Vatican City, Jul 20, 2009 (CNA) - This past Friday, Cardinal Jean Margeot, 93, passed away in Maritius, an island located east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. Upon learning of the cardinal's death, Pope Benedict sent a telegram to Bishop Maurice Piat of Port Louis, praising the cardinal's lifelong dedication to God and offering his prayers.
Three ceremonies were held on Sunday to bid farewell to Cardinal Margeot, beginning with a time of prayer in St. Louis Cathedral, followed by a funeral Mass at the Mary Queen of Peace monument and concluding with the cardinal's entombment in his cathedral.
The midday funeral Mass was presided over by Bishop Piat, who was joined by the Apostolic Nuncio to Maritius Bishop Augustine Kasujja and numerous other bishops, including the late cardinal's cousin Bishop Alain Harel.
In his telegram to Bishop Piat, the Holy Father expressed his "profound union in prayer with the diocese of Port-Louis, with the family of the deceased and with everyone affected by this loss."
"Entrusting him to the mercy of the Lord," the Pope wrote, "I give thanks to God for the ministry of this zealous pastor who dedicated his entire life to the inhabitants of the Isle of Mauritius, as diocesan priest then as bishop of Port-Louis, giving the best of himself that Christ might be announced, especially through his generous commitment to serving the defense and promotion of the family."
Pope Benedict finished his message by invoking the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, mother of the Church, and praying that "the Lord welcome His faithful servant into His Kingdom of peace and light."
"Upon you, upon the faithful of the diocese, upon the relatives of the deceased and upon everyone who gathers for the funeral liturgy," the Pope said, "I impart a heartfelt apostolic blessing."
Vatican City, Jul 20, 2009 (CNA) - The Italian technology firm Olivetti has given Pope Benedict XVI a top-of-the-line laptop computer to help him continue writing the second part of his book, “Jesus of Nazareth,” after he fractured his wrist last Friday while on vacation.
The Pope was given the computer on Sunday in the Italian town of Romano Canavese, where he prayed the Sunday Angelus with about 9,000 people. The laptop was presented to the Pontiff by Franco Bernabe of Telecom and the president of Olivetti, Francesco Forlenza.
The computer also contained a slide show of papal photographs featuring Pius XII and John XXIII, who also visited the town.
The director of the Holy See's press office, Father Federico Lombardi, also gave reporters an update on the Pope's condition. “The Pope is calm and doing well. Today is a calm day after the beautiful day yesterday.” This afternoon the Pope will take a walk with his secretary to pray the rosary.
Regarding the laptop, Father Lombardi said the Pope has “not yet experimented with it, since he not used to it. He’s not very tech-savvy. He writes in longhand and enjoys writing with his pen.”
Father Lombardi also explained that Benedict XVI would be meeting with Cardinal Bertone over the next few days to discuss the Holy See’s ongoing activities. The Vatican spokesman said he would be staying with the Pope a few days to follow his recovery more closely.
Washington D.C., Jul 20, 2009 (CNA) - In remarks on the House floor last week, Congressman Chris Smith argued that President Obama purposely misled Pope Benedict XVI when he said that he “wants to reduce abortion” at their July 10 meeting.
Smith recalled the president's statement to the Pope and pointed out that Obama has repeated it several times to different audiences. And yet, Smith charged, Obama’s actions have not aligned with his words. “He says one thing and does precisely the opposite.”
Now, the New Jersey Congressman said, Obama is offering a plan for health care reform that is a thinly veiled attempt to increase access to abortion on demand. The plan would increase funding for abortions and allow abortion services to be considered part of “basic health care” required by all insurance plans, including private plans.
Smith pointed to information from the Guttmacher Institute, which has stated that “when taxpayer funding is not available, between 20 and 35 percent of Medicaid abortions that would have been procured simply don't occur.”
These children go on to be born, he explained, referencing the millions of children throughout the country who are able to live their own lives and pursue their own hopes and dreams “because taxpayer subsidies didn't effectuate their demise.”
“The ugly truth is that if his so-called health care reform care bill, if enacted, will lead to millions of additional deaths to children and millions of mothers will be wounded,” Smith said.
Rep. Smith concluded his remarks by encouraging his fellow congressmen to vote against the health care bill and insisting that “[t]here will be children who will die if this legislation becomes law simply because the subsidies are there to effectuate their deaths.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Jul 20, 2009 (CNA) - The bishops of the ecclesiastical province of Morelia in Mexico have called for an end to the violence that has plagued the region. They have also implored Mexicans in the area to participate in the Triduum of Prayer for peace July 23 to 25.
“As disciples of Jesus Christ and as pastors of the People of God, we cannot remain silent or indifferent. It is time to raise our voices and ask in the name of God: Enough death! Nobody can escape divine judgment and each one will have render and account for his actions. We call on those involved in violence to heed the voice of God who calls us to life and to peace,” the bishops said in a statement.
They went on to express their sorrow over the wave of violence that has spread across the region and they noted that residents live in an atmosphere of uncertainty and anguish because they feel defenseless. “There are places becoming ghost towns because the lack of security,” the bishops warned.
For this reason the bishops have called for a Triduum of Prayer July 23—25. It will include Holy Hours, Stations of the Cross and the Rosary. They also suggested using prayers for Reconciliation during the Mass when permitted by the liturgical calendar and to pray for peace each afternoon at 3 p.m.
“We must humbly and persistently implore the God of mercy to take pity on us and grant us peace. With the strength of prayer let us struggle to overcome evil with the force of good,” the bishops said, urging that all Mexicans work to “re-establish public order in peace and justice.”
Sao Paulo, Brazil, Jul 20, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the Brazilian bishop’s Committee on Life and the Family, Archbishop Orlando Brandes of Londrina, said last week, “When a family passes on religious principles, the Gospel to their own children, it is fulfilling its mission as the domestic Church.”
The archbishop’s comments were part of the presentation of the 2009 edition of the book, “The Time of the Family,” which is being released to mark the Week of the Family, a Brazilian initiative that will take place in August.
This year’s celebration will focus on catechesis, as “parents are the first catechists” of their children, the archbishop said.
“At the heart of the family founded upon marriage is its vocation to be a natural source of life, the first school of humanity, in which diverse generations learn and exercise each day the joy and virtue of living, not only individually but also together, in the sign of the diverse forms of life: gift, forgiveness, sacrifice, patience and everyday life, joy and sorrow,” he said.
Amidst the various threats facing the family today, Archbishop Brandes said the family must keep sight of “its fundamental mission, which is to be the first school of human and social virtues that contribute what is essential for living together in peace.”
Vatican City, Jul 20, 2009 (CNA) - L’Osservatore Romano published a series of articles today commemorating the 40th anniversary of the first lunar landing on July 20, 1969, by Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins.
The Vatican newspaper called it “an historic event” that was “truly colossal, costly and difficult,” with “hundreds of millions of spectators throughout the world” following the landing on black and white television.
It went on to recall Armstrong’s famous words at setting foot on the moon: “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” “The safe return of the astronauts to earth was a triumph for them. This journey was compared to that of Christopher Columbus and became the main theme of news reports, science and literature,” the paper reported.
L'Osservatore also recalled the message sent by Pope Paul VI to the astronauts on the night of July 20, after peering at the moon through the “Specola Vaticana” telescope at Castel Gandolfo. In that message, the Pope said, “Glory to God in the highest and peace to all men of good will! … and honor to you, the men who have carried out this great space enterprise!”
“Honor, greetings and blessings to you, conquerors of the moon, the soft light of our nights and our dreams! With your living presence bring to it the voice of the spirit, the hymn to God, our Creator and our Father,” the Pope added.
The Vatican daily then recalled Pope Paul VI’s remarks at the Wednesday General Audience of July 23, 1969, in which he stressed the important need to reflect deeply on this event and respond from the faith. People should always seeks the encounter between its “humble doctrine and the marvelous riches of modern scientific thought” in the same way that the truth, “while diverse and ordered in different ways, is always one and in agreement with itself, and the benefit that results from such an encounter is always reciprocal for the faith.”
After recalling that man can reach the truth on the wings of both faith and reason, as Pope John Paul II would reiterate some years later, Paul VI encouraged the faithful to “not be afraid that our faith is unable to understand the explorations and conquests of the created world that man is making, and that we, as followers of Christ, are exempt from the contemplation of the earth and of the heavens and of the joy of their gradual and marvelous discovery. If we are with Christ, we are on the way, we are on the truth and the life,” he said.
The Vatican daily also mentioned the speech that Pope Paul VI gave to the Apollo 11 astronauts in his private library. “Man has the natural tendency to explore the unknown,” he told them, “to uncover the mystery, but man also fears it. Your bravery has overcome this fear and with your adventure, man has taken a step towards greater knowledge of the universe.”
After praising the genius of those involved in the space expedition, Pope Paul reminded them that their “knowledge was given by God.” Hopefully, he said, through their knowledge the Lord would allow “us to learn more about creation, to see more clearly his power, his immensity, his perfection, so that with this knowledge men can be more united, as his sons, in fraternal love, in peace and prayer.”
The Pope concluded by thanking God again “for the success of your mission, for the things you have discovered, for your safe return to the Earth, and we invoke upon you, your spouses and children, the greatest blessings and graces of the Lord of the heavens.”
Paris, France, Jul 20, 2009 (CNA) - During the presentation of Pope Benedict XVI’s new encyclical Caritas in Veritate to politicians, union leaders and other French officials, the Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Andre Vignt-Trois, said the letter is a “formidable message of hope” from the Holy Father to all humanity.
During a speech at the Bernandins School, the cardinal said the Pope’s message “affirms that humanity has the mission and the possibility to dominate the world in which it lives,” and that beyond just being subject to things as they are, humanity “can transform this world” and “bring about progress in human relations through justice and love.”
The cardinal also explained that Pope Benedict’s encyclical stands out for the multiplicity of arguments it confronts and its general perspective on the responsibility all people have in social and economic activity.
He added that the encyclical “begins from a fundamental principle of the Church’s social doctrine: ‘for all of man and for all men.”
Tel Aviv, Israel, Jul 20, 2009 (CNA) - Israeli officials have halted the distribution of a booklet published by an American Orthodox Jewish Group and given to Israeli Defense Forces soldiers. The move follows reports of the booklet’s claims that the Pope identified with Hezbollah and that the Vatican took Hezbollah officials on a tour of the Auschwitz concentration camp.
The booklet claims the Pope and some cardinals from the Vatican helped organize the tours to teach the Lebanon-based Islamic group how to wipe out Jews, Haaretz reports.
Titled “On Either Side of the Border,” the booklet purports to be the testimony of a Hezbollah officer who spied for Israel. It was published by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America in cooperation with Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu, Chief Rabbi of Safed.
The booklet’s narrator is a man named Avi, who says he changed his name from Ibrahim after he left Hezbollah and converted to Judaism. Avi claims to have been close to Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah and he alleges Hezbollah had close relationships with the Vatican and European leaders.
Claiming to describe a Vatican-led visit of Hezbollah officials to Auschwitz, Avi writes:
“We came to the camps. We saw the trains, the platforms, the piles of eyeglasses and clothes ... We came to learn ... Our escort spoke as he was taught. We quickly explained to him: Every real Arab, deep inside, is kind of a fan of the Nazis.”
Some senior Israeli officers, such as Lt. Col. Tamir Shalom, commander of the Nahshon Battalion of the Kfir Brigade, have encouraged the booklet’s distribution over the past few months. A copy of the booklet obtained by Haaretz included a Passover greeting from Shalom, “in the name of the Nahshon Brigade.”
One soldier told Haaretz that the book is distributed “regularly” and “everyone reads it and believes it.”
"It's filled with made-up details but is presented as a true story. A whole company of soldiers, adults, told me: 'Read this and you'll understand who the Arabs are.'"
David Menahemov, an aide to Rabbi Eliahu, claims the book is not fiction.
“Avi is a real person and everything in the book is absolutely true,” he said. “It's a totally true story, I know the guy personally. He's an Arab, who even though he converted still acts like an Arab. We helped him to write and to translate it.”
Menahemov said “a few details” were changed to protect Avi and his family.
According to Haaretz, the IDF Spokesman’s Office said in a statement that the booklet was received as a donation and distributed to the soldiers “in good faith.”
“After we were alerted to the sensitivity of its content, distribution was immediately halted."
Washington D.C., Jul 20, 2009 (CNA) - The White House budget chief has said that he will not rule out whether a government-funded public health insurance proposal will allow taxpayer money to pay for abortions. Rather, the matter will be “part of the debate.”
The White House’s Office of Budget and Management Chief Peter Orszag, speaking to Fox News Sunday, said he is not ready to say whether abortion services would be part of a final taxpayer-funded health care package being considered by Congress for about one third of the 50 million uninsured Americans.
Speaking about abortion, he said “I think that that will wind up being part of the debate. I am not prepared to say explicitly that right now. It's obviously a controversial issue, and it's one of the questions that is playing out in this debate.”
“I’m not prepared to rule it out,” he added.
The health care reform bill is being debated in the U.S. House and Senate. President Barack Obama is seeking its passage by August. The package is estimated to cost as much as $1.5 trillion over ten years.
Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) said abortion should not be an issue in the debate since so many Americans oppose taxpayer-funded abortion.
“No matter what your views are on abortion, you shouldn't ask people to use their tax dollars if they think that abortion is taking a life -- to use their tax dollars for those purpose -- for that purpose,” he commented on Fox News Sunday.
“I would hate to see the health care debate go down over that issue,” he added. “So hopefully we won't get ourselves wrapped around the wheel of abortion in this debate.”
The Obama Administration and the Democratic Congress have already expanded funding for abortion and abortion-promoting groups. In January, President Obama rescinded the Mexico City Policy which bars funding for groups that promote or perform abortion overseas.
Last week the House voted to eliminate a ban on local funding for abortions in Washington, D.C. and to broaden the circumstances in which federal funds for abortions may be used in the District.