Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 12, 2008 (CNA) - The press office of the Bishops’ Conference of Mexico said this week that in addition to enforcing protective measures, society must have “profound convictions” to confront the wave of crime that is affecting the country.
“Without denying the importance of crime preventive measures and the following of the law, the solution is found in profound convictions, which are ‘in the heart of man himself,’ and in the creation of conditions essential for the comprehensive wellbeing of society,” the bishops said in an editorial posted on the conference’s website.
They also lamented that despite massive peace marches, “assaults, kidnappings and killings continue to harm Mexican society, violating the right of all to live in peace. Drug trafficking and organized crime has penetrated many institutions, destroying their credibility and effectiveness.”
“Today more than ever,” the bishops continued, “it is impossible to deny the increase in social disorder and insecurity, because of the lack of observance of the rule of law.”
They said efforts by authorities to protect society and stop the situation, while praiseworthy, “have not had the hoped-for results.” For this reason “good will” is not enough, and concrete commitments must be made to ensure national security, the bishops said.
“Public authority is above all moral authority, they stressed, and is validated by service to society, following the law, respecting life and building up justice,” the bishops asserted.
Quito, Ecuador, Sep 12, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Raul Vela of Quito has encouraged priests and the faithful to celebrate the feast of the Holy Cross on September 14 by offering Masses and prayer vigils for the September 28 referendum on the country’s new constitution. “When important decisions have to be made, we must resort to prayer,” he said.
“I suggest that in all parishes and religious communities, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass be celebrated on the 14th, the solemnity of the Holy Cross, for these intentions and on the eve of the feast or commemoration of Our Lady of Sorrows prayer vigils be held,” the archbishop said in a letter to all priests of the archdiocese.
He stressed the importance of the upcoming referendum and said, “The decision which each citizen in conscience must make, for Catholics, must be enlightened by the Word of God and the Social Teaching of the Church. The decision requires reflection before confrontation.”
Therefore, he called for “more intense prayer to Jesus in these days, for respect for life, the family and for respect for each person.” “May the campaigns Ecuadorans are carrying out prior to the referendum be carried out with absolute respect for all people, let the confrontation be over ideas and let the hatred cease. In a special way we pray for peace in our country, a peace sustained by truth and justice,” the archbishop said.
Anchorage, Alaska, Sep 12, 2008 (CNA) - The Alaska Supreme Court has issued an order forbidding a hospital from removing a woman’s life-support tubes, which would almost certainly end her life.
Providence Hospital claimed that the woman’s medical treatment is not effective and argued sustaining her life violates the hospital’s ethical standards. The woman’s husband filed suit against the hospital on May 16 to prevent hospital staff from removing her life support.
The husband’s attorney, Kenneth Kirk, is allied with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF). He responded to the decision, saying:
“Having severe medical problems shouldn’t be a death sentence. Judging a patient’s worth by subjective ‘quality of life’ standards is dangerous. The decision on whether to remove life support for this woman rests with her and her husband alone.”
ADF Senior Counsel Joe Infranco added: “No one should be allowed to decide that an innocent life is worthless. A man is caring for the wife he loves; it’s not the hospital’s job to end her life.
“We are pleased with the court’s decision to allow this woman to continue receiving her treatment, respecting the wishes of the patient and her husband over those of hospital bureaucrats.”
The state Supreme Court’s decision has extended a May 20 temporary restraining order issued by another court. The decision will remain in effect pending appeal and further order of the court.
Paris, France, Sep 12, 2008 (CNA) - Upon arriving in France on Friday afternoon, Pope Benedict XVI called on the French people to engage in a new level openness to the Church, one which recognizes the “irreplaceable role” of religion in forming consciences and in creating a “basic ethical consensus within society.”
The Pope delivered his address to President Nicolas Sarkozy, numerous civil and religious authorities, and the entire nation of France from the Elysee Palace, just after having held a private meeting with the president at 12:30 p.m.
After thanking the French for the “warm reception” they have given him, the Holy Father explained that the principal reason for his visit is to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes.
“It is my desire to join the multitude of countless pilgrims from the whole world who during this year are converging on the Marian shrine, filled with faith and love. It is this faith and this love that I will celebrate here in your land during these four days of grace which have been granted to me,” the Pope said.
Benedict XVI then launched into a recounting of the pivotal importance of the Church in the history of Gaul, which later became France. This history, he reflected, should lead people to look at the modern relationship between the Church and State, a relationship which has been characterized during the last two centuries by secular society dismissing anything influenced by faith. In practice, this strict division between secular and religious life has been implemented under a policy know as laïcité.
Yet, the Holy Father said in his address that, since 2002, the Church in France has benefited from a "regime of freedom." A regime in which “Past suspicion has been gradually transformed into a serene and positive dialogue that continues to grow stronger.”
Using President Sarkozy’s term of a “laïcité positive,” Benedict XVI said that he is “firmly convinced that a new reflection on the true meaning and importance of laïcité is now necessary.”
“In fact, it is fundamental, on the one hand, to insist on the distinction between the political realm and that of religion in order to preserve both the religious freedom of citizens and the responsibility of the State towards them; and, on the other hand, to become more aware of the irreplaceable role of religion for the formation of consciences and the contribution which it can bring to—among other things—the creation of a basic ethical consensus within society,” the Pontiff stressed.
“My greatest concern," the Pope went on, "is for young people." Many of them "are suffering from a loss of connection to family life," others are abandoned on the margins "and often left to themselves, they are vulnerable and must come to terms on their own with a reality that often overwhelms them."
Under a laïcité positive, the Church and the State must cooperate “to offer them a sound educational environment and to encourage them to respect and assist others if they are to develop serenely towards the age of responsibility.”
The gap between rich and poor was also an item of concern for Pope Benedict: “I am also concerned by the social situation in the Western world, marked sadly by a surreptitious widening of the distance between rich and poor. I am certain that just solutions can be found that go beyond the necessary immediate assistance and address the heart of the problems, so as to protect the weak and promote their dignity.” The Church offers her help in this arena, the Pope said, “but it is the State as such which must enact laws in order to eradicate unjust structures.”
The Holy Father also expressed his concern for "the state of our planet," highlighting how "With great generosity, God has entrusted to us the world that he created. We must learn to respect and protect it more. It seems to me that the time has come for more constructive proposals so as to guarantee the good of future generations.”
Lastly the Pope touched on the responsibility that France has to “bear witness—in accord with her noble tradition—to human rights and to their promotion for the good of individuals and society,” as it holds the presidency of the European Union.
“When Europeans see and experience personally that the inalienable rights of the human person from conception to natural death – rights to free education, to family life, to work, and naturally those concerned with religion – when Europeans see that these rights, which form an inseparable unity, are promoted and respected, then they will understand fully the greatness of the enterprise that is the European Union, and will become active artisans of the same,” the Pope encouraged.
Following his address, Pope Benedict traveled back to the apostolic nunciature where he had lunch in private.
At 5 p.m. today, the Holy Father will participate in a brief meeting at the apostolic nunciature with members of the local Jewish community before going to the College des Bernardins, where he is due to meet with representatives from the world of culture and deliver a much anticipated speech.
To read the full address of the Holy Father please visit: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/lourdes08/resource.php?res_id=822
Rome, Italy, Sep 12, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop Jacques Perrier of Tarbes-Lourdes encouraged the faithful of the world to join in the jubilee for the 150th anniversary of the Marian Apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes, which Pope Benedict XVI will mark this weekend during his visit to the shrine dedicated to her.
According to Vatican Radio, the French bishop explained that this anniversary is a great opportunity for all the communities named after Lourdes to strengthen their bonds of union with Lourdes in France, in order to better understand their roots.
He encouraged the faithful to travel to Lourdes to join in the celebration. “All are welcome, but if it is not possible to make the pilgrimage, you will be able to join in the Lourdes Jubilee through the media,” he said.
Bishop Perrier said Catholics can get in touch with the diocese throughout the year in order to find out how they can make a pilgrimage to Lourdes. “You are all members of the great family of Lourdes. Wherever you are, pray the prayer of the jubilee. In this way, you will form part of an intercontinental Marian community of prayer. There is no reason why only the economy should be globalized,” the bishop said.
Quito, Ecuador, Sep 12, 2008 (CNA) - Auxiliary Bishop Marco Perez of Guayaquil said this that week an open-air Mass scheduled for this coming Sunday will be one of “profound prayer,” with no political overtones, because at this time Ecuador is in need of a “public testimony” of faith.
“We want this to be a festive day, a day of profound prayer,” the bishop said. “We will not allow anyone to protest for or against” the referendum on the new Constitution set for later this month. “This is a day to reflect, to pray, to say: Lord, bless our country, give us peace and strength,” he told the newspaper El Universo.
Bishop Perez said the idea for the Mass came up during a meeting with the clergy of the diocese. A day of prayer is necessary, he said, “because this is a very important political moment. There are many difficulties, divisions and confrontations that are robbing us of our peace. The country is politically divided and this hurts us and affects us all.”
During the interview, Bishop Perez said the Church “cannot be indifferent” when “the right to life is being questioned in the reform of the Constitution” and when “there is an attempt to change the nature of the family in some way.”
“I think that the unit of the faithful and their pastors, the priests and the Catholic people of Guayaquil, is going to be made manifest in this celebration. It is going to be a manifestation and a public testimony of our faith and the unity of our Church,” he said.
Montreal, Canada, Sep 12, 2008 (CNA) - Another Order of Canada recipient is protesting the government’s decision to honor Canada’s “Father of Abortion” with the country’s most prestigious award. In doing so, the Archbishop of Montreal, Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte has helped reignite Canada’s abortion debate as the country’s election season draws closer.
Last July, the Order of Canada was given to abortion doctor, Henry Morgentaler, the 85 year-old recognized by some as the leader of the movement that legalized abortion in Canada. Award officials select recipients of the honor based on the contributions the individual has made to the country.
Abortion and pro-life activists have clashed since the decision to award Morgentaler was made. Abortion supporters praise Morgentaler for “advancing women’s rights,” while pro-life groups have adamantly disagreed.
The Catholic bishops of Canada released a statement saying that Morgentaler’s selection “discredits the Order of Canada” by decorating a man who has “attacked the most vulnerable, the unborn.”
Others, such as Susanna Stubbs of Madonna House and Father Lucien Larre have given their Order of Canada medals back to the Canadian government in protest of Morgentaler’s decoration.
Yesterday Cardinal Turcotte followed their lead by returning the award received in 1996. According to the Associated Press, the prelate stated that he had hoped that the government officials would reconsider their selection, however, since they have not, he felt “obliged in conscience to reaffirm my convictions regarding the respect for human life, from conception to death."
On Thursday at a Catholic conference near Quebec City, Cardinal Turcotte stated that he needed to surrender his 1996 award or his silence could be misinterpreted.
He also compared abortion to war, explaining that no one has the right to take the life of another, the Calgary Herald reports.
"We are not the masters of human life; it rests in the hands of God," he said.
He also appealed to Canadians to consider the issue abortion during their election season and called for a “serious” and “profound” debate on this issue.
"I am appealing to people's conscience. They have to take a position on this and vote according to the position of the different parties.”
“This issue is not settled definitely and the debate that this decision (honoring Morgentaler) has sparked shows that there is not a consensus on abortion in Canada," he stated.
The Cardinal of Quebec City has also spoken against Morgentaler’s award saying that he should not be revered as a hero of Canadians.
"What he stands for deeply offends and infuriates many people. So, I think, there's a limit and we have to protest and voice our opposition," he said.
Paris, France, Sep 12, 2008 (CNA) - This evening as Pope Benedict headed to the Collège des Bernardins to speak with cultural leaders, he met with a group of Jewish leaders and stressed the need for a closer relationship between the two faiths, while also condemning anti-Semitism as theologically unjustifiable.
With sunset approaching, the Pope noted that they were meeting on the vigil of the Sabbath, “a day which from time immemorial has occupied a significant position in the religious and cultural life of the people of Israel.”
“Dear friends,” said Benedict, “because of that which unites us and that which separates us, we share a relationship that should be strengthened and lived. And we know that these fraternal bonds constitute a continual invitation to know and to respect one another better.”
The Holy Father underscored the fact that both Christians and Jews respect the Covenants of God and that “the Church herself is situated within the eternal Covenant of the Almighty.”
Pope Benedict also touched on anti-Semitism and invoked the words of Pope Pius XI to condemn it.
The Church “compellingly repeats, through my voice, the words of the great Pope Pius XI, my beloved predecessor: Spiritually, we are Semites. The Church therefore is opposed to every form of anti-Semitism, which can never be theologically justified. The French theologian Henri de Lubac, added that to be anti-Semitic also signifies being anti-Christian.”
As the meeting drew to a close, the Pope took the opportunity to thank the Jewish community for its contributions to French society’s spiritual, political, cultural and artistic patrimony.
Benedict XVI left the gathering of Jewish leaders with the blessing of God: with “fervor I invoke upon all of your families and upon all of your communities a special Blessing of the Lord of time and of history. Shabbat shalom!”
Champaign, Ill., Sep 12, 2008 (CNA) - A Catholic priest assigned to the Newman Center on the University of Illinois campus in Urbana faces criminal charges for allegedly selling and using cocaine for several months at his Newman Center office and at his nearby home.
Father Christopher Layden, 33, entered his plea in a video arraignment from jail on Monday, the News-Gazette reports. The priest pled innocent to two counts of delivery of less than 1 gram of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a church and an additional count of possession with intent to deliver 1 to 15 grams of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a church.
The delivery charges carries a mandatory prison term of four to 15 years, while the possession with intent to deliver cocaine charge carries a mandatory prison sentence of six to 30 years.
Judge Richard Klaus set a pre-trial hearing for October 21 and set bond at $50,000. Father Layden posted $5,000 cash two hours later and was released from jail.
An informant working with U of I police officers investigating the priest told a judge on Wednesday that he has known Father Layden since 2007. The informant claims to have used cocaine “40 to 50 times” with the priest both in the cleric’s Newman Center office and at the priest’s residence across the street.
University police officers searched the office and the residence, finding evidence which included about three grams of powder cocaine.
In the complaint for the search warrant, police said the informant gave “an extremely detailed taped statement about the ongoing problem of a priest at the Newman Center Catholic Church distributing cocaine from the offices and the rectory. He identified him as Father Layden.”
The informant also claimed that on seven occasions between February and May 2008 he went with Father Layden to Chicago to buy cocaine. Allegedly the priest provided him an average of $800 for each purchase, which he used to buy the drug.
Further, the informant alleged that he and the priest had snorted cocaine off a framed picture of Father Layden posing with a Catholic bishop.
Radio station WJBC reports that University of Illinois Police Chief Jeff Christiansen says it doesn't appear Layden sold drugs to current students.
Father Layden studied in Rome and was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Peoria in 2001.
The Diocese of Peoria issued a statement on Thursday, saying Bishop Daniel Jenky was “shocked and saddened” to hear of the priest’s arrest.
The statement reports that Father Layden has been suspended from all pastoral ministry and the diocese is “fully cooperating” with law enforcement.
“Never at any time prior to Father Layden’s arrest did the Diocese or the Newman Center have any suspicion of problems concerning drug use on the part of Father Layden,” the statement says.
“The Bishop is praying for the entire Newman Community at the University of Illinois and for all of those affected by the scourge of drug addiction.”
Havana, Cuba, Sep 12, 2008 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Cuba has launched a new website dedicated to the 400th anniversary of the devotion to Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, the patroness of Cuba. The website will provide information on the three-year preparation for the anniversary.
In a message posted on the site, Archbishop Dionisio Garcia Ibanez thanked God for this new means of “remaining united in fraternal communion.” Likewise, the archbishop welcomed “Cubans and non-Cubans, pilgrims of the internet from all corners of the planet…to this place of encounter, prayer and dialogue.”
He added that the site would help people discover the “profound impression that Our Lady of Charity has left upon our personal history as Christians and also upon our personal history as Cubans. I invite you to get to know Jesus more, as that is the desire of his Mother, Mary, who lovingly presents him to us in her arms,” the bishop said.
The website can be found at www.virgendelacaridaddelcobre.org
Paris, France, Sep 12, 2008 (CNA) - With an audience of Christian, Muslim and secular thinkers gathered at the College des Bernadines on Friday evening, Pope Benedict XVI shed light upon the foundations of Europe’s culture—the "search for God and the readiness to listen to him."
Following the collapse of the Roman Empire and the subsequent barbarian invasions of Europe, Western culture was in danger of disappearing as the barbarian pillaging wiped away the last semblances of order created by the Romans.
In the midst of this chaos European culture came into existence, and it is with this context in mind that Pope Benedict spoke the following words to the assembled scholars: "I would like to speak with you this evening of the origins of western theology and the roots of European culture."
Noting that the hall in which he was delivering today’s address was "built by the spiritual sons of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux," the Holy Father said that the hall is "in a certain way emblematic" because it was the monks who preserved Western culture during the time of upheaval.
Yet, it must be admitted that monasteries being the "places where the treasures of ancient culture survived" was not the intention of the monks, the Pope explained. "Amid the confusion of the times, in which nothing seemed permanent, they wanted to do the essential - to make an effort to find what was perennially valid and lasting, life itself. They were searching for God."
This search for God, for things eternal, did not take them away from the present world, but led them to search along the path provided by Him, "because they were Christians, this was not an expedition into a trackless wilderness, a search leading them into total darkness. God himself had provided signposts, indeed he had marked out a path which was theirs to find and to follow. This path was his word, which had been disclosed to men in the books of the sacred Scriptures," the Pope said.
A Culture of the word
"Thus," Benedict observed, "by inner necessity, the search for God demands a culture of the word or - as Jean Leclercq put it: eschatology and grammar are intimately connected with one another in Western monasticism. The longing for God, the désir de Dieu, includes amour des lettres, love of the word, exploration of all its dimensions."
To come to know the thing that lasts, that is, the Word himself, the monks understood that they must delve into all of the dimensions of the Scriptures, and this type of formation, which includes "the formation of reason – education," teaches man to perceive, Christ "in the midst of words."
This meeting with truth is also not just an individual encounter, but is also communal, Pope Benedict stressed. He pointed out that, "The word does not lead to a purely individual path of mystical immersion, but to the pilgrim fellowship of faith. And so this word must not only be pondered, but also correctly read. As in the rabbinic schools, so too with the monks, reading by the individual is at the same time a corporate activity."
The corporate nature of the interaction with the Word was also expressed in song, with the monks being united to their community and with the larger heavenly host of angels in worship of God.
The culture of the word, which developed deep within Western monasticism from the search for God, and understands the world as being the continual result of the historical action of God in time, also finds expression in the way the Scriptures are understood.
After examining the ways to find the Word within the word at a deeper level, the Holy Father spoke of the tension between freedom and obligation, a tug-of-war that Europe is witnessing today.
"It presents itself anew as a task for our generation too, vis-á-vis the poles of subjective arbitrariness and fundamentalist fanaticism. It would be a disaster if today's European culture could only conceive freedom as absence of obligation, which would inevitably play into the hands of fanaticism and arbitrariness. Absence of obligation and arbitrariness do not signify freedom, but its destruction," the Pontiff warned.
The search for God that the monks embarked on also involved "labora" or work. They viewed human work and the shaping of history as "sharing in the work of the Creator." This worldview is essential, Benedict insisted, because "Where such evaluation is lacking, where man arrogates to himself the status of god-like creator, his shaping of the world can quickly turn into destruction of the world."
With the society collapsing, the monks sought God, but they did not think that they were forcing their worldview on people. Rather, they saw their faith as the truth about creation, "They saw their faith as belonging, not to cultural custom that differs from one people to another, but to the domain of truth, which concerns all people equally."
Turning to the present-day situation of Europe, Pope Benedict XVI said that although it "differs in many respects from the one that Paul encountered in Athens," "the two situations also have much in common. Our cities are no longer filled with altars and with images of multiple deities. God has truly become for many the great unknown. But just as in the past, when behind the many images of God the question concerning the unknown God was hidden and present, so too the present absence of God is silently besieged by the question concerning him."
"Quaerere Deum - to seek God and to let oneself be found by him, that is today no less necessary than in former times," he asserted.
"A purely positivistic culture which tried to drive the question concerning God into the subjective realm, as being unscientific, would be the capitulation of reason, the renunciation of its highest possibilities, and hence a disaster for humanity, with very grave consequences," the Holy Father cautioned.
Pope Benedict concluded his address by re-emphasizing that "What gave Europe's culture its foundation - the search for God and the readiness to listen to him - remains today the basis of any genuine culture."