Vatican City, Jun 22, 2008 (CNA) -
Pilgrims gathered under a blazing sun in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday to pray the Angelus prayer at noon with Pope Benedict XVI. In his remarks preceding the Angelus, Pope Benedict said that worldly fears can be overcome through trust in God.
Speaking of today’s Gospel, the Holy Father said the scriptures invite us to reflect on the difference between human fears and the fear of God.
Fear, he said, is a natural dimension of human life. While we overcome the imaginary fears of childhood, others emerge that are founded in reality.
These fears “must be faced and overcome with human commitment and trust in God.”
However, the Holy Father said, there is a deeper fear that exists today, an “existential fear, which at times borders on anguish and which stems from a sense of emptiness that is tied to a certain culture permeated by widespread theoretical and practical nihilism.”
He said the Scriptures speak clearly of a different kind of fear: the fear of God that is the beginning of true wisdom.
"The fear of God defined by the Scriptures as the beginning of true wisdom coincides with faith in God, with respect for His authority over life and the world. To be without this ‘fear of God’ is equivalent to putting ourselves in God’s place, to feel ourselves to be a masters over good and evil, life and death.”
The Holy Father continued, “Those who fear Him have the security of a child in the arms of his mother. Whoever fears God is at peace even in the midst of storms, because God, as Jesus has revealed, is a Father full of mercy and goodness. Whoever loves Him is not afraid: as the Apostle John wrote, ‘In love there is no fear.’ On the contrary, perfect love casts out all fear, because fear assumes punishment, and those who fear do not have perfect love.”
He said that those who believe need not fear anything, since all things are in the hands of God, who does not allow evil and what is irrational to have to the last word. The only Lord of the world and of life is Christ, the Incarnate Word of God who loved us even unto sacrificing himself, and dying on the cross for our salvation.
The Holy Father said the more we grow in this intimacy with God, steeped in love, the more easily we conquer every form of fear. Jesus exhorts us not to be afraid.
“We are reassured just as He reassured the Apostles, as he did with St. Paul in appearing to them in a night vision during a particularly difficult time. ‘Do not be afraid, because I am with you.’ Confident in the presence of Christ and comforted by his love, the Apostle to the Gentiles did not even fear martyrdom.”
The Holy Father explained that a special jubilee year will be dedicated to St. Paul:
“I would ask you, dear brothers and sisters, prepare to celebrate the Pauline Year with faith that, God willing, solemnly begins next Saturday in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.”
Pope Benedict concluded his reflection with an invocation to Mary, Queen of Apostles and Mother of Christ, source of our joy and our peace.
At the end of the Angelus, the Holy Father mentioned Saturday’s ferry disaster in the Philippines in which hundreds may have died.
“With deep emotion I learned this morning of the sinking, in the islands of the Philippines, a ferry overwhelmed by the typhoon Fengshen, which has raged in the area. While I assure you of my spiritual closeness to the people of the islands affected by the typhoon, I offer a special prayer to the Lord for the victims of this new tragedy at sea, which seems to have involved many children as well.”
The Holy Father then congratulated the Franciscan Sisters of the Cross of Lebanon whose founder, Yaaqub Ghazir Haddad, a priest of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, was declared Blessed today.
“In expressing my congratulations to his spiritual daughters, I hope with all my heart that the intercession of Blessed Abuna Yaaqub, together with that of the Lebanese Saints, obtain in that beloved and tortured country, which has suffered too much, final progress towards a stable peace.”
Sydney, Australia, Jun 22, 2008 (CNA) - Alfio Stuto and Maria Dixon, the actors who will play Jesus and Mary in World Youth Day 2008’s Stations of the Cross, on Friday climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge with BridgeClimb Sydney to observe the route of the Stations from a “bird’s-eye view.”
BridgeClimb Sydney, an official provider for World Youth Day 2008, is a business that provides public access to the catwalks and ladders of the Sydney Harbor Bridge, according to its website.
“The Sydney Harbour Bridge provides a great vantage point to witness the Stations of the Cross and other World Youth Day events as they happen around Sydney’s harbour,” said BridgeClimb’s Managing Director Todd Coates.
The two actors were joined on the bridge climb by the young Sydney priest and World Youth Day spokesman Father Mark Podesta. Both actors for the event have been rehearsing with 100 fellow cast members over the past few months.
“The world will be mesmerized by this beautiful depiction of Christ’s Passion, played out across some of Sydney’s famous landmarks,” Father Podesta said.
The Stations of the Cross will be performed on Friday, July 18 at six major Sydney-area locations. The Stations will begin at St. Mary’s Cathedral with the first Station, the Last Supper. There, Pope Benedict XVI will offer a prayer and remarks to begin the commemoration.
The second Station, the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, will take place at the Domain, a large open space near Sydney. The performance will proceed to the Art Gallery of New South Wales and then the Sydney Opera House.
The seventh Station, in which Jesus is helped by Simon of Cyrene, will take place on board a floating pontoon in Darling Harbor.
The remaining Stations will be performed on stages in Barangaroo, a waterfront district.
Pilgrims will be allocated spots at the various performance sites except the Art Gallery. The general public will be able to see the re-enactment at Darling Harbor.
Crowds will not be allowed to follow the actors, but can remain at a site to watch the proceedings live on large screens as they wait for the performance to arrive at their venue.
The World Youth Day Stations of the Cross will be directed by Father Franco Cavarra, while the sets are designed by Michael-Scott Mitchell, who designed the cauldron used for the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
The event’s music will include pieces from Mozart and indigenous artists, with pieces for stations eight and three composed by Anne Boyd and Father Geoffrey Abdullah, respectively. Costumes will be designed by Jamie Lynch.The World Youth Day event will take place from July 15 to July 20.
Washington D.C., Jun 22, 2008 (CNA) - Austin Ruse, director of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, has warned that “Europe is almost certainly dying” because of falling birth rates, radical social policies, and the decline of marriage on the continent. Its only hope for revival, he argues, is for Europeans to again proclaim the “lordship of Christ.”
Ruse’s comments, published on the new web site “The Catholic Thing,” tell of his attendance at the “Post-Christian Europe and the Resurgence of Islam” conference held earlier this month in Vienna to discuss secularism and Islam.
Ruse writes that there was a “fair amount of Muslim panic” at the conference, especially from British journalists in attendance.
“There seemed to be a consensus that Europe is in deep trouble for a whole host of reasons, including Muslim immigration, lack of assimilation, and below replacement fertility of non-Muslim Europeans,” Ruse says.
However, Ruse believes the reaction to one conference panel was indicative of a deeper problem. The panel, made up of Southern Baptist theologians and historians, spoke about Christendom, the history of Christian Europe, the Crusades, and other similar matters of faith.
“They quoted quite a lot from scripture. Many were offended,” Ruse says.
“A demographer from Oxford sniffed that one sermon on Sunday was quite enough, let alone four,” he continues. “A visibly peeved legal scholar from Washington D.C. said such language should be moderated since it would never reach the typical European and certainly wouldn't reach his own secularized and skeptical children. Even after the panel ended, snipes at them continued through the day.
“Keep in mind that these Evangelical scholars were not sermonizing, waving their arms around, or damning anyone to hell. What they said was quite mild, yet drew anger from scholars who were otherwise puzzled as to why Europe was in decline.”
Ruse says that many Europeans are confident Christianity will continue without renewed dedication to the faith. He said how a member of French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s Cabinet had once said that France, the “eldest daughter of the Church,” could never lose the faith.
To this cabinet member, Ruse replied that Ephesus, the last home of the Virgin Mary, was now in ruins and in the nearby village there are mosques, but not one Christian church.
“The faith does not grow on stones but only in human hearts,” Ruse comments.
“Europe is tired. Europe may be spent. Europe is almost certainly dying. The spread of radical social policies and their death-dealing pathologies, the epoch-ending birth rates, the death of marriage; all these are symptoms of a deeper malaise of the spirit.”
Europe can only be saved, Ruse says, by “more Europeans proclaiming the lordship of Jesus Christ,” using an expression popular among Evangelicals.
Ruse praises the pious language of America and American Evangelicals, saying such language has “kept America percolating as the most religious country in the west.”
“Catholics owe a great debt to Evangelicals for this kind of language. It may not be our language, but it is language that has protected this country from going the way of Europe,” Ruse writes.Ruse counsels Europeans to visit Talledega, Alabama, where prayers are said before every NASCAR race, observe how they speak about Jesus, and take some of those habits back to their home countries.