Vatican City, May 4, 2009 (CNA) - Celebrating the fourth anniversary of Benedict XVI’s pontificate, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano offered a concert for him last Thursday. The evening included music from the Giuseppe Verdi Orchestra and the Choir of Milan, conducted, respectively, by Xian Zhang and Erina Gambarini.
The concert program included Franz Joseph Haydn's 95th Symphony, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's 35th Symphony, Antonio Vivaldi's Magnificat and the famous "Ave Verum Corpus," also by Mozart.
In his remarks following the performance, Benedict XVI noted how in the final composition, "meditation gives way to contemplation: the eye of the soul rests upon the Blessed Sacrament and recognizes therein the 'Corpus Domini,' the Body which was truly sacrificed upon the cross and from which came forth universal salvation.”
"Mozart," he added, "composed this piece shortly before his death, and in it we can say that music truly becomes prayer, an abandonment of the heart to God with a profound sense of peace."
The Holy Father then thanked President Napolitano for this "generous homage" which, he said, "managed to gratify not only our aesthetic sense, but at the same time to nourish our spirit, and I am, therefore, doubly grateful."
"Remember me in your prayers," he concluded, "that I may always carry out my ministry as the Lord wishes."
Vatican City, May 4, 2009 (CNA) - Members of the Papal Foundation met with Pope Benedict on Saturday and heard him speak about his trip to the Holy Land later this week. He told the foundation that he will go as "a pilgrim of peace" to a land that has been marred by violence and injustice for 60 years.
Pope Benedict began the audience by greeting Cardinal William Keeler, the other cardinals and bishops present and the lay members of the foundation with St. Paul’s words-- "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."
Taking stock of the current state of the world, the Holy Father noted how "today's world is truly in need of His peace, especially as it faces the tragedies of war, division, poverty and despair."
As he prepares to embark on his journey to the Holy Land on May 8, Benedict XVI told the group, "I go as a pilgrim of peace."
"As you are well aware," he said, "for more than sixty years, this region - the land of our Lord's birth, death and Resurrection; a sacred place for the world's three great monotheistic religions - has been plagued by violence and injustice. This has led to a general atmosphere of mistrust, uncertainty and fear - often pitting neighbor against neighbor, brother against brother. "
"As I prepare for this significant journey," he added, "I ask in a special way that you join me in prayer for all the peoples of the Holy Land and the region. May they receive the gifts of reconciliation, hope and peace."
Every year since its founding in 1990, members of the Papal Foundation have traveled to Rome to give the Pope a donation for his charitable activities. This year, Pope Benedict noted that their meeting is taking place "during a time when the entire world is struggling with a very worrying economic situation."
"At moments such as these it is tempting to overlook those without a voice and think only of our own difficulties. As Christians we are aware, however, that especially when times are difficult we must work even harder to ensure that the consoling message of our Lord is heard," the Holy Father said.
"Rather than turning in on ourselves, we must continue to be beacons of hope, strength and support for others, most especially those who have no one to watch over or assist them," he exhorted.
The Pope thanked the foundation’s members for their "sacrifice and dedication" and expressed his gratitude. Their generosity, he said, enables "the Easter message of joy, hope, reconciliation and peace is more widely proclaimed."
Vatican City, May 4, 2009 (CNA) - On the fourth Sunday of Easter, Pope Benedict celebrated Mass at the Vatican Basilica and conferred priestly ordination on 19 deacons for the Diocese of Rome. In his homily, the Holy Father cautioned of a “worldly” mentality and emphasized the importance of prayer and imitating Christ.
Speaking to the congregation yesterday, on a day known as “Good Shepherd Sunday, Benedict XVI explained how Jesus’ disciples experienced the same “joy as Jesus” in knowing God the Father, but they also shared in Christ’s pain in seeing that the love of God is not returned by the world.
Quoting from the First Letter of John - "the reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him" - the Holy Father said that the world does not understand Christians partly because “it does not, in fact, know God, and partly because it does not want to know him.”
The mentality of the “world,” he warned, can also infect the Church, her members and even her ordained ministers. This way of thinking “actually does contaminate the Church, and hence requires constant vigilance and purification,” the Pope said.
Benedict XVI also stressed that Jesus gave his life for everyone, but in a special way for priests—“those whom the Father gave to Him to be consecrated in the truth.” In other words, those who “could speak and act in His name, represent Him, extend His salvific actions by breaking the bread of life and remitting sins," the Pope explained.
As priests, said the Holy Father, "we are called to 'abide' in Christ - as St. John the Evangelist liked to say - and this is achieved especially through prayer. Our ministry is completely dependent on such 'abiding,' which is the same as prayer and from which it draws its effectiveness."
Among a priest's various forms of prayer Benedict XVI mentioned "first and foremost daily Mass. The celebration of the Eucharist is the greatest and most exalted form of prayer and is the center and source from which the other forms receive their 'lifeblood," he said. He also listed "the Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharistic adoration, 'lectio divina,' the Holy Rosary and meditation."
"A priest who prays much and prays well becomes ever more united to Christ, the Good Shepherd and Servant of His brothers and sisters," said the Pope, wrapping up his homily.
Vatican City, May 4, 2009 (CNA) - Days before Pope Benedict’s trip to the Holy Land, the Vatican’s Bilateral Permanent Working Commission and the State of Israel held a plenary meeting at the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs to discuss Church taxation as well as the restoration of Christian sites in the Holy Land.
According to a statement from the Holy See Press Office, the April 30 meeting discussed negotiations “to Article 10 paragraph 2 of the Fundamental Agreement between the Holy See and the State of Israel.” The agreement between the Holy See and Israel focuses on the mutual recognition of the two entities, the need for protection of Christians and their holy sites in the Holy Land and economic matters.
"The plenary meeting of the commission took place in an atmosphere of great friendship and a spirit of co-operation and good will,” the Vatican said, noting that “significant progress” was made.
The next plenary meeting will be held December 10 at the Vatican. Until then, said the statement, the commission “will hold meetings in furtherance of both delegations' pledge to accelerate the talks and conclude the agreement at the earliest opportunity."
Rome, Italy, May 4, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI used a vehicle that was specially commissioned by Fiat for his visit to the region of Abruzzo on April 28, where he comforted victims of the earthquake that struck the region on April 6.
The Fiat “Ducato” was manufactured in Italy and sent to the Vatican for the Pope’s transportation to the region. The Holy Father used the car to visit a camp in the town of Onna, the basilica of Collemaggio, and what remained of a student dormitory and a police academy in Coppito.
The Ducato was white, with a leather interior. It could hold seven passengers and was equipped with the latest in security and safety technology.
Irondale, Ala., May 4, 2009 (CNA) - Those wanting to follow Pope Benedict XVI’s historic trip to the Holy Land will be able to tune in to EWTN’s television, radio or internet broadcasts and walk with the Pope in the footsteps of Jesus.
EWTN will follow the Holy Father across the region as he visits such sites as Bethany Beyond the Jordan, where Jesus Christ was baptized; the Grotto of the Annunciation, where Mary learned she would carry the Messiah; the Caritas Baby Hospital, the only pediatric hospital in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip that cares for poor children; and the Aida Refugee Camp near Bethlehem, where the Holy Father will deliver an address.
Coverage will also include Pope Benedict’s meetings with numerous other heads of state and religious leaders.
EWTN News Director Raymond Arroyo will anchor the English coverage, and Spanish coverage will be anchored by Alejandro Bermúdez, the director of CNA and ACI Prensa.
Father Daniel Cardó, an expert on the life and papacy of Pope Benedict, will also provide commentary for the Spanish-speaking viewers.
For a complete television itinerary, including air times, go to http://www.ewtn.com/tv/index2.htm.
The event will be carried worldwide in English and Spanish on the EWTN television network, which is carried by EWTN’s cable affiliates, DirecTV, Dish Network, and AT&T U-verse.
Radio coverage will also be provided through Sirius Satellite Radio and EWTN’s AM & FM radio affiliates. Visit http://www.ewtn.com/radio/index.asp to see a schedule.
The papal visit will also be viewable on EWTN’s website.
La Paz, Bolivia, May 4, 2009 (CNA) - A new parish being built in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz was attacked for the second time last week by a group of activist residents. The activists are said to be linked to the Socialism Movement of President Evo Morales and to Igualitaria University, which is seeking to use the same terrain to expand its campus.
The president of the Union of Neighborhood Boards in the district, Jesus Alvarez, said residents are keeping watch over the area “day and night” to prevent the construction from being delayed, as local residents are anxious to see the parish completed.
Jose Luis Solis, who is managing the construction, said the work would continue despite the attacks, “since we have the support of the real neighbors.”
Edwin Grimaldos, general coordinator of the Igualitaria University, denied any connection to the attacks. “We have three areas where we can put our building,” he said.
Madrid, Spain, May 4, 2009 (CNA) - Right to Life in Spain announced on May 1 that it is launching a “Tour for Life,” consisting of three buses that will travel through 51 Spanish cities between May 1 and June 15, 2009. The buses will feature information on abortion and alert people to the government’s plan to liberalize the country’s law on the issue.
The three buses left Madrid’s Compultense University on May 1 after a commissioning ceremony.
“The Right to Life buses will travel three separate routes through Spain. They will remain in each city for two to three days, informing residents about abortion and the plan to modify the law, distributing pamphlets and products from the Right to Life campaign,” organizers said.
Denver, Colo., May 4, 2009 (CNA) - A new play called the VITAE Monologues aims to portray the traumatic effects of abortion in “real-life” stories about women and men.
The two-person drama depicts “powerful stories of hope and healing and the triumphant beauty of human life within our broken and wounded culture,” according to its creators. It also aims at engaging audiences in “a powerful, non-political” way to help them think about the controversial subject of abortion from a new perspective.
The VITAE Monologues debuted at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota in early March.
“I walked out of the auditorium feeling like I'd been turned inside out. I was wiping away tears,” said one audience member. “This is a powerful play, but the word 'Play' doesn't fit. This is drama. These are real stories from real people.”
The play was created by Epiphany Studios Productions, a Catholic traveling theater company. The VITAE Monologues' original music score was written by composer and musician Nicholas Lemme and it stars Jeremy Stanbary and Sarah Preissner.
Stanbary founded Epiphany Studios in 2003 and has performed at World Youth Day in Australia and Germany.
He claims the lives of the saints as well as Pope John Paul II’s “dramatic and artistic vision” as inspirations for his work.
Promoters billed the play as an alternative to the sexually explicit “Vagina Monologues” which in 2003 was performed on 32 Catholic college campuses but in 2009 will be performed on only 15 campuses.
More information about the VITAE Monologues is available at http://www.epiphanystudio.com/home.
South Bend, Ind., May 4, 2009 (CNA) - Norma McCorvey, the woman who was the “Jane Roe” in the U.S. legal decision “Roe v. Wade,” has said Notre Dame's choice of President Barack Obama to be the commencement speaker gives its graduates a poor example. She also expressed surprise more parents have not pulled out of commencement.
Speaking to Damien Thompson, the Britain-based editor of the Catholic Herald and writer for the Daily Telegraph, McCorvey said “Obama is not the ideal person to speak to a young bunch of kids that are going out into the world for the first time.”
“These people will have to remember that it was him who spoke at their graduation for the rest of their natural lives. We have many in the pro-life movement that are better qualified to do this,” she continued.
"I am really surprised more parents haven't pulled their kids out. I have heard that many of them will not show up this reason."
In the 1980s, McCorvey revealed herself as the “Jane Roe” of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that imposed permissive abortion laws across the United States. She converted to Christianity in the 1990s and became a Catholic in 1998.
According to Thompson, she now campaign for civil rights “for everybody, including the unborn.”
In other commencement-related news, ND Response, a coalition of Notre Dame student groups opposed to Obama being the commencement speaker, has announced it will hold a “prayerful and constructive demonstration” on the South Quad of the University of Notre Dame between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. on the day of the commencement.
The students invited others to join them to “respectfully give witness to Notre Dame’s Catholic identity and pro-life principles.”