Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 26, 2009 (CNA) - In a speech delivered today by his representative at the Becket Fund conference, “Voices: The Lay State and Religious Liberty” in Mexico City, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver addressed the necessity of lay people living their faith conscientiously and truthfully in the public square. “Politics is the arena where the struggle between truth and lies, justice and injustice, takes place,” he stated.
Due to obligations in Denver, the archbishop was unable to attend the conference, but Luis Soto of the Office of Hispanic Ministry in the Archdiocese of Denver presented the archbishop’s remarks and acted as his representative.
The archbishop's remarks began by noting three important observations regarding the interplay of religious liberty and politics, garnered from the two terms he served as a Commissioner with the U. S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
“First, most countries claim to respect religious freedom. Second, many countries lie. They actually restrict religious freedom, and many other nations don’t see it as an important issue. And third, unless ordinary lay citizens work vigorously and without apologies in public life to protect their religious liberty, they lose it.”
Thus, Soto continued reading, “Catholics have a duty to bring their Catholic beliefs to bear on every social, economic and political problem facing their country. That’s not just a privilege. It’s not just a right. It’s a demand of the Gospel.”
And conveying the gospel message quickly loses status as a privilege and a right if it is not vigorously defended by the very people who are charged with that duty, he added.
“Cardinal Rivera, the Knights of Columbus and the Becket Fund all know this simple fact: Politics is the arena where the struggle between truth and lies, justice and injustice, takes place. No country’s political life can be honest -- and no government can serve the needs of its people -- unless it welcomes the deepest convictions of its citizens into public debate,” Archbishop Chaput stated.
The archbishop's speech then noted that the evangelizing nature of the faith does not void Christians' obligation to treat others with charity, justice, and prudence. “In a democracy, the best gift any of us can give to our country is the public witness of our convictions… If we withhold our religious and moral beliefs from our nation’s political debates because of a misguided sense of good manners, we are not being ‘polite.’ On the contrary: We’re stealing from the public conversation.”
Thus, the laity cannot simply sit back and expect the clergy and Church to defend their rights and privileges, or to craft a society in which religious freedom is permitted or encouraged. They must form themselves and their leaders in the faith so that they can faithfully embody the teachings of the Church.
Having recognized this important aspect of public life and private convictions, Soto turned to three “simple points” the archbishop addressed: the nature of the state; the nature of our Christian faith; and the nature of the lay vocation.
Christians, the archbishop wrote, “owe civil rulers their respect and obedience in all things that do not gravely violate the moral law.” But, he also pointed out, “the state is not god. It’s not immortal. It’s not infallible.”
The state, he explained, is necessary for the regulation of earthly life, but it must always be cautious of not infringing upon the rights inherent to each individual human being.
In talking about the nature of our Christian faith, the archbishop emphasized that a genuine Catholic faith is “always personal but never private.” Catholics believe that each human life has a unique but interrelated meaning, and that “we were made by God to receive love ourselves, and to show love to others.”
“This means our faith has social as well as personal implications. And those social implications include the civil dimension of our shared life; in other words, the content of our politics,” the archbishop said in his talk.
Returning to the topic of the role of the laity, the archbishop’s remarks focused on a comment made by Pope Benedict XVI, who told a convention in Rome that the Church needs a change in mindset, particularly concerning laypeople.
Summarizing the Pope's comments, Archbishop Chaput explained in his talk that the laity “must no longer be viewed as ‘collaborators’ of the clergy, but truly recognized as ‘co-responsible’ for the Church’s being and action.” The laity, he said, “have exactly the same dignity as clergy and religious…They’re not second-class members of the Body of Christ.” They are charged with changing the world in the name of Jesus Christ, a change that can only be affected through a mature, intelligent, and faithful witness to Christ in every aspect of lay life.
Finally, the archbishop urged lay people to “never be embarrassed by your baptism. Never be afraid of the consequences of your faith. Take pride in your Catholic identity for the blessing and mandate it is. Act on it. Share it with others. We need to find in it once again the confidence to live and preach our faith – in everything we do -- without apologies or excuses. And if we do that, then we won’t need to ask what the ‘new evangelization’ looks like. We’ll know – because we’ll be incarnating it in our lives.”
To read Archbishop Chaput's full speech, visit: http://www.archden.org/index.cfm/ID/2637.
Fargo, N.D., Sep 26, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop of Fargo Samuel J. Aquila prayed outside North Dakota’s only abortion facility on Friday in an event coinciding with the 40 Days for Life campaign. He has also encouraged clergy to do the same.
The 40 Days for Life campaign is a national ecumenical endeavor of prayer, fasting and peaceful prayer outside abortion facilities. Its fall segment began on September 23.
This year marks the third time North Dakota has held the campaign.
In a September 23 letter to priests of the diocese, the bishop announced that he would pray outside the state’s abortion clinic on Friday at 11 a.m. He asked priests to participate in the 40 Days for Life Campaign by scheduling at least one hour of prayer outside the facility.
“I realize this will require great sacrifice for some of you in terms of miles traveled and time away from other pastoral duties. Yet I am confident that much fruit will come from your time spent in conversation with God at the site of this modern day, legally protected holocaust,” Bishop Aquila wrote, asking the priests to encourage their parishioners to join the pro-life effort.
He also encouraged priests to imitate St. Padre Pio, whose feast day is September 23.
“With Christ we stand in prayerful witness, in the cold, the rain, the snow, enduring the glances of hatred and the words of disgust from those who do not understand,” the bishop said in his letter. “In faithful hope we pray that some will come to understand, that hearts will be transformed, unborn babies will be saved from death and parents will escape the agony of later realizing that their choice ended the life of their child.”
Bishop Aquila also announced that he will lead a Eucharistic procession to the abortion facility on Respect Life Sunday.
The 40 Days for Life website is at http://www.40daysforlife.com
Honolulu, Hawaii, Sep 26, 2009 (CNA) - Eleven elderly leprosy patients from Hawaii will travel to the Vatican for the canonization ceremony of Fr. Damien de Veuster, the heroic priest who cared for leprosy patients in Hawaii and died of the disease. The patients’ attending doctor called Fr. Damien their “personal saint.”
The Belgian-born priest is a hero in Hawaii for caring for those victims banished to the isolated Kalaupapa peninsula. Native Hawaiians were devastated by leprosy, which appeared after the arrival of Captain James Cook in 1778.
About 90 percent of the approximately 8,000 people exiled to the peninsula were native Hawaiians. The state of Hawaii stopped exiling leprosy victims in 1969, more than two decades after a reliable treatment was discovered.
Many patients chose to stay at the colony because the community had become their home.
Eleven of the about 20 patients still living at Kalaupapa will make the 12,000-mile trip to Rome for the priest’s canonization, according to the Associated Press.
Their physician, Dr. Kalani Brady, said the trip will be an “energy-laden” voyage for many patients.
"They're going to see their personal saint canonized,” Brady told the Associated Press. The event is “incredibly important, incredibly personal for them.”
Since 1936, Fr. Damien’s body has rested in his Belgian hometown of Tremelo. However, his grave at Kalaupapa contains a relic of his right hand.
The canonization of Fr. Damien was announced earlier this year after the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints ruled that there was no medical explanation for a woman’s recovery from terminal cancer. She had prayed to Fr. Damien to intercede for a cure.
Pope Benedict XVI will preside over the canonization on October 11. The priest was beatified in 1995 by Pope John Paul II.
Pope Benedict is expected to meet privately with the patients during their stay in Rome.
About 650 people from Hawaii are traveling to Rome for the canonization. Most are expected to be part of the delegation of the Catholic Diocese of Honolulu.
A Boy Scout group called the St. Damien Boy Scouts of Oahu will document the capstone event and their travels on the internet using a blog, YouTube and Facebook.
In an August interview, Scout Master John Fielding told CNA about his scouts’ planned journey and the place of Fr. Damien in Hawaii.
“Fr. Damien is not only a symbol of our Church, but he is a hero to the Hawaiian people for his sacrifice,” he explained. “Fr. Damien’s statue is in the front of the Hawaii State Capitol and the U.S. Congress. Damien Memorial High School, where one of our scouts attends, is named in his honor.”
“Even if you are not Catholic, you know of his sacrifice and love for the many Hawaiians left to die there [at Molokai].”
The scouts have set up a Facebook account under the name of Damien de Veuster and have set up a YouTube channel named “saintdmienscouts.”
They will also report on their journey at http://stdamienboyscouts.wordpress.com
Prague, Czech Republic, Sep 26, 2009 (CNA) - During his first speech at the beginning of his two-day visit to the Czech Republic, Pope Benedict XVI highlighted the tragic consequences for Christianity, in particular for the Catholic Church, of more than 40 years of Communist rule in Eastern Europe.
Before the official welcoming delegation that included Vaclav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic; Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, Archbishop of Prague and Archbishop Jan Graubner of Olomouc, president of the Czech Bishops' Conference, the Holy Father recalled that the coming months will see the twentieth anniversary of the revolution "which happily brought a peaceful end to a time of particular hardship for this country."
"If the collapse of the Berlin Wall marked a watershed in world history," he added, "it did so all the more for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, enabling them to take their rightful place as sovereign actors in the concert of nations."
"Nevertheless," Pope Benedict explained, "the cost of forty years of political repression is not to be underestimated. A particular tragedy for this land was the ruthless attempt by the government of that time to silence the voice of the Church."
After recalling the history of martyrdom that has marked the history of the local Church, the Pope recounted some of the Catholic heroes under the Soviet era.
"This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the death of Servant of God Cardinal Josef Beran, Archbishop of Prague. I wish to pay tribute both to him and to his successor Cardinal Frantisek Tomasek, whom I had the privilege of knowing personally, for their indomitable Christian witness in the face of persecution."
"They," he continued, "and countless brave priests, religious and lay men and women kept the flame of faith alive in this country."
"Now that religious freedom has been restored, I call upon all the citizens of this Republic to rediscover the Christian traditions which have shaped their culture, and I invite the Christian community to continue to make its voice heard as the nation addresses the challenges of the new millennium," the Pope said, finishing his address.
Prague, Czech Republic, Sep 26, 2009 (CNA) - In his first official act after his arrival in the Czech Republic, Pope Benedict XVI stopped at the church of Our Lady Victories, home of the famous image of the Infant Jesus of Prague, where he delivered an emotional prayer for the stability of marriage and the family, as well as for the well-being of children around the world.
Speaking to a crowd of families with children, after adoring the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel of the Infant Jesus, the Holy Father said that "the image of the Child Jesus calls to mind the mystery of the Incarnation, of the all-powerful God Who became man and Who lived for thirty years with the lowly family of Nazareth."
"My thoughts turn to your own families and to all families ... as we call upon the Child Jesus for the gift of unity and harmony."
"We think especially of young families who have to work so hard to offer their children security and a decent future. We pray for families in difficulty, struggling with illness and suffering, for those in crisis, divided or torn apart by strife or infidelity. We entrust them all to the Holy Infant of Prague, knowing how important their stability and harmony is for the true progress of society and for the future of humanity," the Pope said.
"In the Holy Infant of Prague we contemplate the beauty of childhood and the fondness that Jesus Christ has always shown for little ones. ... Yet how many children are neither loved, nor welcomed, nor respected! How many of them suffer violence and every kind of exploitation by the unscrupulous!" Pope Benedict lamented.
"May children always be accorded the respect and attention that are due to them: they are the future and the hope of humanity!" he said.
Minutes before, the Pope crowned the small wax image of the infant Jesus, and pronounced the following prayer:
O my Lord Jesus,
we gaze on you as a child
and believe that you are the Son of God,
who became Man through the working of the Holy Spirit
in the womb of the Virgin Mary.
Just as in Bethlehem,
we too adore you, with Mary, Joseph,
the angels and the shepherds,
and acknowledge you
as our only Savior.
You became poor
to enrich us with your poverty.
Grant that we may never forget the poor
and all those who suffer.
Protect our families,
bless all the children of the world
and grant that the love you have brought us
may always reign amongst us
and lead us to a happier life.
Grant, O Jesus, that all
may recognize the truth of your birth,
so that all may know
that you have come to bring
to the whole human family
light, joy and peace.
You are God, who live and reign with God the Father,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.
Prague, Czech Republic, Sep 26, 2009 (CNA) - This afternoon in Prague, continuing with his Apostolic visit to the Czech Republic, Pope Benedict XVI strongly defended the role of the Christianity in Europe’s history and the need to guarantee full freedom for the Gospel to contribute to building the future of Europe.
In a discourse delivered to local political authorities, diplomats from all over Europe, rectors of local universities and representatives of the civil society, the Pope recalled that his visit “coincides with the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the totalitarian regimes in Central and Eastern Europe, and the ‘Velvet Revolution’ which restored democracy to this nation.”
Nevertheless, “today, especially among the young, the question again emerges as to the nature of the freedom gained. To what end is freedom exercised? What are its true hallmarks?”
“Freedom,” the Pope explained, “seeks purpose: it requires conviction. True freedom presupposes the search for truth – for the true good – and hence finds its fulfillment precisely in knowing and doing what is right and just. Truth, in other words, is the guiding norm for freedom, and goodness is freedom’s perfection.”
“For Christians,” the Holy Father highlighted, “truth has a name: God. And goodness has a face: Jesus Christ.”
Pope Benedict then happily noted that the Christian roots of the country “have nourished a remarkable spirit of forgiveness, reconciliation and cooperation which has enabled the people of these lands to find freedom and to usher in a new beginning, a new synthesis, a renewal of hope.”
“Is it not precisely this spirit that contemporary Europe requires?” he then asked. “Europe is more than a continent. It is a home! And freedom finds its deepest meaning in a spiritual homeland.”
Pope Benedict then explained that “with full respect for the distinction between the political realm and that of religion, which indeed preserves the freedom of citizens to express religious belief and live accordingly, I wish to underline the irreplaceable role of Christianity for the formation of the conscience of each generation and the promotion of a basic ethical consensus that serves every person who calls this continent, "home!”
The Pope also stressed that “far from threatening the tolerance of differences or cultural plurality, the pursuit of truth makes consensus possible, keeps public debate logical, honest and accountable, and ensures the unity which vague notions of integration simply cannot achieve.”
“At the present crossroads of civilization," he continued, "so often marked by a disturbing sundering of the unity of goodness, truth and beauty and the consequent difficulty in finding an acceptance of common values, every effort for human progress must draw inspiration from that living heritage.”
“Europe,” the Pope said, “in fidelity to her Christian roots, has a particular vocation to uphold this transcendent vision in her initiatives to serve the common good of individuals, communities, and nations.”
“Do not the challenges facing the human family call us to look beyond those dangers?” Pope Benedict asked, later replying: “we must reappropriate a confidence in the nobility and breadth of the human spirit in its capacity to grasp the truth, and let that confidence guide us in the patient work of politics and diplomacy.”
Prague, Czech Republic, Sep 26, 2009 (CNA) - Speaking late in afternoon on Saturday to priests, deacons, seminarians, men and women religious and representatives of ecclesial movements gathered at the Cathedral of St. Vito in Prague, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged the Church in the Czech Republic to respond to the waves of relativism and agnosticism that have grown in the European nation despite the fall of Communism 20 years ago.
After recalling the long list of Czech saints and martyrs in the thousand-year-old cathedral, the Pope said that “the heroism of these witnesses to the faith reminds us that only through personal intimacy and a profound bond with Christ is it possible to draw the spiritual vitality needed to live the Christian vocation to the full.”
“Only the love of Christ," he added, "can make the apostolate effective, especially in moments of difficulty and trial. Love for Christ and for one’s fellow men and women must be the hallmark of every Christian and every community.”
The Holy Father recalled that twenty years ago, “after the long winter of Communist dictatorship, your Christian communities began once more to express themselves freely, when, through the events triggered by the student demonstration of 17 November 1989, your people regained their freedom.”
“Yet you are well aware that even today it is not easy to live and bear witness to the Gospel. Society continues to suffer from the wounds caused by atheist ideology, and it is often seduced by the modern mentality of hedonistic consumerism amid a dangerous crisis of human and religious values and a growing drift towards ethical and cultural relativism,” he said.
Pope Benedict recalled then “the urgent need for renewed effort throughout the Church so as to strengthen spiritual and moral values in present-day society.”
“Your pastoral activity in the field of educating new generations should be undertaken with particular zeal. Catholic schools should foster respect for the human person; attention should also be given to the pastoral care of young people outside the school environment, without neglecting other groups of the faithful. Christ is for everyone!” he said.
Addressing bishops and priests, the Pontiff highlighted that “it is your task to work tirelessly for the good of those entrusted to your care. Always draw inspiration from the Gospel image of the Good Shepherd, who knows his sheep, calls them by name, leads them to safe pastures, and is prepared to give his life for them.”
To the consecrated persons, the Pope explained that “by your fidelity to this vocation, you will help the men and women of today to let themselves be captivated by God and by the Gospel of his Son.”
“And you, dear young people in seminaries or houses of formation, be sure to acquire a solid cultural, spiritual and pastoral preparation. In this Year of Priests, with which I chose to mark the 150th anniversary of the death of the Curé d’Ars, may you learn from the example of this pastor who was completely dedicated to God and to the care of souls; he was well aware that it was his ministry, nourished by prayer, that constituted his path to sanctification,” the Pope finally said.