Archive of July 2, 2010

Spanish bishop surprised at lack of support for restoring historic churches

Cordoba, Spain, Jul 2, 2010 (CNA) - Bishop Demetrio Fernández of Córdoba, Spain, recently remarked that he was surprised "at arriving in Andalucía," to discover the "little institutional support" from the government to help dioceses repair historic churches and construct new Church property.

In an interview with Europa Press, Bishop Fernández emphasized that, in other autonomous communities such as Castilla-La Mancha, "the institutional support is much greater, and in Aragón there is much greater support for Church assets. But here, there is no (general) agreement." On the contrary, public officials have told the Church to "fend for themselves."

Therefore, Bishop Fernández said, addressing that issue is precisely his goal in the diocese, "doing what is possible in constructing new churches, the restoration of the old and, normally, paying the tab."

Despite the grim outlook for the Church to repair her beautiful and aging structures, there are exceptions. One such example is the distinct agreement the Church has reached with the local government of Andalucía. Another is the national government intervening to repair the Cathedral and an ancient mosque.

However, says the bishop, there are many examples of the lack of support by the state in restoring smaller, less famous churches. Some examples include the restoration of San Agustín, which is financed by an agreement between the local administration and the Church, as well as the shared expenses with the bishop for the restoration of San Lorenzo.

Bishop Fernandez said that there needs to be change as there is no "agreement with the provincial government of Córdoba for the small churches in the towns, and neither does there exist an agreement of permanent collaboration with the Andalucían board."

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‘Ultrasound Jesus’ to herald true meaning of Christmas in UK

London, England, Jul 2, 2010 (CNA) - Though Christmas is still six months away, the organization has chosen the design for its Christmas ad campaign. The selected design, called "Ultrasound Jesus," depicts an ultrasound image of an unborn baby with a halo above his head and the caption, “He's on His way. Christmas starts with Christ.” The image quickly angered pro-abortion and atheists groups with its alleged pro-life sentiments. is a British marketing and advertising organization that brings together various Christian denominations such as Anglicans, Methodists and Baptists. The Catholic Church is not part of the group.

The authors state that they want to spread the true meaning and origin of Christmas. It is estimated that the ad will reach over 40 million people in the weeks before Christmas.  

The vice-chair of, Mike Elms, told the Guardian newspaper, “We wanted to convey that Christmas starts with Christ. That this baby was on the way. Then we thought that the scan was a way of conveying that: it is modern currency in announcing a modern birth. We put a halo on it because theologians speak of Jesus being fully human and fully divine."
Secular and pro-abortion organizations such as Britain’s National Secular Society (NSS) have expressed great dissatisfaction with the campaign and have called it, "politically motivated" and "naïve." “The image is too specifically associated with pro-lifers to be seen in a benign context. They should go back to angels and cribs,” said Terry Sanderson of the NSS.

The Spanish pro-life watchdog organization, has said that this campaign represents "something out of a horror movie" for the abortion industry.
"Perhaps the abortion industry fears that this campaign may be more successful than their own,” said HazteOir. “For example, Marie Stopes International (a firm responsible for approximately 65,000 abortions annually) began promoting abortion via television advertising last May, as though it were a common product, and reaped immense civic opposition."
 Though his organization had no part in creating the campaign, John Smeaton of England’s Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child told the Guardian that he welcomed the ad.

“The advert is saying that Jesus was alive as a person before he was born,” he said. “ They have a halo round his head and you don't have a halo around the head of a blob of jelly or a cluster of cells. This is not a cluster of cells but a human person and it just happens to be the God man Jesus.”

“It is about the humanity of the unborn,” Smeaton added. “That is a very, very powerful statement that will strike a chord with the general population."

The campaign will begin formally on December 6, 2010, but the distribution of the "Ultrasound Jesus" material has already begun.

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Youth registered for WYD Madrid at 600,000 so far

Madrid, Spain, Jul 2, 2010 (CNA) - With 409 days remaining before the World Youth Day celebrations open in Madrid, the organizers of the event are reporting that over 600,000 pilgrims from countries outside Spain have pre-registered to take part in the week-long encounter with the Holy Father.

The event, which will take place in Madrid from August 16-21, 2011, is a week long journey of faith and solidarity for young people around the world. The large international gathering occurs every three years, and culminates with vespers, an overnight vigil and an outdoor Mass celebrated by the Pope.

So far, organizers report that 120,000 Italians, 70,000 French, 50,000 Poles and 25,000 North Americans have signed up for the event. The majority of the pilgrims have signed up in groups, whether it be from their diocese, youth group, parish, or other organization.

Each pilgrim is required to pay a registration fee based on their country of origin, the length of their stay and the services they will require.

Though part of the fee will help finance the event, a part of each pilgrim’s registration fee will be set aside in a “solidarity fund” which will help pay the cost of the trip and their stay for those who would not otherwise be able to afford it. World Youth Day “is not for the rich, but rather for everyone, for those who come from Madagascar and from the south of Latin America.” said Bishop Cesar Franco, an auxiliary bishop in Madrid. He underlined the necessity of the 10 Euro contribution to the “solidarity fund” which has been added to each pilgrim’s registration. In this sense he said, they have appealed to the youth to be “generous.”

Registration this year is taking place online. The website was designed by ISBAN, with the financial support of various Spanish institutions. At the end of the event, the Archdiocese of Madrid will make a gift of the system to the Vatican, in the hopes that it can be used to help organize future pilgrimages. The system, which features a two-layer page, will collect personal information via a secure connection in order to help the archbishop and coordinators know more about the pilgrims and their needs in order to better serve them.

Though registration is not required to participate in all the events, the organization behind WYD Madrid 2011 is hoping to register at least 40 percent of the people who will attend. They are also projecting that the event will draw a crowd that is 15 percent larger than those of previous World Youth Days.

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CHA probably feared government more than bishops, says Miami archbishop

Rome, Italy, Jul 2, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Asked for comment on the position of U.S. bishops with regard to the Catholic Health Association's (CHA) support for President Obama's health care bill, Archbishop Thomas Wenski explained to CNA that although the bishops opposed the bill for its flaws, CHA most likely “had more to fear from the government than they had to fear from the bishops."

CNA caught up to the recently appointed Metropolitan Archbishop of Miami in Rome where he had just received the pallium from Pope Benedict XVI.

Speaking of the U.S. bishops position in regard to the CHA on Obama's health bill, he said, "We were pretty forthright with our concerns of the legislation that was passed by Congress to our opposition."

He explained that the bishops opposed it because it did not provide adequate conscience protection.

"It did not, in spite of what its proponents alleged, it did not keep our money from going to fund abortions and it also left out undocumented aliens from any protection or any possibility of health insurance even if they were going to pay for it themselves.

"So," he went on, "the bill was flawed and we thought that the administration could have addressed our concerns and still have had a bill that they would have been happy with.

"As it is now, we are very concerned for the future, and unfortunately I think the CHA probably had more to fear from the government than they had to fear from the bishops, so it was not an encouraged moment for them."

Emphasizing the importance of the bishops' voices in the public square on similar matters, Archbishop Wenski said that "often times people will criticize us as if we are trying to impose our views ... but we do have a proposal to make and a word to share.

"We would be remiss in our duties as teachers of the faith not to witness to that word and to make our proposal as to what constitutes the necessary conditions for human flourishing in American society."

Looking to the future, Archbishop Wenski said that the U.S. bishops would "certainly be very much in favor of the administration going back and fixing what we still think are very flawed parts of the health care legislation."

Recognizing their role in health care reform advocacy for the last 40 years, he underscored "we weren't willing to go for health care reform under (just) any conditions. Basically we have said that health care reform means that it should be accessible to everybody and nobody should be killed. And this Obamacare does not make it accessible to everybody and it allows for people to be killed, mainly unborn children at the taxpayer's expense."

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‘Iraqi Church is alive,’ bishop declares as Iraq violence declines

Baghdad, Iraq, Jul 2, 2010 (CNA) - A leading bishop in Iraq has that violence has decreased in the country, but advises continued vigilance. Neither terrorism nor fear have been defeated, he reported, urging the establishment of a strong and broadly supported government. “The Iraqi Church is alive,” he declared in an interview.

Figures published by Iraq’s Defense, Health and Interior Ministers show the number of Iraqis killed in violent action in June was 284, with 204 civilian deaths, 50 policemen and 30 military. This figure is less than the 437 killed in June 2009. In May 2010, 337 people were killed including as many as 275 civilians.

The number of violent injuries is also down from 718 in May to 610 in June, SIR News reports.

Citing the independent website, SIR says that 4,409 U.S. servicemen have been killed since 2003, including 10 who died last month.

“Violence has decreased, but we must keep alert and not lower the guard,” Bishop Shlemon Warduni, the Chaldean Patriarchal Vicar of Baghdad, told SIR. “Terrorist attacks are going on, even if with fewer victims, but that does not mean that terrorism has been defeated, nor has fear. There is always fear of a car bomb or a kamikaze blowing you up.”

“People must be alert,” he repeated. The best way to bring down the violence, he said, is to “work hard to establish a new Government that must be strong and supported by all the Iraqis who are tired of this life and are even scared of the future. And this is not acceptable, we must live in the hope of rebuilding Iraq.”

U.S. and Iraqi officers have warned about the risks of a new outbreak of violence if negotiations to establish a new government last too long and allow rebel groups the chance to destabilize the country.

The bishop said this reconstruction effort is made more difficult by neighboring countries “which still let the terrorists cross the borders and which want to use the assets of our country.”

In the present situation, he added, Christian communities “do not fail to give their contribution in terms of deeds and hope, despite many sufferings.”

“The Iraqi Church is alive, as proven by the Chaldean nuns who will take their vows in Karamles tomorrow and by the ordination of the new bishop of Erbil, Bashar Warda,” Bishop Warduni told SIR.

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Weak Indonesian government allowing growth of extremist Muslim groups, priest warns

Jakarta, Indonesia, Jul 2, 2010 (CNA) - Commenting on the rise of attacks by extremist Muslim groups in Indonesia, a local priest told Fides news on Thursday that a government weakened by corruption is partly to blame for the unrest.

On July 1, Fides reported on a recently launched campaign by several Islamic extremist groups, allegedly fighting “against the Christianization of Indonesia” and for “the adoption of Sharia in the country.”

In the past week, Bekasi, a town close Jakarta, has been hosting a conference for over 200 leaders of radical Islamic groups, including the Islam Defender Front (FPI), the "Bekasi Movement Against Apostates,” and the “Islamic Ummah Forum.”

Fr. Emmanuel Harja, priest of the Diocese of Jakarta and Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Indonesia, denounced the groups and gave his opinions as to why he believes the extremists are allowed to flourish.

“Radicals of the FPI  are taking advantage of the weak central government, rocked by scandals of corruption and misrule, which have affected political, financial, military leaders,” Fr. Harja told Fides. “This explains how militant Islamists have once again reared their heads and gained ground. The government itself fears them. The radicals also count on support from the political world.”

“It's often violent militants who openly encourage hostility against all Christians,” he added. “We ask the government to stop them and ensure freedom of religion and faith in all religious communities. It's a matter of justice and respect for fundamental rights.”

In addition to Catholics decrying the initiatives of the FPI, several political officials and Muslim leaders have called for their disbanding.

“The violence committed by the Islamic Defenders’ Front has been systematic and is threatening to society,” said lawmaker Ribka Tjiptaning, on June 30.  According to UCAN News, Tjiptaning also criticized the local police and the domestic affairs minister for their reportedly slow response to the issue.

Muslim leader Iqbal Sulam, Secretary General of  “Nahdlatul Ulama,” one of the largest Indonesian Muslim organizations, with 60 million followers, also weighed in on the situation.

“If we call for the Sharia in Bekasi, other religious communities in other provinces could do the same, calling for policies based on the principles of faiths,” warned Sulam. “Islam is a blessing for the whole universe and it is a duty for all Muslims to respect believers of other faiths.”

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President's immigration reform speech a 'good sign,' says USCCB migration director

Washington D.C., Jul 2, 2010 (CNA) - Commenting on President Obama's speech on immigration reform Thursday morning, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops migration director told CNA that the address was a “good sign” that the president is concerned and involved with the issue.

On July 1, President Obama spoke on the need to reform the country's “broken” immigration system, condemning partisanship and stressing the necessity of both parties working together to pass immigration reform. The president also criticized states such as Arizona for taking “ill-conceived” steps in devising their own legislative responses in reforming immigration policies.

Although the speech was received by the media with mixed reactions– including some commentators saying that the president addressed nothing new in his talk – USCCB director Migration and Public Affairs Kevin Appleby said that the address was important, since “without presidential leadership, immigration reform is not going to happen.”

“It was a good sign that the president did a high profile speech laying out the administration's view on this,” Appleby said during a phone interview on Thursday, adding that “it is a major issue on his agenda that needs to be examined.”

President Obama, he asserted, is “not going to shy away from this issue while many in Washington want to not take it up.”

During his speech, the president also “made a lot of references to the faith community and faith leaders being important,” Appleby noted. The speech was attended by about 250 people, including a Methodist bishop and several evangelical leaders.

Speaking on the U.S. bishops' perspective on immigration reform, Appleby said that “at this point the bishops and the president are very close in their viewpoint.”

“Certainly they might differ on the details, especially on enforcement, but I think by and large,” the president's speech “was an affirmation of where the Church is.”

When asked what the U.S. bishops' concerns are regarding immigration reform, Appleby listed “bringing people out of the shadows” for legalization, due process issues, and exploring underlying push factors for why people are immigrating to the U.S. in the first place as some of the major points.

Ultimately, the “Catholic community is key” to reform efforts, said Appleby. “Whether you agree or disagree with what the law says, there are people that are desperate and in need of assistance.”

For Catholics to understand the need for solidarity with immigrants is an  “important message,” he concluded.

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Italian government optimistic court ruling on crucifixes in classrooms will be overturned

Rome, Italy, Jul 2, 2010 (CNA) - The Italian government has expressed optimism about the outcome of an appeal against a European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling barring the display of crucifixes in school classrooms. Officials said the crucifix is not a threat to “secularity” and is not used for indoctrination.

Last November the court said the display of crosses in Italian schools violated children’s and parents’ freedom of belief. The government requested that the case be referred to the Grand Chamber, the court’s appellate body.

After a three-hour hearing on Wednesday, Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini said Italy had “everything in order to ensure a positive result.”

“This is a great battle for the freedom and identity of our Christian values,” he said, according to ANSA.

European Policies minister Andrea Ronchi said the appeal allowed the court the opportunity to “re-establish common sense principles.”

"It is obvious the crucifix is not a symbol that damages the principle of secularity in education and it threatens the rights of no one," he said. "I am therefore confident of a positive outcome to this appeal."

Both officials noted the significance of the fact that eight member states from the Council of Europe, the human rights body of 47 countries that founded the ECHR, had intervened in support of Italy.

The Grand Chamber also authorized written observations from 10 non-governmental organizations including Human Rights Watch, Interrights, the Italian Christian Workers Association and the Central Committee of German Catholics. Further, 33 members of the European Parliament, which has no link to the ECHR, were given permission to intervene for the first time ever.

According to ANSA, the Grand Chamber rarely agrees to hear appeals and then only on matters deemed of particular significance to the Council of Europe’s member states.

The 20 European judges present at Wednesday’s hearing will reconsider the original arguments and are not expected to publish their decision for several months.

In November 2009, the Strasbourg court unanimously upheld an application from a Finnish-born Italian mother, stressing that parents must be allowed to educate their children as they see fit. The court said children were entitled to freedom of religion.

Although the crucifix could be “encouraging” for some pupils, the court said, it could be “emotionally disturbing” for pupils of other religions or those who profess no religion. The court said the state has an obligation to refrain from “imposing beliefs, even indirectly, in places where persons are dependent on it or in places where they are particularly vulnerable.”

Italian government representative Nicola Lettieri argued against the court, saying the crucifixes in Italy’s classrooms are "a passive symbol that bear no relationship to the actual teaching, which is secular." He said “no indoctrination” was involved and contended that the cross did not deprive parents of the right to raise their children as they saw fit.

“Italy without the crucifix would no longer be Italy,” said Joseph Weiler, a jurist representing the eight countries supporting Italy. He said the crucifix is both a national and religious symbol, suggesting that religious references and symbols are pervasive in Europe and do not necessarily connote faith. As an example, he noted that not all Britons who sing “God Save the Queen” are believers.

Crucifixes are a fixture in Italian public buildings. The postwar Constitution ordered a separation of Church and State and Catholicism ceased to be Italy’s state religion in 1984.

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Missioners meet ‘Christ in the City’

Denver, Colo., Jul 2, 2010 (CNA) - One is in formation to be a priest. One hopes to practice medicine. One plans to do social ministry. These missioners are called to different work, but they all share one desire: to serve Christ.

And they did during a two-week mission in Denver, Colorado that ended last week called Christ in the City. An initiative of Catholic Charities of the Denver Archdiocese, the pilot program gave 25 young adults from Colorado and other states the opportunity to combine spiritual and academic formation with service.

The Denver Catholic Register caught up with Christ in the City June 10 during a field day for 180 inner-city youths the mission co-sponsored with Catholic Charities Youth Services at a middle school in Denver’s Montbello neighborhood.

“The purpose of Christ in the City is to form future leaders in Catholic charitable work who love the poor with the heart of Christ,” explained missioner Chris Miller, 21, of St. Paul, Minn.

A third-year seminarian at St. John Vianney College Seminary in his home diocese, Miller spoke to the Register in between leading games on a grassy field.

“It’s very much needed to have social work that is connected to Christ,” Miller said as playing youngsters darted across the field shrieking with delight. “In Christ in the City I’m able to practice leadership qualities that will help me in my priesthood.”

The field day youngsters came from a couple of different schools. A second field day for 75 refugee children took place the following day at another site.

“The goal of the field days is to give kids who may not have an opportunity for a day camp to have a fun day of recreation,” explained Yvonne Noggle, Christ in the City coordinator.

According to the student participants, the event was a success.

“It’s been really fun,” said 10-year-old Charlie Jones as he stood in line in the school cafeteria to get lunch. Describing his favorite game at the event, the water bucket relay, he added with a grin, “I liked the part where I got wet.”

Journei Winters, 10, agreed, adding that she also liked the missioners.

“They’re nice,” she said with a smile.

Other jobs Christ in the City missioners did over the two weeks included serving the elderly at Mullen Home; providing outreach assistance to pregnant women and new mothers at the Respect Life Office’s Gabriel House; teaching English as a Second Language at the Denver Archdiocese’s Hispanic institute Centro San Juan Diego; doing cleanup at St. Joseph Parish in Denver; and helping the homeless at the Father Ed Judy House and at Samaritan House.

The missioners lived in community—the females at one site, the males at another—and were  commissioned for their service by Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. Their spiritual formation included morning and evening prayer, daily Mass, and a penance service and eucharistic adoration. They concluded their service with a mountain retreat.

Their educational formation included studying Catholic social teaching and evangelization at the Augustine Institute and learning about nonprofit business at Catholic Charities.

“I was looking for a comprehensive volunteer program that focused on service, spirituality and learning,” said missioner Megan Crain, 22, as she ate her lunch. “It’s been a wonderful experience.”

From Duluth, Minn., Crain recently earned a bachelor’s degree in biology. Her primary service during the two-week mission was working at Gabriel House, providing material and spiritual support to mothers in need. Crain said she aims to become a doctor and serve underprivileged populations.

“Hopefully, this will help with that,” she said. 

Finding the mission valuable, Crain signed on for an internship with Catholic Charities and will help launch the yearlong Christ in the City program fall 2011.

“Just having this experience is enriching,” she said. “I’m thankful to be here.”

Missioner Elizabeth Pena, 22, resides in Greeley. She just earned a bachelor’s degree in human services, which she hopes to put to use in a nonprofit such as Catholic Charities. Her primary job during the mission was ministering alongside the Little Sisters of the Poor caring for the elderly at Mullen Home.

“I’m learning what it means to serve others—to humbly serve with charity,” she said.

Already armed with academic knowledge, Pena said the Christ in the City mission gave her the opportunity to experience the reality of service and affirmed her desire to do charitable work.

“It’s moving from my mind to my heart,” Pena said. “It’s turning into being God’s people. We’re not here to cure poverty, but to love people.”

The program promised the missioners the opportunity to meet “Christ in the City.” Pena said she did in those she served.

“I’m seeing Christ in others by really looking at the person and seeing they have feelings, a history and a story,” Pena said. “I’m taking time to connect with them and learn their story.”

Based on the success of the pilot program, organizers are already planning the yearlong experience set for fall 2011 with the ultimate goal of launching a nationwide movement.

“Our goal of Christ in the City was to give the participants a glimpse of a yearlong movement that encompasses the integral human being: mind, body and soul,” Noggle said. “Through the intellectual, charitable and spiritual components of this program, the lives of the missionaries and those they served were profoundly affected.”

Project initiator Jonathan Reyes, president and CEO of Catholic Charities in the Denver Archdiocese, said the results affirmed the mission’s objective.

“We aimed to impart a vision for leadership and to stretch the young people in their leadership ability,” he said. “We accomplished both. It was a visionary and challenging program that put their leadership to the test. That’s what made it work. It’s just a taste of what we can accomplish in a yearlong program. It’s the tip of the iceberg.”

Expressing gratitude to the project collaborators—the Christian Life Movement and the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul—Reyes said he’s already heard from other dioceses interested in the program.

“I totally expect it to be a nationwide phenomenon and movement,” he said. “It’s clearly filling a need in the young who love Christ and want to serve.”

Printed with permission from the Denver Catholic Register, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Denver.

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Italian city to become 'pulsating heart' of Church during Sunday's Papal visit

Rome, Italy, Jul 2, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - On July 4, Pope Benedict XVI will make an Pastoral Visit to the town of Sulmona, Italy. During his visit, which the local region's president said will "in a moment" turn the area into the center of the Universal Church, he will visit Pope Celestine V's relics.

Gianni Chiodi, president of Italy's Abruzzo region where both Sulmona and L'Aquila are located, looked forward to the visit this Sunday saying that "with the presence of the Pontiff, Sulmona and Abruzzo,land in need of hope, rebirth and development, will become in a moment the pulsating heart of the Universal Church."

Arriving on Sunday morning by helicopter, Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate Mass in the town square, "Piazza Garibaldi." Highlights for the day include the inauguration of a house for elderly and sick priests bearing the Pope's name, an encounter with youth in the local cathedral and a visit to the its crypt where he will venerate the relics of Sts. Panfilo and Celestine.

The remains of 13th century Pope Celestine V, known as St. Celestine, were spared in the earthquake in L'Aquila in April 2009 that destroyed the Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio where his body was held in a glass casket.

The Holy Father visited the city and venerated Celestine V's relics later that month, placing his Papal pallium upon the saint's body. Later, in Sept. of that year, the glass reliquary was moved to a chapel in the Cathedral of Sulmona where it is still housed.

The Holy Father's visit comes within  the "Celestine Year"proclaimed by him in Aug. 2009 for the 800th anniversary of the the saint's birth.

St. Panfilo, who also lies in the crypt of Sulmona's cathedral, was a 7th century Italian bishop.

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Pope looks forward to occasion provided for international youth in WYD 2011

Rome, Italy, Jul 2, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Holy Father met on Friday with the Cardinal Archbishop of Madrid Antonio Maria Rouco Varela and sponsors working for the success of World Youth Day 2011. The Pope explained the importance of next August's encounter of youth during the audience after which WYD 2011's executive director briefed journalists on the planning process.

Many of the 55 people present for the audience with the Pope on Friday were from the "Madrid Vivo" Foundation, founded by the cardinal and local businessmen last year to "seek solutions to the moral roots of the economic crisis" and to make the city more aware of values.

Yago de la Cierva, executive director and spokesman for WYD 2011, explained to journalists in the Holy See's Press Office that the major aim of the foundation at the moment is collaboration with the organizers of the next World Youth Day, to be held in the Spanish capital.

During Friday's audience with them in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace, Pope Benedict XVI invited the members of "Madrid Vivo" to continue their generous collaboration for this "beautiful initiative," saying that it's not just a simple meeting of the masses, "but a privileged occasion so that the young people of your country and of the entire world may let themselves be 'conquered' by the love of Christ Jesus..."

He noted that there are many young people looking forward to the encounter to be held from Aug. 16-21 of next year, where they will meet to "listen together to the Word of Christ, ever young, and be able to share the faith that unites them and the desire that they have to build a better world, inspired in the values of the Gospel."

Mr. de la Cierva said that after the audience the Pope signed a registration form as the first pilgrim for WYD 2011.

He also mentioned that plans are moving forward smoothly for the encounter for which Cardinal Rouco Varela expects more than two million participants, including more than 600,000 youth will come from outside of Spain.

Among the broad cross-section of details he provided regarding the complexities of the considerations that go into planning for the "Day" and the variety of charitable contributions they have received, the executive director explained that planners are making extensive use of social networks to get feedback from youth and give them a greater say in decisions regarding the initiative.

To reach out to youth, the organizing committee has 70 volunteers working online in 17 different languages. Mr. de la Cierva said proudly that their Facebook page just welcomed their 111,111th "friend," a "significant" milestone for WYD 2011.

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Pope Benedict XVI to Castel Gandolfo next week

Vatican City, Jul 2, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Holy Father will spend most of July at the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo. Although he will still be available for the Sunday Angelus, his schedule will be otherwise rather bare for the "period of rest."

The Prefecture of the Pontifical Household announced on Friday that the Holy Father will retreat to the summer residence, 25 miles southeast of Rome, on July 7.

The Holy See's Press Office noted that all private and special audiences will be suspended during the Pope's holidays, including general audiences normally held on Wednesdays. The next general audience after July 7 will be held on Aug. 4.

During what the Vatican noted as his "period of rest," Benedict XVI will, however, publicly recite the Angelus prayers on Sundays, according to the Vatican.

Pope Benedict XVI is known to spend his vacation time between intense study and prayer.

The major event remaining on the his schedule before next week's departure is a pastoral Visit to Sulmona, Italy this Sunday in commemoration of the 800th year since the birth of St. Celestine, a 13th century Pope.


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Christians and Muslims must unite in their shared suffering to build better Iraq, says Pope

Rome, Italy, Jul 2, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Recognizing the democratic election of the new president in Iraq, the Holy Father hoped on Friday that the change would bring increased stability,  security and unity in the country. He encouraged all Iraqis, Christians and Muslims alike, to unite in their "shared suffering" to build "a just, moral and peaceable environment."

Pope Benedict spoke about the importance of the shared contribution while accepting the credentials of Iraq's new ambassador Mr. Habbeb Mohammed Hadi Ali Al-Sadr on Friday morning in the Vatican.

In his words to the delegate, Benedict XVI applauded the country's achievement of democratically electing new president Jalal Talabani, pointing to the "clear sign" Iraqis gave the world "that they wish to see an end to violence and that they have chosen the path of democracy."

He noted the "great courage and determination" of the people in turning out to vote and asked for the same qualities from elected officials so that a "more stable and unified Iraq" may quickly be established.

The Holy Father went on to call for the new government to give priority to the protection of "all sectors in the area" and hopedthat the country's future "will be marked by peaceful coexistence."

Citing the particular contribution of Christians to the stability of society and improvement of infrastructure in Iraq, he said that "if they are to play their full part, however, Iraqi Christians need to know that it is safe for them to remain in or return to their homes, and they need assurances that their properties will be restored to them and their rights upheld."

Ambassador Ali Al-Sadr had spoken to the Holy Father of the terrorism that plagues the country and "has never made distinction between Christianity and Islam.

"To the contrary," said the new envoy, "its aggressions and intimidations have involved all Iraqi components in the same way."

Responding to these words, Pope Benedict XVI said that through this "shared suffering," Christians and Muslims can find a "deep bond, strengthening the determination ... to work for peace and reconciliation."

He referred also to the respect for human rights and their protection in the country, praying that in particular the rights to freedom of religion and worship will "not only be enshrined in legislation, but will come to permeate the very fabric of society."

"All Iraqis have a part to play in building a just, moral and peaceable environment," he stated.

Hoping that an "impetus" for inter-religious dialogue would be provided by October's Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, the Holy Father concluded by emphasizing that it is his "earnest hope that Iraq will emerge from the difficult experiences of the past decade as a model of tolerance and cooperation among Muslims, Christians and others in the service of those most in need."

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Belgian bishops lament authorities' lack of respect for confidentiality

Brussels, Belgium, Jul 2, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Bishop of Belgium's Diocese of Tournai, Guy Harpigny, made a statement on Thursday expressing the regret of Belgian bishops at the way the search of the archbishop's offices was carried out last week. He hoped for further dialogue with authorities to search for possibilities to carry on the work of assisting victims while ensuring that their privacy is protected.

Bishop Harpigny is the episcopal delegate for relations with the commission in charge of dealing with cases of sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussels.

As long as searches by judicial authorities take place within the prescribed legal framework and are based on "legitimate and specific" indices and use proportionate instruments, he said in a note released by the Belgian Bishops' Conference, the bishops are not against the searches such as the one that took place on June 24.

However, he continued, the bishops "regret" the way the search was carried out within the commission which handled cases of sexual abuse in the archdiocese. "It's clear," Bishop Harpigny explained, that the confiscation of victims' records disrupted "the possibility for the commission to continue its delicate, but healing mission."

Every member of the commission, led by psychiatrist Peter Adriaenssens, stepped down this week after Belgian authorities took all 475 dossiers regarding victims with them after the search of the archbishop's offices.

Bishop Harpigny related the hopes of Belgium's bishops that a "constructive dialogue" with authorities would be forthcoming in order to examine the possibility of continuing the commission's objectives "in one form or another, without risking that the victims' confidence again be undermined."

He thanked the disbanded commission in the communiquefor their "prompt and good" work, while also expressing "sadness" and "comprehension and respect" for the commission members' decision to resign.

The bishop underscored his "respect and sympathy to all persons that had found the courage to confide their injuries" in contacting the commmission, adding that "we are sincerely displeased that the current situation impedes their path from moving ahead."

The message was co-signed by Bishop of Antwerp, Johan Jozef Bonny.
Also making a statement was Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard, who reflected on the encounter with the Holy Father on Wednesday. He explained that the Pope met with him out of interest for the situation and to receive information on the searches from a primary source.

During the 20-minute visit, he said he was "touched by the solicitude and the attention of Benedict XVI" while they talked about how the searches were carried out and how things had continued to develop after the fact.

"I found him remarkably well informed," commented Archbishop Leonard, who added that "the Pope assured the bishops of Belgian of his support and his closeness in these delicate moments."

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