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Archive of May 12, 2009

Christopher West’s ideas on sexuality ignore ‘tremendous dangers,’ Alice von Hildebrand says

Denver, Colo., May 12, 2009 (CNA) - Renowned Catholic thinker Dr. Alice von Hildebrand has criticized Theology of the Body speaker Christopher West, saying his approach has become too self-assured. She criticized his presentations as irreverent and insensitive to the “tremendous dangers” of concupiscence.

Also cautious of West’s remarks on his recent interview with ABC television were Mary Shivanandan and Fr. José Granados, both Catholic authors and theologians.

The news segment showed him calling for Catholics to complete “what the sexual revolution began.” He also described “very profound” historical connections between Hugh Hefner and Pope John Paul II.

West spoke to CNA on Friday, claiming the report somewhat sensationalized his views. He also denied several characterizations conveyed by the news story, explaining that he believed Hefner to be right in rejecting “the disease of Puritanism” but radically wrong in beginning the “pornographic revolution.”

He had told ABC that Hefner had a "yearning," an "ache" and a "longing" for love, union and intimacy.

 In a Monday interview CNA spoke about West with Dr. Alice von Hildebrand, a Catholic philosopher and theologian who is professor emerita of Hunter College of the City University of New York.

Dr. von Hildebrand said she knew the “gist” of Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and believed it was “very indebted” to her husband Dietrich von Hildebrand’s 1927 book “In Defense of Purity.” She said there is obviously an “abysmal difference” between the views shared by her husband and John Paul II and those presented by Christopher West.

Reporting that she had seen CNA’s follow-up interview with West, Dr. Von Hildebrand was very critical of the speaker.

“My feeling is that Christopher West has become famous because he started discussing the Theology of the Body, which is extremely appealing topic. The difficulty is that, in the meantime, he became so famous that I do believe he has become much too self-assured and has lost sight of the extreme sensitivity of the topic.”

This is “very troubling” because what she calls the “intimate sphere” is something “very mysterious, very profound, something that has a direct relationship with God.”

“My feeling is that his vocabulary and his way of approaching it totally lacks reverence.”

“Reverence is the key to purity,” she told CNA.”  The intimate sphere “is not a topic of public discussion” but is “extremely serious.”

“It seems to me that his presentation, his vocabulary, the vulgarity of things that he uses are things that simply indicate that even though he might have good intentions he has derailed and is doing a lot of harm.”

She said people should not forget that we have been “profoundly affected” by original sin.

“In paradise there was perfect harmony between Adam and Eve. There was no concupiscence.”

“After original sin, not only were we separated from God and condemned to losing eternity. On top of it, every single human faculty was affected. Our intelligence was darkened. Our will was weakened. And all of a sudden, we had the dreadful experience of something called concupiscence.

Before the Fall, there was no inner temptation to impurity between Adam and Eve even though they were naked, she explained. After they sinned, the two started to look at one another with concupiscence.

The Fall had consequences that are “so serious” that it was only the Redemption and the grace of God could remedy.

The fight against concupiscence is “not an easy process,” Dr. von Hildebrand continued. “It is something that calls for holiness, which very few of us achieve. It is a sheer illusion to believe that by some sort of new technique we can find the solution to the problem.”

While one can lead a holy life in marriage, she said to become a saint is “a long and difficult process that calls for a spirit of penance, a readiness to sacrifice.”

“The tragedy of original sin is that all the beautiful male qualities of strength, courage, objectivity, nobility, a chivalrous attitude towards women, degenerated. The danger created by original sin is that many men use their strength and become brutal and abuse women or look at women as mere objects of pleasure.

“Eve was also profoundly affected by original sin,” she added.

“To my mind the conflict between man and woman can only be healed by striving for holiness,” she said. “There are many things Christopher West does not mention.”

Additionally, she charged that West does not mention the Old Testament figures who fell to sexual sin: David, King of Israel, who was blessed in “an extraordinary way” but ordered the murder of the husband of a woman with whom David committed adultery.

 “Adulteries lead to murder. It is one of the most abominable stories you can imagine,” she said, explaining the Prophet Nathan’s rebuke of David led to the composition of Psalm 50.

She said it was upsetting to her as a youth to learn that a young man who prayed for “the straight and honest heart so that I may serve my people” went on to have 750 concubines.

“How can you be so good when you’re twenty, and lead such an abominable life when you’re seventy?” she asked. “As far as I can tell, this is something that Christopher West forgets, in this sphere which is extremely dangerous.”

She reported that a priest friend of hers had told her 90 percent of the sins that men accuse themselves of involve the Sixth Commandment against adultery.

Christopher West’s approach makes him forget that sex is “an extreme danger.” Though sex can be sanctified, that sanctification implies “a humility, a spirit of reverence, and totally avoiding the vulgarity that he uses in his language.”

“I’m shocked and horrified by the words that he uses. His mere mention of Hugh Hefner is to my mind an abomination.”

Mary Shivanandan, a theologian who authored the book “Crossing the Threshold of Love: A New Vision of Marriage in the Light of John Paul II’s Anthropology,” was also critical of West’s remarks.

“The sublime teaching of John Paul II’s theology of sexuality is not well served by West’s comparison to Hugh Hefner and his playboy bunnies,” she told CNA in a Monday e-mail. “The late pope had a profound reverence for God’s plan for human love, which such a comparison, no matter how well intentioned, can only diminish and degrade.”

Also providing comment for CNA was Fr. José Granados, a theologian who co-authored with Supreme Knight of Columbus Carl Andersen a book on John Paul II’s Theology of the Body titled “Called to Love.”

Fr. Granados said West’s suggestion that John Paul II took the sexual revolution a step further was “highly inadequate and open to serious misunderstanding.” He explained that Puritanism shares with pornography a negative vision of the body, viewing it without reference to the dignity of the person and to God’s plan for man.

“It is deprived of its symbolism and its language,” he said. While Puritanism attempts to silence the body and its urges, the sexual revolution exalts them “as an absolute.”

“Pornography is in no sense an attempt to recover the beauty of the body and sexuality, but a sign of despair regarding this beauty and the possibility of finding meaning in human love,” he said.

John Paul II’s Theology of the Body recovers “the meaning of the body” with reference to love and to man and God, Fr. Granados told CNA.

“The Pope’s proposal is not just about sexuality, but about the truth of love as the foundation of the person’s dignity and the meaning of reality; and about the family as the place where the person finds himself and his way towards happiness.

“Moreover, one of the results of the sexual revolution is precisely the pansexualism that surrounds our society. We cannot respond with a different kind of pansexualism, with a sort of ‘Catholic sexual revolution,’ which in the end promotes a similar obsession with sex, even if ‘holy’.”

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Pope calls attention to fate of 'human family' at Dome of the Rock

Jerusalem, Israel, May 12, 2009 (CNA) - The Dome of the Rock, a sacred site for Muslims, Christians and Jews, was visited by Pope Benedict on Tuesday morning. During his visit the Pope emphasized that everyone must realize that they are “fundamentally interrelated,” and therefore must use reason and freedom to promote the love of God and neighbor.

Pope Benedict was welcomed to the Dome of the Rock, the place where tradition holds that Abraham planned to sacrifice his son Isaac, by the Grand Mufti, Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, together with the Director of the Jerusalem Islamic Foundations, Sheikh Mohammed Azzam al-Khatib al-Tamimi, and the Head of the Awquaf Council, Sheikh Abdel Azim Salhab.

As he was led through the monument, the Pope walked without his shoes out of respect for Muslim custom. In a press conference following the visit, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said that the Holy Father was unable to see the rock that Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son on because of ongoing construction.

The Holy Father began his speech by recalling that the Dome of the Rock “draws our hearts and minds to reflect upon the mystery of creation and the faith of Abraham. Here the paths of the world’s three great monotheistic religions meet, reminding us what they share in common. Each believes in One God, creator and ruler of all. Each recognizes Abraham as a forefather, a man of faith upon whom God bestowed a special blessing.”

And yet, our world is “sadly torn by divisions,” the Pope observed. This “sacred place serves as a stimulus, and also challenges men and women of goodwill to work to overcome misunderstandings and conflicts of the past and to set out on the path of a sincere dialogue aimed at building a world of justice and peace for coming generations.”

Because these type of discussions concern “all that is most sacred and dear to us,” Pope Benedict warned that “there may be a temptation to engage in such dialogue with reluctance or ambivalence about its possibilities for success.”

But since the “One God is the infinite source of justice and mercy” we can move ahead with trust, the Pope assured. When Catholics, Muslims and Jews begin with this basis, their faithfulness to the Creator leads them to realize that they are “fundamentally interrelated” and must work to mend divisions and promote human solidarity.

“This places a grave responsibility upon us,” the Pope stated.

“Those who honor the One God believe that he will hold human beings accountable for their actions. Christians assert that the divine gifts of reason and freedom stand at the basis of this accountability. Reason opens the mind to grasp the shared nature and common destiny of the human family, while freedom moves the heart to accept the other and serve him in charity. Undivided love for the One God and charity towards ones neighbor thus become the fulcrum around which all else turns. This is why we work untiringly to safeguard human hearts from hatred, anger or vengeance.”

“Dear friends,” the Holy Father said, “I have come to Jerusalem on a journey of faith. I thank God for this occasion to meet you as the Bishop of Rome and Successor of the Apostle Peter, but also as a child of Abraham, by whom 'all the families of the earth find blessing.' I assure you of the Church’s ardent desire to cooperate for the well-being of the human family,” Pope Benedict said.

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Pope brings hopes and sufferings to Western Wall

Jerusalem, Israel, May 12, 2009 (CNA) - Just a few minutes after 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Pope Benedict XVI paid a visit to the Western Wall, known as the “Wailing Wall,” and placed a prayer in the wall asking for peace in the Holy Land and the Middle East.

The Holy Father was welcomed to the Western Wall—the only remaining retaining wall of the Second Temple—by the Chief Rabbi and several other rabbis.

After remarks by the Israeli Minister of Tourism, Stas Misezhnikov, and the Rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinovitch, the Pope read Psalm 120 in Latin and then placed a prayer in the Western Wall.

The full prayer reads:

God of all the ages,

on my visit to Jerusalem, the "City of Peace",

spiritual home to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike,

I bring before you the joys, the hopes and the aspirations,

the trials, the suffering and the pain of all your people throughout the world.

God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,

hear the cry of the afflicted, the fearful, the bereft;

send your peace upon this Holy Land, upon the Middle East,

upon the entire human family;

stir the hearts of all who call upon your name,

to walk humbly in the path of justice and compassion.

"The Lord is good to those who wait for him,

to the soul that seeks him!”

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Maine diocese responds to state’s same-sex ‘marriage’ decision

Portland, Maine, May 12, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop Richard Malone of Portland, Maine released a statement after the state’s governor signed a bill to redefine marriage in the state.  The prelate expressed his disappointment in the decision and noted that same-sex “marriage” will have “negative consequences for society.”

 

With the governor’s signature, Maine became the fifth state to accept same-sex “marriage.”

 

Bishop Malone said in his press release:  “I am deeply disappointed in the Maine Legislature and the Governor for making same sex-marriage legal in our state. We believe that the vast majority of Maine's people believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, and that calling same-sex relationships marriage doesn't make them so.”

 

He continued, “Marriage as we have known it for millennia has served as the cornerstone of society. The family, consisting of mother, father and children, has served throughout the ages as the natural place for the healthy development of children into well adjusted and productive citizens.”

 

“Same-sex marriage is a dangerous sociological experiment that I believe will have negative consequences for society as a whole. Children will be taught in schools that same-sex marriage and traditional marriage are simply different expressions of the same thing, and that the logical and consistent understanding that marriage and reproduction are intrinsically linked is no longer valid. These are profound changes that will reverberate throughout society with tragic consequences."

 

According to the release from the diocese, they promise to work with other organizations to put the issue on the ballot this November.

 

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Seminarian recalls spirit of Irish priests from his youth in Nigeria

Wilmington, Del., May 12, 2009 (CNA) - Long before he was ordained a deacon a year ago, Idongesit Etim delivered his first homilies, at his home parish in Obio-Offot, Nigeria.  Although English is Nigeria's official language, some parishioners at St. Mary's Church only understood Ibibio, one of the country's major languages, so young Idongesit was called on to interpret the words of the Irish missionary priests that staffed the parish. "I joke that I'm black Irish," Etim says.

 

The 31-year-old Etim spoke about his journey from Nigeria, a country with about 17 million Catholics, to Wilmington, where he will become the first black priest ordained for the diocese in its 141-year history when Bishop Malooly ordains him May 16 at the Cathedral of St. Peter. In the final days of his yearlong diaconate spent in ministry at Wilmington's Christ Our King

Parish, Etim said it was the missionary spirit at St. Mary's that first stirred his interest in the priesthood.

 

"I was always moved by the joy and the ability of missionaries to leave their country, learn another person's way of life and become a part of them," he said.

 

One of six children of the late Augustine Etim, a dentist, and Elizabeth, a seamstress, Etim said he enjoyed growing up in Obio-Offot, where many people were Catholic and much of his childhood revolved around the parish.

 

"You'd have the priest coming around in school - 'Good morning, Father.' He'd smile and would speak the language, though he didn't speak it well.

 

Despite years of Catholic education and catechetical classes, Etim's curiosity about church teachings was spurred in his teens by questions on religion that non-Catholics asked him. "I started questioning so many things I couldn't understand."

 

His oldest brother, Joseph, had become a priest for the Missionary Society of St. Paul. "So I read some of his philosophy books, because I really wanted to answer questions about my faith."

 

Priesthood was a consideration, Etim said, but he had his doubts. "I thought, 'Look, your brother's vocation is not your vocation; we are all called differently.'" But while Etim was studying to be an electrician his father died, and his resistance to the thought of priesthood died, too.

 

"My dad went to morning Mass every day before he went to the office. At his burial, the church was packed." Mourners told Etim how his father had paid their bills. "I realized the number of people whose lives he touched. It became a challenge to me to do something beyond thinking about myself."

 

The road to Dover

 

After considering the diocesan priesthood, he turned to the Josephite Fathers, the religious order that serves in African-American communities. He became a member of their first seminarian class in Nigeria. Following college there, the Josephites sent Etim to Dominican House of Studies in

Washington, D.C., for graduate work.

 

In Washington Etim again considered the diocesan priesthood; he was attracted by a desire to serve integrated parishes.

 

When he visited a friend in Dover, Delaware, he attended Holy Cross Church and became interested in the Diocese of Wilmington. Still a Josephite seminarian, he decided to leave the order and become a lay student. After he discussed his continuing interest in Wilmington with Father Dan Mc-Glynn, pastor of Holy Cross, Etim met with other diocesan priests, including vocations director

 

Father Joseph Cocucci.

 

Eventually he met Bishop Michael Saltarelli, who he remembers telling him, "If you open up for God, you will always want for nothing. God has a plan."

 

That plan included Etim's joining the diocese and attending St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore, where he will graduate two days before his ordination. He will celebrate his first Mass at Christ Our King on ordination day and will celebrate Mass the next day at Holy Cross.

 

David Balcerak, grand knight of the Knights of Columbus's Dover Council 4182, recalls Etim working the concession stands at Dover Downs to raise money for the knights. He didn't know it, but the Dover knights were putting aside their tip money for the seminarian.

 

"He was very well liked throughout his time here," Balcerak said. "He needed a vehicle and one of our knights got him a used car."

 

Etim has cherished his time preparing for the priesthood and the people he has met along the way. “I love home visitations, where you take Communion to people. I met great people of faith. You give Christ to them and you leave with Christ. You could go and visit a sick person and leave sad. I never did. You meet them and hear their stories, you see God's hand in their life."

 

He said his time in Nigeria and America has taught him that Christianity takes the shape of each culture. Catholicism, he said, "does not condemn our culture, but it elevates it, raises it up to a different standard."

 

On the threshold of the priesthood, Etim said he's been raised to an understanding of his call. "Ministry is about recognizing Christ in other people and sharing that living Christ in you and the Christ in them. I truly believe that in giving you receive."

 

Printed with permission from the Dialog, newspaper for the Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware.

 

 

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Texas priest recovering from critical after-Mass stabbing

Sinton, Texas, May 12, 2009 (CNA) - A priest who was critically stabbed just after a Friday morning Mass in a town near Corpus Christi is recovering. His bishop has called for prayers for both the priest and his attacker.

Fr. Shaji Varghese, 42, was attacked at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish at about 7:30 am by a 36-year-old parishioner named David A. Rodriguez. Rodriguez stabbed, kicked and beat the priest, who is a native of India.

According to KRIS-TV, Fr. Varghese was taken to Christus Spohn Memorial Hospital by helicopter, where he was initially listed in critical condition.

The priest, whom parishioners described as inspirational and motivated, was appointed to the parish in October 2007.

"Because of him I started going back to church," churchgoer Elizabeth Soliz told KRIS-TV. "Why would anyone do anything like that to a priest, especially him? I just can't believe it."

The church was closed for two days, but reopened on Sunday morning with a Rite of Reparation Mass celebrated by Bishop of Corpus Christi Edmond Carmody. Hundreds attended.

"A large number of people here came out because they wanted to be united and comfort each other and help each other," Bishop Carmody told KRIS-TV.

He explained that the church is praying for the priest’s speedy recovery. The bishop said he is also urging the church to pray for the priest’s alleged attacker.

"David needs healing also and I had the privileged to go by his cell and pray with him and pray for him," Bishop Carmody said.

On Friday police charged Rodriguez with aggravated assault and tampering with evidence.

Hospital officials said that Father Varghese appears to be recovering, KRIS-TV reported on Sunday.

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Love key to vibrant Christian presence in Holy Land, Benedict XVI says

Jerusalem, Israel, May 12, 2009 (CNA) - Bishops from the Holy Land gathered Tuesday afternoon with Pope Benedict in the room where, according to tradition, Jesus celebrated the Last Supper. The Holy Father, returning to his message of peace, encouraged Christians in the Holy Land to accept the gift of God's love, which will ensure a vibrant Christian presence.

The Pope's surroundings led him to immediately recall that the Upper Room is a place that “invites the Church to prayerful contemplation” since it was here that Jesus 'loved them to the end.'

“In the Upper Room,” the Pope said, “the mystery of grace and salvation, of which we are recipients and also heralds and ministers, can be expressed only in terms of love. Because he has loved us first and continues to do so, we can respond with love.”

With the Christian presence in the Holy Land dwindling, Benedict XVI called on the community to let Christ's transforming love help them “overcome the temptation to turn in upon ourselves in selfishness or indolence, isolation, prejudice or fear, and to give ourselves generously to the Lord and to others.”

The power of his love “moves us as Christian communities to be faithful to our mission with frankness and courage," he said.
 
This call to “communion of mind and heart ... is of special relevance in the Holy Land,” the Pope noted, pointing out that the “different Christian Churches found here ... are a sign of the multiple forms of interaction between the Gospel and different cultures. “They also remind us that the mission of the Church is to preach the universal love of God and to gather, from far and near, all who are called by Him, in such a way that, with their traditions and their talents, they form the one family of God."
 
As the future of the Christian presence in the Holy Land remains tenuous, the Holy Father advised the Church to generously accept and nurture “the gift of love.” Accepting and living out this gift will ensure that “the Christian presence in the Holy Land and in the neighbouring regions will be vibrant,” he said.

The Christian presence is of “vital importance for the good of society as a whole,” the Pontiff stated. “The clear words of Jesus on the intimate bond between love of God and love of neighbour, on mercy and compassion, on meekness, peace and forgiveness, are a leaven capable of transforming hearts and shaping actions. Christians in the Middle East, together with other people of good will, are contributing, as loyal and responsible citizens, in spite of difficulties and restrictions, to the promotion and consolidation of a climate of peace in diversity.”
 
"Count on my support and encouragement," the Pope told the bishops, "as you do all that is in your power to assist our Christian brothers and sisters to remain and prosper here in the land of their ancestors and to be messengers and promoters of peace."
 
 "For my part, I renew my appeal to our brothers and sisters world-wide to support and to remember in their prayers the Christian communities of the Holy Land and the Middle East."
 
After praying the Regina Coeli, Benedict XVI moved on to the Latin co-cathedral of Jerusalem where he greeted the 300 people gathered there to welcome him, among them various female religious of contemplative orders.

Having venerated the Blessed Sacrament and listened to a brief greeting from the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, the Pope thanked the religious for their prayers for his universal ministry and asked them, "in the words of the Psalmist, ... to 'pray for the peace of Jerusalem', to pray without ceasing for an end to the conflict that has brought so much suffering to the peoples of this land."

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Pro-life foundation denounces promotion of morning-after pill in Spain

Madrid, Spain, May 12, 2009 (CNA) - The director of the Life Foundation in Spain, Manuel Cruz, denounced the country’s Minister of Health, Trinity Jimenez, for distributing the morning-after pill without a prescription in an attempt to “publicize the new abortion law.”

Cruz explained that the presumption is that the pill would lead to a drop in the amount of terminated pregnancies by reducing the number of surgical abortions, but in reality the pill is “an abortifacient drug.”

He also criticized the Ministry for insisting “on promoting irresponsible measures for women.  They recognize the risk that it carries as a hormonal drug, but they still encourage its use.”

“What measures is the Health Ministry going to take to prevent abuse by young people, who will see it as a comfortable and safe contraceptive method, when it is actually an abortifacient?  he questioned.  The youth will “be deprived of the professional advice of a doctor.”

Cruz also called on the Ministry to “provide all of the information possible about the adverse effects of this drug. They need to let people know that in Perugia, various pharmacists have said that extra-uterine pregnancies are more common in women who have taken the morning-after pill.”

“If the objective is to improve the sexual health of young people, the minister’s decision is incorrect, since between 2001 and 2005, its availability did not reduce the number of abortions but did increase the engaging in risky relationships.”

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Jerusalem must fulfill its 'vocation' as a city of peace, urges Pope

Jerusalem, Israel, May 12, 2009 (CNA) - Mass at the foot of the Mount of Olives began on Tuesday afternoon with Archbishop Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, welcoming Pope Benedict and urging greater attention be paid to the suffering of Christians in the Holy Land. In his homily, the Pope said that Jerusalem must fulfill its "universal vocation" and become a "city of peace."

The Holy Father began his homily by proclaiming, "Christ is risen, alleluia!" which was received by applause and the response, "Christ is truly risen!"

Saying that he comes as the Successor of Peter to confirm them in the faith, Benedict XVI said he wished to "acknowledge the difficulties, the frustration, and the pain and suffering which so many of you have endured as a result of the conflicts which have afflicted these lands, and the bitter experiences of displacement which so many of your families have known and – God forbid – may yet know."

"I hope my presence here is a sign that you are not forgotten, that your persevering presence and witness are indeed precious in God’s eyes and integral to the future of these lands," he added.

The Christian presence, said the Pope, plays an important role as the "leaven of harmony" in the multiethnic, multicultural city of Jerusalem.

The inhabitants of Jerusalem must not lose sight of the "universal vocation" of the City as "a 'city of peace' for all peoples," the Pope maintained.

"Jerusalem, in fact, has always been a city whose streets echo with different languages, whose stones are trod by people of every race and tongue, whose walls are a symbol of God’s provident care for the whole human family. … There should be no place within these walls for narrowness, discrimination, violence and injustice. Believers in a God of mercy – whether they identify themselves as Jews, Christians or Muslims – must be the first to promote this culture of reconciliation and peace, however painstakingly slow the process may be, and however burdensome the weight of past memories."

The Pope then explicitly turned his attention to the "tragic reality – which cannot fail to be a source of concern to all who love this City and this land – of the departure of so many members of the Christian community in recent years."

"While understandable reasons lead many, especially the young, to emigrate, this decision brings in its wake a great cultural and spiritual impoverishment to the City," the Holy Father noted.

"Today I wish to repeat what I have said on other occasions: in the Holy Land there is room for everyone! As I urge the authorities to respect, to support and to value the Christian presence here, I also wish to assure you of the solidarity, love and support of the whole Church and of the Holy See."

Pope Benedict encouraged the Christians of the Holy Land to "touch" the historical realities that they are surrounded by and "see and believe" like St. Thomas. The grace of this encounter, he said, will "incarnate for others their pledge of new beginnings, the freedom born of forgiveness, the interior light and peace which can bring healing and hope to even the darkest of human realities."

The Holy Father brought his homily to a close by calling to mind the empty tomb from which Christ rose from the dead. "Let us return frequently to that empty tomb. There let us reaffirm our faith in the victory of life, and pray that every 'heavy stone' that stands before the door of our hearts, blocking our complete surrender to the Lord in faith, hope and love, may be shattered by the power of the light and life which shone forth from Jerusalem to all the world that first Easter morn."

"Christ is risen, alleluia! He is truly risen, alleluia!" the Pope said, concluding his homily as he began it.

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Priests for Life call ND seniors to send ‘one final response’

South Bend, Ind., May 12, 2009 (CNA) - This week, several seniors from the University of Notre Dame announced they will not be attending their commencement ceremony, and called on others to show "one final response" to President Obama’s invitation by not showing up. An alternative vigil representing the "true spirit of Notre Dame," will take place at the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes and will be presided over by Fr. Frank Pavone.

ND Response was formed by students after the announcement of President Obama’s invitation to Notre Dame was announced. They called upon President Fr. John J. Jenkins to retract his commencement offer and honorary degree to Obama, but last month Jenkins told the group that "conditions for constructive dialogue simply do not exist."

In response, the organization has announced that Priests for Life Director Fr. Frank Pavone will lead a Vigil for Life in the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes during the commencement ceremony.

Fr. Pavone will be leading the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary and directing five-minute meditations on each decade.

Students from ND Response have made it clear that this is not a political response, but that it’s about the dignity and respect of the human person.

Fr. Pavone said that despite "hundreds of thousands of Catholics, hundreds of priests, and dozens of bishops" that have called for "Notre Dame to end this scandal by withdrawing its invitation to President Obama," Jenkins has failed to listen The priest said, "one final response to this scandal is fully in the control of each graduating senior: don’t show up."

The Vigil for Life will represent the "true spirit of Notre Dame" Pavone said. "The scandal that been generated does not represent what Notre Dame is all about; it represents a radical betrayal of what Notre Dame is all about" he continued. The "true spirit" is that Notre Dame is a "pro-life" school "in harmony with human reason and Catholic Faith."

Fort Wayne-South Bend Bishop John D'Arcy will lead a candlelight prayer vigil the night before the commencement ceremony to pray for an end to abortion and embryo research.

To sign up for this rosary campaign, visit www.PrayerCampaign.org.

To view Fr. Frank Pavone’s YouTube commentary on the Notre Dame invitation www.YouTube.com/FrFrankPavone

 

 

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Holy Father to grant plenary indulgences for the Year of Priests

Vatican City, May 12, 2009 (CNA) - The Vatican has announced that during the Year for Priests, which will run June 19, 2009 – June 19, 2010, the Pope Benedict will grant plenary indulgences to priests and the faithful.

 

The year will begin with the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, “a day of priestly sanctification,” according to a press release from the Vatican.  On that day, the Holy Father “will celebrate Vespers before relics” of St. Jean Marie Vianney, patron saint of priests. 

 

The Year will end in St. Peter's Square, in the presence of priests from all over the world "who will renew their faithfulness to Christ and their bonds of fraternity."

 

The means to obtain the indulgence are as follows:

 

(A) All truly penitent priests who, on any day, devotedly pray Lauds or Vespers before the Blessed Sacrament exposed to public adoration or in the tabernacle, and ... offer themselves with a ready and generous heart for the celebration of the Sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Penance, will be granted a Plenary Indulgence, which they can also apply to their deceased confreres, if in accordance with current norms they take Sacramental Confession and the Eucharist and pray in accordance with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff. Priests are furthermore granted a Partial Indulgence, also applicable to deceased confreres, every time they devotedly recite the prayers duly approved to lead a saintly life and to carry out the duties entrusted to them.

 

(B) All truly penitent Christian faithful who, in church or oratory, devotedly attend Holy Mass and offer prayers to Jesus Christ, supreme and eternal Priest, for the priests of the Church, or perform any good work to sanctify and mold them to His Heart, are granted a Plenary Indulgence, on the condition that they have expiated their sins through Sacramental Confession and prayed in accordance with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff. This may be done on the opening and closing days of the Year of Priests, on the 150th anniversary of the death of St. Jean Marie Vianney, on the first Thursday of the month, or on any other day established by the ordinaries of particular places for the good of the faithful.

 

The elderly, the sick and all those who for any legitimate reason are unable to leave their homes, may still obtain a plenary indulgence if, with the soul completely removed from attachment to any form of sin and with the intention of observing, as soon as they can, the usual three conditions, "on the days concerned, they pray for the sanctification of priests and offer their sickness and suffering to God through Mary, Queen of the Apostles."

 

Additionally, a partial indulgence will be offered to the faithful each time they pray five “Our Father,” “Hail Mary” and “Glory Be,” or any other duly approved prayer "in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to ask that priests maintain purity and sanctity of life."

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Cardinal Cipriani emphasizes ‘chastity is a gift’

Lima, Peru, May 12, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Lima, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne, said this weekend that chastity is a "gift" and "not a repression, as some are saying," in reference to the scandal involving a famous Miami priest caught with a woman.

"The Church is not in crisis" because of these scandals, the cardinal said, adding that chastity brings about "a harmony and complimentarity of body and soul, such that the priest is not just an ordinary man, but rather a man who receives a treasure, a gift from God. This enables him to live that total commitment, that love, that being in love with all of the consequences of that integration of body and soul to God."

"Chastity is a gift, and not a repression as some are saying, much less a mockery or a sarcastic comment. No, chastity is a gift from God! We must ask ourselves: How are you receiving the gifts of God? How are you caring for them?"

Referring specifically to Father Alberto Cutie, Cardinal Cipriani said, "On a personal level he should be completely forgiven but on the public level in which this situation has occurred, we must clarify in order teach the faithful what God wants."

In response to the idea that allowing priests to marry would solve these kinds of problems, the cardinal noted that fidelity to love is demanded of a priest in the same way as of a married man and woman.

After emphasizing that the Church must be a mother now more than ever, the cardinal explained that a good mother tells her children that "the priest who is faithful, chaste and celibate for life is wonderful. Help him, pray for him, and correct him when necessary."

"Are there sins and sinners? Of course, and we must take them in and help them, but what we cannot do is make a media show as we have seen these days with poor Father Alberto, who frankly needs a little bit of humility," the cardinal said.

 

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Christian Liberation Movement denounces repression of members in Cuba

Madrid, Spain, May 12, 2009 (CNA) - Representatives of the Christian Liberation Movement in Spain have denounced the harassment that its members are suffering in Cuba due to the growing acceptance of the Varela Project by Cubans.

 

In a statement, the movement pointed to the recent harassment of its coordinator, Oswaldo Paya, during his visit to Cienfuegos and the Eastern region of Cuba, as well as the arrest of other members such as Agustin Cervantes and Jose Alba Castro.  They also mentioned and the harassment of “the home of the father of Paya’s wife, Ofelia Acevedo. Her father is in the terminal stages of cancer.”

 

The movement also denounced the arrest of Minervo Chil Siret, who was fingerprinted, photographed and accused of collaborating with foreign governments against the Cuban state.

 

Upon his release, state security agents warned him not to get involved with the Varela Project again and that if he did he would be formally charged with violating the law.

 

“This situation is very serious and dangerous,” the movement stated, “and we want to alert the international community, government officials and human rights organizations and institutions of this new slight-of-hand by Cuban officials who seek to close the door to peaceful change with the power they hold.”

 

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Sweden allows sex-selective abortions

Stockholm, Sweden, May 12, 2009 (CNA) - Sweden, which legalized abortion in 1938, has taken its abortion extremism one step further by legalizing “gender based” abortion which allows a mother to decide to abort her baby solely due to his or her sex.

 

The Local reported that a pregnant woman in South Sweden, who already has two girls, arrived at Mälaren Hospital and inquired whether or not she would be giving birth to another girl.   She went on to tell her doctors that her previous two pregnancies ended in abortion because she did not want to have another girl - and if this child was another girl, she would have it aborted as well.

 

Doctors expressed concern over this and brought it to the attention of Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare. They asked how to handle requests where doctors felt “pressured to examine the [fetus’s] gender” without a medical rationale.

The Board came back and said that requests to for abortions based on a child’s gender cannot be refused.

Johnston’s Archive reported that over 25% of Sweden’s pregnancies end in abortion. An increase of 17% after the introduction of the morning after pill, which was promoted by pro-abortion advocates as a way to reduce the number of abortions performed.

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One year later, Bishop Wester notes ‘human cost’ of Postville immigration raid

Washington D.C., May 12, 2009 (CNA) -

Marking the anniversary of the May 12, 2008 immigration raid in Postville, Iowa, the Catholic bishop who heads the U.S. bishops’ immigration committee said the anniversary was a "disturbing reminder" of the "human cost" of enforcement actions. He also called for the reform of national immigration policies.

Bishop of Salt Lake City John C. Wester, chairman of the Committee on Migration of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), said the Postville raid was precedent-setting as the largest work site immigration enforcement action to that point in history.

"As religious leaders, my brother Catholic bishops and I understand and support the right and responsibility of the government to enforce the law. We strongly believe, however, that worksite enforcement raids do not solve the challenge of illegal immigration. Instead, they lead to the separation of U.S. families and the destruction of immigrant communities," he said.

"The result of the Postville raid was family separation, immense suffering, denial of due process rights and community division," Bishop Wester charged.

"Our religious and social response to such harm to our God-given human dignity is based on Scriptures, which call believers to welcome the newcomers among us, to treat the alien with respect and charity, and to provide pastoral and humanitarian assistance to individuals and their families."

Bishop Wester asked all Catholics, other religious believers and persons of good will to commemorate the Postville raid by remembering in their prayers those hurt by it. He also asked them to work for "comprehensive immigration reform" so that others will not face "similar pain and cruelty."

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Pope Benedict’s national Holocaust memorial speech defended against critics

Jerusalem, Israel, May 12, 2009 (CNA) -

Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks at Israel’s national Holocaust memorial, despite saying such an "atrocity" as the Holocaust should never "disgrace mankind again," drew criticisms from several Israeli sources who complained that the Pontiff did not express enough remorse for the Nazi genocide of Jews.

On Monday at the Holocaust Memorial Pope Benedict began with a quotation from Isaiah 56: "I will give in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name … I will give them an everlasting name which shall not be cut off."

Those who lost their lives "will never lose their names," Pope Benedict said of the Holocaust victims. He explained their names are "indelibly etched" on the hearts of their loved ones, their survivors, and "all those determined never to allow such an atrocity to disgrace mankind again."

The cry of Holocaust victims "still echoes in our hearts," he said, describing it as a "perpetual reproach against the spilling of innocent blood" and like "the cry of Abel," the first murder victim.

Responding to the speech, two officials from Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Remembrance Authority, criticized the Pope for failing to use the words "Nazis" or "murder" in his speech.

The speaker of the Israeli parliament accused the Pope of glossing over the Nazi genocide while newspapers criticized him for failing to apologize for what they said was Catholic indifference during World War II.

"The pope spoke like a historian, as somebody observing from the sidelines, about things that shouldn't happen. But what can you do? He was part of them," said parliament speaker Reuven Rivlin. "With all due respect to the Holy See, we cannot ignore the baggage he carries with him."

In his youth in Bavaria, Pope Benedict was automatically enrolled in the Hitler Youth and served in the German army before deserting toward the end of the war.

Suspicions towards Pope Benedict also heightened among Jews earlier this year when he lifted the excommunications of the group of bishops leading the breakaway St. Pius X Society. Unbeknownst to the Pope, one of the bishops, Richard Williamson, had made remarks denying the enormity of the Holocaust.

Other Israeli commentators were not critical of Pope Benedict’s remarks. According to the Associated Press, Noah Frug, the head of a survivors' group, told the Ynet Web site the Pope "is not the president of a Zionist organization, so why should we have any complaints toward him."

Vatican spokesman Fr. Frederico Lombardi responded to the criticisms at a press conference in Jerusalem, saying that Pope Benedict "can’t mention everything every time he speaks."

"The Pope has spoken many times about the topic and his being German," he continued, denying that the Pope was in the Hitler Youth.

Fr. Lombardi added that the Pope was compelled to serve in the Defense of the Cities corps to defend against air bombardments.

"After the war he was captured by the Americans and returned to his seminary studies," he added.

According to Fr. Lombardi, the Pope’s choice of the theme of "memory" was for him "a very profound way to identify himself with the sense of Yad Vashem. This was the sense of the speech."

In Hebrew, the Isaiah quotation cited in the Pope’s Holocaust Memorial speech uses the words "Yad Vashem," which mean "a memorial and a name."

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October 26, 2014

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Mt 22:34-40

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