Archive of April 19, 2008

U.S. senators remove “each and every human life” from Pope's welcome message

Washington D.C., Apr 19, 2008 (CNA) - A resolution in the U.S. Senate welcoming Pope Benedict XVI on his first papal visit to the United States was held up on Thursday by a senator who allegedly objected to wording praising how the Pope values “each and every human life,” the Politico reports.  Language about American religious faith not denying the “ultimate source” of rights and liberties was also dropped.

The resolution passed with a voice vote on Thursday afternoon after the language was removed.

"There was some politics involved here, and the objectionable language has been withdrawn," a senior Democratic Senate aide said.

According to the Politico, three Republican Senate aides claim that Senator Barbara Boxer, a Democrat representing California, objected to the resolution’s language about human life.  Reportedly, some Democrats saw the “life” language as an implicit reference to the Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion.

The original bill’s preamble, which listed reasons for adopting the bill, included the sentence, “Whereas Pope Benedict has spoken out for the weak and the vulnerable, valuing each and every human life…”  The modified sentence reads only “Whereas Pope Benedict has spoken out for the weak and the vulnerable…”

The sponsor of the resolution, Kansas Republican Senator Sam Brownback, reportedly used his Blackberry while at the Papal Mass at Nationals Park to instruct his staff to drop the language.  Republican aides say that Brownback, a devout Catholic convert, did not want a high profile fight over the resolution.

"We are very pleased we were able to reach an agreement with Senator Brownback to remove the political language and pass this resolution welcoming Pope Benedict," Natalie Ravitz, a spokeswoman for Senator Boxer, told the Politico. 

According to copies of the documents posted on Politico, a section of the resolution referencing both the “ultimate source” of American rights and liberties and religious expression on public buildings was also dropped. 

A section of the resolution’s preamble originally read:

“Whereas Pope Benedict XVI has spoken approvingly of the vibrance of religious faith in the United States, a faith nourished by a constitutional commitment to religious liberty that neither attempts to strip our public spaces of religious expression nor denies the ultimate source of our rights and liberties…” 

The phrases about attempts to strip public spaces of religious expression and about denials of the “ultimate source” of American rights and liberties were cut from the final resolution.

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Bush addresses National Catholic Prayer Breakfast at close of “joyous week”

Washington D.C., Apr 19, 2008 (CNA) - President George W. Bush on Friday morning addressed the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, speaking about his pro-life actions in office, the importance of the Catholic school system, and his common ground with Pope Benedict XVI in advancing interreligious dialogue and religious freedom around the world.

The president told the crowd that he had “finally begun to understand the story of the calm and the rough seas.”

President Bush said the papal visit had lifted the spirit of the week.  “This has been a joyous week. It's been a joyous time for Catholics - and it wasn't such a bad week for Methodists, either,” said the president, a Methodist.  "The excitement was just palpable. The streets were lined with people that were so thrilled that the Holy Father was here.''

"One of the blessings of being the president,” Bush said, “is I get to see firsthand how people are motivated by the fundamental truths articulated by the Holy Father…  I've watched you live out the Gospel through countless acts of compassion and courage. I've joined with you in striving to heed the Scriptures' noble calling: to see God's image in all mankind, and to uphold the dignity of each human being on Earth.”

Bush said that Americans have worked for a culture of “tolerance and peace,” believing that religion “should be a source of understanding and grace.”  Noting the Pope’s work to foster interfaith dialogue and heal religious conflict, the president said he “strongly” supported the Pope’s call for worldwide religious freedom.  The president also insisted he shared with Pope Benedict concern for Christians in the Middle East and, like the Pope, he supported a “peaceful and independent” Lebanon.

“I join him in praying for a world at peace, where Christians and Muslims and Jews, believers and non-believers, can live side by side,” Bush said.

The president then moved to the pro-life front, saying that his administration “worked to uphold the dignity of human life,” since it has stopped U.S. government funding for foreign groups that promote or perform abortions.  He said his administration worked to protect “unborn victims of violence” and had successfully banned partial-birth abortion. 

He lauded recent breakthroughs in reprogramming adult skin cells to act like embryonic stem cells, saying, “we have stood fast in our belief that promising medical advances can co-exist with ethical medical practices.”  Though the Bush presidency was the first to approve funding for embryonic stem cell research, the president reiterated his opposition to funding new lines of embryonic stem cells.  Embryonic stem cell research destroys human embryos in the hopes of advancing knowledge and curing disease. 

The president praised the Catholic school system, saying one of Pope Benedict’s priorities was maintaining the Church’s centuries-old educational tradition.  Bush said that Catholic schools serve thousands of Catholic and non-Catholic students in some of the United States’ poorest neighborhoods.  “They help minority students narrow the achievement gap. They prepare children for lives of character and purpose and success.”

Catholic schools, Bush said, are a “major national asset,” especially in “inner-city America.”

However, the president said, such schools are closing at an “alarming rate,” with nearly 1,200 Catholic schools closing since 2000.  The president referenced his proposal for a $300 million Pell Grant for Kids program, the purpose of which, he said, was “to help low-income children in underperforming public schools be able to attend a private or parochial school of their choice.”  He said that next week the White House would hold a Summit on Inner City Children and Faith-based Schools to consider the lack of educational options for poor urban students.

“"This is a prayer breakfast,'' the president closed. "I have finally begun to understand the story of the calm and the rough seas -- and I believe, I believe in my heart of hearts that it's because of the prayers of my fellow citizens. And today with the trust in the Lord's wisdom and goodness, I offer prayers of my own: for each gathered in the room, for the safety and success of the Holy Father's visit, and for God's continued blessings on our great land. Thank you.''

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South African cardinal seeks halt to weapons shipments to Zimbabwe

Pretoria, South Africa, Apr 19, 2008 (CNA) - The Catholic Church in Southern Africa on Friday urged South Africa President Thabo Mbeki to halt shipment of military equipment to Zimbabwe from South Africa, the Catholic Information Service for Africa (CISA) reports.

Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, OFM, the Archbishop of Durban and spokesman for the South African Catholic Bishops Conference, said the move was prompted by reports that arms and munitions destined for Zimbabwe are being shipped through South Africa.

“On behalf of the Catholic Community in Southern Africa, I call on the South Africa government not to allow any more arms and munitions to enter Zimbabwe through South Africa until an acceptable solution is found to the present situation,” Cardinal Napier said, according to CISA.

Zimbabwe is suffering a political crisis after its national elections body failed to announce the results of the March 29 election.  The opposition of incumbent Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe claims to have won the election.  Reportedly, the Zimbabwe army has been beating people accused of membership in the opposition, especially in major towns.  In the countryside, violence has prompted many villagers to flee their homes.

“The deepening crisis and escalating violence in Zimbabwe compels us to repeat our call for immediate international intervention by a competent and objective mediator such as Kofi Annan,” Cardinal Napier said.

“Failure of the international community to act immediately condemns the Zimbabwean people to on-going insecurity and suffering.”

President Mbeki has said there is no crisis in Zimbabwe, CISA reports.  A regional summit last week failed to pressure Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe to quickly solve the deteriorating situation.

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Pope calls for a new Pentecost to launch renewal of American Church

, Apr 19, 2008 (CNA) - Six thousand people flocked to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York this morning for a Mass that Pope Benedict celebrated for clergy and religious. In his homily, Benedict XVI called for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Church in America so that it can overcome divisions and allow all of its gifts to be spent for the sake of spreading the Gospel.

After thanking Cardinal Egan for his welcome and recalling the examples of the pioneers of the Catholic Church in America, Pope Benedict turned to the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

“As we give thanks for past blessings, and look to the challenges of the future, let us implore from God the grace of a new Pentecost for the Church in America. May tongues of fire, combining burning love of God and neighbor with zeal for the spread of Christ’s Kingdom, descend on all present!” he exclaimed. This is the second time this trip that Pope Benedict has called for a new Pentecost in America.

The Pontiff then pointed to the example of the late Cardinals Cooke and O’Connor whose “heroic witness to the Gospel of life” should inspire this kind of zeal. “The proclamation of life, life in abundance, must be the heart of the new evangelization,” the Pope said.

“This is the message of hope we are called to proclaim and embody in a world where self-centeredness, greed, violence, and cynicism so often seem to choke the fragile growth of grace in people’s hearts,” the Holy Father encouraged.

Pope Benedict said that the challenge in some ways is to bring this message of life in abundance to “a society where the Church seems legalistic and ‘institutional’ to many people.” The Church’s “most urgent challenge is to communicate the joy born of faith and the experience of God’s love”, he said.

He then turned the congregation’s attention to different aspects of the architecture of St. Patrick’s.

Noting how from the outside the stained glass windows appear dim but from the inside of the Church their true beauty is revealed, the Pope said, that communicating the joy and love of God “is no easy task in a world which can tend to look at the Church, like those stained glass windows, ‘from the outside’”.

Besides a spiritual conversion, Benedict XVI explained that an “‘intellectual’ conversion” is necessary to be able to discern “the signs of the times, and our personal contribution to the Church’s life and mission”.

“For all of us, I think, one of the great disappointments which followed the Second Vatican Council, with its call for a greater engagement in the Church’s mission to the world, has been the experience of division between different groups, different generations, different members of the same religious family,” Benedict said.

The solution to these divisions, the way to move forward, Benedict explained, is “if we turn our gaze together to Christ!” Turning away from division and towards Christ, is the way that true spiritual renewal will occur, the Holy Father said.

Pope Benedict once again brought up the sexual abuse scandal in the context of striving for unity.

“I would like say a word about the sexual abuse that has caused so much suffering. I have already had occasion to speak of this, and of the resulting damage to the community of the faithful. Here I simply wish to assure you, dear priests and religious, of my spiritual closeness as you strive to respond with Christian hope to the continuing challenges that this situation presents.”

Benedict drew attention back to the architectural structure to make his final point.

“The unity of a Gothic cathedral, we know, is not the static unity of a classical temple, but a unity born of the dynamic tension of diverse forces which impel the architecture upward, pointing it to heaven. Here too, we can see a symbol of the Church’s unity, which is the unity – as Saint Paul has told us – of a living body composed of many different members, each with its own role and purpose.   For the Spirit never ceases to pour out his abundant gifts, to awaken new vocations and missions, and to guide the Church, as our Lord promised in this morning’s Gospel, into the fullness of truth.”

“So let us lift our gaze upward!” the Pope called out.

Calling on the Holy Spirit to help the Church grow in holiness, he added, “If we are to be true forces of unity, let us be the first to seek inner reconciliation through penance. Let us forgive the wrongs we have suffered and put aside all anger and contention. Let us be the first to demonstrate the humility and purity of heart which are required to approach the splendor of God’s truth. In fidelity to the deposit of faith entrusted to the Apostles, let us be joyful witnesses of the transforming power of the Gospel!”

Pope Benedict closed by calling on American Catholics to “go forth as heralds of hope in the midst of this city, and all those places where God’s grace has placed us. In this way, the Church in America will know a new springtime in the Spirit, and point the way to that other, greater city, the new Jerusalem, whose light is the Lamb For there God is even now preparing for all people a banquet of unending joy and life. Amen.”

To read Pope Benedict's full homily click here.

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First-ever papal Mass held at St. Patrick’s

, Apr 19, 2008 (CNA) - Today at Saint Patrick’s Church in New York City, Pope Benedict XVI became the third Bishop of Rome to visit the gothic-style Catholic Cathedral, which is also the largest in the United States.

Archbishop John Hughes constructed the cathedral in 1858. When the property of Saint Patrick’s was purchased, it was considered as a country property and was even used as a pasture. Opponents of the project called it, “Hughes Folly.” However, the property’s value later escalated to become one of the most valuable real estate plots in the United States. The American Civil War halted construction on the Cathedral until after the conflict.

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral seats about 2,200 people. Mass is regularly celebrated there in almost 30 languages on an almost continual basis. Saint Patrick’s is a significant architectural landmark in New York City, having been designed by the revered American architect James Renwick. The cathedral has many devotional chapels with various images of the Blessed Virgin and Saints their themes. The Lady Chapel is always of particular interest to visitors, another prominent American architect, Charles Matthews, designed it.

When one thinks of New York, the name Tiffany’s comes to mind. The famous jewelry store designed and constructed the altars of Saint Michael and Saint Louis.

With the visit of Pope Benedict XVI today, he follows in the traditions of Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II who both visited the cavernous cathedral. However, Pope Benedict is the first Pope to celebrate the Eucharist at this location.

Beneath the main altar of the Cathedral is the crypt where the Archbishops of New York are buried. Additionally, the Cathedral still has cardinal’s hats called “galeros” (a red hat with tassels) for each Archbishop of New York that has been elevated to the rank of Cardinal hanging from the highest point in the nave of the Cathedral. Galeros are no longer given to cardinals, since they were done away with by Pope Paul VI’s curial reforms in 1968.

Saint Patrick’s is a microcosm of the Catholic history of art and architecture in the United States. The Stations of the Cross in this church were awarded a gold ribbon for artistic merit at the Chicago Worlds Fair in 1893. Moreover, the Cathedral has a reproduction of the Pieta by Michelangelo, although the one in New York is three times larger than the original in Rome.

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York is a favorite tourist destination for people from all over the world.

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Franciscan University president reacts to Pope's education speech

Washington D.C., Apr 19, 2008 (CNA) - The President of Franciscan University of Steubenville, Father Terence Henry, TOR, has given his reaction to Catholic News Agency on the Pope’s message to Catholic university leaders.  Father Henry said that he believes Pope Benedict’s address taught that authentic Catholic education “springs from the heart of the Church.”

Father Henry was particularly struck by Pope Benedict’s idea that Catholic institutions are “instruments of hope” to the world and to young people.

“There are some out there who think that authentic freedom means to speculate on everything under the sun,” Father Henry said.  “To contradict the truth is to contradict the heart of the Church, and Catholic universities need to spring from that heart of the Church.”

“I thought that was a powerful point that he was making, and he did it in a gentle way,” he said.

In his address, Pope Benedict said the university’s mission to search for the truth was “a mission at the heart of the Church's munus docendi(“teaching office”).”

Father Henry thought another key point of Pope Benedict’s speech was his statement that “Catholic education is not a matter of numbers” but “a matter of conviction.”

The effect of the address on other Catholic universities, he thought, must be manifested through each institution’s self-examination.  Colleges must ask themselves “How can we spring from the heart of the Church?  How can we serve the Church?”

“If they don’t see themselves in that ecclesial union with the Church, then they’re not going to see the questions that the Holy Father was stressing,” he said.

Father Henry was also struck by the Pope’s exhortation to religious communities in which he urged them not to desert their educational apostolate.  Some orders, Father Henry said, no longer saw the relevance of educational service, and its importance for the poor and underprivileged.  He thought the Pope was attempting to remind these orders of their educational responsibilities in the hope they will take them seriously.

“Only in living that responsibility will they realize their true vocation,” Father Henry summarized.

Some commentators had speculated that the Pope would “crack down” on dissent, secularism, and religious indifferentism in some institutions of Catholic higher education which had, in Father Henry’s phrasing, “bleached out” their identities.  Father Henry said that the Pope was in fact “upbeat” through his entire address, which lacked harsh rebukes.  Pope Benedict’s friendly spirit, Father Henry believed, reflected the papal visit’s goal to “bring hope to America.”

CNA asked Father Henry whether he thought the Pope himself would take action, or leave to local bishops the task of restoring or maintaining the identity of Catholic educational institutions. 

Father Henry referenced Pope Benedict’s Wednesday address to bishops in which the Holy Father touched on the need to guarantee authentic Catholic education.  Catholic education, the Pope said, must promote “an apologetics aimed at affirming the truth of Christian revelation, the harmony of faith and reason, and a sound understanding of freedom, seen in positive terms as a liberation both from the limitations of sin and for an authentic and fulfilling life.”

“In a word,” Pope Benedict continued, “the Gospel has to be preached and taught as an integral way of life, offering an attractive and true answer, intellectually and practically, to real human problems.”

Father Henry connected controversies over some Catholic colleges’ performances of plays like the “Vagina Monologues” and their sponsorship of homosexual activist clubs to the question of moral relativism:  “Are there truths? Do we stand on those truths?” 

He referenced a phrase Pope Benedict used in the Mass before the papal conclave that elected him to the papacy.  In the homily of that Mass, the then-Cardinal Ratzinger said Christ is the “true measure” of authentic humanism.

“And that’s our measure, that’s our guide,” Father Henry said.  “What a tremendous guide that is!”


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Holy Father expected to address vocations in seminary in Yonkers

, Apr 19, 2008 (CNA) - The Holy Father is expected to address the topic of vocations to the priesthood when he visits Saint Joseph’s Seminary, in the Yonkers section of New York City this evening. Its students and graduates also affectionately refer to Saint Joseph’s Seminary as “Dunwoodie”.

Archbishop Michael Corrigan originally founded the school in May of 1891. He wanted the formational program of seminary education closer to the city of New York, so he could participate on a more regular basis with their formation. The school began the academic formation of priests in 1896 and there were only 96 students. When it was completed the buildings of the Dunwoodie Seminary were considered the grandest and most comfortable educational environments in the United States. According to historical accounts, Dunwoodie was considered the second most important educational facility in the United States, ranked second after Catholic University in Washington, D.C.

The first papal visit to this institution was in 1995 by Pope John Paul II. The current Holy Father, Benedict XVI however is no stranger to the school. When he was a Cardinal and a Vatican Curia official, he presented a theological lecture series in the late 1990’s.

The topic of vocations to the Catholic Priesthood is expected to be the main topic for the Holy Father’s address here at the Seminary of Saint Joseph’s. In earlier speeches delivered during his apostolic visit, he has called for a new Pentecost within the Church. Among other signs, this new Pentecost entails an increase in the number of candidates for the priesthood. Pope Benedict XVI has also said that he would be happy if fewer priests were serving the Church, as long as long as they were holier priests and men committed to the Gospel and sacraments of the Church.


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Pope praises “exemplary American priest” who founded Knights of Columbus

, Apr 19, 2008 (CNA) - During his homily Saturday morning at the Mass for Clergy and Religious at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Pope Benedict XVI made special mention of “that exemplary American priest” Venerable Michael J. McGivney, founder of the New Haven, Connecticut-based Knight’s of Columbus. 

On March 15, Pope Benedict declared Father McGivney a “Venerable Servant of God.”  The priest’s cause for canonization is presently being considered at the Vatican.  Father McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882 in New Haven to strengthen the faith of and to provide financial assistance for Catholic men and their families.

In his Saturday morning homily, Pope Benedict told America’s clergy that the “secret of the impressive growth of the Church” was a “unity of vision and purpose – rooted in a faith and a spirit of constant conversion and self-sacrifice.”

“We need but think of the remarkable accomplishment of that exemplary American priest, the Venerable Michael McGivney, whose vision and zeal led to the establishment of the Knights of Columbus,” Pope Benedict said.

Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson, head of the Knights of Columbus, issued a statement on Saturday responding to the Pope’s praise for Father McGivney, whom Anderson called a “prime example” of an American cleric.

“The Pope’s selection of Father McGivney as a role model for today’s priests and religious is very important for us,” Anderson said.  “Thousands of priests are among the 1.7 million members of the Knights of Columbus, including Cardinal Egan and hundreds of others in the Archdiocese of New York. 

“Each and every day, all of us in the Knights of Columbus look to Father McGivney’s vision and example as a guide to our work of charity and evangelization. 

“At a time when our priests are in need of our support more than ever, the Pope’s promotion of Father McGivney as a role model for clergy everywhere is both timely and enormously appreciated.  We pledge our fervent support for his call to revitalize and renew the Catholic Church here and around the world.”

Carl Anderson has outlined his vision for Catholic renewal in his recent book “Building a Civilization of Love:  What Every Catholic Can Do to Transform the World.”

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Cardinal Trujillo, President of Pontifical Council for the Family, passes away

Rome, Italy, Apr 19, 2008 (CNA) - Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, died Saturday of complications from diabetes.  The cardinal had been in a hospital fighting different health complications for nearly four weeks before he passed away.  Cardinal Trujillo, Archbishop emeritus of Medellin, Colombia, was 72.

Born on November 8, 1935 in the Colombian city of Villahermosa, he moved to the capital Bogotá when he was a young boy. 

After entering seminary, he studied in Rome and obtained his doctorate in philosophy from the Angelicum, taking courses in theology and sociology and also studying Marxism.  Ordained a priest on November 13, 1960, he continued his studies in Rome for another two years

Returning to Bogotá, he taught philosophy for four years at the local major seminary. In 1968, he was put in charge of a special course on Pope Paul VI’s encyclical “Populorum Progressio” that was to be presented in all the principal cities in Colombia. 

In February of 1971, Pope Paul VI appointed Trujillo as Auxiliary Bishop of Bogotá.  He was ordained to the episcopate one month later.  In 1972 Bishop Trujillo was elected General Secretary of the Latin American Episcopal Conference (CELAM).  In May 1978, he was named Coadjutor Bishop of Medellín, becoming Archbishop in June 1979. 

Trujillo was president of CELAM betwee 1979 and 1983.  He was president of the Colombian Bishops’ Conference from 1987 to 1990, and a participant in numerous assemblies of the Synod of Bishops held in the Vatican.  He became Archbishop emeritus of Medellín in January of 1991.

Pope John Paul II elevated Archbishop Trujillo to the cardinalate in the February 1983 consistory, after which the new cardinal was appointed Cardinal-Priest of St. Prisca.  In 2001 Cardinal Trujillo was appointed Cardinal-Bishop of the Suburbicarian Church of Frascati. 

Cardinal Trujillo was named president of the Pontifical Council for the Family in November 1990.  He held the office for the rest of his life.

Cardinal Trujillo had also been a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the Congregation for Bishops, and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.  He was also a member of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

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Holy Father calls handicapped to be signs of hope, apostles of prayer

, Apr 19, 2008 (CNA) - This afternoon 50 young people with disabilities had the chance to meet with Pope Benedict, who encouraged them to be a sign of hope and to continue to intercede for others with their prayers.

“God has blessed you with life, and with differing talents and gifts”, the Holy Father told the youngsters. “Through these you are able to serve him and society in various ways. While some people's contributions seem great and others' more modest, the witness value of our efforts is always a sign of hope for everyone,” he said.

The Pope sympathized with the pain that handicapped children endure and called them to see life as God does.

“Sometimes it is challenging to find a reason for what appears only as a difficulty to be overcome or even pain to be endured. Yet our faith helps us to break open the horizon beyond our own selves in order to see life as God does. God's unconditional love, which bathes every human individual, points to a meaning and purpose for all human life. Through his Cross, Jesus in fact draws us into his saving love and in so doing shows us the way ahead - the way of hope which transfigures us all, so that we too, become bearers of that hope and charity for others.”

“Dear friends,” said the Holy Father, “I encourage you all to pray every day for our world. There are so many intentions and people you can pray for, including those who have yet to come to know Jesus. And please do continue to pray for me.”

Benedict XVI then joked, “As you know I have just had another birthday. Time passes!”

Read the full message here.

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Bill Maher apologizes for calling Pope Benedict a Nazi

, Apr 19, 2008 (CNA) - Comedian Bill Maher apologized on his HBO show Friday night for accusing Pope Benedict XVI of being a Nazi.  After some delay, the Catholic League reports, Maher acknowledged that Joseph Ratzinger as a young man was forced to join the Hitler Youth organization and was not sympathetic to the Nazi ideology.

Maher still insisted that if a CEO were in charge of an institution that housed child molesters, he would be fired.

Bill Donohue, President of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, responded to Maher’s broadcast apology.  “We accept Maher's apology for accusing the pope of being a Nazi. Too bad he didn't stop there. For him to suggest that Pope Benedict XVI was in charge of policing molesters, and failed in doing so, is patently absurd,” Donohue said.

Donohue said that, as head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s principal job was to ensure theologians faithfully presented the doctrines of the Catholic Church.  Donohue argued the future Pope Benedict XVI was not in charge of enforcing “codes of conduct” until after the scandal of American clerical sexual abuse of children was publicized in 2002.  “By all accounts,” Donohue said, he “did so effectively.”

Donohue then claimed the Catholic Church was too large for effective oversight from Rome.
“Maher has to understand that no one person, including the Pope, could possibly be held accountable for the behavior of its employees in a global institution,” Donohue said. 

“There are priests from Boston to Bosnia, and it is simply preposterous for any one person to know exactly what is going on everywhere at any given time.  Maher would have been better advised to focus on those bishops who proved to be enablers-it is the bishop's job to know what is going on in his diocese, not the Pope's.”

Donohue also said it would be “great” if Maher “gave up his Catholic-bashing obsession once and for all.”

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Do not let darkness stifle your hope, says Pope

Yonkers, N.Y., Apr 19, 2008 (CNA) - Before a youth rally of an estimated 25,000 people, Pope Benedict XVI spoke on hope and freedom, stressing the “journey of hope” made manifest in the lives of the saints. 

However, he also addressed the “darknesses” that treat people as “mere objects” and manipulate, distort, and tarnish truth, perception of reality, and the imaginations and aspirations of youth.  He further reflected on both the true nature and the distorted conceptions of freedom.

The Pope opened with a passage from the first letter of Peter:  "Proclaim the Lord Christ … and always have your answer ready for people who ask the reason for the hope that is within you."

Pope Benedict directed the audience to observe the venue’s six large pictures of saints: Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, Saint John Neumann, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, Venerable Pierre Toussaint, and Padre Felix Varela.  “Any one of us could be among them,” the Pope said.  “Take courage! Fix your gaze on our saints.”

Though such saints are individually different, the Pope said, they were all “inflamed with the love of Jesus.”  They made an “act of abandonment” to God and all “offered an outstretched hand of hope.”  The saints “laid open the way of faith, hope and charity” through their ministry to the poor, the sick, and the marginalized.  They did this through the “compelling witness that comes from walking humbly in the footsteps of Jesus,” which he said was the “way of forgiveness, reconciliation, humility, joy and peace.”

The saints show us that “the life of faith and hope is also a life of charity,” he continued.

Pope Benedict also warned of “activities and mindsets which stifle hope,” pathways of only apparent happiness and fulfillment that in fact “end only in confusion and fear.”

The Pope referred to his teenage years under Nazi rule:  “My own years as a teenager were marred by a sinister regime that thought it had all the answers; its influence grew - infiltrating schools and civic bodies, as well as politics and even religion - before it was fully recognized for the monster it was. It banished God and thus became impervious to anything true and good.”

The Pope said we must thank God that many of the younger generation can enjoy the liberties produced “through the extension of democracy and respect for human rights.” 

But “the power to destroy does, however, remain,” Pope Benedict warned.  “To pretend otherwise would be to fool ourselves. Yet, it never triumphs; it is defeated. This is the essence of the hope that defines us as Christians; and the Church recalls this most dramatically during the Easter Triduum and celebrates it with great joy in the season of Easter! The One who shows us the way beyond death is the One who shows us how to overcome destruction and fear: thus it is Jesus who is the true teacher of life.”

The Pope repeated a prayer to God from the Easter Vigil liturgy: “dispel the darkness of our heart! dispel the darkness of our minds!”

“What might that darkness be? What happens when people, especially the most vulnerable, encounter a clenched fist of repression or manipulation rather than a hand of hope?” the Pope asked.

He cited the threats to the “dreams and longings” of young people, such as drug abuse, homelessness, poverty, racism, violence, and the degradation of people, especially of girls and women.

“While the causes of these problems are complex,” the Pope said, “all have in common a poisoned attitude of mind which results in people being treated as mere objects.  A callousness of heart takes hold which first ignores, then ridicules, the God-given dignity of every human being.”

Pope Benedict also warned of a second area of darkness which affects the mind.  It often goes unnoticed, the Pope said, “and for this reason is particularly sinister.”

“The manipulation of truth distorts our perception of reality, and tarnishes our imagination and aspirations,” the Pope cautioned.

He further reflected on the true nature of freedom, and also the relativistic distortions thereof:

“The fundamental importance of freedom must be rigorously safeguarded. It is no surprise then that numerous individuals and groups vociferously claim their freedom in the public forum. Yet freedom is a delicate value. It can be misunderstood or misused,” the Pope said, so that it would result not in happiness, but result in “a dark arena of manipulation in which our understanding of self and the world becomes confused, or even distorted by those who have an ulterior agenda.”

“Have you noticed how often the call for freedom is made without ever referring to the truth of the human person?” Pope Benedict asked, rhetorically.

The Pope argued against the claim that respect for individual freedom makes it wrong to seek truth, “including the truth about what is good.”  He said in some circles “to speak of truth is seen as controversial or divisive, and consequently best kept in the private sphere.”

“And in truth's place - or better said its absence,” he said, “an idea has spread which, in giving value to everything indiscriminately, claims to assure freedom and to liberate conscience. This we call relativism. But what purpose has a ‘freedom’ which, in disregarding truth, pursues what is false or wrong?”

He lamented that many young people, in the name of freedom or experience, have been led to hurtful situations, to moral or intellectual confusion, and even to despair and suicide.

“Dear friends, Pope Benedict said, “truth is not an imposition. Nor is it simply a set of rules. It is a discovery of the One who never fails us; the One whom we can always trust.

“In seeking truth we come to live by belief because ultimately truth is a person: Jesus Christ. That is why authentic freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in; nothing less than letting go of self and allowing oneself to be drawn into Christ's very being for others.”

The Pope spoke about how believers could help others “walk the path of freedom which brings fulfillment and lasting happiness.”  The saints, he said, gave a witness that truly freed others “from the darkness of heart and mind.”  This witness grew from the kernel of their faith, the Incarnation.

The Incarnation, Pope Benedict said, “tells us that God does indeed find a place among us. Though the inn is full, he enters through the stable, and there are people who see his light. They recognize Herod's dark closed world for what it is, and instead follow the bright guiding star of the night sky. And what shines forth?  …the light of Christ among us.”

The full message to the youth can be found here.

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Seek holiness using the four essentials, Benedict XVI tells youth

Yonkers, N.Y., Apr 19, 2008 (CNA) - The Pope’s speech to the thousands of youth gathered in Yonkers, NY today featured a call to the youth to strive for holiness by using the “four essential aspects” of the faith: personal prayer and silence, liturgical prayer, active charity, and vocations.

“Let your imaginations soar freely along the limitless expanse of the horizons of Christian discipleship,” he said.  “Sometimes we are looked upon as people who speak only of prohibitions. Nothing could be further from the truth! Authentic Christian discipleship is marked by a sense of wonder. We stand before the God we know and love as a friend, the vastness of his creation, and the beauty of our Christian faith.”

The Pope listed what he called the “four essential aspects” of the treasure of faith: personal prayer and silence, liturgical prayer, active charity, and vocations.

Pope Benedict urged youth to develop their personal relationship with God, a relationship expressed in prayer.  “Pray constantly,” the Pope said, quoting St. Paul.  “As the saints teach us so vividly,” he continued,” prayer becomes hope in action.”  He also encouraged silent contemplation, saying, “Have we perhaps lost something of the art of listening?  …don’t be afraid of silence or stillness.”

He described the Church’s liturgy as “a ministry of hope for humanity” and “the whole Church at prayer,” quoting a Vatican II document Sacrosanctum Concilium which called the liturgy "the work of Christ the Priest and of His Body which is the Church."  

This work, he said, refers to Christ's Passion, his Death and Resurrection, and his Ascension.  “This ‘work of Jesus’ is the real content of the liturgy.”  Jesus is at work whenever a Christian goes to Mass, goes to Confession, or celebrates any of the sacraments.  “Through the Holy Spirit, he draws you to himself, into his sacrificial love of the Father which becomes love for all.”

Faithful participation in the liturgy, the Pope said, is an “active hope which helps to keep the world - saints and sinners alike - open to God; this is the truly human hope we offer everyone.”

Altogether, the Pope said to the audience, personal prayer, silent contemplation, participation in the liturgy “prepare you to serve others.”

In contemplating Jesus on the Cross, the Pope said, we see this love and service “in its most radical form.”

“Look about you with Christ's eyes, listen with his ears, feel and think with his heart and mind. Are you ready to give all as he did for truth and justice?”  He said many of the sufferings to which saints have responded are present. “And new injustices have arisen,” he said, referencing the environment.  “Even our common habitat, the earth itself, groans under the weight of consumerist greed and irresponsible exploitation.”

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Pope Benedict speaks of families as the birthplace of vocations

Yonkers, N.Y., Apr 19, 2008 (CNA) - At the end of his talk to the youth at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, Pope Benedict turned to the topic of vocation. He emphasized that families are indispensable for forming vocations to the priesthood, religious life and to the married life.

He noted how baptism made it possible to receive “the greatest gift of your life.”  He urged the crowd to pray for struggling mothers and fathers. 

“Let us honor the vocation of matrimony,” Pope Benedict said. “It is in families that vocations are given life.” He told seminarians to reject “any temptation to ostentation, careerism, or conceit. Strive for a pattern of life truly marked by charity, chastity and humility, in imitation of Christ.”

He encouraged young people to the life of apostolic or contemplative service, noting the importance of the charisms of the Holy Spirit in forming religious orders.  “No perfect community exists,” the Pope said, “but it is fidelity to a founding charism, not to particular individuals, that the Lord calls you to discern.”

Pope Benedict declared the Church to be a “community of hope.”

“The hope which never disappoints is Jesus Christ,” he continued.  “The saints show us the selfless love of his way.”

“Show the world the reason for the hope that resonates within you. Tell others about the truth that sets you free.”

The Pope encouraged the audience to reach out, especially to the vulnerable and innocent, so that people could join the “way of goodness and hope.”

“God is our origin and our destination, and Jesus the way,” he said.

Following the Pope’s address, Kerry Wakulich, a seminarian for the Diocese of Tulsa, told CNA that he thought, “it cool that he said ‘you’re growing in numbers’”. He also mentioned that he saw the Pope’s message about vocations starting in the family as important.

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