Vatican City, Dec 14, 2009 (CNA) -
Pope Benedict XVI had brief audiences with a number of people on Monday morning, including three newly ordained bishops and the prime minister of Montenegro.
Bishops Jean Laffitte, Mario Toso and Giovanni D'Ercole were accompanied by family members as they met Benedict XVI at the Papal residence in Vatican City. The three were ordained as bishops just a day earlier at a well attended ceremony officiated by the Holy See's Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
Each of them had already received orders for a new appointment in the last 2 months. Bishop Laffitte, who had worked with the Pontifical Council of the Family as an under-secretary since 2005, became Secretary of that Council on Oct. 22, 2009. On that same date, Bishop Toso was appointed as of Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace from his post at the Pontifical Salesian University of Rome, where he had been serving as Dean of the Philosophy Department since 2003. Bishop Giovanni D'Ercole, a former director of the Holy See's press office, was chosen to be Auxiliary Bishop of Aquila, the region of Italy hit hardest by an earthquake earlier this year.
The Holy Father also received the Prime Minister of Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic, in audience Monday morning. Following his encounter with the Pope, the prime minister went on to meet with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the secretary for Relations with States.
In the meeting, the Secretaries and prime minister Djukanovic discussed current international affairs, the present domestic situation and the challenges facing Montenegro. They also touched on the Montenegrin government's efforts to promote "peace and harmony" among the country's ethnically and religiously diverse population.
Montenegrin and Serbian Orthodox Churches have been in dispute since the 1920's about which is the legitimate Church in the small country. Adding to the confusion, the bishop of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, Mihailo, was ordained by the patriarch of a schismatic synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in 1998. Upon being ordained, Mihailo was excommunicated by the Orthodox Church of Istanbul.
Vatican City, Dec 14, 2009 (CNA) -
Pope Benedict XVI paid a visit to the sick and health care workers of the Rome Hospice Foundation Sunday morning at their facility located just minutes from the Vatican. He lauded the hospice for providing free care and invited the sick to use the "light of faith" to bring them closer to God.
The Sacre Cuore (Sacred Heart) Hospice was very pleased to host the Pontiff on-site, where 30 patients suffering from terminal cancer are treated without cost. The hospice also provides home health care for 90 others.
Pope Benedict XVI addressed the gathering, saying that in a world that tends to marginalize those that suffer from incurable illness and think of them as a weight on society, "Whoever has a sense of human dignity knows ... that they should be respected and sustained while they face the difficulties and the suffering tied to their health conditions."
In providing their health care, said the Pope, "Along with the indispensable clinical cures, it's necessary to offer the sick concrete gestures of love, of nearness and of Christian solidarity to fulfill their need of comprehension, of comfort and of constant encouragement."
"I've come to offer to each of you a concrete testimony of nearness and affection," the Holy Father told them. "I assure you of my prayer and I invite you to find sustenance and comfort in Jesus, to never lose trust and hope."
"Your illness is a very painful and singular test, but before the mystery of God ... this acquires meaning and becomes a gift and occasion of sanctification."
"When the suffering and discomfort become stronger," counseled the Pontiff, "think that Christ is associating you to the cross because he wants to say through you a word of love to all who have lost their way in life and, closed in their own empty egoism, live in sin and distance from God."
"In fact, your health conditions witness that true life is not here, but close to God, where each of us will find joy and will have humbly placed our steps after those of the most true man: Jesus of Nazareth, Teacher and Lord."
Pope Benedict concluded that in this time of Advent, when we speak of "preparing the way for the Lord," through "the light of faith" sickness and suffering can become a particular Advent experience, "a visit from God that in a mysterious way happens to liberate from solitude and lack of meaning and transform pain into time spent with Him, of hope and salvation.
"The Lord comes, he's here, alongside us!” Benedict XVI exclaimed.
Looking ahead to Christmas, the Pope said it “offers us the possibility to contemplate the Holy Child, the real light that comes to this world to manifest ´the grace of God, that brings salvation to all men.'"
Madrid, Spain, Dec 14, 2009 (CNA) - The Spanish organization Professionals for Ethics has slammed the president of the Community of Madrid, Esperanza Aguirre, who despite her promises to the contrary, has allowed schools to teach 13 year-olds how to use condoms.
The organization pointed to reports in an educational magazine that confirmed that students in some cities in the Madrid community are being taught how to use condoms.
According to Fabian Fernandez de Alarcon, general secretary of Professionals for Ethics, Aguirre is going against her own policy of opposing the indoctrination found in the course Education for the Citizenry.
“What is clear is that in the Community of Madrid, words are one thing and actions are another. We are tired of seeing parents who object to Education for the Citizenry pressured to have a certain kind of emotional-sexual education imposed on their children at school,” the general secretary said.
Fernandez noted as well that the government has yet to provide schools and teachers with guidelines on how to apply a Supreme Court ruling from February of 2009 that prohibits schools from imposing “opinions on certain controversial moral issues” on students.
Hollywood, Calif., Dec 14, 2009 (CNA) - A new independent film explores the issue of a woman's ability to chose to have an abortion, using a blend of the drama and documentary genres. “South Dakota: A woman's right to chose” isn't in theaters yet, but it has riveted audiences at a series of screenings in California.
Bruce Isacson, director of “South Dakota,” began with the idea of making a documentary on the subject of abortion.” However, Isacson knew that he couldn't reach large numbers of people with the documentary genre. Historically, he notes on the movie's website, “documentaries draw small audiences, so my passion to bring clear understanding of the subject stirred me to dramatize two personal true-life stories from the documentary that would represent both sides of the issue.”
The result is a movie that dramatizes the stories of two teenage girls who become pregnant unexpectedly. Interspersed with the action are interviews and sound clips of various pro-abortion and pro-life advocates. Featured pro-abortion figures are: Gloria Allred, Alexander Sanger, Peter Singer, Lee Silver and Dr. Wendy Savage. Pro-life commentary is offered by Prof. Robert George, Bill Hurlbut, the former abortion doctor Bernard Nathanson and Michael Schwartz.
“People haven't been discussing this issue properly," Director Bruce Isacson told the LA Times. “Both sides don't express themselves well. Where is the information? Where is the intelligent discussion?”
The movie was produced by Howard Kazanjian, (Star Wars Return of the Jedi, Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark.) It will be marketed by Motive Entertainment (The Passion of the Christ, The Polar Express, The Chronicles of Narnia, Expelled).
The film isn't in theaters yet, but it drew an impressive reaction from a screening in front of nearly 1,000 Los Angeles high school girls. After the screening, Dolores O'Riordan, lead singer of the Cranberries moderated a town-hall discussion with the girls, the LA Times reports.
Motive Entertainment Chief Executive Paul Lauer told the Times that this screening and discussion is “a guinea pig for something we may do all across the country.” “In each market where we do the town-hall screenings we will be inviting leaders, organizations and individuals who represent both sides of the debate."
However, there are some who think that the film leans toward the pro-life side. Lori Meeks, USC associate professor of religion, wondered if the producers of the film “may be trying to attract anti-abortion audiences who will like the film because it allows them to feel good about reaching out to the other side without forcing them to challenge their beliefs in a serious way.” “It'll be interesting to see how the pro-choice advocates interviewed in the film react,” she said.
At this stage of the film, the producers are not giving further comment, Lauer told CNA. However, he noted that readers can view the remarks made at the LA screening for high school girls by visiting, http://www.southdakotathemovie.com/teen_scren.php.
Dallas, Texas, Dec 14, 2009 (CNA) - As Christmas quickly approaches, the Diocese of Dallas has launched a campaign to bring lapsed Catholics back into the Church. One part of the outreach involves bus ads with the message: “Catholics come home for Christmas.”
“When I travel around the diocese, I have so many people tell me that their wife or husband or parents or kids have abandoned their church or faith,” Bishop Kevin Farrell explained to the Dallas Morning News on Sunday. “They're always asking me what we can do about it.”
The recent bus ads are part of the larger Catholics Come Home for Christmas campaign which “is an appeal from the Diocese of Dallas” to “welcome all inactive Catholics to return to the Faith,” the diocesan website says.
“No matter if you've been away from the Church for only a brief period of time or for many years, the important thing that I want you to know is that all of us are praying that during this special time of the year, this Christmas season, you will think about coming home to the Catholic Church,” Bishop Farrell said in a video message.
“I hope you will fondly remember the church you grew up in, the church you made your first communion in or confirmation,” continued Bishop Farrell. “Perhaps you will think of your friends and family members who attended the same Catholic school with you or maybe you just remember what it was like to be part of a parish community who praise God together and were strengthened in faith through the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass.”
The Bishop of Dallas also acknowledged that people may have left the Church because they were hurt. “ I hope that whatever the hurt, the anger or the disinterest you experienced in leaving the Church can be healed so that you can once again know the comfort, the joy, the sense of belonging that worshiping with your family, your friends and neighbors can bring,” the bishop said in his video.
“As we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior, we invite you to join us at any one of more than 70 parishes to welcome the light of the world, Who has saved us,” Bishop Farrell concluded.
The bus advertisements in Dallas have been financially supported by the Knight of Columbus as well as private donors who have worked to put the ads on 13 Dallas Area Rapid Transit buses. The ads cost $359 each and will run through Dec. 27.
To view the Come Home for Christmas video, please visit, http://www.cathdal.org/default.asp?contentID=336.
Guayaquil, Ecuador, Dec 14, 2009 (CNA) - Catholic News Agency recently interviewed L.F. Figari, the founder of the Christian Life Movement (CLM), at the conclusion of the movement's third Plenary Meeting. The CLM is an international association of the faithful that was recognized by the Holy See in 1994.
With members in 25 countries around the world, the CLM is the largest ecclesial movement born in the Americas.
The third Plenary Meeting of the CLM, held in Guayaquil, Ecuador, brought together 250 delegates from 17 of the 25 countries where the movement is present worldwide. The theme for the gathering was, "I have chosen you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide ( Jn. 15:16).”
Following the meeting, L.F. Figari spoke with CNA about the impact of Christian Life Movement and its decision to focus greater energy and resources on defending the right to life and human dignity.
The full interview follows.
CNA: The end of the second millennium and the beginning of the third has seen the rise of new lay charisms in the Church. The CLM is part of this phenomenon. How can we understand this historic event?
LFF: The Holy Spirit has never abandoned the Church. In every age He creates new answers and awakens new charisms in response to new situations and challenges. This has happened throughout history and continues to happen today. The laity form the bulk of the Church. For this reason it makes sense that the Spirit gives the laity the opportunity to be members of the institutions of communal life, in which they can live, deepen and celebrate the faith with which they have been blessed.
Especially in our day in which the reigning relativism has taken on so many forms, from muted secularism to aggressive and even authoritarian secularism, it is only natural that the laity have the opportunity to embrace those charisms with which they most identify themselves, which allow them to experience the encounter with the Lord Jesus, deepen in the truths of the faith and participate actively in the associations that those charisms acquire. It is also a way of safeguarding one’s own Catholic identity amidst so much contamination that is spread through globalization and through the media, which more often than not are very unhealthy.
Because of the weakness of Catholic identity, unfortunately very frequent today …the faithful must take steps to not fall victim to the relativistic whirlwind that is more present in some countries and places than in others…There are many schools where students from a young age are confronted with secularism and see their faith attacked in a clear assault on freedom in the name of an ideology. Many media outlets contribute as well. Legislation in some countries has taken on a secularist ideology constituting a de facto assault on religious freedom and proposing a social model that in the end is contrary to the human being, his rights, dignity and obviously his freedom to believe and practice his faith.
CNA: What do the CLM and its spirituality contribute to the life of the universal Church?
LFF: Every charism the Spirit brings forth is for the benefit of the entire Church. Every spiritual family that is blessed with a particular charism allows itself to be possessed by the Spirit and aspires to give expression to that in its own style and spirituality in unity and communion with the whole Church. Some are more profound and rational, some are more emotional, as is the case with human beings. The Christian Life Movement is born of searchers for the truth, of people who are firmly convinced that that search finds an answer in the Lord Jesus, who said of Himself: ‘I am the Truth.’ This encounter with the person of Jesus is the event that allows one to embrace the splendor of the truth, to receive the life that the Lord grants, and to live the love that, like a burning fire, springs forth from the interior to radiate to others … For members of the CLM, this encounter is not reduced to merely, let’s say, the emotional aspect, but rather touches the whole of the human person created by God…It nourishes his mind with the truths revealed by God and safeguarded in the deposit of the Church’s faith, without which the encounter risks losing consistency, permanence and firmness.
It touches the heart, calling it to adhere in love to the encountered Lord, and from Him, to all other human beings, without ignoring one’s own reality in which inescapable duties of charity exist. It translates into faith in action, which flows from a person excited about a vital event that has transformed his or her life, about a fire of love that struggles to radiate light and warmth, with the conviction that if you have something good you want others to have it and benefit from it, with the assurance that the faith of the Church is the greatest good that can be offered to a person.
Particularly today in the fundamental questions, such as, Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going? What is the meaning and purpose of my life? (the Church's message) often only falls on the deaf ears of relativism or nihilism which, with the force of its emptiness, brings tension to a person and even grinds him up.
All of this that I am sharing with you has been developed in the overflowing channel of hope of Vatican II, following upon its drive for renewal in continuity with Tradition.
CNA: The CLM has just concluded its third Plenary Assembly. What importance has the event had in the life of this spiritual family?
LFF: Yes, the Christian Life Movement has concluded a series of joyful and vibrant days of faith, prayer, reflection, sharing, discussing apostolic experiences of life in different places in the world, of forging bonds of fraternal friendship between 250 delegates from countries on all five continents…An event of such magnitude and characteristics certainly has important consequences…The Sodalite Family, which includes the CLM, is enriched by an experience of such magnitude. Whatever benefits the part, benefits the whole. Moreover, very positive feedback of the beautiful and intense experience in Guayaquil will reach the different countries where the Sodalite family exists.
CNA: The CLM is characterized by its evangelization of young people, the poor, the culture and families. What are the challenges it faces in these areas?
LFF: The apostolate of the members of the Christian Life Movement is above all open to that which is universal. Each member, as a baptized believer, is invited to participate in the mission of the Church in accord with their own characteristics and state of life. Within this broad horizon, the CLM brings the testimony of Jesus to young people, the poor, serving them through human promotion and addressing the needs of hunger, health care and the culture, seeking to get at its roots, and to families. Each one of these human groups—young people, the poor, families, which obviously overlap, as well as the wide field of the culture—offer challenges that are ever new. I could go on, but we would be here for hours.
Let me just mention a few examples.
Young people are receiving less and less education and formation, not only because of educational or family problems, deficiencies or biases in the curriculum or in the materials at their disposition, but also because of habits formed from playing video games and spending time on the internet. All of these things foster a lack of critical thinking, reading and non-lineal discussion, to which we must add the bombardment of violent and eroticized advertisement. Obviously, in pointing these things out I am speaking in general terms, since as in everything there are exceptions.
The world is advancing in so many things, but the misery of so many brothers and sisters of ours is there, questioning the squandering of riches and the increasingly more aggressive consumerist culture. The process of dehumanization also affects them in their dignity.
The CLM opens its arms to these brothers and sisters and a large portion of its services and works are intended to help them on their life’s journey with a brotherly hand, offering material and spiritual help in solidarity and human promotion.
The issue of the culture is vast, and our creativity cannot produce enough responses to all of the challenges it presents.
The family is also a priority that has grave challenges, not only those that stem from gender ideology, relativism, laws that are permissive and do not protect and promote the family. But also those that stem from an urgent need to educate people to be husbands and wives, as well as to be mothers and fathers who respectfully promote the comprehensive growth of their children, their upbringing in the faith, the passing on of values and the education in character strength and the proper use of freedom. The family, called to be a cenacle of love, “the domestic church,” also demands much help. CLM initiatives to provide that help through institutes and educational and family programs are numerous.
CNA: At the beginning of this recent CLM assembly, a new apostolic emphasis for the movement was announced: the promotion of the life, dignity and rights of the human person. Why this new emphasis?
LFF: Today a process of dehumanization can be seen everywhere: life, human dignity and rights suffer mockery, manipulation and ferocious attacks. The revelation of God shows the scope of the reality of the human being. In the Lord Jesus the person finds his true identity. Not what he wants, what he likes or what he has been conditioned to believe by an avalanche of cognitive manipulation, but rather the truth about the human being which is discovered in the Eternal Word made man.
Jesus came to reveal to human beings our most profound identity, our dignity that stems from being created in the image and likeness of God. The rights that come from human nature and are not a concession or invention of the government or international associations.
There are many assaults on the human being, there is a lot of talk about the right to this or the right to that, but often these very formulations are assaults on the fundamental and inherent rights of the person. Before everything is the right to life, from conception to natural death. The arguments for canceling this right were exhausted with Nazism and the various forms of Communism. To say that a person has the right to take the life of another human being because he was born unwanted or was the result of some act of violence, is to fall to the level of backers of the ideas of Pol Pot, Lenin, Stalin or Hitler. So much could be said about these absurdities!
But also together with the flagrant violence against life are the relativistic and dehumanizing ideologies that are the vanguard of the absolutisms and totalitarianism that are reappearing today with new faces. Many other rights that have their source in human nature flow from the right to life and the dignity of the human person. Today there is an increasing urgency to promote and protect these rights. The CLM has done a lot in this area in the past, but today we want to show we are attentive to such an important issue by making it one of the emphases or main fields of the work of evangelization of the members of the Christian Life Movement.
Rome, Italy, Dec 14, 2009 (CNA) - On December 10, delegations from the Vatican and Israel met in another attempt to resolve legal disputes regarding ownership of more than 100 sites and other issues important to Christian religious residing and working in the middle eastern nation. It appears that there was progress made in the talks, but even that is being debated.
Despite varying reports from Israeli and Vatican sources to news media on the success of the Dec. 10 meetings, officially, progress is being made in the bilateral negotiations. In the official joint communiqué released at its closure, the recent meeting was described as having taken place "in an atmosphere of cordiality and mutual understanding."
Since 1993, the Vatican and the Israel have been at the negotiating table over the issue of property and taxation rights on historically Christian assets within Israeli borders. Included among the contested locations, said Asia News sources, are holy places such as the Shrine of the Annunciation in Nazareth and perhaps the most prized site, the Cenacle, believed to be the chamber where the Last Supper took place.
The difficulty in deciding the future legal status of these sites is that Israel would like to reserve expropriation rights in order to develop infrastructure around, under or even over them. The idea of converting these sites into "roads and sidewalks" has kept the Vatican at the negotiating table.
However, following the Dec. 10 meeting, a report was published in the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Aharonoth, which quoted the head of the Israeli delegation, Danny Ayalon, as having said of the negotiations, "We can definitely say that there is a certain crisis."
Although progress has been quite slow, it is important to note that talks have not come to a stop, explained Vatican legal adviser Father David Maria Jaeger to the Italian newspaper La Stampa. "The material is intrinsically complex." So, Fr. Jaeger said, "you need time and effort and the work can't be rushed."
Responding to questions of stagnancy, Jaeger referred to the communiqué, saying, "it speaks clearly of work that was done in the Plenary session last May, and it speaks equally of more work that is still to be done. This indicates for sure that the meetings are progressing ..."
Both sides have faith that an accord will be reached "as soon as possible," said the priest.
"Too much effort, too much hope is invested in this undertaking for too many years for it not to succeed."
Fr. Jaeger also pointed to the fact that there is a "working level" commission planned between the delegations for Jan. 7, 2010 and another Plenary meeting planned for May 27 as proof that talks have not reached an impasse.
New York City, N.Y., Dec 14, 2009 (CNA) - Following an afternoon panel discussion about treatment of homosexuals by governments around the world, the Vatican’s legal attaché to the United Nations issued a Dec. 10 statement saying the Holy See continues to oppose “all grave violations” of homosexual persons’ human rights.
The letter named such grave violations as the use of the death penalty, torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.
“The Holy See also opposes all forms of violence and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons, including discriminatory penal legislation which undermines the inherent dignity of the human person,” continued the letter, signed by Rev. Philip J. Bené of the Holy See’s Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations.
“The murder and abuse of homosexual persons are to be confronted on all levels, especially when such violence is perpetrated by the State.
“While the Holy See's position on the concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity remains well known, we continue to call on all States and individuals to respect the rights of all persons and to work to promote their inherent dignity and worth.”