Vatican City, Feb 2, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict took the occasion of welcoming Hungary’s new ambassador Monday morning as an opportunity to encourage the country to defend the role of the family in Europe. In particular, the Holy Father highlighted the right of parents to be the "primary educators" of their children.
After Janos Balassa presented his Letters of Credence, the new ambassador of Hungary to the Holy See, was addressed in English by the Pope.
The Pope first spoke with Balassa about the "forces that govern economic and political affairs in the modern world," which he said need to be "built upon an ethical foundation, giving priority always to the dignity and the rights of the human person and the common good of humanity."
This task is one that Hungary is well-suited for by its "strong Christian heritage, stretching back over a thousand years," Pope Benedict pointed out. "Hungary," he added, "is well placed to assist in the promotion of these humane ideals within the European community and the wider world community, and it is my hope that our diplomatic relations will serve to support this vital dimension of your country's contribution to international affairs."
The importance of the family for a vibrant society was also emphasized by the Pope.
Drawing upon his message for the 2008 World Day of Peace, Benedict XVI reminded the new diplomat that the family is essential for "building peaceful community relations at every level." Unfortunately, the "vital cohesive role" of the family is "being called into question and even endangered as a result of misguided ways of thinking that at times find expression in aggressive social and political policies" in much of modern Europe, he lamented.
"It is my earnest hope," the Pope said, "that ways will be found of safeguarding this essential element of our society, which is the heart of every culture and nation."
"One of the specific ways government can support the family is by assuring that parents are allowed to exercise their fundamental right as the primary educators of their children, which would include the option to send their children to religious schools when they so desire," the Pontiff stated.
The difficult history of the Catholic Church in Hungary was also touched upon by Pope Benedict, who noted that "after decades of oppression, sustained by the heroic witness of so many Christians," the Church has emerged to "take her place in a transformed society, able once more to proclaim the Gospel freely. She seeks no privileges for herself, but is eager to play her part in the life of the nation, true to her nature and mission."
Vatican City, Feb 2, 2009 (CNA) - In his address to bishops from the Episcopal Conference of Turkey, who are visiting the Vatican for their “ad limina” visit, Pope Benedict XVI stressed that it is up to the Turkish State to “provide effective guarantees that all citizens and all religious communities may enjoy freedom of worship and religion.”
“In this context,” explained the Pope, “I am well aware of your desire and readiness to open a sincere dialogue with the authorities in order to find a solution to the various problems your communities have to face, such as recognition for the juridical status of the Catholic Church and her property."
He then stressed that the Turkish Christian community “lives in a nation governed by a constitution that affirms the lay nature of the State, but where the majority of the population is Muslim. For this reason it is very important for Christians and Muslims to work together to promote humanity, life, peace and justice.”
“The distinction between the civil and the religious sphere is clearly a value that deserves to be protected," he said.
Examining the religious sphere more closely, the Holy Father explained that within the Church “the people of God will find an effective support for their faith and hope.” The bishops, he added, are “primarily responsible for the concrete realization” of a union between the “diversity of rites” in the Turkish Church.
The Pontiff also noted that the visit of the bishops “is providentially taking place in the year dedicated to St. Paul” and assumes a particular importance because the prelates “are pastors…in the land where the Apostle of the Gentiles was born and where he founded many communities.”
Given the special emphasis brought by the Pauline Year, the Pope noted that many are traveling to see “the sites so dear to the Christian tradition.” “My wish,” he said, “is that they may find easier access to those places which are so significant for the Christian faith, and to liturgical celebrations.”
Benedict XVI also recalled the “rich history” of the Church in Turkey which is marked “by the development of the first Christian communities” and by the likes of St. John and St. Ignatius of Antioch. More recently, the Church has also seen the witness of Fr. Andrea Santoro, an Italian priest killed in the Turkish city of Trabzon on February 5, 2006, Pope Benedict said.
"May this prestigious history be for your communities - the vigor of whose faith and abnegation under trial I am well aware - not only a reminder of a glorious past, but also a stimulus to continue with generosity along the journey you have begun, bearing witness among your brothers and sisters to God's love for all human beings," Benedict XVI prayed.
Wrapping up his address, the Holy Father asserted that inter-religious dialogue “cannot but have positive consequences for everyone. It would be appropriate for permanent contacts to be established, for example through a bilateral commission, in order to study as-yet unresolved questions."
Vatican City, Feb 2, 2009 (CNA) - In a message sent by Benedict XVI to His Holiness Kirill for the occasion of his enthronement as patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, the Holy Father says that it is his hope that the communion between the Catholic and the Orthodox Church will be strengthened “so that the world may believe.”
The message, made public today, was delivered by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity along with a chalice from the Pope "as a sign of the desire to achieve full communion as soon as possible."
Kirill was installed as the patriarch in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior on Sunday.
In his English-language message, Benedict XVI relates his "esteem" and "spiritual closeness" to the new patriarch, and prays “that our heavenly Father will grant you the abundant gifts of the Holy Spirit in your ministry and enable you to guide the Church in the love and peace of Christ."
Bringing to mind Kirill’s predecessor, the Holy Father notes that Alexis II “left his people a deep and abiding inheritance of ecclesial renewal and development. ... He likewise maintained a spirit of openness and co-operation with other Christians, and with the Catholic Church in particular, for the defense of Christian values in Europe and in the world.
"I am certain," he adds, "that Your Holiness will continue to build on this solid foundation, for the good of your people and for the benefit of Christians everywhere.”
Pope Benedict also goes on to reflect on the new patriarch’s previous role as president of the Department of External Church Relations. “You yourself played an outstanding role in forging a new relationship between our Churches, a relationship based on friendship, mutual acceptance and sincere dialogue in facing the difficulties of our common journey.”
"It is my earnest hope," the Holy Father concludes, "that we will continue to co-operate in finding ways to foster and strengthen communion in the Body of Christ, in fidelity to our Savior's prayer that all may be one, so that the world may believe."
La Paz, Bolivia, Feb 2, 2009 (CNA) - President Evo Morales of Bolivia said last Thursday in Brazil during the World Social Forum that the Catholic Church in Bolivia is the “main enemy” of the reforms his government hopes to implement in the country and that the Church needs to be replaced.
During his remarks, Morales said, “In Bolivia new enemies have appeared, not only now in the right-wing media but also in groups from the Catholic Church, the leaders of the Catholic Church who are the enemies of peaceful transformation.”
Later, referring to the theme of the World Social Forum, Morales continued, “I want to say to you what we hear shouted all the time: ‘Another world is possible,’ I want to tell you another faith, another religion, another church is also possible, brothers and sisters.”
Morales attended the World Social Form together with his counterparts from Brazil, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, Ecuador, Rafael Correa, Paraguay, Fernando Lugo and Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, and representatives of some four thousand left-wing social movements.
The attack on the Church by Morales comes after remarks he made the previous day in La Paz to foreign reporters, in which he accused the Church of trying to prevent the reform of the Constitution from passing in a popular referendum held last Sunday.
Vatican City, Feb 2, 2009 (CNA) - On Saturday Pope Benedict XVI met with leaders of an Italian trade union and told them that the current economic crisis offers an opportunity for “a new culture of solidarity and of responsible participation” to emerge.
Meeting with the leaders of the Italian trade union CISL for its 60th anniversary, the Holy Father praised the organization for continuing to “draw inspiration for your activities from the social Magisterium of the Church, with the aim of protecting the interests of workers and pensioners in Italy."
After pointing out the numerous social encyclicals from the Popes of the 20th century, Pope Benedict XVI drew the trade leaders’ attention to the Pontiffs’ recurrent “call for solidarity and responsibility.”
The way out of the current economic and social crisis, he explained, must involve “free and responsible efforts” by everyone. “In other words what is needed is to overcome individual and sectarian interests, and unite to confront the difficulties affecting all areas of society, and particularly the world of work.”
Stressing that the need for a unified effort of solidarity is urgently needed, Pope Benedict said his hope is that “from the current global crisis there may emerge a shared desire to create a new culture of solidarity and of responsible participation, which are indispensable conditions if we are to build the future of our planet together.”
The Holy Father brought his address to the leaders of CISL to a close by exhorting them to continue to be faithful to their original charism. “The world needs people who dedicate themselves disinterestedly to the cause of work in full respect of human dignity and the common good," he said.
Washington D.C., Feb 2, 2009 (CNA) - Fr. David M. O’Connell, President of Catholic University of America, has criticized President Barack Obama’s decision to fund overseas organizations that perform and promote abortions, calling the decision a “disappointment and even a betrayal.”
He also suggested the president is certainly going to get a “fight” from Catholics over his support for abortion.
President Obama lifted the Mexico City Policy on Jan. 23, which had been implemented by President George W. Bush at the start of his presidency.
“I don’t think President Obama is looking for a fight but I think he’s certainly going to get one as he wiggles away from issues that are very important to the Church,” Fr. O’Connell said in remarks published by Fox News on Jan. 28.
“I’m sure for many Catholics who supported Obama because they believed in his words to do everything he could to reduce abortions,” he continued. “This comes as a disappointment, and even a betrayal to some.”
Fr. O’Connell also named as matters of concern President Obama’s support for embryonic stem cell research and disagreement with Proposition 8, California’s successful ballot measure which overturned a same-sex “marriage” court decision.
“The Church holds these issues as very significant and very consequential and the church is going after the president, not because he’s the president or because it’s the United States, but because it believes any government system that support issues that are contrary to its core beliefs are dangerous,” he told Fox News. “Because the beliefs are rooted in good for all of humanity, not just the Catholic Church.”
Calgary, Canada, Feb 2, 2009 (CNA) - At least three pro-life students have been charged with trespassing for setting up a graphic abortion display in November at the University of Calgary against university demands. The students who exhibited the display, called the “Genocide Awareness Project” (GAP), recently received summons to appear in court and must enter a plea by the end of February.
Besides the legal action the university is taking against its students, the pro-lifers are being threatened with suspension or expulsion for “non-academic misconduct.”
The accused students, members of the Campus Pro-Life Club (CPL) set up the GAP display on Nov. 26 and 27 of 2008. The display includes large color photographs of abortion and compares abortion to other atrocities such as the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide.
According to the CPL, the GAP display had been set up on campus six times since 2006 without incident. In 2006 and 2007, the University had protected the club’s right to erect the display under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The CPL argues that the university’s recent change of heart exposes a “double standard.” The students point out that the university has not taken action against other students or groups who use shocking photographs to communicate their message. In fact, according to CPL, during the time the GAP exhibit was on display, another group’s display showed “disturbing” photographs of atrocities committed by the Chinese government against the supporters of Falun Gong, a Chinese religious group.
Furthermore, “the university has extended generous tolerance towards campus pro-choice groups, even when engaged in the physical blocking of the pro-life display,” the CPL said in a statement.
At a press conference on Monday, CPL President Leah Hallman described the aims of the GAP, saying “This project seeks to remove the semantics which surround justification of abortion by using photographic proof. It is for this that we are now locked in a legal struggle.”
She noted the University of Calgary’s stated commitment to free inquiry and debate, to act as a community of scholars, to lead and inspire societal development and to respect, appreciate and encourage diversity.
“The lofty ideals and noble sentiments expressed in these simple but eloquent phrases resonate throughout the fibers of our society. In fact, to a large degree, a society’s commitment to freedom can be measured by the strictness of their adherence to these principles,” Hallman observed.
In this light, she commented, the university’s legal actions against CPL were “ironic.”
“It is a double standard when an institution dedicated to unfettered thought ruthlessly silences those who disagree with them,” Hallman charged. “Double standards such as these are not healthy for a society built on liberty and dedicated to equality.”
She characterized the summons as “a blatant attack on the spirit of free speech.”
“We await with indifference the outcome of this trial, for we but did what our consciences bid us do. To have done otherwise would not be worthy of the legacy of Canada and of freedom,” her statement concluded.
Speaking with CNA in a phone interview on Monday, Hallman said three people had been charged with “trespass to premises” but six people had their names and contact information taken down.
“They’ve been issuing the summons over a period of time,” Hallman explained. “We’re expecting all six to be served.”
She said the students are planning to contest the charges in court.
“We are a little bit surprised because we did have hope still that the university would uphold our right to be there.
“They had warned us. We weren’t overly shocked, but we were very disappointed,” Hallman said.CPL’s web site is located at www.campusprolife.com.
Madrid, Spain, Feb 2, 2009 (CNA) - In a pastoral letter published to mark the World Day of Consecrated Life on February 2, Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Tarazona, Spain, said the lack of radical commitment in consecrated life is one of the main causes of the vocations crisis.
“Christians are already consecrated through baptism, but the consecrated life is a new title of consecration that brings baptism to its fullness,” the bishop said. “Consecrated life is a prophetic cry in today’s world (and always), which reminds us what the definitive values of the Kingdom are, those that Christ lived out in the beatitudes and those that He invites others to live out when He calls someone to follow Him more closely.”
“We live in times of crisis in the consecrated life as well,” Bishop Fernandez underscored. “Secularization, that is, living as if God did not exist, adapting oneself to the opinions and ways of the world, has also filtered into the consecrated lifestyle.”
“It seems like a contradiction, but unfortunately this is the way it is. A consecrated life in which one is not willing to live a radical commitment to Jesus Christ, with a fanatical love like that of St. Paul, is a life that is not very attractive or exciting to the young people of today. This is one of the reasons for the lack of vocations,” the bishop stressed.
Bishop Fernandez acknowledged that the “issue of the scarcity or lack of vocations among young people is very complex and cannot be reduced to a single cause, but the institutes of consecrated life that live coherently ‘having lost everything for Jesus Christ’ are getting vocations.”
“On the other hand,” he added, “the institutes that have adapted to this world do not have vocations and are slowly dying out.”
“The World Day of Consecrated Life is an occasion to pray to the Lord for those who have consecrated their lives totally to the Lord, that they may be faithful to the first love that led them to leave everything for Jesus Christ,” Bishop Fernandez stated.