Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Sep 21, 2009 (CNA) -
As he does every year, the Holy Father hosted a congress for all the bishops who were consecrated this past year. Noting that helping priests is an essential task for a bishop, Pope Benedict reminded the prelates to urge priests to seek "intimate and personal union with Christ."
Addressing the recently-consecrated bishops at Castel Gandolfo today, the Holy Father recalled the importance of "not forgetting that one of a bishop's essential tasks is that of helping priests - by example and fraternal support - to follow their vocation faithfully and to work enthusiastically and lovingly in the Lord's vineyard."
Priests, said the Pope, must "remain united to the Lord; this is the secret of the fruitfulness of their ministry." Increased workload, difficulties, and the new requirements of pastoral care "must never distract us from intimate and personal union with Christ. Our readiness and openness to people must never diminish or overshadow our readiness and openness towards the Lord."
"The time that priests and bishops consecrate to God in prayer is always time well spent," he emphasized. "This is because prayer is at the heart of pastoral work, it is the 'lymph' which gives it strength, it is a support in moments of uncertainty and discouragement, and an endless source of missionary fervor and of fraternal love towards everyone."
Focusing more closely on priestly life, Pope Benedict stated that, "At the heart of priestly life is the Eucharist." The Pontiff also pointed to a devout recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours as "one special way to prolong the mysterious sanctifying action of the Eucharist throughout the day." In addition, priests can participate in Eucharistic adoration, 'lectio divina' and the contemplative prayer of the Rosary, he said.
With the Church celebrating the Year for Priests, the Pope turned to its patron, St. Jean Vianney, who "showed us the importance of priests' immersing themselves in the Eucharist and of educating the faithful in the Eucharistic presence and in communion."
Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Sep 21, 2009 (CNA) - The Holy Father met with the leaders of the Catholic Church in the Middle East on Saturday morning in Castel Gandolfo. During the discussion the Pope announced that a synod will be held in October 2010 to focus on the communion of the Catholic Church in the region.
Before announcing plans for the synod, Pope Benedict spoke with the representatives from the Middle Eastern Churches in communion with Rome about their desire to have more contact with him to “strengthen the communion of your Churches with Peter's Successor and together examine, as necessary, themes of particular importance."
The Pope then referred to the Apostolic Letter "Orientale lumen" in which John Paul II reiterated "the hope that the Eastern Catholic Churches may 'flourish' and with new apostolic vigor execute the task entrusted to them ... to promote the unity of all Christians, especially Eastern Christians, in keeping with the decree on ecumenism."
"The ecumenical question is often connected to the inter-religious question,” said the Pope. “In these two areas the Church as a whole needs that experience of coexistence which your Churches have matured since the first Christian millennium.”
Recalling then how today's meeting would serve to examine the problems currently troubling the bishops, the Holy Father remarked: "In particular, I do not forget the appeal for peace you placed in my hands at the end of last October's assembly of the Synod of Bishops. And, on the subject of peace, our thoughts go out first and foremost to the regions of the Middle East."
The Holy Father concluded audience by announcing that a Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East will take place Oct. 10 – 24, 2010 and will carry the theme: “The Catholic Church in the Middle East: communion and witness: The whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul.”
Those present at Saturday’s meeting include: His Beatitude Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, Lebanon; Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, Iraq; Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halyc, Ukraine; Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil C.SS.R., Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly of the Syro-Malabars, India; His Beatitude Antonios Naguib, Patriarch of Alexandria of the Copts, Egypt; His Beatitude Gregorios III Laham, Patriarch of Antioch of the Greek Melkites, Syria; His Beatitude Ignace Youssif III Younan, Patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians, Lebanon; His Beatitude Nerses Bedros XIX, Patriarch of Cilicia of the Armenians, Lebanon; Archbishop Lucian Muresan of Fagaras and Alba Iulia of the Romanians, Romania; His Beatitude Baselios Moran Mor Cleemis Thottunkal, Major Archbishop of Trivandrum of the Syro-Malankars, India, and His Beatitude Fouad Twal, patriarch of Jerusalem of the Latins.
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Sep 21, 2009 (CNA) - With a vote of 128-32, the Dominican Republic’s National Assembly ratified on September 16 a revision of Article 30 of the country’s constitution, establishing the right to life and its inviolability from conception to natural death.
According to the newspaper Listin Diario, the new text points out that “the right to life is inviolable from conception to natural death. The death penalty shall not be established or imposed in any case.”
In an editorial, the paper said passage of the measure was a pro-life triumph against “the forces that untiringly” sought to legalize abortion, such as Amnesty International, which, together with other feminist groups, rejected the new reform.
It added that the “massive vote in support of the measure has proven the fundamental conviction of Dominican lawmakers regarding the defense not only of the unborn but all of all people, in any stage of existence, against the inclinations to relativize human life.”
The editorial pointed out that in many “civilized” societies, the unborn can be killed for almost any reason. “This is based on a false supposition that at 14 weeks what is in the womb is not a person,” it stated, noting that internationally-funded organizations were seeking to subtly implant such a notion in the Dominican Republic.
Brooklyn, N.Y., Sep 21, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala, who ministers in a remote southern corner of Sudan, is calling for international aid to protect his people from roving bands of guerilla fighters, stating that local efforts are not sufficient.
In an interview with Aid to the Church in the Need (ACN), Bishop Hiiboro of Tombura-Yambio, Sudan said that the increasingly common yet unpredictable attacks on innocent civilians cannot be stopped without help from outside Sudan.
The storming of Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in the town of Ezo prompted the bishop’s call for help. A large number of Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) soldiers desecrated the building and abducted 17 young adults. Not long after, one of the missing young men was found dead, having been tied to a tree and mutilated. Three more of the abducted people returned the next day, but the other 13 are still missing.
Less than a week later, six people were ambushed in a forest near the neighboring town of Nzara, where they were nailed to pieces of wood fastened to the ground and killed. According to Aid to the Church in Need, those who found the bodies “likened it to a grotesque crucifixion scene.” And by the time the bodies were discovered, an additional 12 abductions had been reported.
Meanwhile, the head of the LRA's peace negotiating team in Nairobi, Justin Labeja, questions the source of the attacks. "It is very unfair because nobody can come up with clear concrete evidence. Who can say this is the LRA of [leader Joseph] Kony who is doing this?" he said.
In recent years, attacks by the LRA have become more scattered and independent, veering from than the group's previous aim of ousting President Yoweri Museveni and instating a government based on the 10 Commandments. The recent violence in Sudan bears the characteristic marks of the LRA: abduction, mutilation, and death.
The danger of coming under assault has led to the cessation of humanitarian aid distributions in the region.
In response to this threat to his flock, Bishop Hiiboro organized three days of prayer involving Christians of all denominations across Western Equatoria State. The culmination of the event was a 2-mile walk in which over 20,000 people participated, wearing ashes and sackcloth, in a silent protest of the government’s supposed inability to increase security in the region.
Ministers of the local government, both from the state capital, Yambio, and the provincial capital of south Sudan, Juba, took part in the prayer event and pledged to do more to boost the police presence in the region.
But the bishop is wary. “Nobody is coming to our aid,” he said. “We are asking those who are responsible in the international community to do something about it.” He also stated, “The government here cannot make a real difference to the LRA problem. They kept promising that they had the issue under control but now we see the reality.”
That reality includes an LRA attack in Ezo on hundreds of people who were taking part in a novena prayer commemorating the Feast of the Assumption. The LRA militants desecrated the host, ripped the altar cloths and chased Ezo’s parish priest, Fr. Justin, into the forest where he spent the night in hiding. “Afterwards people kept coming to me with such suffering in their eyes, begging me to do something about the situation – to get back their children and grandchildren who have disappeared,” the bishop said.
Meanwhile, Sudanese, Congalese and Ugandans who have been displaced by the LRA are still waiting for a solution.
Santiago, Chile, Sep 21, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Santiago in Chile, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz, has called on the candidates for the upcoming elections to reveal their political platforms and urged them to make the defense of human life and the family based on marriage between a man and a woman issues of primary importance.
Addressing those gathered at the Cathedral of Santiago, including President Michelle Bachelet and other officials, Cardinal Errazuriz called for a transparent campaign in which the candidates lay out their platforms and refrain from mud slinging.
He went on to recall the recent statement by the Bishops’ Conference of Chile calling on candidates for political office to place priority on “the promotion of the marital covenant, which unites one man and one woman, and the family that results therewith, as well as of the respect for life from the moment of conception through all stages of development, until natural death.”
He urged them to promote public policies that are favorable to family life and to an increase in the birth rate, as Chile has one of the lowest rates in Central and South America.
Chileans see the family “as their great treasure,” he stressed. “Our Constitution rightly protects the unborn and supports the family. And in order that all citizens may have a life of decency, we need candidates to reveal their firm commitment and their plans for overcoming poverty and for vigorously fostering human and economic development ...” the cardinal said.
He also called on candidates to inform voters of their plans to reduce poverty, improve education, win the fight against drugs and rehabilitate those in prison.
Washington D.C., Sep 21, 2009 (CNA) - A Wichita priest has been named head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Secretariat for Consecrated Life and Vocations.
Fr. W. Shawn McKnight, 41, is pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Wichita, Kansas. He will assume his USCCB position in July 2010.
Msgr. David Malloy, General Secretary of the USCCB, commented in a press release that Fr. McKnight has an “extraordinary background” for the position.
“In addition to parish work, his experience includes years in seminary formation, education of deacons, college chaplaincy and membership on his diocesan presbyteral council,” the monsignor related. “I am grateful that Bishop Michael Jackels of Wichita is permitting him to serve the U.S. bishops in this national position.”
Fr. McKnight, the oldest of eight siblings, was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Wichita in 1994. He holds an undergraduate degree in biochemistry from the University of Dallas, two master’s degrees from the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, and licentiate and doctoral degrees in theology from the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm in Rome.
He taught graduate studies at the Josephinum from 2003 to 2008 and currently serves on the faculty of the St. Meinrad Permanent Deacon Formation Program. Fr. McKnight was a chaplain at Newman University in Wichita from 2000 to 2001, where he also taught theology as an adjunct professor.
Fr. McKnight will succeed the secretariat’s interim director, Fr. David Toups.
Yakima, Wash., Sep 21, 2009 (CNA) - Cardinal Francis George, speaking in his former diocese of Yakima, has criticized the United States’ immigration policy as unsustainable.
The bishop of Yakima for nearly six years in the 1990s, Cardinal George is presently Archbishop of Chicago and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
According to the Yakima Herald-Republic, he had returned to Yakima to participate in the lifetime award ceremony for Catholics of central Washington. The awarded medallion is named for him.
At the awards ceremony at Holy Family Church, he told the crowd of about 180 that the Church does not support breaking the law or illegal immigration.
However, he said, “you have to respect the people in front of you.”
“If you have neighbors and family members who have been subjected to society financially, socially and religiously for decades, they should be able to live here with security,” the cardinal remarked.
Cardinal George encouraged the audience to be hopeful during the economic recession, the Yakima Herald-Republic says.
He also discussed the issue of the sexual abuse of children by clergymen, remarking that the Church is being more responsible but has more work to do as long as victims are still hurting.
Irondale, Ala., Sep 21, 2009 (CNA) - The cable industry magazine CableFAX has named "The World Over Live with Raymond Arroyo" as the recipient of its award for Best Religious Program.
CableFAX highlighted the popularity of Arroyo's show, saying, "News Anchor Raymond Arroyo has interviewed everyone from former President George W. Bush to the Pope (before he was Pope...way to predict that one) to Mel Gibson to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. In all instances, his probing questions always remain relevant to the Catholic concerns of EWTN’s dedicated audience."
Host Raymond Arroyo accepted the award during a Sept. 16 ceremony in New York City.
The 2nd annual CableFAX Program Awards ceremony featured winners in over 38 categories including Best Show or Series, Best Actor/Actress/Host, Tech Categories, the Hall of Fame, and special categories such as Best Opening Sequence.
Flagstaff, Ariz., Sep 21, 2009 (CNA) - Pro-life activist Johnny Wallace, 69, was attacked on Friday by two women as he stood holding two signs in front of City Hall in Flagstaff, Arizona. The women, both 48, yelled profanities at him, attempted to take his signs and wrestled him to the ground.
On the day of the attack, Wallace, who daily protests in front of City Hall, held two text-only signs. According to Operation Rescue, the signs said, “Abortion kills more black Americans in four days than the Klan killed in 150 years,” and the other, “Life begins at conception and ends at Planned Parenthood."
The two women who accosted Wallace were identified as Denise Redsteer and Laura Chapman. According to Northern Arizona Today, Wallace was knocked to the ground as he attempted to protect his signs from one of the women. The other woman then joined in the struggle.
Wallace was treated for minor injuries after the incident by medics called to the scene. Redsteer and Chapman were cited and released on misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and criminal damage.
Operation Rescue President Troy Newman released a statement on Monday commenting that Wallace was only “exercising his God-given rights as an American citizen when he was brutally assaulted because his attackers disagreed with his beliefs."
“This attack is especially disturbing because the motivation for the attack on Mr. Wallace was the same motivation that caused Harlan Drake to murder Jim Pouillon," Newman added.
Newman said that he believes there is “an increasing attitude that it is okay to hurt pro-life people if one does not agree with them. This disturbing trend must stop.”
"We are thankful that Mr. Wallace was not hurt worse than he was, and pray that the violence against pro-life activists will come to an end," he stated.