, Apr 30, 2008 (CNA) - Rev. John Hagee, the controversial pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, has lauded Pope Benedict XVI in a Washington Times essay and thanked him for the speeches he made during his U.S. visit. Hagee praised what he called Pope Benedict’s “moral vision for America,” especially the Pope’s affirmation of Christian participation in the public square.
In his Washington Times essay, Rev. Hagee also repeated his denial of accusations he has made anti-Catholic statements. Hagee insisted he has been “quite zealous” about condemning what he said was the “past anti-Semitism of the Catholic Church.” However, he claimed his view of the Catholic Church had been caricatured.
Hagee praised Pope Benedict’s many public statements about the role that “our Judeo-Christian faith” can play in contemporary life.
“As an evangelical Protestant I happen to disagree with Pope Benedict on many issues of Christian doctrine and ritual,” Hagee wrote. “But when it comes to his moral vision for America and the world I have one thing to say in response to the Pope's visit: Amen.”
Hagee said that evangelical leaders believe faith must not be confined to “churches on Sunday morning.” Rather, Christian values can help build a more just and humane society. Hagee said the Pope “speaks for all of us” when he said “any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted" and called for Christian participation "in the exchange of ideas in the public square."
Pope Benedict also voiced evangelicals’ concerns when, in Hagee’s words, he “recognized the threats posed by secularism and materialism not only to our morality but to our happiness.”
Hagee especially noted the Pope’s quotation from George Washington’s Farewell Address, in which the first U.S. president described religion and morality as “indispensable supports” for political prosperity.
The Holy Father’s United Nations address also won praise from Hagee. Before the U.N., the Pope declared that “the international community must intervene” when states fail to protect basic human rights. Pastor Hagee connected this stand for human rights with his own support for the state of Israel, but also said “we must never again allow genocide to be perpetrated against any of God's children anywhere in the world.”
Hagee said that his essay would surprise people who have accepted what he called “certain caricatures of my views of the Catholic Church.” He noted that he had been zealous in condemning “the past anti-Semitism of the Catholic Church” but he said he was equally zealous in condemning Protestant anti-Semitism. Hagee also said he has viewed both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict as partners in overcoming Christian anti-Semitism.
Pope Benedict’s speech in his visit to the East Park Synagogue in New York City, Hagee said, echoed his own belief that Christians need to recognize their Jewish roots.
Hagee closed his Washington Times essay with a prayer for unity.
“We were all inspired by Pope Benedict's visit,” he said. “It is my prayer that we will now follow his example and look beyond our differences to see that when it comes to the great challenges of our times, people of faith have much in common.”
Vatican City, Apr 30, 2008 (CNA) - In what appears to be an attempt to improve relations between the Holy See and Beijing, the China Philharmonic Orchestra is scheduled to perform for Pope Benedict XVI next week at the Vatican, Reuters reports.
On Tuesday, Vatican Radio said the concert will take place on May 7 in the Vatican’s audience hall. The orchestra, along with the Shanghai Opera House Chorus, will perform Mozart’s “Requiem.”
Vatican Radio called the concert “important,” adding, “With the performance in the Vatican of a great classic work of European music and religious inspiration, music is confirming its role as a language and most precious medium for dialogue among peoples and cultures.”
The concert is part of the orchestra’s European tour.
"This could not have happened without the government approving it," said one diplomatic source, according to Reuters.
Pope Benedict has made the improvement of relations with the Chinese government a major goal of his pontificate. In June he issued a 55-page open letter saying he sought to restore full diplomatic ties with Beijing, ties that were broken two years after the Communist takeover in 1949.
The Catholic Church in China is split between an underground Church loyal only to Rome and a government-sponsored Catholic Patriotic Association. Episcopal appointments to the government-run Church have often sparked controversy between Rome and Beijing, though lately clergymen to be ordained bishops in the state church have also sought approval from Rome.
London, England, Apr 30, 2008 (CNA) - Catholic schools in Britain are now rebuffing parents who, desperate to enroll their children in high-quality Catholic schools, baptize their children for pragmatic reasons, according to the Telegraph.
Parents are said to go through a “five-year epiphany,” baptizing their children when they reach school age.
Many schools are refusing to consider children who have had late baptisms. Some have set the upper limit at 12 months, while others consider only those who have been baptized within a few weeks of birth.
Peter Stanford, a governor at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic primary school in London, said, “if you have had your child baptized at two or three or four they won't get in.”
At London Oratory, a school where former Prime Minister Tony Blair sent his two eldest children, only children baptized no later than four months after birth will be admitted.
Staff said the policy helped deter parents who baptized their children only to gain admission. Last year, the school had 700 applicants for 160 places.
David McFadden, head teacher at London Oratory, said the criteria for admission are based on canon law.
"The first criterion is based on Mass attendance. The next is to what extent the Catholic parents have met their obligations regarding the Church's sacramental practice, including baptism,” McFadden said, according to the Telegraph.
One 37-year-old hairdresser from Essex told the Telegraph she and her husband had converted to Catholicism two years ago to secure their daughter’s admission to the local Catholic school.
"I did this purely for my children," said the woman, a mother of three who spoke under condition of anonymity. "I wasn't religious beforehand and I wasn't brought up in a religious family. I could count on one hand the number of times we'd been to church. But I felt very strongly that I wanted to give my children the best chance. That was my main priority.”
Vatican City, Apr 30, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict dedicated his reflections today to his recent apostolic journey to the United States. In his comments he praised the U.S. for its multicultural plurality and its foundation on the "happy marriage" of religious principles, ethical and political rights. This kind of interchange, the Pope said, is an example of healthy secularism.
Recalling each stage of his journey, the Holy Father expressed gratitude for being able to announce the gospel of hope, as well as his appreciation for all those who welcomed him and for those who supported him in prayer during the journey.
After noting how the motive for his U.S. visit was the bi-centenary of the elevation of the country's first diocese--Baltimore--to the status of metropolitan archdiocese, and the foundation of the sees of New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Louisville, the Holy Father affirmed that his aim had been "to announce to everyone the message that 'Christ is our Hope', the phrase which was the theme of my visit".
During his meeting with President Bush at the White House, Pope Benedict said he had an opportunity to "pay tribute" to a nation where the "the religious dimension in the diversity of its expressions, is not only tolerated but valued as a ‘soul’ of the nation and the guarantee of fundamental rights and duties."
In this context of freedom, he said, "the Church can play with freedom and commitment her role of evangelization and human advancement, and even "critical conscience'," she can contribute to building a society worthy of the human person."
At the same time, the Holy Father said this can "stimulate a country like the United states, a major player on the international scene, towards global solidarity, ever more necessary and urgent, and towards the patient pursuit of dialogue in international relations."
Speaking of his meeting with the Catholic Bishops of the United States at the Shrine of the National Basilica in Washington D.C., Pope Benedict said he said he praised his brother bishops for their zeal, evidenced in the faith of the people and numerous charitable initiatives at home and abroad.
At the same time, he encouraged the bishops in their role as pastors to assume greater leadership in “a society marked by no small number of contradictions, which also threaten the coherence of Catholics and even of the clergy.”
In particular, the Holy Father mentioned the scandal of sexual abuse by ordained members of the clergy, the breakdown of family life, the need to offer sound education on marriage and family life, and to equip young people with a strong moral education to face the many challenges of social life.
"I encouraged them to make their voices heard on current issues and to form the lay faithful so they become good 'leaven' in the civil community on the base of that fundamental cell which is the family," he said.
"In this sense, I exhorted them to re- present the Sacrament of Marriage as a gift and an indissoluble commitment between a man and a woman, the natural environment in which to welcome and educate children,” the Holy Father said.
"The Church and the family, as well as schools", the Pope added, "must co- operate in offering young people a solid moral education. ... Reflecting upon the painful question of sexual abuse of minors by ordained ministers, I told the bishops of my closeness, and encouraged them in the task of binding wounds and strengthening their relationships with their priests".
The Pontiff also recalled the “vast and festive” celebration at Nationals Stadium. “In Washington,” he said, "we evoked the Holy Spirit upon the Church in America” so that she "may face current and future challenges with courage and hope".
One of the central reasons that Holy Father ventured across the Atlantic two weeks ago was the invitation to speak at the United Nations, on the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Remarking on his speech at the U.N., the Pope said that, “Providence gave me the opportunity to confirm… the value of this Charter, recalling the universal foundation, namely the dignity of the human person created by God in his own image and likeness to cooperate in the world with his grand design of life and peace. "
In St. Patrick's Cathedral the Pope had celebrated Mass for priests and consecrated people. "I will never forget", he said, "with how much warmth they congratulated me for the third anniversary of my election to the See of Peter. It was a moving moment, in which I particularly felt the support of all the Church for my ministry. And I could say the same about my meeting with young people and seminarians".
The pope dedicated one last thought to young people, "Looking in the face of darkness today, threatening the lives of young people, young people can find the holy light that scatters the darkness: the light of Christ, the hope for every man! This hope, stronger than sin and death, animated the moment loaded with emotion that I spent in silence in the abyss of Ground Zero, where I lit a candle praying for all victims of this terrible tragedy."
After speaking to the public, the Pope greeted several people individually, including three representatives of the Buddhist faith. The Buddhists are participating in the third Buddhist-Christian Symposium, taking place this week Castel Gandolfo.
Vatican City, Apr 30, 2008 (CNA) - Today Pope Benedict accepted the resignation of Bishop Donald E. Pelotte of the Diocese of Gallup, who has been on medical leave since last December.
Last July, Bishop Pelotte, the first American Indian bishop ever appointed, suffered from a fall at his home in Gallup, New Mexico. The fall caused head injury and heavy bruising across his face, chest, both arms, knuckles, legs, and feet.
While doctors and news agencies speculated that the injuries were more consistent with an assault than a fall down a staircase, the bishop insisted that he was not attacked by anyone.
A few months later, the bishop made the news again when he called the police to report four "gentle little people, about 3 to 4 feet tall, and wearing Halloween masks" who refused to leave his home.
The officers searched inside and outside of his home and found no intruders.
In December, Bishop Pelotte began medical leave and Bishop Thomas Olmstead of the Diocese of Phoenix was appointed to oversee the diocese of Gallup.
Bishop Pelotte has served the Diocese of Gallup since 1990.
Vatican City, Apr 30, 2008 (CNA) - The Vatican has released the calendar of liturgical events that will be presided over by Pope Benedict between the months of May – August. The list includes Mass and procession on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi; First Vespers to open the Pauline Year; World Youth Day in Sydney; and Mass to celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption.
- Saturday 3: Recitation of the Rosary at 6 p.m. in the Roman basilica of St. Mary Major.
- Sunday 11: Pentecost Sunday. Mass at 10 a.m. in the Vatican Basilica.
- Saturday 17 and Sunday 18: Pastoral visit to Savona and Genoa, Italy.
- Thursday 22: Solemnity of Corpus Christi. Mass at 7 p.m. in the basilica of St. John Lateran, followed by a procession to the basilica of St. Mary Major for Eucharistic blessing.
- Saturday 14 and Sunday 15: Pastoral visit to Santa Maria di Leuca and Brindisi, Italy.
- Saturday 28: At 6 p.m. in the Roman basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, First Vespers for the solemn opening of the Pauline Year.
- Sunday 29: Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles. Mass at 9:30 a.m. in the Vatican Basilica. Blessing and imposition of the pallium on metropolitan archbishops.
- Saturday 12 to Monday 21: Apostolic trip to Australia for World Youth Day in Sydney.
- Friday 15: Solemnity of the Assumption, Mass at 8 a.m. in the parish church of St. Thomas of Villanova in Castelgandolfo.
Vatican City, Apr 30, 2008 (CNA) - This morning the Vatican released the Pope's prayer intentions for the month of May. For this coming month, Benedict XVI is praying that Christians become more involved in promoting human dignity in society and that Mary will continue to guide missionaries around the world.
Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for May is: "That Christians may use literature, art and the mass media to greater advantage in order to favor a culture which defends and promotes the values of the human person".
His mission intention is: "That the Virgin Mary, Star of evangelization and Queen of the Apostles, may still guide today with maternal affection the missionaries, both men and women, throughout the world, just as she accompanied the Apostles in the early stages of the Church".
Vatican City, Apr 30, 2008 (CNA) - Following today's general audience, Benedict XVI received a group of Iranian Muslims who have been meeting biannually for the last 12 years with the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue. The dialogue between the Vatican and the Muslim group resulted in an agreement on faith and reason, violence and religion and the method for dialogue.
The Vatican is being represented in the discussions by a delegation led by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, while the president of the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization of Tehran, Iran is leading their group. Representatives from both groups have been holding meetings in Rome to study the theme of: "Faith and Reason in Christianity and Islam".
During the course of the discussions, which came to a close on Wednesday, the two delegations agreed upon the following points:
1. "Faith and reason are both gifts of God to mankind."
2. "Faith and reason do not contradict each other, but faith might in some cases be above reason, but never against it."
3. "Faith and reason are intrinsically non-violent. Neither reason nor faith should be used for violence; unfortunately, both of them have been sometimes misused to perpetrate violence. In any case, these events cannot question either reason or faith."
4. "Both sides agreed to further co-operate in order to promote genuine religiosity, in particular spirituality, to encourage respect for symbols considered to be sacred and to promote moral values."
5. "Christians and Muslims should go beyond tolerance, accepting differences, while remaining aware of commonalties and thanking God for them. They are called to mutual respect, thereby condemning derision of religious beliefs."
6. "Generalization should be avoided when speaking of religions. Differences of confessions with Christianity and Islam, diversity of historical contexts are important factors to be considered."
7. "Religious traditions cannot be judged on the basis of a single verse or a passage present in their respective holy Books. A holistic vision as well as an adequate hermeneutical method is necessary for a fair understanding of them".
Speaking with the Iranian news agency IRNA after a meeting with Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, the head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Mostafavi said that the two had discussed other ways to improve dialogue between Catholics and Muslims.
One of the ideas under discussion included holding meetings dedicated to religious-themed theatre and cinema. Another proposal floated in the meeting was to facilitate exchanges between scientific institutes and universities linked to the Catholic Church and Shia research centers in Iran.
Geneva, Ill., Apr 30, 2008 (CNA) - Switzerland has now become a country in which the unborn are less important than plants and animals. The country’s Federal Ethics Committee is encouraging the defense of the “dignity” of plants, and Parliament has approved a law granting animals unprecedented rights.
According to a report on LifeSiteNews.com, the Swiss Parliament passed a law last week requiring prospective dog owners to complete a course in canine treatment that will include both theoretical and practical elements. Due to concern over recent studies suggesting the pain experienced by fish, anglers are now subjected to a preparatory course on humane fishing. The new laws will also dictate how farmers treat their livestock and even regulates the proper treatment of rhinoceroses.
"The aim is not only to ensure treatment of animals appropriate to each species, but also to decrease the risk of attacks by dangerous dogs. Inappropriate treatment could lead to behavioral disorders," explained Hans Wyss, head of the Swiss Federal Veterinary Office.
The Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on non-human biotechnology has been working to determine what kind of research respects "plant dignity" enough to be eligible for government funding.
"At the moment not even authorities who decide on grants know what the 'dignity of plants' really means," committee member Markus Schefer said.
LifesiteNews.com reported that most committee members consider interference with a plant's reproductive functions undignified, making some plant geneticists concerned that the committee could greatly hinder traditionally accepted genetic engineering, such as commercial seedless fruits or the hybridization of roses.
The added protections afforded to plant and animal life stand in sharp contrast to the Swiss government's recent disregard for the life of the nation's unborn. In June 2002, the country decided to allow women to abort their children during the first trimester, provided a doctor determines that she is in an ambiguously defined "state of distress."
, Apr 30, 2008 (CNA) - Catholics and other Christians in China are considering how to respond to the Olympic Games. While some Catholics are avoiding controversy altogether, some are uniting to protest the abuses of the Chinese government, according to UCA News.
Father Dominic Chan Chi-Ming, the vicar-general of the Diocese of Hong Kong, told UCA News that the diocese is not planning any special activities for the torch relay or the Olympic Games unless the government requests their help. However, he said that foreign athletes can attend English-language Masses in many parishes around the diocese.
One Hong Kong priest, who asked not to be named, told UCA News that area Catholics have different attitudes towards the Olympics.
“China hosting the Olympic Games makes all Chinese feel proud, but China has its deficiencies, such as arresting dissidents," he said. "This makes one sad."
He said his parish had not organized any activities related to the games.
"Organizing any activities for this purpose would upset some members," he said. "So we have just reminded the parishioners to do things according to their conscience."
The priest emphasized that disruptive attacks on the touring Olympic torch would be wrong, but “demonstrating peacefully should be acceptable.”
The Olympic torch will pass through Hong Kong on May 2, accompanied by 120 torchbearers.
Or Yan-Yan, who is the project officer of the Diocese of Hong Kong’s Justice and Peace Commission (JPC), told UCA News that the Tiananmen Mothers Campaign will stage a protest on May 2 to heighten public awareness about the June 4, 1989 government crackdown on student protesters at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. The JPC is one of the local groups supporting the campaign, which demands that families of victims have the right to mourn their loved ones openly.
Or said people should support the Olympics, but she said the Games should be “a tool to promote human dignity, and the torch relay here aims to spread such spirit.”
Some local Protestants are lending their public support to the Olympic Games. They have produced a video CD on the witness of Christian athletes, as well as an “Olympic edition” of the Gospel of Mark. They have also scheduled prayer meetings, which they expect thousands to attend.
Caracas, Venezuela, Apr 30, 2008 (CNA) - The Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference said this week that education should not be made a political issue, because it is the right of all Venezuelans to receive quality, values-based education.
“The ‘battle,’ as some have called it, over education is not a question of political wins or losses, because values and rights are not subject to the polling booth,” the bishops said in a statement read by the president of the Committee on Education, Bishop Jose Angel Divasson.
The statement, which was issued during the bishops’ 36th Extraordinary Plenary Assembly, expresses their concern that the educational system could be subjected to a political agenda, something which is “arbitrary and exclusive.”
The bishops criticized the “exaggerated militarism, the biased vision of history” that some want to impose on the new school curriculum. They called for an “extensive national dialogue” about the theoretical, pedagogical and philosophical foundations that should be understood in light of the constitution and not interpreted unilaterally.”
They also called on the government not to implement the new curriculum and to make their educational policy plans public in order to prevent the spread of rumors.
Montevideo, Uruguay, Apr 30, 2008 (CNA) - The Catholic Church in Uruguay, together with seven Christian groups, has sent a letter to the country’s president, Tabare Vazquez, expressing support for the veto of a new law that would legalize abortion in Uruguay.
In the letter, the Christian leaders said, “The so-called ‘reproductive health law’ would not only be unconstitutional but would also contradict the un-renounceable ethical principle of the defense of life.”
After pointing out that “the true wellbeing of the mother cannot be protected without protecting that of her child as well, or vice versa,” the leaders proposed an alternative: “a law protecting pregnant women.” They said that the penalty imposed on women for undergoing an abortion should be minimal, “as she is deprived of a fundamental aspect of free will,” and that heavy punishments should be imposed on those who “directly or indirectly collaborate in an abortion or who sell abortifacient products.”
They also called for more support centers for pregnant women that are led by professionals who can provide women with the help they need to carry their babies to term.
The proposal addresses adoption reform as well, calling for a more streamlined process, since “there are many stable families that are willing and able to welcome children into their home.” The Christian leaders also voiced support for international adopt-a-child programs, whereby financial aid is coordinated through charitable organizations and parents receive the assistance they need to be able to raise their children.
The letter was signed by representatives of the Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Anglican, Armenian Apostolic, Baptist and Pentecostal churches, among others.
Madrid, Spain, Apr 30, 2008 (CNA) - Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela of Madrid has expressed to missionaries his joy over their “generous commitment” and called attention to the limitations they suffer due to a lack of resources.
In a series of letters to missionaries and their families, Cardinal Rouco has said all Catholics should be open to the universal mission of the Church. “Those of us who remain in Madrid supporting our missionaries in faraway countries, and they who count on us … cooperate in the building of the one and only Church of Christ,” the cardinal wrote.
He called on young people to be docile to the call of Christ, saying “there is no greater joy” that giving one’s life for God and in service to others.
In another letter addressed to the families of missionaries, Cardinal Rouco said that they are a gift for those who are far away, “through your support, your prayer and your love”. In addition, they are a gift because they bear witness that “there is something great which makes giving a child or a brother to mission work worthwhile.” “Your lives are a testimony for those who cannot understand the vocation of your loved ones,” he said.
Cardinal Rouco also recalled the limitations suffered by missionaries who have “scarce” resources and on more people “to follow the call of Christ to the missions.”
This coming Sunday the cardinal will celebrate a Mass and commissioning service for new missionaries who will leave this year.
Hollywood, Calif., Apr 30, 2008 (CNA) - In an interview with “Christopher Closeup,” a radio show for the media apostolate The Christophers, Jim Caviezel described both the deep fear he felt when adopting two children with brain tumors, and the joy he and his wife have received from doing the will of Christ.
Caviezel, best known in Christian circles for his role as Jesus in Mel Gibson’s movie, “The Passion of the Christ”, has been committed to his Catholic and pro-life beliefs for a while. When he was challenged to prove his faith by adopting a disabled child, he and his wife, Kerri, traveled to China where they adopted a five-year old boy who was living in an orphanage.
Caviezel recalled that he was “completely terrified” at the possibility of adopting a child with a disability, but deep within his soul, he knew that God wanted him to do it.
He compared the fear he felt at the prospect of adopting a child to other “fearful” times in his life. Caviezel explained that in some of the “most important decisions” in his life, he has experienced a “huge fear” and found that he needed to trust God through his faith.
The boy, Bo, had been abandoned on a train as an infant and was raised in the orphanage where they children were told that they did not have a mother. Instead, orphanage workers told them they were born out of the dirt.
Bo also struggled with a brain tumor that threatened his life. Though surgery has not been able to remove the tumor, the Caviezels have been by Bo’s side throughout the procedures.
Though there have been difficult times, Caviezel notes that the adoption has been a blessing from God. “The joy that we have from this child, he’s like our own…”
Later, the couple decided to adopt another child, a healthy newborn girl. However, before the adoption took place, they met a five year-old girl – also with a brain tumor.
The couple stated that they knew the healthy baby would find a good home, however it was likely that the sick girl would not. They decided to adopt the five year-old and have been blessed ever since.
Caviezel continued by discussing the courage it takes to do the will of Christ and encouraging those who may be scared to do what God is asking. “When you have great fear, that is when you are a Christian…you have no idea the blessings you have coming to you if you take a chance on faith.”
Reflecting on his earlier years, Caviezel stated that he has been a coward in the past – one who would run away from the will of Christ that seemed so difficult. “I never want to do that again.”
Caviezel added that he prays every day that to have the courage to do the right thing and when considering whether or not to do the will of God, to never take for granted the sacrifices that He made for us.