Moscow, Russia, Apr 25, 2008 (CNA) - Many Russians warmly received Pope Benedict XVI’s message to the Russian people, which was delivered in an April 16 broadcast of a documentary about his life sponsored by Aid to the Church in Need.
Father Joaquin Alliende, president-elect of ACN, said the message was well received not only among Catholics, but also among Orthodox believers and those not belonging to a church. He said the address should be seen as “an important step along the road towards a deeper sense of closeness between Catholic and Orthodox Christians.”
Father Alliende said the Pope’s greeting had “sprung from the heartfelt desire of the Holy Father to promote the growth of mutual love between the Catholic and the Orthodox Church.” As ACN’s spiritual director, Father Alliende had been received by the Pope in a private audience on the day the message was filmed.
Peter Humeniuk, ACN's Russia specialist, said the documentary film and papal message had brought the Pope closer to many of the Russian people. Many viewers had been surprised the Pope was “so human and kind”. Other Russians said the Pope appeared as “a person of great dignity and at the same time kind and warm-hearted personality.” Many found it especially beautiful that the Pope delivered part of his message in Russian, he said.
A Catholic priest working in Eastern Siberia told ACN that he thought the film had been “a real breakthrough” that would undoubtedly “bear fruit for the Church of God in East and West.” He said Catholics were pleased to know the film project had also been approved by the Russian Orthodox Church. The joint project, the priest said, showed what could be achieved when “our Churches draw closer together."
The film was sponsored and promoted by Aid to the Church in Need, an international Catholic pastoral charity under the direct jurisdiction of the Holy See. The film’s April 16 broadcast on the Russian State news channel Vesti coincided with the Pope’s 81st birthday.
Goffstown, N.H., Apr 25, 2008 (CNA) - A Catholic religious order has announced that it will sell one of its New Hampshire primary schools to a group of parents to ensure continuing support for Catholic education, the Union Leader reports.
Five months ago, the order called Religious of Jesus and Mary told parents that they could no longer support the 90-year-old Villa Augustina school in Goffstown. The closure of the K-8 school was considered almost certain.
However, in the intervening months enterprising parents raised $400,000 for repairs to the school and another $120,000 for its purchase.
Sister Janet Stolba, the U.S. provincial for the Religious of Jesus and Mary, along with the order’s governing council in Rome, approved the sale after parents submitted a five-year plan for the school’s future. News of the order’s general government approving the decision arrived on Monday.
Sr. Stolba praised the parents for their commitment to Catholic education, saying they were an inspiration to the order.
"They have been extraordinary with what they have accomplished in such a short period of time," Stolba said. "It gives such great joy to all of the sisters."
Sr. Stolba said in a statement that she sees the agreement to keep Villa open as a continuation of Pope Benedict’s teaching that Catholic education "springs from the heart of the Church."
“At the Villa, the future of Catholic education has also sprung from the hearts of the faculty, administration, staff, and families. We take up the Pope's charge to continue the mission of Catholic institutions, and we take on with joy our important role as "instruments of hope,” she added.
The deal will allow Villa Augustina to reopen next year as an independent Catholic school for students ranging from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade.
Carol Barrett, the chair of a leadership transition team comprised of schoolchildren’s parents, said the widow of a student’s father at his funeral on Sunday encouraged the team to continue.
"She said, 'We really don't want another loss in the family. Keep the Villa open,'" Barrett said. “It was really heartwarming."
Barrett learned of the agreement’s approval on Monday. She said the leadership team is now focused on hiring a new principal and electing boards of directors for the two corporations established to handle the transition.
She said she was confident that parents could raise the $400,000 needed to purchase the school. She said the Benedictine monks at St. Anselm College had donated $100,000 for the purchase and the college president, Fr. Jonathan DeFelice, is helping parents raise the remaining amount.
Sr. Stolba said she is confident that parents will be able to buy and run the school.
"Barring unforeseen circumstances, it appears that everything is a go," she said, according to the Union Leader. "We can't think of any reason at all why it wouldn't.”
A formal purchase-and-sale agreement is now required. Sr. Stolba expected the agreement to be reached in mid-May.
London, England, Apr 25, 2008 (CNA) - Three Catholic priests from Northern Ireland have signed a recording contract worth nearly $2 million for the music giant Sony BMG.
Fathers Eugene O’Hagan, 48, his brother Martin, 45, and their old school friend David Delargy, 44, signed the deal near the steps of Westminster Cathedral. The three men, who call their trio “The Priests,” said they would donate the money made from the music to charity.
The three priests developed their musical talent at St. MacNissi’s College in County Antrim. There, they were nicknamed “Holy Holy Holy” because of their shared aspirations to become priests. According to the Daily Telegraph, they received singing tuition while studying at the Irish College in Rome, going on to perform in the Vatican choir.
Father Eugene said the signing of the 1 million British pound contract was “breathtaking,” saying the record deal may be “God’s design.”
Fr. Eugene describes the group as having “very Catholic tastes.” The group’s debut album will include parts of the Latin Mass, traditional hymns like the Ave Maria and Panis Angelicus, and a selection of opera classics.
“Singing is very much what we do,” Father David said. “This is bringing it to a wider audience. We are singing sacred music, continuing what we have always been doing.”
The group has a special exemption or “rider” in their contract that will allow them to break from promotional efforts to fulfill their pastoral duties, like presiding over weddings and funerals. Father Martin explained the exemption, saying, “Our work means a great deal to us. We are priests first and foremost. Our work will be at the heart of our plans.”
“Obviously they won't be available for TV appearances on Sunday mornings," said Nick Raphael, the Sony BMG executive and managing director of Epic Records who negotiated the signing.
Raphael lauded the group, saying, “Their voices are incredible. I'm extremely excited. They're going to be wonderful global superstars."
He told The Telegraph that the priests were “quite shocked by our interest but very excited. We are unaware of any other priests who have become recording artists. The closest thing we can think of was the Singing Nun back in the 1960s."
The Priests’ album is scheduled for release in November. A video with short clips of "The Priests" can be seen here: http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid1456296467?bctid=1519065763
Vatican City, Apr 25, 2008 (CNA) - This week the Italians took their turn at showing their affection and respect for the Pope by hosting a classical music concert in honor of his third anniversary and birthday. Benedict XVI thanked the choir and the orchestra for sharing the gift of music with people. Music, he said, has a spiritual value because it can “infuse hope into the human soul.”
The concert was offered by the President of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, who met with the Pope for 15 minutes beforehand. The meeting was characterized by the Vatican as one of “great cordiality” and included a discussion of the Holy Father’s recent U.N. address. Following their conversation, the heads of state proceeded to the Paul VI Hall to attend the performance.
The concert featured pieces by Luciano Berio, Johannes Brahms and Ludwig van Beethoven and was performed by the Giuseppe Verdi symphony orchestra and choir of Milan.
Pope Benedict followed the concert from the central aisle of the hall alongside President Napolitano and his elder brother Msgr. Georg Ratzinger. Both Ratzinger brothers are avid classical music fans and musicians themselves.
At the end of the concert, Benedict XVI thanked the Italian president for the concert in which, he said, "I discern a further sign of the great affection the Italian people nurture for the Pope".
Having extended his gratitude to the choir and the orchestra, the Holy Father encouraged the Giuseppe Verdi Foundation "to continue the prestigious artistic and cultural journey they have begun, which, I am aware, is also enhanced by their commitment to use music to mitigate situations of human difficulty, such as in hospitals and prisons".
The Pope explained that there is a “spiritual value” to the art of music which, “in a special way, is called to infuse hope into the human soul, marked and sometimes injured by its earthly condition.
“There is a profound and mysterious relationship between music and hope, between song and eternal life", the Holy Father said. "It is no coincidence that Christian tradition shows the spirits of the blessed as they sing in chorus, captivated and enraptured by the beauty of God. But true art, like prayer, is not foreign to everyday reality, rather it calls us to 'irrigate' that reality, to make it sprout that it may bring forth fruits of goodness and peace.
Music, in fact, has a far greater value because it "reminds us furthermore of the value and the universal importance of artistic heritage,” the Pope said. He also mentioned that it is of particular value to the young, who can draw "new inspiration" from such heritage "in order to build a world founded on justice and solidarity, putting the multiform expressions of world culture to good account at the service of mankind".
Benedict XVI mentioned the importance that "educating people to recognize true beauty has for the formation of the young", and he explained how art "contributes to refining their souls and leads towards the construction of a society open to the ideals of the spirit.
"Italy, with is exceptional artistic heritage, can, in this regard, play an important role in the world", he concluded. "The quantity and quality of monuments and works of art the country possesses effectively make it a universal 'messenger' of all the values which art, at one and the same time, expresses and promotes. In the same way, the festive nature of song and music are a constant invitation to believers and to men and women of good will to commit themselves to giving humanity a future rich in hope".
Santiago, Chile, Apr 25, 2008 (CNA) - A group called the Insurrectionalist Federation has claimed responsibility for an attack on the University of Los Andes in Santiago, Chile in which a homemade explosive device was detonated in one of the bathrooms.
The group in question sent a statement to a local radio station claiming responsibility for the attack as a rejection of the Constitutional Court’s ruling to prohibit distribution of the morning-after pill at public health facilities. One of the most reknown professors at the university is a member of the High Court.
The attack occurred at 8:10pm Wednesday, when a large explosion was felt in the women’s bathroom located on the second floor of the science building.
The explosion set off the fire alarm in the building, and local police officers evacuated students, professors and administration officials who were in the building.
No one was wounded in the attack but structural damage was caused.
Although most of the Chilean media downplayed the incident, the size of the explosion was significant.
“They said it was a ‘noise bomb’ but in reality the bathroom was destroyed and if someone had been in there he would have died or been injured,” university officials told CNA.
Quebec City, Canada, Apr 25, 2008 (CNA) - At a press conference held on April 24, Cardinal Marc Ouellet extended an invitation to the public to attend the closing ceremony of the 49th International Eucharistic Congress on June 22, 2008. The homily for the Mass will be given live from Rome by Pope Benedict XVI.
The ceremony will take place on June 22, 2008 on the Plains of Abraham in front of the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec. Events will include musical performances prior to the celebration of the Eucharist, Mass celebrated by Cardinal Jozef Tomko and a time for socializing following the conclusion of Mass.
Pope Benedict XVI will deliver the homily for Mass from Rome via satellite. The faithful will be able to view the Holy Father’s homily on large screens stationed throughout the area.
Since the Congress is also an official event of the 400th Anniversary of Quebec City, activities will commence at 9 a.m. with a musical concert. Florence K, singer and pianist, and Natalie Choquette, opera singer, will prepare the assembly for the closing ceremony with their music.
The Eucharistic celebration will begin at 11 a.m. with an entrance procession of about 1,200 people. All the Cardinals, bishops, priests and deacons present will take part in this solemn entrance. His Eminence Jozef Cardinal Tomko, who is the representative of the Pope for the Congress, will preside at this Eucharist.
After the celebration of the Mass, organizers are inviting participants to picnic and socialize with everyone.
A crowd of about 50,000 people is expected for the June 15-22 event.
Melbourne, Australia, Apr 25, 2008 (CNA) - Anticipation of World Youth Day is continuing to build as is evidenced by a crowd of 2,500 that witnessed the handing over of the WYD Cross and Icon at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne on April 24.
The exchange involved the Diocese of Sale giving the 12 foot wooden Cross and the Icon of the Blessed Mother and Jesus to representatives of the Archdiocse of Melbourne, where it will spend two weeks visiting various Catholic sites.
According to The Age, Archbishop Denis Hart told the gathering of youth that he hoped the items would be instigators of peace and reconciliation between nations.
The Cross and Icon have been traveling around Australia in anticipation of World Youth Day, which will be held this July in Sydney. The youth event is expected to draw 125,000 international pilgrims and 60,000 Australians, according to organizers.
The late Pope John Paul II blessed the Cross in 1984 and since then it has been circulating around the world visiting troubled regions and countries that are hosting the next World Youth Day. Youth frequently tell stories of how participating in carrying the WYD Cross deepens their faith and reconnects them with the Church.
Dallas, Texas, Apr 25, 2008 (CNA) - Yoko Ono, the widow of Beatles singer and songwriter John Lennon, has with several others filed several lawsuits challenging the use and critique of Lennon’s song “Imagine” in the documentary “Expelled.” One lawsuit seeks a preliminary injunction that, the film’s producers claim, could remove the film from theaters.
Ono's lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Manhattan, accuses the producers of "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" of suggesting to viewers that those who oversee John Lennon's legacy somehow authorized or endorse the film, which led the blogosphere to accuse her of "selling out."
“Expelled,” which features political and economics commentator Ben Stein, claims that scientists who are skeptical of some aspects of evolutionary theory have been suppressed by the academic establishment.
Premise Media, which produced the film, did not pursue a license to use the Lennon song and claims it did not need to do so.
Logan Craft, Executive Producer of “Expelled” and Chairman of Premise Media defended the use of the song clip, saying, "The fair use doctrine is a well established principle that gives the public the right to freely use portions of copyrighted materials for the purposes of commentary and criticism. While some may not like what we have to say or how we say it, we have the free speech right to do so - just as other political and social commentators have been doing for years."
Walt Ruloff, Executive Producer of the documentary and CEO of Premise Media, said the lyrics represent “everything that the neo-Darwinists want. 'Imagine there's no Heaven...No hell below us...Nothing to kill or die for… And no religion too...' That's exactly what the Darwinist establishment wants to do: get rid of religion.”
“And that's what we point out when we play less than 15 seconds of the song and show some of the lyrics on screen,” he said.
Ben Stein, the star of the documentary, said the lawsuit was ironic, considering the lyrics of the song.
“So Yoko Ono is suing over the brief constitutionally protected use of a song that wants us to 'Imagine no possessions'?” Stein asked. “Maybe instead of wasting everyone's time trying to silence a documentary she should give the song to the world for free? After all, 'imagine all the people sharing all the world...You may say I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one I hope someday you'll join us And the World can live as one.'”