Vatican City, Jul 28, 2008 (CNA) - Once Pope Benedict finished relating his joy at the success of World Youth Day at Castel Gandolfo yesterday, he gave a few special words to the members of the Focolare movement on the occasion of the election of Maria Voce as their president. The Pontiff called on the movement to continue in the spiritual footsteps of their foundress Chiara Lubich.
According to Focolare’s website, the movement was founded in Trent, Italy, in 1943 by Chiara Lubich and a small group of friends. The group came to the realization that “God is the only ideal worth living for and as a result they focused their lives on the Gospel.”
On Friday, March 14, 2008, Chiara Lubich passed away at her home in Trent, Italy. The movement just recently elected Maria Voce as their new president, and Giancarlo Faletti as the co-president.
"As I express my happiness at the election of the new leaders," said Pope Benedict, "I encourage you all, dear brothers and sisters, to continue joyfully and courageously along the path of the spiritual heritage of Chiara Lubich, as enshrined in your Statues, increasing communion in families, in communities and in all areas of society."
The Holy Father also expressed his hope that people currently on holiday “may spend days of serenity and of beneficial physical and spiritual relaxation. However, I do not forget those who are unable to enjoy a period of rest and vacation: I am thinking of the sick in hospital and rest homes, of prisoners, of the elderly, of those who are alone, and of everyone who spends the summer in the heat of the city. To each of them I give assurances of my closeness and a mention in my prayers."
Piura, Peru, Jul 28, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Jose Antonio Eguren Anselmi of Piura called on officials last week to promote measures that help the family instead of weaken it, referring to recent passage of a law facilitating divorce, which he said, makes it “easier to get a divorce in Peru than to cancel your cell phone service.”
During a Mass celebrating the country’s Independence Day, Archbishop Eguren first expressed his concern about the “dark forces” that are seeking to “limit the inviolable value of human life itself” in the country.
“Abortion is always a crime because in the human being, in every human being, in every stage and condition of life, a reflection of the very reality of God shines forth,” he said. The archbishop explained that “the Magisterium of the Church, based on reason and natural law, has always proclaimed constantly the sacred and inviolable character of each human life, from conception to natural death.”
He also expressed his “sorrow and profound sadness” over the approval of a law facilitating divorce that “rather than promoting the strengthening of marriages,” including “those that are experiencing difficulties, opts rather to facilitate their dissolution, making an issue that has great social relevance into a mere administrative procedure, because the family founded upon marriage is the place where future citizens of our country are reared.”
“As a friend of mine recently pointed out, today in Peru it is easier to get divorced than to cancel your cell phone service,” he said.
Archbishop Eguren noted that society is “passing through a serious crisis of principles and moral and institutional values. As a consequence, the social fabric is weakening and criminal and immoral conduct that harms the education of our children and young people is spreading.”
Vatican City, Jul 28, 2008 (CNA) - On Monday morning, Pope Benedict XVI flew from Rome to northern Italy to begin a two week vacation in the town of Bressanone. The Vatican also announced the Pope’s schedule for the rest of summer today.
After landing in Bolzano, Italy at the "Dolomitas" airport the Pope took a car to Bressanone, a German-speaking town, where he will remain until August 11.
Pope Benedict will be staying in the seminary of Bressanone, a small city in which he vacationed numerous times between 1970 and 2004. He will be accompanied by his brother Georg Ratzinger, who is also a priest.
The pope is expected to devote some of his vacation time to his third encyclical on social issues as well as working on the second part of his book Jesus of Nazareth.
The praying of the Marian Angelus prayer will not be missed, despite the Pope being on vacation. On Sunday August 3 and Sunday August 10, Benedict XVI will preside at the praying of the Angelus in the cathedral square of Bressanone.
Wednesday August 13, two days after returning to his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, the Holy Father will resume his weekly general audiences.
Starting August 15, the Feast of the Assumption, the Pope will recite the Angelus from the Apostolic Palace in Castel Gandolfo on Sundays and Solemnities.
Konigstein, Germany, Jul 28, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop Kiro Stojanov of Skopje in Macedonia invited hundreds of young people to his diocese who could not travel to Sydney for World Youth Day 2008 in order to give them a chance to celebrate their faith.
The enthusiast response from young people included the participation of Orthodox youth who joined with their Catholic peers in prayer, song and celebration, according to Bishop Stojanov.
The bishop said he had never seen “so many young people profoundly united in prayer,” and he was impressed by their discipline and self-control.
Bishop Christo Proykov of Sofia in Bulgaria said he was impressed by “the joy and the faces of happiness” of the young people in Macedonia, whom he called “examples for their peers.”
Spase Spasov, a Macedonia youth who participated in organizing the event, which was christened “Little Sydney,” said he was “excited” about the unity he experienced among the participants, who came from all over the Balkans.
This was the first event of its type in Macedonia, a country with a minority of Catholics. The youth rally was sponsored by the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.
Madrid, Spain, Jul 28, 2008 (CNA) - The president of the Subcommittee on Family and the Defense of Life of the Bishops’ Conference of Spain, Bishop Juan Antonio Reig Pla, said last week that when the state “provides legal cover for the culture of death, it automatically is transformed into a totalitarian state.”
In an interview with the newspaper ABC, Bishop Pla commented on proposals by the Spanish government to liberalize abortion laws and legalize euthanasia. “A democratic and social state has the duty to protect the poorest and the weakest, which include the unborn, the handicapped, the elderly and the terminally ill. When the state, instead of protecting the weakest, provides legal cover for the culture of death, it automatically is transformed into a totalitarian state, the foundations of coexistence are broken and a society of death, a true thanatocracy (a government run by death), emerges.”
“Liberalizing and facilitating abortion is not the way,” he said. “This would produce more death and more suffering. I think we are all convinced that abortion is an evil. But therefore we should offer alternatives. The first and foremost is education and prevention,” he stressed.
Regarding euthanasia, the bishop recalled that Spanish doctors “are excellent professionals and they know how to apply all the remedies medicine has to offer for alleviating pain and helping the infirm without falling into futile therapeutic treatment. Today the problem is the opposite. There are people who make themselves to be the masters of life and provoke the death of others,” he said.
“All of this apparently reasonable and humanitarian discourse is nothing more than an excuse to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia, which consists in directly provoking the death of one enduring a serious illness or suffering, or indirectly denying medical treatment that is ethically obligatory. We are dealing with a manipulation of the language in order to manipulate consciences and inoculate in them the virus of the culture of death,” Bishop Pla said.
“With abortion and euthanasia, the law turns its back on science and sacrifices the lives of the most defenseless of our brothers and sisters to the ideology of death,” he said in conclusion.
Madrid, Spain, Jul 28, 2008 (CNA) - The president of the Spanish Forum for the Family, Benigno Blanco, said last week families in Spain are aware of the need to protect the family, but that the same cannot be said of legislators that are following anti-family ideologies.
“The family and its defenders are not only not a minority in our society; they are a majority despite appearances. Perhaps ‘public opinion’ is very pro-gender ideology, but ‘public opinion’ is very pro-family,” he said during a seminar organized by the University of Navarre.
Nonetheless, he pointed out that laws approved in recent years have affected the Spanish family very negatively, “destroying the conceptual basis of marriage so as to render it unrecognizable, banalizing marital commitment to ridiculous degrees,” limiting freedom of education, denying protection to the unborn and spreading gender ideology, which is “radically contrary to the family.”
He noted that Spain continues to be the European country that offers the least protection to the family. The demographic decline and the economic crisis, Blanco said, have led Europe to look for ways to help the family “with a vigor that is unknown in Spain.”
Blanco called for more events to take place that reaffirm the importance of the family, and praised families for “standing up for their way of life and demanding the respect and support” they deserve for their great contributions to society, in the face of prejudices and intolerance.
Denver, Colo., Jul 28, 2008 (CNA) - The smell of sage filled the air as Native American leaders joined organizers of the Democratic National Convention last Friday to offer a blessing for the delegates and for the citizens of the United States. The convention, held in Denver, Colorado, will run August 25 – 28.
According to a DNC release, members of the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute tribes performed a tribal blessing consisting of burning sage, chants, singing and prayer. A feather was also used to smudge smoke around the venue.
Speaking to the DNC, the CEO of the convention committee, Leah Daughtry, emphasized the importance of spirituality due to the efforts that go into organizing a convention. “Our Native American brothers and sisters have a deep understanding of spirituality and its place in our lives. The rich Native American traditions of the West are an important part of our country's history and will be an important part of this historic Convention - set to open right here in just one month's time."
LaMere also focused on the importance of offering a blessing to a “Creator.” "As a Native American and an active Democrat, I see two important facets of my life coming together. In one month, there will be talk of Democrats, Republicans, politics and polls. However, I offer that the Creator cares most about heart, commitment, and those who will give voice and care for the people".
Boston, Mass., Jul 28, 2008 (CNA) - Just over a week ago, the dissident group Womenpriests claimed to “ordain” three women as priests at a Boston-area Church of Christ location. The move was condemned by the Archdiocese of Boston and now the Rev. David Runnion-Bareford, a Church of Christ minister, is apologizing to the archdiocese for his fellow minister’s sanctioning of the event.
On Sunday, July 20, Roman Catholic Womenpriests held an alleged ordination ceremony of three women at the Church of the Covenant, which is affiliated with both the Presbyterian Church and the United Church of Christ (UCC).
The former president of the UCC in Massachusetts, Rev. Nancy Taylor attended the ceremony to show her support for the women and told the Boston Globe that she saw the women as being discriminated against by the Catholic Church. “Prejudice in liturgical clothing is still prejudice,” she said.
The Archdiocese of Boston responded to event by saying, “the ordination of men to the priesthood is not merely a matter of practice or discipline within the Catholic Church, but rather, it is part of the unalterable Deposit of Faith handed down by Christ through his apostles.”
Reiterating that Womenpriests is not an entity of the Catholic Church, the archdiocese said “Catholics who attempt to confer a sacred order on a woman, and the women who attempt to receive a sacred order, are by their own actions separating themselves from the Church.”
Rev. David Runnion-Bareford, Executive Director of the Confessing Movement in the United Church of Christ, responded to the situation by sending an open letter to Boston area Catholics via Cardinal Sean O'Malley. In his letter, he apologized for the "division and confusion" caused by Rev. Nancy Taylor and the Church of the Covenant—the church were the ceremony was held.
"Please accept our deepest and sincere apology for the behavior of Rev. Nancy Taylor of Old South Church, UCC and the UCC related Church of the Covenant. They do not reflect the heart and mind of our United Church of Christ whose premise is 'that all may be one.' Those of us who truly value the unity of all Christians and treasure our ecumenical relationships with you as Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ are grieved,” Runnion-Bareford wrote.
The Confessing Movement UCC pastor also said that his movement is also “fully aware that this event was not motivated by a sincere desire to honor the call of God and the anointing of the Holy Spirit on the ministry of committed Christian women.”
Rev. Runnion-Bradford further criticized the women for refusing to take a vow of chastity and for promoting a self-centered gospel, citing the “Body, Sex and Gender” section of the group’s web page.
“We know that 'Womenpriests' openly include candidates who are engaged in the practice of sexual license. It is significant that the participants would not take the vow of obedience or chastity. We are aware of the statements on their website proclaiming a false gospel of self and mutual affirmation, denying the fall of humanity and our need for repentance from sin and personal transformation through the atoning crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
"We note that it is not incidental that this event was hosted in Boston by a church that is prideful about its aggressive religious sanction of homosexual, bi-sexual and transgender relationships and same gender 'marriage.' We also note that the pansexual activist group Integrity participated and assisted with hospitality," Runnion-Bradford observed in his letter.
Rev. Nancy Taylor also received a letter from Rev. Runnion-Bradford according to a press release from the Confessing Movement pastor. In his letter he took Taylor to task for her “divisive statements and behavior” saying that they “appear to violate the Minister's Code of the United Church of Christ, which says, 'I will be a responsible representative of the Church Universal and participate in those activities that strengthen its unity, witness, and mission'."
Rev. Taylor’s appearance and words of support for the women who attempted ordination could have implications for UCC practices as well, said Rev. Runnion-Bradford. He asked Taylor, “Can we infer from your actions of this last week that you would approve of groups who have justice issues with the United Church of Christ carrying out their own ordinations of individuals they believe valid regardless of our church's standards and protocols?"
La Crosse, Wisc., Jul 28, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Raymond Burke will dedicate the new Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe this coming Thursday, the sixth anniversary of the canonization of Guadalupe visionary St. Juan Diego. The shrine, near the western Wisconsin town of La Salle, is to be a pilgrimage destination for the faithful where they can show their devotion to the Virgin Mary under her title Patroness of the Americas.
Shrine project architect Michael Swinghamer told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the church is in the style of 17th-century Italianate Renaissance design. Its interior seats 450 and features Italian artwork, a 54-rank organ, Italian marble, and a mosaic of Our Lady of Guadalupe positioned behind a marble-columned canopy over the altar.
The turquoise dome bears stars in the pattern of the night sky near Mexico City in 1531, when the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to Juan Diego. The turquoise is the same color as Mary’s mantle in the miraculous image made on Juan Diego’s cloak, which is known as a tilma.
The church’s exterior includes a tower with a 25-bell carillon and a plaza with a duplicate of the bronze statue of Juan Diego at the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico. The church itself sits high on a hill on a 103-acre site, which also has shaded, wooded walks among outdoor artwork pieces.
“In the tradition of pilgrimage churches, the shrine is located high upon a hill outside of the city with a campanile and dome which will be visible from afar,” said Duncan Stroik, a South Bend, Indiana church architect who worked with Swinghamer.
Archbishop Burke, who was then Bishop of La Crosse, announced plans for the project in 1999.
"Because of the loss of hope in our time and the immensity of the moral difficulties which we face, there is a great desire for a place of pilgrimage in which faith and hope can be renewed," he said at the time.
Dave Clements, executive director of the La Crosse Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, estimated that the shrine had more than 50,000 visitors last year and should get 75,000 to 100,000 visitors in 2008.
He told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the shrine could top 200,000 visitors in 2010, estimating that pilgrims could bring anywhere from $6 to $10 million in income for area businesses.
Visitors to the shrine last week found some portions closed in preparation for the dedication, but were still positive.
"What we could see, I was in awe," said Iowan Linda Miller. "It's very inspirational."
Duncan Stroik, who is the director of the Institute for Sacred Architecture and an associate professor of architecture at the University of Notre Dame, described the shrine to CNA as “a very devotional building, a place for the liturgy, a place for the sacraments,” noting its three confessionals and ten shrines to different saints.
“More than a parish church, it’s a place for people to come and pray, or light a candle, or recite a rosary with their children, not necessarily just a place for the liturgy,” he continued.
The main focus of the building, Stroik explained, is upon the nave and the tabernacle to create a “crescendo” unifying the Eucharist, the liturgy, the image of the Crucifixion of Christ, and the image of the Blessed Virgin. The architects had to “develop an interior which leads your eye to the sanctuary, and in the sanctuary it all comes together.”
According to Stroik, Archbishop Burke wanted to emphasize the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe as a main focus in the church, like it is the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
“People would see it immediately and know the focus is on the story of the Virgin and Juan Diego,” he said.
Stroik told CNA that the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is not a photographic reproduction of the tilma, but rather a mosaic based on a very high-quality resolution photo of the original tilma.
“It allows people to see it’s the image of the tilma and not the tilma itself,” he explained.
One of the challenges of the project, according to Stroik, was to build something that was “grand and monumental” for a church that was not very large.
Stroik said that the land surrounding the shrine was “a beautiful but very steep site.” Planners, including Archbishop Burke, wanted pilgrims to “go up to house of the Lord” like the “great churches of the hill towns in Italy.” However, these aims limited the possibilities for construction.
“It was a labor of love,” Stroik concluded. “It’s been almost seven years in coming, and we’ve used artists and craftsmen from around the world.”
“It has been a great pleasure.”