Vatican City, Apr 15, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -
That "Jesus Christ continues alive and truly present in the consecrated host and the chalice" is the central point of the Catholic faith, Pope Benedict said on Thursday. He also warned against focusing the Mass on things other than the person of Jesus, especially adopting rites from other religions.
Benedict XVI focused primarily on the importance of the presence of Christ in the Mass during his address to Brazilian bishops from the North II Region, which marked the conclusion of their "ad Limina" visit to the Holy See.
The Eucharist, said the Holy Father, is "the center and permanent source of the Petrine ministry, the heart of the Christian life, source and summit of the Church's mission of evangelization."
He told the bishops, "You can thus understand the concern of the Successor of Peter for all that can obfuscate this most essential point of the Catholic faith: that today, Jesus Christ continues alive and truly present in the consecrated host and the chalice."
"Paying less attention at times to the rite of the Most Holy Sacrament constitutes a sign and a cause of the darkening of the Christian sense of mystery," he told the 14 Brazilian bishops, pointing to attention being given to other preoccupations and Jesus not being the focal point of the Mass as examples.
Addressing how people should participate in the liturgy, Pope Benedict said that a Christian's "primary attitude" during the liturgical celebration "is not doing, but listening, opening up, receiving ..."
"If the figure of Christ does not emerge from the liturgy ... it is not a Christian liturgy," added the Pope.
This is why, he added, "we find those who, in the name of enculturation, fall into syncretism, introducing rites taken from other religions or cultural particularities into the celebration of the Mass."
As Venerable John Paul II wrote, "the mystery of the Eucharist is 'too great a gift' to admit of ambiguities or reductions, above all when, 'stripped of its sacrificial meaning, it is celebrated as if it were simply a fraternal banquet.'"
"True liturgy supposes that God responds and shows us how we can adore Him," said Benedict XVI.
He emphasized that "The Church lives in His presence and its reason for being and existing is to expand His presence in the world."
In concluding, the Pope expressed his wish that following in the line of the 16th National Eucharistic Congress, to be held in Brasilia on April 19, that Jesus in the Eucharist "truly be the heart of Brazil, from which comes the strength for all Brazilian men and women to recognize themselves and help one another as brothers and sisters and as members of Christ."
In his address preceding the Holy Father's words, President of the North II Region of the Brazilian Bishops Conference Bishop Jesus Maria Cizaurre Berdonces shared a variety of concerns currently facing the area. Among the issues he raised were the environmental effects of reduction of forested areas in the Amazon, concern over urban and rural violence and hope for a sustainable development for everyone, not just that which favors large companies.
Exton, Pa., Apr 15, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholic speaker Christopher West has taken a six-month sabbatical at the Theology of the Body Institute after mutual agreement with the Institute’s board of directors. The popular presenter cited family obligations and the need to reflect on advice he has received about his teaching methods.
The sabbatical from teaching and travel was for “personal and professional renewal,” a press release from the Institute says.
“Christopher is taking this leave to attend to family needs, and to reflect more deeply on fraternal and spiritual guidance he has received in order to continue developing his methodology and praxis as it relates to the promulgation of the Theology of the Body,” the statement continues.
The Theology of the Body Institute said it regrets the interruption to upcoming 2010 events but reported that it will continue its education and outreach programs and offer other faculty members and instructors during West’s sabbatical.
After a controversial ABC interview last year, West became a center of criticism for his interpretation and presentation of Pope John Paul II’s teachings on sexuality, popularly known as the Theology of the Body.
His defenders see him as a speaker capable of reaching today’s youth with Church teaching.
His critics have voiced concern about his discretion in speaking about sensitive topics in ways that might arouse unwholesome curiosity. They said his emphasis on purity of intention in human love risks ignoring the dangers of man's tendency towards sin.
Manila, Philippines, Apr 15, 2010 (CNA) - Abu Sayyaf militants conducted a bombing assault on Isabela City in the Philippines on Tuesday morning, killing several people and severely damaging the Cathedral of St. Isabel. The local bishop said the cathedral was “totally” damaged.
At least 25 militants with the Al Qaeda-linked group, dressed in police and camouflaged military uniforms, set off two bombs that blew up a van and damaged the 40-year-old cathedral. A third bomb placed near a judge’s house and a bus terminal was safely detonated by soldiers.
It was the worst attack by the group in months, Agence France Presse reports. The attacks started gun battles around the city as militants targeted helpless civilians.
City mayor Cherry Akbar initially told reporters that at least 15 people were killed in the violence, including five militants who apparently died in the first blast. The dead also included three Philippine Marines, a policeman and six civilians. The death toll was later revised downward to 14.
One of the dead was identified as a brother of Furuju Indama, a top Abu Sayyaf leader on the island of Basil.
Catholics are a minority in Basilan province. Responding to the attacks, Bishop Martin S. Jumoad of the Prelature of Isabela said the cathedral was “totally damaged” because its posts were weakened by the blast, CBCP News says.
“I am very, very sad the House of the Lord has been destroyed,” he added.
The 53-year-old prelate said he does not know how to rebuild the cathedral, constructed in 1970 with a capacity for 1,400 worshipers.
Philippines authorities said policemen and two Marine personnel responded to the first explosion at 9:30 a.m. at the Grandstand near the Basilan National High School but were fired upon by armed men.
A second explosion took place at about 10:30 a.m. in the vicinity of the cathedral and the city plaza. The improvised explosive device was placed in a motorcycle.
The blasts shattered the cathedral’s stained glass windows and damaged the priests’ rectory. Several priests’ service vehicles were also destroyed.
Regional military chief Lieutenant General Ben Dolorfino said military intelligence had received reports of an impending attack, but not its details, AFP says.
"They were planning something big. This was well planned and apparently they were well funded."
Authorities suspect that politicians who hired mercenaries may have been behind the attacks.
“There were indications that the Abu Sayyaf was being used to sow violence, it was not pure terrorism,” said Senior Supt. Antonio Mendoza, Basilan police chief.
Sacramento, Calif., Apr 15, 2010 (CNA) - In anticipation of Catholic Lobby Day, the California Catholic Conference (CCC) has called for an end to state funding of abortions and a halt to taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood and similar groups. Noting the resistance to the cuts, it condemned the idea that abortion is a solution to budgetary social or personal problems.
The 12th annual Catholic Lobby Day is scheduled for April 27 at the state capitol in Sacramento. According to the California Catholic Daily, the backgrounders for the event mark a major departure from previous years, in which abortion was not included as a significant issue.
The CCC backgrounder on the state budget notes that budget reductions are proposed for social services but funding continues for institutions like Planned Parenthood which perform abortions. The latter groups claim their services will save the state money.
“This contrast in funding priorities and budget choices should alarm each of us. Those who are vulnerable and voiceless (literally in the case of the unborn children) are being placed at risk. Funds are allocated to programs designed to eliminate those at the beginning of life while funds are withheld from those at the end of their life or from those who are unable to or struggle to provide for themselves.
“Abortion is the taking of a human life yet our tax dollars are used to fund this immoral practice,” the backgrounder continues.
Its talking points section says that abortion can never be the ‘solution’ to a budgetary, societal or personal problem.
The CCC provides a separate backgrounder on abortion funding in the state budget, saying that California Planned Parenthood received at least one-third of their funds from the taxpayers and performed one-quarter of all abortions in the state.
“In the calendar year 2007, Medi-Cal used taxpayer money to pay for 80,069 abortions,” the CCC reports. It also notes the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) received $349.6 million in federal taxpayer funding.
“During this budget crisis, when safety net programs for the poor and vulnerable, family healthcare services and education are all experiencing cuts, we should not be using taxpayer funds to pay for abortions which actually destroy the most vulnerable,” the CCC recommends Lobby Day participants tell legislators.
According to the California Catholic Daily, the Lobby Day agenda also includes promoting access to food stamps, outlawing life without parole sentences for juveniles, and the California Dream Act which would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for financial aid to attend state colleges and universities.
Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 15, 2010 (CNA) - A high-ranking federal official in Mexico asserted this week that “the vast majority of priests are good men who work for a better country.”
After a closed-door meeting with the Mexican bishops, Francisco Gomez Mont said, “Most priests are good people who should not be tainted by the aberrations of a few.”
He added that the bishops are taking positive steps in resolving cases of abuse in Mexico, and rejected claims that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church tried to keep the government from punishing priests who have been found guilty of crimes.
“Pedophilia is a crime that deserves a response from the State,” Gomez continued. “I don’t know anybody who has asked me not to try someone who has been charged with harming children.”
During the meeting with the bishops, Gomez discussed matters related to security, political reform, religious freedom and respect for human rights.
Montevideo, Uruguay, Apr 15, 2010 (CNA) - Yesterday, the Bishops’ Conference of Uruguay opened its first Plenary Assembly of 2010 in the Uruguayan city of Florida. The meeting runs April 14-21.
According to a press release, the bishops will break from their meeting on April 19 in order to participate in the “national pilgrimage to Our Lady of Verdun in the town of Minas.”
“All the bishops will participate that day at 10 a.m. in a Mass of thanksgiving for the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Diocese of Minas. At that time, “the church dedicated to the Virgin Mary on the hill of Verdun will be declared a national shrine.”
During their assembly, the bishops will discuss the implementation of the Great Continental Mission launched by the Latin American Bishops’ Council at its 2007 meeting in Aparecida, Brazil.
They will also discuss the closing of the Year for Priests in Uruguay, set for May 12 and 13. The event will culminate with a Mass at the National Eucharistic Shrine on Mount Victoria in Montevideo. All priests in Uruguay will be invited to attend.
Vatican City, Apr 15, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -
"Come to Rome and God will bless you," the prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy Cardinal Claudio Hummes wrote in a letter to priests inviting the world's priests to Rome for the conclusion of the Year for Priests. The cardinal asked them to come to show that they are prepared to serve and that they support the Pope in trying times.
Just two months from now, from June 9-11, the International Meeting of Priests will take place in Rome marking the end of this special year for clergy which was inaugurated on June 19, 2009.
Cardinal Hummes repeated the Pope's invitation from February and made his own call to priests from all over the world to come to Rome and join the three-day affair. "Do not, then, hesitate to respond to the heartfelt and cordial invitation of the Holy Father," he wrote.
"Come to Rome and God will bless you," he added.
The cardinal went on to propose that the presence of a multitude of priests in St. Peter's Square for the occasion, in addition to providing a chance for the Pope to "confirm" them, "will be a proactive and responsible way for priests to show themselves ready and unintimidated for the service of the humanity entrusted to them by Jesus Christ.
"Their visibility in the Square, before today's world, will be a proclamation of their being sent into the world not to condemn the world, but to save it."
The prelate underlined that, in such a context, a good turnout will take on a "special significance"
Further motivation for so many priests to be in Rome for the conclusion of the Year for Priests, he continued, is that of offering the Pope "our solidarity, our support, our confidence and our unconditional communion, in the face of frequent attacks directed towards Him ..."
Highlighting the injustice of the accusations that the Pope failed to respond to cases of sexual abuse of minors by clergy, Cardinal Hummes emphasized that "no one has done as much as Benedict XVI to condemn and combat properly such crimes.
"Therefore, the large presence of priests in the Square with Him will be a determined rejection of the injust attacks of which he is a victim."
Another major event of the Year for Priests, an International Theological Convention, took place in March in with 50 bishops and 500 priests in attendance. They discussed the subject of the ministerial priesthood, touching on such themes as the priestly identity and the vow of celibacy.
Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 15, 2010 (CNA) - The Bishops' Conference of Mexico praised Pope Benedict XVI this week for his efforts addressing clerical sexual abuse and underscored their own “zero tolerance” for such cases.
The bishops began by acknowledging that in the past, “errors were made by not acting quickly in response to these situations,” and then asked for forgiveness from the victims.
Such sad and painful situations “are cause for penance, conversion and purification in the truth in order to achieve justice,” they continued. “The truth is a way of life whose premise is the recognition of reality.”
“With that we wish to say that we will not oppose investigations by civil authorities ... in these and other cases that have taken place,” the bishops stated.
Pedophilia occurs for various reasons, they continued. “Society has tended to be very liberal on sexual ethics,” and now we “are seeing the consequences.” The prelates added that, “sexual education has been needed in the family and in schools,” but they warned that it must not be reduced “to mere genital information, which often leads to sexual licentiousness.”
The Mexican bishops also said that Pope Benedict XVI’s letter to Irish Catholics “resonates throughout the entire universal Church.” The attacks on the Pope are virulent and unjust, they added, “not only in the decisive issue of abuse and mistreatment of minors, but also in the misinterpretation of his message in support of life and family values.”
“It seems like they want him to fail in his struggle for the dignity of the human being,” the bishops concluded.
Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 15, 2010 (CNA) - Pro-life leader Carolina Beauregard explained this week that due to the fact that studies show that post-abortive women suffer from similar symptoms of trauma as war veterans, five Mexican states have adopted laws restricting abortion.
“The symptoms experienced following a life-threatening event such as war, an accident or an instance in which one’s personal integrity is gravely affected are similar to those a woman experiences when she decides to end her pregnancy,” she said in an article published in “El Grafico.”
Beauregard based her comments on research from universities such as Harvard, Georgetown and Ottawa, which found that “diagnostic similarities exist between women who have ended the pregnancies and veterans traumatized by the Vietnam War.”
“The study by David Reardon titled, 'Psychological Reactions Reported After an Abortion,' concludes that most of the women who participated showed symptoms of post-abortion trauma including: feelings of having less control of their lives, 74%; sexual difficulties, 59%; difficulties in developing relationships, 53%; drug use, 49%; suicidal thoughts, 33%.”
For this reason, she noted that in 5 of the 18 Mexican states that have enshrined protections for the unborn, “comprehensive medical care is also given to women who have undergone abortions, a fact which undoubtedly represents a significant step forward.”
“Nevertheless, there is still much to be done so Mexican women will have preventative medical and psychological information that will allow them to care for themselves and thrive in any state in our country, without having to go through the Calvary of a traumatic syndrome,” Beauregard stated.
Vatican City, Apr 15, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - "We must obey God instead of men," said the Holy Father in a memorable address to members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission at Mass on Thursday. During the course of the homily he also spoke of the "attacks of the world," a phrase that was interpreted by some news reports as the recent sex abuse scandals. Pope Benedict said that Catholics must respond to attacks by doing acts of penance.
"Obedience to God has primacy," Pope Benedict XVI began his homily, which he delivered without prepared remarks. The Holy Father told members of the commission gathered in the Pauline Chapel for a Mass to mark the beginning of the Biblical Commission's full assembly on Thursday morning.
Obedience to God makes us free, he said, while the the idea of being "free, autonomous and nothing else," and supposedly free from obedience to God "is a lie."
Being free from obedience to God is an "ontological falsehood, because man doesn't exist of himself and for himself," the Pope said, adding that "it's a political and practical falsehood, because collaboration and sharing of liberties is necessary ..."
The Holy Father also warned that if the majority consensus prevails and becomes the dominant power in a society, it can also be "a consensus of evil." In this way, we can see that "so-called autonomy doesn't free man," he pointed out.
This was the ideology of the Nazi and Marxist dictatorships, he noted, saying the while we are fortunate that they no longer exist, mankind still lives with dictatorships in more subtle forms, such as in conformism. The obligation "to think like everyone thinks, act like everyone acts, and the subtle aggression against the Church, or also less subtle, demonstrate how this conformism can truly be a real dictatorship," the Pope said.
Pope Benedict went on to stress in his homily that for Christians, obedience to God means really knowing Him and wanting to follow his will, and not a question of using Him as a pretext for our own desires.
The Pope applied this practically to the Christian fear of speaking of eternal life. "We speak of the things that are useful for the world, we show that Christianity helps also to improve the world, but that its goal is eternal life and that from the goal might come the criteria of life, we don't dare say it."
We must also work on our avoidance of the word "penance," he explained, noting that the word may seem too strong to Christians in recent times, but that it is through the grace of penance that we recognize our sin, a need for renewal, change and transformation.
"Now," he emphasized, likely alluding to the media accusations against him in the past weeks, "under the attacks of the world that speak to us of our sins, we see that being able to do penance is a grace and we see how it is necessary to do penance, recognize that which is mistaken in our life."
It means opening ourselves to forgiveness, preparing ourselves for forgiveness and allowing ourselves to be transformed, said Pope Benedict XVI. "The pain of penance, that is of purification and transformation, this pain is a grace, because it is renewal, it is the work of divine mercy."
The Pope delivered his homily on the first day of the the Commission's plenary assembly, which will run for five days and be based on the theme "Inspiration and Truth in the Bible."
Vatican City, Apr 15, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - This "isn't the first time the Church has suffered," Cardinal Camillo Ruini said as he reflected on the current state of the Church in an interview with the Italian paper La Republica on Thursday.
Responding to a question about the "dramatic moments" the Catholic Church is living through as Pope Benedict XVI approaches the fifth year of his pontificate, Cardinal Ruini said, "It's is undoubtedly a period of suffering and of trial for the Church, that at the moment revolves around the question of pedophilia."
"But it isn't the first time the Church has suffered," he added. In the past, there have been other trials, other sufferings, always overcome by Providence."
In the current situation, the cardinal said, "there are the objectively very serious sins of some priests and there is a strong desire to put the entire Church and especially the Pope on the bench of the accused: a profoundly unjust and unfounded thing, because Benedict XVI is exactly the opposite of that which they wish to make him appear (to be)."
Reflecting on the scope of the words of Pope Benedict during the Stations of the Cross in 2005 when he spoke of a "cleaning" that needed to take place in the Church, the cardinal said that while pedophilia is a part of the needed cleaning, "it would be mistaken" to read into that statement as strictly pertaining to sexuality.
The "cleaning" mentioned by Pope Benedict should be considered as "a challenge that concerns all of our Christian life, beyond that of priests, and it's a challenge that, as Jesus has taught us, one can hope to win only concentrating before all on Him, (and) therefore on humility and prayer," the cardinal said.
During the interview, Cardinal Ruini said he observes a "profound continuity" between Pope Benedict and two of his predecessors, Popes John Paul II and Paul VI. The current Pope, he noted, can also be noted for the priority that he gives on evangelization.
"It's not only about announcing and testifying of God as our creator and savior," he explained, rather "It's about ... trusting him and putting ourselves in his hands, therefore praying and making space for him, his presence and his grace, in our entire lives.
"Here, the great insistence of Benedict XVI on the liturgy has its origin," he underscored.
Cardinal Ruini recognized the Holy Father's acumen as a "grandissimo" theologian, an "extraordinary homilist and catechist," and, he said, contrary to the thoughts of some, "it's mistaken to think that he takes little care of the government of the Church."
Cardinal Camillo Ruini is a former president of the Italian Bishops' Conference and is now working on the Italian bishops' "Cultural Project," maintaining the Church's presence within contemporary discussion. He was recently named by Pope Benedict XVI to head the investigation commission on the possible Marian apparitions at Medjugorje.