Brasilia, Brazil, Sep 15, 2008 (CNA) - More than 20,000 Brazilians participated in the second annual National March for Life last week in the country’s capital.
The theme for this year’s march was “How Can We Legalize Death if We Love Life,” with thousands of young people, children, and adults marching together as the country’s Supreme Court considers the possibility of legalizing abortion in cases of anencephaly.
“The march takes place every year in order to make leaders and citizens more sensitive so that they don’t accept the legalization of abortion,” said pro-life leader Lenise Garcia.
Jose Miranda de Siqueira, a lawyer with the Pro-Life and Pro-Family Association, said the march is a unique event in terms of pro-life activity in the country.
“This is the most intense, the most legitimate and authentic act in defense of the life of the entire Brazilian population. It is becoming clearer that the people are against abortion. Brazilians will never accept death,” he said.
Lourdes, France, Sep 15, 2008 (CNA) - On Sunday evening Pope Benedict XVI gathered all of the bishops of France in the Hemicycle of Bernadette Hall and addressed the numerous issues facing the Church in France. In particular, Benedict defended the Church’s stance on divorce and remarriage, spoke of the Latin Mass and called for the continued defense of the family.
The meeting of Benedict XVI with the bishops of France on Sunday marked the first time that the bishops met with him as Pope. During the gathering, the Holy Father took full advantage of the chance to touch on the issues facing the Church in France.
The Latin Mass
The Church in France is one where the Motu Proprio issued by Benedict XVI in July of 2007 has had a notable impact, due to the size of the St. Pius X Society in France.
Calling liturgical worship the “supreme expression of priestly and episcopal life, just as it is of catechetical teaching," the Pope explained that he laid out the conditions for fulfilling this expression according to the missals of Blessed John XXIII (1962) and of Pope Paul VI (1970) in “Summorum Pontificum.”
Pope Benedict related that the Church has already seen “some fruits” and that he hopes that the divisions created by the changes and misunderstandings surrounding Vatican II are being healed.
“I am aware of your difficulties, but I do not doubt that, within a reasonable time, you can find solutions satisfactory for all, lest the seamless tunic of Christ be further torn. Everyone has a place in the Church. Every person, without exception, should be able to feel at home, and never rejected," he said.
Urgent Care for the Family
The Pope then turned to another problem that “arises with particular urgency everywhere: the situation of the family."
Describing marriage and the family as “experiencing real turbulence,” the Holy Father pointed to laws in different countries that have “relativized” the nature of the family.
Benedict critiqued these countries for losing sight of the family as the “primordial cell of society,” and instead “seeking more to adapt to the mores and demands of particular individuals or groups, than to promote the common good of society.”
"The stable union of a man and a woman, ordered to building earthly happiness through the birth of children given by God, is no longer, in the minds of certain people, the reference point for conjugal commitment," he added.
Experience proves, the Pope stated, “that the family is the foundation on which the whole of society rests. Moreover, Christians know that the family is also the living cell of the Church. The more the family is steeped in the spirit and values of the Gospel, the more the Church herself will be enriched by them and the better she will fulfill her vocation."
Divorced and Remarried
The situation of Catholics who are divorced and remarried is a sticky issue throughout the Church and with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, a lapsed Catholic, being divorced and remarried twice, the issue has gained a higher profile.
Pope Benedict began addressing the issue from the perspective of fidelity to the teachings of Christ. “The Church wishes to remain utterly faithful to the mandate entrusted to her by her Founder, her Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. She does not cease to repeat with him: "What God has joined together, let not man put asunder!" (Mt 19:6). The Church did not give herself this mission: she received it,” he noted.
The difficulties presented by this teaching did not go unmentioned by the Pope, who stressed that, “Families in difficulty must be supported, they must be helped to understand the greatness of marriage, and encouraged not to relativize God’s will and the laws of life which he has given us.”
“Those who are divorced and remarried,” Benedict XVI said, are in a “particularly painful situation.” Nevertheless, “the Church, which cannot oppose the will of Christ, firmly maintains the principle of the indissolubility of marriage, while surrounding with the greatest affection those men and women who, for a variety of reasons, fail to respect it.”
This means that any “initiatives aimed at blessing irregular unions cannot be admitted,” the Pontiff underscored.
France’s Christian Roots
One final area examined by the Holy Father was the issue of the relationship between the Church and State.
He asserted that the Christian roots of France will enable “each inhabitant of the country to come to a better understanding of his or her origin and destiny,” and that it is necessary to find a new path founded on France’s true identity.
The Pope also noted that, “Your president has intimated that this is possible."
Benedict XVI closed his address by highlighting the importance of working "towards a genuine spiritual liberation. “Man," he said, “is always in need of liberation from his fears and his sins. Man must ceaselessly learn or relearn that God is not his enemy, but his infinitely good Creator. Man needs to know that his life has a meaning, and that he is awaited, at the conclusion of his earthly sojourn, so as to share for ever in Christ's glory in heaven. Your mission is to bring the portion of the People of God entrusted to your care to recognize this glorious destiny."
Lourdes, France, Sep 15, 2008 (CNA) - In one of the most emotional moments of his trip to Lourdes, Pope Benedict XVI presided over a Mass this morning at the Shrine of Lourdes before thousands of sick patients. In his homily, he reminded the pilgrims that “Christ's presence comes to break the isolation which pain induces.”
The Pope began his morning by completing the fourth stage of “The Lourdes Jubilee Way.” The final stage of the Way is a visit to the hospital oratory where, St. Bernadette received First Communion. The Holy Father prayed in the chapel before the Blessed Sacrament and pronounced the fourth and final prayer of the Jubilee Way.
Yesterday, the Pontiff visited the three other stages associated with St. Bernadette’s life: the font where she was baptized, the home where she lived with her family and the grotto where Mary appeared to her.
After completing the Jubilee Way, the Pope celebrated Mass for the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows in front of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary.
Speaking in his homily, Pope Benedict said, “We contemplate Mary sharing her Son's compassion for sinners. As in the case of her Son Jesus, one might say that she too was led to perfection through this suffering, so as to make her capable of receiving the new spiritual mission that her Son entrusts to her immediately before 'giving up’ His spirit: that of becoming the mother of Christ in His members."
The Holy Father recalled that in Lourdes, during the first apparition of Mary to St. Bernadette, Our Lady “first taught Bernadette to know her smile, this being the most appropriate point of entry into the revelation of her mystery.”
"In the smile of the most eminent of all creatures," he added, "is reflected our dignity as children of God, that dignity which never abandons the sick person. This smile, a true reflection of God's tenderness, is the source of an invincible hope.”
The Pope explained that “the endurance of suffering can upset life's most stable equilibrium, it can shake the firmest foundations of confidence, and sometimes even leads people to despair of the meaning and value of life. There are struggles that we cannot sustain alone, without the help of divine grace.”
"When speech can no longer find the right words, the need arises for a loving presence: we seek then the closeness not only of those who share the same blood or are linked to us by friendship, but also the closeness of those who are intimately bound to us by faith. “Who could be more intimate to us than Christ and His Holy Mother, the Immaculate One? More than any others, they are capable of understanding us and grasping how hard we have to fight against evil and suffering."
Benedict also acknowledged that those who suffer and those who struggle and are tempted to “turn their backs on life,” but he encouraged them to “turn towards Mary!” “Within the smile of the Virgin lies the hidden strength to fight against sickness, in support of life. With her, equally, is found the grace to accept without fear or bitterness to leave this world at the hour chosen by God."
The Holy Father emphasized that "to seek the smile of the Virgin Mary is not a pious infantilism, it is the aspiration, as Psalm 44 says, of those who are 'the richest of the people.' 'The richest,' that is to say, in the order of faith, are those who have attained the highest degree of spiritual maturity and know precisely how to acknowledge their weakness and their poverty before God.”
How Christ Encounters the Sick
Referring particularly to the sick, the Pope recalled that “Christ imparts His salvation by means of the Sacraments, and especially in the case of those suffering from sickness or disability, by means of the grace of the Sacrament of the Sick.”
“For each individual, suffering is always something alien. It can never be tamed. That is why it is hard to bear, and harder still - as certain great witnesses of Christ's holiness have done - to welcome it as a significant element in our vocation,” he remarked.
"The grace of this Sacrament consists in welcoming Christ the healer into ourselves. However, Christ is not a healer in the manner of the world. In order to heal us, he does not remain outside the suffering that is experienced; He eases it by coming to dwell within the one stricken by illness, to bear it and live it with him. Christ's presence comes to break the isolation which pain induces,” he explained.
The Pontiff added that “without the Lord’s help, the yoke of sickness and suffering weighs down on us cruelly.” He explained that "By receiving the Sacrament of the Sick, we seek to carry no other yoke that that of Christ, strengthened through His promise to us that His yoke will be easy to carry and His burden light."
After finishing his homily, Pope Benedict administered the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick to 10 pilgrims, some on stretchers or in wheelchairs.
Following the Mass, the Pope traveled to Antoine Beguere stadium where he was taken by helicopter to the Tarbes-Lourdes-Pyrenees Airport.
Lourdes, France, Sep 15, 2008 (CNA) - The Holy Father thanked the French for their hospitality during his four-day trip that ended with a departure ceremony on Monday afternoon. During his closing remarks, the Pontiff recalled that before the Grotto of Massabielle, he spent time praying for the pilgrims, for the Church, for France, and for the world.
Following this morning’s Mass for the sick, the Pope traveled to the airport of Tarbes-Lourdes-Pyrenees for his farewell ceremony. Present for the celebration were the French prime minister, Francois Fillon, political and civil authorities, the bishops of the Mini-Pyrenees region, and the president, vice president and secretary general of the Conference of Bishops of France.
Benedict XVI thanked all who had worked “devotedly and whole-heartedly for the successful outcome,” of his four day visit to France.
He described his journey in terms of the two panel piece of art called a diptych.
The first panel of the visit was “Paris, a city that I know well and the scene for several important meetings. There I met a vibrant people, proud of their firm faith; I came to encourage them to persevere courageously in living out the teaching of Christ and His Church," he said.
The Pope then highlighted the importance of some of his meetings in Paris. “How can I fail to recall here the prestigious encounter with the world of culture at the Institut de France and the College des Bernardins? As you know, I consider culture and its proponents to be the privileged vehicles of dialogue between faith and reason, between God and man."
The second panel of the diptych contained “a symbolic place, which attracts and fascinates every believer,” Pope Benedict commented. Picking up on the theme of light which was a prominent feature of his preaching, the Holy Father depicted Lourdes as “like a light in the darkness of our groping to reach God. Mary opened there a gate towards a hereafter which challenges and charms us."
"The Pope was duty bound to come to Lourdes to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the apparitions,” he said. “Before the Grotto of Massabielle, I prayed for all of you. I prayed for the Church. I prayed for France and for the world.”
Similar to all other pilgrims, the Holy Father explained, “I completed all four stages of the Jubilee Way, visiting the parish church, the Cachot and the Grotto, and finally the chapel of the hospital. I also prayed with and for the sick who come here to seek physical relief and spiritual hope. God does not forget them, and neither does the Church. Like every faithful pilgrim, I wanted to take part in the torchlight procession and the Blessed Sacrament procession. They carry aloft to God our prayers and our praise," he reminded.
Benedict XVI also recalled how he shared with French bishops "my conviction that the times are favorable for a return to God."
"May God bless France!" he cried. "May harmony and human progress reign on her soil, and may the Church be the leaven in the dough that indicates with wisdom and without fear, according to her specific duty, who God is!"
After expressing his desire to return to France in the future, the Holy Father promised that "From Rome I shall remain close to you, and when I pray before the replica of the Lourdes Grotto which has been in the Vatican Gardens for a little over a century, I shall think of you."
Minutes later, Pope Benedict boarded his flight and departed, arriving two hours later at Rome’s Ciampino airport. From there, the Holy Father traveled to his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo.
Konigstein, Germany, Sep 15, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop Jorge Solorzano of Matagalpa warned last week Catholic schools in Nicaragua would be forced to close if the State decides to cut school subsidies.
Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Solorzano said school tuition may have to be increased in order to cover the expenses and since many families will be unable to absorb the increases, Catholic schools may be forced to closer their doors.
During his first visit to ACN, the bishop said Church-State relations in Nicaragua are cordial, but there are some negative tendencies such as the cutting of state subsidies, which also affect other Church institutions such as hospitals.
The Nicaraguan bishops said the main challenge facing the country is the fight against poverty—Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the region—a greater evangelization of the people and the protection of unborn life.
The president of the Nicaraguan Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Leopoldo Brenes of Managua, said that in the fight against abortion women play an important role and therefore the Church makes a special effort to offer them pastoral assistance at parishes.
“Women have rights, but so do children,” Archbishop Brenes said, underscoring the importance of combating so-called therapeutic abortion, which could open the door to the legalization of abortion on demand.
Bishop Solorzano added that international organizations and industrialized countries are exercising enormous pressure to get abortion legalized, but that Nicaraguans “are a people that loves life.”
Madrid, Spain, Sep 15, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop Julian Lopez of Leon in Spain said last week he hopes to see St. Isidore of Seville declared co-patron of Europe, underscoring the “Doctor of Spain’s” theological and intellectual richness.
Bishop Lopez said St. Isidore’s theological and intellectual richness “is one of the foundations for the unity of this country, and we should seriously consider requesting that he be named co-patron of Europe.” He made his comments during the recent re-opening of the Basilica of St. Isidore, which was closed for several months of restoration.
During the Mass, Bishop Lopez noted the legacy of the saint in building the Christian identity of Western Civilization.
If the bishop’s wish is granted, St. Isidore would share the title of patron of Europe with St. Benedict of Nursia (480-547).
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sep 15, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, called on priests to be attentive to their people and to avoid becoming “clerics or officials of the State” who forget that the belong to the people of God in order to serve them.
“The faithful people of God, to which we belong, from which we were taken and to which we are sent, have a special sense—the ‘sensus fidei’—for detecting when a pastor of the people has become a cleric of the State, an official,” the cardinal said in a message for the 5th National Encounter of Priests.
“It is different when it comes to priests as sinners: we are all sinners and we remain in the flock. On the other hand, the worldly priest enters into a different process, a process of—allow me to use the word—spiritual corruption that attacks his very nature as a pastor,” he continued.
Referring to CELAM’s final document from the congress in Aparecida in 2007, Cardinal Bergoglio recalled that the identity of the priest “is his belonging to the people of God.” What undermines his identity, he added, is the “temptation of be a Christian without the Church.”
He called on priests to correctly offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation, avoiding the extremes of being either too rigorous or too lax, as neither allows him to be “a witness of the love of mercy that the Lord taught us and asks of us."
Madrid, Spain, Sep 15, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop Amadeo Rodriguez of Plasencia in Spain called on priests and the faithful to support the local seminary, which is “the heart of the Diocese” and “is always open to the chosen of the Lord.”
“I invite the entire diocesan community to pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life, following the direction of the Teacher, who encourages us to pray to the Lord of the harvest for workers,” the bishop said in a letter re-printed by Ecclesia Digital.
In his letter, Bishop Rodriguez recalled the recent visit to Rome by a delegation from the diocese. “The experience was so wonderful, and I need to share it with all of you,” he said.
Later he called for support for the local seminary, especially from priests. “I also invite parents to appreciate what the seminary offers to young people. I can assure you that your children’s choice to follow Jesus Christ in fidelity is an excellent choice,” he told them.
Hanoi, Vietnam, Sep 15, 2008 (CNA) - Fr. Vincent Nguyen Trung Thanh, the provincial superior of the Redemptorists in Vietnam, on Sunday issued a letter lamenting that the Vietnamese government has not stopped leveling false accusations against Catholics demonstrating to recover confiscated church properties. The religious superior said that his hope for dialogue with the communist government is vanishing.
Basing his remarks upon the biblical passage “No servant is greater than his master (Jn 15:20),” Father Vincent Nguyen’s letter told his fellow Redemptorist priests that the talks with the government have reached a stalemate.
“We had opportunities to talk with the leaders of the nation who are in charge of the Committee For Religious Affairs and the Ministry of Public Security... to present our aspiration for justice and peace,” he wrote, in the letter.
However, the Vietnamese government did not accede to his requests to halt its false media reports, release all those who have been arrested, and “to dialogue seriously on the Thai Ha dispute and return the land to us.”
The Thai Ha Church dispute concerns land which the government had confiscated from a Redemptorist monastery.
“There were promises [from state officials],” he reported. But, unfortunately, “even the simple promise to stop the assault of state-run media against us has never been respected!”
Father Vincent Nguyen asked his Redemptorist brothers to recite continuous nine day novenas to Our Lady of Perpetual Hope. He also asked for the intercession of Saint Alphonsus Liguori and all Redemptorist Saints and Blesseds. In particular, he named Blesseds Ivan Ziatyk, Dominik Trechka, Vasil Velechkovskyi, Nicholas Charnetsky, and Zenon Kowalyk, all of whom were victims of communist persecution in the twentieth century.
Meanwhile on Sunday, a bishop from France arrived in Hanoi to show his support for the demonstrators at Thai Ha Church.
Bishop Jean Legrez of the Diocese of Saint Claude, guided by a Redemptorist priest, joined thousands of demonstrators in prayers. He was briefed on the situation, being told that tensions in the area are increased by the presence of hundreds of police armed with stun guns.
The bishop’s presence helped calm many of the protestors who wondered why so many police had been deployed.
“I don’t think they dare to attack us in front of a foreigner, especially a bishop,” a student told Asia-News. “I feel safe and can concentrate better on my prayers,” she added.
Major-General Nguyen Duc Nhanh, who is Director of the Hanoi Police Agency, was present with many high-ranking police officials to observe and to direct police to film protestors, which is believed to be an intimidation tactic.
On Saturday there was a surprise protest at the former papal nunciature after 32 sisters of the Adorers of the Holy Cross, having made their perpetual vows at St. Joseph Cathedral in Hanoi. Following the Mass, priests led the faithful in procession to the nunciature.The nunciature was the site of daily protests seeking the return of the confiscated property until February 1, when the government promised to return it to the Church. However, the government has managed to delay returning the Nunciature through various bureaucratic maneuvers.
Phoenix, Ariz., Sep 15, 2008 (CNA) - In a video posted to the internet, Bishop of Phoenix Thomas Olmsted has exhorted Catholics to support Proposition 102, an amendment to the Arizona constitution that would define marriage as being between one man and one woman.
The bishop explains in the video that Catholic teaching touches on all aspects of life, providing guidance and inspiration “even in the voting booth.”
While there are many matters of “prudential judgment” on which Catholics may differ, he remarks, some issues are “non-negotiable.”
“The definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman is one such issue,” Bishop Olmsted insists.
He then quotes Pope Benedict XVI’s December 2007 message prepared for the January 1 World Day of Peace.
“Whoever, even unknowingly, circumvents the institution of the family undermines peace in the entire community, national and international, since he weakens what is in effect the primary agency of peace,” the Pope wrote.
“Everything that serves to weaken the family based on the marriage of a man and a woman, everything that directly or indirectly stands in the way of its openness to the responsible acceptance of a new life, everything that obstructs its right to be primarily responsible for the education of its children, constitutes an objective obstacle on the road to peace,” the Pope continued.
By Arizona voters placing in state law the “extremely important definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman,” Bishop Olmsted says, “we can avoid the unjust scenarios” where courts are “overturning the will of the people and declaring marriage statutes unconstitutional.”
“We only have to look as far as California to see where this injustice has happened in May of this year,” the bishop notes.
“We Catholics have an obligation to exercise our faith in all that we do,” he concludes.
“I urge you to vote yes for marriage, vote yes on Proposition 102.”
The video is viewable at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4vaD98eJ2w