Rome, Italy, Jul 14, 2008 (CNA) - The Spanish Bishops’ Conference has announced that a 25 year-old Spaniard will represent the youth of Europe at the traditional lunch Pope Benedict XVI will host with World Youth Day attendees.
The lucky young man is Fidel Mateos Rodriguez of the Diocese of Salamanca. The lunch will be held on Friday, July 18, at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney.
According to Vatican Radio, the Pope will lunch with 12 young people, two from each of the five continents, plus one from Papua New Guinea and one from New Zealand.
It was also announced that three cardinals and seven bishops from Spain will lead catechetical sessions on July 16, 17 and 18. A total of 17 bishops from Spain will be in Sydney, together with five thousand Spanish young people.
Sydney, Australia, Jul 14, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell welcomed all to World Youth Day celebrations at a press conference this morning, one day before the official proceedings begin.
"World Youth Day will be a very pleasant surprise for Sydneysiders," said the cardinal. "One central aim of World Youth Day is to present the person and the teachings of Jesus Christ certainly to young Catholics, majority of young people who are Christians and especially to those young Australians who don't know much about religion and are searching for something to hold onto."
Also present Philip Wilson Archbishop of Adelaide, and President of the Catholic Bishops Conference who relayed that communities across Australia who had received pilgrims “felt strongly blessed themselves.”
“These experiences, where there is personal contact between the pilgrims and the members of the local church are very important,” said Archbishop Wilson.
“It allows people to see that the vision of the church is reflected in so many cultures and among many people and for people to discover the unity of life and community that goes beyond the things that separate them.”
When questioned about the challenges confronting the church’s ministry towards the youth, Cardinal Pell said that two significant relevant issues face the Australian church today.
“Firstly, there is the Australian temptation that you can live a good and happy life without God. The second challenge revolves around the concept of sexuality, marriage and family.”
Another pressing challenge is that of youth suicide said Cardinal Pell, where Australia has one of the highest young male suicide rates in the world.
“Suicide is a danger sign, and a great paradox,” said Cardinal Pell, particularly in a country such as Australia… our young people need faith, hope and love.”
WYD has also given the Australian Catholic Church a better understanding of how to meet the needs of the Catholic youth said Cardinal Pell.
The establishment of “XT3,” an online social networking website allowing pilgrims is just one of the initiatives put in place to cater to the pilgrims attending WYD.
“All of us in Australia have realised that WYD is an opportunity for us to do more, that in itself it’s not enough, more needs to be done.” said Archbishop Wilson.
“We hope that this will be a moment of new energy and new pulse of love among young people and provide us an opportunity to do more for the youth.”
World Youth Day officially commences Tuesday July 15 with an opening Mass to be presided over by Cardinal Pell at Barangaroo at 4:30pm.
Sydney, Australia, Jul 14, 2008 (CNA) - "To see our leader, to see the Pope." This is the sole desire for Tujai Maris, a pilgrim of Myanmar that arrived with other 32 pilgrims at Sydney in the afternoon on Monday to participate in World Youth Day celebrations.
After overcoming numerous obstacles with their visas, with the aid of the Australian Catholic church, the 33 pilgrims arrived filled with enthusiasm and ready to take part in the events scheduled in the upcoming week.
"We welcome our brothers and sisters originating from different dioceses of Myanmar, we are conscious of their sufferings" said the Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney, Julian Porteous.
Dominic Ych Thiha Saw, one of the Burmese pilgrims carried a box marked with the name "Pope Benedict XVI" containing a painting of a famous lake in Myanmar, which they are hoping to give as a gift to Pope Benedict XVI.
The pilgrims spoke of the difficulties that the Catholic Church in their country suffers from, such as not being permitted to build churches and needing special authorization frmo the government to celebrate their faith.
"The Catholic Church in Burma wants to be able to live their own life and to have the opportunity to express their faith. In Burma the Church has helped the people in need, feeding them, dressing them, educating them. The Church does not desire to be a political force, but to help the people of this country,” remarked the Bishop Porteous.
Burma has a population of 50 million people, the majority of which are Buddhists. The Catholic Church has 650,000 faithful, 658 priests, 1,330 religious and 2,084 catechists.
Sydney, Australia, Jul 14, 2008 (CNA) - The Pope has passed his first 24 hours in Sydney in an environment of peace and tranquillity, the official spokesman for the Vatican Father Federico Lombardi, told the press.
As part of the Pope’s schedule, he celebrated Mass after landing on Sunday in the Kenthurst Study Center at 6 p.m. followed by a dinner at 7 o'clock.
On Monday the Pope celebrated mass at 8:00 a.m. with two of his secretaries and two priests of the Kenthurst Study Center. He then had breakfast at 9:00 a.m. followed by a short walk around the Centre’s native bushland.
The Pope shared lunch with the Archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell and the Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, who reported to him on the course of the preparations for World Youth Day.
After lunch the Pope had his usual meeting with his secretaries, and then prayed the rosary at 5 o'clock in the evening. Later in the evening he enjoyed a private concert with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
The Holy Father closed his first full day in Australia with supper at 7 p.m.
Vatican City, Jul 14, 2008 (CNA) - This morning Pope Benedict appointed Fr. John LeVoir as the fourth bishop of New Ulm. The new bishop succeeds Archbishop John C. Nienstedt who was recently appointed as archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
In a statement, Archbishop Nienstedt expressed his delight at the news of Fr. Levoir’s appointment, explaining that the bishop-elect “is a priest of deep devotion to Christ and the teachings of His Church. He is also a skilled administrator, having a solid background in the areas of accounting and finance. He has served as a mentor for many of our younger priests. But overall, it is his love for souls - the people entrusted to his pastoral care - that marks the goodness of this man.”
He continued by affirming that “the Holy Father has made an ‘excellent’ match in appointing Bishop-designate LeVoir to this very rural, local Church.”
Born in Minneapolis in 1946, the bishop-elect LeVoir studied chemistry, business, history and theology prior to his priestly ordination in 1981. In a statement released by Fr. LeVoir, he explained that his “background is that of a parish priest,” most recently serving as the pastor of St. Michael and St. Mary in Stillwater, a position he has held since 2004.
Fr. LeVoir also addressed his new flock by calling on “the clergy, the religious, and the people of the diocese to be patient with me and to pray for me, as I will for them. With the help of God's grace, I will do my best to be a faithful shepherd.”
The bishop-elect will serve 66,785 Catholics and 58 priests.
The date for Fr. John LeVoir’s episcopal ordination has yet to be scheduled.
Denver, Colo., Jul 14, 2008 (CNA) - World Youth Day is the largest gathering of Catholic youth in the world. Given this significance, CNA will be providing the best coverage out of any media outlet. The full array of multimedia resources will be available on our website along with exclusive stories.
In order to keep our readers among the best-informed on the events of the 23rd World Youth Day, CNA will be providing live coverage of the Pope’s visit to Australia. The events in the days leading up to the Pope’s participation will also be covered by our team on the ground in Sydney.
In addition to a live video stream of all major papal events, CNA’s coverage will be multimedia rich. Footage of catecheses, exclusive photos from WYD events and daily video summaries of the news will also be available on our website.
All photographs will be uploaded with a medium resolution so that they can be downloaded for use by other media outlets. Photos and articles are free of charge, but require proper credit to CNA.
Vatican City, Jul 14, 2008 (CNA) - L’Osservatore Romano published an article last week explaining how Pope Pius VII decided in 1808 that the Vatican colors would be white and yellow. Historian Claudio Ceresa explained the history behind the Pope’s choice.
In an article entitled, “Two centuries of yellow and white as the papal colors,” Ceresa explained that in order to understand why the colors were chosen, one must consider the “occupation of the city by Napoleonic troops in February of 1808.”
“The commander of the French forces, General Miollis, posted notices on the walls informing that the Pope’s army would be incorporated into the imperial forces. Those officials who remained loyal to Pius VII were to be arrested and deported,” Ceresa explained. “Reaction was minimal because it was reported that the Pontiff was aware and did not resist. Only a small group of loyalists were deported to a prison in Mantova.”
“In order to underscore the unification, and probably to increase the situation of uncertainty as well,” Ceresa continued, “the papal soldiers were allowed to continue using the distinctive yellow-red colors on their hats.”
Ceresa afterwards noted that the Pope “did not want the Vatican State to be subject to Napoleon, and therefore on March 13, 1808 he forcefully protested. He ordered, among other things, that the units that were still loyal to him substitute the Roman insignia colors with white and yellow.”
Abbot Luca Antonio Benedetalla wrote in his diary on the same date that “in order not to confuse the Roman soldiers who were under French command with the few that remained in his service, the Pope ordered the new yellow and white insignia. The noble guard and the Swiss have adopted it. They like it,” he wrote.
Ceresa explained that three days later, on March 16, 1808, Pius VII sent the order in writing to the diplomatic corps, the document is considered to be the act creating the colors of the current flag of Vatican City.”
Portland, Maine, Jul 14, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop Richard Malone has been selected to be among those leading English-speaking youth in prayer and reflection during World Youth Day 2008. About 225,000 pilgrims are registered to attend World Youth Day which is being held in Sydney, Australia from July 15-20. It is the custom to begin this world meeting with three days of daily catechesis (religious instruction) guided by bishops.
Bishop Malone will also preside and be the homilist at the Masses following the catechesis. The three days of teachings are centered on the Holy Spirit, specifically that we are called to live in the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit, soul of the Church; and the Holy Spirit sent out into the world as the principal agent of mission.
World Youth Day is the largest youth event in the world. It brings together young people from around the globe to celebrate and learn about their faith. This event will mark the first visit by Pope Benedict XVI to Australia.
Maine has a delegation of 51 individuals (youth and chaperones) from Fort Kent to Wells planning to make the trip. Organizers expect 125,000 international visitors to the event, and up to a half million people are expected to attend the final Mass. The four official languages for World Youth Day 2008 are English, French, Italian and Spanish.
Printed with permission from the Diocese of Portland, Maine.
, Jul 14, 2008 (CNA) - Salesian Sister MaryAnn Schaefer, admissions director at Mary Help of Christian Academy in North Haledon, NJ, couldn't dream of a better place to celebrate her 25th jubilee as a religious sister than at World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia.
WYD in Sydney will be an especially unique experience for Sister Schaefer. She will be cruising on Sydney Harbor in one of the 13 boats escorting Pope Benedict XVI's "boat-a-cade" during the Pope's arrival July 17. By chance, she was picked for this opportunity as a member of XT3.com, WYD's networking site.
"I received the e-mail on July 1 and I couldn't believe it. I had to have one of the sisters reread it to make sure it was real," said Sister Schaefer.
This will be her seventh WYD experience in which she has led young people - already attending WYD in Denver, Manila, Paris, Rome, Toronto and Cologne. And even though she is a WYD pro, Sister Schaefer still gets excited about these international encounters of seeing the Pope and most especially, bringing the young people closer to Christ.
"The young people just completely change seeing the Holy Father, if you saw the look on their faces," said Sister Schaefer. "They get a sense that the Church they belong to is something more than just their parish and they see the global Salesian community from all over the world and see how many young people are like them and are taught by Salesian religious (through the international Salesian community rally at WYD)."
This time around in Sydney, she will be leading 31 young people - many of them students, alumni and parents of Mary Help of Christians here and friends of the Salesians in Louisiana, Florida and the neighboring Newark Archdiocese and Metuchen Diocese. They will leave tomorrow for Sydney and will meet up with a group led by Salesian Father Steven Ryan, provincial councilor for Youth Ministry / Vocations of the Salesians of Don Bosco, which is based in South Orange.
To prepare for the pilgrimage during the past year, Sister Schaefer and the pilgrims hosted sharing sessions at St. Joseph Chapel on the campus of Mary Help of Christians Academy. At the sessions, the catechetical themes of WYD reflected on the Holy Spirit.
A special WYD cross was made for the Salesian contingent, which has traveled to every single participant's home for a week as a symbol of the journey for the community. According to Sister Schaefer, the cross will be coming with them to Sydney as the make their pilgrimage to the final Mass with Pope Benedict XVI.
In Sydney, the Mary Help contingent will be arriving right before WYD festivities begin which allows them to make a stop in Engadine, a city 45 minutes by train from Sydney, where they will serve in a nursing home run by Salesian Sisters.
Once WYD activities start, the group will evangelize the love of Christ as an "animating team" for catechesis sessions at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Sefton, a suburb right outside of Sydney, in which thousands of English-speaking Catholics worldwide will gather together to share in faith.
"We will be leading a music group for the catechetical sessions and Mass," said Sister Schaefer, who said she is in complete awe of the opportunity.
During the three days of catechetical sessions, they will meet a host of international bishops - Bishop Joseph Aind of the Diocese of Dibrugarh, India; Bishop Denis Browne of the Diocese of Hamilton, New Zealand; and Bishop William Morris of the Diocese of Toowoomba, Australia, who will give a talk each day.
When the pilgrims return home, those who are students at Mary Help will be doing presentations each month on the 10 patron saints of WYD as a way to keep the memory alive and to pass on the WYD message to their peers.
Sister Schaefer said the experience of WYD has been a memorable part of her life as a religious these past 25 years. "Being part of WYD since Denver in 1993 has strengthened my personal relationship with Jesus, as well as my relationships with the young who I have been serving for the last 25 years. It has confirmed my choice of charisms, that of St. John Bosco and St. Mary Mazzarello, as a Salesian Sister."
In three years time for the next WYD, wherever that destination may be, she hopes to once again be leading young people on this journey of a lifetime.
Printed with permission from the Beacon and the Diocese of Paterson, New Jersey.
San Diego, Calif., Jul 14, 2008 (CNA) - Staffers for Sen. John McCain at the annual convention for the Latino civil rights group La Raza have received mostly positive feedback on a picture of the senator praying at Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine in Mexico City, but one teenager disliked the picture enough to steal it.
On Saturday, the McCain booth at the National Council of La Raza convention was displaying a picture of Sen. McCain praying at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
The shrine is dedicated to the famous apparitions of the Virgin Mary to St. Juan Diego. The apparitions and the miraculous image of Mary which appeared on Juan Diego’s cloak are credited with bringing about the conversion of most of Mexico to the Catholic faith.
The photo of John McCain praying at the shrine received a steady stream of supportive comments throughout the day, with some people even stopping to pose for pictures with the image and requesting copies.
Occasionally a negative comment was heard from passersby about how they thought the photo was disrespectful, but nothing else was said or done.
However, on Saturday afternoon the McCain booth was approached by a group of approximately 50 high school youths protesting and shouting "take it down" in reference to the photograph.
There was no indication of who or what organization sparked the protest.
The staff at the booth refused to take the picture down and tried to talk to the protesters, but got nowhere.
Eventually, one of the teenagers stole the photo and had to be apprehended by security.
La Raza organizers apologized to the McCain staffers and promised to post more security around the booth.
Hessy Fernandez, a spokeswoman for the McCain campaign, told CNA that the incident was “nothing major” and that it was “just a couple of kids” trying to make trouble.
Explaining why Sen. McCain—who is Baptist—would pray at a Catholic shrine, Ms. Fernandez said that, since the Arizona senator has had several Catholics on his Senate staff, he understood the significance of the shrine and went to pray there “as a sign of respect.”
San José, Costa Rica, Jul 14, 2008 (CNA) - In a message made public last Thursday, the Bishops’ Conference of Costa Rica explained that respect for the dignity of persons with homosexual inclinations cannot lead to the recognition of “rights” that attack the foundation of the family as the basic cell of society. The bishops asked lawmakers to reject a proposed law that would make gay unions equivalent to marriage.
The bishops warned that politicians “cannot and should not legislate against correct reasoning, because if they pass the law it would lose moral force.” They explained that “laws favorable to homosexual unions are contrary to correct reasoning because they confer legal guarantees proper to the institution of marriage to unions between people of the same sex. Considering the values in question, the State cannot legalize these unions without failing in its duty to promote and protect an essential institution for the common good, which marriage is.”
The bishops’ responded to those defending the “right” to gay marriage by stressing, “It is necessary above all to reflect on the differences between homosexual behavior as a private phenomenon and public behavior, legally tested, approved and converted into an institution of legal order. The second phenomenon is not only more grave but also of greater and deeper scope, as it could entail changes contrary to the common good of the entire social order.”
“Civil laws are structural principles of man’s life in society, for good or for evil.”
“From a logical constitutional perspective, it is impossible to homologate or make marriage equivalent to any other kind of arrangement that, with a mere change of vocabulary, seeks to have the same kind of legal standing,” the bishops said. “In light of the Church’s teaching on marriage and the family and, on the basis of Costa Rican law authentically interpreted by the Constitutional Court, it is unacceptable and incongruent to approve a measure that aims to transfer the entire legal structure of marriage to unions between homosexuals.”
Lastly, as shepherds of the Church, the bishops called on “Catholic lawmakers to speak out and vote against this measure, and to those who do not share our faith, to examine the arguments we have laid out. And in conformity with the rules of correct reasoning, of human nature and of life in society, not to cast their vote for a bill that clearly goes against the common good of the residents of our country.”
Sydney, Australia, Jul 14, 2008 (CNA) - During his flight to Australia for the celebration of World Youth Day, Pope Benedict XVI answered questions from journalists on the papal airplane covering the significance of World Youth Day, the problems of secularism, clerical sexual abuse, climate change and the turmoil in the Anglican Communion.
While insisting that the Holy Spirit ultimately converts young people into witnesses of Christ, he said he hoped that World Youth Day would be a stimulus to help participants live their faith with maturity and responsibility towards creation and society.
When asked about whether he was optimistic about the Catholic Church in Australia or believed it would follow the European path of secular decline, Pope Benedict said that Australia, as part of the “Western world,” shares in its recent economic and technical successes.
However, he said, “religion - Christian faith - is in a certain sense in crisis. This is clear because there is the impression that we do not need God, we can do all on our own, that we do not need God to be happy, we do not need God to create a better world; that God is not necessary, we can do all by ourselves.”
Nonetheless, Pope Benedict said, religion is always present in the world and will always be present “because God is present in the heart of the human being and can never disappear.”
Faith, he said, will be present in new forms and though perhaps in the minority it will be present for all society to see.
Society is again realizing its need for God, Pope Benedict said, especially in climactic changes mankind cannot remedy:
“We need the gift of the Earth, the gift of water, we need the Creator; the Creator re-appears in His creation. And so we also come to understand that we cannot be really happy, cannot be really promoting justice for all the world, without a criterion at work in our own ideas, without a God who is just, and gives us the light, and gives us life.”
While he said he believed there will always be a crisis of faith, there will also always be a revival of faith “because Christian faith is simply true, and the truth will always be present in the human world, and God will always be truth.”
“In this sense, I am in the end optimistic,” he concluded.
The Pope was then asked whether he would address the issue of clerical sexual abuse in Australia and whether he would offer an apology.
He responded by saying that he will essentially say the same things concerning sexual abuse as he did in his United States visit “because it is essential for the Church to reconcile, to prevent, to help and also to see guilt in these problems.”
Pope Benedict stated the Church’s moral teaching must be clear. He said that the moral theory of “proportionalism,” which held that nothing is bad in itself, had insufficiently opposed pedophilia, despite Catholic teaching clearly forbidding it. He then endorsed better education and formation for priests.
The content of apologies for clerical sexual abuse, Pope Benedict underlined, “has to say what was insufficient in our behavior, what we must do in this moment, how we can prevent [it] and how we all can heal and reconcile.”
Noting that it is not his role to evaluate technical responses to climate change, Pope Benedict said environmental problems would be a topic of discussion in his meeting with young people, with whom he will focus upon people’s moral responsibility towards creation.
The Pope also said he would pray for the Anglican Communion’s upcoming Lambeth Conference as the Church of England considers how to be faithful to the Gospel in the contemporary world.
Pope Benedict will celebrate the final Mass at World Youth Day on Sunday, July 20.
Rome, Italy, Jul 14, 2008 (CNA) - Iraq’s Catholics have responded with gratitude to the decision of the Australian Embassy in Amman, Jordan to issue 27 visas that will allow some young Iraqis to participate in World Youth Day, though the number provided falls far short of the 170 which had been requested.
“Many in Iraq were waiting for this,” Father Philip Najim, Chaldean Prosecutor to the Holy See, told SIR News Agency. “It is a symbolic number of visas but our youngsters will be in Sydney too and that’s what counts.”
“I would like to thank the Australian government for everything they have been able to do and also the Australian embassy to the Holy See which has contributed to this positive ending,” Father Najim continued.
Twenty-one of the young pilgrims come from the northern Iraq city of Erbil. One of their flights is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, traveling from Erbil to Dubai to Sydney, while some are reportedly already in transit.
“We would like to show the Holy Father and the whole world our faith, heir of a millenary tradition which is still alive in our hearts,” said Father Rayan P. Atto, an escort for the trip.
Upon hearing of the news, Fr. Federico Lombardi, the spokesman for the Vatican said, "The Pope will certainly like to hear this news." When he was asked if the Pope might meet with the Iraqi pilgrims, Fr. Lombardi said, "it's hard to say” and that the Holy Father could request such a meeting.
Sydney, Australia, Jul 14, 2008 (CNA) - We have been invaded by joy,” Bishop Anthony Fisher, coordinator of World Youth Day 2008 told a press conference in Sydney this morning on the first day of World Youth Day celebrations.
The city will host the biggest, grandest Mass in Australia’s history said the Bishop, when Cardinal George Pell, Sydney Archbishop, presides over the World Youth Day opening mass held at Barangaroo at 4:30 p.m. this afternoon.
Bishop Fisher stated that 26 Cardinals, 400 bishops and 3,000-4,000 priests as well as thousands of international and local pilgrims are expected to attend the Mass. The grandeur of the opening Mass will only be surpassed by the closing Mass to celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI at Sydney’s Randwick racecourse this coming Sunday.
“It will be a spectacular Mass, a reverent Mass, and a beautiful Mass”, said Bishop Fisher.
A flag carrying ceremony at the Opening Mass will have 170 nations being represented by a pilgrim from each country bearing their national flag.
The themes of Cardinal Pell’s homily will centre around the image of the valley of dry bones depicted in today’s scripture, emphasizing the hope and promise of new life and resurrection in Christ, hinted Bishop Fisher.
Bishop Fisher also reported that World Youth Day registrations have exceeded 100,000 international registrations. 40,000 local Sydney residents are also registered to attend, which is twice the turnout per capita of young local Catholics as compared to when World Youth Day was held in Cologne and Toronto.
“Sydney airport is still operating at maximum capacity. Pilgrims who have arrived unregistered are now registering in their thousands,” said the Bishop.
He particularly applauded the contribution of Australian parishes and schools to help bring pilgrims from the third world to World Youth Day.
“This World Youth Day, there will be about 4,500 pilgrims from New Zealand, 2,000 from Papua New Guinea who sent only 10 pilgrims last WYD, and 1,000 from Tonga, and Samoa. For many of these pilgrims, this is their once ever chance of attending World Youth Day.”
The Opening Mass will be followed by an outdoor concert with performances from popular local and international bands and artists.