Seoul, South Korea, Sep 15, 2009 (CNA) - After two years of remodeling which included the addition of multimedia exhibits, the Korean Martyrs Museum-Shrine has reopened in Seoul.
The Museum-Shrine, which contains rooms for liturgical celebration and prayer, was built in 1967 on the site in Jeoldusan where many of the Korean martyrs died from 1866 to 1873. Thousands of Catholics were killed in the fierce persecutions.
The Shrine-Museum presents numerous historical documents, visual reconstructions, photographs and documentaries, Fides news agency reports.
Archbishop of Seoul Cardinal Nicholas Choeng inaugurated the reopening of the Shrine-Museum, calling it a place of “extraordinary importance” for making known the history of the Church in Korea and “the faith of our predecessors.”
The Shrine-Museum is meant to “reawaken and renew the faith” of every visitor, the cardinal said.
September is Korea’s “Month of the Martyrs.” September 20 is the universal feast of St. Andrew Kim Taegon (1821-1846), the first Korean priest and martyr and also the patron of the Korean clergy.
All Korean dioceses have organized commemorative events in honor of the martyrs, including a pilgrimage to their shrine.
Several lay people who formed a strong and fervent community first brought the Gospel to Korea at the beginning of the 17th century. The Christian community suffered harsh persecutions, especially in the second half of the 1800s.
There have been over 10,000 Korean martyrs, 103 of whom were canonized in 1984 in Seoul by Pope John Paul II in the first canonization ceremony to take place outside the Vatican.
According to Fides, in 2004 the Archdiocese of Seoul opened its investigation into the cause for beatification of the Servant of God Paul Yun Ji-Chung and his 123 companions who in 1791 were tortured and killed “in odium fidei,” in hatred of the faith.
Birmingham, England, Sep 15, 2009 (CNA) - Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham David McGough has criticized a new book by the atheist author Philip Pullman, saying that his contention that St. Paul invented the divinity of Jesus would not be held by any respectable scholar of Scripture.
Pullman’s upcoming book, titled “The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ,” claims that St. Paul transformed the character of Jesus and bestowed divine attributes to a normal man through his “fervid imagination,” the Catholic Herald reports.
Bishop McGough responded to the claim, saying that there is no evidence that Paul influenced the Gospels.
“No respectable scriptural scholar would have anything to do with [Pullman's] theory," he said. “This implication ignores the fact that there was a living Christian tradition from very early on which involved re-telling the Gospel in an oral form.”
Pullman told the Sunday London Times that by the time the Gospels were written down Paul had begun to “transform” the story of Jesus into something “altogether different and extraordinary.” He claimed some of this version influenced the Gospel writers.
“Paul was a literary and imaginative genius who has had more influence on the world than anybody else, including Jesus,” Pullman claimed. “He had this great ability to persuade others and his rhetorical skills have been convincing people for 2,000 years.”
The author charged that St. Paul has inspired evil and fanaticism.
"For every man or woman who has been led to goodness by a church, and I know there have been many, there has been another who has been inspired by the same church to a rancid and fanatical bigotry for which the only fitting word is evil,” he told the Times, arguing that the more power the Church has the worst it behaves.
Peter Kearney, a spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland, said that Catholics would not be overly concerned by the book.
“It is important that people should be free to express themselves, and Christians have withstood a lot more in the past - namely being thrown to the lions - that puts a book into perspective," he said, according to the Catholic Herald.
Pullman also authored the "His Dark Materials" trilogy, a children’s fantasy story which depicts a Catholic Church-like organization which cruelly experiments on children. The first book of the trilogy, “The Golden Compass,” was made into a 2007 movie.
L’Osservatore Romano described the movie as depicting “a cold and hopeless world without God.” In Pullman’s world, the Vatican newspaper charged, hope does not exist because there is no salvation but “only personal, individualistic capacity to control the situation and dominate events.”
The reviewer added that viewers would find it “devoid of any particular emotion apart from a great chill.”
According to the Internet Movie Database, “The Golden Compass” did not recoup its $180 million budget but earned only $70 million at the U.S. box office.
Washington D.C., Sep 15, 2009 (CNA) - A reception for national Hispanic leaders will be held at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C. to observe National Hispanic Heritage Month. The September 23 event is hosted by the Apostolic Nuncio and the San Antonio-based Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (CALL).
Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Pietro Sambi is hosting the event to acknowledge the contributions of Hispanics and to recognize CALL’s mission and purpose.
Mario Paredes, CALL Chairman of the Board, said the nunciature’s hosting of the event was a “wonderful acknowledgement” of the group's mission and a recognition of the “many gifts” of Hispanic culture.
“More importantly, it acknowledges CALL’s work with the Catholic Church for the common good in the service of Latino communities in the United States,” said Paredes, who is from New York City.
The reception will begin at 6 p.m. and will be attended by Hispanic and other leaders from the corporate, non-profit and Catholic spheres. It is sponsored by CALL, the Raza Development Fund, the American Bible Society, Mary’s Ministries and Alamo Travel Group.
Archbishop of San Antonio José H. Gomez expressed his gratitude that the Nuncio has welcomed CALL’s supporters and friends on what he called the “momentous occasion” of Hispanic Heritage Month.
“The cultural traditions of the Hispanic American community are very much a part of the rich historical experiences of the Catholic Church in this continent. Catholicism and the Hispanic cultures are undeniably intertwined,” the archbishop said in a press release.
CALL says it is poised to serve as a “national voice” for Hispanics on social justice issues and on policies affecting Latinos. It describes its purpose as the preservation and promotion of the sanctity and dignity of life, marriage and family life, Catholic faith formation, improved education and vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life.
The group was founded two years ago and its members include Hispanics from varying business and professional backgrounds. Its website is at http://www.hispanicleaders.net.
Vatican City, Sep 15, 2009 (CNA) - The Russian Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches have improved relations under Pope Benedict XVI, and in a sign of a growing closeness, the Vatican announced today that Archbishop Hilarion, the Russian Orthodox head of External Church Affairs, is paying his first visit to Rome.
Archbishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk is visiting Rome at the invitation of Cardinal Walter Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. His trip began today and will last until September 20.
Archbishop Hilarion's post was previously filled by then-Archbishop Kirill, who was elected the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia this past January.
This week's visit to Rome will be Archbishop Hilarion's first since he was appointed as president of the Department for External Church Affairs of the Patriarchate of Moscow after the selection of Kirill.
The archbishop will be received by the Holy Father and will meet, among others, Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone; Cardinal Walter Kasper; Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, and Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture.
"In the wake of the many meetings and conversations with the Patriarch in the past," says a statement issued by the Council for Christian Unity, "this visit will confirm the ties of friendship between the Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church, on the solid basis of mutual understanding and respect, with a view to closer collaboration and to favor the presence of the Church in the lives of the peoples of Europe and the world."
At a meeting with the ambassador from the Dominican Republic to Russia, Archbishop Hilarion said that relations between the two Churches are good and have particularly improved under Pope Benedict.
“We have frank and rather efficient dialogue and its objective is to present the Christian vision to our present world and give answers to the questions raised by today’s reality,” the Orthodox archbishop said according to Interfax news agency.
Vatican City, Sep 15, 2009 (CNA) - The official papal charity Cor Unum has just concluded a retreat for the heads of Church charities throughout Asia. The retreat was focused on the theme "You did it to me" from Mt. 25:40 and was held at the Fu Jen Catholic University in Taipei, Taiwan.
The retreat gathered the heads and presidents of the numerous charities from September 6-11 and was attended by 450 participants from 29 nations, including five cardinals and over 60 bishops.
"Participants," says a press release, "prayed in a special way for those struck recently by Typhoon Morakot in Taiwan." On September 6 Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, President of Cor Unum, traveled to the worst hit area of Kaohsiung "in order to visit personally and bring the Lord's consolation to those affected by the tragedy."
The retreatants were also greeted by a message from Pope Benedict who offered his "warm appreciation and gratitude for all those who commit themselves to the 'diakonia' of charity, an essential activity of the life of the Church and a responsibility for the entire ecclesial community." The Pope also expressed the hope that the spiritual exercises will strengthen in participants "the virtue of heartfelt compassion for all who suffer."
Rome, Italy, Sep 15, 2009 (CNA) -
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair told L’Osservatore Romano this week that religion, and concretely the Catholic Church, as “a crucial role in the development” of nations and is always oriented towards achieving the common good.
The son of a militant atheist and a Protestant mother, Blair recounted his path to conversion and said it began long ago when he met his wife. “The faith has always been an important part of our life as a family,” he said.
After referring to the differences in political life between Great Britain and the United States—where it is almost obligatory to refer to God in politics—Blair said he “shares completely everything that the Holy Father writes” in his recent encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate,” saying the letter should be “read and re-read.”
“I believe religion has a central and unique role within society and for its development. Think for example of the way in which we use technology. But it is true that a conflict exists, because many people want to remove religion from the public sphere,” Blair continued.
Although he has yet to reconcile his views on abortion and homosexual unions with the Church, Blair said he thinks that “religion has an important role. It is does not mean an end to debates and to opposition. On the contrary, these will probably continue in many issues about which the Church will probably be on one side and political leaders on the other. But I do not believe that this is the real issue: the key issue is that faith has the full right to enter into this space and to speak. It should not be silent,” he said.
For this reason, he said, it is important not only that things be resolved in a just way, but also that the voice of the faith is not absent from public debate (think of issues such as justice and solidarity between peoples and nations).”
“Faith has a unique role,” the former prime minister asserted. “The Catholic Church follows the truth of God and I think that the Pope strives so hard to make it understood that this proclamation is a Christian obligation,” he added.
It is true that “sometimes this can enter into conflict with the political world and I have experiences of that as a political leader. Nevertheless, it is extremely important that this religious aspect exists; it is not a coincidence that the Pope writes that humanism without God is inhumane,” Blair stated.
“I think that thus the Pope seeks to make it clear that human actions and human reason will always be limited if they are not permeated by the faith, without which, they can even become dangerous,” he warned.
Referring to the centrality of the family in society, and commenting on his own experience as the father of three children, Blair said the Church has an important role to play in this area. “It is true that families have their problems, their challenges, and this is not going to end. But I have always thought that the guidance of the Church in family matters is useful,” he said.
Madrid, Spain, Sep 15, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Madrid and president of the Bishops’ Conference of Spain, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, said this week the most serious element of the new bill on abortion is that it turns the practice into “a woman’s right.”
Speaking on the COPE radio network, the cardinal recalled that last June the Spanish bishops issued a statement about the proposed law that is under consideration and said turning abortion into “a woman’s right” signifies “a qualitative moral change that is very grave” and a “deep 'relativization' of the right to life.”
They called on all Spaniards to use every legal means possible to oppose the measure.
Speaking later about the pilgrimage of the World Youth Day Cross throughout Spain, Cardinal Rouco noted that it was the same Cross given to the youth by John Paul II in 1984 when World Youth Day began.
The “underlying message” since the first World Youth Day is “the exaltation of the Cross. In the Cross is our salvation,” he said. “May young people know what path they must take in order to reach the fullness of their days. The way of salvation is the crucified Lord,” who leads the way to man’s glorious future, the cardinal said.
Caracas, Venezuela, Sep 15, 2009 (CNA) - The Venezuelan Bishops’ Committee on National Justice and Peace is deploring the arrest without cause of numerous individuals as a violation of their human rights, saying the arrests of those who were exercising their civil right to protest are intended to spread “fear among the rest of the citizens.”
“The State has returned to the practice of preventive detention, to ‘detention for investigation’ instead of ‘investigating in order to detain.’ These are actions that take us back to an era we thought we had overcome,” the bishops said in a statement.
The 13 protestors arrested over the past several days were protesting the new education law that banishes religion classes from state schools and gives the Chavez goverment control over education in both private and public schools.
In their statement, the Venezuelan bishops also denounced the courts for issuing orders that deprive detainees of the freedoms and making no distinction between them and convicted criminals. There “are no guarantees that the physical integrity and the lives of those detained will be respected,” they added.
“By choosing to hold these people in public and notoriously unsafe prisons, it seems there is a desire to create precedents that terrorize the rest of citizens,” the bishops warned.
For this reason, they continued, “We denounce and repudiate all attacks against the dignity of the human person and against the honorable work of organizations that for years have worked for the defense of human rights. Defamation, raids, spoken and written attacks are actions that discredit and denigrate the reputation and moral of serious and committed organizations,” they said.
“We demand the Venezuelan State stick to the standards of protection of human rights established in the Constitution,” the bishops continued.
They encouraged Venezuelans to continue striving for reconciliation in the country and they stressed that the “Justice and Peace office, fulfilling its humanitarian mission to defend the human rights of all citizens, regardless of their political opinions, will continue to support any denouncement of those whose rights are being affected.”
Valletta, Malta, Sep 15, 2009 (CNA) -
A Vatican official responsible for pontifical visits will travel to Malta in October to consider a visit by Pope Benedict XVI in April 2010, the 1950th anniversary of St. Paul’s shipwreck on the island.
Tradition holds the shipwreck to have taken place in 60 AD. In the Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke writes that the inhabitants treated him and St. Paul with “unusual kindness.”
The event is of particular importance to Malta, where large celebrations were held in 1960 to commemorate its anniversary.
The bishops of Malta and Malta’s President have invited Pope Benedict to visit the island. The bishops have encouraged the faithful to pray that the Maltese islands be blessed with a visit by the Pope, a statement from the Archdiocese of Malta says.
Pope John Paul II visited Malta in May 1990 and again in May 2001.
For last year’s Year of Saint Paul the dioceses of Malta and Gozo organized various initiatives encouraging the faithful to reflect upon St. Paul. At the end of the Pauline Year, Pope Benedict sent Cardinal Ennio Antonelli as his delegate to Malta to preside over the Eucharistic celebration held outside St. John’s Co-Cathedral.
The present U.S. Ambassador to Malta is Doug W. Kmiec, a Catholic who was the center of controversy in the 2008 presidential election because of his support for the pro-abortion rights Democrat Barack Obama, the current U.S. president.
Huesca, Spain, Sep 15, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop Francisco Gil Hellin of Burgos, Spain told the faithful during a Mass for the 20th Marian Day of the Family that the family “is a natural institution made by God,” and that therefore “neither governments nor the parliament are the ones to be saying what makes up a family.”
The Mass, held at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Angels, brought together 15,000 faithful from Spain, France, Poland and Italy in an act of devotion to Our Lady of the Angels in the north central Spanish city of Torreciudad.
During his homily, the archbishop called on families to rediscover each day “that treasure of which you are the depository. God has blessed you with these loves: with your wife, your husband, your children.”
“Thus the family will truly be the sanctuary of life; it will be the guarantor that every child that results from the giving of one’s self in marital fidelity will be safeguarded by the strongest crib, which is conjugal and family love,” he added.
During the celebration a message from Pope Benedict XVI was read in which he called for “an unconditional yes to life” and asked spouses to surrender themselves to each other in mutual trust and fidelity.
The celebration concluded with the recitation of the Rosary and Eucharistic benediction.
Owosso, Mich., Sep 15, 2009 (CNA) - Friends and family of murdered pro-life activist Jim Pouillon will gather to pray and remember him at Willman Football Stadium in Owosso, Michigan on Wednesday afternoon.
Following the gathering, friends of Pouillon will gather to pray and rally in opposition to violence against innocent people in front of the local Planned Parenthood. Both events are open to the public.
"We must emulate Jim's example as a follower of Jesus Christ and public defender of pre-born babies," Cal Zastrow of PersonhoodUSA said in a press release. "We will join together in Owosso to praise Jesus Christ, remember Jim, and continue to speak out against all violence against the innocent - the tragic violence that killed Jim on September 11th, and the tragic violence that kills thousands of pre-born babies daily at Planned Parenthood.
“Being pro-life doesn't save any babies from murder, but acting pro-life does."
Pouillon. who was dependent upon an oxygen tank and leg braces, was killed in front of Owosso High School where he was holding a sign protesting abortion. One side of the sign depicted a baby with the word “Life” above.
His accused murderer, 33-year-old Harlan Drake, told detectives he targeted Pouillon because he was “offended by the manner of his message.”
Drake is also accused of murdering a local businessman shortly after he killed Pouillon. Drake reportedly planned to kill a third man but was arrested before he could do so.
In a Friday interview with CNA, Zastrow described his friend Pouillon as a “wonderful, Christian, peaceful man” who was “very non-violent.”
“Jim was ready for this. His life had been threatened many, many times,” he said. “He never approved of violence and he never threatened anybody.”