Vatican City, Feb 1, 2010 (CNA) -
Pope Benedict XVI spoke to members of the English and Welsh Conference of Catholic Bishops on Monday in Rome as part of their "ad Limina" visit. He used the meeting to respond to the wide range of issues being confronted by local Church and urged them to look to Cardinal John Henry Newman as a model for combating relativism and increasing vocations.
The Pope led off his speech with optimism, granting that "even amid the pressures of a secular age, there are many signs of living faith and devotion among the Catholics of England and Wales." As examples he cited the enthusiastic reaction in Britain to the visit of the relics of St. Therese and the growing anticipation for the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, as well as the popularity among young people for World Youth Day pilgrimages.
Benedict XVI also confirmed that he would in fact be visiting Britain, saying, "On the occasion of my forthcoming Apostolic Visit to Great Britain, I shall be able to witness that faith for myself and, as Successor of Peter, to strengthen and confirm it.”
He then moved on to the business of the day, starting with a reference to current laws in the countries that "impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs." In response to these, the Holy Father urged the bishops "to ensure that the Church’s moral teaching be always presented in its entirety and convincingly defended."
"Fidelity to the Gospel in no way restricts the freedom of others – on the contrary, it serves their freedom by offering them the truth," he added.
Benedict XVI incited the bishops to be insistent in declaring that they have a right to enter the national debate "through respectful dialogue with other elements in society" to make the Gospel known.
Additionally, the Pope invited all members of the Catholic community of England and Wales involved in communicating the Gospel: to "speak with a united voice" and to "be attentive to the promptings of the Spirit, who guides the whole Church into the truth, gathers her into unity and inspires her with missionary zeal."
The Holy Father continued by emphasizing that the lay faithful must be "equipped to hand on the faith to new generations comprehensively, accurately, and with a keen awareness that in so doing they are playing their part in the Church’s mission."
Addressing the issue of dissension, the Pope cautioned the bishops that in a "social milieu that encourages the expression of a variety of opinions on every question that arises, it is important to recognize dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate. It is the truth revealed through Scripture and Tradition and articulated by the Church’s Magisterium that sets us free."
Pope Benedict XVI also presented the bishops with Cardinal Newman's "outstanding example of faithfulness to revealed truth" as a model for not giving in to the voices of relativism and to "spare no effort in encouraging priestly vocations and emphasizing to the faithful the true meaning and necessity of the priesthood."
He also implored them to make an effort to promote support and understanding among the lay faithful of the pastoral life and its difficulties, especially in the midst of "declining numbers and increasing pressures."
The Holy Father concluded by inviting the bishops to "be generous in implementing the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus," to bring members of the Anglican community into full communion with the Catholic Church.
Delegates from the Holy See and Great Britain are still negotiating the arrangements for the pastoral visit to the island in 2010. The culminating event of the trip could be the Pope officiating of the beatification rite of Cardinal John Henry Newman.
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Feb 1, 2010 (CNA) - After seven months of congressional debate, the Dominican Republic has implemented a new constitution which defends life "from conception to natural death."
The new constitution which outlaws abortion took effect on January 26.
Following the official announcement of the constitution, the country's president, Leonel Fernandez called the document the “Constitution of the 21st century."
The defense of life was one of the most controversial issues of the debate and was finally defined in article 37 of the constitution. It reads, "The right to life is inviolable from conception to natural death. The death penalty shall not be established, decreed or applied in any case."
Vatican City, Feb 1, 2010 (CNA) - Pope Benedict once again commented on the theme of Anglican-Catholic relations, this time as he met with Welsh and English bishops at the Vatican on Monday. During their meeting Pope Benedict confirmed the importance of his recent Apostolic Constitution "Anglicanorum Coetibus."
The Holy Father welcomed bishops from England and Wales in audience on Monday morning in the Consistory Room of the Apostolic Palace as they complete their “ad Limina” visit.
After encouraging the bishops' important work in the areas of ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue, given the "varied demographic profile" of their flocks, Pope Benedict added, "I would ask you to be generous in implementing the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution 'Anglicanorum Coetibus,' so as to assist those groups of Anglicans who wish to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church."
"I am convinced that, if given a warm and open-hearted welcome, such groups will be a blessing for the entire Church.”
Archbishop Vincent G. Nichols of Westminster also referred to Catholic – Anglican relations in a speech he had given to the Pope just minutes earlier.
Speaking on behalf of the countries' bishops, he mentioned that the Anglican situation was of “particular delicacy for us.”
Archbishop Nichols attributed the “years of close cooperation and deepening friendship and communion with our brothers and sisters in the Church of England” to saving the relationship between the two in the face of various interpretations of and reactions to ‘Anglicorum Coetibus.' ”
The Apostolic Constitution was published in November 2009 and introduced a canonical structure that provides Anglicans who have a desire to re-enter into full communion with the Catholic Church a way to do so via the creation of Personal Ordinariates. The ordinariate model allows those seeking full communion to preserve “elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony," according to the document.
The archbishop added that the commitment of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission to a third round of discussion “has reinforced this relationship" and that the bishops of England and Wales “remain ready to explore with those Anglicans in England and Wales who wish to take up your generous and paternal response to their requests the ways forward towards full communion.”
Vatican City, Feb 1, 2010 (CNA) - Today the Vatican announced Pope Benedict XVI's intentions for the month of February. They include prayers for scholars in their search for the truth and that the Church embraces her missionary identity in faithful pursuit of Christ.
The Holy Father's general intention for February is: “That by means of sincere search for the truth scholars and intellectuals may arrive at an understanding of the one true God.”
Pope Benedict XVI's mission intention is: “That the Church, aware of her own missionary identity, may strive to follow Christ faithfully and to proclaim his Gospel to all peoples.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 1, 2010 (CNA) - A legal expert from the Institute for Legal Research at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Jorge Adame Goddard, said last week that Mexico City's recent decision to allow same-sex “marriage” and homosexual adoption are both “unconstitutional.”
In an interview with the Notimex news agency, Goddard said, “In addition to attacking the basic concept of the family, these reforms violate the Constitution” and are “subverting the entire national legal order, giving a different meaning to all the civil and local laws that address marriage.”
He added that allowing same-sex couples to adopt would have serious repercussions on children. “The child of a same-sex couple will be a child who will find it difficult to adapt to social life.”
“He will see that most children have a mother and a father. How will the children who have a mother and a father react to the child who does not have a father and mother, but rather two parents of the same-sex?” Goddard asked.
He stressed that the new law will lead to problems for schools, as it will provoke controversies over claims of discrimination if a schools opts to accept or reject admission of children from same-sex unions.
Havana, Cuba, Feb 1, 2010 (CNA) - The Christian Liberation Movement in Cuba is commemorating the death of Cuban priest Father Francisco Santana who died in exile on January 28, 2004. In a statement, the movement recalled the heroism of Fr. Santana “who suffered greatly during the final months of his terminal illness.”
"He suffered exile until he died, as the Cuban government never allowed him to even visit his beloved homeland. With that sorrow in his soul, and barely able to breathe, he gave his last breath...to the oppressed Cuban people as well as the persecuted Church of Cuba.” He upheld “the message of hope and proclaimed the good and great news of liberation," the statement indicated.
The movement underscored that Fr. Santana was "not a political priest," but rather "one who was persecuted with the persecuted,” he was “poor with the poor and weak with the weak."
"While others spoke of Fidel and religion, he spoke of God,” as well as “Cubans and their faith.”
"He was a constant evangelizer, a messenger of reconciliation among all Cubans,” the movement added. Fr. Santana created "a true bridge of solidarity between Cubans in Cuba and those around the world.” He encouraged them to send “medicine, food, and many other necessary things for those in need."
"He was an inspiration and a companion of the Christian Liberation Movement. A pastor, a brother, a friend in every trial. He was the best of friends," the movement said.
"Thank God for Fr. Santana," the statement concluded.
La Paz, Bolivia, Feb 1, 2010 (CNA) - Constitutional, political and social analysts noted recently that the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, violated the constitution he himself signed into existence by celebrating a pre-Colombian “ancestral blessing” rite. Bolivia’s constitution states in article four that the State shall be secular and “independent of any religion.”
Carlos Cordero, an expert in languages, explained that if Bolivia defines itself as a secular country, “The correct thing would be for the President not to show support for any particular religion,” instead of wanting to “erase from Bolivian memory the symbols and important figures who were part of our history.”
Other experts interviewed by the media said the celebration of this “ancestral blessing” was motivated by the government’s desire to replace the religious ceremonies that were carried out by previous administrations.
Jorge Lazarte, also an expert in languages, explained that while the rite appears to violate the constitution, the constitution promulgated in February of 2009 contains actual contradictions. In one place it notes “the state shall have no official religion, and later in another series of articles it supports the revival of practices inspired by the indigenous worldview.”
Although government officials said the ceremony with Morales was an expression of the freedom of religion, other experts pointed out that it was in contradiction with the government’s policy, as the armed forces cannot hold Catholic ceremonies, but participate in ones such as that attended by Morales.
Rome, Italy, Feb 1, 2010 (CNA) - On Sunday evening, Pope Benedict XVI slipped out of the Vatican to visit an art exhibit titled "Power and Grace. The Holy Patrons of Europe." Benedict XVI spent over 30 minutes "admiring the masterpieces," which offered a cross-section of the rapport between Church and government through the ages.
According to L'Osservatore Romano, the collection was displayed to "tell the story of the evolution of the relationship between faith and culture, holiness and power, Church and political community on the continent through the centuries."
Among the 120 pieces on exhibit were works from Leonardo, Van Eyck, El Greco and Caravaggio, which had been on loan to the Palace of Venice from major museums, such as the Louvre, since Oct. 8. Sunday was the show's final day.
The Holy Father had been invited to see the exhibit by the secretary of Italy's Council of Ministers, Gianni Letta, during the presentation of the book "The Travels of Benedict XVI in Italy" on Jan. 21.
Besides Letta, among those accompanying Pope Benedict on the the visit were his personal secretary Monsignor Georg Ganswein, members of the Memores Domini of the Papal Household, Italy's ambassador to the Holy See, organizers of the exhibit and its curator.
During the tour, the secretary of the Council of Ministers took the opportunity to verbalize the continued relationship between the Church and the government when he confirmed to the Pope that "will of the Italian government is to reaffirm the existence of the strength of the Christian roots of Europe."
Rome, Italy, Feb 1, 2010 (CNA) - Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini, the 93-year-old president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Health Workers, spoke with CNA on January 28 about his personal experience with Pope Pius XII and how his example moved him to save Jews during World War II. He expressed his "great joy" and "satisfaction without limits" at Pope Benedict's recent declaration of Pius XII as Venerable.
In what he called the "dawn" of his priesthood, during "the Great War," Cardinal Angelini lived through the bombings of Rome as an assistant pastor in a Roman parish, a position that gave rise to his first contact with Pope Pius XII.
"Among the living and the dead, in the midst of the rubble, that is how I found him for the first time," the cardinal told CNA. "There he was. The Holy Father approached and I admired immediately the greatness of his character, the greatness of his spirit, of a pastor not only endeared, but tied to the souls of the entire world, but in that moment present to his Roman faithful."
The Pope had left his Vatican residence that day to survey the damage of Allied bombardments on the Nazi-occupied city and to be present among the people. He did so, added the cardinal, "before the sirens had ceased," thus risking being caught in the middle of another air raid.
He said that what he witnessed in Pope Pius XII were the actions of "a true man."
In him, related the cardinal, he saw "a heart, a soul, an intelligence, an emotion, a love, (and) that he interpreted and lived the grief of others.
"The Pope gave the impression of being disposed to giving his life to save the people and the people prayed for him, and I, in the midst of the people, prayed with the Pope."
This was the Cardinal Angelini's first experience with Pope Pius XII, but they got to know each other through various initiatives he was involved in as a priest.
According to the prelate, their bond is a lasting one.
"As I have always remained faithful to him," said the cardinal, signaling to a bronze bust of the late-Pope resting on a table behind his office desk, "he never leaves me, and I will never leave him."
The Holy Father called on him years later to work with promoting health care in the city, a spiritual jurisdiction in Rome which the cardinal called "a diocese within a diocese." Then-Father Angelini performed so well in his position that he was consecrated a bishop at 40 years of age. This set him on the path to be chosen to head the Pontifical Council for Health Workers at its establishment by Pope John Paul II in 1985.
Reflecting on the lasting influence of Pius XII on his life, Cardinal Angelini shared that from the late Holy Father, he "learned everything that a modest priest could learn from the Supreme Pontiff of the Vicar of Christ," citing specific lessons he learned in "the life of prayer, sacrifice, moral rectitude, loyalty to the church and love of poverty."
"I also admired his spirit of simplicity and... poverty," added the cardinal after relating the story of having seen the basic conditions in which Pius XII personally lived.
In addition, the prelate expressed his admiration for "the heroism of faith that he had... the heroism he had in the face of the truth, in affirming the truth and in defending the truth."
Speaking of the Pope's role during World War II, the cardinal referred to him as the "defensor civitatis, the defender of the city" who "flung himself against the enemies not only of Rome but of Christ and peace."
"To state today that the Pope did not have the courage to speak," continued Cardinal Angelini emphatically, "means not recognizing Pope Pacelli even in a photograph, because he was not a man of half measures, he was not a man of arrangements, but he was a man of 'yes' (and) 'no.' "
The cardinal explained that he risked his own life to follow the example set by Pope Pius XII, "hiding Jews, accompanying them in the street" and transporting Jewish possessions by truck to safe places out of the reach of the Germans. He said they were "driven, also moved by his example, by his words" to save the Jews.
Saying that he has read about the possible miracle involving Pope Pius XII under investigation by a diocese in southern Italy, Cardinal Angelini said that although he didn't know whether it was true, "It wouldn't be a surprise, no surprise."
At the conclusion of the interview, he also recalled his reaction to the news that Pope Benedict had declared Pius XII "venerable" on December 19, 2009. The news brought him "great joy” and “a satisfaction without limits," the cardinal said, reiterating that it was "no surprise” to him. "The only surprise,” he added, “is that it took so long."
On Feb. 3, Cardinal Angelini will celebrate the 70th anniversary of his priestly ordination.
Madrid, Spain, Feb 1, 2010 (CNA) - Organizers for World Youth Day Madrid 2011 have recently called for proposals for the event's Youth Festival, an aspect of the international gathering intended to “manifest how faith becomes culture.”
The Youth Festival, held during each World Youth Day, is described by organizers as an “ensemble of artistic and cultural activities” including music and dance, theater, art exhibitions, design of urban spaces, displays of the Church's social work across the globe, biographies of saints and missionaries as well as cinema and audiovisual productions.
An online announcement detailed the criteria for proposals and stated that the submissions need “to be lively, contemporary and important expressions for today's young people,” inspired by the Christian virtues of faith, hope, charity, joy and fortitude. Also mentioned in the specifications was the requirement for proposals to “manifest a universal beauty, accessible to people of different cultures” and to also be “of great artistic quality.”
Though the festival is organized by international committee members, emphasis is placed on the local committee and the culture of the country hosting World Youth Day.
“The principle framework of the Youth Festival is the history and cultures of Spain,” said the online statement, which described Spain as “a country of apostolic tradition, where the faith has taken root and borne innumerable fruits of sanctity; from which innumerable missionaries have left to take the faith to the five continents... .”
Youth Festival organizers will select submissions based on relevance, artistic quality, universality and technical and financial feasibility. Those interested in submitting proposals are required to do so by April 1, 2010. More information can be found at www.madridwyd2011.com.