Madrid, Spain, Sep 28, 2009 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Madrid issued a statement Friday explaining that laicized or married priests cannot exercise their ministry. The clarification was made in response to some media reports that said married priests would be celebrating Mass.
“The Church expressly prohibits laicized priests or priests who have left and married, thus abandoning their priestly commitments, from exercising the priestly ministry, and therefore, from celebrating Mass as well as the other sacraments,” the statement indicated.
When the Archdiocese of Madrid verifies that such a situation has occurred, the clarification said, “ecclesial authorities immediately communicate this prohibition to person in question.”
The archdiocese also underscored that it has no knowledge of any priest in such a state who is celebrating the sacraments at any parish or place of worship within the archdiocese.
Lastly, the Archdiocese of Madrid expressed its desire that “this Year for Priests would stir up in every priest a generous and renewed commitment to the ideals of total donation to Christ and the Church, an essential condition for responsible exercise of the priestly ministry.”
Madrid, Spain, Sep 28, 2009 (CNA) - The Spanish daily La Razon reported this week that a relic of the Holy Cross was stolen from the Benedictine Monastery of the Valley of the Fallen, which had been in possession of the precious relic since 1960.
The paper reported the incident occurred on September 15.
The day before, which was the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the Benedictine monks exposed the reliquary that contains the relic for veneration, as has been the custom for decades. The relic of the true Cross was given as a gift to the monks by Pope John XXIII in 1960.
As the monks were returning the liturgical vestments to the sacristy after Mass on September 15, they noticed that the reliquary had been opened and that the relic was no longer inside. The thief had apparently donned one of the monk’s habits in order to sneak the relic out of the monastery.
La Razon said the monks were upset at the discovery and are hoping the police will be able to recover the relic.
The Spanish daily recalled that “architect and archeologist Charles Rohault de Fleury wrote a book in 1870 in which he inventoried every known relic of the true Cross and that all together they would form less than one-third of the whole Cross.
“When she was almost 80 years old, in 326, St. Helena ordered an excavation on Calvary. She found three crosses in a quarry underneath a pagan temple. According to tradition, a woman who was ill was cured immediately when she touched one of the crosses, thus pointing out which one was the true Cross,” the newspaper recounted.
Ars, France, Sep 28, 2009 (CNA) - More than 1,200 priests from 75 countries are participating in an international retreat September 27 to October 6 in the hometown of St. Jean Marie Vianney at the Shrine of Ars as part of the Year for Priests.
The theme for the retreat is, “The joy of being a priest: Consecrated for the salvation of the world.” According to Bishop Guy Bagnard of Belley-Ars, the theme expresses “the positive nature of the meeting and the happiness that priests experience” in their vocation.
The shrine’s rector, Fr. Jean Philippe Nault, said, “The Cure of Ars is truly a great brother. Because of his testimony and his life, this saint resonates powerfully in the hearts of priests.”
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna will give his reflections during the retreat, and the daily Masses will be celebrated at the Church of Our Lady of Mercy by the prefect for the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris, Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley of Boston and Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon.
L’Osservatore Romano noted that the homilies and talks will be translated into eight languages.
Prague, Czech Republic, Sep 28, 2009 (CNA) -
On Monday morning, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated the national feast day of St. Wenceslas, the patron of the Czech Republic. Contrasting the example of “good King Wenceslas” with the sad history of the the last century, the Pope said that holiness is the only solution to mankind's longing for fulfillment and happiness.
September 28 is the day on which Czechs travel from all parts of the country to the church of St. Wenceslas at Stara Boleslav to celebrate the life and martyrdom of their nation's patron saint.
Wenceslas was born around the year 907 and ascended the throne in 925. According to tradition he was a highly cultured and religious king, a man of justice and a benefactor to the poor. He was killed for political reasons by his brother Boleslav in 935 and in 938 his remains were translated to Prague cathedral. Ever since the tenth century he has been venerated as a saint.
Pope Benedict arrived at the church on Monday morning and was greeted by the religious and civil authorities.
The Pontiff first paused in adoration before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and then descended into the crypt of the Mausoleum of the Czech Nation where the relics of the saint are exposed.
After venerating the relics of St. Wenceslas, the Holy Father greeted a group of twenty elderly priests and then took the popemobile to an open space where he celebrated Mass for the Solemnity of St. Wenceslas.
In his homily Benedict XVI pointed out that St. Wenceslas "is a model of holiness for all people, especially the leaders of communities and peoples. Yet we ask ourselves: in our day, is holiness still relevant? ... Do we not place more value today on worldly success and glory? Yet how long does earthly success last, and what value does it have?”
The Pope then turned to the history of the past century, especially in eastern Europe.
“The last century - as this land of yours can bear witness - saw the fall of a number of powerful figures who had apparently risen to almost unattainable heights.
"Suddenly they found themselves stripped of their power. Those who denied and continue to deny God, and in consequence have no respect for man, appear to have a comfortable life and to be materially successful. Yet one need only scratch the surface to realize how sad and unfulfilled these people are,” the Pope observed.
The solution to this sadness and lack of fulfillment can be found by those “who maintain in their hearts a holy 'fear of God.'”
“Today,” the Holy Father stated, “there is a need for believers with credibility, who are ready to spread in every area of society the Christian principles and ideals by which their action is inspired. This is holiness, the universal vocation of all the baptized, which motivates people to carry out their duty with fidelity and courage, looking not to their own selfish interests but to the common good, seeking God's will at every moment."
Monday's Gospel reading also echoed the same theme, the Pope said, quoting, 'What will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?'
“The true value of human life is measured not merely in terms of material goods and transient interests, because it is not material goods that quench the profound thirst for meaning and happiness in the heart of every person. This is why Jesus does not hesitate to propose to His disciples the 'narrow' path of holiness," he taught.
"The testimony of the saints assures us that it is possible" to follow this path, the Holy Father added.
"Their example encourages those who call themselves Christian to be credible, that is, consistent with the principles and the faith that they profess. It is not enough to appear good and honest: one must truly be so."
"This is the lesson we can learn from St. Wenceslas, who had the courage to prefer the kingdom of heaven to the enticement of worldly power," the Holy Father concluded.
Prague, Czech Republic, Sep 28, 2009 (CNA) - A sea of young people listened to Pope Benedict on Monday morning as he challenged them to meet Jesus, place their hope in Him and respond to the vocation that He places on their hearts. In turn, young Catholics must become messengers of hope to the world, the Holy Father said.
After the Holy Father celebrated Mass for the Solemnity of St. Wenceslas, the patron saint of the Czech Republic, he spoke to the 10,000 young people as they sat near their tents.
"Being with you makes the Pope feel young!" the Pope said, thanking them for their enthusiasm and "generosity."
He then touched on the aspiration for happiness that youths feel so acutely. "In every young person there is an aspiration towards happiness, sometimes tinged with anxiety: an aspiration that is often exploited, however, by present-day consumerist society in false and alienating ways. Instead, that longing for happiness must be taken seriously, it demands a true and comprehensive response. At your age, the first major choices are made, choices that can set your lives on a particular course, for better or worse."
To point the young pilgrims in the right direction, Pope Benedict recalled the experience of St. Augustine, who said that “the heart of every person is restless until it finds what it truly seeks. He discovered that Jesus Christ alone is the answer that can satisfy his and every person's desire for a life of happiness, filled with meaning and value.
"As he did with Augustine," the Pope counseled his young audience, "so the Lord comes to meet each one of you. He knocks at the door of your freedom and asks to be welcomed as a friend. He wants to make you happy, to fill you with humanity and dignity. The Christian faith is this: encounter with Christ, the living Person Who gives life a new horizon and thereby a definitive direction."
Benedict XVI also spoke to the youths about listening to the Lord for the vocation he places on their hearts. "The Lord calls each of us by name, and entrusts to us a specific mission in the Church and in society." He "constantly renews His invitation to you to be His disciples and His witnesses.
“Many of you He calls to marriage,” the Pope said, noting that “the preparation for this Sacrament constitutes a real vocational journey.”
“Consider seriously the divine call to raise a Christian family, and let your youth be the time in which to build your future with a sense of responsibility. Society needs Christian families, saintly families!" he urged.
Speaking to those who may be called to priestly and religious life, Pope Benedict offered his encouragement, saying, "And if the Lord is calling you to follow Him in the ministerial priesthood or in the consecrated life, do not hesitate to respond to His invitation. In particular, in this Year for Priests, I appeal to you, young men. ... The Church in every country, including this one, needs many holy priests and also persons fully consecrated to the service of Christ, Hope of the world.”
"Hope! This word, to which I often return, sits well with youth. You, my dear young people, are the hope of the Church! She expects you to become messengers of hope," the Holy Father challenged them.
As he drew his message to a close, Benedict asked them to participate in the next World Youth Day, due to take place in the Spanish capital city of Madrid in August 2011.
Young people, strive to “live your faith with joy and enthusiasm; to grow in unity among yourselves and with Christ; to pray and to be diligent in frequenting the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Confession," Pope Benedict said.
Brasilia, Brazil, Sep 28, 2009 (CNA) - The Pastoral Council of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Brazil, issued a statement Friday expressing its rejection of various measures moving through the Brazilian Congress that would legalize electronic bingo and another that would eliminate the one year separation period required before spouses could get a divorce.
The bishops said the approval of such measures would bring “serious consequences for Brazilian society.”
The legalization of electronic bingo and gambling, they argued, “would make it possible for an evil that was already overcome to return, endangering the risk and well-being of families, subjecting so many people to exploitation and turning them into dependents. Even graver still, as was said in the debates in Congress, is the possibility that a new field would be opened for the practice of a wide range of crimes, which include money laundering.”
The bishops said the argument that casinos would create 300,000 new jobs “does not legitimize the harmful practice of these games. In recent years the number of jobs has increased in the country without the need for policies that promote moral degradation, such as electronic bingo or gambling.”
Referring to the proposal to eliminate the one year waiting period required for spouses seeking a divorce, the bishops said this time period required “by the current Constitution at least allows for the possibility that spouses in difficulties have more time to reflect on the consequences of separation for themselves, their children and society.”
The proposal to hurry along separation “without allowing time for reflection, the help of friends, family members and counselors in defense of the bond that unites them, constitutes a banalization of the institution of marriage, with grave and painful consequences for all of society,” they added.
“The bishops exhorted the representatives of the people to a profound reflection about the proposals, and they expressed their support of lawmakers who oppose them,” the statement indicated.
The Brazilian prelates brought their statement to a close by calling on all people of good will, especially Christian leaders, to voice their disagreement to the representatives and to explicitly ask them to express their opposition.
Tucuman, Argentina, Sep 28, 2009 (CNA) - Addressing the more than 40,000 faithful gathered outside the cathedral for a Mass honoring Our Lady of Mercy, the patroness of the archdiocese, Archbishop Luis Villalba of Tucuman in Argentina said the Church defends the dignity of women and denounces attacks against them.
Speaking in his homily, the archbishop explained that the Virgin Mary “is the archetype of authentic feminine promotion” as well as “the new beginning of the dignity and vocation … of each and every woman.”
He went on to say that “woman, as man, is made in the image of God,” but that “equality of dignity does not mean being identical to man. This would only impoverish woman and all of society by losing the unique richness and values that are proper to femininity.”
“The Church works for the strengthening of the dignity and appreciation of women,” and strives to bring women out of the “situations of marginalization in which they may find themselves, educating them for their mission on the ecclesial community and in the world. The Church works to promote ways to ensure a decent life for women, especially those in difficult situations: women who are separated, single mothers, women in prostitution,” he said.
Noting that the Church denounces the violations against the justice and dignity of women, Archbishop Villalba underscored their essential role “as mothers, defenders of life and educators of the home,” saying women must be “appreciated in all areas of life.”
In particular he referred to the “vocation to maternity,” which “springs from the unique relationship of the woman to human life.” “The maternal mission is also the foundation of a particular responsibility. Mothers are tasked with being protectors of life,” he added.
“God is the Lord of life. Life is a gift. Man is not the owner of life. The unborn child is the poorest and most vulnerable and defenseless creature that must be defended and protected. The Church feels called to be on the side of life and to defend it in women,” the archbishop asserted.
He went on to denounce the mentality prevalent today that downplays the nature and mission of woman, denying her specific feminine dimension and converting her into an object of pleasure. “Unfortunately,” he said, “sometimes the fight for the emancipation of women descends to violence and to disconcerting demands, such as to the ‘right to abortion, free love and homosexuality.’”
The emancipation and promotion of women should be achieved in conformity with those responsibilities that spring forth from her vocation to maternity, and above all, must never be achieved by attacking a developing human life,” the archbishop said.
“Marriage, maternity and the family are fundamental values. There cannot be real progress at the expense of these values,” he said.
Hanoi, Vietnam, Sep 28, 2009 (CNA) - Amid a continuing smear campaign against Catholics, local Vietnamese officials have confiscated a Catholic school while other church land has been appropriated for private investors. Catholics have protested the action and are facing down bulldozers in defense of a large statue of the Virgin Mary.
The school adjacent to the parish church of Loan Ly in the town of Lang Co (Hue province) was built by parishioners in 1956, Fr. J.B. An Dang told CNA. It was used as a Catholic elementary and high school until the local government seized it after the communist takeover of South Vietnam in 1975.
Since the seizure, Sunday catechism classes have been allowed under the condition they are conducted under a large picture of Communist leader Ho Chi Minh instead of under a cross.
Local authorities have repeatedly attempted to convert the school into a hotel since 1999. Their efforts were previously stopped because of parishioners’ public protests.
The most recent confiscation attempt came under the local chief secretary of the Communist Party, Ho Xuan Man, who wanted to annex the school to create his own hotel. On September 13, a Sunday, local authorities along with the local, district and provincial police barricaded the building and prevented the children from coming to the school for their catechism classes.
The occupants then built a makeshift fence around the school. Hundreds of protesters gathered at the school and some started pulling the fence down.
According to Fr. An Dang, thousands of police and armed reinforcements rushed the scene and attacked the parishioners with batons and stun guns.
The two Catholic bishops of Hue expressed “shock and frustration” with the government action and its “employment of violence.” They also called for peaceful dialogue.
Hue Television responded to their comments with a series of interviews in which government contractors posed as Catholics who verbally attacked the bishops.
Newspapers have also made “fierce” attacks against Fr. Joseph Ngo Than Son, pastor of Loan Ly. They accused him of plotting and directing parishioners’ protest on Sunday. However, the priest had been in the hospital for weeks and was not at his parish when the incident took place, Fr. An Dang reports.
In the Diocese of Vinh, the pastor of Bau Sen parish in the village of Chay, reported that local authorities issued a September 24 ultimatum to remove a large statue of Our Lady of Lavang. In March 2008 parishioners had erected the statue on the top of a mountain in the parish cemetery opposite to the parish church.
The People’s Committee of Bo Trach on September 21 decreed that the statue must be demolished because it was built outside of a religious premise. The deadline for the statue’s removal was September 26, but bulldozers were sent to threaten parishioners on September 23. As of Sunday, thousands of Catholics are still protesting at the site.
Fr. An Dang, citing other incidents around the country, told CNA that authorities in the province have deliberately conducted a campaign to destroy Catholic symbols.
In the Archdiocese of Hanoi, the parishioners and Redemptorists of Thai Ha parish have been told that their lot of land at Ba Giang lake would be confiscated and placed under state administration. The parishioners are protesting the action.
Christians have learned to expect “nothing else from the government but bad news,” Fr. An Dang told CNA.
Des Moines, Iowa, Sep 28, 2009 (CNA) - Thirty years after Pope John Paul II’s visit to Iowa, residents are remembering the event when an estimated 340,000 pilgrims, the largest crowd in Iowa’s history, gathered on the grounds of Living History Farms in Urbandale.
Mary Jane Pray, 92, sang in a choir that day.
“When I was a child, Catholics were seen as a far-out people who wore horns,” she told the Des Moines Register. “I think it softened a lot of people's hearts, especially if you were not Catholic. He was just a simple priest.”
Joe Hays, 69, a farmer from Truro, brought the Pope to Iowa with a handwritten request. After learning of John Paul II’s visit to America, he wrote to the Pope and said that the strength of the Catholic Church in America is found in its rural people.
A month later, a response arrived and Hays was called to an August 29 news conference announcing the visit.
“I put on my teal green leisure suit,” he told the Des Moines Register.
Then-Bishop of Des Moines Maurice Dingman and hundreds of others only had six weeks to plan for the gathering.
The then-mayor of Urbandale E.J. Giovanetti initially did not believe news of the visit until his police chief took calls from the Secret Service.
"Oh my God, this thing is for real," Giovannetti recalled his thoughts. "What are we going to do?"
He had to ask the governor to send the Iowa National Guard to assist at the event.
According to the Des Moines Register, local millworkers made an altar out of 100-year-old barn wood and carved their names on the boards. Harley “Van” Siebert, owner of the Carpet Factory and a non-Catholic, prepared a red carpet for the Pope.
Fr. Frank Bognanno, who helped coordinate the visit, told the Des Moines Register how Gov. Robert Ray and other dignitaries met Pope John Paul II at the airport tarmac.
“The Pope stepped back and nodded to me,” Fr. Bognanno said. “Gee, I felt like I was related to this guy. He was just a regular guy. It certainly made the papacy less removed. It brought him to our level, not in some tower.”
Fr. Francis Ostdiek, then the oldest priest in Des Moines at 91 years old, was pushed onto the tarmac in a wheelchair by Jim Boyt.
Boyt reported that Pope John Paul II walked up to the priest, looking “like a linebacker” with “big blue eyes,” and told Fr. Ostdiek “You could not come to see me in Rome, so I will come to you in Iowa.”
"His first priority was not the dignitaries,” Boyt said.
Pope John Paul II in his homily urged people to be generous and to serve others and to have gratitude.
He also spoke of the land as God’s creation.
"The land is not only God's gift; it is also man's responsibility," the Pope said, according to the Des Moines Register. "You are stewards of some of the most important resources God has given the world. ... Conserve it well."