Vatican City, May 8, 2009 (CNA) - During his apostolic trip to the Holy Land, Pope Benedict XVI will offer special prayers for the children of the Gaza Strip during the Mass he will celebrate in Bethlehem on May 13.
The Vatican’s website published the prayers along with the entire order of the Mass on its website in Arabic, Italian, French, English and German (www.vatican.va).
The prayer reads as follows: “For all of the children of the world, in particular for those who suffer from deprivation, infirmities and poverty, that their rights may be recognized and concrete work may be done to guarantee their growth in serenity and joy. We pray for the children of Gaza who have died or have been left orphans and live in misery and fear.”
Vatican City, May 8, 2009 (CNA) - In an article published this morning, Italian Vatican analyst Sandro Magister notes that, while L'Osservatore Romano has praised Barack Obama for his "moderation," two scholars from the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences have harshly criticized the U.S. President for his position on life issues.
In his article titled "Angel or Demon? At the Vatican, Obama is both," Magister explains that the divide between the "olympic calmness" of the Vatican newspaper in evaluating Obama's first 100 days and the "growing number of critics among lay people and bishops" in the U.S., has created a "stupor" in some Vatican dicasteries.
Unlike some U.S. analysts, who claim that there is no sign of animosity toward Obama in the Roman Curia, Magister says that, following the pro-Obama article of L'Osservatore Romano, the plenary meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences has been a venue for sharp criticism against the U.S. President.
The meeting was held at the Vatican May 1 – 5.
Magister recalls that the President of the Pontifical Academy is none other than Professor Mary Ann Glendon, who recovered her position after leaving her post as the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See.
Professor Glendon recently rejected the Laetare Medal from the University of Notre Dame in protest for the university's decision to bestow an honorary degree to President Obama on May 17.
The Vatican expert reveals that French Archbishop Roland Minnerath and Belgian priest and scholar Michel Schooyans coordinated their conferences to deliver a harsh criticism on the "messianic" mentality of both President Obama and Tony Blair.
Before reproducing the second part of Schooyans' conference, Magister notes that Archbishop Minnerath, 62, is "well known" by Pope Benedict XVI, who appointed him special secretary to the Synod of Bishops of 2005.
Schooyans, on his part, is one of the top scholars on international policies related to life issues.
The second part of Schooyans' conference, titled "Obama and Blair Messianism Reinterpreted," in which the Belgian scholar claims that abortion world wide will dramatically grow as a consequence of Obama's anti-life policies, is fully reproduced by Magister at: http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/?eng=y
Washington D.C., May 8, 2009 (CNA) -
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on Wednesday launched a campaign to oppose embryonic stem cell research and support ethical cures, encouraging citizens to contact Congress and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
After President Barack Obama’s March 9 executive order permitted federal funding for further embryonic stem cell research, the NIH proposed guidelines to fund research that will require stem cells harvested from the destruction of living human embryos.
The draft guidelines are open for public comment through May 26.
The USCCB campaign, titled "Oppose Destructive Stem Cell Research," is facilitated by USCCB partner organization, the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment.
According to a USCCB press release, the web site explains why the proposed guidelines are unacceptable, provides links to USCCB resources, and encourages web users to contact Congress and the NIH. Several resources are available in both English and Spanish.
The site says the NIH guidelines would, for the first time, "use taxpayer funds to encourage the killing of embryonic human beings for their stem cells."
"Embryonic stem cell research treats innocent human beings as mere sources of body parts, as commodities for our use," the USCCB site continues.
Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, is featured in a video at the site in which he critiques the NIH draft guidelines.
"The Catholic bishops of the United States will be writing to Congress and the Administration about the need to restore and maintain barriers against the mistreatment of human life in the name of science, and we urge other concerned citizens to do the same," he said.
A press release from the USCCB explains that Catholics and others are urged to contact both NIH and Congress because members of Congress and the Administration have expressed interest in pursuing an "even broader policy." They reportedly want to obtain stem cells by destroying human embryos specially conceived for research through in-vitro fertilization or cloning procedures.
The campaign characterizes this as a "create to kill" policy.
To visit the campaign web site, see http://www.usccb.org/stemcellcampaign
CNA STAFF, May 8, 2009 (CNA) - In conjunction with Pope Benedict XVI’s historic trip to the Holy Land, Catholic News Agency has launched a special web site to provide complete coverage of this significant event for the Church and world: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/holyland09/
The special coverage will allow readers to follow the Pope’s every step as he visits holy sites in Amman (Jordan), Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth (Israel).
CNA will provide breaking news, photos, videos of the Holy Father’s various activities, and a "virtual pilgrimage" for those who want to journey with the Pope.
CNA has also set up a special page where users can sign up to receive updates on the papal visit on their cell phones or mobile devices. Click here for more information: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/holyland09/smsalerts.php
Amman, Jordan, May 8, 2009 (CNA) -
Shepherd One touched down at Queen Alia airport on Friday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. as Pope Benedict XVI began his visit to the Holy Land. The Holy Father emphasized that he is coming as a pilgrim and that a downward spiral into violence is not the inevitable outcome for the region.
King Abdullah II and his wife Queen Rania met Pope Benedict on the tarmac, accompanied by a smartly dressed honor guard and a military band.
After receiving the pontiff, the king delivered a speech that surveyed the history of peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims in Jordan, and welcomed the Pope's commitment to “dispel the misconceptions and divisions that have harmed relations between Christians and Muslims.”
The king also touched on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying, “Our shared values can make an important contribution in the Holy Land … where, together we must help lift the shadow of conflict, through a negotiated settlement, that fulfills the rights of Palestinians to freedom and statehood, and the right of Israelis to security.”
Pope Benedict then took the podium and spoke of his desire to “come to Jordan as a pilgrim, to venerate holy places that have played such an important part in some of the key events of Biblical history.”
The Holy Father offered his gratitude that Catholics can worship freely in Jordan because the country protects religious freedom.
“Religious freedom is, of course, a fundamental human right, and it is my fervent hope and prayer that respect for the inalienable rights and dignity of every man and woman will come to be increasingly affirmed and defended, not only throughout the Middle East, but in every part of the world,” he said.
The Pope also pointed out that his trip to Jordan gives him the “welcome opportunity to speak of my deep respect for the Muslim community.”
Referring to the “Amman Message,” a 2004 letter published by the king to defend the virtues of Islam, as well as the “Amman Interfaith Message,” Pope Benedict said “these worthy initiatives have achieved much good in furthering an alliance of civilizations between the West and the Muslim world, confounding the predictions of those who consider violence and conflict inevitable.”
Benedict XVI concluded his speech by saying that he hopes "very much that this visit, and indeed all the initiatives designed to foster good relations between Christians and Muslims, will help us to grow in love for the Almighty and Merciful God, and in fraternal love for one another.”
Speaking before the Pope's arrival, Bishop Selim Sayegh, the Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan, told CNA that Jordan provides “a lesson for the whole Arab world,” since here, “Christians and Muslims have lived together peacefully for seven centuries.”
Ahead of the Pope's arrival, some Muslims spoke poorly of Benedict XVI's visit, but Bishop Sayegh explained that he believes that “deep inside they have respect for the visit.”
As he prepared to depart for the Our Lady of Peace Center for disabled children in Amman, Pope Benedict wished the king and queen a long life, and said, “May God bless Jordan!”
For the full text of the Pope's address, visit: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/holyland09/resource.php?res_id=1133
CNA STAFF, May 8, 2009 (CNA) - Catholic News Agency is now on Twitter.com, the popular micro-blogging site that brings together millions of people from around the world.
Twitter.com is a social network that allows users to send small text messages (also called “tweets”) that are no longer than 140 characters.
CNA’s channel on Twitter.com can be accessed here: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/twitter.php
There you can follow the daily journey of the Holy Father as well as the latest news of the day.
Users can “follow us” at Twitter.com and webmasters can use free widgets by inserting them into their sites to offer visitors the latest news about the Pope and other issues affecting Catholics. Both are continuously updated. It is not necessary to have an account with Twitter to use these features. Click here to obtain the code: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/twitter.php
Vatican City, May 8, 2009 (CNA) - Benedict XVI has sent a message to Archbishop Ioan Robu of Bucharest, Romania, for the celebrations taking place to mark the tenth anniversary of John Paul II’s visit to the country in May 1999. He encouraged him to draw on the teachings of the late Pontiff in order to face "the great challenges of our time."
The Pope praised the Church in Romania, the Romanian Orthodox Church and the State for bringing together "the Catholic and Orthodox faithful of that country which, for its geographical location and its long history, for its culture and its traditions, has a unique ecumenical vocation inscribed in its very roots."
He also expressed the hope "that believers in Christ will not only treasure the memory of those unforgettable days, but that, drawing from the teaching of my venerated predecessor John Paul II, they will commit themselves to seeking courageous ways to face together the great challenges of our time."
"I am thinking particularly of the defense of human life at every stage, protection of the family, respect for creation and promotion of the common good," he continued. Furthermore, making the wishes of the beloved John Paul II my own, I invite people to pray that, as soon as possible, we may achieve the full fraternal communion of all Christians, both of the West and the East."
Amman, Jordan, May 8, 2009 (CNA) -
Earlier today Pope Benedict stopped at a rehabilitation center for people with disabilities in Jordan's capital of Amman, where he acknowledged the trials of the young people and encouraged them to draw “strength from God.”
The Pope was greeted by His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Patriarch of Jerusalem of the Latins. He also met the Comboni Sisters and lay staff who help rehabilitate the disabled youths at the Regina Pacis (Queen of Peace) Center.
Pope Benedict began his remarks by recalling that he is like "countless pilgrims before me." It is now "my turn to satisfy that profound wish to touch, to draw solace from and to venerate the places where Jesus lived, the places which were made holy by His presence," he said.
He told the crowd that “every one of us is a pilgrim" and that we are all “drawn forward” on “God’s path.”
Benedict then acknowledged the difficult situations that many of the people had been through to bring them to the rehabilitation center.
“I know that the journeys that have led many of you to the 'Regina Pacis' Center have been marked by suffering or trial. Some of you struggle courageously with disabilities, others of you have endured rejection. ... Of particular importance, I know, is the center's great success in promoting the rightful place of the disabled in society.”
The Pope observed that it is difficult to understand “an obstacle” that seems to only bring pain, but “faith and understanding help us to see a horizon beyond our own selves” to be able to see as God sees.
"Unlike the pilgrims of old, I do not come bearing gifts or offerings. I come simply with an intention, a hope: to pray for the precious gift of unity and peace, most specifically for the Middle East. Peace for individuals ... for communities, peace for Jerusalem, for the Holy Land, for the region, peace for the entire human family; the lasting peace born of justice, integrity and compassion, the peace that arises from humility, forgiveness and the profound desire to live in harmony as one,” he said.
"Prayer is hope in action," Benedict XVI noted, for through prayer we can experience “love contact with the one God, the universal Creator” that allows us to overcome our “divisions and prejudices” as our hearts are “converted to God’s truth.”
The youth gathered at the Regina Pacis Center also received a special address from the Pope. He said that their experiences with “trials” and “witness to compassion” have encouraged him to believe that “suffering can bring about change for the good” and that “standing alongside others in their struggles” allows us to “glimpse the essence of humanity.”
He concluded his thoughts by asking everyone “to pray every day for our world,” for his pilgrimage and for “spiritual renewal in the Lord.”
Later today Pope Benedict is set to travel to the Al-Husseiniyeh Palace, where he will visit the Jordanian monarchs King Abdullah II and Queen Rania.
For the full text of the Pope's speech, visit: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/holyland09/resource.php?res_id=1134
Rome, Italy, May 8, 2009 (CNA) - The Apostolic Nuncio to Israel, Archbishop Antonio Franco, said this week, "My hope is that Benedict XVI’s visit" to the Holy Land will "give a decisive boost to peaceful coexistence in justice."
In an interview with the L’Osservatore Romano, the archbishop said, "We hope the presence of Benedict XVI will ignite the flame of hope. I would like to be optimistic but we have to above all be realistic. The solution to the Palestinian problem appears far off. Many knots still need to be untied and there needs to be a greater effort on the part of everyone."
"Above all there needs to truly be a desire for peace and an active effort to create conditions favorable to it," he said.
"The local Church is excited to welcome to the Pope as Father and Pastor," he continued, referring next to the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip. "Ever since the Angelus of December 28, just after the first attacks on Gaza, he made an unequivocal call to a cease fire. In response to the escalation in military operations, the Holy See called on the Israelis to end the vicious circle of confrontations and to seek negotiated solutions. There as a clear condemnation of the violence on both sides," he said.
Commenting on the positive atmosphere about the Pope’s visit among Muslims, the Nuncio noted that there is great "interest in the Pope’s visit on the part of the Palestinian Authority and the people who struggle to see their rights recognized." In addition, he added, "the Palestinians know that as time has passed there has been a growing effort by the Holy See. For this reason they see the Pope as a person who knows their reality and defends their rights," he said.
"The same can be said about the Jewish world," the Nuncio continued, "because the Holy See proclaims and clearly upholds the rights of Israel as well. So the invitation is to reconcile and to harmonize rights in reciprocal respect for each other," he stated.
Referring later to the Christian community in the Holy Land, the archbishop explained that the Holy See "is intensely working to establish a legal basis for the presence and action of the Church (in Israel), which up to now has not received any legislative recognition."
"There are two agreements: the fundamental agreement of December 30, 1993—which opened the doors to diplomatic relations—and that of 1997, which legal recognized the Church and her institutions, but none of them has been made into law by the Knesset," he added.
Madison, Wis., May 8, 2009 (CNA) - In response the backlash that occurred following the termination of a Madison catechist due to her "serious dissent" from Church teachings, the diocese has produced a "Q & A" document to clarify any confusion or rumors which have surfaced following the incident.
Ruth Kolpack, a 35-year employee of the Diocese of Madison, was fired in March by Madison Bishop Robert Morlino for failure to "present the complete and authentic teaching of the Church." The bishop’s office also noted that Kolpack is in "serious dissent on fundamental doctrinal issues" and should not be in a role where she is entrusted with teaching the Catholic faith to others.
Some groups such as Call to Action and Voice of the Faithful have organized support for Kolpack saying that she was fired due to a graduate thesis that she wrote calling for "women’s ordination." They also claim that Bishop Morlino has plans to shut down St. Thomas Parish. Both of these allegations were strongly denied by the diocese in their document.
Before Kolpack was fired, the bishop offered her the opportunity to "assure him that she would faithfully carry out her role as a catechist of the Roman Catholic faith."
Kolpack said that she could not "in good conscience" comply.
In the Q & A, the Madison bishop acknowledged that Kolpack has done "many wonderful things" during her tenure, but her inability to meet the "fundamental requirement" of accurately teaching the faith made her ineligible to continue as a teacher of catechesis.
"In Ms. Kolpack’s case, there is well-warranted and serious concern. She was given the benefit of the doubt for a number of years and alternate resolutions were sought, prior to the meeting at which she was let go," the Q&A said.
Kolpack has since acknowledged that she supports women’s ordination and "gay marriage." Two groups she is reportedly affiliated with, Call to Action and Voice of the Faithful, both of which claim to be Catholic, but dissent from the Church on several issues, have voiced public support for Kolpack.
The diocese said these "serious concerns" addressed by Morlino "should not have been news to Ms. Kolpack" and that she was given "an opportunity to establish the bishop’s trust to teach in his name, in his parish."
The diocese said that they were not aware of Kolpack’s association with these groups until "hours after her termination," and that her association "was not a part of the discussion" to fire her.
It was stressed, however, that associations with "anti-Catholic groups" such as Call to Action, Catholics for a Free Choice, Women’s Ordination Conference, FutureChurch, CORPUS, DignityUSA, and others which profess "serious departures and denials of the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church" could "certainly be grounds for removal" for a person who is responsible for teaching catechesis and "passing on the Church’s teaching."
Both Voice of the Faithful and Call to Action have criticized Bishop Morlino in the past for his tough stance against dissenters in the Church. In an advertisement in October of 2008, the groups spent $3,500 to criticize the bishop in the Wisconsin State Journal for "poor morale" among priests and the firing of the director of Liturgy at a parish for his openly gay lifestyle.
The local media has reported that Kolpack is "willing to make a profession of faith," and take the "oath of fidelity," yet the diocese said the media has also reported that she "supports so-called ‘gay marriage’ and ‘woman’s ordination’" which contradict the "sincerity" of these professions that she would be required to take to be in line with the Church’s teaching.
Washington D.C., May 8, 2009 (CNA) -
Archbishop Raymond Burke, delivering an address to the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. on Friday, said President Barack Obama’s pro-abortion policies have damaged the family and charged that Notre Dame’s invitation to the president was the source of "the greatest scandal."
"With unparalleled arrogance, our nation is choosing to renounce its foundation on the faithful," he said, according to Fox News.
He said several decisions of the Obama administration have damaged "the fundamental society that is the family," Fox News reports. Among other actions, the archbishop cited the President’s repeal of the Mexico City Policy, which permits funding for organizations that promote or perform abortions overseas; the proposed repeal of conscience protections for pro-life medical workers; and support of the United Nations Population Fund, which supports China’s one-child policy.
Archbishop Burke also objected to President Obama’s professed support for the Freedom of Choice Act, which would further enshrine permissive abortion policy into U.S. law.
It is "the source of the greatest scandal" for the University of Notre Dame to grant an honorary degree to President Obama, who Archbishop Burke said is "so aggressively advancing an anti-life and anti-family agenda."
"The path of violation of the most fundamental human rights and of the integrity of marriage and the family which our nation is traveling is not accidental," he remarked. "As Catholics, we cannot fail to notice with the greatest sadness the number of our fellow Catholics who cooperate fully to the advancement of a national agenda which is anti-life and anti-family."
He told the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast audience that a majority of Catholics feely chose a political leadership that is implementing decisions in conflict with the faith. He added that he is grieved to say that elected Catholics’ support for "anti-life legislation" is "so common that those who are not Catholics have justifiably questioned whether the church's teachings regarding the inviolable dignity of innocent human life is firm and unchanging."
Archbishop Burke said that Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ appointment to become Secretary of Health and Human Services is "the source of the deepest embarrassment to Catholics and a painful reminder of the most serious responsibility of Catholics to uphold the moral law," which he called the "irreplaceable foundation" of just relationships between citizens.
According to Fox News, the archbishop said loose morals have led to legislation that would recognize same-sex "marriages" and repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.
"At the root of the confusion and error about marriage is the contraceptive mentality which would have us believe that the inherently procreative nature of the conjugal union can in practice be mechanically or chemically eliminated while the marital act remains unitive," he explained. "It simply cannot be sold."
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia also spoke at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast.