Washington D.C., Oct 2, 2009 (CNA) - The Fall General Assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will take place November 16-19 in Baltimore. The assembly agenda includes votes on sections of the New Roman Missal, a pastoral letter on marriage, and reports on vocations and clerical sexual abuse of minors.
A document on reproductive technologies and a revision of a Catholic health care ethical directive will also be discussed.
Meeting at the Baltimore Marriot Waterfront Hotel, the assembly will begin with Mass on Monday morning followed by regional meetings. The public plenary session will not open until early Monday afternoon, the USCCB says in a press release.
The bishops will be addressed by USCCB president Cardinal Francis George. They will also elect the chairs of the USCCB Committees on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations; Divine Worship; Domestic Justice and Human Development; Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth; and Migration.
The assembly will hear a preliminary report on the Causes and Context Study on clerical sexual abuse. They will also hear the National Religious Vocation Conference’s report on its recent study of religious vocations.
On the matter of Catholic ethical and religious directives (ERDs) the assembly will consider revision to ERD 58, which concerns the presumption in favor of providing patients with hydration and nutrition even when medical assistance is necessary to do so.
The pastoral letter on marriage is titled “Marriage: Life and Love in the Divine Plan,” while the document on reproductive technologies is titled “Life-giving Love in an Age of Technology.”
According to the USCCB, the agenda is not finalized and could change.
Vatican City, Oct 2, 2009 (CNA) -
Miguel H. Díaz, the U.S. Ambassador-designate to the Holy See, will present his letter of credentials from President Barack Obama to Pope Benedict XVI on Friday.
A Wednesday statement from the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See said the U.S. and the Holy See have closely worked together on many issues for more than 25 years.
“Our shared priorities include advancing religious freedom and human rights, ensuring peace and security, combating hunger, improving global health, and ending trafficking in persons,” the U.S. Embassy said.
When ambassadors present their letters of credence to the Holy Father, the Pope usually delivers a speech to the diplomat about the current conditions of his country's society and the local Church.
Philadelphia, Pa., Oct 2, 2009 (CNA) - Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia has written a letter for Respect Life Sunday which emphasizes the gift of human life, criticizing attitudes that demean the disabled and the unborn. Death is not a “solution” to the problems of life, he insists in the message.
This year’s Respect Life Sunday, celebrated on Oct. 4, has as its theme “Every Child Brings Us God’s Smile.”
In a Sept. 29 statement Cardinal Rigali, who is chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said the occasion is a time to reflect with gratitude on “God’s priceless gift of human life” and to consider our obligations to those at risk of their very lives.
The cardinal criticized the “deplorable” attitude that believes some classes of people are not deserving of the same protections and treatment in health care. He also decried the attitude that sees some people, such as the elderly, as not worth protecting because of their perceived “low quality of life.”
Discrimination in the quality of care given to different groups “directly contravenes” Catholic ethical norms, Cardinal Rigali wrote.
“Unborn children remain the persons whose lives are most at risk in America,” he continued, noting that over one million die each year in abortion facilities. U.S. states are powerless to halt the killing because of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, he added.
Stating that 67 percent of Americans oppose taxpayer-funded abortion, the cardinal claimed that all current Congressional proposals for health care reform would allow or mandate abortion funding “either through premiums paid into government programs or out of federal revenues.”
He emphasized that abortion is not health care and condemned the state of Oregon’s provision of assisted suicide in place of costly prescription drugs. Cardinal Rigali also lamented the killing of “embryonic human beings” in stem cell research based on “unsubstantiated hopes” of new cures.
“Death is not a solution to life’s problems,” he continued, charging that only those blind to the meaning of human life could support killing human beings to mitigate economic, social or environmental problems.
The prelate further noted that a “cultural hostility” to children, evident in actions like contraception and abortion, will cause more problems as fewer and fewer workers are born to support the elderly.
“Children, and those who are dependent on us due to disability or age, offer us the opportunity to grow in patience, kindness, and love. They teach us that life is a shared gift, not an encumbrance,” the cardinal wrote, noting that we will be judged on “love alone.”
Citing Paul’s First Letter to Timothy, he asked Catholics to look to “Christ Jesus our hope” who offers to the world “a share in his victory over death.”
The Respect Life Program, which began in 1972, stresses the value and dignity of human life. Respect Life Sunday is observed in the 195 Catholic dioceses of the United States.
Vatican City, Oct 2, 2009 (CNA) - This morning at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI received the letters of accreditation from the new U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, Dr. Miguel H. Diaz. The Pope took the time during their meeting to weigh-in on issues being considered in the American health care debate, namely, respect for all human life and the protection of health care workers' right to conscientious objection.
As is customary, the audience began with Miguel Diaz presenting his letters of accreditation from President Obama to the Holy Father, followed by a speech by the new ambassador.
In his speech, Ambassador Diaz praised Pope Benedict's humanitarian efforts, his efforts at promoting “inter-religious dialogue for the sake of peace,” and his encouragement of “authentic stewardship of God’s creation in order to combat climate change and ensure food security.”
The newly minted ambassador brought his speech to a close, saying, “my nation looks forward to working with the Holy See to ensure that the old and the young may embrace the audacity to hope, celebrate in the fruition of justice, and work together to defend fundamental human rights, economic opportunity for all, peace in our world, and respect for the dignity of all human persons. As I take up my position as the ninth United States Ambassador to the Holy See, I promise to serve as a bridge-builder between the United States and the Holy See.”
Pope Benedict began his address to Dr. Diaz by saying that he was pleased to accept his letters of credence and asked him to return his greeting to President Obama.
Highlighting part of Ambassador Diaz's speech, the Pope said he appreciated the “acknowledgment of the need for a greater spirit of solidarity and multilateral engagement in approaching the urgent problems facing our planet.”
“The continuing international economic crisis clearly calls for a revision of present political, economic and financial structures in the light of the ethical imperative of ensuring the integral development of all people. What is needed, in effect, is a model of globalization inspired by an authentic humanism, in which the world’s peoples are seen not merely as neighbors but as brothers and sisters,” the Pope said, echoing themes from his encyclical “Caritas in Veritate.”
Cooperation between nations should stretch across the spectrum of issues from caring for the family, to health care, to immigration, to the elimination of nuclear weapons, to “climate control and care for the environment,” Pope Benedict said, notably refraining from using the term “climate change.”
Recalling his visit to the United States last April, the Holy Father said he was pleased to find a “vibrant democracy” at work.
In order for democracies to function properly, the Pope emphasized that religious groups should not be excluded from public debates, since their contributions “enrich political and ethical discourse.”
“Allow me, Mr. Ambassador, to reaffirm a conviction which I expressed at the outset of my Apostolic Journey to the United States. Freedom – the freedom which Americans rightly hold dear – 'is not only a gift but also a summons to personal responsibility;' it is 'a challenge held out to each generation, and it must constantly be won over to the cause of good,'” Benedict XVI said, quoting from his address at the White House last April.
Saying that many modern democracies find themselves in crisis, the Holy Father urged them to redouble their commitment to “reasoned dialogue in the discernment of wise and just policies respectful of human nature and human dignity.”
“The Church in the United States,” the Pontiff pointed out, “contributes to this discernment particularly through the formation of consciences and her educational apostolate, by which she makes a significant and positive contribution to American civic life and public discourse.”
One area that the Pope highlighted as in need of “clear discernment” was that of “issues touching the protection of human dignity and respect for the inalienable right to life from the moment of conception to natural death, as well as the protection of the right to conscientious objection on the part of health care workers, and indeed all citizens.”
Pope Benedict concluded his speech by quoting from the “prophetic words of the late Pope John Paul II” to insist upon the “unbreakable link between an ethics of life and every other aspect of social ethics.”
Quoting his predecessor Benedict XVI said, 'a society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized.'
The audience came to a close with the Holy Father invoking “God’s blessings of wisdom, strength and peace” upon Ambassador Diaz, his family and “all the beloved American people.”
Washington D.C., Oct 2, 2009 (CNA) - In a letter sent to the U.S. Senate on September 30, Cardinal Justin Rigali, Bishop William Murphy and Bishop John Wester, chairs of the USCCB committees on Pro-Life Activities, Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Migration, respectively, raised their concerns on behalf of the U.S. episcopate over the issues of human life and dignity, coverage of legal immigrants and affordability in the current health care debate.
"Our Catholic moral tradition teaches that health care is a basic human right, essential to protecting human life and dignity," the bishops wrote. "These moral principles and our everyday experience lead us to work for three central priorities for health care reform."
The bishops outlined three criteria that need special attention as legislation moves forward: respect for human life and dignity, affordability and the inclusion of legal immigrants.
"Health care reform legislation should reflect longstanding and widely supported current policies on abortion funding, mandates and conscience protections because they represent sound morality, wise policy and political reality," the letter says.
The three bishops lamented the fact that, so far, there is no sign that the commitments made by President Barack Obama during his September 10 speech to Congress are being accounted for in the Senate's version of health care reform.
"So far the health reform bills considered in committee, including the new Senate Finance Committee bill, have not met President Obama’s challenge of barring use of federal dollars for abortion and maintaining current conscience laws. These deficiencies must be corrected," the bishops insisted.
On affordability, the bishops criticized the Senate Finance Committee bill because it "would impose financial burdens on low-income and moderate-income families and those families with significant and chronic illnesses." They urged Congress to support measures that would help low-income families, including further limiting premium costs and other out of pocket expenses for all citizens and legal immigrants.
"The Catholic bishops renew our appeal to provide equity for legal immigrants in access to health care," the letter states. "Immigrants pay the same taxes as citizens and their health needs cannot be ignored. Leaving them outside a reformed system is both unfair and unwise," the bishops concluded.
The full text of the bishops’ letter is available at www.usccb.org/sdwp/national/2009-09-30-healthcare-letter-senate.pdf.
Rome, Italy, Oct 2, 2009 (CNA) -
The government of Cyprus announced on Thursday that Pope Benedict XVI has accepted an invitation to visit the country made by President Demetris Christofias during an audience with the Holy Father at the Vatican on March 27.
The papal trip could take place in June of 2010, according to a story published by Vatican Radio.
According to the report, Maronite Archbishop Josef Souaef of Cyprus, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem, and Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Custodian of the Holy Land, have expressed their joy at the announcement of the Pope’s visit.
Madrid, Spain, Oct 2, 2009 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Spain issued a statement this week calling on the faithful to participate in the pro-life march scheduled for October 17 to protest against the Socialist government’s proposed reform of Spain’s abortion laws.
“The laity are appropriately responding to this challenge—which is of great moral and social transcendence—by making use of their right to peacefully protest to express their disagreement with the proposed law, which constitutes a serious step backwards in the protection of the right to life of the unborn, a greater abandonment of pregnant mothers and irreparable harm to the common good,” the bishops said.
They urged Spaniards to read their statement issued on June 17 in which they denounced the idea of converting the killing of the unborn into a “right.” The proposed reform of the country’s abortion law is “unjust,” the bishops continued, calling for prayers that unborn human life would be “appropriately protected by our laws.”
Bishop Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, secretary general of the Bishops’ Conference, said opposing abortion, which is “grave crime,” “is not a question of religion.”
“A people that kills its own children is a people without a future,” he warned.
Paris, France, Oct 2, 2009 (CNA) - During his remarks at the opening of the Plenary Assembly of the Council of Episcopal Conferences of Europe, council president Cardinal Peter Erdö of Esztergom-Budapest called for a greater effort to foster vocations in Europe, which he said is need of more priests who will give people the sustenance that “God himself wishes to give to all.”
Referring to the Year for Priests decreed by Pope Benedict XVI, the cardinal thanked “all the priests who in Europe continually proclaim the Word of God, accompany communities and offer forgiveness and sustain the Body of Christ through the sacraments.”
Without the work of priests, the cardinal said, “often amidst great difficulties, temptations and misunderstandings, the People of God would not have that sustenance that God himself wants to give to all.”
For this reason, he explained, “I feel that this year can be a privileged occasion for strengthening our efforts in vocational ministry” because “Europe needs more priests.”
Cardinal Erdö also said that the Church in Europe “needs the laity, families and people who, in their places of work, at home, in politics, in the culture, in the social institutions, at schools and universities can truly be the face of Christ.”
Experience shows that “the harder the laity work, the more they see the lack of priests. We hope therefore that this year will be for the entire Church, as the Pauline Year was, a time of grace.”
Havana, Cuba, Oct 2, 2009 (CNA) - A prominent dissident who has been involved with the Christian Liberation Movement's (CLM) Varela Project, was condemned to two years in prison after a summary trial by the Communist government on Thursday.
The Christian Life Movement denounced the trial of Agustin Cervantes, who was not allowed to testify in his own defense, as a “farce in which the Cuban police, the State security and the courts participated in order to destroy the CLM and avoid at all cost the spread of the Varela Project and the collection of signatures.”
Cervantes was detained several days ago and accused of assaulting a man who approached him and attempted to stab him with a knife. During his detention government officials warned Cervantes he “would not see the next set of Varela Project signatures turned in.”
The coordinator of the CLM, Oswaldo Paya, lamented the repression of those “who are only exercising their constitutional rights to present legal initiatives.” Paya insisted that the Varela Project would continue until all Cubans obtain their rights.
The trial came just weeks after a visit by Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, who said he had no intention of meeting with the Cuban dissidents.
Madrid, Spain, Oct 2, 2009 (CNA) - World Youth Day organizers in Spain announced yesterday that they are expecting some two million to attend the international youth event in 2011, a number “ten times greater than the Olympic Games.”
WYD 2011 Director of Communications, Yago de la Cierva, said Pope Benedict would be welcomed at the Cibeles Square in Madrid, where he will celebrate the opening Mass. Madrid's Mayor Alberto Ruiz Gallardon said the Mayor’s office building would be turned into “the great sacristy of Madrid” for the one thousand bishops expected to concelebrate.
On Friday, the Way of the Cross will take place along the city's famous thoroughfare the “Paseo de la Castellana,” where the fourteen stations will be decorated with renowned artistic pieces. The city’s central park, known as “Parque del Retiro,” will host the “Festival of Forgiveness,” where young people will be able to receive the sacrament of Confession.
On Saturday, the Cuatro Vientos stadium will host the vigil, “a cultural and musical event that will transform itself as the hours pass in the prayer vigil.” After spending the night under the stars, the closing Mass will be celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday morning.
The organization of WYD 2011 is being spearheaded by Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela of Madrid and Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. Six teams of organizers and some ten thousand volunteers will be involved in the execution of the event.