Vatican City, Jan 12, 2009 (CNA) - On Sunday, Cardinal Pio Laghi, who served as the first papal nuncio to the United States, passed away at the age of 86. Both Pope Benedict XVI and President Bush have offered their condolences.
The Holy Father offered his prayers for the family of the late cardinal as well as his thanks for the life of service that he lived. In a telegram sent to the nephews of Cardinal Laghi, the Pope spoke of the prelate’s "long and generous service to the Holy See, in particular as pontifical representative in various countries and as prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education.
“To you and your families I wish to express my sincere participation in the mourning that has afflicted all those who knew and respected the late cardinal and, while raising fervent prayer to God to grant him the prize promised to faithful servants of the Gospel, I send my heartfelt apostolic blessing to all those who grieve his passing," Pope Benedict wrote.
President George W. Bush offered condolences on behalf of himself and his wife Laura to Pope Benedict XVI and all Catholics on the passing of Cardinal Pio Laghi.
President Bush called the cardinal “a friend who, in his more than 60 years of service to the Catholic Church, worked tirelessly for peace and justice in our world.”
One aspect highlighted by the president was Cardinal Laghi’s years of service as the first papal nuncio to the United States (1984-1990). These years were characterized by his striving to “unite people of all religions and promote reconciliation, religious freedom, and tolerance,” he said.
A funeral Mass for Cardinal Pio Laghi will be held at the altar of the Cathedra in St. Peter's Basilica at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, January 13. Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, will preside at the funeral Mass with other members of the college.
At the end of the ceremony, the Pope will address those present and administer the rites of "Ultima Commendatio" and of "Valedictio."
Vatican City, Jan 12, 2009 (CNA) - This morning, the Vatican announced that Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Msgr. Richard F. Stika of the Archdiocese of St. Louis as bishop of the Diocese of Knoxville, Tennessee. Msgr. Stika will be ordained to the episcopacy on March 19 of this year.
The bishop-elect will fill the position that was left vacant in August 2007 when Bishop Joseph E. Kurtz was appointed Archbishop of Louisville, Kentucky.
Msgr. Stika was born in St. Louis in 1957 and was ordained a priest in 1985. In his years as a priest, he held positions in St. Louis as secretary to Cardinal Justin Rigali (1994-1997), the coordinator of Pope John Paul II’s visit to St. Louis in 1999, the director of the Archdiocesan Office of Child and Youth Protection and most recently as pastor of the Church of the Annunziata in Ladue.
Msgr. Stika will be ordained the third bishop of Knoxville on March 19, 2009 at the Knoxville Convention Center. The consecrating bishop will be Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, who will be assisted by Archbishop Joseph Kurtz and Bishop Robert Shaheen, Bishop of the Maronite Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon.
In a statement, Bishop Robert J. Hermann, administrator of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, noted that the archdiocese is “deeply honored” to have one of its priests appointed “by our Holy Father for the office of Bishop.”
He continued, “While I am very sorry to lose his immediate collaboration here, I am most confident that he will fulfill the weighty responsibilities of his new office in the Church with great distinction. I assure him of my prayers and of the prayers of the faithful of the archdiocese as he prepares to take up his new mission in the Church. May God grant him many happy years as a true shepherd of His flock in the Diocese of Knoxville."
The bishop-elect will serve 56,068 Catholics and 70 priests in the Diocese of Knoxville.
Rome, Italy, Jan 12, 2009 (CNA) - During an emotional encounter Saturday at St. Peter’s Basilica with 25,000 members of the Neocatechumenal Way, including its founders Kiko Arguello, Carmen Hernandez and Father Mario Pezzi, Pope Benedict XVI invited them to continue their intense work of evangelization in the world, in communion with the bishops of the world.
“Your numerous and enthusiastic presence bears witness to the wonders carried by the Lord during the past four decades; it also indicates the commitment with which you desire to continue the way you have begun, a way of following Christ faithfully and bearing courageous witness to the Gospel,” the Pope said. It is “a path of humble acceptance of the guidance of pastors and of communion with all other components of the People of God,” he added.
The Pontiff went on to recall that “everything began here in Rome forty years ago, when the first communities of the Neocatechumenal Way were established at the parish of the Holy Canadian Martyrs.” “How much fresh apostolic energy has sprung forth both from priests and the laity!” the Pope exclaimed. “How many men and women, how many families that had abandoned ecclesial communion or the practice of the Christian life have been helped to encounter again the joy of the faith and the enthusiasm of Gospel witness through the proclamation of the kerygma and the itinerary of baptismal rediscovery!” he stated.
Pope Benedict XVI also noted that the recent approval of the Way’s statutes by the Pontifical Council for the Laity “is a seal of the esteem and benevolence with which the Holy See follows the work that the Lord has brought forth through your founders.” “The Pope, the bishop of Rome, thanks you for your generous service to evangelization in this city and for your commitment to bringing the Christian proclamation to every environment,” he added.
The Pope went on to praise the work of the Neocatechumenal Way in 103 parishes throughout Rome, and he pointed out that “while I encourage you to continue in this commitment, I exhort you to intensify your adherence to all the directives of the Cardinal vicar, my direct collaborator in the pastoral governance of this diocese.”
“The organic integration of the Way into diocesan ministry and its unity with the other ecclesial realities will benefit the entire Christian people and will make the efforts of the diocese for a renewed proclamation of the Gospel in our city more fruitful.”
“Today an extensive missionary effort is needed that involves all the different ecclesial realities, which, each one conserving the originality of its charism, should work in harmony, trying to carry out that ‘integrated ministry’ that has already brought significant results,” the Pope stressed.
“While I thank you for the service you offer to the Church of Rome, I assure you of my prayers and my heartfelt blessing for all those present here and all the communities of the Neocatechumenal Way spread throughout the world,” the Pope said in conclusion.
The festive encounter, marked by the traditional hymns of the Neocatechumenal Way, culminated with a presentation by Kiko Arguello of new ‘comunitates in missio’—entire communities that have finished their formation and are open to being moved to other parishes of the diocese that are in need.
The Pope blessed the new missionaries and gave them a silver cross, dubbed the “mission cross,” as a sign of the mission entrusted to them.
The Neocatechumenal Way has 20,000 communities in more than 5,500 parishes in 120 countries throughout the world.
Barcelona, Spain, Jan 12, 2009 (CNA) - In response to the bus ad campaign launched by atheists in the Spanish region of Andalusia, the organization E-Cristians has decided to place its own ads on buses in Barcelona promoting the Christian message.
E-Cristians “praises the idea of putting the debate on God in the public square, and in this sense we want to make our own contribution. For this reason we are beginning a first campaign on buses in Barcelona, and we are working with the agency responsible for advertising.”
E-Cristians said the campaign would be financed through donations “from associates and from www.e-cristians.net. As resources allow, E-Cristians will extend the campaign to other cities and will re-run the ads in intervals throughout the year, in order to bring the word and reflection about God to the public square.”
The organization also explained that the campaign would only be possible “if we raise the necessary money. We will initially need $8,045.”
Spanish speakers can find more information at: http://www.e-cristians.net/cream/?site=ecristians&idioma=es&page=8&post=7173
Madrid, Spain, Jan 12, 2009 (CNA) - The organization Pro-Life Manifesto (Manifiesto por la Vida) in Spain reported this week that during the last two months, more than 1,600 families have requested to adopt a child from any place in the world.
Of those, 577 have successfully passed the review process and are eligible to adopt a child. In most cases the adoptee will be from a foreign country, as in Madrid only 60 to 70 adoptees are native-born while more than 700 come from other countries.
Pro-Life Manifesto said, “These meager statistics contrast with the thousands of babies sacrificed annually in this same Community, with public funding, at abortion centers.” “Almost 25 percent of abortion centers in Madrid are financed by the government of Esperanza Aguirre.”
With regard to adoptions, the adviser on Family and Social Affairs for Madrid, Engracia Hidalgo, said that since the national list of adoptions was opened again after being closed for four years, many people in Spain have decided to adopt.
CNA STAFF, Jan 12, 2009 (CNA) - CNA is opening 2009 with a new column titled, “Led Into the Truth,” written by fourth-year seminarian, Joshua Allen. His column will discuss his life as a seminarian in Rome and his journey toward truth and holiness.
Allen explains his purpose for writing by discussing the importance of a vocational call. “St. Augustine, the great Doctor of the Church, writes in his treatise de Beata Vita that to live the happy life is to ‘know precisely and perfectly Him through whom you are led into the truth, the nature of the truth you enjoy, and the bond that connects you’ (de Beata Vita, §35).”
“Each person in this life is called to a particular vocation, which encompasses his or her entire life,” Allen says. “This vocation, a call from God himself, finds its roots in the very fact that we are created: ‘For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them’ (Eph 2:10).”
Allen continues, “a vocation is the medium through which we are led into the truth, the truth that is precisely Christ Jesus. Each vocation is unique and unrepeatable; each has inestimable value for the building of the Kingdom of Christ. My column, which I have titled “Led Into the Truth,” is an attempt to relate the source and the process of my particular vocational call as it is manifested in my current situation. I am a seminarian studying for the Archdiocese of Atlanta in Rome, the heart of the Catholic Church. I hope to relate in this column some of my experiences as a seminarian living abroad, seeking holiness, and being formed into the heart of Christ.”
Allen is currently studying at the North American College in Rome and is in his second year of theology, having completed a pre-theology philosophy program at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD. Prior to entering seminary, Allen graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in finance and worked in private equity for several years.
“The column will cover at times the details of the seminary process as I encounter them, my experiences in places and events I am able to witness, and my experience of the Universal Church and her head, the Pope,” he explained. “I hope to reveal to those who read my column a great deal about the particular way the Lord is leading me into the truth and to encourage others to boldly follow the Him in their vocations.”
Allen’s column will be updated on the last Friday of each month and can be accessed here or by clicking the “Led Into the Truth” link in the gray box at the bottom of the page.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 12, 2009 (CNA) -
The "Atrium of the Americas" of the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City is being prepared to welcome the 70,000 people who will participate in the two main events of the Sixth World Meeting of Families, which will take place in the Mexican capital January 14-18.
The organizing committee explained that platforms are being installed on the sides of the atrium and that it will be divided into sections where seats will be set up for attendees.
"Thus the most significant Marian shrine of America, the Basilica of Guadalupe, will be the scene for both the Festive Event as well as the Closing Mass of the Sixth World Meeting of Families, on January 17 and 18 respectively," the committee announced.
Members of the media will have a room set aside where they will be able to follow the events via large-screen television. Press credentials are available through the website of the Sixth World Meeting of Families at www.emf2009.com
La Paz, Bolivia, Jan 12, 2009 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Bolivia has called on social and political leaders to end name calling and insults because they are only creating more division between Bolivians as the referendum on the new Constitution, set for January 25, draws near.
"We call on all social and political leaders to not deepen the divisions, nor create conflicts or confrontations between Bolivians through messages and campaigns that resort to mudslinging and harm the dignity of the human person," the bishops said in a statement.
The bishops also exhorted Bolivians "to read and fully understand the proposed new constitution in order to be able to vote in conscience." They announced that a document "on the January 25 referendum" would be forthcoming from the bishops "in the coming days."
The statement also noted that the bishops have offered "several reflections on the new constitution, defending the principles and values of peaceful coexistence, manifesting their proposals to the Constitutional Assembly and analyzing the text that was approved in Oruro."
Regarding the television spots being promoted by the Association of Christian Churches and Re-United Churches, the bishops stated that the Catholic Church "is not a member" of that association "nor does she have any involvement in the ad campaign that this Association has been promoting in recent days through television spots" regarding the new constitution.
After reminding members of the media of "their important role in informing and guiding voters," the bishops concluded by calling on the faithful "to maintain unity and practice tolerance towards each other."
Washington D.C., Jan 12, 2009 (CNA) - President-elect Barack Obama’s Inauguration has already seen consternation amongst homosexuals over Obama’s selection of Rick Warren to deliver the invocation. However, today it was made public that openly gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire will offer a prayer on Sunday to open the inauguration events.
On Monday an anonymous source from the Obama team told Politico that Bishop Robinson had accepted an invitation to kickoff the inaugural ceremonies with a prayer on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
With President-elect Obama in attendance, Bishop Robinson will help launch Obama’s “We are One” string of ceremonies. In an email to friends, Robinson said that he is “humbled and overjoyed at this invitation, and it will be my great honor to be there representing the Episcopal Church, the people of New Hampshire, and all of us in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.”
An Obama aide told Politico that the plans to feature Robinson were in place “before the complaints about Rick Warren. Many skeptics will read this as a direct reaction to the Warren criticism – but it’s just not so.”
Joe Solomnese, president of the pro-homosexual group Human Rights Campaign, described the Robinson invitation as showing that "ultimately, Barack Obama is a friend to the LGBT community.” "I believe his administration is going to inspire us and advance our agenda more often than not," Solomnese said on Monday.
Obama’s selection of Rick Warren to offer the invocation for the inauguration ceremony has drawn the ire of gay activists, including Bishop Robinson who called the Warren pick “really, really unfortunate” because of Warren’s opposition to same-sex marriage.
In a December 2008 interview with Beliefnet, Robinson said that he “would love to engage him [Warren]. In some ways he's a very brave person, but he's woefully wrong about the issue of homosexuality. He needs to be confronted about the lies he told about gay people to the people of California.”
“It's about this particular venue and the role that he has in praying for all of America, and I'm just not sure he'd pray to God the same way I would,” Robinson added.
CNA attempted to reach Bishop Gene Robinson for his reaction to the invitation, but did not response immediately.
San Francisco, Calif., Jan 12, 2009 (CNA) - The Fifth Annual Walk for Life West Coast pro-life event is expected to draw more than 25,000 people to protest the legalization of abortion in a march along San Francisco’s waterfront on Saturday, January 24.
The Walk began in 2005 when a small group of San Francisco residents decided to organize a march with an outreach to women, especially those who have undergone an abortion or who are struggling with an unwanted pregnancy, a press release from Walk for Life West Coast reports.
“My grandmother was left on a doorstep as an infant at the beginning of the 20th century,” said Walk co-chair Dolores Meehan. “In the 21st century, we want to make having a baby a choice that all of us support. And, we want to make sure that women who have had abortions know we are there for them in sympathy and support.”
Speakers at the event will include Karen Shablin of Feminists for Life, Black Genocide founder Rev. Clenard Childress and Frank Lee, community leader and coordinator of Asian Americans Against Abortion. Singer Diana Nagy, whose crisis pregnancy at the age of 15 ended in adoption, will also speak.
“Women deserve better than abortion,” said Shablin, a former member of the National Abortion Rights Action League and a former acting Medicaid agency director.
Explaining that she had an abortion in her twenties, Shablin said, “I can't undo my mistakes over the years - having an abortion, advocating abortion, but I can help others to learn from my mistakes. Every life counts.”
“Abortion hurts women and families,” Frank Lee added. “We have allowed abortion to decimate our future for too long by killing our children before they are born. Americans, regardless of ethnic background, need to stand up and ensure that every life is cherished.”
The 2.5-mile walk is scheduled to begin with a rally at 11:00 am on the lawn of the Justin Herman Plaza lawn on Market Street. It will end at the Marina Green, where an Information Fair will be held.
The Walk for Life West Coast web site is located at http://walkforlifewc.com
Valletta, Malta, Jan 12, 2009 (CNA) - A Maltese professor and political candidate, citing his outrage at Pope Benedict XVI’s reported comments on the environment and homosexuality, has excommunicated himself from the Church.
Dr Ing. Patrick Attard, the first openly homosexual candidate for parliament in Malta, also criticized the Holy See’s opposition to a proposed U.N. resolution calling for the decriminalization of homosexual relationships, the Malta Independent reports.
On December 22, Pope Benedict delivered his Christmas address to the Curia. Throughout the course of several paragraphs, he said:
“When the Church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman and asks that this order of creation be respected, it is not the result of an outdated metaphysic.
“It is a question here of faith in the Creator and of listening to the language of creation, the devaluation of which leads to the self-destruction of man and therefore to the destruction of the same work of God.
“That which is often expressed and understood by the term ‘gender,’ results finally in the self-emancipation of man from creation and from the Creator.”
Though the Pope did not explicitly mention homosexuals or homosexuality, his remarks were seized upon and denounced as an attack on homosexuals, lesbians, and transgendered persons.
His address, more than 3,500 words long, only briefly touched on gender theory and the order of creation.
Following other secular media outlets, the Maltese Times characterized the Pope’s words as calling homosexuality “a destruction of God’s work” and claimed he said the world should be saved from homosexuality just as we should save the rainforests from destruction.
Dr. Attard claimed the Pope made “outrageous comments” that “can only spread intolerance and hatred towards the gay minority.”
“I do not want the government to assume I am part of this hate-preaching organization just because I was baptized… there is no choice but to excommunicate myself publicly from this power and money-hungry institution.”
“[E]xcommunicating myself doesn’t mean I am a Satanist or a selfish person,” he explained, according to the Maltese Times.
Dr. Attard, in remarks on his blog, called on homosexual priests to leave the Church, which he called a “homophobic institution.” He also denounced the “huge hypocrisy” of cohabiting couples being discouraged from receiving Communion in their local church but encouraged to receive in a far-away area.
Attard also protested the Maltese ban on homosexual men as blood donors and characterized his abandonment of the Church as activism against political parties who are “afraid to criticize the Church” because of Malta’s predominantly Catholic population.