high schools and 46 percent of those who attended Catholic elementary and middle schools said the same.
The poll also suggests that the reputation of United States Catholic bishops has improved, with 72 percent of poll respondents reporting satisfaction with their leadership, compared to only 58 percent in 2004.
Archbishop George Niederauer, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Communications Committee, which authorized the poll, said the poll report “reveals good will, healthy attitudes toward neighbor and an openness to the Church among young Catholics.
“Yet it also points out a need for greater efforts in education for both adults and young people. It’s heartening that so many are proud to call themselves Catholic. The challenge for church leaders is to help them see what Catholicism really means.”
Washington D.C., Apr 17, 2008 (CNA) - With a record of favoring eight of the last nine presidential election winners and a population that makes up about 20 percent of the electorate, Catholic voters could swing the national election in November, CNN reports.
However, the political impact of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI is uncertain.
"Benedict XVI is not a superdelegate riding into town to deliver a key endorsement," noted John Allen, CNN's senior Vatican analyst. "On the other hand, I think it would also be terribly naive to think there's no political subtext to the Pope's presence in the United States."
Once a solidly Democratic constituency, the Catholic vote now routinely switches between Republican and Democratic presidential candidates.
"The Catholic vote as a whole is a fascinating study because it is the quintessential swing vote in American elections," said Luis Lugo of Pew. "In 2000 they went, by about 3 percent, for Gore over Bush. In 2004 they went about 7 percent for Bush over Kerry, interestingly who was a Catholic candidate."
While Catholics are thought to favor Republicans because of that party’s pro-life platform, a Pew study claims that 51 percent of American Catholics think abortion should be legal in most or all cases.
Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic candidates for their party’s presidential nomination, are trying to avoid talking about their permissive abortion positions, highlighting other subjects where they believe they agree with the Pope.
In a CNN forum on faith last Sunday, Senator Hillary Clinton stressed her shared stand with Pope Benedict on social justice issues.
"He's been a strong voice on behalf of what we must do to deal with poverty," Clinton said, according to CNN. "And deal with injustice."
Clinton has won the Catholic vote in the Democratic primaries up to the present, though Obama is trying to win over Catholics in the key primary state of Pennsylvania with the help of the endorsement of Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Bob Casey, Jr., a pro-life Democrat like his governor father.
"Ironically, the first school I went to in Indonesia was a Catholic school," Obama said at CNN's faith forum. "So, you know, myself and Sen. Bob Casey -- who is sitting here -- we had pretty similar experiences probably."
The presumptive Republican nominee John McCain’s stand on the Iraq war could clash with the Vatican’s opposition to the conflict. However, the Pope has recently expressed concern that a hasty U.S. withdrawal from Iraq would precipitate a humanitarian crisis.
According to CNN, experts in both parties believe McCain could attract a majority of Catholics, but only if he expresses his own religious beliefs and stresses social issue stands, like his opposition to abortion.
Washington D.C., Apr 17, 2008 (CNA) - Before a crowd of 50,000 people from around the United States, Pope Benedict XVI described the Church in America and society as a whole as being at a crossroads. American Catholics must use this moment to seek conversion, the power of the Holy Spirit and as a chance to bring the witness of Christ to a society in crisis, he said.
The Pope began his homily by recalling the anniversaries of several American dioceses and the witness of the Catholics of the past who built up the Church in these areas.
Given this past, “the Church in the United States is now called to look to the future, firmly grounded in the faith passed on by previous generations, and ready to meet new challenges - challenges no less demanding than those faced by your forebears - with the hope born of God's love, poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit”.
He continued by explaining his purpose in his trip. “I have come to repeat the Apostle's urgent call to conversion and the forgiveness of sins, and to implore from the Lord a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church in this country.”
Once forgiveness and conversion occur, the Holy Father prayed that Catholics in America will use this momentus occasion “to reaffirm their unity in the apostolic faith, to offer their contemporaries a convincing account of the hope which inspires them (cf. 1 Pet 3:15), and to be renewed in missionary zeal for the extension of God's Kingdom.”
“The world needs this witness! Pope Benedict XVI exclaimed.”
“Who can deny that the present moment is a crossroads, not only for the Church in America but also for society as a whole?” he said.
Those who have “taken up the challenge of the Second Vatican Council, so often reiterated by Pope John Paul II, and committed their lives to the new evangelization” also received the encouragement of the Pope.
While highlighting the progress that has been already made in teaching the faith in the US, Pope Benedict called for the cultivation of “a mindset, an intellectual ‘culture’, which is genuinely Catholic, confident in the profound harmony of faith and reason, and prepared to bring the richness of faith's vision to bear on the urgent issues which affect the future of American society.”
The Pope then turned to how “Americans have always been a people of hope”. He explained that, “It is in the context of this hope born of God's love and fidelity that I acknowledge the pain which the Church in America has experienced as a result of the sexual abuse of minors.
“No words of mine could describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse. It is important that those who have suffered be given loving pastoral attention. Nor can I adequately describe the damage that has occurred within the community of the Church. Great efforts have already been made to deal honestly and fairly with this tragic situation, and to ensure that children - whom our Lord loves so deeply (cf. Mk 10:14), and who are our greatest treasure - can grow up in a safe environment. These efforts to protect children must continue. Yesterday I spoke with your Bishops about this. Today I encourage each of you to do what you can to foster healing and reconciliation, and to assist those who have been hurt.”
One facet of the sex abuse scandal that has been largely ignored by the press—the effect of the scandal on innocent priests—also received the Pope’s special attention. “Also, I ask you to love your priests, and to affirm them in the excellent work that they do,” the Holy Father said.
In closing, the Pope returned to his call to American Catholics for a renewal of the Church in America, saying that it “depends on the renewal of the practice of Penance and the growth in holiness which that sacrament both inspires and accomplishes.”
Being a people of hope, the Pope called on Americans to “continue to be a leaven of evangelical hope in American society, striving to bring the light and truth of the Gospel to the task of building an ever more just and free world for generations yet to come.”
To read Pope Benedict's full homily click here.
Washington D.C., Apr 17, 2008 (CNA) - Wednesday at the White House, the United States Marines greeted Pope Benedict by performing the Pontifical March, "Inno e Marcia Pontificale" and the US National Anthem.
According to the Vatican City State website, the papal anthem was composed by Charles Gounod, a Catholic and famous French musician known for his composition of Ave Maria. He composed the papal anthem for the jubilee of Pope Pius IX’s priestly ordination and first performed it in 1869.
The hymn was adopted as the Vatican’s anthem in 1949 when Pope Pius XII decided to adopt “Inno e Marcia Pontificale” as the Vatican anthem due to the hymn’s religious tones. The march is not thought to be a national anthem, but rather one for the Chair of Peter.
Today the anthem is performed by a civilian band when the Pope or one of his representatives is present or for special occasions within the Vatican City State.
Original Italian Words
Roma immortale di Martirie di Santi,
Roma immortale accogli i nostri canti:
Gloria nei cieli a Dio nostro Signore,
Pace ai Fedeli, di Cristo nell'amore.
A Te veniamo, Angelico Pastore,
In Te vediamo il mite Redentore,
Erede Santo di vera e santa Fede;
Conforto e vanto a chi combate e crede,
Non prevarranno la forza ed il terrore,
Ma regneranno la Verità, l'Amore.
Salve Salve Roma, patria eterna di memorie,
Cantano le tue glorie mille palme e mille altari.
Roma degli apostoli
Madre e guida dei Redenti,
Roma luce delle genti, il mondo spera in te!
Salve Salve Roma, la tua luce non tramonta,
Vince l'odio e l'onta lo splendor di tua beltà.
Roma degli Apostoli
Madree guida dei Redenti,
Roma luce delle genti, il mondo spera in te!
Ratisbon, Germany, Apr 17, 2008 (CNA) - On Wednesday, April 16, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger sent birthday greetings from his hometown to his brother Pope Benedict XVI, who is currently visiting the United States.
The 81 year-old Pontiff’s brother wished him “health and strength” and that he would “continue in your work for many years to come,” according to an interview pubished by the German daily Bild.
Msgr. Ratzinger, who is also a talented musician and directs the orchestra at the Cathedral of Ratisbona, said he hopes to visit his brother in Rome next week. “When he (Benedict XVI) is at the Vatican, we speak often by telephone,” he said.
Msgr. Ratzinger said he no longer enjoys traveling but he does enjoy going to visit his brother. “In Italy they come to pick me up in a car from the Vatican. We follow a police escort with sirens and lights, that way we get their fast despite heavy traffic. Once we made it from the airport to the Vatican in 11 minutes. That was a record!” he laughed.
Strausburg, Pa., Apr 17, 2008 (CNA) - The Parliamentary Assembly of the European Council has approved a resolution demanding that the 47 member states “legalize abortion if they have not done so already”, guarantee the so-called “right” to the killing of the unborn, and lift restrictions against abortion.
According to the Efe news agency, the resolution was approved by a vote of 102-69, with 69 abstentions. It also demanded respect for a “woman’s right to choose” and that she be offered everything she needs for a “free and clear choice,” in order to have access to “safe abortion” and improved contraception.
The resolution also stated that abortion “should not be prohibited,” as doing so would not mean a decrease in abortions.
Austrian Socialist lawmaker Gisela Wurm said the purpose of the resolution is so “society can protect women who don’t want to continue with their pregnancies.”
Dutch lawmaker Christine McCafferty said that in her country, “Legal abortion has resulted in the lowest index of voluntary abortions in the world.”
On the other hand, Maltese lawmaker Leo Brincat said, “It is impossible to legalize abortion” in Malta and that Socialists in his country oppose the practice.
Sao Paulo, Brazil, Apr 17, 2008 (CNA) - Thousands of Brazilians took to the streets of Sao Paulo recently to protest a law that would legalize abortion in the country and to reaffirm that most Brazilians are pro-life.
The protest, which was organized by the National Movement in Defense of Life—Brazil without Abortion and took place at the end of March, brought together thousands of Brazilians of all ages. The protest rally took place in the Plaza da Se, which is in front of the Cathedral that Pope Benedict met with the Brazilian bishops in May of 2007.
According to local reports, the coordinator of the protest, Marilia de Castro, said it “was essential for public opinion to be expressed against the proposals to legalize [abortion] that are currently making their way through Congress.”
Pro-life groups reminded the government of its duty to promote public policies that defend responsible parenthood, children and adolescents, and not to work for the legalization of abortion.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Apr 17, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, has been invited to address the Spanish-speaking faithful that will be in attendance at the International Eucharistic Congress in June in Quebec.
The cardinal will speak on “The Eucharist builds up the Church, Sacrament of Salvation,” on June 18.
Bishop Baldomero Carlos Martini of San Justo and the Argentinean bishops’ special envoy to Eucharistic congresses, will lead a group of faithful from the country to participate in the event in Quebec.
The International Eucharistic Congress will take place June 15-22 under the theme, “The Eucharist: Gift of God for the Life of the World.”
More information can be found at http://www.cei2008.ca/en/
Asunción, Paraguay, Apr 17, 2008 (CNA) - The Apostolic Nunciature in Paraguay has issued a brief statement indicating that “the position of the Catholic Church expressed in documents from the Holy See and the Paraguayan Bishops’ Conference regarding the canonical status and partisan political activities of Bishop Fernando Lugo has not changed.”
In the statement dated April 14, the Nunciature indicates that the new statement was released “in response to statements that have recently appeared in the media” claiming that the bishop had received a dispensation to become a presidential candidate in the elections, which is not the case.
“The practice of the Holy See is the process events as they happen,” the Nunciature stressed, noting that the “disciplinarian measure of ‘a divinis’ suspension is a sanction and not a faculty.”
Washington D.C., Apr 17, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI in his Thursday evening address at Catholic University of America, delivered a speech in which he emphasized that Catholic education should lead to an encounter with Jesus, who teaches us the truth. Any failure to do so leads Catholic institutions to fall short of their Catholic identity, Benedict said.
“I warmly greet each of you - bearers of wisdom - and through you the staff, students and families of the many and varied institutions of learning that you represent,” the Holy Father began.
Benedict XVI then launched into his address by quoting from his encyclical “Spe Salvi”, saying, “First and foremost every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth,” he said.
This encounter with Christ, sustains people through “personal struggles, moral confusion and fragmentation of knowledge,” he said. According to the Pope, “scholarship and education, founded on the unity of truth and in service of the person and the community, become an especially powerful instrument of hope.”
After pointing to the historic service of the Catholic Church to the less privileged in the US, the Holy Father posed the question: How do Church institutions “contribute to the good of society through the Church's primary mission of evangelization?”
“A university or school's Catholic identity is not simply a question of the number of Catholic students. It is a question of conviction - do we really believe that only in the mystery of the Word made flesh does the mystery of man truly become clear? Are we ready to commit our entire self - intellect and will, mind and heart - to God? Do we accept the truth Christ reveals? Is the faith tangible in our universities and schools? Is it given fervent expression liturgically, sacramentally, through prayer, acts of charity, a concern for justice, and respect for God's creation?”
“Only in this way do we really bear witness to the meaning of who we are and what we uphold,” the Pope replied.
Reflecting on the modern doubt about whether truth does exist, the Pope said that “the contemporary ‘crisis of truth’ is rooted in a ‘crisis of faith’.
Academic freedom is not true freedom if it becomes disconnected from the truth. Academic freedom, and indeed, freedom in general is often thought of as an “opting out”, the Pope said. However, freedom should be thought of as an “opting in - a participation in Being itself. Hence authentic freedom can never be attained by turning away from God.”
The particular responsibility, for every Catholic educator, “is to evoke among the young the desire for the act of faith, encouraging them to commit themselves to the ecclesial life that follows from this belief,” the Pope instructed.
“Clearly, then, Catholic identity is not dependent upon statistics. Neither can it be equated simply with orthodoxy of course content. It demands and inspires much more: namely that each and every aspect of your learning communities reverberates within the ecclesial life of faith, the Pope said of truly Catholic schools.”
The Holy Father also came to the defense of the contribution of Catholic institutions in the public square, saying “The Church's mission, in fact, involves her in humanity's struggle to arrive at truth.” “In articulating revealed truth she serves all members of society by purifying reason, ensuring that it remains open to the consideration of ultimate truths, he added.”
Most importantly, the Pope said that the Church serves society by reminding society that it is not how people live that creates truth but rather that truth should serve as the basis of how we live.
“In the educational forum, the diakonia (service) of truth takes on a heightened significance in societies where secularist ideology drives a wedge between truth and faith.” This type of society dismisses any argument that is metaphysical, that is to say, not based on material evidence, he said.
This “relativistic horizon” leads to the situation where “the goals of education are inevitably curtailed.” Without any reference to transcendent truth, a slow “lowering of standards occurs,” the Pope explains. “We observe today a timidity in the face of the category of the good and an aimless pursuit of novelty parading as the realization of freedom. We witness an assumption that every experience is of equal worth and a reluctance to admit imperfection and mistakes. And particularly disturbing, is the reduction of the precious and delicate area of education in sexuality to management of 'risk', bereft of any reference to the beauty of conjugal love.”
Faced with this situation, the Pontiff posed the question: “How might Christian educators respond? These harmful developments point to the particular urgency of what we might call "intellectual charity".
Being intellectually charitable means guiding “the young towards the deep satisfaction of exercising freedom in relation to truth, and it strives to articulate the relationship between faith and all aspects of family and civic life. Once their passion for the fullness and unity of truth has been awakened, young people will surely relish the discovery that the question of what they can know opens up the vast adventure of what they ought to do,” he said.
The Holy Father also spoke about the debate over religious freedom that has been raging over the last few decades. Academic freedom calls on educators “to search for the truth wherever careful analysis of evidence leads you,” he explained.
Nevertheless, “any appeal to the principle of academic freedom in order to justify positions that contradict the faith and the teaching of the Church would obstruct or even betray the university's identity and mission; a mission at the heart of the Church's munus docendi and not somehow autonomous or independent of it,” Benedict XVI explained.
Catholic institutions must fulfill their duty and privilege of ensuring that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice, Benedict emphasized. “This requires that public witness to the way of Christ, …both inside and outside the classroom. Divergence from this vision weakens Catholic identity and, far from advancing freedom, inevitably leads to confusion, whether moral, intellectual or spiritual,” the Pontiff insisted.
In closing, the Holy Father called on Catholic educators to “Help them to know and love the One you have encountered, whose truth and goodness you have experienced with joy.”
He left the educators with the words of St. Augustine: "we who speak and you who listen acknowledge ourselves as fellow disciples of a single teacher.”
To read the entire address click here.
Washington D.C., Apr 17, 2008 (CNA) - The largest crowd in history arrived at the white house lawn yesterday to greet Pope Benedict XVI, the first visit by a Pontiff to the White House in 29 years.
Greeted by a 21 gun salute and the first of several happy birthday serenades, Pope Benedict showed his appreciation, rising halfway out of his chair several times to thank the crowd.
The Pope and the president seemed to have perfectly choreographed speeches, each sounding similar notes, emphasizing themes central to teaching of the Church and to life in America: religious freedom, moral responsibility and the necessary relation between faith and reason.
Their mutual greetings showed that each was listening, interested, and respected what the other had to say.
Summing up his impressions later in the day, Bishop Wenski from the Diocese of Orlando said, "The Pope has expressed both at the White House and the National Shrine his enthusiastic appreciation for America and the American people. He has highlighted Americans' generosity both at home and abroad as well as the religious freedom that is the legacy of our founding Fathers. While concerned about the threat of secularism and the privatization of religious commitment, I believe he has a genuine respect for America and the space it affords to religion to participate in the public square."
With his characteristic clarity, Pope Benedict outlined the purpose and plan of his visit. He came, he said, first as an "ally," to encourage and foster hope, and "on the occasion of the celebration of the two-hundredth anniversary of the elevation of the country's first Diocese – Baltimore – to a metropolitan Archdiocese, and the establishment of the Sees of New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Louisville."
Pope Benedict said, "As I begin my visit, I trust that my presence will be a source of renewal and hope for the Church in the United States, and strengthen the resolve of Catholics to contribute ever more responsibly to the life of this nation, of which they are proud to be citizens.”
Monsignor Philip Lowry, pastor of St James Church in Redmond, New Jersey and chaplain to the New Jersey State Police, said, "The Pope's presence here cannot be underestimated. His visit will bring healing; his presence and the outpouring of love by the American people will be a legacy for all of us."
While media focuses much on the gregarious nature of Pope Benedict's beloved predecessor John Paul II, few were surprised by the crowds, limited only by tight security and limited space.
"People like him," said one gentleman. "He is more understandable than John Paul II."
Donna O'Hare from Great Falls, Virginia, said, "I don't feel the same kind of personal connection that I did with John Paul II. But we need to hear this message of hope." Even youth, she said, are drawn by the Pope whose shy manner and penetrating insights elicit a sense of mystery.
"The fact that the Pope gives us so much hope and helps us think about issues, such as global warming, helps me when I think about facing the world I am about to go into," said Jessica Ravens, a junior at Catholic University of America.
Washington D.C., Apr 17, 2008 (CNA) - In a meeting with interfaith leaders at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C on Thursday evening, Pope Benedict XVI praised American traditions of religious freedom and religious involvement in public life. He also encouraged inter-faith cooperation and dialogue as a way of both building mutual understanding and the strengthening society. However, the Pope also said that such cooperation and dialogue should not obscure the real differences between religious faiths.
In his address, Pope Benedict lauded what he called the United States’ “long history of cooperation” between religious faiths. As examples of such cooperation, he cited interreligious prayer services at Thanksgiving, joint charitable action, and speaking with a “shared voice” on public issues. These activities, the Pope said, brought members of different religions together to “enhance mutual understanding and promote the common good.”
“I encourage all religious groups in America to persevere in their collaboration and thus enrich public life with the spiritual values that motivate your action in the world,” Pope Benedict said.
The Holy Father cited the mission statement of the meeting’s venue, the Pope John Paul II Center, which offers a Christian voice in the “human search for meaning and purpose in life.” He said the center’s mission recalls the American conviction that “all people should be free to pursue happiness in a way consonant with their nature as creatures endowed with reason and free will.”
Pope Benedict referenced the observations of Alexis de Tocqueville, whose nineteenth century writings argued that, in American life, religion and freedom are “intimately linked” in upholding democracy. The Pope expressed hope that other countries could learn from the United States that “a united society can indeed arise from a plurality of peoples provided that all recognize religious liberty as a basic civil right.”
He also quoted approvingly one of the country’s Latin mottoes, "E pluribus unum," which means "out of many, one."
Noting that religious freedom could not be protected only within the law, the Pope said that protecting people, especially minorities, from unjust discrimination and prejudice “requires constant effort on the part of all members of society to ensure that citizens are afforded the opportunity to worship peaceably and to pass on their religious heritage to their children.”
Pope Benedict said that interreligious dialogue enriches both its participants and the surrounding society. This dialogue reveals a shared esteem for “ethical values, discernable to human reason, which are revered by all peoples of goodwill.” He urged all religious people to bear common witness to these values as a way of serving society as a whole. He cited President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who said, “No greater thing could come to our land today than a revival of the spirit of faith.”
The Pope listed the “enormous” responsibilities of religious leaders: “to imbue society with a profound awe and respect for human life and freedom; to ensure that human dignity is recognized and cherished; to facilitate peace and justice; to teach children what is right, good and reasonable!”
While praising various governments’ sponsorship of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, Pope Benedict said that such dialogues, along with religious freedom and faith-based education, “aim at something more than a consensus” about strategies for advancing peace.
“The broader purpose of dialogue is to discover the truth,” he said.
The truth, the Pope said, involved questions like “What is the origin and destiny of mankind? What are good and evil? What awaits us at the end of our earthly existence?”
Addressing these deeper questions, the Pope said, was the only solid basis of peace and security for human family. “Wherever and whenever men and women are enlightened by the splendor of truth, they naturally set out on the path of peace," the Pope said, citing the Message for the 2006 World Day of Peace.
Pope Benedict said these deeper questions are “too often marginalized,” but “can never be erased from the human heart.” Citing several Psalms reflecting human restlessness with the passing world, he emphasized the special duty, even competence, of religious leaders to place deeper questions at the forefront of life. Such leaders must also “reawaken mankind to the mystery of human existence” and make room for reflection and prayer in a busy world.
The Pope then proposed the Christian answer to such deep questions:
“Confronted with these deeper questions concerning the origin and destiny of mankind, Christianity proposes Jesus of Nazareth. He, we believe, is the eternal Logos who became flesh in order to reconcile man to God and reveal the underlying reason of all things. It is he whom we bring to the forum of interreligious dialogue. The ardent desire to follow in his footsteps spurs Christians to open their minds and hearts in dialogue.”
Pope Benedict also suggested that in attempts to discover common ground in interreligious dialogue, “perhaps we have shied away from the responsibility to discuss our differences with calmness and clarity. While always uniting our hearts and minds in the call for peace, we must also listen attentively to the voice of truth.”
Religious dialogue must not stop at identifying common values, but must also ask about their “ultimate foundation.” The truth, Pope Benedict said, reveals to man “the essential relationship” between the world and God. He also said the “heavenly gift” of peace calls mankind to conform human history to the divine order.
“May the followers of all religions stand together in defending and promoting life and religious freedom everywhere,” the Pope concluded. Generous engagement in interreligious dialogue and “countless small acts of love, understanding and compassion,” the Pope said, lets us be “instruments of peace for the whole human family.”
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Washington D.C., Apr 17, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has now raised the topic of the sex abuse scandal three times in the last two days, and on Thursday afternoon, he held a private meetings with a group of sex abuse victims.
The director of the Vatican’s Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, told the Associated Press that Pope Benedict and Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley, “met with a group of five or six victims for about 25 minutes in the chapel of the papal embassy, offering them encouragement and hope.”
According to Lombardi, the Holy Father told the survivors he would pray for them, their families and all victims of clergy sex abuse. The private audiences with the Pope each lasted for a several minutes and during the course of the meetings some survivors wept, Lombardi said.
This marks the fourth time that Benedict XVI has addressed the sex abuse scandal in some way. During his plane ride to the US he expressed his "deep shame" over the crisis and pledged to keep pedophiles out of the priesthood. On Wednesday night, he told the nation's bishops that the crisis was "sometimes very badly handled," and said they must reach out with love and compassion to victims. This morning at the Nationals Stadium Mass he also called on Catholic parishioners to do what they can to reach out to victims.
Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, WI noted that “he mentioned the sexual misconduct problem” three different times so far and that shows “it is very much on his mind”.
The Bishop of Sioux City, Iowa, Walter Nickless, also noted how the Pope has been “very open everywhere he’s gone about the clergy sexual abuse scandal.” He added that he “appreciated his comments about praying for our priests and that we have to take a responsibility for what’s gone wrong.”
Nickless also highlighted the Pope’s call for Catholics to support their priests saying, “we also know that there are many many good priests; we have to pray for them and encourage them and affirm them. Because it’s pretty tough for them these days as well.”
Philadelphia, Pa., Apr 17, 2008 (CNA) - While countering charges he was closely connected to a former domestic terrorist, Senator Barack Obama compared the former Weather Underground member William Ayers to a pro-life Senator who proposed considering the death penalty for abortionists, Cybercast News Service reports.
In Wednesday night’s Democratic presidential candidate debate, Senator Barack Obama was pressed about his alleged connections with Ayers. George Stephanopoulos, ABC News political analyst and former press secretary for President Bill Clinton, asked the Illinois Senator about an early planning meeting for Obama’s 2001 campaign for a state legislature seat. The meeting was held at Ayers’ house.
Ayers had been a member of the Weather Underground, a radical group that between 1970 and 1975 bombed the New York City Police Headquarters, the U.S. Capitol Building, the Pentagon, the U.S. State Department, and other targets.
Though Ayers surrendered to authorities, he was never charged in the attacks and went on to become a university professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago. In a September 11, 2001 edition of the New York Times, published before the day’s terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Ayers was quoted as saying, “I don't regret setting bombs. I feel we didn't do enough.”
Obama’s opponent, Democratic Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, said that Obama and Ayers were both members of the board of the philanthropic Woods Foundation. Clinton argued Obama’s connections made him less electable in the general election.
Senator Obama said he knows Ayers “as some guy in my neighborhood” and as a college professor, but said that it did not make sense to say that his mere knowledge of “somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago when I was 8 years old” reflected on his character and his values.
Obama then compared Ayers to pro-life Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn.
"The fact is that I'm also friendly with Tom Coburn, one of the most conservative Republicans in the United States Senate, who during his campaign once said that it might be appropriate to apply the death penalty to those who carried out abortions. Do I need to apologize for Mr. Coburn's statements? Because I certainly don't agree with those, either," Obama said.
According to Cybercast News Service, in July 2004 the Associated Press quoted then-Representative Tom Coburn as saying, "I favor the death penalty for abortionists and other people who take life."
A few days later, Coburn added, “My contention for the death penalty is, if you intentionally take innocent life, you ought to be open to the death penalty." According to the Oklahoman, Coburn continued, "Do I think abortionists should be put to death right now? No. You can't do it. [Abortion] is legal. I don't think it should be legal."
Coburn, a practicing physician, has said he has delivered more than 4,000 babies. On his web site, he says, "My experience as a physician has affirmed my conviction that all human life is sacred and that life begins at conception. I oppose abortion in all cases, with the lone and rare exception of when the life of the mother is endangered."
Washington D.C., Apr 17, 2008 (CNA) - In a meeting following his session with leaders of non-Christian religions, Pope Benedict gave a special greeting to the Jewish leaders. He underlined the common spiritual heritage of the two faiths and asked for cooperation between the two faiths in working to achieve peace, particularly in the Middle East and the Holy Land.
The Pope’s message was framed within the context of the annual Jewish celebration of the Passover or “Pesah”. He also explained that the message should serve as “a testimony to our hope centered on the Almighty and his mercy.”
Benedict began drawing upon the common spiritual roots of Judaism and Christianity by saying, “While the Christian celebration of Easter differs in many ways from your celebration of Pesah, we understand and experience it in continuation with the biblical narrative of the mighty works which the Lord accomplished for his people.”
The Pontiff also said that he wanted to “re-affirm the Second Vatican Council's teaching on Catholic-Jewish relations and reiterate the Church's commitment to the dialogue that in the past forty years has fundamentally changed our relationship for the better.”
“Because of that growth in trust and friendship, Christians and Jews can rejoice together” and use this holy time of year to recommit to pursuing “justice, mercy, solidarity with the stranger in the land, with the widow and orphan,” the Pope said.
The Holy Father also recalled how at the Passover Sèder meal, Jews remember their forefathers who partake in a Covenant that gradually “assumes an ever more universal value”. This perspective offers “a real prospect of universal brotherhood on the path of justice and peace, preparing the way of the Lord.”
“With respect and friendship,” he continued, “I therefore ask the Jewish community to accept my Pesah greeting in a spirit of openness to the real possibilities of cooperation which we see before us as we contemplate the urgent needs of our world, and as we look with compassion upon the sufferings of millions of our brothers and sisters everywhere. Naturally, our shared hope for peace in the world embraces the Middle East and the Holy Land in particular.”
Benedict XVI concluded his talk by praying, “May the memory of God's mercies, which Jews and Christians celebrate at this festive time, inspire all those responsible for the future of that region-where the events surrounding God's revelation actually took place-to new efforts, and especially to new attitudes and a new purification of hearts!”