Vatican City, Jun 2, 2008 (CNA) - As May’s last day came to a close on Saturday, Cardinal Angelo Comastri and Pope Benedict held a celebration to mark the end of the month of Mary. In his words on Mary, the Pope pointed to how her Magnificat remains the truest and most insightful understanding of history.
The celebration of Mary’s month took place at St. Peter’s Square at 8 o’clock in the evening and was presided over by Cardinal Angelo Comastri, the archpriest of the Vatican Basilica. The cardinal led the faithful in the recitation of the Rosary while a statue of the Virgin Mary was carried around the square in procession. Following the Marian prayer, Pope Benedict spoke to the faithful about Mary as a model for Christians.
The Pope began by recalling how today marks the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin and that of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and he also noted how "during the month of May many Christian communities have the beautiful custom of solemnly reciting the Rosary in families and in parishes."
"May this habit not cease, rather may it be continued with greater commitment so that, at the school of May, the lamp of faith may shine ever more brightly in the hearts of Christians and in their homes."
The Holy Father then turned to reflect on the events of Mary’s life.
Following the Annunciation of the Archangel, "Mary found herself with a great mystery closed in her womb; she knew that something unique had happened; she was aware that the last chapter in the history of the salvation of the world had begun," the Pope said.
Another poignant moment in the life of the Virgin Mary is her visit to her cousin Elizabeth who, "illuminated from on high, exclaimed: 'Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord!"
The Holy Father explained how Elizabeth's words "awoke in Mary's soul a hymn of praise which is a real and profound 'theological' reading of history: a reading that we must learn continually from the Woman whose faith was unshadowed and unbroken. 'My soul magnifies the Lord'. Mary recognized God's greatness. This is the first and indispensable sentiment of the faith, the sentient that gives human beings security and frees them from fear, despite the storms of history."
"Her faith enabled her to see that the thrones of the powerful of this world are all transitory, while the throne of God is the only rock that does not change and does not fall. After centuries and millennia, her Magnificat remains the truest and most profound interpretation of history, while the theories of so many wise men of this world have been disproved by the facts over the course of the centuries."
"Let us return home with the Magnificat in our hearts", Benedict XVI concluded. "Let us carry Mary's same feelings of praise and gratitude towards the Lord, her faith and her hope, her meek abandonment in the hands of Divine Providence. Let us imitate her example of readiness and generosity in serving our fellow man. Indeed, only by welcoming God's love and making our existence a form of disinterested and generous service to others, will we be able to raise a joyful hymn of praise to the Lord. May we receive this grace through the Blessed Virgin, who this evening invites us to find refuge in her Immaculate Heart."
Vatican City, Jun 2, 2008 (CNA) - Today the Pope welcomed 7,000 faithful from the archdiocese of Turin, Italy. After extolling their efforts to grow deeper in the faith, the Holy Father announced that in the spring of 2010, there will be an exposition of the Shroud of Turin.
Pope Benedict began his talk to the faithful by saying that he is aware of how over the past ten years, the archdiocesan community has undertaken "wide-ranging apostolic and missionary activities, based on intense spiritual movement which focuses above all on the Sunday Eucharist, on weekly Eucharistic adoration and on the rediscovery of the importance of the Sacrament of Penance."
The Holy Father noted how the next pastoral year will be dedicated to the Word of God, while the following one "will see you oriented towards a more attentive contemplation of the Passion of Christ."
The Pope also had a special gift that he gave the Catholics from Turin as the contemplate Jesus’ Passion. At the audience he announced that he had accepted the request of the archbishop of Turin to have another “Solemn Exposition of the Shroud” in the spring of 2010.
He spontaneously added that, "If the Lord gives me life and health, I too hope to come." The Exposition of the Shroud, he said, "will provide an appropriate moment to contemplate that mysterious Face which silently speaks to the hearts of men, inviting them to recognize therein the face of God."
"May no difficulty or obstacle hinder your love for the Gospel of Christ!" exclaimed the Pope. "If Jesus is the center of your families, of your parishes and of all communities, you will feel His living presence, and unity and communion will grow among the various elements of the diocese.”
He encouraged the faithful to nourish their relationship with Christ through “prayer and with the frequent practice of the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Confession.” Young people were also a concern for the Holy Father who said that their “continuous Christian formation” must be ensured by the community. The adults of the Christian community should strive to be marked by their “works of charity and for your joint efforts to face the great 'educational challenge' of the new generations."
Finally, Benedict XVI asked the Virgin Mary "to protect priests and pastoral care workers, to ensure your communities have numerous holy vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, to arouse in young people the desire to follow the exalted ideal of sanctity, and to be a comfort and support especially for the elderly, the sick, the suffering and for people alone and abandoned.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 2, 2008 (CNA) - Speaking on Mexican television, the president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, thanked the faithful for their prayers after he underwent an operation for pancreatic cancer last month.
According to Noticieros Televisa, the cardinal underwent surgery last month for cancerous cells found inside his pancreas. He said doctors removed the organ and that the operation lasted some ten hours.
The Mexican cardinal said his first reaction to news he would need surgery was “sportsmanlike.” “I thought I made it through both halves without any goals being scored, thanks be to God,” he joked. “Now I was in overtime and I said, maybe it’s the Lord who wants to score a goal.”
He said his recovery would be long-term but that doctors were satisfied with the operation. He attributed his good condition to the prayers of the faithful.
“I felt very supported because many beloved people from Mexico called and wrote emails to say they were praying for me, and I want to send them all my thanks, and I especially thank Our Lady of Guadalupe. My thanks and affection to all,” he said.
Madrid, Spain, Jun 2, 2008 (CNA) - The Liberal Party in Belgium has put forth a measure that would expand the country’s euthanasia law passed in 2002 to allow it to be applied to children and persons with dementia.
The Spanish online daily Hoy reported that current law in Belgium permits euthanasia “only for adults and in specific circumstances: terminal pathologies or illnesses that cause severe pain or suffering. Belgium was the second country in Europe behind Holland to approve the practice.”
Now liberal lawmakers are repeating an effort made in 2004 to allow for euthanasia for “persons with diminished brain activity due to dementia or to accidents, although such persons must express their desire in writing.”
The law would also force doctors who refuse to apply euthanasia to refer patients to others who will, and they must allow the patients to carry out the act themselves if they so wish.
Liberal Senator Jean-Jacques de Gucht is the sponsor of the measure and says his proposals may receive the support of other parties, even though the same strategy failed in 2004.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 2, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop Rodrigo Aguilar Martinez of Tehuacan in Mexico said last week that political authorities of any level “lack the faculties to restrict or eliminate human rights, which derive from the inherent dignity of the human person.”
In an article published on May 29, the Mexican bishop said, “Human rights, among them the right to life,” are irrevocable and come before the State, “which has the sole duty of recognizing them and protecting them in its national and international legislation, but it does not grant them.”
“Neither do they depend on recognition from society, nor therefore, are they are not subject to consensus,” he continued. “People make laws, laws do not make people,” he said in reference to the public arguments being held at the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the law on abortion in Mexico City.
While he acknowledged that women undergo abortion for different reasons, Bishop Aguilar stressed, “This is not about pitting the rights of the woman against those of the unborn. Both are of value.”
“Let us work that both may live and give protection to women in crisis pregnancies. Abortion causes more dangers than continuing with the pregnancy,” he said.
“If the mother doesn’t see a way to assume responsibility for the baby to be born, let her give him in adoption. We need to facilitate the adoption process and provide legal and social guarantees to reconcile work and family. We need to promote the establishing of day care centers and protect single moms and children who grow up on the street,” the bishop said.
He denounced the Mexico City law allowing for abortion up to 85 days after conception when from the conception “the zygote is a new organism” that has its own unique DNA, different from the mother’s and the father’s. “It is absurd and unjust that the law protects life at 85 days and leaves unborn life at 84 days without protection, as if there were a qualitative difference between one and the other,” he said.
Vatican City, Jun 2, 2008 (CNA) - On Saturday morning the new ambassador from the land of “eternal spring” or Guatemala was received by Pope Benedict at the Vatican. The topics raised by the Pope during the meeting included emigration, poverty, proper nutrition and violence.
After Acisclo Valladares Molina presented his letters of credence as the new ambassador of Guatemala to the Holy See, the Holy Father addressed the diplomat on how to continue building a better Guatemalan society.
This year, Pope Benedict remarked, marks the 25th anniversary of John Paul II's first pastoral visit to the land "of eternal spring" as he began his talk. Before giving his analysis of the problems facing the country, the Holy Father praised the fidelity that Guatemalans have always responded with to the Holy See's concern for their country.
Amongst the areas of concern that the Pope drew attention too were poverty and emigration, which he said are also concerns for the Church. “Her rich ecclesial experience, accumulated over the course of history, may be of help in finding the means to face these problems from a humanitarian perspective, and to strengthen solidarity which is indispensable in order to find effective and lasting solutions," he said.
The solution to these pressing needs, the Pope explained, lies in “crucial technical and economic programs” that are “supplemented by other factors that foment the dignity of the person, the stability of the family and an education that takes the most important human and Christian values into account."
Those who “have had to abandon their land, though not forgetting it in their hearts" must not be overlooked in assessing the needs of the country either, the Pontiff reminded. "This is a duty of gratitude and justice towards those who are, in effect, also an important source of income for the country in which they were born."
Another challenge facing Guatemala is that of "remedying the malnutrition of many children", said Benedict XVI, observing how "eradicating hunger and, at the same time, ensuring healthy and sufficient nourishment, requires specific methods and actions that enable resources to be exploited while respecting the heritage of creation."
This primary right to food, said the Pope, "is intrinsically linked to the protection and defense of human life, the firm and unbreakable rock upon which the entire edifice of human rights rests.” Being committed to the defense of human life means that, “We can never, then, show enough ... concern for mothers, especially those suffering serious difficulties, so that they can bring their children into the world with dignity and thus avoid the unjustifiable recourse to abortion. One way to help prevent the killing of any of the unborn is to ease the process of adoption, the Holy Father mentioned.
In closing his address, Pope Benedict touched on "the blight of social violence," which he said is often exacerbated by "a lack of dialogue and of cohesion in families, by profound economic inequalities, by grave negligence and shortcomings in the field of healthcare, by drug consumption and trafficking, and by the plague of corruption." In this context, he expressed his satisfaction at the progress Guatemala has made in combating these difficulties.
Rome, Italy, Jun 2, 2008 (CNA) - Auxiliary Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo of Jerusalem told L’Osservatore Romano this week that there has been a marked increase in the number of pilgrims visiting the Holy Land, thus allowing for the Church in Israel and peace in the Middle East to be promoted.
Father Gianfranco Pinto Ostuni, director of the Office of Pilgrimages of the Delegations from Rome to the Holy Land, told the Vatican daily that from June 2008 to January 2009, there are 27 pilgrimages scheduled. “We have doubled the trips since 2007. It’s enough just point out that last Easter 45,000 Italian pilgrims visited Jerusalem.”
In 2006, 58,000 Italian pilgrims visited the Holy Land and in 2007, 82,000. According to tourism promoter Maurizio Baiocchi, “at least 100,000” are expected to visit in 2009.
The custodian of the Holy Land, Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, said he expected some one million Russian pilgrims to visit the region in 2009, thanks to eased restrictions on visas for visiting Russians. He said large numbers of Muslim pilgrims are also expected next year as many come to visit the Omar and Al Aqsa Mosques, as well as the Holy Sepulcher, “in homage to Jesus, who they consider a prophet of Islam.”
Another Franciscan custodian of the Holy Land and professor at the “Biblicum” of Jerusalem, Father Frederic Mannes, said, “Many Christians here are in the religious tourism business. Seeing so many pilgrims from all over the world helps diminish the sense of abandonment that they often experience. Christians here, who are in contact with Jews and with globalization, tend to forget their religious identity,” he continued. “The presence of pilgrims can inspire in them as well a rediscovery of their faith.”
Brasilia, Brazil, Jun 2, 2008 (CNA) - The movement Brazil Without Abortion decried the ruling by the country’s Supreme Court to uphold the Law on Biosecurity that allows for research with human embryos to treat illnesses, despite the fact that scientists around the world have moved away from this method.
In a controversial ruling, the Court struck down a constitutional challenge to the law, which allows for research to be done on embryos that have been created in-vitro and been frozen for more than three years in a fertility clinic.
Sponsors of the law claimed it does not harm the inviolability of the right to life, protected by the Brazilian constitution.
In response, the Brazil Without Abortion movement announced that it would, “continue fighting for the defense of life” by coordinating groups and organizations to protest against the use of embryos as research material. The group also called on Brazilians to be aware of the strategies being used by different entities to legalize abortion in the country.
San Francisco, Calif., Jun 2, 2008 (CNA) - Attorneys general from ten states on Friday asked the California Supreme Court to delay until November its ruling implementing legal same-sex marriages.
The attorneys general, all Republicans, said if the ruling is implemented on schedule on June 17, the states would be subjected to lawsuits from homosexual couples married in California who seek to have their unions recognized in their home states, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
"An inevitable result of such 'marriage tourism' will be a steep increase in litigation" over whether the couple's home state must recognize their marriage, said Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, who authored the brief. Shurtleff said delaying the implementation of the ruling would save other states from “premature, unnecessary, unnecessarily difficult, and therefore unduly burdensome litigation in our courts.”
The attorneys general of Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, South Carolina and South Dakota joined the brief.
Each of the ten states has legally banned the recognition of same-sex marriages contracted elsewhere. Unlike Massachusetts, where homosexual marriages have also been legalized, California allows residents of other states to marry even if the marriage would not be legal in their home state.
California voters could overturn the state Supreme Court’s decision in the November 3 election with a constitutional amendment that would declare only opposite-sex marriages to be valid. Sponsors of the amendment have submitted petitions bearing 1.1 million signatures, about 400,000 more signatures than required to qualify for the state ballot.
If the amendment passes, courts will then have to decide whether California same-sex marriages contracted before November 3 were valid.
Rome, Italy, Jun 2, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has reportedly canceled meetings with seven world leaders to avoid encountering Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Forty heads of state, including Ahmadinejad, will arrive in Rome on Tuesday for a United Nations summit on the global food crisis. The meeting comes as soaring food prices have pushed at least 22 countries to the brink of catastrophe.
The Telegraph reports that Pope Benedict wished to avoid the publicity that would have accompanied a one-on-one meeting with the Iranian president.
President Ahmadinejad was reportedly eager to meet with Pope Benedict.
The Vatican reportedly considered a single audience for all the heads of state, but decided to refuse all requests to avoid any potential embarrassment. The presidents of Brazil, Argentina, and Bolivia, as well as several African leaders, had asked for a papal meeting.
According to the Telegraph, Iranian spokesman Gholam-Hossein Elham confirmed that the Vatican had refused all meetings, adding that Iran had never formally requested a meeting.
Another controversy-causing person who will reportedly be in attendance is Robert Mugabe. The leader of Zimbabwe has presided over the devastation of the economy that was once known as the “bread basket of Africa.” The embattled president is able to attend the summit because it is being held under the auspices of the U.N., which makes his status as a persona non grata in the EU not applicable.
Vatican City, Jun 2, 2008 (CNA) - On Saturday Pope Benedict XVI received members of the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice organization, telling them that “harmonious” human development is possible and that mankind must remain the focus of all economic planning.
The Holy Father took the opportunity to comment on the group’s discussions about the need to “promote a form of global development that remains attentive to the integral promotion of mankind.”
"Harmonious development is possible," Pope Benedict said, "if political and economic choices ... take into account the fundamental principles which make [such development] accessible to everyone: ... subsidiarity and solidarity."
“Only a shared culture of responsible and active participation will enable human beings to consider themselves not just as users or passive witnesses, but active participants in world development," he said.
Profit must be prevented from becoming “purely individual,” and forms of collectivism oppressive of personal freedom must be avoided. “Economic and commercial interests must never become exclusive, because this would be an effective affront to human dignity," Pope Benedict said.
"On the last day, on the Day of Judgment, we will be asked whether we used what God placed at our disposal to meet legitimate requirements, to help our fellow man, especially the smallest and those most in need", he concluded.
Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice, according to its website, is a lay-led pontifical organization dedicated to lay education and evangelization of Catholic social doctrine as contained in Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Centisimus Annus. The organization, which is composed of business people, academics and professionals, was founded by Pope John Paul II in 1993.