Front Royal, Va., Aug 3, 2008 (CNA) - In this weekly email newsletter, President of Human Life International, Father Thomas J. Euteneuer, shared a letter he received that caused him “to shed tears of gratitude.” The author, a former priest who had protested Humanae Vitae in 1968, had written to tell Fr. Euteneuer about his conversion from dissident priest to his acceptance of the controversial and prophetic encyclical.
The writer of the letter had decided to sign HLI’s “Humanae Vitae Pledge,” promising loyalty to the teachings of the Catholic Church, obedience to the teachings of Humanae Vitae, and “to embrace God’s precious gift of life.”
“There is for me a special significance in signing this Pledge, and [it] will give me a peace of mind and heart that I have not experienced since 1968. In 1968 I was a young Franciscan priest studying in the Graduate School of Religious Education at Catholic University,” the man wrote.
The writer knew many who signed the document in protest of Humanae Vitae such as Fr. Charles Curran, Fr. Dan Maguire, and Fr. Robert Faricy, S.J. “Since they, as well as many other professors and graduate students were signing the Protest Document, I went along and did so also.”
“In 1975 for personal reasons not related to any doubts or questions about the Faith, or the Church, or the Religious Life...I requested and obtained...a dispensation from Pope Paul VI returning me to the Lay State. Later, I was married in the Church and raised my two children in the Faith....I have had many conversations with my Pastor and with his assistant (who is my spiritual director) about my days as a Franciscan Priest, and have been active in many of our parish's lay apostolate and ministries.”
“But I have always regretted having signed the Protest Document against Pope Paul's teaching in 1968, and having learned a few years ago that Fr. Faricy had publicly repudiated signing the Protest, I had wished that I, too, could repudiate in some official way, having signed the Protest....And so your ‘Pledge’ document offers me an opportunity to correct my mistake, and find healing - and telling you about all this helps me to feel that my repudiation of the Protest is now known and accepted in a kind of semi-official sort of way by an ‘authority’ in the Church.”
“And thank you for reading this, thereby humoring an old man, who despite everything else, knows that he is a ‘priest forever, according to the Order of Melchizedek.'"
Fr. Euteneuer explains that this conversion story demonstrates that: “in Christ’s Kingdom it is never too late, even after forty years, to fully embrace the Truth. All of us make mistakes and all of us sin, but He gives us all a chance to be reconciled with Him and turn our sorrow into joy.”
The HLI president chose to share the letter to honor the “priest's desire to let his repudiation be a public testimony to others.”
The pledge can be found on CNA’s site for the 40th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae.
Beijing, China, Aug 3, 2008 (CNA) - A Chinese Catholic bishop carried the Olympic torch on its way to Beijing on Thursday as the Chinese government tries to express its appreciation for the Church’s active participation in social affairs and to show progress in its religion policies.
Peter Fang Jianping, Coadjutor Bishop of Tangshan, took part in the July 31torch rally in Tangshan, a city about 110 miles from Beijing. Bishop Fang was the eighth of 208 torch bearers during the last leg of the relay in Hebei, the province surrounding Beijing.
The 45-year-old bishop told UCA News on Friday that he was named a torchbearer because of the Chinese government’s progress in its religious policies and in expressing concerns over religious issues to religious leaders, but also “because of the Church's contribution to the society.”
Bishop Fang said the Diocese of Tangshan, which has about 45,000 Catholics and 40 priests, donated money and materials worth about $22,000 to earthquake relief in Sichuan. An earthquake measuring 8.0 in magnitude struck the province of Sichuan on May 12, causing at least 69,200 confirmed deaths and leaving more than 18,000 still missing.
According to the bishop, many local Catholics who saw the live TV broadcast of the Olympic torch relay told him they were overjoyed and heartened to see their bishop take part in the event.
Torchbearers are allowed to keep their torch as a souvenir after their relay run. Bishop Fang told UCA News he will keep his “precious spiritual legacy.”
Bishop Fang, a native of Hebei, was ordained a priest in 1989 and ordained a bishop in Beijing in 2000 without papal approval. The Holy See legitimized his episcopal status in 2002.
The Beijing Olympics will begin on August 8.
Vatican City, Aug 3, 2008 (CNA) - Sheik Ahmad Badereddine Hassoun, Syria’s grand mufti and top Sunni Muslim religious authority, has said he would like to meet Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican and persuade him to visit Syria.
Speaking from Damascus, Sheik Hassoun told the Italian news agency Apcom, "I would like to invite the Holy Father to visit our country, following in the footsteps of St. Paul.” "I am available for a meeting at the Vatican. I would like to see him one on one to plan the visit together."
Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi said the invitation shows a “serene climate” in Syria and “good relations” with the country.
Hassoun is part of the group of 138 Muslim scholars who have called for greater Christian-Muslim dialogue.
"There is a dialogue, and between religions and intellectuals there are always discussions," he has said, according to Apcom. "One can fight with one's wife, but then the love grows."
In September Pope Benedict met with Syria’s vice president to discuss the situation of Christians in Syria and the role of Damascus in bringing peace to the Middle East. The Pope has urged Syria to influence the region to resolve conflicts and counter terrorism, the Associated Press says.
The Pope’s predecessor John Paul II made what was considered a groundbreaking visit to the Ummayad Mosque in Damascus in May 2001.
Rome, Italy, Aug 3, 2008 (CNA) - Before the recitation of the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about his predecessor Paul VI. Recounting the Pontiff who concluded the Second Vatican Council, the Holy Father encouraged his audience to remain faithful to Pope Paul’s teaching and witness of holiness.
Speaking in the square in front of the cathedral of Bressanone, Italy, Pope Benedict thanked those present for joining him to pray the Angelus. He thanked Bishop Wilhelm Egger of Bolzano-Bressanone and the local authorities for assuring him a “peaceful and safe stay in the city.” The Holy Father extended a special blessing to children, the sick and those in difficult situations.
Pope Benedict then invited his audience in Bressanone to remember the Servant of God, Pope Paul VI, the 30th anniversary of whose death is commemorated in three days. The Holy Father recalled that his predecessor, who died on the eve of the Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ, had “guided the people of God to contemplate the face of Christ.” Christ, he continued, is “at the center of the Bible and Tradition, the heart of the church, the world and the whole universe.”
The Holy Father recounted how Pope Paul, elected to the papacy during the Second Vatican Council, “presided over the Council to its closing and governed an eventful post-conciliar phase.” He added, “Thanking God for the gift of this great Pope, let us commit to treasuring his teachings.”
Pope Benedict concluded by reminding his audience of Paul VI’s proclamation, at the conclusion of the third session of the Second Vatican Council, of the Virgin Mary as “Mother of the Church”.
After the Angelus, the Holy Father directed these words towards the English-speaking pilgrims:
“I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors united with us here in Bressanone for this Angelus prayer. Wednesday, the feast of the Lord’s Transfiguration, marks the thirtieth anniversary of the death of Pope Paul VI. As we recall this great Pontiff who concluded the Second Vatican Council and guided the first phase of the post-conciliar renewal, let us give thanks for his wise teaching, his passionate love of the Church, and his desire to draw all people to the contemplation of Christ’s glory. Dear friends, during these summer holidays, may you grow closer to the Lord in prayer, and may he shed the light of his face upon you and your families!”