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Archive of September 8, 2008

A renewed society must come from young Christians, says Pope Benedict

Rome, Italy, Sep 8, 2008 (CNA) - Shortly after arriving on the island of Sardinia on Sunday morning, Pope Benedict presided over Mass for 100,000 people at the Shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria. In his homily, the Pope challenged his listeners to help young people encounter Christ, and through this new generation of Christians, evangelize politics, the economy and the working world.

The Mass took place on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Bonaria, the island’s patroness, a fact recognized by Pope Benedict.

He called on the faithful "to give thanks to Mary for her protection and to reiterate our faith in her, recognizing her as the 'Star of the new evangelization'."

Invoking the help of Our Lady of Bonaria, Benedict XVI underscored the need for the people of Sardinia to bring Christ "to families, small domestic Churches and cells of society.” Families “today more than ever need trust and support at both a spiritual and social level," the Pontiff added.

If Sardinian society is to be renewed, it must come from young people who "by their nature are bearers of fresh energy,” he continued. Turning to Our Lady again, the Pope implored her help for the Sardinian church in developing new initiatives to reach the young, who “are often victims of a widespread nihilism.”

With Mary’s intercession, “May she help you evangelize the world of work, of the economy and of politics, which needs a new generation of committed lay Christians, capable of seeking solutions of sustainable development with competency and moral rigor," the Pope prayed as he closed his homily.

At the end of the Eucharistic celebration, Benedict XVI performed an act of consecration to Mary which concluded with the gift of a golden rose to Our Lady of Bonaria.

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Holy Father encourages young people to discover God to find true freedom

Rome, Italy, Sep 8, 2008 (CNA) - On Sunday evening, Pope Benedict addressed young people in the Italian city of Cagliari encouraging them to seek family, spiritual and intellectual formation and profound faith in response to the individualism and consumerism that characterize the world today.

The Pope began his address to those on the island of Sardinia by noting the particular problems that the youth face in today’s culture: unemployment and uncertainty, emigration and the resulting displacement from their environment.

"And what can we say," he added, "of the fact that in modern consumer society earnings and success have become the new idols before which so many prostrate themselves? The consequence of this is that people are led to give value only to those who ... 'have found fortune' or who are 'notorious,' and not to those who must struggle with life every day."

According to the Pontiff, "There is a risk of becoming superficial, of taking dangerous shortcuts in search of success, thus giving life up to experiences that bring immediate satisfaction but that are in themselves precarious and deceptive. There is a growing tendency to individualism, and when we concentrate only on ourselves we inevitably become fragile; we lose the patience to listen which is an indispensable part of understanding others and working together."

Rather than valuing these successes, the Pope recalled three values emphasized by John Paul II during his visit to Sardinia 23 years ago:  family, intellectual and moral formation, and profound faith.

The Pope went on to describe the three values. 

He first warned that the family must be safeguarded as an ancient tradition.  “In the past, traditional society was more helpful in forming and protecting a family” while today, “other forms of cohabitation are admitted, and sometimes the term 'family' is used for unions that are not, in fact, families at all.”

"Dear young people," exhorted the Holy Father, "re-appropriate the value of the family! Love it not just for the sake of tradition, but as a mature and conscious choice." The Second Vatican Council, he recalled, described the family as a "small Church" because "marriage is a Sacrament, in other words a holy and effective sign of the love God gives us in Christ through the Church."

The Holy Father next turned his attention to “intellectual and moral formation.” 

The crisis of a society begins when it no longer knows how to transmit its cultural heritage and its fundamental values to the new generations, the Pope observed. “I am not only referring to the system of education. The question is a broader one. ... Jesus said: 'The truth will make you free', yet modern nihilism preaches the opposite: that freedom will make you true. There are, indeed, those who maintain that there is no truth, thus opening the way to rendering the concepts of good and evil meaningless, even making them interchangeable."

The Pope then moved on to the third value, a “sincere and profound faith.” 

"When a sense of the presence and reality of God is lost, everything becomes 'flat' and is reduced to a single dimension. Everything is 'squashed' into the material plane. The mystery of existence also disappears: things and people interest me not for themselves but in the degree to which they satisfy my needs,” he explained.

“Faith, in this sense, before being a religious belief, is a way of experiencing reality, a way of thinking, an interior sensibility which enriches human beings,” he continued.  “Being with Jesus, frequenting Him as a friend in the Gospel and in the Sacraments, you may learn ... that which society is often no longer capable of giving you: a religious sense.”

Faced with these challenges, the Pope urged youth people to discover God and thus, “you will no longer be afraid to lose your freedom, because you will experience it fully by giving it for love. You will no longer be attached to material goods, because in yourselves you will feel the joy of sharing them. You will no longer be sad at the sadness of the world, but will experience pain for evil and joy for good, especially for mercy and forgiveness. ... If you really discover God in the face of Christ, you will no longer think of the Church as an institution external to yourselves, but as your spiritual family".

After his meeting with the young people, the Pope left Cagliari and returned to Rome by plane.

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Archbishop of Havana calls for solidarity with victims of Hurricane Gustav

Havana, Cuba, Sep 8, 2008 (CNA) - In a letter to all Catholics in Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino, called for solidarity with the victims of Hurricane Gustav, which “caused heavy damage in the eastern region of the province of Pinar del Rio and particularly on the Isle of Youth, where the damage borders on catastrophic.”

Cardinal Ortega called for everyone to make an effort to contribute to the relief effort.  “Last Saturday our country was hit by Hurricane Gustav, a powerful storm which media reports have shown us has caused heavy damage in the eastern region of the province of Pinar del Rio and particularly on the Isle of Youth, where the damage borders on catastrophic,” he said.

“I invite each one of you to extend once again, from your poverty, a charitable hand to these brothers and sisters of ours.  For this purpose I ask that each one of our parishes and chapels take up a collection” and collect relief supplies to be distributed through Caritas to the affected families, the cardinal said.

He said the aid collected would be sent to the parish of Our Lady of Carmel in Havana, from which it will be sent to the devastated region.

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Fifty days after WYD, Pope Benedict, Cardinal Pell send messages to pilgrims

CNA STAFF, Sep 8, 2008 (CNA) - Xt3.com users received special messages from Pope Benedict and the Archbishop of Sydney, Australia, Cardinal George Pell to mark 50 days after the closing of World Youth Day 2008.  The prelates recalled the celebrations during the events and invited the young pilgrims to continue building their relationship with Jesus.

Each of the 30,000 users of Xt3.com received a short message from the Pope on Monday. The message reads:

“Dear Friends,

Fifty days ago we were together for the celebration of Mass. 
Today I greet you on the birthday of Mary, Mother of the Church. 

Empowered by the Spirit and courageous like Mary, your pilgrimage of faith fills the Church with life!

Soon I am to visit France.  I ask you all to join me in praying for the young people of France. 

May we all be rejuvenated in hope!  --BXVI”

Xt3.com, a social networking site, was launched prior to World Youth Day 2008 as a way for pilgrims to connect before their visit and for young people who were not able to travel to Sydney to experience WYD in real time.

Cardinal Pell, who is also a member of Xt3.com, also addressed the youth by recalling the Pope’s visit and encouraging them to search, seek and act.

 “During our week together we experienced much joy and celebration, connection with a faithful fellowship of pilgrims, and unprecedented excitement and enthusiasm,” the cardinal said. 

Nevertheless, he noted, “this experience can be very difficult to sustain after you return to your home, parish, study and work. It is not expected that you could continue in this state of celebration and nor is it feasible to stage the kind of events we hosted in Sydney everyday. However, it is possible - and very important - that we sustain our relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Cardinal Pell offered young people three suggestions for continuing and growing their relationship with Jesus.

He first asked pilgrims to search for Christ through prayer. “It is important to spend time in prayer, and seek the grace of the Holy Spirit that we learned so much about with our theme ‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses’ (Acts 1:8). If you are not used to prayer, start with something simple each day, talk to your parish priest or prayerful people that you know.”

He then encouraged the youth to seek the Sacraments.  “I encourage you to regularly seek out the Eucharist, the means in which our WYD Fellowship is held in Communion with Jesus Christ. You can also experience the power of the Holy Spirit through the mercy and compassion of forgiveness in the beautiful sacrament of Reconciliation. Seek your vocation and do not be afraid, for through this commitment we find life.”

Finally, the cardinal called on the pilgrims to “Act; as the apostle you know you are.  Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that our life is not governed by chance. Our existence is not random – it has been willed by God, blessed and given a purpose.

“Make use of your gifts and build the civilization of love starting with your family, friends and parish,” he encouraged everyone.

Cardinal Pell concluded his message by challenging the pilgrims to “Stay strong and keep close to the Lord!”

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Biden also sees debate over abortion in Church teaching

Washington D.C., Sep 8, 2008 (CNA) - Sen. Joseph Biden, the Democratic Party’s vice-presidential nominee, explained his stand on abortion in a Sunday appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press and responded to several U.S. bishops’ critiques of Nancy Pelosi’s justification for her pro-abortion rights position. Characterizing the belief that life begins at conception as a “religiously based view,” Biden said he cannot “impose” that belief upon people who do not share it.

Biden also claimed that there is a “debate” in the Church over when life begins.

Tom Brokaw, host of Meet the Press, prefaced his question to Biden by noting Rev. Rick Warren’s question to Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama at the Saddleback Church candidates’ forum in August. Brokaw reported the question as “When does life begin?”

In fact, Rev. Warren had asked “At what point does a baby get human rights?”

Sen. Obama had replied to Warren by saying that determining when life begins is “above my pay grade.”

On Sunday’s broadcast of Meet the Press, Brokaw explained that on a previous show he had asked Rep. Pelosi, who like Sen. Biden is a Catholic, what advice she would give to Obama about when life began. Pelosi answered that abortion is an area in which she is not in agreement with the Catholic Church and claimed St. Augustine’s view concerning when the soul enters the body supports her opinion.

Many bishops and archbishops criticized Pelosi’s August 24 televised comments, which she further supported in a statement from her office. According to the Associated Press, Rep. Pelosi has since accepted the invitation of the Archbishop of San Francisco George Niederauer to converse with him about abortion and the Catholic faith.

Speaking to Sen. Biden on Meet the Press yesterday, Brokaw cited the comments of Edward Cardinal Egan, the Archbishop of New York.
Concerning Pelosi’s remarks, the cardinal said about those killed in an abortion: “Anyone who dares to defend that they may be legitimately killed because another human being `chooses' to do so or for any other equally ridiculous reason should not be providing leadership in a civilized democracy worthy of the name.”

“Those are very strong words. If Senator Obama comes to you and says, ‘When does life begin? Help me out here, Joe,’ as a Roman Catholic, what would you say to him?”

Biden replied that he would say “Look, I know when it begins for me," but then called the question a “personal and private issue.”

While professing that he is “prepared to accept the teachings of my church,” he said there are many non-Catholics who have a different view.

“They believe in God as strongly as I do. They're intensely as religious as I am religious,” Biden said.

“I'm prepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception,” he continued. “But that is my judgment. For me to impose that judgment on everyone else who is equally and maybe even more devout than I am seems to me is inappropriate in a pluralistic society.”

When Brokaw asserted that Biden had voted for abortion rights, Biden then objected that he had instead voted “against curtailing the right” and against “criminalizing abortion.”

“I voted against telling everyone else in the country that they have to accept my religiously based view that it's a moment of conception,” Biden insisted.

“There is a debate in our church, as Cardinal Egan would acknowledge, that's existed. Back in "Summa Theologia [sic]," when Thomas Aquinas wrote "Summa Theologia [sic]," he said there was no--it didn't occur until quickening, 40 days after conception.”

“How am I going out and tell you, if you or anyone else that you must insist upon my view that is based on a matter of faith?” he said, according to a September 7 transcript of Meet the Press.

“This is a matter between a person's God, however they believe in God, their doctor and themselves,” Biden claimed, endorsing the reduction of the abortion rate through “providing the care, the assistance and the encouragement for people to be able to carry to term and to raise their children.”

Bishop of Madison Robert C. Morlino and Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput have both reacted to Biden’s, criticizing him for “flawed moral reasoning” and confusing the differences between faith and natural law—that is, the rational and non-sectarian study of human life and ethics.

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Bishops criticize Biden’s abortion remarks for flawed reasoning

Washington D.C., Sep 8, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop of Madison Robert C. Morlino and Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput have responded to Democratic vice-presidential nominee Sen. Joseph Biden’s characterization that the point when life begins is a religious belief, criticizing him for “flawed moral reasoning,” confusing the Catholic faithful and confusing the differences between faith and natural law.

In a Sunday interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Sen. Biden had said that he is “prepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception” but would not impose that belief on anyone through law. He claimed that to do so would be “inappropriate in a pluralistic society.”

Bishop Morlino made impromptu remarks in his Sunday homily, saying he had thrown away his prepared homily “for other considerations.”

Explaining that his point was not “to speak against Democrats,” but to address people who “claim to be Catholic,” he discussed Sen. Joseph Biden and Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s remarks about abortion.

“They are roughly my age… so that means that Speaker Pelosi and Sen. Biden were educated just about the same time I was,” he noted.

Stating he could not speak to the exact details of Pelosi’s Catholic education, Bishop Morlino said “I have to believe that she was taught that abortion was always wrong.”

After the Second Vatican Council, Bishop Morlino said, “certain theologians and some priests and some bishops” started to allow the kind of teaching Rep. Pelosi received, and “allowed her to be confused.”

“She doesn’t know church history, doesn’t know the theology of the Church Fathers about abortion at this moment,” he said.

If she knew it at one time, Bishop Morlino asserted, “she doesn’t know it now.”

Turning his remarks to Sen. Biden, Bishop Morlino said he and the senator shared as their hometown Scranton, Pennsylvania.

“I am positive of what Sen. Biden was taught in Scranton. And it’s the same thing that I was taught,” he declared.

While Rep. Pelosi may be confused, he said, he claimed Sen. Biden doesn’t understand the difference between “religious faith and natural law.”

“Any human being -- regardless of his faith, his religious practice or having no faith -- any human being can reason to the fact that human life from conception unto natural death is sacred,” he argued. “Biology -- not faith, not philosophy, not any kind of theology --  Biology tells us, science [says], that at the moment of conception there exists a unique individual of the human species.”

“It's not a matter of what I might believe. What my faith might teach me,” he said.

“Sen. Biden has an obligation to know that. And he doesn’t know it.”
Charging that some theologians, priests, and bishops also allowed Biden to become confused, Bishop Morlino then criticized politicians for confusing the Catholic faithful.

“They're supposed to believe in separation of church and state. They're violating the separation of church and state by confusing people about what I have an obligation to teach,” he charged, though he did not hold them culpable.

“They themselves were confused after the Council and I don't blame them for that. Bishops allowed it, theologians did it, some priests did it, and in Canada even some bishops did it.”

Again insisting he wasn’t speaking about Democrats or even pro-life issues, he said his focus was upon the “awareness of faith, the catechesis that every Catholic should have.” He asked his listeners to make sure they themselves really understand what the Catholic faith teaches, through the Pope and the bishops.

“Prominent Catholics should not be violating the separation of church and state” by “teaching the wrong thing.” Rep. Pelosi and Sen. Biden, he said, are “doing precisely that.”

“If Republican candidates were doing precisely that, I would speak out with exactly the same determination,” he countered.

Nearing the end of his homily, Bishop Morlino said Catholics must tell people who need to be corrected “with love,” because otherwise “we will be lost too.”

Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput and Denver’s auxiliary Bishop James D. Conley voiced their own criticisms of Sen. Biden in a Monday statement, saying that Catholics who serve on the national stage open themselves to “legitimate scrutiny” by local Catholics and local bishops concerning Catholic belief.

“In 2008, although NBC probably didn’t intend it, Meet the Press has become a national window on the flawed moral reasoning of some Catholic public servants,” their letter said.

Referencing Biden’s statement that when life begins is a “personal and private issue,” the bishops replied: “in reality, modern biology knows exactly when human life begins: at the moment of conception.  Religion has nothing to do with it.”

While granting that there is a “dangerous” argument over when “personhood” begins, they continued: “no one can any longer claim that the beginning of life is a matter of religious opinion.”

Against Biden’s remarks that pluralism prevented him from advocating abortion restrictions, the bishops said: “Real pluralism thrives on healthy, non-violent disagreement; it requires an environment where people of conviction will struggle respectfully but vigorously to advance their beliefs.”

While saying views of other people should be acknowledged and compromises made “whenever possible,” the bishops insisted this should not come “at the expense of a developing child’s right to life.”

“Abortion is a foundational issue,” they wrote, emphasizing “it is always, grievously wrong.”

“If, as Sen. Biden said, ‘I’m prepared as a matter of faith [emphasis added] to accept that life begins at the moment of conception,’ then he is not merely wrong about the science of new life; he also fails to defend the innocent life he already knows is there,” the bishops said.

While praising Biden’s opposition to public funding for abortions and his opposition to partial-birth abortion, they explained that his support for the 1973 Supreme Court pro-abortion rights decision Roe v. Wade “can’t be excused by any serious Catholic.”

“Resistance to abortion is a matter of human rights, not religious opinion,” they added, arguing that law by nature involves imposing “some people’s convictions on everyone else.”

“American Catholics have allowed themselves to be bullied into accepting the destruction of more than a million developing unborn children a year,” they wrote.

“We need to put an end to Roe and the industry of permissive abortion it enables,” the bishops concluded. “Otherwise all of us – from senators and members of Congress, to Catholic laypeople in the pews – fail not only as believers and disciples, but also as citizens.”

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Cardinal Levada laments announcement of new abortion law in Spain

Madrid, Spain, Sep 8, 2008 (CNA) - Spanish media reported this week on the comments made by the prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Levada, who lamented a new law on abortion that experts say will make the practice more widespread in Spain.

Cardinal Levada made his comments while in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, where he was participating in a theology seminar organized by the Theological Institute.  During a meeting with local reporters, he called for cordial and thoughtful dialogue on abortion, with special attention to the history and religious faith of the country.

“I have read the reports on the issue, but the official response should be made by the Spanish bishops.  At any rate I should say that the plan saddens me because …the precious dignity of each person that begins at conception … is not at the heart of this plan,” he said.

The cardinal noted that abortion “is not something merely political, but rather it is a religious and cultural issue that touches the roots of the human race.”

Last week, Spain’s Minister of Equality, Bibiana Aido, announced the formation of a “committee of experts” that would work on a new law on abortion for Spain, which would take effect at the end of 2009 or the beginning of 2010.

In Spain, abortion is legal in cases of rape (up to the 12th week of pregnancy), fetal deformation (up to the 22nd week) and when the life of the mother is in danger during all nine months of pregnancy.

Pro-life groups have denounced that the “committee of experts” will include members who are openly supportive of abortion or are connected to the ruling Spanish Socialist party.

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Author excoriates Archbishop of Lima’s detractors

Lima, Peru, Sep 8, 2008 (CNA) - Journalist Federico Prieto Celi, author of the book, “The Wheat and the Weeds,” has denounced the new attacks on the Archbishop of Lima, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani, by “small groups trying to take away his authority.”

On August 30, the cardinal celebrated a Mass in honor of St. Rosa of Lima, patroness of the Peruvian police force, and in his homily he recalled that human rights “are too important to be left in the hands of a small ideological group.”  This statement earned him a series of attacks from critics who even questioned his decade-long work as Archbishop of Ayacuho to bring peace to a region under the scourge of terrorists.
 
“The homily the cardinal gave was on August 20, the feast of St. Rose of Lima, and therefore it was addressed to her and to the police force, because that is also their day. His reference to human rights, which is something that should interest everyone and not just one particular group, was made in a religious context and was not meant as a challenge,” Prieto said in an interview with the Peruvian daily Expreso.

Prieto noted that it is a well-known fact that during his 10 years in Ayacucho, then Archbishop Cipriani worked tirelessly for the people of the region.  “They have repeatedly acknowledged this,” he said. Those who want to criticize the cardinal only “want to take away his authority, to keep him from saying what he is courageously saying,” and “they don’t want the cardinal to fully exercise the Church’s Magisterium, as a genuine pastor should.”

Prieto said his book, “The Wheat and the Weeds,” presents 60 testimonies that confirm the impeccable work of the cardinal and show that he was “courageous in speaking and preaching the Gospel, in helping priests and confronting the problems of terrorism. I think the history of the Church in Peru has already documented the courageous actions of the cardinal and his record of service to the rural communities of Ayacucho.”
 
In 2007 Prieto said he decided to write the book because of the treatment that the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission gave “to some sectors of the Church that had worked in the poorest regions of the Peruvian mountains, such as Huancavelica, Abancay and Ayacucho,” where Cardinal Cipriani was archbishop during the height of terrorism in Peru.

According to the publishers, Prieto’s book relates how the first cardinal from Opus Dei  suffered from a conspiracy “since his arrival in Lima in 1999, because of his courageous defense of the rural residents and workers of Ayacucho against the NGOs linked to the defense of the human rights of terrorists.”  The book dedicates several chapters to former Minister of Justice, Fernando Olivera, who even took false letters to the Vatican in order to disparage Cardinal Cipriani.

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Shrine for victims of abortion created in Mexico City

Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 8, 2008 (CNA) - Some fifty organizations came together Monday in Mexico City for the inauguration of a shrine for the victims of the abortion, which is intended to also be “a place of prayer” for women who suffer regret over having undergone an abortion and losing an “unborn child.”

The Archdiocese of Mexico City is supporting the initiative.

The rector of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Msgr. Pedro Agustin Rivera Diaz, told reporters no new building is being constructed but rather a special “place of prayer” is being created which will have a crucifix and two statues of the Virgin Mary.

He said future plans include the building of a special crypt where the remains of “unborn babies” can be interred.  Mothers will be able to have their aborted children buried there.

Msgr. Rivera Diaz said mothers will find there “a place of consolation” where their children can receive a Christian burial.

The initiative comes on the heels of the Mexico’s Supreme Court ruling that the Mexico City law allowing abortion in the nation’s capital does not violate the country's constitution.

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