Vatican City, Oct 8, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI dedicated today's audience to St. Paul's relationship to the so-called "historical" Jesus. The Holy Father reminded the faithful that for Paul, "Jesus is alive, speaks for us and lives with us."
Speaking to the 25,000 faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square, Pope Benedict began his address by noting that St. Paul himself distinguishes two ways of knowing Jesus. In Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians, he writes, "(E)ven if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him so no longer." To know someone "according to the flesh," the Pope said, means knowing them from the outside: how someone speaks, moves, etc.
And yet, one does not really know a person from mere externals, he explained. The only way to truly know someone else is with the heart, unlike the Sadducees and Pharisees who only knew Jesus superficially.
Another example of people demonstrating their superficial knowledge of Jesus occurred after the Transfiguration when Jesus asked the apostles: "What do people say about me?" and "But who do you say that I am?" Those who compared Jesus to Elijah or John the Baptist only knew Jesus from the outside, the Holy Father said.
The Twelve Apostles, on the other hand, thanks to their friendship with Jesus, displayed that they were beginning to know who Jesus really is. Even today, the Pope observed, there are people who do not know every detail about Jesus but have met him.
The Pope went on to consider that Paul "is certain not to have seen or met (Jesus) on earth." Paul did, however, know him through the Apostles and the nascent Church.
The evidence for this can be found in Paul's letters, which provide three references to the Pre-Easter Jesus. Firstly, there are explicit and direct references such as Paul's mention of Jesus' Davidic lineage, the Last Supper, and Jesus' words about the indissolubility of marriage. Secondly, his letters contain various allusions to the Synoptic Gospels. Thirdly, Paul's teaching on the Kingdom of God, such as his explanation for the exclusion of boasting, is always faithful to the tradition of the so-called "historical" Jesus.
The Pope also pointed out that in his Letters to the Romans and to the Galatians, Paul says that "the baptized can turn to the Father, speak [to him] like Jesus, because they have become sons through the Son." In the pre-Easter tradition the word father, Abba, was familiarly used by children, but not by Jews when they addressed God. On the Mount of Olives, however, "before falling asleep, the disciples heard Jesus call out to his Father."
"In conclusion,” Pope Benedict said, “St. Paul does not think of Jesus as a historian would; he does not see Jesus as a figure of the past. He certainly knows the tradition ... regarding His life but does not treat Him as something in the past but as the reality of the living Jesus. ... Jesus lives and speaks with us today. This is the true form of knowing Jesus and the tradition about Him."
Vatican City, Oct 8, 2008 (CNA) - Shear-Yashuv Cohen, the Grand Rabbi of Haifa, on Monday became the first Jew to address a synod of Catholic bishops at the at the Second General Congregation of the Bishops’ synod on the Bible. Calling the fact of his presence “very meaningful,” “a signal of hope,” and “a message of love,” he discussed support for Israel before addressing the praise of God, prayer, and Jewish habits of sermon writing.
Rabbi Cohen, the co-president of a commission for dialogue between the Vatican and Israel, added: “There is a long, hard and painful history of the relationship between our people, our faith and the Catholic Church leadership and followers, a history of blood and tears,” Agence France Presse reports.
The rabbi then alluded to the anti-Israel remarks of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad before the U.N. General Assembly last month, saying Israelis felt “deep shock at the terrible and vicious words of the president of a certain state in the Middle East in his speech.”
Speaking to the synod, Rabbi Cohen added: “We hope to get your help as religious leaders ... to protect, defend and save Israel ... from the hands of its enemies.”
However, much of his talk was also theological and explicitly religious.
"We pray to God using His own words, as related to us in the Scriptures," he said. "Likewise we praise Him, also using His own words from the Bible. We ask for His mercy, mentioning what He has promised to our ancestors and to us. Our entire service is based upon an ancient rule, as related to us by our Rabbis and teachers: 'Give Him of what is His, because you and yours are His'.”
"We believe that prayer is the language of the soul in its communion with God. We believe sincerely that our soul is His, given to us by Him," the rabbi continued.
He explained that rabbis always try to build their sermons around biblical quotations, “as interpreted by our holy sages,” when addressing issues of concern such as the sanctity of life, combating promiscuity, fighting secularism, and promoting fraternity, love, and peace.
"Our point of departure stems from the treasures of our religious traditions, even while we endeavor to speak in a modern and contemporary language and address present issues. It is amazing to observe how the Holy Scriptures never lose their vitality and relevance to present issues of our time and age. This is the miracle of the everlasting and perpetual 'Word of God'," Rabbi Cohen commented.
Jefferson City, Mo., Oct 8, 2008 (CNA) - José H. Gomez, Archbishop of San Antonio and the senior Hispanic member of the United States’ Catholic hierarchy, spoke at a rally at the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City on Saturday, calling for a moratorium on deportations, federal work site raids, and new anti-immigration legislation until after the upcoming elections. He suggested that instead of deportations, which he said break up families, illegal immigrants should be subject to “intensive, long-term community service.”
Saying he believed immigration to be “the great civil rights test of our generation,” he discussed his own status as an American citizen who grew up as an immigrant born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico.
“I’ve always had family and friends on both sides of the border. So I have many conflicting emotions about the way this debate has played out in recent years,” he explained.
Turning to early Christian history, he described how the notorious Roman emperor Julian the Apostate, who returned to paganism after a Christian upbringing, thought the uniquely Christian benevolence toward strangers weakened the power of his preferred religion.
“To be a Christian was to practice hospitality to the stranger,” he said, quoting several Scriptural verses and Church Fathers.
He especially focused upon Christ’s words in Matthew 25: “For I was a stranger and you welcomed me … As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”
Thus, Archbishop Gomez explained, Catholic interest in immigration is not a recent development but “part of our religious identity as Catholics, as Christians.”
Immigration Dispute Bad for American’s souls
Speaking as a pastor, the archbishop said the immigration dispute is “bad for the souls of Americans.”
“There is too much anger. Too much resentment. Too much fear. Too much hate. It’s eating people up. And it’s just no good for people to be consumed by fear and hate. It’s no good for their souls. And it’s no good for our country, my friends.”
He noted the hundreds of “anti-immigrant laws” enacted in the past two years, calling some “so clearly vindictive, so obviously meant to injure and intimidate, that I worry that the effect will be to diminish respect for the rule of law.”
“We need to find a way to stop lashing out at the problem and to start making sensible policy,” he said in his keynote address to the annual assembly of the Missouri Catholic Conference, adding, “This is a national crisis and it calls for national leadership.”
Noting that politicians did not want to address the issue before the election following what he called the “bitter failure” of the 2007 immigration bill, he said that leaders should “roll up their sleeves and get to work” on comprehensive immigration reform after the election.
He acknowledged the fears of immigration opponents as legitimate, naming the concerns about a terrorist attack or downward pressure on wages.
“So we have to do a better job of listening to people. And we need to be calm about presenting the facts,” the archbishop said, naming the economic need for a large immigrant workforce and the already increased border security as subjects people need to be reminded about.
Another fact to acknowledge, Archbishop Gomez added, is that “millions of immigrants are here in blatant violation of U.S. law.”
“This makes law-abiding Americans angry. And it should. Why should they obey the laws if others aren’t punished for breaking them? As advocates, we can’t ignore this fact or somehow argue that our immigration laws don’t matter.”
However, the archbishop said legal reforms are necessary.
Reform the Response to Illegal Immigration
“The law should not be used to scare people, to invade their homes and work-sites, to break up families,” he continued. “From a practical standpoint, I don’t see how these measures are solving any problems. Instead, they’re creating new ones.”
The deportations of immigrants, he charged, are “breaking up families” and thus “leaving wives without husbands, children without parents. … As we all know, a policy that breaks families apart can only lead to greater sufferings and social problems.”
Saying those in the U.S. illegally can’t “expect to escape punishment,” but seeing deportation as a punishment “disproportionate to the crime,” he endorsed “intensive, long-term community service” as a “far more constructive solution.”
“This would build communities rather than tear them apart. And it would serve to better integrate the immigrants into the social and moral fabric of America,” Archbishop Gomez said.
“The Church has an important role to play in promoting forgiveness and reconciliation on this issue,” he stated. “We must work so that justice and mercy, not anger and resentment, are the motives behind our response to illegal immigration.”
He explained to the audience that the Greek word for hospitality is “philoxenia,” literally “the love of strangers.” Noting that Christians worship “the God who is Love,” he concluded:
“Let us be faithful servants of Love. Let us abound in love, in good works and hospitality for the strangers among us.”
Washington D.C., Oct 8, 2008 (CNA) - Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama’s early work as a community organizer has brought to the fore the Catholic Campaign for Human Development’s (CCHD) longstanding support for political organizations accused of promoting radical left-wing politics and distorting Catholic teaching under the pretense of helping the poor.
Over the past several decades, the CCHD has annually directed tens of thousands of dollars to several community organizing groups, including one headed by Obama in the 1980s.
Obama was lead organizer of the Developing Communities Project in Chicago, Stephanie Block reports in a September 28 article in the Wanderer. During Obama’s leadership, the organization received from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development $40,000 in grant money in 1985 and a $33,000 grant in 1986.
Obama reportedly received training from organizations connected to Chicago-based community organizer Saul Alinsky. Obama was also mentored by an ex-Jesuit, Greg Galuzzo, who headed the Gamaliel Foundation under which the Developing Communities Project operated.
Another Obama mentor, Jerry Kellman, was himself trained by Alinsky.
Block, commenting to CNA in a Tuesday e-mail, explained Alinsky’s ideas are expounded in his two books Rules for Radicals and Reveille for Radicals.
“The primary motivation of Alinskyian organizing is to garner power,” she told CNA. “Since Alinsky believes power comes in two forms - money and people - and that the rich (the Haves) are the ones with the money, the objective of Alinskyian organizations is to get ‘people power,’ through exploiting the self-interest of the poor (the Have-Nots).”
The Gamaliel Foundation itself receives about four to five percent of all CCHD grants each year, Block’s Wanderer article says, while the Alinsky-founded Industrial Areas Foundation, a network of community organizations, itself receives about 16 percent of all annual CCHD grants.
After he attended Harvard law school, Obama returned to Chicago and taught Alinsky’s organizing methods to staff of the group Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). The future Democratic presidential nominee ran ACORN’s 1992 voter-registration drive and received its endorsement for his state senate run.
ACORN itself receives about five percent of CCHD grants.
Block, writing in the Wanderer, says millions of dollars have funded Alinksyite community organizing groups.
Though Catholics are told CCHD money goes to “help the poor,” Block charges that Alinskyian networks are political.
Block argues in her article that these networks “work closely with politicians - such as Obama - and other organizations that are fighting for abortion and homosexual ‘rights.’ ACORN's ‘People's Platform’ has nothing in common with Catholic social justice teaching and everything in common with socialism. Gamaliel and the Industrial Areas Foundation teach liberationism, a form of ‘Christianized’ socialism, among their members.”
She claims that Alinskyite organizations are ecumenical and include numerous Catholic parishes.
“The Catholics involved in the extensive trainings these networks offer are not catechized in Catholic principles of social activism or political analysis but in Marxist analysis and praxis. Their worldview is marred by visions of class struggle and perpetual revolution. They are systematically trained to renounce moral truth in favor of consensus-based ‘values’.”
Block believes that Catholics subject to such training “become confused about the comparative moral weight of the issues they encounter in the public arena” and also become confused about the authority of the Church, “imagining they can apply consensus-building strategies to doctrines and moral truth.”
“Ironically,” Block alleges, “they learned these confused ideas in their parishes, through Church-sponsored ‘educational’ programs such as the Catholic Campaign for Human Development's liberationist ‘Poverty and Faithjustice.’ Because of this confusion, Catholics, who ought to be a powerful, consistent voice for moral values in society, are fragmented and ineffective. The Catholic Campaign for Human Development bears much of the responsibility.”
Asked by CNA why Catholics have maintained their cooperation with Alinskyite groups, Block replied:
“I think liberal Catholics, both those at the CCHD's inception and those who continue to support CCHD, understanding what it really funds, have accepted the Marxist analysis of class antagonism, rather than the Catholic principle of interdependency among the various members of a society.”
Vatican City, Oct 8, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil of Guwahati said this week that in response to the persecution and attacks suffered by Catholics in India, “patience, discretion, moderation in reactions and a spirit of forgiveness manifested by the community have evangelizing power.”
During his intervention at the second General Congregation of the Synod of Bishops, the archbishop explained that “in many counties of Asia, Christians live under intense pressure. Freedom is restricted, new converts are persecuted and the community of the faithful is the victim of persecutions, as has recently occurred in Orissa (India).”
In the midst of these difficulties, he said, “many of the teachings of Jesus that have come to us were imparted during normal encounters between persons. This is what is happening today in Asia, in a silent but effective way, thanks to the effort of the Christian faithful who carry a message of peace in situations of conflict.”
Vatican City, Oct 8, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Josip Bozanic, said this week that “an indissoluble link exists between the Bible and Europe. Everything that made European culture and its civilization great has its beginning in the Bible.”
During his intervention at the Synod of Bishops, the Croatian cardinal explained that “issues such as the dignity of the person, the recognition of human rights, the separation of Church and State—just to cite a few examples—have their nucleus in the wellspring of the Bible. Social justice, rights, the criticism of any type of idolatry, the rejection of false images of God, also have their foundation in the Bible,” he added.
Likewise, the cardinal warned that a “Europe without God runs the risk of becoming a den of anguish and of building a civilization of fear. The Word of God restores hope and joy. Europe, moreover, enters into crisis when it does not accept the interpretive strength of the Word of God, which has its ultimate foundation in faith and in inspiration. This is an arduous task for all of the scientific disciplines, and especially for theology,” he said.
“Europe rightly brags of the development of its own theological thought but a subsequent effort is necessary for a more favorable confrontation with the new interpretations and scientific searches, which are often, on purpose, separated from the hermeneutic paradigms of Christian truth.”
“In fact, a culture that breaks with the Christian celebration, that is, with the celebration of the Mystery of the kindness of God and salvation in Christ, jeopardizes its own happiness and pushes Europe towards a civilization of affliction and of sadness,” Cardinal Bozanic argued. “The Word of God restores to the European man the capacity to celebrate life. Wherever the celebration of the Christian mysteries exist, there the Church is young, and that guarantees youth for Europe,” he concluded.
Vatican City, Oct 8, 2008 (CNA) - Keeping the celebration of the Pauline Year in mind, Pope Benedict's message for the 95th World Day of Migrants and Refugees focuses on the efforts of St. Paul to “make Jesus loved and known by all.” In the message released today, the Holy Father calls on Catholics to learn from St. Paul’s example by preaching the Gospel message to all, especially to migrant people.
The Pope’s letter, with the theme of "St. Paul Migrant, Apostle of the Peoples," has been published in English, French, Italian, Spanish and German for the World Day of Migrants, which will be celebrated on January 18, 2009.
The Pontiff's message begins by describing St. Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, and how he worked to evangelize all peoples. He "spared no effort to ensure that the Gospel was proclaimed to all, making no distinction of nationality or culture." St. Paul's life and his preaching, the Pope explains, "were wholly directed to making Jesus known and loved by all, for all persons are called to become a single people in Him."
Benedict XVI also points out that, even in an era of globalization, migrants - students far from home, immigrants, refugees, displaced people, evacuees - including for example, the victims of modern forms of slavery, and of human trafficking," must be reached with the Gospel.
Just as in Paul's time, today the "message of salvation must be presented with the same approach" as St. Paul used, although we must take "into account the different social and cultural situations and special difficulties of each one as a consequence of his or her condition as a migrant or itinerant person."
Pope Benedict also expresses his desire that "every Christian community may have the same apostolic zeal as St Paul. May his example also be an incentive for us to show solidarity to these brothers and sisters of ours and to promote, in every part of the world and by every means, peaceful coexistence among different races, cultures and religions," the Pontiff says.
Noting that the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters that Paul portray “a model of a Church that was not exclusive but on the contrary open to all,” Pope Benedict calls on the Church to specifically care for migrant peoples. "How can we fail to take charge of all those, particularly refugees and displaced people, who are in conditions of difficulty or hardship? How can we fail to meet the needs of those who are 'de facto' the weakest and most defenseless, marked by precariousness and insecurity, marginalized and often excluded by society? We should give our priority attention to them."
"The World Day for Migrants and Refugees, which will be celebrated on January 18, 2009, must be for all an incentive to live brotherly love to the full without making any kind of distinction and without discrimination, in the conviction that any one who needs us and whom we can help is our neighbor. May the teaching and example of St Paul, a great and humble Apostle and a migrant, an evangelizer of peoples and cultures, spur us to understand that the exercise of charity is the culmination and synthesis of the whole of Christian life," the Holy Father prays in his message.
He closes his letter by exhorting Catholics to proclaim and witness “to this 'Good News' with enthusiasm, without fear and sparing no energy!"
"May the Apostle Paul and especially Mary, the Mother of acceptance and love, obtain this gift for us."
Vatican City, Oct 8, 2008 (CNA) - Presenting the Holy Father's message for the 94th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Renato Raffaele Martino and Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, respectively president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People announced this morning that countries must welcome migrants with hospitality into their borders.
The message, on the theme, "St. Paul Migrant, Apostle of the Peoples," was written for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, to be celebrated on January 18, 2009.
Presenting the message this morning, Cardinal Martino affirmed that "the phenomenon of migration in a globalized world is becoming effectively unstoppable. The problem will not be solved by closing frontiers, but by States welcoming - with just, well-balanced regulation - the migratory flows."
Archbishop Marchetto added that hospitality is necessary for the pastoral care for refugees, asylum-seekers and displaced persons. "Hospitality ensures that we welcome others as persons - and in some cases also as brothers or sisters in the faith - and that we do not consider them as a cases, numbers, or mere components of the workforce."
The prelate also noted that for years, refugees have been treated “with no consideration for the reasons that forced them to flee. This has also been translated into attempts to prevent their entry into States and into the adoption of measures aimed at making such entry more difficult" such as "the obligation to possess entrance visas, and the publication of lists of so-called 'safe countries'."
"May the dedication with which St. Paul the migrant carried out his mission, inspire the Church and society to find united responses to the challenges present in modern society, so as to promote peaceful coexistence among different ethnic groups, cultures and religions,” Archbishop Marchetto prayed.
Vatican City, Oct 8, 2008 (CNA) - On Tuesday, the former Archbishop of St. Louis, Raymond Burke, received an appointment from Pope Benedict XVI making him the head of the Vatican’s bar association.
In addition to his duties as the prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, Archbishop Burke will now serve as the president of the Commission for Advocates. The president of the commission is in charge of admitting canon lawyers to the Vatican’s "bar association."
Those who are admitted to represent the Holy See in the Apostolic Signatura must be qualified by "a suitable preparation attested by appropriate academic degrees, and at the same time be recommended by their example of a Christian life, honorable character, and expertise," according to the Apostolic Constitution "Pastor Bonus."
The large majority of Burke’s time will still be dedicated to running the Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. The Church’s Supreme Court, as the Signatura is sometimes called, oversees the administration of justice within the Church, examining administrative matters referred to it by the Congregations of the Roman Curia, as well as questions committed to it by the Holy Father.
Vatican City, Oct 8, 2008 (CNA) - Over 250 Catholic bishops from around the world are continuing to offer their reflections on the Bible at their synod being held at the Vatican. Cardinal Francis George of Chicago addressed the assembly on Tuesday saying, “Pastors should attend to conversion of the imagination, the intellect and the will” of their people when they preach.
In his remarks to the assembled bishops and assorted experts, Cardinal George touched on the importance of preaching how the Word of God impacts the lives of the faithful.
“To speak of the Word of God in the Church is to speak of the Word of God in the lives of believers,” the leader of the Archdiocese of Chicago said.
Accomplishing this means that “Pastors should attend to conversion of the imagination, the intellect and the will of those to whom they proclaim the Word of God and for whom they interpret Scripture,” he explained.
“Too often,” Cardinal George remarked, “the contemporary imagination has lost the image of God as actor in history.” “The contemporary intellect finds little consistency in the books of the Bible and is not informed by the 'regula fidei' (rule of faith). The contemporary heart has not been shaped by worship and the submission to God's word in the liturgical year.”
He concluded his submission by emphasizing the need to make the power of God's word in Holy Scripture felt in the life and mission of the Church by having pastors focus on attending to “personal context as well as to inspired text."
Washington D.C., Oct 8, 2008 (CNA) - A new poll of Americans ages 18-34 has surveyed the faith, politics, and issue positions of young adults before the 2008 election. The poll claims about 60 percent of younger self-identified Catholics say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 44 percent reportedly support same-sex marriage, a number which rises to 64 percent when religious liberty protections are emphasized.
The claims come from the Faith in Public Life’s “The Faith and American Politics Survey,” which was conducted by Public Religion Research between August 28 and September 19. Polling 2,000 American adults and an over sample of 1,250 younger adults, its methods included both land line and cell phone interviews.
Overall, 44 percent of Catholics said abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, while 54 percent said it should not. About 61 percent of young Catholics reported it was not a very important voting issue, compared to 56 percent of Catholics 35 years and older.
As a whole, 30 percent of Catholics agreed that “gay couples should be allowed to marry,” rising to 47 percent when the question is framed by the insistence that “no church or congregation would be required to perform marriages for gay couples.”
Only 26 percent of young Catholics said they favored no legal recognition for same-sex couples, compared to 32 percent of those 35 years old and up. About 22 percent of young Catholics considered it a very important voting issue, compared with 27 percent of those 35 and older.
Respondents were also asked what they heard talked about in church. Among all Catholics, 90 percent said they have heard about hunger and poverty while 78 percent claimed to have heard about abortion and 37 percent claimed to have heard about homosexuality. About 33 percent said they heard about immigration while 58 percent said they had heard about the war in Iraq and 54 percent said they heard about the environment at church.
On the issue of torture, about 54 percent of Catholic survey respondents initially reported they opposed torture. When framed by the survey’s “Golden Rule” argument against torture, which states “the U.S. government should not use methods against our enemies that we would not want used on American soldiers,” this opposition rose to 62 percent.
Turning to the presidential election, the poll shows overall voters who attend religious services once or twice a month support Obama at a rate of 60 percent. The same group showed 49 percent support for John Kerry in 2004. Catholics aged 35 and older are split between McCain and Obama 46 percent to 44 percent, but Obama leads McCain among younger Catholics 55 to 40 percent.
Overall, 49 percent of voters think Obama is friendly towards religion, while only 45 percent say the same of McCain.
Commentators on the poll tried to depict its results as showing the end of the “culture wars.”
“Younger Americans, including younger Americans of faith, are not the culture war generation,” claimed said Dr. Robert Jones, President of Public Religion Research and lead analyst of the poll. In his view, they are “bridging the divides that entrenched their elders and ushering in an era of consensus in which the common good trumps the clash of ideologies.”
Katie Paris, Director of Communications Strategy at Faith in Public Life, agreed.
“Expect to see the dividing lines of the culture wars continue to fade,” she asserted.
Kristin Williams of the Faith in Public Life Institute provided CNA with Dr. Robert Jones’ more detailed statistical breakdowns of the Catholic respondents.
Of Catholics ages 18-34, 28 percent reported attending church once a week, while 22 percent said they attend once or twice a month. Another 27 percent reported attending a few times a year, while 17 percent said they seldom or never attend church. Six percent reported attending church more than once a week.
Among all registered voters the church attendance rate was somewhat different with 18 percent reporting that they attend religious services more than once a week and 27 percent saying they attend once a week. About 15 percent attended once or twice a month, 16 percent attended a few times each year, while 23 percent seldom or never attend services.
Among all age ranges of Catholic registered voters, 10 percent reported attending religious services more than once a week while 36 percent reported attending once a week. Eighteen percent of Catholics reported attending once or twice a month, while equal percentages each reported attending a few times a year or seldom or never.