London, England, Jul 7, 2010 (CNA) - As details for the upcoming Papal visit to the United Kingdom continue to be announced, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster recently discussed some of the opportunities that will be available for the people of England to follow the Pope on his trip.
The British prelate also addressed the cost of the September 16-19 visit, which has been the subject of recent media criticism.
Speaking to Vatican Radio, Archbishop Nichols, current president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, explained that preparations are being made to offer ample opportunity for the faithful to participate in the Holy Father's visit to the country.
“There are three large outdoor events, and in an age of safety regulations, security problems, making sure that nothing can possibly go wrong, three major outdoor events in three different locations in three days is a real challenge,” the archbishop said.
“Then there will be drives that the Pope will make in the Popemobile through the centers of the cities, and that will give a lot more people the chance to come out and to greet him and to show him their support,” he continued.
“Then we will have full live coverage on our website and we are also producing a booklet with all of the liturgies that will the Pope will preside at, so that people whether they are sitting in front of their televisions or in front of giant screens in their parish community centers can pray together with the Pope, following him word for word, while he is here.”
Access to papal events will not be limited to Catholics, said Archbishop Nichols. But non-Catholics wishing to attend must go through their local Catholic parish, he explained. For security reasons, pilgrims must travel to the events in groups.
In coming days, parishes across England and Wales will be told how to apply for invitations to papal events in Bellahouston Park, Glasgow, Hyde Park in London, and Cofton Park near Birmingham.
At a recent press conference, Lord Patten of Barnes, Government co-ordinator for the papal visit, expressed support for the upcoming trip.
Lord Patten said that the Government is determined to make the Pope's trip a success “not only out of respect for the Pope, not only out of determination to enhance the reputation of the United Kingdom, but because this will be an event followed by millions of people around the world,” reported Catholic Herald, a U.K. newspaper.
According to Lord Patten, the Government will pay £10 to £12 million for the state aspects of the visit, not including policing costs. While this is greater than the original £8 million, it covers the four-day span of the Pope's visit and is still far short of the £90 million that the state paid for just one day of the G20 conference in London last year.
Amid recent criticism from various media outlets over the costs associated with the trip, Archbishop Nichols told Vatican Radio that from Lord Patten's statements, “it is perfectly clear that the British Government is very supportive of this visit, totally committed to its success and ready to meet its share of the costs.”
“The Catholic community is likewise totally committed to this visit,” he continued. “It is a state visit, every aspect of it is part of a state visit, but the Catholic community will willingly and readily support those aspects of the visit which are quite explicitly an expression of Catholic faith. So the liturgies, the moments of prayer, those aspects of the visit will be entirely funded by the Catholic community.”
The archbishop said that the Church has raised almost £5 million, including £1.1 million through the special collection at Pentecost, said the Catholic Herald.
Noting that “this visit costs probably about half of that one day G20 summit,” Archbishop Nichols explained that “in terms of Britain’s standing in the world, in terms of the UK’s presence on the world stage the cost of this visit are not considerable at all.”
Brussels, Belgium, Jul 7, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - As part of a government probe into allegations of child abuse by priests, Cardinal Godfried Danneels was questioned for several hours by Belgian police on Tuesday. Reportedly in “a state of shock,” he is said to have difficulty believing that many people think he knew about sexual abuse and did nothing.
The 77-year-old cardinal led the Catholic Church in Belgium until his retirement last year. A retired priest has accused him of sheltering abusive priests during his tenure from 1979 to 2009, the Agence France Presse reports. The cardinal has denied any cover-up.
During police questioning, Cardinal Danneels was reportedly confronted by Dr. Peter Adriaenssens, a psychiatrist who formerly headed a church-backed commission probing hundreds of reported cases of clerical child abuse.
As he was leaving the police building, Adriaenssens told reporters he could not and did not want to talk about the contents of what he called a “confrontation.”
“Justice must now do its work,” he said, according to the AFP.
"Regarding Cardinal Danneels' state of mind, he is clearly in a state of shock," the psychiatrist continued. “It is very difficult for him to know that a good number of people thought that he knew and did nothing. “He is surprised that such serious facts are being linked to him.”
In late June, police raided the Belgian Church’s headquarters, seized computer files from the cardinal’s home, and drilled into tombs in the cathedral's crypt to search for sex abuse dossiers. Lawyers for Cardinal Danneels and for the Archbishop of Brussels-Mechelen have questioned the legality of the raid.
Adriaenssens had resigned his position as a result of the abuse commission’s materials being confiscated. He has faulted the authorities for allegedly betraying the trust of nearly 500 victims who had made their complaints in confidence. He also has blamed state prosecutors for questioning victims too traumatized to speak to the police.
Leading prelates in Belgium have been accused of covering up sexual abuse and even committing abuse themselves.
The Bishop of Bruges Roger Vangheluwe resigned in April after admitting to sexually abusing a boy for years.
Richmond, Va., Jul 7, 2010 (CNA) - “Countless hours” of behind-the-scenes advocacy helped add significant restrictions on abortion funding to the Virginia budget, the director of the Virginia Catholic Conference (VCC) has explained. Recounting how years of work finally succeeded, he said the participation of involved Catholics made “the critical difference.”
In an account posted on the blog of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, VCC head Jeff Caruso noted that the Conference has pushed for restrictions on abortion since its inception in 2005. Its figures showed that Virginian taxpayers have been paying for more than 100 abortions per year.
“Promotion of laws that uphold the sanctity of life is an important part of the pro-life work of Catholic Virginians,” Caruso noted, saying that this includes outreach to women in crisis pregnancies and post-abortion outreach.
Members of the VCC’s e-mail advocacy network “consistently” voiced their opposition to paying for abortions in “hundreds” of e-mails to their delegates and state senators, he recalled. However, in each General Assembly session the House of Delegates would approve abortion-funding restrictions but these would be rejected by “a few Senate leaders” during final budget negotiations.
According to Caruso, the support of Gov. Bob McDonnell helped power the success of the 2010 restriction effort. On April 13, the governor proposed an amendment to ban state funding of all abortions except those required by federal law or state statute.
“The Conference, its allies, and its grassroots network sprinted toward the finish line with a clear goal — to capture a majority of votes in the Senate, where both supporters and opponents of the amendment expected a razor-thin margin,” Caruso commented.
The VCC sent multiple alerts to its network, communicated with key senators, and coordinated with allied pro-life organizations. The Conference also provided urgent bulletin and pulpit announcements to parishes and then followed up with parish leaders in key districts.
While the Senate vote appeared to be a 20-20 tie that could be broken by the vote of the anti-funding Lieutenant Gov. Bill Bolling, he was stranded in Italy because of the volcanic activity in Iceland.
This resulted in intensified pro-life efforts. While the House approved the amendment by a 64-30 margin, the Catholic Conference learned that one of the Senate’s pro-life legislators had to catch a plane flight before the Senate vote.
At 9:00 p.m. on April 21, Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) explained the amendment and “effectively” countered the arguments of the five senators who spoke against the bill, according to Caruso.
“As pro-life advocates watched from the Senate gallery, the contentious floor debate concluded, and senators were asked to record their votes. As the green and red dots were registered next to each senator’s name on the electronic voting board, the green thankfully outnumbered the red … by one. The Senate’s 20-19 vote handed the pro-life cause in Virginia a historic victory!”
Caruso reported that there was an “unprecedented level” of responses to VCC network alerts on the abortion funding restriction proposal. Those who responded to the alert, including parishes who promoted it, made “the critical difference.”
The VCC head urged Catholics in Virginia to visit the Conference’s website, http://vacatholic.org, and enroll as a network member.
Vatican City, Jul 7, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI continued on the theme of medieval theologians at Wednesday's general audience, as he taught about a Franciscan priest and teacher named Blessed John Duns Scotus. The Holy Father remembered his loyalty and devotion to Christ, the Church and the Successor of St. Peter, as well as his contributions to Christian thought.
The last scheduled private or public audience for the Pope until August was attended by around 7,000 cheering pilgrims, who filled the Paul VI Hall.
During his catechesis, the Pope recalled the life of the medieval Scottish priest and theologian, Blessed John Duns Scotus. He spoke of how the Franciscan, who taught at Oxford, Cambridge, and later in Paris, left France instead of betraying Pope Boniface VIII who was in conflict with King Phillip IV.
This fact, said the Pope, "invites us to remember how many times in the history of the Church, believers have found hostility and promptly even persecution because of their loyalty and devotion to Christ, to the Church and to the Pope.
"We all look with admiration to these Christians, that teach us to protect as a precious inheritance the faith in Christ and the communion with the Successor of Peter and, therefore, with the Universal Church."
This message was particularly poignant on Wednesday as the stabbing deaths of a priest and a sister of in the Mongolian underground Church were reported by the Laogai Research Foundation.
Continuing on the life of the 13th century Franciscan, the Pope said that Blessed Scotus provided three major contributions to Christian thought. The first gift is his "great Christocentric vision" that in the Incarnation "every creature, in and through Christ, is called to be perfected in grace and to glorify God forever." The second contribution is the theory which led to the dogma "that Our Lady's preservation from original sin was a privilege granted in view of her Son's redemptive passion and death." And finally, Pope Benedict noted his "great attention to the issue of human freedom"as one of his gifts to Christian thought.
Turning to a passage from Pope John Paul II's address at Blessed Scotus' 1993 beatification ceremony, Pope Benedict indicated that it "summarize(s) the notable contribution that Duns Scotus made to the history of theology." That day, the late Pope remembered the medieval priest and theologian as "the cantor of the incarnate Word and defender of the Immaculate Conception of Mary."
Pope Benedict XVI concluded Wednesday's audience by saying that the Franciscan "teaches us that the essential thing in our lives is to believe that God is close to us and loves us in Jesus Christ, and to cultivate, then, a profound love for Him and His Church.
"We are the witnesses of that love on this earth," he said.
Before Wednesday's audience, as he made his way to the hall, the Holy Father blessed a statue of St. Hannibal Maria of France, recently set into a niche in the exterior wall of St. Peter's Basilica near Paul VI Hall.
Vatican City, Jul 7, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Holy Father retired on Wednesday afternoon to his residence at Castel Gandolfo where he will be spending the greater part of the next few months. He asked for prayers as he retires for a time of rest, work, study and writing.
Today, Pope Benedict broke with the tradition of his first five summers as Pope, which entailed heading to the mountains in the north of Italy. This year he will stay in the papal villa just minutes from Rome by helicopter.
The director of the Pontifical Villas, Saverio Petrillo, told Vatican Radio on Tuesday that there was great anticipation surrounding the Pope's arrival and that staff there has been working hard, but with "joy and enthusiasm," to prepare for the occasion.
Petrillo explained that Castel Gandolfo has been used for the last 400 years as the "stable See" for Popes in summer. He added also that the Holy Father took to the villa—from which one can observe Rome and the Mediterranean on one side and a lake and surrounding hills on the other—immediately upon arriving there for his first visit in May of 2005.
According to a report from Marco Ansaldo in La Repubblica, the Pope's days will begin with 7:30 a.m. Mass and then continue with time divided between study, meditation, prayer, music and writing.
Ansaldo said that the Pope has a twofold "ambitious objective" this summer: "beginning a new book on the Gospels of the infancy of Jesus and giving form to the first draft of his new encyclical, the fourth of his Pontificate."
The encyclical, he reported, will likely be on "Faith."
Looking forward to his time at the hilltop retreat, the Holy Father asked during the Polish greeting after the catechesis at Wednesday morning's general audience for "prayers in the days of my sojourn at Castel Gandolfo."
Vatican City, Jul 7, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Updates to canon law on the gravest sins in the Church can be expected in the coming days, Vatican sources report. The modifications are expected to give "greater clarity" to the Vatican protocol for suspending and laicizing priests.
The last time the law was modified was in 2001 when Pope John Paul II, together with the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine (CDF) of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, defined which offenses were the "delicta graviora," or most serious sins. Those cases were then placed under the sole jurisdiction of the CDF.
The modifications made in 2001 were published in the motu proprio "Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela," which defined the most serious sins as those against the sacrament of Penance, against the Eucharist and against the sixth commandment when committed by a priest against a minor under 18 years of age.
Until that date, the regulations on these violations, including sexual abuse, were provided by the 1962 document "Crimen sollicitationis." According to the Italian news agency APCOM, the old regulations delegated intervention to the bishops' conferences and a variety of Vatican dicasteries, "thus creating and elevating the risk of cover-ups."
The report went on to propose that the soon-to-be-released Vatican document will include wording that will clarify the procedures "for the suspension of a pedophile priest and his reduction to the lay state" and an extension of the statute of limitations, currently set at 10 years after the victim's 18th birthday.
The Italian news agency stated that "the question of the relationship between canonical justice and civil justice, on the other hand, should not enter into the modifications in the process of being published, because it's beyond the scope of ... the strictly canonical material of the 'delicta graviora'."
On this final point, other news reports disagree. Various articles say that the coming motu proprio will establish a more concrete protocol for the CDF's guidance to bishops that they should follow civil procedures in reporting crimes to the appropriate authorities.
Brussels, Belgium, Jul 7, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Responding to an article from Tuesday's edition of the Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws, the Belgian Bishops' Conference released a statement on Thursday explaining that the CDs found in their offices during the recent police raid were sent to the archdiocese by a “third party.” The bishops' spokesman added, “We need serenity and this kind of wild information is insane because it gives the impression of a very dramatic atmosphere with plots all around."
The Het Laatste article from Tuesday was billed as an "exclusive" report that revealed information regarding the cases of two girls killed by "the Monster of Marcinelle," Marc Dutroux, was found in the search of archdiocesan offices. The paper asserted that these documents were destined only for civil courts and not for the Church.
Upon hearing of the newspaper's allegations, the episcopal conference's lawyer, Fernand Keuleneer, contacted judicial authorities to discover the "elements" behind the article. Mr. Keuleneer said he particularly wanted to confirm the origin of the report, the veracity of the information and to discover how it was made public during what is supposed to be a closed investigation.
Receiving no response, the bishops' conference said it released this morning's statement with the information they had on hand.
After conducting an "internal investigation," the conference found that the information on the girls, including pictures and documents, was sent to its office by a third party in CD format as the Dutroux case was being prosecuted.
Other copies had also been sent to court reporters, politicians and other Belgian personalities, the conference said.
This was "in no way a 'unique find'," the bishops' conference asserted.
The Italian bishops' SIR news cited a De Morgen report in which they explain that in 2004 a satirical English newspaper called The Sprout had sent out the CDs seeking reactions during the Dutroux trial.
The Belgian bishops went on to say in their July 7 statement that "It would be really unfortunate that 'information,' falling under professional and investigative secret has been voluntarily disclosed to the press by people involved in the investigation, with the aim only of creating sensationalism.
"This does not contribute to the serenity of the investigation," they said.
According to Vatican Radio, Belgian bishops' spokesman Eric de Beukelaer said today in a press conference, "We need serenity and this kind of wild information is insane because it gives the impression of a very dramatic atmosphere with plots all around."
In their statement, the bishops said they only "wish to cooperate properly with the justice system" and "to contribute by answering questions from investigators, rather than reacting to press reports."
Havana, Cuba, Jul 7, 2010 (CNA) - Following unprecedented dialogue between Cuban officials and the country's Catholic leaders, political authorities in Cuba announced today that they will release 52 political prisoners.
According to the Miami Herald, Cuba's leader Raul Castro announced the move to Cardinal Jaime Ortega of Havana on July 7 during the latest meeting in their nearly two-month series of talks.
Castro informed the cardinal that 5 prisoners will be released immediately with the remaining 47 being allowed to leave the island nation within the next four months, the Herald reports. The 52 were part of a group of 75 dissidents arrested in 2003 for what the local communist government viewed as treason.
Prior to today's announcement, the prelate's talks with Cuban authorities had garnered the release of one prisoner and the transfer of a dozen others to prisons closer to their homes.
The prisoners have reportedly suffered harsh conditions while incarcerated, with some going on hunger strikes as a sign of protest. Ariel Sigler Amaya, a 46-year-old prisoner released last month, became a paraplegic while in prison and now weighs 106 lbs.
Dialogue contributing to the prisoners' release has also been credited to the Vatican's foreign minister, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, who visited the country during the recent Cuban Social Week in June.
Lima, Peru, Jul 7, 2010 (CNA) - Seven foreign embassies in Peru have expressed support for protests organized by homosexual activists groups demanding the legalization of same-sex unions by claiming they are being discriminated against.
The statement of support was signed by the Embassies of Australia, Belgium, the United States, Holland, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, Sweden and the United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS.
The statement expressed their “support and solidarity with the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community of Peru” in their struggle against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
“Our governments and international organizations aim to combat such discrimination by promoting the human rights of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. We call on all governments to ensure that neither sexual orientation nor gender identity be the basis for stigma and discrimination,” the statement reads.
The embassies also congratulated the Peruvian government for approving the 2006 Resolution of the Organization of American States on “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” a document that some groups hope to use to secure the legalization of same-sex unions.
Havana, Cuba, Jul 7, 2010 (CNA) - In a brief statement released on July 6, the Christian Liberation Movement in Cuba, led by Oswaldo Paya, called for the release of all political prisoners in the country and expressed hope that the talks between the Church and the State would achieve this goal.
“Lord willing the talks between the Church and the Spanish government will result in the release of all political prisoners (including Agustin Cervantes, who is a prisoner of conscience),” the statement said.
The movement also said the Cuban government should provide information about the condition of the political prisoners.
“We will not make any more statements until this situation is cleared up, and we reiterate our request for the release of all political prisoners,” the movement said.
In the latest news, Raul Castro, the leader of Cuba, said on July 7 that he would be releasing 52 political prisoners. The news was made public by the Archdiocese of Havana after a meeting between Cardinal Jaime Ortega and Castro.
The Cuban government is believed to be holding about 160 political prisoners.
Vatican City, Jul 7, 2010 (CNA) - Celebrating the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood at a recent Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said the mission of the priest is “to bring heaven down to earth, to bring about the communion of all men and women with God.”
During his homily at the July 6 Mass in Rome, the cardinal explained that the mission of the priest “consists in giving hope to people, in proclaiming that God is good, in alleviating the sorrows of the afflicted, in bringing the meaning of heaven to those who overwhelmed by the tribulations of this earth.”
“As a priest and bishop many times I have experienced the beauty and strength of the Gospel of Jesus, which is truly capable of changing the lives of people,” Cardinal Bertone noted. “In order to understand the live of a priest, one doesn’t necessarily need to ask what a priest does, but rather who a priest is.”
A priest, explained the prelate, “is someone in love with Jesus Christ, his friend.”
“I have also increasingly experienced in these 50 years that the priesthood is an intimate relationship of friendship with Jesus,” he added. “This divine presence has accompanied me and protected me always.”
The cardinal then pointed to Pope Benedict XVI as a “luminous example” of the priesthood and someone who calls on priests to deepen their friendship with Jesus and exhorts them that “ecclesial communion is the basis for an incisive evangelical testimony.”
“When I think of the Church,” he continued, “I think if the faces and names of so many people I have met, appreciated and have strengthened me to serve with my priesthood: beloved priests and so many exemplary priests, faithful religious, generous and strong laypeople, families united together who bear witness to love, young people and the elderly, the humble and the powerful of the earth, men and women in Italy and in the entire continent, happy to have chose Christ and his Gospel.”
Concluding his homily, Cardinal Bertone said, “When I was ordained a priest 50 years ago, as every Salesian of Don Bosco, I was ready to begin the mission amidst young people. This indeed happened, but in a context full of ecclesial spirit: the Pontifical Salesian University, where I passionately devoted my energies.”
“Later came other responsibilities which made me love the particular churches to which I was sent, and with them, the universal Church even more.”