Vatican City, Jun 9, 2008 (CNA) - On Monday morning candidates from the Holy See’s school for training diplomats had the opportunity to meet with Pope Benedict XVI. The key to success in their work, the Pope said, is to love and remain united to Christ and the Church.
The students of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, the institution which trains candidates for the Holy See diplomatic service, along with Archbishop Beniamino Stella, president of the academy, heard the Holy Father explain his insight into their service.
"Apart from the necessary juridical, theological and diplomatic training", the Pope told them, "what is most important is that your lives and activities should reflect a faithful love for Christ and for the Church which arouses in you a friendly pastoral concern towards everyone."
Regardless of what specific task they are called to, the Pope said that, "Unity with Christ is the secret of authentic success for the ministry of each priest.” He continued, saying, “ensure that you always remain His true friends, faithful friends who have met Him and have learned to love Him above all else. Communion with Him, the divine Master of our souls, will ensure you serenity and peace even in the most complex and difficult moments."
The Pope also addressed the pitfalls of the world that the future diplomats will minister in.
Faced with the danger "of losing the meaning of life," and of "a certain contemporary culture that casts doubt upon any kind of absolute value, even the possibility of recognizing truth and goodness", said Pope Benedict, "we must bear witness to the presence of God, a God Who understands man and knows how to speak to his heart."
"Announce the Truth that is Christ!” he encouraged the men. “May prayer, meditation and listening to the Word of God be your daily bread."
Also of great importance is the daily celebration of the Eucharist, the Holy Father said as he reflected on the source of strength and love that can be found there. “It is not possible to approach the Lord every day, to pronounce these tremendous moving words, 'this is my Body, this is my Blood', ... to take the Body and Blood of the Lord in our hands, without allowing ourselves to be seized by Him, ... without allowing His infinite love to change us within. May the Eucharist become a school of life for you, in which Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross teaches you to give yourselves totally to your fellow man.”
Benedict XVI finished his address by telling the diplomats in training that their role is to offer the fruit of their union with Christ to those they minister to.
Vatican City, Jun 9, 2008 (CNA) - Saturday at the Vatican, the Holy Father received college educators participating in the sixth European Symposium of University Professors. In his address, the Pontiff emphasized the vital role of philosophy in understanding modernity.
The symposium, which was held in Rome on June 4 – 7, focused on the theme: "Broadening the Horizons of Reason. Prospects for Philosophy."
Benedict XVI began his address by noting that 2008 marks the tenth anniversary of John Paul II's Encyclical "Fides et ratio." He recalled that when it was published, fifty philosophy professors in Rome “expressed their gratitude to the Pope with a declaration underlining the importance of re-launching the study of philosophy in universities and schools."
Reflecting on the years since the encyclical, the Pope mentioned that events which have occurred in the past ten years have “delineated more clearly the historical and cultural stage onto which philosophical research is called to enter. Indeed, the crisis of modernity is not a symptom of the decline of philosophy; on the contrary, philosophy must embark upon new lines of research in order to understand the true nature of that crisis."
"Modernity is not simply a historically-datable cultural phenomenon; in reality it requires a new focus, a more exact understanding of the nature of man."
Benedict XVI indicated that since the beginning of his pontificate he had received various suggestions "from men and women of our time," and that "in the light of these I have decided to offer a research proposal which I feel may arouse interest in a re-launch of philosophy and of its unique role within the modern academic and cultural world."
Quoting his own book, "Introduction to Christianity," he said: "The Christian faith has made a clear choice: against the gods of religion for the God of the philosophers, in other words against the myth of custom and for the truth of being. This affirmation,” he continued, “is still fully relevant in the historical-cultural context in which we now live. Indeed, only on the basis of this premise - which is historical and theological at one and the same time - is it possible to respond to the new expectations of philosophy. The risk that religion, even the Christian religion, be surreptitiously manipulated, is very real even today."
"The proposal to 'Broaden the Horizons of Reason' should be understood as a request for a new openness towards the reality to which human beings in their uni-totality are called, overcoming old prejudices and reductive viewpoints in order to open the way to a new understanding of modernity."
Today, dialogue in between faith and reason cannot occur as in past times, explained the Pope. "If it does not want to see itself reduced to the status of a sterile intellectual exercise, it must start from the current real situation of mankind, and upon that build a reflection that embraces man's ontological and metaphysical truth."
In his closing remarks, Benedict XVI referred to the need to "promote high-profile academic centers in which philosophy can enter into dialogue with other disciplines, in particular with theology, to favor new cultural syntheses capable of guiding society." He expressed the hope that "Catholic academic institutions may be ready to create true cultural laboratories" and he invited the professors to encourage young people "to commit themselves to philosophical studies by facilitating appropriate initiatives" to guide them in that direction."
Vatican City, Jun 9, 2008 (CNA) - This morning at the Vatican, the Holy Father appointed Msgr. Manuel A. Cruz as auxiliary of the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey. The bishop-elect, who is currently a priest of the same archdiocese, will oversee the Church in Union County and will assist Archbishop John J. Myers.
Msgr. Cruz was born in 1953 in Havana, Cuba, and studied at Seton Hall in South Orange, NJ. After receiving his Masters in Sacred Scripture, he was ordained a priest in 1980 for the Archdiocese of Newark.
In a statement to the local media, Archbishop Myers expressed his delight at the new appointment. “[Msgr. Cruz] is well-known and highly regarded by the priests and people of this archdiocese not only for his extensive involvement in ministry to the Spanish-speaking, but also for his deep and strong commitment to the health and the needs of the poor.”
The Archdiocese of Newark has 1.3 million Catholics and 834 priests.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jun 9, 2008 (CNA) - In a statement issued at the end of their extraordinary meeting, the Bishops’ Conference of Argentina called for “transparent and constructive dialogue” between the government and other sectors involved in the country’s current crisis caused by a stalemate in negotiations.
In their statement, the bishops explained that they were meeting “in response to the grave situation caused by the prolonged conflict between the agricultural sector and the national government,” and they underscored that these kinds of situations “especially jeopardize those who poorest.”
They said “significant gestures” on the part of both parties as well as greater vigilance over the country’s institutions are the only way to work towards a solution.
“On the other hand, even though there may be just complaints,” the bishops said, “we will not solve our problems out on the street. Therefore, we insistently ask the government to urgently convene a transparent and constructive dialogue, and we ask the sectors in conflict to take a new look at the manner in which they are voicing their complaints. Neither moderation in one’s demands, nor magnanimity in the exercising of power are signs of weakness,” they said.
After encouraging Argentineans to help the poor through a “firm and long-lasting commitment to justice and solidarity,” the bishops encouraged all to pray for “those who are most in need.”
The ended their message entrusting their plea to the intercession of Our Lady of Lujan, the patroness of Argentina.
Bogotá, Colombia, Jun 9, 2008 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro, said that in the wake of the death of FARC leader “Tirofijo” and the naming of Alfonso Cano as the rebel movement’s new leader, “We wish to speak face to face with him about the humanitarian accord. That is my desire and my hope.”
In an interview with the magazine Cambio, the archbishop said that while an immediate dialogue with the new FARC leader would not be possible, he was hopeful that “with the arrival of new people, their way of doing things would change and the guerrilla movement would sensibly accept that dialogue is the only option that remains.”
Archbishop Castro said that Cano “has more political sense, a good college education and knows the country’s problems” and that therefore he hopes that he realizes that “dialogue is the best solution.”
“The FARC is at a difficult moment, but it has a great opportunity with the new leader,” he said. “I believe that the day will come when the soldiers will be moved to the backburner and those who have greater political intuition, capacity and willingness to engage in dialogue will come to the forefront. I have a feeling this is happening. There is a new spokesman and this opens possibilities for finding new paths for dialogue,” the archbishop said.
Regarding the support the FARC receives from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Archbishop Castro noted that there is “undoubtedly support” and that “the response of the FARC has been generous in handing over hostages.” However, he went on, “I don’t see the same response from Ecuador. The FARC should take this into account in order to begin to negotiate because they are being left alone.”
In recent months, the FARC has suffered the death of some its top leaders, including Tomas Medina, Martin Caballero, Raul Reyes and FARC founder, Fabian Marulanda, known as “Tirofijo.”
Vatican City, Jun 9, 2008 (CNA) - In a letter released today, the Holy Father announced the appointment of Cardinal Josef Tomko, president emeritus of the Pontifical Committee for Eucharistic Congresses, as pontifical legate to the celebration of the 49th International Eucharistic Congress, which will be held in Quebec, Canada, from June 15-22.
The international congress with the theme, “The Eucharist: Gift of God for the Life of the World,” has been described by the president of the organizing committee as an “opportunity for Catholics of the world to celebrate their faith in the Eucharist and bear witness to the Gospel, living moments of prayer, reflection and brotherhood.”
Cardinal Tomko will also be accompanied by Bishop Pierre-Andre Fournier, auxiliary of Quebec; Msgr. Jean Pelletier, chancellor of the diocesan Curia; Fr. Alain Pouliot, head of human resources for pastoral care; and Msgr. Luca Lorusso, counselor at the apostolic nunciature to Canada.
Vatican City, Jun 9, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI’s itinerary for his trip to the Italian towns of Santa Maria di Leuca and Brindisi was released by the Vatican today.
While Pope Benedict is in charge of the entire Catholic Church, he also serves as the bishop of Rome, and it is in this capacity that he is paying a visit to the southern coastal region.
The following schedule was released by the Vatican:
At 3:30 p.m. on Saturday June 14 the Holy Father will depart from Rome's Ciampino airport, landing an hour later at the Fortunato Cesari military airfield in Galatina. From there he will travel by helicopter to the heliport of Punta Ristola at Santa Maria di Leuca and thence by car to the shrine of Santa Maria 'de finibus terrae".
At 5:30 p.m. he will celebrate Mass at the shrine and pronounce a homily. He will then return to Punta Ristola to board a helicopter for Brindisi where at 8:30 p.m. he is scheduled to meet with young people. The Holy Father will spend that night at the residence of the archbishop of Brindisi-Ostuni.
At 9:15 a.m. on Sunday June 15, the Pope will meet with local Benedictine and Carmelite cloistered nuns in the chapel of the archbishopric. At 10 a.m. he will celebrate Mass and pronounce a homily on the Sant'Apollinare quay of the port of Brindisi. After praying the Angelus, he will return to the archbishop's residence for lunch with bishops of the Puglia region. At 4:45 p.m. he is scheduled to meet with priests in the city cathedral.
The Pope will begin his return journey to Rome from the airport of Brindisi- Casale at 5:45 p.m. He is scheduled to land at Ciampino an hour later, and from there to travel to the Vatican by car.
Caracas, Venezuela, Jun 9, 2008 (CNA) - Various Venezuelan bishops are criticizing a new law on national intelligence that would force all Venezuelans to act as informants. Cardinal Jorge Urosa of Caracas has reacted to the law by warning that the law would endanger the seal of confession.
The law states that citizens who refuse to take part in intelligence operations could be charged by the government. Human rights groups, judges and journalists warn that the new law would create a society of spies and contains vague clauses that would be open to all kinds of abuse by authorities.
Cardinal Urosa said the law may violate human rights enshrined in the country’s Constitution. “We are going to study it in detail, because it is essential that constitutionality be respected, especially in the areas that have to do with the human, civil, and political rights of all Venezuelans.”
The cardinal also criticized the law for containing many clauses “written in a very generic fashion.” The seal of confession, he continued, “has always been respected by priests. We have an obligation to keep secret what we hear in confession. That cannot be violated by any law. It would seem this law would affect the seal, and in this sense we cannot compromise.”
Cardinal Urosa emphasized that the faithful have a right to privacy and to secrecy with regards to what they tell the priest. “We cannot turn confessors into informants,” he said.
Archbishop Baltasar Porras of Merida said on Union Radio that with the new law, state security police could act in secret, without the presence of attorneys and in violation of professional confidentiality. He also expressed concern about the seal of confession and about the confidentiality of sources in journalism. The law would turn family and community members against one another, with each person becoming a tool of the state, similar to “what happened in the 30s and 40s in some countries such as Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy or Franco’s Spain.”
Toledo, Spain, Jun 9, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Toledo, Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, said this week teachers at Catholic schools must not only “transmit the faith with words but also with the explicit testimony of their own lives.”
In an article on Catholic schools, the cardinal said they “propose a Christian vision of man and the world that offers children and young people the possibility of a fruitful dialogue between faith and reason, of encountering the truth, depending on it and being guided by it.”
He went on to underscore that “truth, goodness and beauty are fundamental contents and ends of a Catholic school,” which should be “at the service of truth” and should teach everything about Jesus Christ, “who is the truth in person, and not something abstract or unreal.”
In today’s world, the cardinal explained, Catholic schools should embrace a teaching strategy that allows students to “not only acquire human, moral and spiritual maturity, but also to become involved in the transformation of society and be concerned with collaborating on the coming and establishing of the Kingdom of God among us.”
“At the center of everything,” he continued, must be “the human person, the dignity of all human beings, the establishing of fundamental human rights created not by human powers, nor forged through a consensus or through parliamentarian majorities, but rather that precede them and that are inscribed in man’s very being.”
He also called on teachers to be true evangelizers and to bring students into a closer relationship with Jesus Christ.
Vatican City, Jun 9, 2008 (CNA) - The Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue met for its tenth full assembly this past week to focus on the theme: “Dialogue in truth and love. Pastoral orientations.” On Saturday, Pope Benedict spoke to group about the importance of truth being the goal of all dialogue and charity being the motivation behind all dialogue.
Over 60 participants were led in their discussions throughout the session by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the president of the council.
The Pope began his speech to the council by expressing his happiness that, “during these days you have sought to arrive at a deeper understanding of the Catholic Church's approach to people of other religious traditions. You have considered the broader purpose of dialogue - to discover the truth - and the motivation for it, which is charity, in obedience to the divine mission entrusted to the Church by our Lord Jesus Christ."
This context of searching for the truth should impact the exchanges that the Church has with followers of other religions, the Pontiff explained. "In the words of my venerable predecessor, Pope Paul VI, the Church's principal responsibility is service to the Truth - 'truth about God, truth about man and his hidden destiny, truth about the world, truth which we discover in the Word of God'."
"It is the love of Christ which impels the Church to reach out to every human being without distinction, beyond the borders of the visible Church. The source of the Church's mission is Divine Love. ... Thus, it is love that urges every believer to listen to the other and seek areas of collaboration," the Pope reminded the council.
If love is the motivation behind inter-religious dialogue, Christians are able to propose “but not impose, faith in Christ Who is 'the way, the truth, and the life',” the Holy Father said.
“The Christian faith has shown us that 'truth, justice and love are not simply ideals, but enormously weighty realities.' For the Church, 'charity is not a kind of welfare activity which could equally well be left to others, but is a part of her nature, an indispensable expression of her very being'."
Other practical issues that arise from dialoguing with members of other faiths such as: "the identity of the partners in dialogue, religious education in schools, conversion, proselytism, reciprocity, religious freedom, and the role of religious leaders in society” were also raised. “These are important issues," Benedict said, "to which religious leaders living and working in pluralistic societies must pay close attention."
Benedict XVI also underlined the need for the promoters of inter-religious dialogue "to be well formed in their own beliefs and well informed about those of others," highlighting how "inter-religious collaboration provides opportunities to express the highest ideals of each religious tradition."
In closing, the Holy Father encouraged the council to collaborating with other people of faith by, "Helping the sick, bringing relief to the victims of natural disasters or violence, caring for the aged and the poor.”
Chicago, Ill., Jun 9, 2008 (CNA) - Controversial Chicago priest Father Michael Pfleger, a supporter of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama who publicly mocked Sen. Hillary Clinton, will return to his parish after a two-week leave of absence.
Cardinal Francis George, the Archbishop of Chicago, had asked Fr. Pfleger to go on leave from St. Sabina’s Church after video of the priest’s sermon at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago was made public. In the sermon, the priest implied Sen. Clinton had a sense of white entitlement and ridiculed a speech of hers in which she cried.
In the publicized videos, Fr. Pfleger had also said “America is the greatest sin against God.” The priest later said that he meant to say that racism is the greatest sin against God.
During Mass at St. Sabina Church on Sunday, pastoral assistant Kimberly Lymore announced that the priest would return on June 16. Lymore said that the only restrictions placed on Fr. Pfleger are that he cannot publicly mention any of the candidates’ names or campaign for any political candidates. The church leadership committee which drafted the letter read by Lymore said that it was “pleased with the outcome.”
In a letter also read by Lymore on Sunday, Fr. Pfleger asked parishioners to remain steadfast in their faith during his absence.
According to the Chicago Tribune, some parishioners said they had considered staying home in the priest’s absence but had decided to come to show support.
"Father Pfleger would have wanted us to be here," said Angela Oliver, 49.
Parishioners said the media controversy had overshadowed Father Pfleger’s good deeds in the parish neighborhood. In addition to other accomplishments, they credited the priest with running out liquor stores and gang members.
The Archdiocese of Chicago would not confirm the priest’s return date of June 16. Last Tuesday Cardinal George asked the priest to leave the parish “for a couple of weeks.”
Houston, Texas, Jun 9, 2008 (CNA) - Ann Ball, a prolific author who wrote lives of the saints alongside Catholic cookbooks, died of a heart attack shortly before midnight on Sunday, her family announced in an email.
Though a schoolteacher for many years, she later took over the operation of a security company. Following a regular workday, she would dedicate time to writing, penning several books on the saints and Catholic heritage and traditions.
Commenting on her industriousness, the president of Our Sunday Visitor, Greg Erlandson, told CNA that, "I was always surprised how she was able to run a private investigation office and still find time to write so many books that spiritually edified so many people."
In a short autobiography at Catholic Authors, the grandmother of eight wrote that curiosity about the saints led her into the Church and her career as a Catholic writer. She was especially interested in the life of Blessed Miguel Pro, the Jesuit priest and Mexican martyr.
“I find it horrifying that so few Americans realize the persecutions of the church that were right next door less than a lifetime ago. I find it equally sad that so few of our American Hispanic Catholics don't know about their own heroes,” she wrote.
She reported that her son, Sam, tells people “My mom is the only person I know who can write a cookbook one year and follow it up the next year with The Catholic Book of the Dead!"
Ball also wrote of her early forays into writing.
“I have always written things,” she said. “I remember getting up in the middle of the night when I was a child to scribble down a poem or little story. When Mama died, we found some examples of my earliest work among her papers. They were pretty awful.”
According to a biography on her web site, Ball also worked with the Basilian Fathers Missions, writing their newsletter and occasionally cooking a meal for visiting priests.
Reacting to the news of Mrs. Ball's passing, Erlandson said, "Ann Ball was a remarkable woman--biographer of saints and would-be saints, devotee of Catholic crafts and cookery, collector of holy cards and catholic memorabilia."
Erlandson also praised Ball: "She was a big-hearted, straight-talking Texan who provided so many U.S. Catholics with a window on the rich customs and traditions of Hispanic Catholicism. Her knowledge of that tradition was dwarfed only by her love for it."
"Ann Ball was one of the hidden treasures of our Church. It was an honor to publish her, and we will miss her dearly," OSV's president told CNA.
She is also survived by two sons, a daughter and eight grandchildren.