Rome, Italy, Jul 6, 2009 (CNA) - The secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, Archbishop Jean-Louis Brugues, warned last week that “modern society has become allergic to the concepts of duty and the spirit of sacrifice,” two notions that have always “belonged to the common heritage of all the great religions” and that are necessary as well for all priests.
During his homily at a Mass for vocation directors in Rome, the French prelate underscored how one’s vocation is always particular and personalized. In being called to the priesthood, men who have this vocation are called by the Lord “to be ourselves, as the Lord knows us better than we know ourselves.”
“God’s plan cannot be fulfilled except through sacrifice,” the archbishop said.
“Thus sacrifice becomes an intersection between the human and the divine,” he added. “Sacrifice is the particular means by which we offer to the Lord our personal freedom and we receive in turn all of God’s strength.”
“It was not by chance that the Pope chose to begin the Year for Priests on the most sacrificial feast of all: that of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. For this reason, we hope that this year the People of God can recover the joy of the priesthood,” he said.
Vatican City, Jul 6, 2009 (CNA) - Only days after closing the Pauline Year, Pope Benedict XVI was able to preside at the re-opening of the Pauline Chapel in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace. The Pontiff restored the chapel to its full use by exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
On July 4, the Holy Father prayed evening Vespers in the chapel and returned the Blessed Sacrament to the house of worship that is reserved for the Pope and Pontifical Family.
Restoration of the chapel, which features some of the last frescoes by Michaelangelo, took seven years.
In his homily, Benedict XVI reflected on Michaelangelo's frescoes featuring the conversion of St. Paul and the crucifixion of St. Peter.
The faces of Paul and Peter play a central role in the chapel's iconography, the Pope said, noting that although it is known that Paul was around 30 at the time of his conversion, Michelangelo depicts him as an old man.
"The artist's decision takes us outside pure realism, it takes us beyond the mere narration of events and introduces us to a deeper level," he said. Thus Paul's face "reveals the maturity of a man illuminated from within by Christ the Lord. ... The grace and peace of God enveloped Saul, conquering him and transforming him from within."
Peter, who turns his head to contemplate the viewer, seems to express "the state of mind of a man facing death and evil; he looks lost ... as if he were searching for something or someone in this his last hour." The Apostles "are facing one another. ... It is as if Peter, at the moment of supreme trial, sought that light which gave the true faith to Paul. In this context the two images become two acts of the same drama, the drama of the Paschal Mystery: Cross and Resurrection, death and life, sin and grace."
"For those who come to pray in this chapel, and above all for the Pope, Peter and Paul become masters of the faith," the Holy Father said.
"By their witness they invite us to ... meditate in silence upon the mystery of the Cross which accompanies the Church until the end of time, and to welcome the light of the faith thanks to which the apostolic community can extend the missionary and evangelizing activity entrusted to her by the Risen Christ to the confines of the earth."
Noting that the chapel is one that only the Pope and his household can pray at, he said: "Here Peter's Successor and his collaborators meditate in silence and adore the living Christ, Who is especially present in the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the Sacrament in which all the work of Redemption is concentrated. In the Eucharistic Jesus we contemplate the transformation of death into life, of violence into love."
At the end of his homily, Benedict XVI expressed his thanks to everyone who had contributed to the restoration of the Pauline Chapel, from the Vatican Museums, to the Governorate of Vatican City State, to the Association of Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums.
Rome, Italy, Jul 6, 2009 (CNA) - Responding to Cardinal Georges Cottier's recent article praising President Obama, Vatican analyst Sandro Magister has said the cardinal almost exalts Obama as “a new Constantine, the head of a modern empire that is also generous toward the Church."
In Magister’s article, published yesterday, he casts doubt on remarks made by Cardinal Georges Cottier, 87, who lauded President Obama’s abortion stance in the Catholic magazine, “30 Days.”
Cardinal Cottier, a Swiss Dominican who served as the official theologian of the pontifical household for several years under John Paul II, discussed two of President Obama’s speeches: his commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame and the address at the Al-Azhar Islamic University in Cairo. The cardinal noted that in both speeches, President Obama gave “a glimpse of politics that can be usefully compared with fundamental elements of the social doctrine of the Catholic Church.”
Magister summarized Cardinal Cottier's analysis, saying that the cardinal finds “Obama’s vision highly compatible with the Catholic perspective,” and also attributes “good and constructive intentions to him even on the minefield of abortion.”
In his article, Cardinal Cottier wrote that during Obama’s speech at Notre Dame, “I was struck by how Obama did not avoid facing the most thorny question, that of abortion, on which he has received so many criticisms, including from the United States bishops. On the one hand, these reactions are justified: political decisions on abortion involve nonnegotiable values. For us, what is at stake is the defense of the person, of his inalienable rights, the first of which is the right to life.”
However, he continued, “in pluralistic society there are radical differences on this point. There are those who, as we do, consider abortion an ‘intrinsece malum,’ there are those who accept it, and then there are those who assert it as a right. The president never takes this last position. On the contrary, it seems to me that he makes positive suggestions – as ‘L’Osservatore Romano’ has also highlighted, on May 19 – proposing a search for common ground even in this case.”
“In this search – Obama cautions – no one must censor his own convictions, but on the contrary must assert them before everyone, and defend them. His is not at all the mistaken relativism of those who say that these are just contrasting opinions, that all personal opinions are uncertain and subjective, and that therefore they should be set aside when speaking of these things,” wrote the cardinal.
Magister responded by saying that Cardinal Cottier “denies that Obama can be considered ‘pro-abortion,’ and even attributes to him the desire to ‘do everything possible to make the number of abortions as small as possible’ just as did ‘the first Christian legislators, who did not immediately overturn the Roman laws that were tolerant toward practices inconsistent with or even contrary to the natural law, like concubinage and slavery.’”
Futhermore, Magister critiqued, the cardinal “invokes support from Saint Thomas Aquinas, according to whom ‘the state must not enact laws that are too strict and demanding, because the people will be unable to observe them and will ignore them.’”
In addition, Magister pointed out that Cardinal Cottier “applauds ‘L'Osservatore Romano’ for the same pro-Obama article on May 19 that infuriated so many American bishops.”
Following President Obama’s speech at Notre Dame, ‘L’Osservatore Romano’ published a positive article on his visit. Days later, the editor of the Vatican paper, Gian Maria Vian, defended Obama saying, “Obama is not a pro-abortion president.”
Magister concluded his comments adding, “Cardinal Cottier seems almost to exalt Obama as a new Constantine, the head of a modern empire that is also generous toward the Church.”
Madrid, Spain, Jul 6, 2009 (CNA) - The Italian senator and former EU commissioner Rocco Buttiglione said last week that the roots of the West cannot be invented and that Western culture has its roots in Christianity.
During the closing of the 1st International Congress on Philosophy in Granada, Spain, Buttiglione said each culture has to confront the problem of its own roots and the fundamental demands of the human heart. “We need roots, and our roots are the ones we have, they cannot be invented,” he said.
In this sense, the Italian senator said Christian roots “are very concrete,” because they include not only the university but also “the faithful love of parents, of a people, of an historic journey, of a way of looking at man and woman, of literature.” “All of this forms our roots and leads to self-knowledge,” he stated.
Rome, Italy, Jul 6, 2009 (CNA) - The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) wrapped up a meeting in Bunju, Tanzania, on July 3 with the presidents of the doctrinal committees from the various bishops’ conferences of Africa.
According to L’Osservatore Romano, the meeting’s primary purpose was to promote the work of the doctrinal committees and to seek out better ways for them to collaberate with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Among the issues discussed was the role of the committees in supporting the bishops' transmission of the Catholic faith, as well as the enculturation of the Gospel, inter-religious dialogue and the situation of the family in Africa.
After the opening Mass on July 1, celebrated by Cardinal Polycarp Pengo of Dar-es-Salaam, Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the CDF, addressed the participants, outlining some of the theological foundations of the doctrinal committees and what their mission is in light of the bishop’s role as teacher of the faith.
Vatican City, Jul 6, 2009 (CNA) - The Council responsible for studying the Vatican’s finances announced over the weekend that the Holy See has reported a deficit of about 900,000 euros for 2008, a fraction of the previous year’s deficit.
The Council of Cardinals for the Study of Organizational and Economic Problems of the Holy See met at the Vatican from July 1 to 3, under the presidency of Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B.
This past Saturday, the Council published a communique explaining the 2008 consolidated financial statements for the Holy See, the Governorate of the Vatican City State, and donations to Peter’s Pence.
The communique shows a deficit of 911,514 euros for the Holy See, the difference between an income of 253,953,869 euros and expenses of 254,865,383 euros.
Last year’s deficit was over 9 million euros.
The Holy See has 2,732 employees, 16 fewer than in 2007. Of this total number, 761 are priests, 334 religious and 1,637 lay people.
The Governorate of the Vatican City State, however, has posted a deficit of slightly over 15 million euros for 2008. Last year, it registered a surplus of 6.7 million euros.
The finance council attributed a significant portion of this deficit to the study of an integrated communications infrastructure that includes telephone and internet services, as well as photoelectric panels installed on the roof of the Paul VI Hall.
Also cited was the “notable economic and financial burden of protecting, evaluating and restoring the artistic heritage of the Holy See.” This includes restoration of the Pauline Chapel and work on St. Paul Outside-the-Walls and St. Mary Major.
The Governorate of Vatican City employs a total of 1,894 people, 99 more than in 2007.
Finally, Peter's Pence brought in 54,387,714 euros in 2008. The Peter’s Pence fund is comprised of offerings to the Holy Father by particular Churches, especially for the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul.
Although the number of donations to the fund were more numerous than in 2007, the total amount decreased slightly due to the economy.
Dublin, Ireland, Jul 6, 2009 (CNA) -
On Saturday thousands of Irish pro-life advocates attended a Rally for Life in Dublin’s city center urging that Ireland be kept "abortion-free."
The Irish pro-life group Youth Defence reported to CNA that the All-Ireland Rally was organized by pro-life groups in both North and South such as Youth Defence, the Life Institute, and Precious Life. Preserving Ireland’s abortion-free status was the theme for the day’s activities.
Speakers at the Rally at Ireland’s Parliament Buildings included Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Life Institute who told the gathered crowd "We will not falter and we will not fail, not while our children’s lives depend on it. We will stand together, work together, and pray together and we will keep Ireland abortion-free.
The Cajun Rock band L’Angelus also performed at the beginning of the Rally for Life and at the Celebrate Life event that evening. Norma McCorvey, the American plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court pro-abortion decision Roe v. Wade, told the Celebrate Life event that she was now seeking to overturn her case that made abortion legal across the United States.
Dr. Eoghan de Faoite described the Rally for Life, reporting that there were face-painting and balloons for children, music and banners on display and "a really enthusiastic crowd."
"It was superb to see just how many people came out to support the right-to-life and to Keep Ireland Abortion-free," he added.
Other threats to the pro-life cause have been growing in Ireland.
"We’re dealing with an attempt by the Department of Health in the north to introduce abortion on broad grounds by attempting to introduce new so-called abortion guidelines," said Bernie Smyth of the organization Precious Life, who organized buses to the Rally in Dublin.
Dr. De Faoite said there is a push for embryo research at University College Cork and an abortion case is being sponsored by the Irish Family Planning Association before the European Court of Justice.
"The majority of people in this country are pro-life," he remarked. "But we need to make sure our voices are heard, since together we are the voice for the voiceless."
Madrid, Spain, Jul 6, 2009 (CNA) - The organization Professionals for Ethics in Spain has denounced the Socialist Party for attempting to delete a paragraph from its website that clearly states that the school course Education for the Citizenry is intended to promote the homosexual agenda.
In a section expressing support for World Gay Pride Day, the Socialist party’s website pointed to various “tools” that “establish respect for sexual diversity,” including the course Education for the Citizenry.
The website said supporters should be as active in their defense and promotion of the pro-homosexual agenda as “religious integrationists and political conservatives are in their boycott of it.”
Professionals for Ethics noted that the section initially escaped the politically-correct filters of the Socialist party. “When the document was posted on the official website of Gay Pride Day,” the paragraph that mentions Education for the Citizenry “was quickly deleted.” “It wasn’t convenient to publicly acknowledge” that the course is intended as a tool to promote the homosexual agenda, “nor to brutally insult the hundreds of thousands of Spaniards who, one way or another, are not in agreement with the school indoctrination,” the organization said.
Washington D.C., Jul 6, 2009 (CNA) - The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has released its final guidelines for human embryonic stem cell research. The rules allow the funding of research which uses stem cells harvested from fertility clinic embryos and also outline informed consent standards for women or couples who donate their embryos.
The guidelines, which implement a March 9 executive order issued by President Barack Obama, become effective July 7.
Msgr. David Malloy, General Secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has been critical of the NIH rules. In a May commentary on the guidelines, he said the rules were "broader or more permissive" than any previous research policy in key respects.
He also insisted it was a human right not to be subjected to harmful experimentation.
"As the President noted," Msgr. Malloy said, "we must not make ‘a false choice between sound science and moral values.’ In fact, these sources of guidance both point in the same direction, away from destructive embryonic stem cell research. His executive order and these Guidelines nonetheless insist on a course of action that is both morally objectionable and, increasingly, scientifically obsolete."
"This is not merely a political or ideological problem, or a problem of religious dogma, but a deeply human problem: We are testing the limits of our obligation to treat all fellow human beings, of every age and condition, with basic respect," Msgr. Malloy wrote.
There was doubt about whether the new NIH requirements for informed consent would have disqualified some existing stem cell lines, the Associated Press says. The NIH now requires documentation of voluntary informed consent from a woman or couple who donate the original embryo. They must have been told of other options for "leftover" embryos, such as donating to another infertile woman.
The NIH designed a compromise which deems old stem cell lines eligible for government research dollars if scientists can prove they met the spirit of the new ethics standards.
An NIH registry will list all cell lines that qualify.
Acting NIH Director Raynard Kington portrayed the informed consent guidelines as a "reasonable compromise" which will achieve President Obama’s stated goal of "advancing science while maintaining rigorous ethical standards," the Associated Press reports.
Stem cell research hopes to harness the power of adult or embryonic stem cells to create better treatments for ailments ranging from diabetes to spinal cord injuries. Embryonic stem cells are harvested by destroying human embryos.
Vatican City, Jul 6, 2009 (CNA) - On July 4, just days before his social encyclical is set to be released, Pope Benedict XVI sent a letter regarding the upcoming G8 meeting to the Prime Minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi. In his letter, he called for renewed international efforts to work together in order “to face current challenges” in front of mankind today.
The heads of State and Government of the Group of Eight industrialized countries (G8) are scheduled to meet in the Italian city of L'Aquila from July 8 to 10.
Pope Benedict recalled John Paul II’s conviction that “eradicating the causes of extreme poverty in the world” would depend upon “the most economically-advanced governments and States fully assuming the responsibility they bear towards all humanity.”
Acknowledging the millennium goal to eradicate extreme poverty around the globe by 2015, the Holy Father observed that “the financial and economic crisis that has struck the entire planet since the start of 2008 has altered the panorama, so that there is now a real risk not only that the hope of emerging from extreme poverty may be extinguished, but that people who until now benefited from some minimal material wellbeing risk falling into indigence.”
With this in mind, the Pontiff reached out to make an appeal to the G8 members, asking them “that their aid for development, especially the part directed at 'evaluating' the 'human resource,' may be maintained and strengthened, and not just despite the crisis but precisely because this is one of the principle ways to solve it.”
The Pope also spoke of the importance of education, encouraging “international co-operation” by the world community, as well as the Catholic Church and other religions, to increase access to education, even to the "poorest and most remote corners of the globe."
The Holy Father observed, "Education is an indispensable condition for the working of democracy, for the fight against corruption, for the exercise of political, economic and social rights, and for the recovery of all States, both poor and rich."
He went on to note the importance of "the creation of jobs for everyone” which will allow workers to provide for their families, educate their children and be involved in their communities.
Benedict XVI continued to speak of the necessity “to reform international financial structures in order to ensure effective co-ordination of national policies.”
Emphasizing multilateralism, the Pope also spoke of the “ethical legitimization” of the G8’s political commitments, which will require “that they be weighed against the ideas and needs of the entire international community.”
This co-operation, said the Pontiff, is necessary “not only in economic questions but over the entire spectrum of topics concerning peace, world security, disarmament, health, and protection of the environment and of natural resources.”
The Holy Father also encouraged G8 leaders "to listen to the voice of Africa and of less economically-developed countries," as well as to seek ways to link the decisions of the G8 to the United Nations Assembly, where “each nation, whatever its political or economic importance, can legitimately express itself in a position of equality with others.”
Benedict concluded his letter by commenting on the location of the summit. Recalling the devastation caused by the recent earthquake in L’Aquila and noting the aid the city has received since then, he encouraged the G8 members to see this meeting as an invitation “to unite to face current challenges, which require humankind to make decisive choices concerning the very destiny of man, intimately connected with that of creation.”