Vatican City, Nov 24, 2008 (CNA) - The Redemptoris Mater Chapel in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace was the scene of an ecumenical ceremony on Monday morning that was presided over by Pope Benedict and Aram I of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Speaking at the event, the Pope highlighted the progress made in developing and understanding between the Eastern and Roman Churches.
Pope Benedict began his remarks by expressing his gratitude for the efforts that Aram I has made to encourage dialogue between the two Churches, noting that in 1997 the Catholicos paid a visit to Pope John Paul II.
The Pontiff then recalled that this is the year of Saint Paul and that the Armenian Apostolic leader will soon visit the tomb of the "Apostle of the Nations and pray with the monastic community at the basilica erected to his memory."
"In that prayer," the Pope said, "you will be united to the great host of Armenian saints and martyrs, teachers and theologians, whose legacy of learning, holiness and missionary achievements are part of the patrimony of the whole Church." In particular he mentioned St. Nerses Shnorkhali and St. Nerses of Lambon who, "as bishop of Tarsus, was known as 'the second Paul of Tarsus.'"
The testimony of these saints "culminated in the twentieth century, which proved a time of unspeakable suffering for your people," the Holy Father stated. Yet, the "faith and devotion of the Armenian people have been constantly sustained by the memory of the many martyrs who have borne witness to the Gospel down the centuries," he said.
Pope Benedict XVI then raised the topic of ecumenical dialogue between the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Catholic Church, and thanked the Armenian Apostolic Church for their presence at the dialogue, which the Pontiff said has "benefited significantly" from their contributions.
The Holy Father also said that he hopes the dialogue will "clarify theological issues which have divided us in the past but now appear open to greater consensus." Moreover, the Pope explained that he sees an "increased understanding and appreciation of the apostolic tradition which we share" as contributing to an "ever more effective common witness to the spiritual and moral values without which a truly just and humane social order cannot exist."
Closing his remarks the Holy Father gave assurances of his "daily prayers and deep concern for the people of Lebanon and the Middle East. How can we not be grieved by the tensions and conflicts which continue to frustrate all efforts to foster reconciliation and peace at every level of civil and political life in the region?
"Most recently we have all been saddened by the escalation of persecution and violence against Christians in parts of the Middle East and elsewhere. Only when the countries involved can determine their own destiny, and the various ethnic groups and religious communities accept and respect each other fully, will peace be built on the solid foundations of solidarity, justice and respect for the legitimate rights of individuals and peoples."
Vatican City, Nov 24, 2008 (CNA) - The prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, Cardinal Francis Arinze, has said that Pope Benedict XVI may consider moving the sign of peace to before the offertory, “in order to create a moment of reflection while we prepare for communion.”
In an interview with the L’Osservatore Romano on the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, Cardinal Arinze explained that “a different placement of the sign of peace” is under consideration. “Often the full significance of this gesture is not understood. It is seen as an occasion to shake the hands of our friends, when in reality it is a way of saying to the one next to us that the peace of Christ, truly present on the altar, is also for all mankind.”
“In order to create a more meditative atmosphere as we prepare for Communion, moving the sign of peace to the offertory is being considered. The Pope has consulted the bishops, and later he will decide,” Arinze explained.
Cardinal Arinze later explained that his dicastery “is not a sort of ‘ecclesiastical’ police or ‘intervener’ for every problem. The dicastery was created first of all to promote divine worship,” although “we certainly cannot close our eyes to objectively problematic situations,” he added.
“The 2004 document Redemptoris Sacramentum points out that many of the liturgical abuses “are not due to ill will but rather ignorance. Some just don’t know, but they also don’t know they are ignoring something. They don’t know, for example, that words and gestures have roots in the tradition of the Church. Thus they think they are being more original and creative by changing these texts and gestures. In response to this situation, it is necessary to reaffirm that the liturgy is sacred and is the public prayer of the Church.”
Rome, Italy, Nov 24, 2008 (CNA) - The Fides news agency reported this week that the Sudanese bishops are concerned “about the fact that the letter and spirit of the Comprehensive Peace Accord is losing force, both among its main signers and its supporters and friends who contributed to achieving this historic document.”
In January of 2005, a peace accord was signed in Nairobi between the Jartum government and the Movement for the Liberation of the Sudanese People, which put an end to the 20 year-long war in southern Sudan.
At the conclusion of their Plenary Assembly, the Sudanese bishops stated that the war has jeopardized social relations between persons, contributing to the erosion of family values. Only through prayer and the strengthening of our relationship with God will the Sudanese be able to rebuild their country and achieve lasting peace, the bishops said.
Even as a series of consensus issues between the federal government and the provisional autonomous authority of southern Sudan are still being worked out, both sides continue the military buildup.
The government claims it is only updating its arsenal, while rebels in southern Sudan say they are rearming only to guarantee interior security, which is threatened by the presence of rebel Ugandan soldiers.
Madrid, Spain, Nov 24, 2008 (CNA) - The secretary general of the Bishops’ Conference of Spain, Bishop Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, warned this week that European society “has made science almighty, it has made progress a substitute for salvation and suffers a chronic lack of hope, where the culture of death gains ground everyday on the culture of life.”
During his speech at the Tenth Congress on Catholics and Public Life, the bishop underscored that in response to this reality in Europe, Christian hope is needed for a future that has lost its value and seems to have renounced the protection of human life and of man in the face of the culture of death.
Religious action in the public sphere is an immunization against the totalitarian temptation to view man as merely part of the social machinery. “Prayer is an exorcism against society monopolizing life and turning it into a beehive. Society is not the horizon for human life, but rather a means for life to be realized according to God’s plan,” he said.
For this reason, the bishop continued, things such as prayer, churches and crucifixes rejuvenate public life, because they “show man what his meaning is.” The lack of hope, he said, is the result of “this dominant culture that seeks to substitute the God of hope with the idol of progress.”
CNA STAFF, Nov 24, 2008 (CNA) - Marta Lozano is the courageous author of, “A Story About Abuse and Homosexuality,” a book in which she recounts her own life and how she regained peace after struggling for years with her own homosexual tendencies. She shared her testimony in an exclusive interview with CNA.
Lozano said she decided to write the book to “help those who live tormented by a feeling of shame and/or guilt, who feel excluded or different, either because they have been victims of physical or psychological violence or because they have experienced a homosexual attraction which they neither sought nor desired.”
In her case, “it was the unbearable pain and profound unease that led me to ask for help. I could have channeled this pain in a different way, for example, by falling into deep bitterness or trying to harm others or myself, but luckily that didn’t happen. The only thing I regret is not having begun this journey sooner, since shame and loneliness are demolition machines that destroy you inside and isolate you from the world,” she said.
“Thank God, my life has changed radically in these last few years,” Marta continued. “Before I just didn’t feel like a woman. Now, I totally identify with the feminine sex and above all, I feel much happier with myself, more reassured and more at peace inside. My social and personal life has also changed substantially. Now I feel happier and freer, I can relate more and better with people. At work I am more satisfied and I look forward to my future,” she added.
Lozano had some words for those who going through experiences similar to hers: “No matter what you have gone through, experienced or felt, you are not the only person who has gone through this. Even though you may feel overcome by profound sorrow or sadness, even though you feel alone, guilty or embarrassed, your life can change. But for that to happen you must open your heart and seek help,” she said.
Caracas, Venezuela, Nov 24, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Caracas, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, has encouraged the faithful to give aid to the victims of the torrential rains that have slammed the capital and other parts of Venezuela, with a special collection to be held this Sunday in all parishes.
In a statement, the cardinal called on Catholics in “the metropolitan area of Caracas to express their generosity by helping our brothers and sisters affected by the floods with clothing in good condition, blankets, sheets, household items and non-perishable foods.”
“This aid should be channeled through each and every parish, or it could be directly given to the support centers” that will be set up at specific parishes.
Cardinal Urosa reminded Catholics to be generous during the special collection that will be taken up this Sunday in all parishes.
He concluded his message by encouraging Venezuelans to pray “for our country, and also in a special way, for all those affected, especially for those who lost their lives in these floods, and for their families.”
Tyler, Texas, Nov 24, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop Alvaro Corrada of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, has apologized for his lack of oversight following the confirmation of allegations that Catholic hospitals in Texas were performing direct sterilizations in contravention of Catholic medical ethics.
Writing in a November 21 public statement in the Catholic East Texas newspaper, Bishop Corrada referred to a whistleblower report charging that Catholic hospitals in the state had performed “a large number of tubal ligations.” The report’s findings were publicized in the July 13, 2008 issue of Our Sunday Visitor.
“Initially both Catholic hospitals in the Diocese of Tyler responded that they were in compliance with the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Services,” Bishop Corrada wrote. “Sadly, subsequent investigation reveals that there had been a serious mis-interpretation of the ERDs and that in fact many direct sterilizations had been done and continued to be done at the time of the article.”
His statement continued:
“As a Bishop, I am deeply saddened and upset by this news. As Bishop of the Diocese of Tyler, I have to admit my failure to provide adequate oversight of the Catholic Hospitals as regards their protection of the sacred dignity of each human person.”
Saying this “unacceptable situation” has “many causes and complications,” he noted he will continue to work with Catholic hospitals in his diocese and with the other bishops of Texas in order to “bring an end to immoral procedures and to put in place some method of ongoing accountability and transparency of monitoring both protocols and actual practices.”
Bishop Corrada added that Catholics must ensure that all people seeking health care at Catholic institutions will be treated “with respect and dignity as Jesus teaches us,” saying the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Services (ERDs) have been approved to ensure “the sacred dignity of each patient is protected and defended.”
His statement closed by noting Catholic hospitals’ response to the report.
“In response to their own investigation of the matter, CHRISTUS St. Michael's in Texarkana has discontinued all tubal ligations. They report a favorable response from their local medical community.”
Trinity Mother Frances had experienced a fifty percent reduction in its number of tubal ligations prior to the release of the report, the bishop stated. Bishop Corrada explained that Trinity Mother Frances is “a large health care system” and remarked that it is developing plans to comply with an “authentic interpretation of the ERDs,” especially ERD 53 which prohibits direct sterilization.
Bishop Corrada’s statement did not address the whistleblower report’s contention that abortions may have been performed at Catholic hospitals in Texas. According to Our Sunday Visitor, state data used in the report indicated 39 abortions were performed at Catholic hospitals during the period of 2000 to 2003, but such statistics may have recorded morally licit procedures such as the removal of a stillborn baby or emergency services for an abortion performed elsewhere.
CNA contacted the Diocese of Tyler for clarification on the abortion allegations and spoke with Father Gavin Vaverek, Promoter of Justice in the Diocese of Tyler.
“There was, I believe, only one possible abortion case in our diocese, at the Texarkana hospital,” he explained, noting the case involved complications resulting from an abortion.
“That case was of a woman who was admitted for an abortion, in the same way someone would be admitted for a gunshot wound. It was because of an abortion, not for an abortion,” he emphasized to CNA.
“That was the only case we had. There’s certainly no problem in taking care of someone who had an abortion.”
As for procedures classified as abortions at Catholic hospitals in other dioceses in Texas, Father Vavereck noted the ambiguity in the reports and said in those cases too “there will likely be extenuating circumstances.”
Boston, Mass., Nov 24, 2008 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Boston celebrated the Closing Mass of its bicentennial year on Sunday afternoon at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston.
Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, Cardinal Justin Rigali of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and more than 20 bishops from around New England and the United States concelebrated the Mass with hundreds of clergy, religious, deacons and parishioners from across the archdiocese, the Archdiocese of Boston reports on its website.
The Mass began with a procession of flags representing the people whom the archdiocese serves in their native language each week. During the liturgy, the Cardinal O’Malley blessed a plaque to be installed in the cathedral to commemorate the archdiocesan bicentennial.
“We have been blessed as a Church during this Bicentennial Year,” Cardinal O’Malley said at the Mass. “Our people, clergy, religious, deacons, parishes, schools, and ministries have all joined together in the presence of our Lord to celebrate our faith as one Catholic community. From every corner of our Archdiocese, we have prayed and worshiped together reflecting on our rich history and with great joy for the future of our local Church.”
Cardinal Rigali expressed his pleasure at joining the archdiocese in its celebration of “this important and prayerful moment in their history.”
“As brothers and sisters in Christ, the faithful of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia join with the Catholic community of Boston in celebration of our Bicentennials recognizing God's sustaining presence in our parishes, schools, and social service ministries,” he continued. “We pray that God continues to bless the Archdiocese of Boston with His loving grace.”
Ethnic choirs represented the local Church, with their service coordinated by Leo Abbott, organist and choir director for the Cathedral. They included the Cathedral Festival Choir, Cathedral Hispanic Choir, Archdiocese of Boston Black Catholic Choir, and choirs of the Ugandan, Chinese and Syro-Malabar Catholic Communities.
The "Bicentennial Hymn" by Rev. Francis Patrick O'Brien was sung at the Preparation Rite and Cardinal O’Malley bestowed the inaugural Archbishop Cheverus Award to individuals found to have demonstrated “outstanding Christian leadership and service” at parishes, agencies, and schools in the archdiocese.
Various events were held throughout the archdiocese’s bicentennial year, including parish retreats, the Proud 2B Catholic Music Festival in August, Regional Days to Celebrate the Catholic Family of Boston, an Advent Week of Prayer in 2007, and eight college and university symposiums and talks.
A three-month exhibit was also held in collaboration with the Boston Public Library in summer 2008.
The Diocese of Boston was founded on April 8, 1808 and was elevated to an archdiocese in 1875. It serves the needs of about 2 million Catholics. About 46,000 students attend its schools while more than one million patients annually attend its hospitals and more than 200,000 benefit from the archdiocese’s social services.
Madrid, Spain, Nov 24, 2008 (CNA) - Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, the Archbishop of Toledo, on Sunday decried a Spanish judge’s ruling that removed crucifixes from classroom walls. He called it a doomed, “Christophobic” attempt to “impose a new culture” which forgets and denies both God and man.
In the northern city of Valladolid, Judge Alejandro Valentin ordered the Macias Picavea School to remove religious symbols from classrooms and public spaces, arguing that the presence of these symbols in areas where minors are educated can promote the idea that the state is closer to Catholicism than other religions, the Edmonton Journal reports.
His decision came in response to a 2005 request by a parent and a local secular association which argued for the decision on the grounds that the Spanish constitution guarantees "freedom of religion" and ensures the "secular and neutral" character of the state.
Cardinal Cañizares responded to the decision, saying “it is an attempt to impose a new culture, a project of humanity that implies an anthropological and radical vision which changes the vision that constitutes our identity,” an identity Spaniards have received “from our predecessors.”
“Forgetting God is like forgetting and denying man himself, even if we hardly admit it,” the cardinal said, according to SIR. This leads to a “pathological situation” which permits abortion, euthanasia, experimentation on embryos and their exploitation for economic purposes.
He said such phenomena and the decision are not “isolated episodes” but reveal “a Christophobia which is nothing else but hatred for oneself.”
“We are suffering from a real pathology caused by the weakening, or even the destruction, of family which, along with the Church, is seen as an obstacle to be removed in order to impose the new project of man and society which has no future because, at the end, it is a project that destroys him,” Cardinal Cañizares remarked.