Vatican City, Mar 1, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Today the Vatican announced Pope Benedict XVI's intentions for the month of March. The Pope is praying for a just global economic system as well as the Church in Africa.
The Holy Father's general intention for March is: “That the world economy may be managed according to the principles of justice and equity, taking account of the real needs of peoples, especially the poorest.”
Pope Benedict XVI's mission intention is: “That the Churches in Africa may be signs and instruments of reconciliation and justice in every part of that continent.”
Vatican City, Mar 1, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - During last week's lull in public events and audiences at the Vatican due to the annual Lenten retreat, the Swiss Guard and other Vatican security staff also participated in retreats.
In a retreat center near the Pope's summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, three sessions lasting three days each were offered to give the Swiss Guards and new recruits an opportunity to rotate out for meditations.
Monsignor Alain de Raemy, chaplain of the Swiss Guard, told CNA that the retreats were divided into squads and that reflections were tailored to the languages of the guards.
Each of the three retreats was given in at least two languages, he said, "so it's a little complicated." All Swiss Guards took part in these sessions.
According to L'Osservatore Romano, the Croatian priest Tomislav Ivancic, a member of the International Theological Commission, led meditations on faith as a value in German. Swiss Cardinal Henri Schwery spoke of faith as a transformative force in French, while Fr. Giorgio Paximadi, professor from the Theology Department of Lugano, Switzerland spoke to the Guards in Italian on faith as a testimony.
Following the mandatory retreat, which is part of their spiritual formation for the year, Monsignor de Raemy said, "You see some differences in the guards."
During the spiritual exercises, they also have the opportunity to go to confession, and for those who aren't used to the sacrament of penance, "they live the sacrament in a positive way, like everyone else," he explained.
Two other Vatican patrols, the Gendarme and the Fire Squad, also took part in one-day retreats during the week at the Fraterna Domus just outside Rome.
The 90-year-old Czech Cardinal Tomas Spidlik gave their meditations, which focused on the interior dimension of the Christian.
Their chaplain, Monsignor Giulio Viviani, also led them in the Rosary and the Stations of the Cross.
Vatican City, Mar 1, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Ecumenical Patriarch and Archbishop of Constantinople Bartholemew I received a message from Pope Benedict XVI for his 70th birthday, which falls on Feb. 29. The Pope included words of thanks, prayer and encouragement for further unity between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
In the letter to Patriarch Bartholomew, released by the Holy See's Press Office, Pope Benedict conveyed his "warm good wishes" to the Archbishop of Constantinople, and thanked God for the abundant blessings bestowed upon him. The Holy Father added that he is praying for strength and grace for the ministry of Bartholomew I.
Benedict XVI closed the message by expressing his " prayerful confidence that the Spirit of God will continue to enlighten and guide our path towards the full communion willed by Christ for all his disciples."
Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, also greeted the Patriarch on the occasion. In his message, he remembered the "friendship, mutual confidence and frankness" that characterize their discussions and are "a great gift and a sign of progress in the relations between our Churches."
Cardinal Kasper expressed his hope that the Patriarch's commitment to an "ever deeper understanding and profitable collaboration between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church," will be untiring, so that they might "offer a common witness to the world of our faith in Our Single Lord Jesus Christ."
The Ecumenical Patriarch and Archbishop of Constantinople was born on the island of Imbros, in Turkey, on Feb. 29, 1940.
Vatican City, Mar 1, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Bishops from Uganda met in audience with Pope Benedict XVI on Monday morning at the Apostolic Palace. A delegation of five representatives from the country were at the Vatican for their “ad Limina Apostolorum” visit.
The “ad Limina” visit of the Ugandan bishops will run from March 1-8, and will feature meetings with representatives from different congregations of the Holy See.
According to Fr. John Baptist Kauta, secretary general of the Uganda Episcopal Conference (UEC), who was interviewed by Vatican Radio, current issues in the local Catholic Church are: national reconciliation, justice and sustainable peace following 20 years of war in the northern part of the country, the inculturation of the liturgy and the fights against poverty and AIDS.
Vatican Radio reports that since the bishops' conference instituted the AIDS Focal Point program in 1995, major change have been brought about in the country regarding the incidence of new HIV infections. Due to education efforts directed at youth, which offered formation on the values of fidelity and pre-matrimonial abstinence, the rate decreased by 18 percent in the decade before 2002.
Another theme that could come up during their visit is inter-religious relations in the east African country. Of the estimated current population of approximately 30 million in Uganda, Catholics represent an estimated 41.5 percent, Anglicans 36 percent and Muslims 12 percent.
Rome, Italy, Mar 1, 2010 (CNA) - At the conclusion of their plenary assembly, the Bishops’ Conference of Germany issued a statement regarding the “cases of sexual abuse by clergy members during the 1970s and 80s.” They noted that “priestly celibacy, as experts have confirmed, is not the cause of these acts of sexual abuse.”
In a statement published by L’Osservatore Romano the bishops explained, “A life of celibacy can only be assumed by someone who possesses the essential emotional maturity.” The prelates went on to note the necessity that future priests receive life-lasting, “attentive and rigorous” formation.
During their assembly, the bishops also decided to develop new strategies for confronting the crisis of vocations, because, they explained, the problem of sexual abuse may have had its origin in “the quality of seminarians,” who then went on to become priests.
“We German bishops accept our responsibility and condemn the abuse committed by the priests, religious and lay people of our dioceses,” they wrote. “Mortified and shocked, we ask all the victims of these terrible acts for their forgiveness. Our desire is for there to be sincere clarity, without false expectations, even if the acts took place many years ago.”
“The victims have a right to this.”
The bishops also reported that Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier, Germany was named director of the committee responsible for handling cases of sexual abuse by clergy members.
Later this month, the president of the Bishops’ Conference of Germany, Archbishop Robert Zoellitsch, will address the issue directly with Pope Benedict XVI. Then in August, the German bishops will revise and update the norms issued in 2002 on sexual abuse by the clergy, putting a special emphasis on preventative measures.
Bogotá, Colombia, Mar 1, 2010 (CNA) - Pro-abortion leaders gathered at the Latin American Forum of Strategies for the Legalization of Abortion last week in Bogota, Colombia where they discussed their intention to take advantage of ambiguous international laws to pressure governments in the region to legalize the procedure.
Luisa Cabal, director of the International Legal Program for the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York, called on feminists and pro-abortion groups to pressure Latin American governments to continue debating legalized abortion.
The forum was organized by a Colombian pro-abortion organization and was attended by Cecilia Olea of the Flora Tristan Center in Peru; Lucy Garrido of Everyday Women in Uruguay; Paula Viana, executive secretary of the Conference for the Right to Legal and Safe Abortion in Brazil; Luisa Cabal, director of the International Legal Program at the Center for Reproductive Rights of New York; Maria Consuelo Mejia of the National Alliance for the Right to Choose; and Martha Maria Blandon, director of Planned Parenthood for Central America, who participated via video conference.
Denver, Colo., Mar 1, 2010 (CNA) -
Nearly a year after the Holy Father visited Africa and sparked controversy over the ineffectiveness of condoms in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, the facts continue to speak in favor of the Pope, a Denver youth and young adult minister told CNA.
Benedict XVI’s March 2009 remarks on condoms were made to a French reporter as he explained the Church's two-pronged approach to fighting AIDS. At one point in his response, the Pontiff stressed that AIDS cannot be overcome by advertising slogans and distributing condoms and argued that they “worsen the problem.” The media responded with an avalanche of over 4,000 articles on the subject, calling Benedict a “threat to public health,” and saying that the Catholic Church should “enter the 21st century.”
Harry Knox, a member of President Barack Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships added to the criticism accusing the Pope of “hurting people in the name of Jesus.”
Then last month, when Knox was asked if he still stood by his statement, despite growing evidence that the Pope was right, he replied in the affirmative, stating that “scientific evidence shows otherwise.”
“The Pope is right,” argued Chris Stefanick, director of Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministries for the Archdiocese of Denver. “And the fact that people like Harry Knox are critiquing the Pope and continuing to throw condoms at the AIDS epidemic globally, and its not working, shows you who has personal dogmas that are more important to them than human lives.”
Stefanick’s statement also referred to Rebecca Hodes of South Africa’s Treatment Action Campaign who said of Pope Benedict, “his opposition to condoms conveys that religious dogma is more important to him than the lives of Africans.”
But, Stefanick argued, the facts are behind Benedict XVI. To prove his point, Stefanick compared the African nations of Botswana and Uganda. Botswana promoted condom use from the beginning. Uganda, a primarily Catholic country, encouraged abstinence.
“In Botswana, Cameroon, and Kenya - they saw AIDS prevalence rise alongside condom distribution until they both leveled out,” noted Stefanick. “In Botswana today, where condoms are available nearly everywhere, one in six people is HIV positive or living with AIDS.”
In Uganda, where abstinence is strongly promoted, the prevalence of AIDS has dropped and now affects less than six percent of the population. Stefanick quoted BBC News who stated that Uganda has done extremely well in fighting AIDS because, in many parts of the country, its prevalence “was at least three times higher in the early 90s.”
Stefanick also cited a similar comparison, made between Thailand and the Philippines, where AIDS broke out at the same time. Thailand’s approach promoted the distribution of condoms while the highly Catholic Philippines promoted abstinence. Twenty years after the outbreak, the prevalence of AIDS in Thailand is 50 times higher than in the Philippines.
“According to the British Medical Journal, which is not a Catholic publication mind you, ‘the greater the percentage of Catholics in any country, the lower the level of HIV. If the Catholic Church is promoting a message about HIV in those countries it seems to be working,’” said Stefanick.
Other relevant facts to the Pope’s opposition of condom use come from the National Institutes for Health (NIH) itself, said Stefanick. Despite the claims on condom packaging, which assert a 99% effectiveness, the NIH found that condoms are only 85% effective in preventing the transmission of AIDS and about 50% effective at blocking other STDs.
“The calculus of condoms is very simple,” says Stefanick. “You decrease the risk a little, increase the risk takers a whole lot, and pretty soon you get what they have in Botswana where one in six people has AIDS. Or you get what we have here in America, where we are aggressively promoting condoms, yet every year, nine million young people under the age of 25 are getting an STD.”
Washington D.C., Mar 1, 2010 (CNA) - Catholic Relief Services recently began its “Give Hope to Jesus in Disguise” initiative, which is a collection that will take place in parishes across the U.S. on March 14.
A press release issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops last Friday stated that one of CRS' main efforts is providing continual relief to the victims of the catastrophic earthquake that ravaged Haiti on Jan. 12. An estimated 200,00 people were killed in the earthquake, 194,000 were injured, and 3 million people in total have been effected, CRS says.
Citing some of their many relief initiatives Haiti, the bishops' conference said that CRS has worked to provide an emergency health team of doctors, volunteer nurses and firefighters to help restore St. Frances de Sales Hospital in Port-au-Prince. The team not only assisted in rescuing those trapped inside the hospital but have helped rebuild it in other to give much needed medical care to patients.
CRS has also worked to protect children who have been separated from their parents and have been made vulnerable to human traffickers. The USCCB has assisted them in facilitating reunification between family members as well as determining the needs of children who have been orphaned.
The Catholic Relief Services March 14 collection will fund six Catholic programs including Catholic Relief Services (CRS), CLINIC (Catholic Legal Immigration Service, Inc), the Holy Father's Relief Fund, the USCCB Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development (JPHD), the USCCB Department of Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) and the USCCB Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church.
Memphis, Tenn., Mar 1, 2010 (CNA) - A Catholic group leading a multi-national prayer effort has had 3,000 people register from countries all over the world to pray a Rosary for the unborn. The May 7-9 prayer event, “One Million Rosaries for Unborn Babies,” is being coordinated by the Saint Michael the Archangel Organization.
“Throughout the world in the last 50 or so years, an incomprehensible tragedy has happened; namely, the surgical killing of approximately one billion unborn human persons and the non-surgical killing of a multitude of unborn human persons,” said Patrick Benedict, President of the Saint Michael the Archangel Organization. “Throughout the history of mankind, no other group of people has ever gone through such a horror.”
“Sitting by and allowing this massacre to continue is not an option,” he added. “When we say that Christ died for each of us, that includes each unborn human person. In the eyes of God, these babies are precious.”
“Yet, an attack of hellish proportions has been waged for many years now against the unborn babies,” Benedict continued, saying that the “prayer event can be seen as a counter-attack in which participants pray the Rosary for the unborn babies who can not pray for themselves.”
The organization reported on Monday that individuals have signed up for the prayer event from the Netherlands, Chile, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, England, Philippines, India, Singapore, South Africa, Nigeria, Lithuania, Ivory Coast, Peru, Latvia, United Arab Emirates, United States and Belgium.
“This May 7th - 9th Rosary is a great opportunity for the world to unite in prayer for the protection of unborn babies,” Benedict concluded. “Let's be reminded of the words of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima, Portugal in 1917: 'Say the Rosary every day to obtain peace for the world.'”
Saint Michael the Archangel is asking people to pray at least one Hail Mary as part of the effort. Participants should say at least one Rosary on May 7, 8 or 9 for the intention of ending the killing of the unborn and are encouraged to pray more than one Rosary.
The Friday, May 7 date is particularly meant for students to pray the rosary at schools, while the Sunday, May 9 date will allow people to pray the Rosary before or after Masses.
Participants are asked to register for the event at the organization’s website or by mailing their name and number of Rosaries to be prayed to the group.
For more information, visit: http://www.SaintMichaelTheArchangelOrganization.org
Madrid, Spain, Mar 1, 2010 (CNA/Europa Press) - The secretary general of the Bishops’ Conference of Spain, Auxiliary Bishop Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, is calling for the country's new law on abortion to “be abolished as soon as possible.”
The Spanish Senate voted last Wednesday to pass the Socialist government’s new law on abortion. The decision will allow women over the age of 16 to obtain the procedure up until the 14th week of pregnancy.
The auxiliary bishop, who is from Madrid, remarked that the Church “welcomes” and “will support” any mobilization in support of life and against this law, such as the marches planned for March 7 in Madrid and Bilbao.
“Anything that can be done to keep people aware of what is at stake, which is the right to life of the innocent and weak, is welcome, no matter who does it,” he said. The Church “will continue speaking out for the voiceless, and she will support and welcome all movements” to defend the unborn, Bishop Martinez Camino said.
Asked about whether King Juan Carlos would be barred from Communion if he signs the new law, as would be the case with politicians who voted in favor of it, Bishop Martinez Camino explained that the king’s situation is “unique” and therefore must receive different consideration. “It is not the same act. That of the king is unique and very distinct from that of a politician who votes in favor of this law when he or she doesn’t have to,” he added.
According to Spain's constitution, the king must sign laws passed by Parliament within 15 days.
Bishop Martinez Camino called the new law “a grave step backward in the protection of the inviolable right to life” that “leaves women abandoned.” Abortion is “a tragedy and a crime,” the bishop said, announcing that the Church plans to hold a social awareness campaign on March 25.
He then lamented that the “educational system has been made into a political instrument and that restrictions have been placed on conscientious objection.” He noted that one of the “most troubling” aspects of the new law is that it makes education an instrument at the service of pro-abortion ideology. “Education aimed at darkening the conscience with regards to the inviolable right to life of the unborn” must be rejected.
Abortion “is a tragedy that cries out to heaven,” he emphasized. The Church is devoted to “continuing to defend the right of the unborn and to offer alternatives to the crime of abortion.”
Rome, Italy, Mar 1, 2010 (CNA) - Rocco Buttiglione is a prestigious Catholic intellectual who in 2004 was deprived of a post in the European Union Commission because of his faith and “conservative” views. In a recent article for L’Osservatore Romano he explains that education demands a series of restrictions as well as a formation in authentic freedom in order to seek truth.
In the article titled, “There is no freedom without prohibitions,” Buttiglione, who is a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, explains that amidst the debate over the “educational emergency” in society, Pope Benedict XVI’s statement that “proper education consists of formation in the correct use of freedom” must be remembered.
Buttiglione notes that the first step in this education is to discard the present-day bias that “in order to educate in freedom, one simply needs to remove all ties and abandon young people to the simple, natural development of their passions.” This, he explains, is the “pròton psèudos (the ‘original error’) of modern education.”
Saying that this way of seeing things ignores the tendency to evil and the concupiscence that entered man through original sin, Buttiglione writes, “The emancipating and permissive pedagogy of our times has voluntarily ignored this anthropological structure of the human being. The intention was to create a liberated man,” however the effects are far from the intended results.
After contrasting “the freedom of man” and “the freedom of instinct,” Buttiglione remarks that to find freedom it is necessary “to subordinate immediate desires to the judgment of reason."
He goes on to warn of the current-day tendency to make spontaneity into an idol and explained the need to truly adhere “to goodness in order to seek truth.”
To achieve this, he continues, two fundamental factors are necessary in the education process that “today are systematically ignored:” asceticism and the experience of authority.
Asceticism, Buttiglione explains, “is the capacity to say 'no,' to resist the violence with which an impulse demands to be satisfied immediately without reflecting on whether or not it corresponds to the truth or to the true good of the person. Contemporary permissiveness has defamed asceticism by calling it ‘repression.’ Certain asceticism implies the effort to repress, but it also implies the capacity to give a new form to the energy that comes from instinct, corresponding to the truth of the person. Without asceticism there is no education of the person.”
Writing later about the experience of authority, the Italian intellectual says that it consists of “the presence of values in a person who bears witness to them and makes them directly and easily perceivable for others.
“Authority is the guide in the path towards the experience of values. Without asceticism and without authority there is no educational experience. Authority transmits the experience of values so that it can be tried in the life of the disciple. The disciple will not repeat this experience in a servile fashion as it has been fulfilled in the life of the master.” Instead, the disciple “will confront it with his own personal experience and filter it through it, reliving it and making it his own.”
Buttiglione then denounces today’s “permissive society for offering young people different ways of gaining immediate satisfaction of their own instincts, while consequently making it more difficult to form a free personality, capable of establishing an appropriate relationship with truth.”
“Traditional education was an invitation to fight to control one’s own passions, to seek the truth, to guide one’s passions according to the truth and towards the truth.”
By promoting “obedience” to one’s own passions, he explains, one prevents “the forming of a responsible and free personality, in order to create a mass of people that can be more easily manipulated by whomever is in power. This is the problem with education in our times.”
“The purpose of many modern ‘deconstructionist’ tendencies is the deconstruction of the self and the abolition of a conscious personality. In order to rebuild education we need to begin again on the basis of authorized testimonies—should not parents and teachers be the first in this—that are capable of unambiguously pointing the way towards an asceticism that makes us capable of the truth, that allows us to journey towards its discovery,” he concluded.
Santiago, Chile, Mar 1, 2010 (CNA) - Following the massive 8.8 earthquake which hit near the city of Concepción, Chile on Saturday, the international Catholic aid organization Caritas mobilized Chilean and international task forces to help the nearly two million people affected by the quake.
“Caritas Chile is working in coordination with governmental and civil society organizations in establishing a national help network in spite of enormous communications difficulties,” said Lorenzo Figueroa, Caritas Chile’s director.
The international agency noted that the regions of Maule and Bío Bío were the worst affected and are will be the first to receive aid.
“We are collecting food to be sent immediately to communities which have been most affected by the earthquake and where shortages are already being reported. Our own communications network and capacity to offer warehouses and points of collection and distribution are immediately available,” Figueroa added.
Caritas Internationalis President Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga said, “Caritas Chile and the bishops are keeping us updated on the needs of the people. Chile has faced a terrible catastrophe. The Caritas confederation will be there in support of the survivors in this initial phase of emergency response and as they look to rebuild the country.”
Emergency response, as well as search and rescue teams from Caritas are on their way to the capital city of Santiago. The teams are drawn from an international pool, including Caritas’ Humanitarian Director Alistair Dutton and Caritas Peru’s Hector Hanashiro. The Mexican search and rescue team that recently worked with Caritas in Haiti will be a part of the relief efforts in Chile as well.
Father Alfonso Baeza Donoso, deputy president of Caritas Chile, reported to the Italian news Agency SIR that the earthquake was “a huge catastrophe, especially around Concepción. Our building suffered damage, communications do not work very well. Elevators are out or order, and we are on the seventh floor.” Fr. Baeza also noted that, despite the fact that “there are great difficulties in transport by road, since roads and bridges have been destroyed,” Caritas is working to get food and funds to the people most affected. Already, Caritas has opened a bank account to accept donations. Food is also being collected in several parishes in Santiago.
“In the center of Santiago,” Fr. Baeza added, “I saw at least five churches destroyed. In the south of the country, there must be many more, but we have no definite news yet.”
In an official statement, the President of the Chilean Bishop’s Conference, Bishop Alejandro Goic Karmelic of Rancagua, expressed solidarity with the victims and their families. “The death of our brothers and sisters as a consequence of this catastrophe both hurts and moves/compels us. We direct our prayers for their eternal rest to the God of life and hope and we unite ourselves with their families and friends,” he said.
“We fix our gaze on the Lord Jesus Christ in this moment of tragedy,” Bishop Goic said. “We place our trust in Him that the communities which have suffered the most hurt may be able to lift themselves up both spiritually and materially, assisted by the solidarity of the entire country as well as the international community which generously offers us its help.”
For more information on Caritas relief efforts, visit: http://www.caritas.org