CNA STAFF, Jun 29, 2009 (CNA) - On Friday, the Church will celebrate the feast day of St. Thomas the apostle. Best known for his initial unwillingness to believe the other apostles in their claim that Jesus had risen from the dead, St. Thomas can teach the faithful about believing without seeing.
As an apostle, Thomas was dedicated to following the Lord. Upon hearing that Jesus was returning to Judea, an area that would pose dangers due to the growing animosity of the authorities there, he immediately said to the other apostles, "Let us also go, that we may die with him" (Jn 11: 16).
Yet despite this determination, Thomas proved not only too weak to stand beside Jesus as he faced his crucifixion, but also doubted the Lord’s Resurrection when he was told about it by the other apostles. Denying their story, he told them, "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe" (Jn 20: 25).
A week later, Christ appeared and said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe." When Thomas did so he exclaimed, "My Lord and my God!"
In his general audience on September 27, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of St. Thomas, explaining that we can learn from his doubts, which show us "that Jesus can now be recognized by his wounds rather than by his face."
"The Apostle Thomas’ case is important to us for at least three reasons," said the Pope. "First, because it comforts us in our insecurity; second, because it shows us that every doubt can lead to an outcome brighter than any uncertainty; and, lastly, because the words that Jesus addressed to him remind us of the true meaning of mature faith and encourage us to persevere, despite the difficulty, along our journey of adhesion to him."
After Pentecost, St. Thomas is traditionally believed to have preached the Good News to the Persians and Medes, until he reached India, where he evangelized and was eventually martyred in 72 A.D.
St. Thomas’ feast day is July 3, and he is the patron of architects and builders.
Guayaquil, Ecuador, Jun 29, 2009 (CNA) - After only seven years since its inception, the aid program, “Bread for my Brother,” operated by the Christian Life Movement in Guayaquil, Ecuador, has received numerous recognitions by ecclesial and private entities, and this past weekend the organization was visited by the founder of the Sodalite Family, Luis Fernando Figari.
Volunteers and beneficiaries of the program participated in a large event at the Christian Brothers’ School, where Figari thanked them for their “Christian generosity” and invited them to continue making Christ present through their works of charity.
In speaking about the cross of Jesus as the source of reconciliation and justice for all men, the founder of the Christian Life Movement particularly addressed the poor and the homeless, who benefit from the “Bread for my Brother” outreach. Figari encouraged them to discover the value of the salvific mystery of suffering. “In praying for our daily bread,” he explained, “Christians feel motivated to make this a reality for our brothers and sisters most in need.”
“The human dignity of the most destitute demands respect, solidarity and human promotion,” Figari said. Mary presents the perfect example of bringing the Good News to others, he emphasized. “Jesus has given us Mary as our Mother at the foot of the cross, and the disciple to whom He spoke is each one of us Christians, who should look to Mary, pray for her intercession and always follow the example of her visit to her cousin Elizabeth, to whom she brought the Good News of Jesus, who she carried inside of her, and her authentic solidarity in caring for her material needs.”
In Guayaquil, “Bread for my Brother” helps thousands in need each week at four different locations, providing not only material assistance, but also the message of the Gospel and of reconciliation.
Luis Fernando Figari concluded the festive gathering by inviting more members of the Christian Life Movement to offer their time and effort, so that even more “people in need may benefit from this beautiful program, a clear symbol of the communion that the pilgrim Church of Guayaquil should experience.”
Rome, Italy, Jun 29, 2009 (CNA) - The prefect for the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, said last week pedophilia is a “terrible crime” that affects only a small percentage of priests, adding that “there is no room in the priestly ministry for people who have committed these crimes.”
In an interview in Rome with the magazine “Vida Nueva,” the cardinal pointed out that the Church “cannot close her eyes” to these problems, but at the same time he emphasized, “There is no room in the priestly ministry for people who have committed these crimes.”
“The Church cannot accept cases of pedophilia. Those guilty must be punished both through civil and canon law,” he said, clarifying however that most of the clergy “have nothing to do with these problems.”
The Church “must react and not accept” that priests have this image, he continued, which is created “with a very strong, negative preconception that humiliates and wounds the vast majority of priests.”
In addition, Cardinal Hummes also addressed the question of celibacy, which a certain percentage of priests “do not respect.” He stressed that the majority of priests are “dignified and honorable men” who “fight for human dignity, human rights, social justice and solidarity with the poor.”
Year for Priests
Regarding the Year for Priests decreed by Benedict XVI, Cardinal Hummes said it “has come at an appropriate moment.” The cardinal called on priests to live their mission and vocation “in the prevailing culture of the West, which is against religion and believes it should be relegated to the person’s private sphere.”
In any case, he added, “We ought not to demonize today’s culture and form ghettos,” but rather, ever greater efforts should be made to evangelize society, “as is the case with any other culture.”
“We must confront it with joy, determination, conviction and enthusiasm. Even the post-modern man and woman, estranged from religion, can embrace Jesus Christ,” he said.
Cardinal Hummes said he hopes the Year for Priests will help increase the number of vocations. “If we are able to offer priests better conditions so that they can be happier, young people who feel the call to the priesthood will be more decisive,” he said.
Montevideo, Uruguay, Jun 29, 2009 (CNA) - Church leaders in Uruguay are awaiting a decision from the Holy See on how to proceed with the case of Bishop Francisco Barbosa da Silveira of Minas, who has been accused by clergy in his diocese of sexual misconduct.
Sources at the Uruguayan Bishops’ Conference confirmed that the bishops do not have the authority to take the necessary measures in the case of Bishop Barbosa, who has been denounced for having homosexual relations by some clergy in his diocese. The case of Bishop Barbosa must be dealt with by the Holy See.
The newspaper El Pais reported the bishop requested a police investigation saying he was the victim of extortion. Two adult men with criminal backgrounds were charged and sentenced to prison.
“The bishops’ conference, the Church, has no plans to provide any kind of explanation,” the newspaper reported.
According to the newspaper El Observador, this would be “the first time in the history of the Church in Uruguay that a bishop has had to resign over issues related to his private life.”
Bishop Francisco Barbosa is one of the most theologically controversial prelates in Uruguay and is very “contemporary,” as demonstrated by his Episcopal motto, loosely translated as, “Gotta keep moving on.” The motto is taken from a popular song and is a refrain often used by a left-wing political coalition that supports abortion.
Bishop Barbosa was born on March 16, 1944. He was ordained a priest on June 17, 1972 at the age of 28. On March 6, 2004, he was named Bishop of Minas and was installed on May 8 of that same year.
Madrid, Spain, Jun 29, 2009 (CNA) - The Vice President of the Institute for Family Policy, Mariano Martinez-Aedo, said marriage continues to be the civil state of the majority of Spaniards, but that fast-track divorce and low wages have caused the percentage of marriages drop from 62.3% to 57% during the last 20 years.
“Marriage continues being the civil state of the majority of Spaniards today, and this despite the decline in the number of marriages in recent years,” Martinez-Aedo said. “In Spain, there are almost 11 million marriages today, which means that 57% of Spaniards above age 16 are married,” he added.
However, he warned that this figure has dropped from what it was 20 years ago, when 62.3% of Spaniards above the age of 16 were married. At the same time, he went on, the number of single, divorced and separated Spaniards is increasing.
This is because of both fast-track divorce and the low wages that make young people remain single for longer and live with their parents. The current economic crisis has aggravated the situation, Martinez-Aedo noted.
The president of the Institute, Eduardo Hertfelder, warned that while the Spanish government continues to ignore the essential social functions that marriage and the family fulfill, the percentage of divorcees and of single Spaniards will continue to increase with all of the subsequent consequences.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 29, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop Rodrigo Aguilar Martinez of Tehuacan, Mexico said last week the Church encourages citizens to exercise their right to vote not because of any interest in power, but because she desires the growth of democracy, as it is the path for development in Mexico.
“The democratic option is not a step already taken, but a process in transition, of which voting is an important part but not the only form of participation,” the bishops said in a recent statement about the upcoming July 5 elections for Congress.
Bishop Aguilar warned that abstaining from the voting booth “is to let others decide and to deny oneself the chance to object down the road.”
But leaving the ballot unchecked “is even worse,” he said, because it leaves open the door to fraud. “I think that the wisest choice is to exercise one’s vote in freedom and secrecy, for the party or candidate who offers the most guarantees for one’s own convictions and plans,” he said.
However, he added that after the elections, democracy must be sustained with “healthy criticism,” because “we all share responsibility.” He reminded Catholics that their faith must find expression in social development, “because faith without works is dead.”
“Christ Jesus died for all, so that we might have life in abundance, not only at the spiritual level, but also at the material. Of course, the material level must be at the service of higher goods,” he reminded.
Bishop Aguilar expressed support for “democracy as a system of government and of citizen participation,” and he called on Mexicans to move ahead in the process by overcoming disenchantment and pessimism.
Lincoln, Neb., Jun 29, 2009 (CNA) - Twelve high school and college students from southeastern Nebraska traveled to New York City early this month to spend a week doing mission work with the city’s different religious orders.
Father Jamie Hottovy of St. John Parish in Prague, Nebraska and Ss. Cyril and Methodius Parish in Plasi took the young group to the bustling city so they could experience the work that the different orders in the city do to assist the people living there.
"Every day we did something different. We spent each day with one of the groups we were helping, doing whatever they asked of us," said one student named Jessica Sousek.
The days were long and filled with activity. Morning began around 6 or 7 a.m. and the group worked until 10 or 11 p.m. The students shared meals together, as well as daily Mass, and an afternoon Holy Hour. A few sight-seeing excursions were squeezed in between projects as well
"We prayed hard, we worked hard, and we played hard," Father Hottovy said. "We did about a month’s worth of activities in one week."
On the first day, the women helped the Sisters of Life cook and clean the formation house. Meanwhile, the men worked with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (CFR) at St. Crispin Friary in the Bronx, renovating their building with new drywall and paint.
The next day, the group worked with the Missionaries of Charity, the New York division of Blessed Mother Teresa’s order. In preparation for summer catechism programs for underprivileged kids, the Nebraska students cleaned and set up the auditorium, saving the sisters a great deal of time.
Later in the week, the group returned to serve the Missionaries of Charity at one of their AIDS hospices, once again cooking and cleaning.
"That was something very powerful," Father Hottovy said describing the seemingly mundane tasks. "By sweeping and by cleaning toilets, [the students were] working for the greater good and helping people who don’t have as many advantages as they do."
The students also assisted the Franciscan brothers in preparing for a "Jesus Run."
"The ‘Jesus Run’ consisted of sharing physical needs, such as food, drink, and clothing, with spiritual and emotional needs, such as sharing in prayer or just talking, for the homeless of New York City," explained Ashley Paseka, another student.
Brother Marianon, CFR, prepared them for interaction with the homeless.
"He emphasized that, whomever we met that night, we should see Jesus in each one of those people and receive them with the love you’d receive Christ," recalled Father Hottovy. "It brought the experience to a whole new level."
Toward the end of the trip, the students participated in a Mass for Life with the Sisters of Life, then processed to a nearby abortion facility, the first Planned Parenthood location established in New York by the organization’s founder, Margaret Sanger.
After praying the Rosary (all four sets of Mysteries), the students went back to the church, where the Sisters led talks about the sanctity of life, and the need for prayer and sacrifice for this important cause.
Through all these experiences, the students learned of their own ability to do corporal works of mercy, while growing closer to Christ.
"It enhanced my faith by showing me how to serve Christ in something even as simple as offering someone a cup of soup or turning a chore like washing dishes into a prayer," Sousek said.
"This trip was an amazing experience," agreed Paseka, "Ironically, I felt that I left the hustle and bustle of school and work to relax and talk to God in one of the busiest cities of the world."
"As a priest, it was very powerful… I could see a lot of spiritual growth and maturity as the week went on," Father Hottovy said.
He believes that some seeds were planted in terms of potential vocations among the students.
"The people of these orders are so vibrant, joyful, filled with their faith – it’s contagious," he said.
While Father Hottovy has no firm plans yet, he hopes to take more students on another such trip in the future.
Miss Sousek might just want to sign up again.
"I hope that I can go on another mission trip to reach out to those who need help and serve Christ in my life even more," she said.
Printed with permission from the Southern Nebraska Register, newspaper for the Diocese of Lincoln.
Rome, Italy, Jun 29, 2009 (CNA) - Speaking at a service to mark the end of the Pauline year, Pope Benedict has announced that scientific tests apparently confirm a sarcophagus long believed to be the tomb of St. Paul contains remains dating from the first or second century.
Archaeologists recently unearthed and opened a white marble sarcophagus located under the Basilica of St. Paul’s outside the Walls in Rome. The faithful have believed the sarcophagus to be the tomb of the Apostle Paul.
When Pope Benedict brought the Pauline Year to a close yesterday, he said that carbon dating tests on bone fragments show them to date from the first or second century.
"This seems to confirm the unanimous and uncontested tradition that they are the mortal remains of the Apostle Paul," he said.
Tradition holds that St. Paul was beheaded in Rome in the 1st century during a persecution of early Christians by Roman emperors. Bone fragments from St. Paul’s head are believed to be in St. John Lateran, another Rome basilica, while his other remains are believed to be in the sarcophagus.
Archaeologists who opened the sarcophagus discovered the bone fragments alongside some grains of incense, a “precious” piece of purple linen with gold sequins and a blue fabric with linen filaments, Pope Benedict said.
In 2002 Vatican archaeologists began excavating the 8-foot-long tomb of St. Paul, which dates from at least the year 390 A.D.
The top of the coffin has small openings which were covered with mortar. In ancient times, Christians would insert offerings or try to touch the remains through the openings.
A related discovery was announced on Saturday in L’Osservatore Romano. Inside the catacombs of St. Tecla in Rome, a fresco which depicts St. Paul was discovered on June 19. The round fresco is edged in gold and features the emaciated face of St. Paul.
It is described as the oldest known icon of the Apostle, according to the Vatican daily.
Monsignor Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Vatican’s culture department, said the discovery was an “extraordinary event” and an “eloquent testimony” to the Christianity of the first centuries.
Denver, Colo., Jun 29, 2009 (CNA) - This summer, the Catholic environmental organization, Creatio, will host a conference on environmental issues, seeking to examine the balance between man and nature from a faith-based perspective and then respond to the issues being faced around the world.
Creatio is a non-profit organization that seeks to respond to environmental problems through the positive approach of reconciliation between humans and creation. Members work to “restore the harmony between humans and nature” by transforming both man and his surroundings.
The conference, “Faith and Environment: Questions and Challenges,” will be held from August 17 to 19 at St. Malo Retreat and Conference Center in Allenspark, Colorado.
The conference will welcome professionals and experts from different fields and faiths to discuss and reflect on the questions and challenges posed by today's environment. How the Catholic Church and society should respond responsibility of caring for the environment will also be explored.
Participants will include Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver; Dr. Bernard Amadei: Founder of Engineers without Borders; Dr. Miguel Salazar Steiger, a Latin American theologian; Dr. Benjamin Hale, an Environmental Philosopher from the University of Colorado and Dr. Pablo Martinez, the founder of Multinational Parks in Central America.
Preceding the start of the conference, Creatio will hold a “Race to the Rock” 5k Race and a Family Fun Run fundraiser at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, August 16. The race, a family event to promote faith and environmental activities, will follow an optional 2:00 p.m. Mass. Both events are open to the public.
The registration deadline for the Faith and Environment conference in July 15. More information about the event can be found at www.creatioweb.org.
New York City, N.Y., Jun 29, 2009 (CNA) - In his remarks at a U.N. economic meeting on Friday, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the head of the Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the United Nations, asked that the poorest countries be given priority at this time of economic crisis. He endorsed the adoption of an “ethical approach” by those active in international markets and those in political office.
Speaking to the Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Development, Archbishop Migliore said the World Bank has estimated an additional 55-90 million people will be trapped in “extreme poverty” in 2009, while the number of chronically hungry people may climb over 1 billion individuals this year.
For the Holy See, he explained, there is a “compelling moral obligation” to address worsening social and economic disparities which “undermine the basic dignity of so many.”
The archbishop endorsed proposals to provide the vulnerable with “short-term stabilization measures” and long-term measures to help ensure “sustainable financial flows,” thus reducing the likelihood economic crisis will recur.
“We also urge that the future agenda be not overly ambitious,” he said, advocating “tangible relief.”
“The new global crisis should not be a pretext for forgetting old concerns,” Archbishop Migliore cautioned. He said eliminating agricultural export subsidies was an “essentially moral” and “urgent” prerogative that could provide “significant benefits” to very poor developing countries.
The archbishop also criticized what he said was the crisis’ underlying ideology, one that places individuals and individual desires “at the center of all economic decisions.”
“The practice of economics has reflected this ideological focus and has sought to remove values and morality from economic discussions rather than seeking to integrate these concerns into creating a more effective and just financial system,” he critiqued.
“This world view has created a society in which short-term economic and personal gains are made at the expense of others and have the effect of creating an individualism lacking recognition of the shared rights and responsibilities necessary to create a society respecting the dignity of all people,” Migliore said.
Archbishop Migliore then recalled Pope Benedict XVI’s World Day of Peace reflections, which placed “special emphasis” on the need for “a strong sense of global solidarity” between rich and poor countries to address poverty.
Noting that international commerce and finance has processes that allow for a “positive integration of economics” that leads to an overall improvement in conditions, the archbishop also warned of negative processes that marginalize peoples and lead to war and conflicts.
Only an “ethical approach” advancing “inclusive participation” can achieve true global solidarity, the archbishop concluded.