Turin, Italy, May 24, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The first exposition of the Shroud of Turin in the new millennium has officially come to a close after a little more than six weeks. Cardinal Severino Poletto, the guardian of the Shroud, said that those who visited need to safeguard in their hearts everything they saw and received that enriched their faith.
From April 10 to May 23, the Shroud was seen by more than 2.1 million pilgrims, according to the final count. Cardinal Archbishop of Turin Severino Poletto reflected on the significance of the occasion at the end of the exposition while offering the closing Mass along with bishops and priests of the Italian Piedmont region.
The event was organized "to give the possibility to all who would come to venerate it and experience the gift that is received when one enters into the symphony of faith and prayer with the sufferings of Christ, which are the 'master way' for participating also in the grace of his resurrection," Cardinal Poletto said at the beginning of Mass.
“(W)hat has been accomplished in the six weeks of the Exposition and the Eucharist we are celebrating is our thanksgiving for having the privilege to see the marvels that the Lord has brought about with his salvific activity in the hearts of the people," the cardinal said.
According to Vatican Radio, Cardinal Poletto told reporters on Saturday that "surely the more than two million pilgrims that came and prayed, meditated and maybe confessed ... returned home richer in faith.
"Therefore the spiritual fruit of this Exposition was enormous."
In Sunday's homily, he spoke of his own spiritual experience during the 45-day exposition. He said that he was greatly moved by seeing the image of the Crucified Christ, having "fixed his loving gaze on the impressive signs of human suffering confronted by Jesus in His passion and death."
The cardinal was also struck by the sheer number of pilgrims who came "in search of a Face," to confirm their faith, to venerate, confess and cry, having "felt embraced by the love of Christ," perceived "so close by" in the Shroud.
"Now," the Archbishop of Turin said, "we have the duty ... to safeguard in our hearts everything we have seen and received as an enrichment of our faith."
Before the Mass, a message from Pope Benedict XVI was read in which he gave thanks to the Church in Turin for "the exquisite reception and profuse organizational commitment, for the numerous attestations of esteem and of affection received from the diverse ecclesial and civil realities."
The Holy Father made a pilgrimage to the Shroud on May 2, during which time he celebrated an outdoor Mass, met with youth and the sick and gave a meditation called "Passion of Christ, Passion of Man."
After the Eucharistic celebration on Sunday, the Shroud was returned to its place in a hermetically-sealed case, where it has been kept since 1998.
Rome, Italy, May 24, 2010 (CNA) - In his address to Pope Benedict XVI during the 24th full assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the dicastery, said, “The Church does not identify herself with any one political party or system,” but “she appreciates the work of those who dedicate themselves to the service of the common good and assume the weight of these responsibilities.”
Cardinal Rylko said the Church sees the lay faithful's involvement in politics as “a noble vocation” that is “a great expression of charity.”
“Lay Christians involved in the public life should receive the necessary formation to be able to bear witness to their faith in Jesus Christ with courageous coherence because it is by being faithful to themselves, to their own baptismal identity, that the can truly bring about a renewal in political life,” Cardinal Rylko said.
In commenting on the call of the Holy Father to reach out to the new generation of Catholic politicians, the cardinal said, “Today it is truly urgent that politics regain its own soul, thus recovering the meaning of service to the common good, rebuilding a moral sensitivity and a solid foundation of shared values, promoting above all the concept of a truly open secularism that is not hostile to God or fearful of allowing him to enter public life.”
The task includes “defending the human person, his dignity, his transcendent vocation and his inalienable rights, rooted in the natural law and thus non-negotiable,” he stated.
At the conclusion of his remarks Cardinal Rylko announced that the Congress of Lay Asian Catholics would take place August 31-September 5.
Madrid, Spain, May 24, 2010 (CNA/Europa Press) - Cuban prisoner of conscience, Guillermo Farinas, who is in the third month of his hunger strike, has accepted an offer by the Catholic Church to mediate with the Castro government to find a solution to his protest for the release of 26 prisoners who are seriously ill. According to a recent report, the government has agreed to transfer some prisoners to hospitals.
Msgr. Ramon Suarez Porcari, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Havana, and Msgr. Jose Feliz Perez Riera, executive secretary of the Bishops’ Conference of Cuba, have visited Farinas on two occasions at the Arnaldo Milian Castro Hospital in Santa Clara, where he has been receiving care since March 11. The two clergymen informed him that they will soon be presenting a concrete proposal to the government.
“They asked me if I was okay with them acting as mediators in the conflict and I did not object,” Farinas told Europa Press via telephone. The “only” condition he had was that their participation be “impartial.”
“I am now awaiting what their proposals are to deal with my situation,” he added, saying if the proposal is satisfactory he would accept it and would end his hunger strike, although he said he remains firm in his position that the only solution is the liberation of prisoners who are sick.
Farinas said the Church believes there are more than 26 prisoners who are in poor health, and that permission will be requested for as many as 200 prisoners who need medical care to be released.
He also revealed that two “top diplomats,” one from Europe and another from the U.S., have visited him and offered to be “mediators” in the protest Farinas has been lodging since February 24, the day after prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo died from a hunger strike. “They have asked me not to reveal details about this.”
On May 24, Farinas told Reuters over the phone that Cuba has agreed to move political prisoners held in jails far away from their hometowns to facilities closer to their homes and to transfer sick prisoners to hospitals.
Rome, Italy, May 24, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Catholic French historian Alain Besançon offered his perspective on whether or not sexually abusive priests should be subject to civil law in an interview over the weekend. There is the risk of taking the "wrong road" in dealing with cases, he cautioned, but to him, the decision to punish offenders in civil courts is "reasonable."
Italy's Il Foglio newspaper asked Besançon whether the Church runs the risk of blurring the lines that separate crimes from sins and, in doing so transform itself into just another "moral agency." To this question, Besançon replied, "Certainly this danger exists.
"The Church is always tempted to take a wrong street," he explained,"and it is not assumed that it can avoid this today."
He referred to a book he is currently reading which takes place in the 13th century Church during the Papacy of Boniface VII, "an apparently glorious age for the Church, but," he said, "scary in reality."
"I think that the Church of today is much better off with respect to that of the medieval times," said Besançon.
Popes in those times of Pontifical monarchy abused both their temporal and spiritual powers, he noted, "they didn't make men virtuous, nor did they believe that the body of the Church was more virtuous than any other.
"The Church, in fact, is formed of men, and of men who are sinners" and "not protecting it as a corporation and remitting the punishments of civil justice, in the end, seems to be a reasonable decision," the French historian said.
Pope Benedict XVI has highlighted the importance of cooperating with local authorities in the prosecution of offending priests while maintaining the procedures of canon law. In the Pastoral Letter to Irish Catholics on March19, he told the nation's bishops, "Besides fully implementing the norms of canon law in addressing cases of child abuse, continue to cooperate with the civil authorities in their area of competence."
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also affirmed the same tack in guidelines that it issued on April 12 about canonical procedures for cases involving the sexual abuse of a minor. Those norms underscored that “Civil law concerning reporting of crimes to the appropriate authorities should always be followed.”
In Malta on April 17, meeting with victims of abuse, a Vatican statement reported that the Pope told them "that the Church is doing, and will continue to do, all in its power to investigate allegations, to bring to justice those responsible for abuse and to implement effective measures designed to safeguard young people in the future."
Vatican City, May 24, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -
On Monday morning, Pope Benedict XVI met with the presidents of Congo and Moldova, discussing with both heads of state the presence and influence of the Catholic Church within their respective countries.
During his 13-minute meeting with Denis Sassou N'guesso, president of the Republic of Congo, the Pontiff first discussed the country's initiatives to celebrate their upcoming 50th anniversary of independence.
The two leaders then addressed their mutual desire to strengthen the positive relationship between the Holy See and the Republic of Congo, discussing more specifically the Church's influence on the human, social and cultural development of the country. Also touched on was the political situation within the region and the need for humanitarian efforts to assist refugees who have been displaced due to territorial conflict.
After the meeting, in which President N'guesso presented the Holy Father with a wooden bas relief of the Last Supper, the leader of the Republic of Congo was received by Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone.
Also in the morning, Pope Benedict met with Mihai Ghimpu, speaker of parliament and acting president of the Republic of Moldova.
During their cordial discussion, the Holy Father expressed his hope with that difficulties of the country – a former Soviet satellite that is still occupied by Russian forces in certain regions – may be overcome through positive dialogue. The Pope reiterated the Church's mission in support of Moldova's people and the two expressed mutual appreciation for the dialogue that exists between the Church and state authorities.
Acting President Mihai Ghimpu then met with Cardinal Bertone after discussing with the Holy Father his opinions on current international affairs and the religious identity of Europe.
Cadiz, Spain, May 24, 2010 (CNA) - On the Feast of Pentecost yesterday, a Spanish bishop discussed the “complementarity” of the relationship between priests and the laity and stressed the importance of both assuming their “co-responsibility” in the task of evangelization.
Bishop Antonio Ceballos Atienza of Cadiz and Ceuta made his remarks in a pastoral letter, honoring the celebration of Catholic Action and Lay Apostolate Day on May 23.
After addressing the theme for the celebratory Day, “I have not come to be served, but to serve,” Bishop Ceballos wrote that both “priests and the laity form one body, one Church of Jesus Christ.”
Because of this, he noted, “we are all presented with a series of obligations that must be very present as we live out our respective vocations.”
“I believe that celebrating Catholic Action and Lay Apostolates Day on the feast of Pentecost, within in the Year of Priests, is a very opportune invitation to reflected on the profound union and complementarity that exists between the common priesthood and the ministerial priesthood and its obligations,” he observed, “so that each one of us may assume with joy the vocation to holiness and so that we make take decisive steps in the co-responsibility and mission of evangelization of the Church.”
In his letter, Bishop Ceballos also thanked “all of the numerous associations that are present in various areas of social life,” and expressed how he finds “hope in the new movements appearing in the Church, in response to the new needs our time.”
The Spanish prelate added that “associations and movements will always find a valid measure of their authenticity in their capacity to organically integrate themselves in the diocese in order to contribute to building up the Church of Christ.”