Vatican City, Feb 22, 2010 (CNA) - On Saturday, Pope Benedict XVI received the prime minister of Lebanon, Saad Rafic Hariri, in audience. During their meeting he expressed hope that Lebanon would continue to serve as a “message” to the Middle East of peaceful religious coexistence.
According to the Vatican, an “atmosphere of great cordiality” prevailed over the discussions which addressed issues of the day in Lebanon and were followed by a meeting with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.
Pope Benedict told prime minister Hariri that he hopes Lebanon will “continue to be a ‘message’ for the region of the Middle East and for the whole world” through its “exemplary coexistence” of the religious communities that live and practice their faith within the country’s borders.
According to a Vatican communiqué describing the talks, discussions also touched on the need for “a just and global solution to conflicts affecting the region” and the importance of inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue for promoting peace and justice there.
In reference to this goal, the leaders spoke of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, which is to be held from Oct. 10-24 of this year.
The Vatican has yet to release the issues that will be addressed at the Synod, but efforts are currently underway to put together a “working document” for the meetings that will engage the bishops in discussion on themes including inter-religious dialogue, ecclesial communion and human rights in the region.
Saturday’s meeting concluded with discussion about the importance of the Christian presence in Lebanon and “great appreciation was expressed for the contribution made by the Catholic Church for the benefit of all society, especially through her educational, health care and aid institutions.”
Strasbourg, France, Feb 22, 2010 (CNA) -
During meetings last week in Switzerland, 47 countries represented in the Council of Europe adopted a declaration regarding the scope of jurisdiction of the European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg, France. The new policy limits the court's decisions concerning traditions and national culture in member countries, which extends to the prohibition of crucifixes in Italian public institutions.
According to L'Osservatore Romano, the council met for two days in Interlaken, Switzerland to decide on reforms concerning the activities of the European Human Rights Court.
These meetings were held particularly to address the need for speed, efficiency and credibility within the European Human Rights Court, where there is growing concern for the increasing number of backlogged cases. The Council of Europe calls this situation "desperate," citing more than 100,000 outstanding cases, 90 percent of which are "clearly inadmissible or have no legal basis, and reveal a serious ignorance of the Convention and the Court's procedures."
Discussion during the meetings turned to the topic of crucifixes at the behest of Latvian and Maltese representatives, according to LOR. Carmelo Mifsu Bonnici, Justice Minister of Malta, proposed that the court "is not sufficiently sensitive" to the "cultural characteristics" of the "national identities" of member states, to which he provided the example of the situation regarding crucifixes in Italy.
The Latvian Minister of the Exterior, Maris Riekstins, declared that the court must work to provide "clear, precise, unambiguous and comprehensible" rulings for everyone, something hesaid did not happen in their decision last fall against crucifixes in schools.
On Nov. 3, the court ruled in favor of Soile Lautsi's case to remove religious symbols, including crucifixes, from public schools to ensure her children's right to a secular education.
The new declaration of policy from the Council of Europe "invites" the court "to apply in a uniform and rigorous manner the criteria concerning admissibility and jurisdiction..."
These measures, however, do not immediately overturn November's decision, and an appeal against it, citing the longstanding tradition of the crucifix in public places in Italy, is expected to be processed by March.
Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 22, 2010 (CNA) - Over the weekend, the Secretary General of the Legionaries of Christ, Father Evaristo Sada addressed members of the movement about moving forward following revelations of their founder's double life. The priest urged them to “assume the consequences” of their founder's actions and to correct the things within the Legion that need to be corrected.”
Fr. Sada's comments came during a meeting for the youth and families in Mexico City, which brought together 10,000 members of the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi movement.
“With all my heart I want to ask the forgiveness of those who were affected by our founder because of the immoral acts of his personal life," Fr. Sada began emphasizing that both he and the movement's superior general, Father Alvar Corcuera, have asked for forgiveness repeatedly “because we sincerely regret that the Church and these people have suffered.”
Fr. Sada also remarked that the revelations of the Legion of Christ founder, Father Marcial Maciel, gave him a lesson in humility and helped him to “acknowledge that we have made mistakes.”
“We must identify the causes, assume the consequences, and correct what needs to be corrected with determination so that it never happens again.” He went on to explain that his own lesson in humility included accepting the truth about the life of Fr. Maciel. “I had to accept that when I lived with our founder, I did not see the negative things that we now know about. I didn’t see them, I was only able to see the good and I was unaware of the bad. God allowed it to be this way. Now that I have seen them, I feel great sorrow, I feel sorrow for the people who have suffered, and sorrow that this has brought scorn upon the Catholic priesthood.”
Speaking about Fr. Maciel, Fr. Sada said, “I pray for him, I pray a lot for him. I accept him also as part of my history although it hurts to be the target of suspicions and mistrust.” However, he noted, "I offer (the mistrust) to God in reparation...I offer it for all those who have suffered the most and who have felt misunderstood. I offer it for the Church, which has been harmed,” the priest said, adding that humility is needed in order to “recognize the great pain I feel when I realize that the instrument God used to give me so much good, also harmed others.”
Fr. Sada drew a parallel between the current crisis of the Legion and the scene of the painting "The Tempest" by Rembrandt: "The storm in which we have been involved could not have been imagined by anyone. It's tremendous," he said. "I understand that there is disappointment, sadness and bewilderment. And not without reason.” Still, "the most important thing is that Jesus is in the boat, he is trying to keep everyone on board, united and confident.
“He wants to bring us to the other shore, where is God the Father waiting with open arms."
The priest said that after struggling greatly with the issue, he came to the conclusion that “the boat is in the very hands of the Father.”
"In those hands I see the Legion and Regnum Christi, I see my life. We are safe and at peace in his hands.”
“It’s not about not being troubled,” because Mary was troubled, and Jesus felt anguish in Gethsemane. “Rather, it’s about learning to suffer with Jesus and in his way.”
Fr. Sada put the issue in the context of Lent and listed a number of things “we need to correct” and upon which the movement can improve.
He noted that “the person must be at the center, not the institution” and that “exquisite care must always be taken so nobody ever feels used or undervalued.”
“We must understand that commitment is gradual,” and that “people must be trusted more and controlled less,” Fr. Sada continued.
He then called on members of the movement to have a “greater sense of service,” a stronger dedication to pastoral care, and to “recognize that in the past we have gotten in over our heads” so we must “take measures of our strengths and cut back where necessary.”
“We must continue to learn to collaborate more in humility and simplicity with other institutions, with the dioceses, parishes and other initiatives of committed lay people.” “We must give greater attention to marriage and the family,” and we must have “more humility in our manner of relating to others.”
“We must be priests who are open, accessible, good listeners and good friends, with the kindness of Christ the Good Shepherd,” Father Sada said.
He also acknowledged that he has come to “a greater understanding of human weakness” and has learned “not to judge others.” “The new wine we need is the wine of forgiveness, of reconciliation, humility, mercy, and a life of love and reparation. Truly understanding the power of mercy can change our lives forever,” he said.
Fr. Sada ended by expressing his profound gratitude to the Holy Father and the Church for “the maternal hand that has been extended to the Legion at this stage in its history” through the Apostolic Visitation of the order which should be completed in March.
Rome, Italy, Feb 22, 2010 (CNA) - After the recent murder of four Christians in the city of Mosul, Iraq, the Chaldean Patriarchal Vicar of Baghdad, Bishop Shelmon Warduni issued a dramatic call to halt the massacre of Christians in the country. “Help us continue to not only bear witness to the Gospel as we have done for centuries, but also to continue being what we are: Iraqis!” he exclaimed.
Speaking to the site "Baghdadhope," Bishop Warduni said, “The Iraqi Christian community must not die...We, Christians, are innocent victims. We never hurt anybody, we just want to live in peace in our country. If someone doesn't want us here, if someone wants to uproot us from our land, tell us, otherwise leave us in peace.”
The bishop said he prays God will open the minds and hearts of those who commit such crimes against “goodness and truth.” He then denounced the government for “not doing anything to stop this massacre.”
After calling on the international community for help, Bishop Warduni addressed Iraqis living in the United States urging them “to write to your representatives in Congress,” reporting “our requests for help.”
Vatican City, Feb 22, 2010 (CNA) - The second day of Lenten spiritual exercises took place in the "Redemptoris Mater" chapel on Monday. In three meditations, Fr. Enrico dal Covolo plans to deliver meditations on the priestly vocation for the Holy Father and the accompanying members of the Roman Curia.
The week-long series of meditations given by Salesian Father Enrico dal Covolo began on Sunday evening with the celebration of Vespers and the introductory meditiation titled "Give me, oh Lord, a listening heart." The first reflection was followed by Adoration and Eucharistic Benediction.
On Monday morning, the Day of prayer for priestly vocations was marked by the celebration of Lauds and a meditation called, "Still on the method of our exercises: The 'lectio divina,' Listening to the Fathers of the Church."
At 10:15 a.m., the celebration of the Third Hour was observed and a reflection on the biblical history of vocations was given by Fr. dal Covolo.
On Monday afternoon, "First 'priestly biography' : Some Fathers, up to Saint Augustine" was the topic of meditation, which was followed by Vespers, Adoration and Eucharistic Benediction.
The exercises will continue along the same format and schedule every day this week until they conclude with Lauds and a final meditation on Saturday morning.
Today is also a holiday in the Vatican for the Chair of St. Peter, celebrating the papacy and St. Peter as the first bishop of Rome.
Washington D.C., Feb 22, 2010 (CNA) - President Barack Obama’s Monday proposal of a revamp of health care legislation drew criticism but also cautious speculation from various pro-life leaders. While some criticized the proposal’s lack of abortion funding restrictions, one commentator from the U.S. bishops’ office suggested the president may want “further discussion” on the issue.
The president did not propose any changes to the Senate health care bill’s restrictions on federal funding for abortions, The Los Angeles Times reports. The bill would require any woman buying a subsidized health plan with abortion services to pay separately for the abortion insurance benefit.
Seeking comment on the president’s proposal, CNA contacted Richard M. Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Secretariat of Pro-life Activities. He responded in an email on Monday.
“We have said that the House bill's position on abortion funding is acceptable and the Senate bill's is not,” Doerflinger told CNA. “The President's proposal, which is really a summary of points rather than a detailed legislative proposal, says he hopes to combine features of the House and Senate bills, but the proposal says nothing about abortion or abortion funding.
“Perhaps he wants to leave this to further discussion.”
Doerflinger reported that his office will have a new letter this week reaffirming the “moral principles” an acceptable health care bill should reflect.
“I don't expect us to comment on proposals until we see something more specific,” he explained.
Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), claimed that the president’s proposal would directly fund elective abortion by providing $7 billion for the 1,250 Community Health Centers in the U.S. without barring these funds from use in abortion on demand.
According to Johnson, the proposal would also fund an “array” of other pro-abortion federal subsidies and mandates.
“None of President Obama's proposed changes diminish any of the sweeping pro-abortion problems in the Senate bill,” he commented in a Monday press release.
He charged that the proposal would increase funds available to subsidize abortion procedures and to subsidize private health insurance that covers abortion through the premium subsidy tax credits program.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, criticized President Obama’s proposal for lacking abortion funding restrictions.
“In the face of obvious bipartisan consensus against abortion funding, the President remains deaf to the voices of American taxpayers,” Dannenfelser commented. “President Obama’s most precious domestic priority is on life support, but he still refuses to jettison abortion coverage. It appears that abortion ideology is more precious to this president than his top domestic priority.”
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) claimed that the Hyde Amendment would be codified in a Republican bill which would also prohibit all federal funds from being used to pay for abortions.
He also noted that pro-life House Democrats have already pledged to vote against the abortion funding provisions in the health care bill.
“Health care reform should be an opportunity to protect human life – not end it – and the American people agree,” he commented.
Rome, Italy, Feb 22, 2010 (CNA) - During Mass at a seminar on education held in Rome last week, the secretary general of the Italian Bishops' Conference, Bishop Mariano Crociata, defined education as “training in the capacity to judge and choose.”
In his homily, Bishop Crociata explained that this issue touches upon “an important lesson that is usually forgotten, if not eradicated or left aside. He noted that it is generally understood that a person is educated by following a paradigm of autonomy and spontaneity” while being “deprived of judgment and guidance.”
He stressed that, “Educating means training in the capacity to judge and choose” explaining that maturity or “social or professional fulfillment” always “entails fidelity, fatigue, hard and burdensome work, and the capacity to sacrifice oneself.”
Catholics “are called to recognize and fully live out our Christian hope” which helps us to “know how to choose between good and evil.” The bishop added that Catholics also must “follow Christ in the way of the Cross without fear, as the complete fulfillment of our humanity, and be proud to proclaim it as the model for human maturity and for all authentic work in education.”
Salt Lake City, Utah, Feb 22, 2010 (CNA) - On Tuesday, Cardinal Francis George, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, will give a talk on religious freedom at Brigham Young University (BYU), an institution run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Cardinal George is set to give his presentation, “Catholics and Latter-day Saints: Partners in the Defense of Religious Freedom,” at a BYU forum on Tuesday morning, Feb. 23, at the school's Marriott Center.
“We believe Cardinal George's address will increase our students' knowledge and perspective of another religion,” Carri Jenkins, assistant to the President for University Communications, told CNA. “His address also will inform us as to how a religious leader from the Catholic tradition views an area of mutual concern and interest: religious freedom.”
When asked why the Cardinal was invited by BYU officials to give an address, Jenkins explained, “In determining forum speakers, we look for prominent speakers who can add to the depth and range of our students’ knowledge. These speakers come from a variety of disciplines, yet are able to address a wide audience, one that includes our BYU campus community as well our television audience.”
“We are excited to hear from Cardinal George, knowing that like other speakers to BYU, such as Chief Justice John Roberts, David McCullough and Ken Burns, he will contribute to the breadth and scope of our understanding,” she added.
The importance of Catholic-Mormon cooperation on religious freedom matters became more apparent during the Proposition 8 campaign in California. The initiative successfully defined marriage as being between one man and one woman.
Carlow, Ireland, Feb 22, 2010 (CNA) - Following the recent meetings between Pope Benedict VXI and Irish bishops on the sex abuse scandal plaguing the Church in Ireland, Bishop Jim Moriarty said that it is “not a question of if but when” his resignation will be approved by the Holy Father.
“In regard to my offer of resignation, separate from the general meeting, I had a private meeting with Cardinal Re, the Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, who is dealing with it,” explained the bishop in a statement on the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin website this past Saturday. “The acceptance of my offer of resignation is proceeding. My understanding is that it is not a question of if but when. It will not happen immediately but should not go too far beyond Easter.”
Bishop Moriarty had tendered his resignation to the Holy Father on December 23.
Twenty four Irish bishops recently attended meetings with Pope Benedict in Rome on sex abuse cases involving minors within the Church in Ireland and the failure of the bishops to properly address the situation. Participants in the discussions unanimously agreed that “this grave crisis has led to a breakdown in trust in the Church’s leadership and has damaged her witness to the Gospel and its moral teaching,” said a Vatican statement on Feb. 16.
During the gathering, each of the bishops was given the floor to express his individual concerns and hear feedback from the Holy Father and the members of the Roman Curia.
“In my own contribution,” Bishop Moriarty recalled, “I explained how my offer of resignation came about and spoke about the need for unity and a deeper sharing of the mission that transcends the kind of clerical culture that led us here.”
He also referred to the upcoming apostolic letter that Pope Benedict is writing to the Church in Ireland and how his diocese plans to respond while he is still in office. “I am seeking ideas about how priests and people might engage with the letter from the Holy Father and how together we might identify some tangible initiatives that might follow. This might involve forums at parish, deanery or diocesan level,” he said.
Bishop Moriarty concluded his Feb. 20 statement by saying “As always we keep the survivors in our prayers at this time and pray that this Lenten season may be a time of true renewal in the Irish Church.”
Washington D.C., Feb 22, 2010 (CNA) - At the American Conservative Union's recent annual meeting, Deal Hudson, president of the Catholic Advocate, hosted an event with the theme “It's time for a Catholic Tea Party.”
The annual meeting of the ACU, called the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) took place in Washington D.C. from Feb. 18-20.
Hudson told attendees of the Catholic Advocate event that “it was time for Catholics to realize they don't need permission from their bishops to become politically active.”
Hudson's remarks were made in the context of a campaign to “reform the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD)” that he is helping lead. The CCHD, which is under jurisdiction of the U.S. bishops, has recently come under fire for its alleged connections with a network of community organizations that have promoted abortion and the homosexual agenda.
Clarifying what he means by a “Catholic Tea Party,” Hudson said, “We are not calling for the dismantling of the USCCB, not at all. Episcopal conferences are fully mandated by the documents of Vatican II and the Code of Cannon Law.”
“But,” Hudson continued, “we want the USCCB to be managed in a way that does supplant the role and responsibility of the laity and programs like the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. In the case of USCCB programs like the CCHD a serious overhaul is necessary to prevent Catholic money from being spent on organizations supporting abortion and same-sex marriage.”
“$2,000,000 has been spent this way and it needs to stop,” Hudson claimed.
The conservative leader expressed another reason for the Catholic laity to become politically active, saying that they have relied too often on Evangelical organizations and have “lacked confidence” in participating in Catholic political activism.
Following his address, Hudson introduced Florida Senatorial candidate Marco Rubio, whom he described as a man who “will not compromise” and invited him to give some brief commentary. Also present was Matt Smith, vice president of Catholic Advocate and co-host of the event.
Manila, Philippines, Feb 22, 2010 (CNA) - A Catholic bishop from the Philippines recently urged the local military and an Islamic separatist group, who are engaged in conflict, to spare civilian lives.
According to the Filipino Bishops Conference (CBCP), Bishop Angelito Lampon of Jolo warned that the latest escalations in the southern region of Mindanao threaten innocent lives which have been made especially vulnerable during the recent bouts of fighting.
The bishop voiced his concern after the military killed six members of the Islamic militant group Abu Sayyaf on Sunday, including the group's leader, Albader Parad.
Parad was charged with orchestrating the abduction of three Red Cross members in Jan. of 2009 as well as ABS-CBN media crew members in June of 2008.
Bishop Lampon fears that Sunday's conflict, which left Parad and five of his men dead, will lead to further retaliation from the separatists against the local militia.“That's why we want to appeal to the humanitarian spirit of the group members to please leave the civilians out of this,” urged the prelate.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines have stated that they are already expecting possible retaliation from Abu Sayyaf to avenge the death of their leader. Bishop Lampon said on Monday that he expects the local military to use every effort possible to protect civilians from harm.