Vatican City, Jun 28, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican underscored the value of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, known also as "De Propaganda Fide" on Monday in a communique explaining the dicasteries' origins and principal functions. The explanation comes as the actions of one of its previous prefects have been called into question.
The communique was released a week after the former head of the congregation, Archbishop of Naples Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe was defended by Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi after accusations surfaced that he had allegedly taken part in sketchy real estate deals involving an Italian government official.
The Holy See's Press Office explained that it is necessary at this point to "recall some objective information" to protect the good reputation of such an "important organism of the Holy See and of the Catholic Church."
According to the statement, "the Congregation is the organ that has the task of directing and coordinating the work of evangelization and missionary cooperation in the whole world."
Carrying out the fundamental aim of the congregation, which is to "guide and support the young Churches," it maintains centers of instruction including the Pontifical University Urbaniana and provides financial subsidies to 1,080 "constituencies" throughout the world.
Subsidies also exist for the formation of local clergy in these churches which, "thanks to the help of the Congregation ... a notable number of priests, seminarians and other pastoral workers can study in Rome..."
Besides these works, financial aid is also distributed annually by the congregation for the construction of new churches, pastoral institutions, hospitals and many other charitable structures. This is done at an administrative cost that is "far inferior" to that of any other international organization working in international cooperation, according to the statement, due to the free assistance provided by Catholic structures worldwide.
The statement notes the sources of funding for the programs in the annual collection for World Missionary Day and earnings from real estate and financial investments. "The patrimony has been formed over the course of decades thanks to numerous donations from benefactors of every social class who have intended to leave a part of their inheritance in service to the cause of evangelization."
The extensive message noted that the value of the patrimony of the Congregation is both difficult and complex to evaluate and, "as all financial operations, can be exposed also to errors of valuation and fluctuations in international markets."
They point also to the growth of this patrimony as a sign of its "correct administrative administration and the growing generosity of Catholics," and recall that structures and procedures have been put in place in recent years to guarantee the professional administration of this inheritance according to the highest standards.
The note closes with the explanation that it was released to give people an idea of the "identity, value and deep significance of a vital institution for the Holy See and for the entire Catholic Church that responds to Jesus' commandment to 'Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature'."
Vatican City, Jun 28, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Monday, following a private audience between Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna Christoph Schönborn and Pope Benedict XVI, a meeting of Vatican heavyweights took place. During the course of this closed session, Cardinal Schönborn and Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, attempted to clarify comments both had made in recent months.
A statement providing details of what local Italian media has called a "summit" between Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, Cardinal Sodano and Cardinal Schönborn was released by the Holy See's Press Office on Monday afternoon.
Following the one-on-one meeting between the president of the Austrian bishops and the Holy Father, Cardinals Bertone and Sodano offered statements attempting to clarify several controversial comments made this year.
The Holy See's statement recounting the meeting highlighted that, in the Church, accusations regarding cardinals are the "unique competence" of the Pope.
The first contentious issue addressed by the prelates dealt with a homily Cardinal Sodano gave at Easter Mass that the Austrian cardinal reacted to negatively.
Cardinal Schönborn was quoted by the Austrian press blasting Cardinal Sodano for his comments at Easter Mass in which he expressed the solidarity of the cardinals for the Pope and urged him to remain firm amidst the prevailing "petty gossip." According to the Vatican statement, it was discussed that Cardinal Sodano's words to the Pope were "erroneously interpreted as a lack of respect for the victims of sexual abuse."
The statement explained that Cardinal Sodano's words were taken literally from the Pope's Palm Sunday homily which made reference to "courage that does not let itself be intimidated by the gossip of prevalent opinions."
Cardinal Schönborn also expressed "his displeasure for the interpretations given" to his comments on Cardinal Sodano's homily. The Austrian cardinal was quoted as saying that Sodano had done "massive harm" with his Easter address.
The dean of the Cardinal's College, the communique said, "nurtures the same sentiments of compassion and condemnation of evil" as expressed at different times by the Holy Father.
The meeting between the four prelates took place after Cardinal Schönborn brought the Holy Father up to date on the current situation of the Austrian Church, clarified recent declarations he made about clerical celibacy and reportedly explained remarks he made about Cardinal Sodano allegedly preventing a sexual abuse investigation of his predecessor Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer in the 1990s.
The Vatican statement did not provide further details on what was said about the role of Cardinal Sodano in the Groer case or Cardinal Schönborn's explanation.
The statement concluded with a message of greeting and encouragement for the Austrian Church and its pastors, whose renewed ecclesial communion he entrusted to the protection of the Virgin.
Madrid, Spain, Jun 28, 2010 (CNA) - The organizers of World Youth Day 2011 have released a promotional video titled, “The Soul of Madrid,” which features young people from various countries inviting their peers to attend the event. The video also showcases the symbolic sites of the Spanish capital where World Youth Day will take place.
The video was produced by the Telemadrid network and takes viewers on a tour of some of Madrid’s most symbolic sites, including the Museum of El Prado, the Retiro Park, Cibeles Square, the Gate of Alcala and Madrid’s Barajas airport.
Telemadrid’s creative director, Javier Montes, said, “The soul is the storyline and creative inspiration for this Telemadrid project, as it is a word with multiple connotations that refers not only to the spirit, but above all, to something very earthly, because that which is alive has a soul.”
The video features the participation of young people from Mexico, France, the Ivory Coast, Brazil, Italy and Poland who live in Madrid.
It can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWmQDJ2Tk2s&feature=channel
Washington D.C., Jun 28, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Today the U.S. Supreme Court declined an immunity appeal by the Holy See in a case that attempts to sue the Vatican for transferring a priest accused of sexually abusing a minors several decades ago. The ruling by the Supreme Court allows the case to move forward.
An anonymous plaintiff from Oregon filed suit against the Vatican in 2002 after Fr. Andrew Ronan, an Irish priest with a history of sexually abusing minors, was transferred from Ireland to the U.S. and eventually moved to the Portland, Oregon. According to Reuters, Fr. Ronan died in 1992.
The plaintiff claims he was abused by Fr. Ronan several times in the mid 1960s and has filed suit against the Vatican, charging that the Catholic Church is responsible for transferring the priest and conspiring to cover up the allegations.
Jeffrey Lena, the U.S. attorney for the Vatican, has argued that the plaintiff has not provided evidence that the Vatican moved the priest or had control over him. Several U.S. bishops have also stated in the media that it is the local bishop who has control over priests, not the Vatican.
In a move to have a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated, the Holy See attempted to claim immunity under a U.S. Law – the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 – which helps prevent foreign states from being sued in court.
However, the appeals court cited exceptions to the law and charged that there was sufficient evidence that Fr. Ronan was an employee of the Vatican under Oregon law, thus allocating responsibility to the Holy See.
Another development in the case came in May when the U.S. Solicitor General’s office submitted an amicus curiae brief to the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals misapplied the Sovereign Immunities Act.
The brief also claimed that the priest’s sexual abuse was also “not within the scope of the priest’s employment,” according to the solicitor general’s office, which advised the case be vacated and remanded back to the appellate court.
Despite these arguments, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the 9th Circuit ruling to stand and declined to rule on the Vatican's immunity appeal. The decision by the nation's highest court was made without comment. The case will now proceed in U.S. District Court under the Oregon standards of employment.
Rome, Italy, Jun 28, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - From the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-walls in Rome where he was celebrating First Vespers on the eve of the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Pope Benedict XVI revealed this evening his plan to create a new pontifical council. The council will be aimed at addressing the "progressive secularization" of historically Christian areas.
The new Vatican dicastery will be the first created since the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care was created in 1985 by Pope John Paul II. Vatican writer Andrea Tornielli predicted the new council's creation in April 2010, saying that it would be “the most important novelty of Pope Benedict’s pontificate."
After pointing to the "extraordinary impulse" John Paul II gave to the mission of the Church and the "genuine missionary spirit" that drove him, Pope Benedict XVI said that he is drawing on this inheritance.
Noting that he asserted at the beginning of his Petrine Ministry "that the Church is young, open to the future," he emphasized, "And I repeat it today, close to the sepulchre of St. Paul: the Church is an immense renewing force in the world, not exactly for her forces, but for the force of the Gospel, in which blows the Holy Spirit of God, God creator and redeemer of the world."
In the face of current historical, social and, especially, spiritual challenges which overwhelm our human capacities, Pope Benedict remarked that "It seems sometimes we pastors of the Church (are) reliving the experience of the Apostles, when thousands of needy people followed Jesus, and He asked: what can we do for all these people? They then experienced their powerlessness."
But the Lord, he continued, showed them that "nothing is impossible" and fed the masses with some bread and fish.
"But it wasn't - and it's not - just a hunger for material food," Benedict XVI clarified.
In the world today, he continued, "there is a deeper hunger that only God can satiate" and in the midst of the Third Millennium in which man still desires "a genuine and full life, he is in need of truth, of profound liberty, of free love.
"Also in the deserts of the secularized world, the soul of man is thirsty for God, for the living God," the Holy Father pointed out.
Referring to regions of the world where the Gospel has ancient roots, where it has led to "a true Christian tradition, but where in recent centuries ... the process of secularization has produced a grave crisis in the sense of Christian faith and of belonging to the Church," Pope Benedict said "I have decided to create a new body."
This structure of the body, he explained, will be a new pontifical council, "with the important task of promoting a renewed evangelization in countries where the first announcement of the faith has already resounded and Churches of ancient foundation are present, but are living (through) a progressive secularization of society and a sort of 'eclipse of the sense of God'."
This situation, he explained, "constitutes a challenge for finding adequate means of reproposing the perennial truth of the Gospel of Christ."
Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 28, 2010 (CNA) - The spokesman for the Archdiocese of Mexico City, Father Hugo Valdemar, said last week that if the country’s Supreme Court upholds the legalization of adoption by homosexual couples, the Church would continue to condemn the act as immoral.
“We are respectful, although we do not agree on the moral point of view. We are in a secular country, and thus the work of the Church is to make the faithful conscientious about values. Our work is one of evangelization,” Father Valdemar continued.
Children have a right to grow up in a home consisting of a father and a mother, he said, in order to ensure their comprehensive development. Nevertheless, the priest noted that he expects the Supreme Court to uphold the law which was passed by the Mexico City Legislative Assembly.
“It was very clear to us that it was not going to be easy to argue (about the adoption of children by same-sex couples) and we are not naïve. This is a difficult discussion and we believe it is unlikely the justices' decision will reflect what we want,” he added.
“It would be regrettable if the justices ratify the law, which we find troubling because of how it will impact children,” the priest concluded.
Madrid, Spain, Jun 28, 2010 (CNA) - The organization, Professionals for Ethics, denounced the hypocrisy of the Spanish political party, “Partido Popular,” for criticizing the country's new law on abortion while at the same time allowing gender ideology to be taught in schools in the province of Valencia.
Fabian Fernandez de Alarcon, who represents Professionals for Ethics, said the political party has challenged the constitutionality of the new law on abortion but at the same time has introduced the very model of sexual education it is criticizing.
Fernandez de Alarcon said the sex-ed program put in place in Valencia is a combination of workshops presented by health care workers for children in junior high.
The objectives of the workshops include changing students’ understanding of sexuality, teaching them to recognize “the diversity of sexual preferences as a principle” and training them on the use of contraceptives, he added.
The program is similar to the methodology used by Education for the Citizenry in that it encourages students to question the values they have been taught by their parents. Fernandez de Alarcon said parents’ groups are considering mounting legal challenges to the workshops.
What is occurring in Valencia shows that parents “cannot blindly trust in the schools, especially regarding issues that have moral implications such as sexual education, he said.
Madrid, Spain, Jun 28, 2010 (CNA) - Responding to a new study from Spain's National Statistics Institute (NSI), the Spanish Federation of Large Families said that the country's decreasing birth rate will soon lead to “an aging populace.” The organization then called on the government to “take family policy seriously” and to prioritize the family, which is “alone capable of energizing the economy” amidst the financial crisis.
The federation, which represents one million families, said the NSI data from 2008 shows the country’s birth rate fell by five percent, “marking the first time in ten years that there has been a drop in the number of births.”
Eva Holgado, president of the federation, said that amidst the current financial crisis, “only the family can energize the economy and keep the economic and social machine active.” The family is what “contributes future workers and taxpayers,” he added.
“The government needs to take this issue seriously and make a strong and courageous commitment to support the family, encourage new births and support those who already have children,” she said.
“There is practically no aid for the family in Spain,” Holgado warned, adding that Spain needs to look to France, which has successfully raised its birthrate to the highest in the European Union without a resulting decrease in the number of women in the workforce. He explained that this “means women don’t have to choose between work and family, but rather they can combine both because they can count on appropriate economic, social and employer support.”
Vatican City, Jun 28, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Holy Father has welcomed a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in light of the celebration of the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul on Tuesday. He told them in an audience that he is encouraged that further progress between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches is on the horizon.
The delegation, which was sent by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, is formed by three prominent members of the Orthodox Church, including the Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima. The metropolitan is the co-secretary of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church and vice-moderator of the World Council of Churches Central Committee.
Recognizing that the celebration of the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul takes place on the same day in both the Orthodox and Catholic Churches and testifies to the previous communion of the two Churches, Pope Benedict told the representatives at the audience that their presence in the Vatican "brings great gladness to the hearts of us all."
He went on to thank the Lord for the relations between the two sides, which he pointed out are characterized by mutual trust, esteem and fraternity. This cordial atmosphere, the Pope said, is proved by the fact that so many encounters have taken place between the two Churches recently.
"All this gives grounds for hope that Catholic-Orthodox dialogue will also continue to make significant progress," he said.
Referring to discussions of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue on the "Role of the Bishop of Rome in the Communion of the Church in the First Millenium," he said that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and the Holy Synod of Constantinople's interest in dialogue is an "encouraging sign." He also mentioned that he will be “very pleased" to welcome Bartholomew I's delegation to October's Special Assembly for Middle Eastern Bishops.
The delegation was accompanied by the secretary and sub-secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity to First Vespers on Monday evening at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-walls.
Rome, Italy, Jun 28, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Last week's search by the Belgian police, deemed "Operation Church," was "worthy of the Da Vinci Code," Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard told reporters away from the microphone at a press conference on Saturday. In the latest development, the archdiocesan commission to investigate cases of abuse and provide care for victims was dissolved on June 28.
Following the June 24 search of the crypts in the Cathedral of Mechelen and lockdown of the offices for the Archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussels, members of the Church have decried the actions taken by the Belgian judicial system as an overreaction.
Archbishop Leonard said on Saturday that the authorities had the right to search the premises, but he found it "a little amazing" that tombs were also searched and that Belgium's nine bishops were not allowed to leave their meeting room all day.
After the police were reportedly drilled holes in the tombs, cameras were inserted through them to continue the search for "hidden" dossiers on sexual abuse by priests.
Even the Pope commented in a message to Archbishop Leonard on the "surprising and deplorable manner" in which the search was carried out.
A note in the weekly editorial from the Italian bishops' SIR news agency labeled the event as "very grave" and possessing elements of "the incredible."
The editorial cast doubt on the reasons for the search, contemplating whether or not the search was actually carried out to provide a service to the victims or, rather, if its scope was focused more on spearheading a propaganda campaign against the Church.
The route, they reported, is "delicate," and "the Church doesn't want, nor does it request privileges; it has entered with great transparency the line of purification but, at the same time, neither instrumentalizations nor ideological or propagandistic shortcuts or even abitrary generalizations can be tolerated."
Catholic apologist and Corriere della Sera columnist Vittorio Messori called the search an "exaggeration" by the Belgian justice system, comparing it, as Archbishop Leonard did, to a Da Vinci Code plot or a new type of a sarcastic joke being told by judges who are "obsessed by enigmas, mysteries and secret codes" that always involve Catholics and can only be understood by them.
Poking fun at the idea that a dossier might be hidden in the tombs of the cardinal archbishops of the Cathedral of Mechelen, he wrote, "aside from the bitter punchlines, sexual abuses are too big of a case to be left to similar investigators."
Such operations, Messori continued, "confirm the confusion of a State that for years has not been able to even proclaim a government but, at least among the 'intelligencia,' it seems united only by an anti-Roman aversion."
On Monday, child psychiatrist Dr. Peter Adriaenssens, the director of the commission the local Catholic Church established to investigate and offer pastoral care to those victims, resigned as a result of the commission's materials being confiscated.
He told local media upon stepping down that he felt that he and the commission, which was disbanded, "have been used as bait" by Belgian judicial and police authorities.
Dr. Adriaenssens also faulted the authorities for betraying the trust of nearly 500 victims who had confidentially made complaints over the past two months to the commission and blamed state prosecutors for questioning victims too traumatized to speak to the police.
Vatican City, Jun 28, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - In a message to Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard after the June 24 raid of the Cathedral of Mechelen and the archbishop's office, Pope Benedict expressed his solidarity with the Belgian bishops for the "surprising and deplorable manner" in which the police search was carried out.
In a situation which has been compared to a Da Vinci Code plot twist, on June 24 in Mechelen, Belgium, a number of Belgian bishops participating in a plenary session were locked in their meeting room for nine hours by authorities while the archbishop's office and the cathedral were combed for information related to cases of sexual abuse in the archdiocese.
The Holy See's secretary for relations with states Archbishop Dominique Mamberti co-authored a statement the day after the occurrence in which he expressed his "great amazement" for the way in which the search was conducted.
The Pope's reaction to the incident was released by the Holy See's Press Office on Sunday afternoon. Benedict XVI said in his telegram to Archbishop Leonard that "in this sad moment" he wishes to express his "particular closeness and solidarity" to him and to those bishops under his supervision "for the surprising and deplorable manner in which searches were carried out in the Cathedral of Malines and in the site where the Belgian episcopate was gathered in a plenary assembly which, among other things, also intended to consider questions associated with the abuse of minors by members of the clergy."
Benedict XVI went on to say that he has on numerous occasions emphasized that "these serious matters should be dealt with by both civil law and canon law, while respecting the specific nature and autonomy of each.
"In this context, I trust that justice may run its course in order to guarantee the fundamental rights of persons and of institutions, at the same time respecting victims, showing unconditional recognition for those who undertake to collaborate, and rejecting everything that obscures the noble goal with which justice is assigned."
Archbishop Leonard will be in the Vatican for the conferral of the pallium during the Mass for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul on Tuesday at St. Peter's Basilica.