Vatican City, May 10, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - In spite of the cloud of ash that led to the cancellation of flights in Portugal over the weekend, plans for the Holy Father's pilgrimage to Portugal remain firm. The Holy Father will be in the country on Tuesday morning to complete a packed four-day trip, but the culminating event for him is the stop in Fatima, with which he has a long history.
Pope Benedict's trip to the western European country will take place from Tuesday to Friday, beginning with a visit to the country's capital Lisbon, then to Fatima and finally to the city of Porto.
Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, said over the weekend that for the moment plans would not be altered due to the cloud of ash from Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano. The debris shut down airports in much of Portugal on Sunday and hundreds of flights were canceled in both Lisbon and Porto.
These airports have since been re-opened, but the threat that flights could again be suspended remains, according to the Portuguese press. The contingency plan is reportedly to direct the Pope's plane to Faro, over one hundred miles to the south.
The Holy Father is scheduled to arrive in Lisbon by plane at 11 a.m. local time on May 11.
Expressing his joy at the coming journey, Pope Benedict asked for prayers and called the visit to Fatima the trip's highlight before Sunday's Regina Coeli prayer in St. Peter's Square.
Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, told Vatican Radio over the weekend that the Holy Father has a special relationship with the Marian shrine.
"There is a great bond between Benedict XVI and Fatima," he said. "This is because, among other things, Cardinal Ratzinger has already been in Fatima to preside over the world pilgrimage, which saw hundreds of thousands of people."
Additionally, Cardinal Saraiva Martins remembered a conference then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger gave at the Catholic University of Porto on the Fatima apparitions, his role in preparing the publication of the third "secret" of Fatima as well as the document read at the end of the beatification Mass for Jacinta and Francisco 10 years ago. The document was prepared by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed at that time by Cardinal Ratzinger.
Speaking to the Italian bishops' Avvenire newspaper, the Patriarch of Lisbon, Cardinal Jose da Cruz Policarpo, said that ever since his election the Pope "has desired to come to Fatima." He also told the paper that the Holy Father would likely explain his deep connection to the Marian shrine during his visit.
Washington D.C., May 10, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - President Barack Obama nominated today the current Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, a move that drew concerns from pro-life advocates.
Kagan, 50, was dean of Harvard Law School before her ascent to solicitor general and will become the third woman on the High Court if confirmed by the Senate. She will also be the first individual in 38 years to join the Supreme Court without ever serving as a judge.
During the announcement at the White House's East Room earlier today, the nominee said she was “humbled” by this “honor of a lifetime,” according to the Associate Press.
President Obama lauded what he called Kagan's “fair mindedness” as well as her “openness to a broad array of viewpoints.”
Although the president praised her, Kagan's nomination has drawn concern from pro-life groups who are worried about her history of abortion advocacy.
“Elena Kagan has no judicial record from which to determine her position on Roe v. Wade, but she has publicly criticized the 1991 Supreme Court ruling to allow the Department of Health and Human Services to restrict funding from groups that performed or promoted abortion, and has also criticized crisis pregnancy centers,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of pro-life political action group Susan B. Anthony List.
“Additionally, President Obama has said he prefers a Supreme Court nominee who would take a special interest in ‘women’s rights’—a barely masked euphemism for abortion rights,” Dannenfelser noted. “Through the judicial confirmation process the American people must know where Elena Kagan stands on the abortion issue, and it is the responsibility of the U.S. Senate to find out.”
Dr. Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life similarly criticized the move, saying on Monday that “Elena Kagan has strong ties to abortion-advocacy organizations and expressed admiration for activist judges who have worked to advance social policy rather than to impartially interpret the law.”
Yoest also stated, “Americans United for Life will oppose President Obama's attempt to reshape the Court as an activist, pro-abortion institution through which unelected judges will work to impose an out-of-the-mainstream social agenda upon the American people.”
San José, Costa Rica, May 10, 2010 (CNA) - Costa Rica’s Electoral Supreme Court has ordered Bishop Jose Francisco Ulloa to pay damages for encouraging the faithful to cast their votes in manner consistent with Catholic teachings.
The bishop made his comments during a Mass on September 6, 2009, amidst the presidential campaign season and the debate over abortion and homosexual rights.
Yeudy Blanco Vega of the Movement for a Secular State argued the bishop violated article 28 of the Costa Rican constitution which forbids members of the clergy from engaging in political propaganda.
The court interpreted the bishop's comments as political propaganda rather than pastoral guidance, and therefore ordered him to “abstain from urging people not to vote for candidates who in his judgment do not share the values of the Catholic faith.” The court also ordered him to pay damages and legal fees.
What was said
During the Mass last September, Bishop Ulloa told the faithful, “We are facing a political campaign in which we must carefully choose who is going to govern us. We are now finding out which candidates deny God and defend principles that go against life, marriage, and the family. Therefore, we must be coherent with our faith and cannot give them our vote in good conscience.”
In response to criticism from certain politicians, the president of the Bishops’ Conference of Costa Rica, Archbishop Hugo Barrantes, pointed to article 76 of the Pastoral Constitution, “Gaudium et Spes.”
“It is only right, however, that at all times and in all places, the Church should have true freedom to preach the faith, to teach her social doctrine, to exercise her role freely among men, and also to pass moral judgment in those matters which regard public order when the fundamental rights of a person or the salvation of souls require it.”
Rome, Italy, May 10, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Bishop Ricardo Watty of Tepic, one of the five bishops appointed to the Apostolic Visitation of the Legion of Christ, said in a recent interview that Pope Benedict XVI may meet with some of the victims abused by Father Marcial Maciel.
In an interview with Televisa, the bishop explained that during the Apostolic Visitation, he traveled to 33 Legionary centers in Mexico and met with 300 members. “There are many elements from Father Marcial’s personality that have taken root, and the Legion must be freed from them.
Speaking later about the measures the Holy See is taking to review the Legion’s charism, Bishop Watty explained that it “does not belong to the founder, but rather comes from God and passes through a person, in this case a person who was very, very wounded.”
Addressing the apostolic visitors' meeting with the Holy Father on April 30, he said that the Pope is very concerned about the Legion. “I was pleased of his insistence that the large number of young people in the Legion receive care and attention.”
Bishop Watty also gave the Holy Father a file containing documentation from one of the groups of victims abused by the Legion founder.
Vatican City, May 10, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Holy See announced on Monday that the final draft of Pope Benedict XVI's long awaited second volume of "Jesus of Nazareth" has been completed and sent to the publishers. Although the English translation will not be immediately available, the Vatican said it is just a question of months.
The second volume is dedicated to the Passion and Resurrection and picks up where the first volume—focused on Jesus' public ministry—left off.
"The definitive text of the second volume of the book 'Jesus of Nazareth' by His Holiness Benedict XVI was recently consigned to the publishers entrusted with its publication," reads the Holy See Press Office communiqué from Monday.
The Holy Father had previously revealed the book's completion when he told the American rabbi Jacob Neusner in an audience on Jan. 18 that new text was ready for publication.
Today's announcement from the Vatican related that the original German version had been entrusted to two publishers for printing. The Vatican Publishing House, led by Fr. Giuseppe Costa, is responsible for the concession of rights, the publication of the Italian version and for contracting other publishers for its translation into other languages.
Meanwhile, publisher Manuel Herder, which is in the process editing Joseph Ratzinger's complete works, was given the responsibility of printing the German version.
Copies in major languages, including English, will require a few months to be completed, "given the time necessary for an accurate translation of such an important and long-awaited text," noted the Vatican.
The first volume of "Jesus of Nazareth" was released in German, Italian, Greek and Polish in April 2007, with translations in 16 other languages arriving on bookshelves just a month later.
Lima, Peru, May 10, 2010 (CNA) - The political party Tierra y Libertad (Land and Freedom) led by suspended priest Marco Arana is demanding that the Peruvian government embrace the homosexual agenda by allowing same-sex “marriage” in the country.
“We demand that the Peruvian State guarantee the human rights of lesbian, gay, transsexual and bisexual persons through specific affirmative laws” in order to fight the sexual orientation discrimination “that unfortunately exists in our country,” the group said.
Arana’s party, which seeks to nominate a candidate for the presidential elections, said it recognizes the existence of “diverse sexual orientations such as heterosexuality, homosexuality, lesbianism and bisexuality. Likewise we recognize that multiple gender identities exist. In relation to this entire range of sexual orientations and gender identities, our principle is total equality in diversity, including marriage.”
The party claimed that Peru’s public norms are currently influenced by “religious fundamentalism” that “restricts free sexual orientation and gender identity,” and called for “sexual education based on principles of diversity, equality and non-discrimination.”
Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 10, 2010 (CNA) - Bishop Jorge Lozano of the Argentinean Bishops’ Committee on Social Ministry said last week that the country must acknowledge the real faces of poverty and not just focus on cold statistics, because “these faces are awaiting an answer.”
“When we say, ‘poverty is a huge issue,’ we must be careful not to look at it only on paper, as if a graphic or a statistic tells the entire story. Cold, hunger, loneliness, ‘nobody-ism,’ and suffering are not adequately expressed in percentages,” the bishop said.
The prelate then lamented the absurdity that eight children die each day in Argentina due to malnutrition and urged that young people not be forgotten, especially as the country approaches its bicentennial. “There are hundreds of thousands, more than 500,000 young people who spend their time in the squares and street corners of our neighborhoods,” he said.
Bishop Lozano called for the period of 2010-2016 to be a time for eliminating poverty and promoting comprehensive development for all.
Vatican City, May 10, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict underlined the irreplaceable role of priests to the Church during his address to the bishops of Belgium this past weekend. He urged support for the priesthood and a renewed impetus for vocations, saying that the decrease in the number of priests is not inevitable.
The Holy Father met with the Belgian Bishops at the conclusion of their "ad Limina" visit on Saturday morning.
Noting the Vatican II conclusion that the Church cannot do without its priests, he said that "it is therefore necessary and urgent to confer upon them their right place and recognize their irreplaceable sacramental character." Pope Benedict also addressed the trend of a decreasing number of Catholic priests in the country, telling them that it should not be seen as an inevitable process.
A "broad and serious" vocations ministry is needed to confront the situation, said the Pope. This ministry, he continued, must place great significance of the holiness of priests, on attention to the presence of the first signs of vocations in youth and on "assiduous and trusting prayer, according to Jesus' recommendation."
Benedict XVI went on to recognize and greet all priests and consecrated people from Belgium, asking that they and the faithful "not forget that only Christ can silence every storm," and that He gives them strength and courage "to lead holy lives in full fidelity to their ministry, consecration to God and Christian testimony."
He pointed to recently canonized St. Damien of Molokai as an exemplary priest and missionary, whose greatness "resided in his interior wealth, in his constant prayer and in his union with Christ which he saw present in his brothers and to whom ... he donated himself without reserve."
Pope Benedict encouraged the bishops to continue in their efforts to promote Christian formation, "especially with the younger generations" on respect for life, the institution of marriage and the family.
Speaking to journalists after the audience, Archbishop Andre Joseph Leonard, primate of Belgian Catholics, said that there is full understanding between the Holy Father and the episcopate as to the line that is being taken on sexual abuses. He also said that the Pope's words were encouraging for priests in the country who are suffering from stereotypes due to the news coverage of sexual abuse.
Vatican City, May 10, 2010 (CNA) - The Director of the Press Office of the Holy See, Fr. Federico Lombardi, responded today to an article published in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, which said that Pope Benedict XVI asked Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, to defend him at Easter Mass from attacks over the treatment of sexual abuse cases. Fr. Lombardi replied, "even in difficult times, the Pope does not beg or organize demonstrations in his own defense or support."
In his response to the May 9 Corriere della Sera article, Fr. Lombardi said that the story “makes a completely false assertion that I have a duty to correct.” The article asserted that Pope Benedict XVI had asked Cardinal Sodano for “a few words of greeting, spoken in St. Peter's Square.”
Fr. Lombardi replied:
"Now, for the sake of truth, Benedict XVI had not requested anything. The words of Cardinal Sodano was an initiative of the College of Cardinals, at least those present in Rome, represented by its Dean. The Pope was informed of them very shortly before what would happen. He welcomed the salute with gratitude and simplicity for what it was trying to be, that is, a message of closeness, affection and solidarity."
The Corriere della Sera article also mentioned accusations made by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna, against Cardinal Sodano.
Cardinal Schönborn charged, in what was supposed to be a private conversation with Austrian newspaper editors in late April, that when Cardinal Sodano was Secretary of State, he intervened to prevent the future Pope Benedict XVI from directly investigating Cardinal Hans Groer over claims of sexual abuse. Cardinal Schönborn later took over from Cardinal Groer as Archbishop of Vienna.
Fr. Lombardi did not address the accusations made by Cardinal Schönborn against Cardinal Sodano.
Vatican City, May 10, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - For he who is without faith, death would be mean the loss of everything, said Pope Benedict during the eulogy for the late Cardinal Luigi Poggi. For the Christian, he continued, hope in resurrection brightens and gives meaning to every moment of our lives.
Cardinal Poggi's funeral Mass at St. Peter's Basilica on Friday afternoon was concelebrated by the Dean of the Cardinal's College, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, and 27 other cardinals. The Holy Father gave the eulogy and presided over the Ultima Commendatio and the Valedictio .
Speaking about the sad occasion of the cardinal's death, the Holy Father referred to a passage from the Gospel of John used in the Mass: "For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him (on) the last day."
Highlighting these words, the Holy Father noted that this hope in the resurrection mitigates the loss and helps one to live the moment more intensely.
"In front of the mystery of death," he added, "for the man who has no faith, everything would seem to be irremediably lost. It is the word of Christ, then, to brighten the road of life and confer value on every one of its moments."
The Pope also referred to the words of Paul to the Romans that if "we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him." The cardinal, he commented, is now living what the Apostle writes about the union between baptism and the risen Christ, uninhibited by the conditions imposed by sin of human nature.
Cardinal Poggi was remembered by the Pope in his earthly life as one who was dedicated in his priestly mission to the Holy See having worked as a delegate to three continents. Among the positions he held in a long life of service were those of Apostolic Nuncio to Peru, Chief of the Holy See's delegation to communist Poland and eventually Nuncio to Italy.
After being elevated to cardinal in 1994, he became the Vatican's archivist and librarian until his retirement in 1998. He died on May 4 at the age of 92.
The Holy Father ended his address by invoking the maternal intercession of Mary for the cardinal and entrusting his soul to "the Father of life, so that he may be introduced into the prepared place for His friends, faithful servants of the Gospel and the Church."
Phoenix, Ariz., May 10, 2010 (CNA) - Calling for immigration reform, Bishop of Phoenix Thomas J. Olmsted has written that Americans should remember the saints’ examples of love during the “highly charged” emotional debate over the Arizona immigration bill. He urged that Catholics not let the bonds of fraternal love be broken by concerns about immigration status.
Bishop Olmsted’s column on the Arizona law SB 1070 would normally have been published in The Catholic Sun on May 20. A source with the diocese told CNA the bishop did not want to wait for it to be published in print and had it published on the internet.
In his column, the bishop acknowledged the duty of civil authority to regulate immigration and the duty of all people to obey the law. However, he added, “the fact that our current immigration system is broken and in need of reform is abundantly clear.”
“No one’s dignity is served well by our current system.”
The Bishop of Phoenix joined his fellow U.S. bishops in urging Congress and President Obama to address this “complex but important issue” by passing federal comprehensive immigration reform legislation “as soon as possible.”
“Without immediate action by the federal government, good people on all sides of this issue will continue to suffer needlessly,” he explained.
Bishop Olmsted’s comments on immigration came in the context of a reflection on Jesus’ commandment “love one another.”
He explained his primary concern is the salvation of each person’s soul among those entrusted to his care. The poor and the immigrant are often the most vulnerable and must be “of special concern” for Christians, the Phoenix bishop said.
He noted the long history of Christian saints and their examples in living out Jesus' commandment to love one another. St. Stephen forgave those who killed him, praying “Father do not hold this sin against them!” Blessed Mother Teresa spent her life in the service of the poor and sick, while St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, an immigrant in the United States, served poor immigrants by establishing schools, hospitals and orphanages.
“Ours is indeed a history of witnessing boldly to the love of Christ for the salvation of the world,” the bishop wrote.
He pointed to the examples of the saints, who put dedication to love above “their human nature” and often “even above their own needs.”
This “call to love” should be remembered in light of the controversy over immigration, he wrote.
“The Church holds out hope and offers her fervent prayer that calm and reasonable minds will prevail and a just solution will be found that will benefit all of God’s children.”
Christian believers are given “the duty and the grace” of being united in love in “a visible way” with the immigrant, the unborn and all who are marginalized.
This unity is not possible, “humanly speaking,” but nothing is impossible for God, Bishop Olmsted taught. The love of Christ impels Christians and unites the Catholic community in “a bond of fraternal love that must not be broken by any earthly power and certainly not by one’s immigration status.”
Washington D.C., May 10, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Family Research Council (FRC) reacted to Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court Monday, stating that although President Obama praised her “superb” qualifications, her “known record speaks otherwise.” Other pro-life and pro-family organizations worried that she an activist approach to constitutional law.
Tony Perkins, president of FRC, said in a statement Monday that Kagan “has the least amount of experience of any nominee in the last three decades.”
“Her judicial experience is zero,” he added, “as is her real-world experience, having spent most of her career in academia or working as a Democratic Party insider.”
Referring to a decision Kagan made as Dean of Harvard Law School to prevent military recruiters from having access to campus because of the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, Perkins said that her tenure “is marked by kicking the military off campus during the height of the Iraq War, a move that even Ruth Bader Ginsburg ruled was wrong-headed.”
“Ms. Kagan's incredibly hostile view of the military suggests she is out of touch with mainstream sensibilities and obedience to the rule of law,” he said.
“Recently, in her brief tenure as Solicitor General, she argued that the federal government has the power, under campaign finance laws, to ban certain books and pamphlets,” Perkins added. The FRC president recalled how Chief Justice John Roberts reacted to Kagan's argument at the time and quoted him as saying that as “a free-floating test for First Amendment coverage, that (proposition) is startling and dangerous.”
National Right to Life also weighed in on nomination Monday, stating that there are “troubling indications that Ms. Kagan generally favors an activist, results-oriented approach to constitutional law.”
Citing a 1995 law journal article by Kagan, the pro-life group outlined statements from the nominee in which she said “it should be no surprise by now that many of the votes a Supreme Court Justice casts have little to do with technical legal ability and much to do with conceptions of value.” Kagan also wrote in the same document that “bottom-line issue in the appointments process must concern the kinds of judicial decisions that will serve the country and, correlatively, the effect the nominee will have on the Court's decisions ... If that is too results oriented ... so be it ...”
Meanwhile, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) warned in an email that "A vote for Elena Kagan is a vote to impose gay marriage on all 50 states." The group further argued that "claims that somehow Kagan is 'moderate' on gay marriage are part of a PR campaign intended to mislead the public about her core Constitutional values."
As Senate confirmation hearings look to be held before August, Perkins echoed a call being made by numerous pro-life and pro-family advocates, saying, “Ms. Kagan has called for the Senate to use the Supreme Court confirmation hearings 'to engage nominees in meaningful discussion of legal issues,' and that a nominee's views on issues are fair game to be discussed.”
“She should be evaluated by the U.S. Senate with the very standards she set for this process,” he stressed.
“During her confirmation hearings for Solicitor General, Ms. Kagan found it difficult to be forthcoming with her answers,” he noted. “That should not be permitted when she is considered for a permanent position on our nation's highest court.”
According to the Associated Press, Democrats are pushing for an early August vote to confirm Kagan as Supreme Court justice.