Castelgandolfo, Italy, Sep 29, 2008 (CNA) - Following the praying of the Angelus on Sunday, Benedict XVI reflected on the events of the summer months and expressed joy at the beatification of the confessor of St. Faustina Kowalska.
After announcing that he will conclude his time at the summer residence at Castel Gandolfo by returning to the Vatican, the Holy Father gave thanks to the Lord, "for all the gifts He has given me during this time," particularly, he gave thanks for: "World Youth Day in Sydney, of the period of rest I spent in Bressanone, of the visit to Sardinia and of the apostolic trip to Paris and Lourdes."
He continued, "I am also thinking of the chance I have had to stay in this house where I am able to relax and work during the hottest months. I send a particular greeting to the community of Castelgandolfo with a heartfelt thank-you to the bishop, the mayor and the forces of law and order."
The Holy Father then turned to address the Polish pilgrims, particularly to those gathered in the city of Bialystok, Poland for the beatification of Servant of God Michael Sopocko, who served as the confessor and spiritual father of St. Faustina Kowalska.
It was at Fr. Sopocko’s suggestion, the Pontiff continued, that St. Faustina "described her mystical experiences and the apparitions of Merciful Jesus in her famous 'Diary.' Thanks also to his efforts, the image of 'Jesus, in You I trust' was painted and made known throughout the world."
Fr. Sopocko was "a zealous pastor, educator and propagator of the cult of Divine Mercy," said the Pope, going on to note that "in the house of the Father my beloved predecessor John Paul II will rejoice at his beatification. He it was who entrusted the world to Divine Mercy and hence I repeat his words: 'May God rich in Mercy bless you all’!"
Vatican City, Sep 29, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI will complete his stay at the papal summer residence tomorrow, and as final preparations are being made for his return to Rome, he addressed the local bishop, religious, local civil authorities and security personnel on the topic of angels.
Today marks the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, the Pope pointed out to Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano (the diocese in which Castelgandolfo is located) and the assembled crowd. With this Feast in mind, he prayed, "let us trustingly invoke their help, and the protection of the Guardian Angels, whose feast we will celebrate in a few day's time, on October 2."
Although angels are not visible, their presence "brings us great help and consolation: they walk at our side and protect us in all circumstances, they defend us from danger, and to them we can turn at any moment," Benedict XVI explained.
He further added that, "Many saints established bonds of real friendship with the angels, and numerous episodes testify to their assistance on particular occasions. Angels are sent by God 'to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation' as the Letter to the Hebrews says, hence they are a real help to us on the pilgrimage towards the heavenly homeland."
This afternoon, the Pope is due to bid farewell to the staff of the Pontifical Villas at Castel Gandolfo, before returning to the Vatican tomorrow.
Rome, Italy, Sep 29, 2008 (CNA) - During his long tenure as director of the Papal Villas, Saverio Petrillo has seen details from the daily lives of the Pontiffs that up to now have been unknown. He tells the stories of the many children who were born in Pius XII’s room, the “escapes” by John XXIII to talk with local residents, John Paul II’s free time spent in the swimming pool, and Benedict XVI’s nights in front of the piano.
In a recent article published by the L’Osservatore Romano entitled, “My Summers with the Popes at Castegandolfo,” Petrillo recounts how during World War II, Pius XII provided shelter to many refugees in his apartment. Some fifty children were born there, many of whom were given the name of Eugenio or Pius.
Another previously unknown fact is that every once in a while, John XXIII would disappear without telling anybody to take walks in the area or on the beach and spent time chatting with local residents. Petrillo also revealed the John Paul II loved to play hide and seek with the children of his employees and that he spent many hours swimming laps at the pool built expressly for him.
Pope Benedict XVI, Petrillo says, spends long hours at night in front of the piano, playing the pieces of his favorite composers, Bach, Mozart and Beethoven.
Vatican watcher Sandro Magister noted in his column last week that previous revelations can be found as well in the book, “The Popes in the Countryside,” published in 1953 by then director of the Papal Villas, Emilio Bonomelli, and in the book “The Papal Villas of Castel Gandolfo,” written by Saverio Petrillo and published by the Vatican Museums.
Magister’s complete article on the new revelations can be found at: http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/206926?sp=y
Warsaw, Poland, Sep 29, 2008 (CNA) - The European Federation of Catholic Medical Associations issued a statement at the conclusion of its 11th annual congress expressing its firm commitment to the defense of life in response to the threats of abortion, euthanasia, genetic manipulation, the creation of human embryos, and others.
In their statement, they stressed that ethical norms and principles precede civil laws, which should be influenced by natural law and the teaching of the Church.
They went on to state that decisions about “the medical treatment for patients who put their trust in us should be guided above all by our conscience. Moral evaluation of medical practice should not be based on superficial opinions or the latest tendencies, but rather on the sensibleness of a conscience formed according to the objective ethical norms common to all people and constantly defended by the Church.”
“In order to guarantee the free exercise of our profession, we must defend the right to conscientious objection,” they said.
After emphasizing the spotless moral character that a doctor should have, they noted that “the source and foundation of ethical norms is the inalienable dignity of the human person throughout his or her life, from conception to natural death.”
In a later reference to euthanasia, the doctors explained that by rejecting such a practice, “We are supporting the development of palliative medicine,” and by not allowing abortion, “We seek to assure the correct vigilance over every kind of care for the family and for sick children, both before and after birth.”
Rome, Italy, Sep 29, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop Jin Lu Xian of Shanghai in China is encouraging Catholics to imitate the missionary fervor of St. Paul in response to the challenges that the Church is facing in its daily life.
“Out on the street, there are many temptations. We come back home and upon turning on the television we are assaulted by violence and other unedifying content. We connect to the internet and among the blogs and video games, it is not difficult to feel attracted,” the bishop said in a pastoral letter for the Pauline year.
According to the Fides news agency, in his letter the bishops expressed the bond between the Apostle and contemporary diocesan life. He recalled that St. Paul faced numerous challenges and wanted to conquer all for Christ.
Bishop Lu Xian also underscored that “in the adult Paul is revealed the main fruit of the life of this saint: Woe to me if I do not evangelize!”
Likewise, he indicated that the Pauline Year coincides with the 400th anniversary of the evangelization of the Diocese of Shanghai. “In 1950 our diocese had more than 390 churches, but only one dedicated to St. Paul. Therefore, I feel the need to help you get to know the Apostle Paul better,” the bishop said.
Madrid, Spain, Sep 29, 2008 (CNA) - The civil rights watchdog website in Spain, Hazteoir.org, reported this week that French health care officials are recommending that women who obtained abortions from Spanish doctor Carlos Morin undergo HIV tests to ensure they were not infected during the procedure.
The website’s report indicated that the witness in the case against Morin has testified that the Spanish doctor, who was the owner of the Ginemedex clinic, had been suffering from AIDS for nine years. “He never informed his patients of his illness and continued practicing abortions with his own hands,” the website reports.
In response, the French Minister of Health recommended that women who underwent abortions there get tested for the disease.
Maria Teresa Rodriguez Pomatta of the Association of Victims of Abortion in Spain said, “We are deeply saddened that it had to be French healthcare officials (not those of Spain) who issued the official alert about an abortion doctor with AIDS in Barcelona.”
She said it was sad that Spanish officials “seem to be more concerned with shielding those who make money from this business rather than protecting and caring for the health of women.”
She said the AVA has offered free AIDS testing to all women who underwent abortions at Morin’s clinic.
“We are aware of the double victimization that these families have suffered. On the one hand, they have lost their children; on the other, they have done so in unhealthy conditions,” said one doctor who collaborates with the AVA.
Calgary, Canada, Sep 29, 2008 (CNA) - The Bishop of Calgary and the Minister of Health in the Canadian province of Alberta have traded criticisms over the local Catholic school district’s refusal to participate in a human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination program. Bishop Fred Henry charged Alberta Health Minister Ron Liepert with “ranting and raving” and irresponsibly resorting to the media to respond to the district’s decision, while Liepert claimed the district’s position itself was irresponsible.
Last week trustees with the Calgary Catholic school district voted against including the Alberta government’s new HPV vaccination program in their schools, citing moral concerns.
Speaking to the Calgary Herald, Bishop Henry said the health minister “paints a most extreme picture that we're exposing young people to cervical cancer."
"I'm saying, 'Liepert, take a deep breath' . . . It's a gross act of irresponsibility when he talks to the media and slams us."
The bishop said Liepert’s critical reaction last week was “distressing,” noting that Canada’s Catholic bishops are concerned not only about the vaccination program conveying the wrong message about premarital sex, but are also concerned about side-effects associated with the shots.
Liepert argued that the bishop should have consulted with health officials before asking Catholic schools not to participate in the program.
“I would suggest Fred Henry should look in the mirror before he starts talking about people who are irresponsible," said Liepert, according to the Calgary Herald.
"We have a universal vaccination program that takes place in schools, where it would make much more sense and would be much more cost effective to deliver the vaccine,” Liepert continued. “These guys are throwing a real monkey wrench into things.”
And yet, as Bishop Henry later told CNA, the district’s policymakers had in fact considered health experts’ advice in making their decision.
Bishop Henry explained that some school districts might decide against the vaccine, while others might not. Saying he thinks the latter decision “constitutes a problem.”
At least one other Catholic board in Alberta, St. Thomas Aquinas near Edmonton, has decided against participating.
The bishop said the decision to vaccinate should ultimately be left with the parents.
Speaking with Bishop Henry in a phone interview on Monday, CNA asked him why he thought there was such a critical response to the decision not to vaccinate in the schools.
“It’s because we are challenging some of the political correctness of our day in which people seem to think that if you come up with a vaccine, that’s going to solve all the problems,” Bishop Henry replied.
“No matter its effectiveness, the vaccine is not a substitute for chastity.”
To the health minister’s contention that the non-vaccination policy was not formed in consultation with the medical community, Bishop Henry explained that “for months we’ve been reading everything” from Health Canada, cancer societies, individual doctors, web sites, and other sources.
“We’ve probably read much more than Mr. Liepert has,” he suggested.
According to Bishop Henry, their studies had suggested the HPV vaccine was “not adequately tested” and could have “problematic dimensions” and “disastrous side-effects.” Adverse reactions, including some deaths, have been reportedly linked to the HPV vaccine.
In Bishop Henry’s view, there is a danger of the vaccination program “using young girls as guinea pigs.”
“Does this profit anybody other than the drug company?” he wondered.
Because of these concerns, Bishop Henry explained, there was “sufficient ambiguity” for the school district to refuse to participate in the voluntary vaccination.
Another concern rests in the Catholic teaching that the gift of sexual intercourse belongs to the “covenant of marriage.” Bishop Henry explained that “recreational sex” carries “profound risks” both spiritual and physical.
“The vaccine only applies to physical health,” the bishop said. Acknowledging the importance of educating children about sex and sexually-transmitted diseases, he said, the Catholic schools’ health curriculum “does exactly that.”
In addition to physical health, Bishop Henry told CNA, sex education ought to discuss the nature of sexuality and how it is to be used.
“We’re saying that chastity ought to be taught and emphasized,” he said, saying education should encourage delayed sexual activity.
While children are being “bombarded with all sorts of images about sexuality,” Bishop Henry continued, society has not “taken time to teach them right from wrong, and that’s what our curriculum is all about.”
“We don’t want to put ourselves in a kind of ‘compromising spirit’ by not trusting children to be chaste,” he said, adding that sex education should convey the message to students that “we don’t believe you young people are that stupid.”
The vaccination program, he remarked, “puts us in a potentially morally compromising position and we’re not going to accept it.”
A Catholic institution must “live faithfully according to its mission and its teaching.” Such vaccinations “should take place in health centers, but not in Catholic schools.”
Turning to Health Minister Liepert’s criticisms, the bishop said that after Liepert took his “first slam” at the bishop’s statements, “he might have phoned us and inquired.”
“He simply came at us,” Bishop Henry claimed.
The bishop said he did not see the point of further contact with Health Minster Liepert on this issue.
“He’s obviously ranting and raving and he’s not too interested in facts,” he insisted, charging that the health minister “doesn’t think there are moral implications to this issue.”
Saying the controversy is “wasting our time,” he charged Liepert with “spinning his wheels trying to make extremist statements.”
Bishop Henry also accused the health minister of spreading “misleading information,” clarifying that the Church is not condemning the vaccine.
The decision to vaccinate, he added, is a “parental decision.”
“We urge parents to educate themselves about the vaccination, about side-effects, to be fully informed before they give their consent,” he said.
Vatican City, Sep 29, 2008 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Uruguay, Bishop Carlos Maria Collazi, told Pope Benedict XVI at their recent ‘ad limina’ visit that the bishops of the country are committed to promoting Christ among the faithful in order to respond to the challenges facing the Church.
“We have a general objective to respond to the great challenges: promoting the encounter with the living Jesus Christ, ‘the human face of God and the divine face of man’, as an evangelizing Church in a permanent attitude of pastoral conversion,” the bishop said in a letter to the Holy Father on the occasion of their ad limina visit to Rome.
Bishop Collazi noted in his letter the efforts of the Uruguayan people to achieve the common good and national reconciliation. However, he also pointed to negative aspects, such as the aging population, the emigration of young people, political confrontations, “the devaluing of human life and the continuous deterioration of the institution of the family.”
Nevertheless, he went on, “We are optimists while at the same time we encourage people not to fall into confusion or into the search for immediate and simplistic solutions.” Bishop Collazi also underscored “the life of the diocesan churches” and the “vitality of the faith of our communities in a secularized religiously plural context.”
In the name of all the Uruguayan bishops, he reaffirmed their commitment to “assuming the challenge of the formation of missionary disciples,” which includes three pastoral priorities: living an authentic process of pastoral conversion, living more intensely the call to communion, and living more intensely the call to mission.
San Antonio, Texas, Sep 29, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop of San Antonio José Gomez, who is also the founder of the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (CALL), has written a letter to CALL members announcing the launch of a non-partisan educational service discussing how to apply Catholic moral principles to political life.
It is “increasingly critical,” Archbishop Gomez writes, “for Catholics to form their consciences with a clear understanding of Church teaching.”
Catholic participation in politics, the archbishop writes, must be “based on Catholic moral principles and essential values.”
Citing the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s document “Doctrinal notes on some questions regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life,” the archbishop notes that democracy succeeds “only to the extent that it is based on a correct understanding of the human person.”
Helping to further that understanding motivates the new CALL initiative, Archbishop Gomez explains.
The CALL educational service will consist of a series of papers that analyze important issues in the coming election, such as immigration, faith and public life, stem cell research, just war theory, and abortion. The service will be distributed via e-mail.
“Each will be studied with the aid of Catholic teaching and will be written by my brother bishops and Catholic scholars,” Archbishop Gomez writes.
“CALL’s aim is to provide readers with reliable information and criteria to use as they consider how they will cast their important vote on November 4,” he continues. “While coming from a perspective of the Hispanic community and the heritage of Catholic teaching, they have value for all thoughtful citizens who seek an understanding of pressing issues and will use that understanding in casting their vote.”
For information about how to join the organization email: [email protected]