Archive of April 11, 2010

U.S. bishops welcome nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia

Washington D.C., Apr 11, 2010 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops have welcomed the signing of the new nuclear arms reduction treaty between the United States and Russia as a step towards eliminating weapons with “horribly destructive capacity.”

In a Thursday letter to President Barack Obama, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) president Cardinal Francis George praised the signing of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).

“The horribly destructive capacity of nuclear arms makes them disproportionate and indiscriminate weapons that endanger human life and dignity like no other armaments. Their use as a weapon of war is rejected in Church teaching based on just war norms,” the cardinal wrote.

He cited teachings of the U.S. bishops and Pope Benedict XVI which call for a world without nuclear weapons.

The USCCB, the cardinal said, will be a “steadfast supporter” of strong, bipartisan action on the START Treaty. He cited a “moral imperative” to eliminate nuclear weapons, describing the treaty as an “essential step.”

The path to a nuclear-free world will be “long and difficult,” Cardinal George continued. As further steps, he recommended the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the securing of nuclear materials from terrorists, and strengthening the International Atomic Energy Agency.

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Church to celebrate feast of newly canonized St. Damien

Honolulu, Hawaii, Apr 11, 2010 (CNA) - This Thursday is the feast day of St. Damien de Veuster, better known as St. Damien of Molokai. This year, the feast takes on new significance as it is marks the first celebration of the former blessed’s feast since his October 11, 2009 canonization.

Damien de Veuster was born in Belgium to a poor farming family. Answering God’s call, he joined the Fathers of the Sacred Heart, and spent the rest of his life as a missionary in Hawaii.

After being ordained in 1864, Fr. Damien was sent to the peninsula of Kalawao on Molokai, an isolated area of the Hawaiian island where the panicked government of the time quarantined people suspected of having leprosy. Arriving in 1873, he lived on the island for the rest of his life, dying in 1889 of the very disease whose suffering he sought to alleviate in others.

Fr. Damien dedicated his life to the native Hawaiians he found suffering in exile on Molokai. When he arrived, there were very few structures in the area. Many people slept on mats, covered by only a thin blanket as protection against the rain. Though there was a small, preexisting chapel, dedicated to St. Philomena, Fr. Damien set up his first rectory in the shade of a tree. However, he was a skilled carpenter and a hard worker. Quickly, he worked to build coffins, a rectory, houses, a school, and eventually a new chapel for the community.

Fr. Damien ministered to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. His primary aim was to restore dignity to the people who had been robbed of everything through no fault of their own. Thus, one of his first accomplishments was to build a fence around, and clean up, the cemetery. Then, by building coffins and encouraging the creation of a Christian Burial Society, Fr. Damien gave dignity to the leprosy victims.

Children were especially close to the Belgian missionary’s heart. As was the law of the time, families were split up, and often children with leprosy were sent to Molokai while their parents were forced to remain at home. Fr. Damien set up a dormitory for boys, and eventually one for girls as well. He worked hard to keep the children away from the depravity that had become commonplace in the rather lawless society that had sprung up on Molokai. The children became so devoted to him that they wrote a song in their native Hawaiian, calling him their father, which they used to stand outside his house and sing.

Fr. Damien also worked tirelessly to bring in outside supplies and funding. The Hawaiian government considered him to be a stubborn nuisance as he sent letter after letter petitioning for food and building materials. He also wrote to his superiors and the local bishop to increase awareness of the conditions, sufferings, and needs of the people to whom he ministered.

Ultimately, Fr. Damien contracted leprosy himself. However, he did not allow it to put an end to his ministry. As frustrating as the situation may have been at times, he never lost hope and continued to think of the people, who he made his own.

He died on March 28, 1889 and was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on October 11, 2009. Every schoolchild in Hawaii is familiar with his story.

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Church's mission is to announce God's merciful love, teaches Pope Benedict

Vatican City, Apr 11, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -

The Holy Father welcomed Divine Mercy Sunday from the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo, focusing his address before the Marian prayer on Sunday's reading from the Gospel of John. In his words, he acknowledged the value of Thomas' doubt for Christians today and reflected on Jesus' imparting of the Holy Spirit and the mission of the Church.

St. John's account which narrates Jesus' visit to the disciples in the Cenacle after his resurrection, said the Pope, is "rich" with "mercy and divine goodness."

Benedict XVI quoted St. Augustine who explained the scene in which Christ's body, "inhabited by divinity," is not impeded from entering the closed doors of the Upper Room. St. Gregory the Great, he noted, described the Redeemer's arrival in a state of glory, with an uncorruptible and palpable body.

Once in the room, Jesus allows the "incredulous" Thomas to verify the signs of the passion present on Jesus' body, recalled the Pope, adding that the "divine compliance" of Jesus in permitting Thomas to touch him continues to be as profitable for us as it was for the other disciples.

"In fact, touching the wounds of the Lord, the doubtful disciple cures not only his, but also our diffidence," he observed.

Putting the scene in perspective, the Holy Father explained that the Risen Christ's visit was not limited to the Cenacle, "but goes beyond, so that everyone may receive the gift of peace and life with the 'Creating Breath.'"

In Jesus' words and actions in the locked upper chamber, he establishes the mission of the Church ever aided by the Holy Spirit, which is, the Pope said, "to carry out to all the glad announcement, the joyous reality of the merciful Love of God ..."

Pope Benedict concluded his words by encouraging priests, "in light of this word," to follow the example of St. Jean Vianney in helping people to "perceive the merciful love of the Lord" whose announcement and a "witness to the truth of Love" is important also today.

"In this way we will make ever more familiar and close He that our eyes haven't seen, but of his infinite Mercy we have absolute certainty."

Beginning the Regina Caeli prayer, he asked for the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Queen of the Apostles, in "sustaining the mission of the Church."

In his post-prayer address, he remembered those from Poland who died in a tragic plane crash on Saturday morning in Russia. He also welcomed the opening of the exposition of the Shroud of Turin and wished a blessed Divine Mercy Sunday to all.

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Thousands visit Shroud of Turin on opening weekend

Vatican City, Apr 11, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Saturday morning saw the first visitors enter the Cathedral of Turin, taking advantage of a rare opportunity to view the ancient relic at its first exposition in close to a decade. The Holy Father welcomed the exposition as "an extraordinary call back towards the mystery of the suffering of Christ."

The first public exposition of the Shroud since 2000 offers a "path of faith and prayer" for the more than 1.5 million pilgrims and visitors that will see it, according to the Cardinal Archbishop of Turin, Severino Poletto, who celebrated the opening Mass on Saturday afternoon along with the bishops of Italy's Piedmont region.

The Shroud of Turin was seen by thousands of people on the exposition's first day. Among those able to attend for veneration on the opening morning were local civil and religious authorities, journalists and the 4,000 volunteers who will provide assistance for the duration of the showing, from April 10 to May 23.

Following afternoon Mass, 12,000 pilgrims with reserved tickets were able to file through the Cathedral for a prayer and a glimpse at the burial cloth believed to bear the image of Jesus' crucified body.

Pope Benedict XVI said on Sunday that, "God willing," he will also be among the pilgrims to pay his respects during a visit he has planned for May 2.

He noted his happiness at the event after the Regina Caeli prayer at noon on Sunday, saying that it is "once again provoking a vast movement of pilgrims, but also studies, reflections and most of all an extraordinary call back towards the mystery of the suffering of Christ."

The Holy Father also expressed his wish that "this act of veneration may help all to seek the Face of God, that was the intimate aspiration of the Apostles, as well as ours."

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Pontiff grieves with Polish people over crash victims

Vatican City, Apr 11, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -

After the Regina Coeli prayer on Sunday, the Holy Father repeated his condolences to the "beloved Polish nation" for the deaths of President Lech Kaczynski and so many others in a plane crash on Saturday. The Pope assured the country of his prayers and entrusted the victims to the "merciful Lord of life."

"As we all know, yesterday saw the tragic airplane accident in Smolensk (Russia) in which the President of Poland, Mr. Lech Kaczynski, his wife, various high authorities of the Polish State and all of the delegation, including the Military Ordinary Archbishop perished," the Pope said.

"In expressing my profound condolences, I assure my heartfelt prayer of homage for the victims and of support for the beloved Polish nation," he added.

The Polish leader and delegation were on their way to the village of Katyn to commemorate, in a ceremony with Russian officials, the 70th anniversary of the assassination of more than 20,000 Polish military officers in World War II.

It was confirmed on Sunday that 97 people died in the crash.

In his individual language greetings to pilgrims, the Pope said, in Polish, that it was "with deep sorrow" that he found out about the accident. Remembering the victims and the reason for their visit to Russia, he entrusted "all to the merciful Lord of life."

"I do it," he told the audience, "uniting myself with the pilgrims gathered from the Sanctuary of Lagiewniki and with all those devoted to the Mercy of God in the entire world."

Citizens of Poland observed two minutes of silence on Sunday to remember the victims.

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