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Archive of February 20, 2010

Bishop Jackels urges young adults to develop a living relationship with Jesus

Wichita, Kan., Feb 20, 2010 (CNA) - Bishop Michael O. Jackels of Wichita, Kansas talked about his journey into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ to about 200 young adults during the diocese's monthly Theology on Tap gathering.

Bishop Jackels spoke about the ancient practice of “lectio divina,” which literally means “Divine Reading,” and refers to a method of reading and meditating over the Scriptures.

The church is intent that we have a living encounter with Jesus, the bishop said. “All Scripture is inspired by God,” he said, referring to 2 Tim. 3:16, which continues “and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

Walking around the large room with a hand-held microphone, he urged all those attending to get a Bible, if they didn’t have one, and to start reading it.

Bishop Jackels suggested that the Bible be read daily, to refer to it for answers and direction. “The Lord is speaking to you through it,” he said. “Respond to God in your prayer and action. 

The Scriptures are proclaimed at daily and Sunday Masses, “but they are kind of like an appetizer,” Bishop Jackels said walking over to a young adult with a plate of food in front of her. “Keep that away from him,” he jokingly said pointing to her neighbor.

“The readings we have at Mass are a preparation. They’re good, but it’s not enough,” he said. “You get what’s given to you, just like your mother sliding a plate of liver and onions in front of you. You eat this or you go to bed hungry!”

Bishop recommended that the young adults start with one of the Gospels. After peppering recently-ordained Father Ben Sawyer, one of those attending, with several Bible-related questions, Bishop Jackels also recommended that the young adults also read the Psalms, Isaiah, the epistles of Paul, and the Gospels – especially Matthew.

“This is what you focus on,” he said. “There’s probably enough for a lifetime right there.”

Bishop Jackels reinforced the importance of daily scripture readings by providing copies of the New Testament and a small fit-in-your-back-pocket size card describing the steps for lectio divina.

Chris Edmonds, director of diocesan Youth & Young Adult Ministries, said she visited with some of the young adults after the presentation and all were impressed that Bishop Jackels gave New Testaments to everyone.

“Even though most of the young adults probably have a Bible somewhere,” she said, “everyone I saw was clutching the gift as a new-found treasure.

“Some discussed how they would keep these New Testaments in their cars or purses, so they could dive into the scriptures during those times when they had to wait, such as at traffic lights and whenever.” Edmonds added that some wanted to keep a copy on hand to give to those they might encounter who don’t have a Bible.

“It really made the presentation come to life as young people explored ways to fit more scripture reading into their busy lives and share the Good News in a very tangible way. The Bishop gave a wonderful, honest and heart-felt presentation and the gift was like icing on the cake.”

Printed with permission from the Catholic Advance, newspaper for the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas.

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Catholic Athletes for Christ urges virtue instead of Olympic sexual license

Alexandria, Va., Feb 20, 2010 (CNA) - Reports of post-competition partying and condom hand-outs at the Olympics show the need for Catholic athletes to be grounded in their faith and the need for the sporting world to recover the idea of athletics as a forge for virtue, the head of a Catholic athletes’ organization says.

On Thursday MSNBC’s Today Show reported on Olympic athletes’ behavior after their competitions had ended.

While acknowledging athletes’ self-control, the Today Show cited event organizers’ distribution of 100,000 condoms and recounted off-the-record rumors of liaisons between residents of the Olympic Village as evidence of “hot nights” at the international event.

In a Friday interview, CNA sought comment on the spiritual dangers and benefits of sports from Ray McKenna, president of the Alexandria, Virginia-based Catholic Athletes for Christ.

McKenna said he knew 2008 Summer Olympics swimmer Kate Ziegler, but had never spoken with her about anything discussed in the Today Show article.

Hearsay of “somewhat bacchanalian excesses,” in his view, probably had “a lot of truth to it.”

The condom distribution, McKenna said, seems to be evidence of that lifestyle and sends the message that such a lifestyle is permitted and even encouraged at the Olympic Village.

“If there is encouragement to distribute condoms, at the very least there should be encouragement to practice your faith at those events,” McKenna told CNA.

While Olympians may have a “play hard, party hard” reputation, McKenna said athletes’ behavior differs with each person. Gossip about their pastimes is a “real danger,” in his view, and detracts from the story of a sport.

He encouraged Catholic athletes to be grounded in their faith and to engage in prayer, frequent reception of the sacraments and spiritual reading. They should also have a “discipleship relationship” with a spiritual mentor to help combat the dangers of off-the-field activities.

He named dangers such as drunk driving and the number of children fathered out of wedlock by some sportsmen.

Asked whether the self-control of sports is related to self-control for the sake of moral and spiritual integrity, McKenna gave a “clear and definitive ‘yes’.”

“Faith can inform sports, so that one’s personal faith can be beneficial for one’s sports life,” he explained.

Discipline is very valuable in one’s spiritual life and in sports because it cultivates the virtues of dedication, determination, constant practice and repetition, McKenna explained.

One central aim of Catholic Athletes for Christ, he reported, was to tell athletes “be good in your faith, be good in your sport.”

He encouraged athletes to stay bonded with friends of similar faith so that they can share their struggles and can be better disciples.

“Historically, sports was considered to be a ‘virtue-making machine.’ The values that correspond with sports were considered to go hand in glove with those that go into being a person of integrity and faith,” McKenna told CNA.

“Vince Lombardi, the former coach of the Green Bay Packers, was a good example of that. He lived his faith and it was integral to his coaching.”

McKenna thought it was unfortunate that people now associate sports with vice.

He cited a quotation of Pope Pius XII, who said that sports “develops character, makes a man courageous, a generous loser, and a gracious victor.”

The virtues of the Olympic model, fraternity, goodwill, and teamwork, are also praiseworthy. McKenna added that sports and athletes’ “heroic efforts” have been the vehicle used to overcome some “real, terrible social problems” such as racial discrimination.

In athletics, “great bonds” which otherwise could not have happened have formed between different races, ethnicities and faiths.

Catholic Athletes for Christ encourages athletes in their spiritual formation, particularly as Catholics, McKenna reiterated. The organization works with the Vatican often to help ensure access to the sacraments and to Mass and Bible studies.

The group also advocates better access to ministers and rabbis so athletes of other beliefs can practice their faith.

Its website is http://www.catholicathletesforchrist.com.

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Patriarch of Constantinople’s new encyclical defends Catholic-Orthodox dialogue

Istanbul, Turkey, Feb 20, 2010 (CNA) - Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople’s newest encyclical encourages dialogue between the Orthodox Church and other Christian churches and laments those who are “unacceptably fanatical” in challenging such dialogue. He specifically condemned the false rumors spread about Catholic-Orthodox dialogue.

Patriarch Bartholomew’s patriarchal and synodal encyclical was dated Feb. 21, Orthodoxy Sunday, when the Orthodox Church celebrates the defeat of the iconoclastic heresy.

His letter began by noting the failure of those who tried to suppress, silence or falsify the Orthodox Church. He said that the Ecumenical Patriarchate cares about “protecting and establishing” the unity of the Orthodox Church in order that the Orthodox Christian faith may be confessed “with one voice and in one heart.”

Orthodoxy, he said, must be promoted with humility and interpreted in light of each historical period and cultural circumstance.

“To this purpose, Orthodoxy must be in constant dialogue with the world. The Orthodox Church does not fear dialogue because truth is not afraid of dialogue,” Bartholomew continued, saying that a Church enclosed within itself would no longer be “catholic.”

Dialogue with the outside world must first pass through all those who call themselves Christian, he wrote.

“We must first converse as Christians among ourselves in order to resolve our differences, in order that our witness to the outside world may be credible,” the Patriarch continued, citing Jesus’ prayer that all his disciples “may be one.”

From this source, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has conducted official Pan-Orthodox theological dialogues with the larger Christian Churches to discuss divisions in faith.

He noted that although these dialogues are conducted “with the mutual agreement and participation of all local Orthodox Churches,” they are challenged in “an unacceptably fanatical way” by some who claim to be defenders of Orthodoxy.

Such opponents raise themselves above episcopal synods and risk creating schisms, the Patriarch warned.

He also accused some critics of distorting reality to “deceive and arouse the faithful” and of depicting theological dialogue not as a pan-Orthodox effort, but an effort of the Ecumenical Patriarchate alone.

“They disseminate false rumors that union between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches is imminent, while they know well that the differences discussed in these theological dialogues remain numerous and require lengthy debate; moreover, union is not decided by theological commissions but by Church Synods,” Bartholomew wrote. “They assert that the Pope will supposedly subjugate the Orthodox, because the latter submit to dialogue with the Roman Catholics!”

According to the Patriarch, such critics also engage in condescension towards efforts aimed at achieving Christian unity and wrongly condemn them as representing “the pan-heresy of ecumenism.”

“Beloved children in the Lord, Orthodoxy has no need of either fanaticism or bigotry to protect itself. Whoever believes that Orthodoxy has the truth does not fear dialogue, because truth has never been endangered by dialogue,” the Patriarch stated. “Orthodoxy cannot proceed with intolerance and extremism.”

Patriarch Bartholomew encouraged Orthodox believers to have “utmost confidence” in their Mother Church.

He closed his encyclical letter with a prayer of Lenten blessing, asking that readers become worthy of celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ with all faithful Orthodox Christians.

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Expert calls for historic objectivity in judging Pius XII

Rome, Italy, Feb 20, 2010 (CNA) -

In an article in the March edition of Pagine ebraiche, the most influential monthly magazine for the Jewish community in Italy, Italian Jewish expert Claudio Vercelli said the historical analysis of the role Pope Pius XII had in the Holocaust must be studied with objectivity and not with a spirit of historical vindictiveness. 
 
History “is not a stick used to beat someone over the head,” Vercelli wrote.  He added that the actions by Pius XII must be interpreted outside of today’s ideological context and analyzed instead in the context of the historical time period in which he lived. 
 
Accusations have been made that Pope Pius XII did not do enough to save Jews who were being killed and persecuted by the Nazis.  In his article, Vercelli explained that in addition to facing a “distressing” war, the Pope faced “confrontations between two totalitarian regimes” that he “found equally detestable.”
 
While some historians claim Pius XII did not speak up to defend lives during the Holocaust, Vercelli noted that this “silence” must be understood in light of the fact that his pontificate was marked by the difficult task of guiding the church in the modern era, characterized by a greater role of the people in politics and more stratified societies, of which, he added, "totalitarianism was a powerful variation."

Finally, noted Vercelli, putting together a summary of Pius XII's "divided" role as the most prominent spiritual leader of the Church and the highest civil authority of the Vatican city-state is not a simple task today. “In addition," he wrote, "every pontificate goes through stages of maturation during and even after its conclusion. The rest, in all honesty, seems to be sterile polemic exercise.” 

“We need to move ourselves to a point where we can see through the lens of honest judgment, not the lens of prejudice," he concluded.

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Benedict XVI urges airports to protect integrity of travelers

Vatican City, Feb 20, 2010 (CNA) - Meeting with members of two Italian aviation-related agencies on Saturday in the Nervi Room of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Benedict spoke of the importance of air travel to evangelization and urged airline workers to protect the integrity of people as they travel across the globe.

Pope Benedict XVI noted the important role of the airplane in broadening the "frontiers of mobility" in the last century and called airports "privileged intersections of the global village."

Those who work in aviation administration, he said, are entrusted with the "ever more complex junction of contemporary life and communication between people and nations."

In the many duties ascribed to those who work in the aviation, he added, "it's important to remember that, in every project and activity, the first 'capital' to safeguard and value is the person, in his or her integrity" despite the complexities and difficulties brought on by economic crisis and terrorism, which uses airports and airplanes as "targets."

"We must never lose sight that respect of the supremacy of the person and attention to his needs... represent important guarantees of true efficiency and authentic quality" and not the other way around, he said.

The Holy Father also pointed to the importance of the airplane to connecting nationalities, cultures and religions.  The airplane, he commented, is especially useful for pilgrimages and has become "an in irreplaceable instrument of evangelization" for the Successor of Peter.

"How could we not remember here the place that airports and airplanes have had in Apostolic trips made by me and my Venerated Predecessors?" Of this precious service I must thank you all!" exclaimed Benedict XVI.

The Holy Father will be making at least four international trips this year.  His first comes in April with a visit to Malta for the 1950th anniversary of St. Paul's shipwreck there.

The Holy Father closed by entrusting the work of all of those associated with air travel to the Virgin of Loreto, Patron of Flying, and asked that she help them to "find always and in everything the kingdom of God and his justice."

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Universal Church sees increase in seminarians, reports Pontifical Yearbook

Vatican City, Feb 20, 2010 (CNA) - The number of Catholics worldwide rose by 19 million from 2007 to 2008, according to the Vatican almanac presented to the Pope on Saturday morning.  The 2010 "Annuario Pontifico," or Pontifical Yearbook, which offers a variety of other statistics concerning religious and lay faithful in the Universal Church, also reports an increase in seminarians.

The 2010 Pontifical Yearbook was presented to the Holy Father on Saturday morning by Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and Archbishop Fernando Filoni. It was edited under the direction of Msgr. Vittorio Formenti, who is in charge of the Central Office of Church Statistics, and Professor Enrico Nenna.

The "Annuario Pontifico" details the administrative actions of Pope Benedict during the year 2009, including his creation of nine new episcopal sees and a prelature, a new diocese and the appointment of 169 new bishops.

Besides statistics from 2009, it also offers information valid up to 2008 on the 2,945 ecclesiastic districts in the Catholic Church all over the globe, including the statistic that there are now 1.166 billion baptized Catholics in the world, comprising 17.4 percent of all people.

The yearbook also documents changes in the number of religious among the five continents recognized by the Holy See. North and South America are considered as one continent and Antarctica is not taken into account.

The total number of bishops around the world in 2008 was 5,002, which marked a 1.13 percent overall increase, with the only decrease coming in Oceania. The number of priests in the world rose from 405,178 in the year 2000 to 409,166 in 2008.  Just over 47 percent of the priests serve in Europe, compared to 30 percent in America, 13.2 in Asia, 8.7 in Africa and 1.2 in Oceania.

As a point of reference, in the year 2000, European clergy figured in at 51.5 percent of world numbers.

The number of consecrated religious decreased from 801,185 in the year 2000 to 739,067 in 2008, with there being 17.6 percent fewer in Europe, a drop of 12.9 percent in America and 14.9 percent in Oceania, while the number in Africa and Asia have risen by double digit percentages points.

There was an increase in seminarians in the Catholic Church from 115,919 in 2007 to 117,024 in 2008, in which Africa, Asia and Oceania enjoyed increases while Europe's numbers dropped by 4.3 percent and America's figures remained nearly the same.

The 2010 Pontifical Yearbook is published by the Vatican Press and will soon be on sale.

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