Archive of April 20, 2008

Knights give Yankee’s Stadium 105 lb. plaque to commemorate Benedict XVI’s visit

, Apr 20, 2008 (CNA) - New York City will gain a new commemorative plaque after the celebration of Mass at Yankee’s Stadium on Sunday. The Knights of Columbus have commissioned a new bronze marker to be installed at the site after Sunday. The new bronze plaque will join others that recall celebrations by previous Popes Paul VI and John Paul II.

Yankee Stadium is scheduled to be replaced with a new stadium after this year’s baseball season, but the commemorative markers are expected to be included in the plans for the new stadium complex.

The sporting complex has been part of the New York sporting scene since Catholic governor Al Smith threw out the opening pitch for the first game at Yankee’s Stadium in April of 1923. Members of the Yankee’s baseball team such as Babe Ruth and Rodger Guidry were also members of the Knights of Columbus.

The 105 pound marker was made by United States Bronze of New Hyde Park, NY and will be located at the Yankee Stadium Memorial Park. It will join the commemorative markers that recall Eucharistic celebrations in 1965 by Paul VI and 1979 by John Paul II.

The final Mass of the Pope’s American apostolic journey, themed, “Christ our Hope” will formally celebrate the bicentennial of the founding of the Dioceses (now Archdioceses) of New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Louisville (formerly Bardstown). It will also mark the 200th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s elevation to the status of a metropolitan archdiocese and it’s foundation as the Primal See of the United States. The Primal See of a country is equivalent of the title, “Mother Church” for a particular country.

The Knights of Columbus are a fraternal organization founded in 1882 by the Venerable Michael J. McGiveney. The Knights of Columbus regularly support the initiatives of the Pope including building community recreation centers in Rome, the funding for the building and development of Vatican Radio in the 1920’s as well as the provisioning of a mobile television recording studio for Vatican television. The most recent contribution from the Knights has been to pay for the restoration of the façade of Saint Peter’s in Rome and the archeological excavations and restorations below the great basilica.

The Knights of Columbus have a special fund from which they support the papal charities called, Vicarius Christi.”

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Pope Benedict XVI pays solemn visit to Ground Zero

, Apr 20, 2008 (CNA) - When Pope Benedict XVI was asked what he wanted to do when he came to the United States, he told his staff he wanted to make sure he visited Ground Zero. This morning the Holy Father just did this that.

Sixteen family members, 4 first responders and 4 survivors were present as the Pope descended the ramp down into the pit where the Twin Towers once stood, knelt and silently prayed.

After lighting a candle, the Holy Father offered a prayer for the victims, their families and those who survived all three attacks on 9/11.

He prayed:

“We ask you in your goodness
to give eternal light and peace
to all who died here-
the heroic first-responders:
our fire fighters, police officers,
emergency service workers, and Port Authority personnel,
along with all the innocent men and women
who were victims of this tragedy
simply because their work or service
brought them here on September 11, 2001.”

“We ask you, in your compassion
to bring healing to those
who, because of their presence here that day,
suffer from injuries and illness.
Heal, too, the pain of still-grieving families
and all who lost loved ones in this tragedy.
Give them strength to continue their lives with courage and hope.”

The Pope also prayed for peace in “our violent world; peace in the hearts of all men and women and peace among the nations of the earth.”

He then prayed for conversion of all “those whose hearts and minds are consumed with hatred.” 

After concluding his prayer, Pope Benedict blessed Ground Zero and the people present with holy water.

The 24 people invited to the ceremony then met individually with the Pope.

To read the whole prayer click here.

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Kelly Clarkson adds her voice to youth rally

Yonkers, N.Y., Apr 20, 2008 (CNA) - Kelly Clarkson, of American Idol fame, performed the “Ave Maria” as the concluding hymn for the Holy Father’s visit with youth at Saint Joseph’s Seminary in New York on Saturday evening.

She belted out the traditional version of the “Ave Maria” in multiple languages as a cross sectional representation of the crowd present. The Holy Father took a moment to greet her after her performance.

The crowd was charged by Kelly Clarkson’s rendition of the Marian hymn.

After the song, the Holy Father proceeded to greet youth at the ends of the platform. The crowds wildly waved yellow and white handkerchiefs as a greeting to the Holy Father.

The seminarians and religious novices of the Archdiocese of New York were all visibly thrilled at the presence of the Pope. They loudly sang the litany of the saints and the Lord’s Prayer in song with Pope Benedict XVI, led by an accomplished youth cantor from the movement “Communion and Liberation”.

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Pope urges U.S. Catholics to hasten coming of God’s Kingdom

Bronx, N.Y., Apr 20, 2008 (CNA) - Sixty thousand people on Sunday attended the papal Mass at Yankee Stadium, where Pope Benedict explained in his homily that true freedom is found in self-surrender and turning away from sin.  Asking Americans to “use wisely the blessings of freedom,” he proclaimed that Christ sets mankind free.

The Pope also noted the history of the Church in America, exhorting American Catholics to follow their predecessors’ social work.  He challenged his American flock to enrich their society with the Gospel and “hasten the coming of God's Kingdom in this land!”

He began his homily by saying, “Christ is the way that leads to the Father, the truth which gives meaning to human existence, and the source of that life which is eternal joy with all the saints in his heavenly Kingdom.”

He noted that at this Mass is dedicated to celebrating the two hundredth anniversary of the creation of the Sees of New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Louisville from the mother See of Baltimore , which itself was elevated to an archdiocese in 1808.  The celebration of the papal Mass, Pope Benedict said, was a sign of the “impressive growth” of the Church in America over that time.

Benedict XVI also pointed to the unity of the Church expressed at the papal Mass, saying, “The presence around this altar of the Successor of Peter, his brother bishops and priests, and deacons, men and women religious, and lay faithful from throughout the fifty states of the Union, eloquently manifests our communion in the Catholic faith which comes to us from the Apostles.” 

The Pope said the first reading from Acts, where Hellenists in the early Church complained that the Hebrews were neglecting their widows, reveals “linguistic and cultural tensions” even within the early Church.  However, the reading also shows the “power of the word of God” to create “a unity which transcends the divisions arising from human limitations and weakness.” 

The Church's unity, Pope Benedict said, “has no other basis than the Word of God, made flesh in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  This unity he called “God’s indefectible gift to his Church.”  He also stressed that such unity was “apostolic,” a “visible unity” grounded in the Apostles chosen by Christ.

The Pope then turned to questions of “authority” and “obedience,” saying, “these are not easy words to speak nowadays. Words like these represent a ‘stumbling stone’ for many of our contemporaries, especially in a society which rightly places a high value on personal freedom.”

However, seen in the light of faith in Jesus Christ, the Gospel “teaches us that true freedom, the freedom of the children of God, is found only in the self-surrender which is part of the mystery of love. Only by losing ourselves, the Lord tells us, do we truly find ourselves.”  Real freedom, the Pope said, results when we turn away from sin, which “clouds our perceptions and weakens our resolve.”  As the truth makes us free, “this freedom in truth brings in its wake a new and liberating way of seeing reality.”

Turning to the reading from 1 Peter, the Pope counseled offering spiritual sacrifices pleasing to God “to direct our every thought, word and action to the truth of the Gospel and to harness all our energies in the service of God's Kingdom.”  Only through such focus on God, the Pope said, can people build something truly enduring and find “ultimate meaning” in their lives.

He said that with its successive waves of immigrants, the American Church has grown in its network of educational, medical, and social institutions, which Pope Benedict called a “hallmark of the Church” in the U.S.  “How many ‘spiritual sacrifices pleasing to God’ have been offered up in these two centuries!” the Pope said.  “Follow faithfully in the footsteps of those who have gone before you! Hasten the coming of God's Kingdom in this land!”

Pope Benedict said the day’s Mass was not only a celebration of graces received, but also a call to “use wisely the blessings of freedom, in order to build a future of hope for coming generations.”  St. Peter’s words about being “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,” the Pope said, “challenge us to be a people of joy, heralds of the unfailing hope born of faith in God's word, and trust in his promises.”

The prayer from the Our Father, “Thy Kingdom Come,” he said, “needs to shape the mind and heart of every Christian in this nation.”  It needs to bear fruit in Christians’ lives, creating “new settings of hope.”  Praying for the coming of the Kingdom means being “constantly alert for the signs of its presence,” working for its growth everywhere to “enrich American society and culture with the beauty and truth of the Gospel.” 

“It means not losing heart in the face of resistance, adversity and scandal. It means overcoming every separation between faith and life, and countering false gospels of freedom and happiness.  It also means rejecting a false dichotomy between faith and political life, since, as the Second Vatican Council put it, ‘there is no human activity - even in secular affairs - which can be withdrawn from God's dominion.’”

The Pope prayed especially for young people, saying, “My dear young friends, like the seven men, "filled with the Spirit and wisdom" whom the Apostles charged with care for the young Church, may you step forward and take up the responsibility which your faith in Christ sets before you! May you find the courage to proclaim Christ, ‘the same, yesterday, and today and for ever’ and the unchanging truths which have their foundation in him... Young men and women of America, I urge you: open your hearts to the Lord's call to follow him in the priesthood and the religious life. Can there be any greater mark of love than this: to follow in the footsteps of Christ, who was willing to lay down his life for his friends.”

“These are the truths that set us free!” the Pope proclaimed.

“They are the truths which alone can guarantee respect for the inalienable dignity and rights of each man, woman and child in our world - including the most defenseless of all human beings, the unborn child in the mother's womb.”

Pope Benedict concluded his homily with an exhortation to work for the coming of the Kingdom and to turn to Christ.

“‘Happy are you who believe!’  Let us turn to Jesus!” the Pope said.  “He alone is the way that leads to eternal happiness, the truth who satisfies the deepest longings of every heart, and the life who brings ever new joy and hope, to us and to our world.”

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Pope Benedict XVI’s third anniversary

, Apr 20, 2008 (CNA) - The third anniversary of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s election as Pope was marked on Saturday while he visited New York City.  What follows is a brief analysis of his three years as Pontiff.

Observers suggested the new Pope would reflect the characteristics of Cardinal Ratzinger, whom the media was convinced was “God’s Rottweiler”. However, since the beginning of his papacy, Benedict XVI has uniquely surprised nearly everyone with his warm and paternal approach. As was seen in his addresses here in the U.S., Pope Benedict has been calling for a renewal of the Church.

The results of the New Pentecost are already bearing fruits. In Benedict’s reign, he has acted as the global bridge builder of peace and religious toleration. Initially, most of the world did not understand his integration of Catholic theology with political policy. His visit to Germany, for example, demonstrated how Islamic believers had difficulty understanding his subtle arguments. Benedict however, has learned to negotiate the complex world political scene and offer the world a no compromise, gentle presentation of Catholic theology and moral teaching.

The Pope has also been prolific in writing. In the last 3 years, he has produced two encyclicals, “Deus Caritas est” and “Spe Salvi”, which elaborated on the virtues of love and hope. A third is expected in May 2008 on social issues. Additionally, the Pope has released Summorum Pontificum, restoring global permission to celebrate the Mass of Blessed John XXIII.

The Pontiff has also accumulated a good number of frequent flier miles with his eight foreign apostolic voyages outside of the Vatican, including trips to Turkey, Germany, the United States, and Brazil. The Holy Father will also appear at World Youth Day in Australia in July 2008.

The Benedictine papacy continues to unfold with Pope Benedict’s uncompromising call for the Church to renew itself in a sacramental and evangelical manner through belief in Jesus Christ. In New York, the Holy Father also illustrated the importance of interreligious harmony and human rights to the United Nations.

Pope Benedict—in just three years—has begun to build new bridges of understanding with parts of the world’s population that have either rejected or ignored the message of the Gospel. Far from the stodgy doctrinal watchdog that the media portrayed, the world has come to see Benedict XVI as a vibrant, active and intellectually strong Pope that intends to bring Christ to youth and the rest of the world through his writings and paternal activities.

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9/11 first responder: Pope’s Ground Zero visit is an incredible, beautiful thing

, Apr 20, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI began the final day of his American visit today with a blessing of Ground Zero, the site of the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in which 2, 700 people lost their lives.

After the Pope offered prayers and blessed Ground Zero, twenty four victims of the September 11 attacks, including first responders, emergency personnel and family members of those who died, met the Pope individually.

The private encounters, marked by the visible empathy the Holy Father has manifested to so many in his brief tour of the United States, began the process of healing for many.
 Lieutenant Eddie Mullen of Ladder 142 in Queens, New York, said that September 11 stands as a "horrible day."

A New York native, Mullen said the Pope's visit to New York, and to the World Trade Center, is an incredible, beautiful thing.

"For me it was many close friends, 9/11 changed people's lives. For me, the days after, the months after – even the year after – were very heavy. It never seemed to go away. But for my own survival, I had to move on. I have a family, and duties. I couldn't function if I stayed in that horrible moment."

For friends who did lose family members, Mullen said moving on was more difficult.
The Pope's visit, he said, has been "unbelievable."

"Every move he has made has been a great. Down to the World Trade Center, this visit of his is an incredible blessing, an unbelievable experience. In New York, there is always a contrary point of view. I have never in my life experienced an event where no one can find anything bad to say.”

“His message of healing, of peace, of hope, of love is something we can all agree on,” Mullen added.

New York Cardinal Edward Egan, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York Gov. David Paterson and New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine joined the Holy Father at Ground Zero.  Hundreds of people also stood just outside the site, behind police barricades, hoping for a glimpse of the Pope.


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Pope leaves thanking America and pointing to Christ our Hope

, Apr 20, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict took his leave this evening from the United States at JFK International Airport in the presence of over 3,000 well-wishers. 


“The time has come for me to bid farewell to your country,” the Pope said.


“These days that I have spent in the United States have been blessed with many memorable experiences of American hospitality, and I wish to express my deep appreciation to all of you for your kind welcome. It has been a joy for me to witness the faith and devotion of the Catholic community here,’ Benedict XVI shared.


The Holy Father then recalled the various highlights of his trip:


“It was heart-warming to spend time with leaders and representatives of other Christian communities and other religions, and I renew my assurances of respect and esteem to all of you. I am grateful to President Bush for kindly coming to greet me at the start of my visit, and I thank Vice-President Cheney for his presence here as I depart. The civic authorities, workers and volunteers in Washington and New York have given generously of their time and resources in order to ensure the smooth progress of my visit at every stage, and for this I express my profound thanks and appreciation to Mayor Adrian Fenty of Washington and Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York.”


The Pope also noted the anniversaries of the different dioceses and his meetings with the priests and religious, the deacons, the seminarians and young people, and all the faithful in the United States. “With great affection” he sent them all his final greetings and encouraged them “to continue bearing joyful witness to Christ our Hope, our Risen Lord and Savior, who makes all things new and gives us life in abundance.”


Calling his visit to the U.N. one of the highlights of his trip, he encouraged “people of good will everywhere to continue working tirelessly to promote justice and peaceful co-existence between peoples and nations.”


Pope Benedict XVI also reflected on how his visit to Ground Zero will remain “firmly etched” in his memory and promised to “continue to pray for those who died and for all who suffer in consequence of the tragedy that occurred there in 2001.”


He concluded by praying that “for all the people of America, and indeed throughout the world”, the future will bring increased fraternity and solidarity, a growth in mutual respect, and a renewed trust and confidence in God, our heavenly Father.”


The Holy Father concluded his trip as he began it: recalling Christ as our hope and saying “God bless America!”


The Pope’s departure message can be read here.


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