Vatican City, Apr 20, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict will visit the Italian region of Abruzzo on April 28, the region devastated by a series of earthquakes earlier this month, the Vatican announced on Saturday.
The first earthquake, which rattled the region on April 6, left almost 300 dead and thousands injured.
On the morning of April 28, the Holy Father will travel by helicopter over some of the hardest-hit areas and arrive in the village of Onna. He will then travel to the devastated city of L’Aquila. There, he will meet with students and also visit the Collemaggio basilica.
The Pope will then move on to the barracks of the “Guardia de Finanza” where he will meet with local representatives and some rescuers. He will return to the Vatican at 12:30 p.m.
Castelgandolfo, Italy, Apr 20, 2009 (CNA) - On Saturday, some 3,000 members of the Franciscan family met at Castel Gandalfo with Pope Benedict to celebrate the 800th anniversary of Pope Innocent III approving their founder's first rule. The Holy Father called upon the group to seek personal conversion, and then, cooperating with the pastors of the Church, work to "make her face, as the bride of Christ, ever more beautiful."
The Franciscans meeting with the Pope had just completed the "Chapter of Mats," which celebrated the 800th anniversary of the approval of the first rule. The chapter was held in Assisi, Italy, where St. Francis drew together the first band of his followers to radically follow Christ.
Addressing the Franciscans on Saturday, Pope Benedict pointed out how the original band of 12 friars who first followed St. Francis of Assisi, has over the centuries become "a multitude scattered throughout the world. ... And I, as Pastor of the universal Church, wish to thank [God] for the precious gift you yourselves represent for all Christian people.
"From the brook that sprang up at the base of Mount Subasio, a great river was born which has made a notable contribution to the universal spread of the Gospel."
Francis, the Holy Father continued, "experienced the power of divine grace, as if he had died and been raised again. All his earlier wealth, all his reasons for feeling proud and secure, everything became a 'loss' from the moment he encountered the crucified and risen Christ. At that point abandoning everything became almost a necessity, in order to express the superabundance of the gift he had received."
Pope Benedict then went on to describe the focus of his meeting with the Franciscans as "the Gospel as a rule for life," and he highlighted how St. Francis "viewed himself entirely in the light of the Gospel. This is his appeal. This is his perennial relevance," he said.
"Thus," the Pope said, "the 'Poverello' became a living Gospel, capable of attracting men and women of all times to Christ, especially the young who prefer radical commitment to half measures. Bishop Guido of Assisi, and later Pope Innocent III, recognized evangelical authenticity in the projects of Francis and his companions, and encouraged their efforts, also with a view to the good of the Church."
However, the Pope noted, Francis did not choose to work against the Church or to adopt "a polemical attitude towards the hierarchy" even though this "would certainly have brought Francis many followers."
On the contrary, "his first thought was to place his own and his companions' development in the hands of the Bishop of Rome, Peter's Successor. This fact demonstrates his true ecclesial spirit. From the beginning he saw the little 'us' he had begun with his first friars as being part of the great 'us' of the one universal Church."
"The Pope recognized and appreciated this," added Benedict XVI. "In fact, he too could have failed to approve Francis' plans. And indeed, we may well imagine that among Innocent III's collaborators some advised him to do just that, perhaps fearing that the little group of friars resembled other heretical and pauperist groups of the period. However, the Roman Pontiff, well-informed by the bishop of Assisi and by Cardinal Giovanni di San Paolo, was able to discern the initiative of the Holy Spirit and welcomed, blessed and encouraged the nascent community of 'Friars Minor.'"
"Eight centuries have passed and today you wish to renew your Founder's gesture," the Pope told his audience. "You are all children and heirs of those origins. ... Like Francis and Clare of Assisi, ... always begin again from Christ ... in order to see His face in our brothers and sisters who suffer, and to bring everyone His peace. Be witnesses of the beauty of God, whose praises Francis sang while contemplating the wonders of creation."
"Go forth and continue 'to repair the house' of the Lord Jesus Christ: His Church," urged the Holy Father.
"Yet there is another ruin, an even more serious ruin: that of people and of communities," the Pope remarked.
"Like St. Francis, always begin with yourselves," he encouraged.
"If you prove capable of renewing yourselves in the spirit of the Gospel, you will continue to help the pastors of the Church to make her face, as the bride of Christ, ever more beautiful. Now as at your beginnings, this is what the Pope expects from you."
La Paz, Bolivia, Apr 20, 2009 (CNA) - Speaking from his home in Masicuri, Bolivia, where he has been resting over the weekend, Cardinal Julio Terrazas of Santa Cruz told the PAT network that despite the attack on his residence last week, “I am not afraid. To say that I will not speak out anymore would be to betray my mission, which goes beyond my own life.”
The cardinal explained that he was calmly informed of the attack as he finished his morning prayers last Wednesday morning.
He said he was not surprised by the attack, and he condemned the actions of those responsible for setting off the explosion at his residence.
Bishop Cristobal Bialasik of Oruro called on officials to clear up the confusing incident.
“I find this difficult to understand, as it could be that someone just felt rejection for the cardinal, it could be that they didn’t like his complaining about the difficult reality we are facing. So we don’t know what motives were behind this act,” he said.
Rome, Italy, Apr 20, 2009 (CNA) - The youth department of the Pontifical Council for the Laity has published the “WYD Magazine,” dedicated completely to World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney.
Issued in four languages, the magazine was published by the John Paul II Foundation for Youth. The 184-page color magazine features a variety of photos and articles allowing readers “to relive the different stages of this Australian event, from the pilgrimage of the Cross in Oceania to the visit of Pope Benedict XVI,” the L’Osservatore Romano noted.
Other sections focus on the catechesis sessions, the festival of youth, the Way of the Cross through the streets of Sydney, the Vigil and the Mass at the Randwick Racetrack, and the journey home.
The last pages turn the reader’s attention to Madrid, where Catholic young people will gather for World Youth Day 2011.
Vatican City, Apr 20, 2009 (CNA) -
"Galileo and the Vatican” is the title of a new book that gathers together the documents of the commission created by Pope John Paul II on the famous Italian scientist and, according to Cardinal Paul Poupard who headed up the study group, seeks to debunk the black legend and other myths about this case.
In statements to Notimex, Cardinal Poupard recalled that John Paul II publicly apologized about Galileo in October of 1992.
“The Pope was concerned about clearing up a bad image of the Church in the eyes of the public, in which she was portrayed as the enemy of science. This is a myth, but myths pervade history and are not easily eliminated,” he said.
“All of this was used, especially beginning with the Enlightenment, as a weapon of war against the Church,” the cardinal added, and today it is bizarre that ideas “without any foundation” continue to be spread around, such as the legend that Galileo was burned at the stake when he was never even imprisoned.
Cardinal Poupard recalled that at the time John Paul II asked him if after acknowledging the errors of the judges, the Galileo case would be closed. He answered, “As long as there are free persons they will think however they want.”
“It was important to confront that myth, to acknowledge the errors in this terrible case and that was what was done,” the cardinal underscored.
“Galileo and the Vatican” was released by Marcianum Press and was co-authored by Mario Artigas, who died in 2006, and Msgr. Melchor Sanchez de Toca. Artigas was a professor of the Philosophy of Science in Barcelona and at the University of Navarre, and Msgr. Melchor Sanchez de Toca, was a under-secretary at the Pontifical Council for Culture.
The 300-page book has been published in Spanish and Italian and includes an introduction by Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, the current President of the Pontifical Council for Culture.
Archbishop Ravasi considers the work of the Commission on Galileo to be important for “leaving behind the vestiges of an unfortunate past, which led to tragic and reciprocal misunderstanding.”
Speaking to Notimex, Msgr. Sanchez de Toca explained that the main objective of the book is “to heal an open wound,” since despite the 17 years that have passed since the apology, “it seems every time like we are at the beginning.”
The judges of Galileo, he continued, in addition to the “obvious error” of believing that the Earth did not revolve, committed the mistake of entering a field outside their competence. “They thought the Copernicus system defended by Galileo with such vehemence endangered the faith of simple people and that it was their obligation to prevent it from being taught. This was an error and it is necessary that it be acknowledged,” the author said.
On October 31, 1992, Pope John Paul II issued a declaration acknowledging the errors committed by the Church tribunal that judged the scientific positions of Galileo Galilei.
Valencia, Spain, Apr 20, 2009 (CNA) - Newly appointed Archbishop Carlos Osoro of Valencia, Spain said during a recent interview that although there are difficulties to overcome in evangelizing Spaniards, Catholics should not shrink from difficulties.
In an interview with Religion Digital, the archbishop said, “What concerns me is that we Christians understand that it continues to be true that evangelization constitutes the joy and vocation of the Church and her most profound identity. For the Church exists to evangelize, to preach and to teach, in order to be a channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile mankind with God, to perpetuate the sacrifice of Christ.”
The great concern of the Church should be to recover the enthusiasm of the proclamation, knowing where she stands and the difficulties she faces, without shrinking from difficulties or constantly crying about it,” he added.
Guadalajara, Mexico, Apr 20, 2009 (CNA) - Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez of Guadalajara in Mexico has rejected attempts by feminist organizations to intimidate the Church into ceasing its defense of the unborn's right to life, and has added that he would continue speaking out against abortion.
Feminist organizations, irritated by pro-life victories in several Mexican states, have launched a campaign implying that by speaking out against abortion the bishops of Mexico are “meddling in politics” and violating the country’s constitution.
“The right to life will be defended at all costs and this is not meddling in the politics of the state,” Cardinal Sandoval said in response to feminist accusations that he had become political in order to help fend off attempts to legalize abortion in the state of Jalisco.
“I want to clear this up, because those who are attacking us now are saying that this has happened because of the Church. Of course we Catholics defend life, but the issue of life is not a Church issue, it is a natural law issue,” he said.
The cardinal warned that whether someone is a believer or not, “We all have the right to life.” “Those who are outside the Church also have the right to life; it is a question of natural law, not a Church issue. A Church issue would be if lawmakers mandated attendance at Sunday Mass. That would be a Church issue.”
“There are some parties,” the cardinal explained, “above all on the left, that are committed to policies that go against life.”
“It is unfortunate and very sad. I don’t know why they take this path, but the majority of the people support life,” he said.
Topeka, Kan., Apr 20, 2009 (CNA) - One of Kansas' leading pro-life advocates is charging that Kathleen Sebelius knowingly omitted donations from an infamous late-term abortionist in her answers to the Senate Finance Committee during recent questioning.
Kansans for Life State Executive Director, Mary Kay Culp, argued in a Monday statement that, "The $26,000 Governor Kathleen Sebelius omitted from her answer to Senator Kyl about Tiller's donations to her or her PAC, was not only a matter of public record, it was in her mailbox a week before her confirmation hearings."
The details of Tiller's donations arrived in Gov. Sebelius' mailbox in the archdiocesan paper The Leaven.
Culp pointed to the fact that the March 27th issue contained an article on page 4 entitled "Tiller campaign cash greases political wheels." One paragraph in the article said, "For instance, between 1994 and 2001 Tiller, his wife, his clinic, and an earlier PAC of his gave more than $15,000 to Sebelius. Between 2000 and 2002, Tiller and his clinic gave $23,000 to Sebelius' Blue Stem Fund PAC."
Since Gov. Sebelius belongs to the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Culp said that, "It is almost impossible to believe Sebelius didn't see this particular issue, featuring as it did a huge picture of George Tiller on the cover and a smaller picture of her holding a T-shirt memorializing his support of her last election, and featuring four related articles.
"It's simply not believable that staff or acquaintances did not tell Sebelius of the publication," she said.
Instead, the pro-life Kansan believes that it is "more likely, Sebelius thought she could successfully minimize her Tiller connection, as she had done during her first gubernatorial campaign in 2002."
During her 2002 run for Governor of Kansas, Kathleen Sebelius claimed that she was not "pro-abortion" and hadn't been given hundreds of thousands of dollars by the political action committee Pro Kan Do, which the infamous late term abortionist George Tiller helped create.
A Pro Kan Do fundraising letter from Tiller reveals that on top of $200,000 he personally contributed to defeat Sebelius' opponent, he believed that another $250,000 would be needed for her to win.
Culp closed her statement by saying, "The U.S. Senate owes the public a closer and more careful examination of the nomination of Kathleen Sebelius as head of America's Health and Human Services Department..."
Kansas City, Kan., Apr 20, 2009 (CNA) - Saying Catholics are “at war” with “the glamour of evil,” Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph Robert W. Finn delivered a keynote address at a pro-life convention on Saturday lamenting “dissension in the ranks” and calling on Catholics to never become used to the “crime against humanity” that is abortion.
He also commented on the Notre Dame controversy, saying its head should disinvite President Barack Obama.
Greeting the audience at the Gospel of Life Convention in Overland Park, Kansas, Bishop Finn said that alongside encouragements he also wished to tell them, “We are at war!”
“Harsh as this may sound it is true – but it is not new,” he said, adding that “new battles” bring “an intensity and urgency to our efforts.”
According to the Catholic Key, the bishop invoked the tripartite division of the Catholic Church as the Church Militant, the Church Suffering, and the Church Triumphant. The Church on Earth, Bishop Finn explained, is “the Church Militant.”
“We are engaged in a constant warfare with Satan, with the glamour of evil, and the lure of false truths and empty promises. If we fail to realize how constantly these forces work against us, we are more likely to fall, and even chance forfeiting God’s gift of eternal life.”
The bishop said it is an “important truth” to know that Jesus Christ “has already won the war definitively and once for all.”
“He has conquered sin and death and has won the prize of life on high in heaven forever. We know the final outcome, but the battle for eternal life is now played out in each human heart.”
Emphasizing that the Church Militant’s battle is “ultimately a spiritual battle,” he said that those who stand up for what is right will be opposed.
“The temptation will be to avoid these attacks. But through our responses we must see what kind of soldiers we are,” Bishop Finn said.
Noting that the true enemy is Satan, he referred to St. Paul’s exhortation to “put on the armor of God, in order that you can stand firm against the tactics of the devil.”
“Human beings are not Satan, but certainly they can come under his power, even without their fully realizing it,” he added. “When we, in our sinfulness, put something in the place of God: pleasure and convenience; material success; political power and prestige, we open a door for the principalities and contrary spirits who war against God.”
Bishop Finn referred to those who want to establish a way of life in contravention of God’s law: those who promote abortion, “unnatural substitutes for marriage,” and “all such distortions of true freedom.”
He reminded his audience of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5: “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”
“We cannot hate these human enemies,” Bishop Finn stated, telling his audience that “we must find a way to love them. But we need not show them any sign of agreement. We pray for them,” Bishop Finn commented. “To ignore their destructive errors, particularly those that cost the lives of others, is to shirk our responsibility to attend to their eternal salvation.”
Those who openly attack belief in Christ or the Church’s right to exist are in some ways not the most dangerous opponents, Bishop Finn said, because “they show themselves and their intentions more forthrightly.”
More dangerous are people from all backgrounds, including Catholics, who “in this age of pluralism and political propriety seek ways to convince us of their sincerity and good will.
“With malice or with ignorance, or perhaps with an intention of advancing some other personal goal, they are willing to undermine and push aside the values and the institutions that stand in their way. They may propose ‘tolerance’ and seem to have a ‘live and let live’ approach to all human choices – even if the choice is not to ‘let live,’ but actually to ‘let die,’ or ‘let life be destroyed.’”
“This dissension in our own ranks should not surprise us because we all experience some dissension against God’s law of love within our own heart,” the bishop told the convention, saying those believers who attack the “most fundamental tenets” of the Church are some of the most “discouraging, confusing and dangerous” opponents.
Turning to the issue of the University of Notre Dame’s invitation of President Barack Obama, he said “It doesn’t take another Bishop’s Conference statement to know this is wrong: scandalous, discouraging and confusing to many Catholics.”
Predicting that Notre Dame President Fr. John I. Jenkins will “probably lose his job” as “a scapegoat for this debacle,” Bishop Finn suggested: “at this point perhaps he ought to determine to lose it for doing something right instead of something wrong.” He said Fr. Jenkins should disinvite the president and give the honorary degree to Bishop John D’Arcy of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
He then spoke about the “battle for human life,” especially on abortion.
“The constant magnitude of this crime against humanity is staggering. We must never get used to it,” Bishop Finn said. “In the United States there are 4,000 abortions every day.”
“If we keep saying this – first of all – some people will get very upset with us. They will want us to stop. They may quote other statistics about the tragedies of poverty and war. We must truly share their horror at these things too. However, in the end the measure of our society is in how we treat the most vulnerable in our midst.”
The bishop said that Catholics are “absolutely” in a war over abortion and said people should not consider this “someone else’s war.”
Turning to human embryo research, he said Missouri had lost “a valiant battle” to outlaw human cloning and human embryonic stem cell research.
“We haven’t given up, but it requires a constant effort. We won many people over through good instruction in the truth.”
Noting the legalization of assisted suicide in Oregon and Washington State, Bishop Finn lamented the “steady decline” in the number of people opposed to assisted suicide.
“Unfortunately, there is reason to believe that people are losing their sense of the moral evil of assisted suicide. But we cannot give up,” he told the convention audience.
Warning that Catholics public officials who support the legal right to abortion “have abandoned their place in the citizenship of the Church,” the bishop said they have become “warriors for death rather than life.”
They endanger their eternal salvation, he warned.
Exhorting Catholics to build an “active culture of life” that is “capable of turning back hell itself,” he said those who are not living in God’s life should avoid the “ultimately supernatural battle.”
“The devil… will turn you inside out,” he cautioned, encouraging people to become “prayer warriors.”
“Prayer defeats the devil. Prayer aligns us with Christ. Pray for the abortionist. Pray for the legislator. Pray for the mother (and father and other family members). Pray for the child in the womb. Pray for yourself and allow God to guide you,” he added.
Washington D.C., Apr 20, 2009 (CNA) - The National Institutes of Health (NIH) on Friday announced its request for public comment on draft guidelines concerning human embryonic stem cell research. One pro-life congressman warned that the proposal could lead to “clone and kill” cell harvesting, and that the research cheapens human life.
According to the NIH, the guidelines are to implement President Barack Obama’s March 9 Executive Order 13505, which lifted restrictions on the federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research.
“These draft Guidelines would allow funding for research using human embryonic stem cells that were derived from embryos created by in vitro fertilization (IVF) for reproductive purposes and were no longer needed for that purpose,” the announcement states. “Funding will continue to be allowed for human stem cell research using adult stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells.”
The guidelines describe the conditions and informed consent procedures required during the production of human embryonic stem cells for research. The stated purpose of the guidelines is to help ensure that NIH-funded research is “ethically responsible, scientifically worthy, and conducted in accordance with applicable law.”
The NIH says that funding will not be provided to researchers who use embryos created for research purposes. The agency adds that somatic cell nuclear transfer (cloning) will not be allowed under the guidelines.
The guidelines will be published for review on April 24, 2009 and will be open for comment for 30 days.
Acting NIH Director Raynard Kington said the NIH thought the draft guidelines would be “a huge boost for science.”
“This was the right policy for the agency at this point in time,” he said, according to the Associated Press.
Kington claimed there was “compelling broad support” in the scientific community and in the general public for the research use of “leftover” human embryos from in-vitro fertilization procedures.
Referring to other methods of securing embryonic stem cells, Kington said “There is not similar broad support for using other sources at this time.”
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) responded to the announcement in a Friday statement, saying human embryo-destroying stem cell research is “not only unethical, unworkable, and unreliable, it is now demonstrably unnecessary.”
He pointed to “a mountain of evidence” on the promise of adult stem cell research, naming a recent Journal of the American Medical Association report on progress in a therapy allowing diabetes patients to move off insulin for a period of time.
“Instead of directing NIH to fund noncontroversial treatments that are truly the common ground in this national debate, President Obama has directed NIH to fund embryo destructive research that is increasingly being treated as old science in light of alternative stem cell breakthroughs,” Rep. Smith charged.
“Obama's misguided emphasis on embryo destructive research will likely detract from the noncontroversial treatments that are already changing lives,” he said.
“Assertions that leftover embryos are better off dead so that their stem cells can be derived are dehumanizing and cheapen human life. There is no such thing as leftover human life. Ask the snowflake children— cryogenically frozen embryos who were adopted—their lives are precious and priceless,” said Smith.
The New Jersey representative also alleged that the proposed guidelines condone conflicts of interest and offer few checks and balances.
The sixth guideline identifies a potential conflict of interest if an in vitro fertilization (IVF) physician is also an embryonic stem cell researcher. In that case, the physician has an incentive to encourage patients to have excess embryos created to benefit his or her own research.
In its draft form, Smith said, the guideline only requires separation between the IVF physician and the researcher if it is “practicable.”
Rep. Smith also warned that even though the NIH guidelines do not allow research on stem cells derived from cloned embryos, “it is clear that they believe they could issue guidelines for such research.”
“This announcement is just one more step in the agenda to desensitize the public to the intentional destruction of human life,” his statement concluded. “The President has made clear he supports clone-and-kill technology. He’s more than half-way there.”