Rome, Italy, Jul 12, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - In an emotional homily given Saturday in the chapel of the Center of Studies for the Legion of Christ in Rome, recently named Pontifical Delegate Archbishop Velasio De Paolis called on the Legionaries to be encouraged on their new path and to trust in the grace of God for the future.
During his homily, Archbishop De Paolis said the last few weeks were stressful for him, “ever since first the Secretary of State, and then the Holy Father, spoke to me about this mission.” Nevertheless, he added, “This is a task that can and must be carried out with the grace of God.”
“Seeing all these priests and students filling the chapel today makes me feel much calmer about myself and about the task I must carry out,” he said.
Archbishop De Paolis said he has presented the current leaders of the Legion with “the letter in which the Holy Father has given me this mandate, and I have also gave them my own letter, to communicate my sentiments and my exhortations for all you upon commencing this assignment.”
“I don’t think it’s appropriate or necessary to repeat these things, because your superiors will be better able to convey them and help you understand them. They have to do with the assignment of the Pontifical Delegate,” he stated.
The archbishop went on to emphasize his task to “bearing witness to the Pope’s closeness to all of you.”
“You yourselves, with your presence are a testimony that invites hope and fills us with encouragement,” he said. “The Pope sends his Delegate to tell you that he loves you and is close to you. At the same time, he knows—as he says himself in the letter—that a great number of the members of this congregation have great zeal and fervor.”
“The Lord has inspired this vocation within you and He has been with you until now,” the archbishop underscored. “At times we need to pause and examine our consciences,” he continued, “not to dwell continuously on the past, but to take stock of the present, of our situation, giving thanks to the Lord above all.”
“The first word that must spring forth from the depth of our hearts is the word ‘thanks.’ Thanks to God who has called us, He has called you to the priestly and religious vocation in this institute. Thanks to God who has accompanied you. Thanks to God that His work will be carried to fruition,” the archbishop said.
He explained that the Church has “completed a first task of discernment, today she wishes to complete the work—through the Pontifical Delegate—of rebuilding, restructuring, or better yet, of a new commitment on our spiritual path.”
“We know that at critical moments so many thoughts pass through our minds. Some even nestle within our hearts,” he continued. But “at a time of confusion, we only need to calm ourselves, we need to discover the presence of God, to believe in a new way in His love and to then resume the path of fidelity,” he said.
“We are called to journey down a path, the Pope tells us, a path of renewal, particularly of the norms that govern our lives, in order to reach the goal of holding an extraordinary chapter, in renewal and with a new understanding, a new awareness and new strength, during which we will reconfirm our fidelity to the Lord, our commitment to following Christ in the profession of the Gospel counsels, and in which we will reconfirm that the Lord is our all.”
After reflecting on the nature of the Saturday as the day of Mary and of silent faithfulness and hope, Archbishop De Paolis exhorted the Legionaries to overcome “the darkness that can oppress us at times, and to overcome the difficulties of our frailty and human weakness as well, because the mystery of God is greater than all human weakness” and because “with God, under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with Jesus who has risen and has called us His friends and brothers, we can do great things, be at the service of His Kingdom and make the Kingdom of God triumph first in ourselves and then by the testimony of our lives.”
Jesus “nourishes us with His word. He becomes our body and blood, He becomes our life and with the life of the Lord in us, we become transfigured people, capable of always giving witness to the mystery of the love of God who journeys in time,” the archbishop said.
Rome, Italy, Jul 12, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Holy See spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi reflected on the recent "good news" from Cuba during this week's "Octava dies" editorial on Vatican Television. He confirmed the Holy See's support for the Cuban Church and spoke of the "important progress" that has been made towards John Paul II's vision of open relations between the Caribbean nation and the world.
Fr. Lombardi said that the liberation of 52 political prisoners and the end of journalist Guillermo Fariñas' hunger strike are "good news" and "significant signs that we hope might indicate stable progress towards that climate of renewed social and political coexistence that we all wish for the Cuban nation."
The announcement of the release of the prisoners, jailed in March of 2003, came in a statement from the Archbishop of Havana's office on July 7 following talks between Raul Castro, Cardinal Archbishop of Havana Jaime Ortega Alamino and Spain's foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos.
In the days following the original announcement, the same office released the names of 17 prisoners who "have accepted the proposal to leave prison and move to Spain" and would be released "soon." Six other prisoners are also set to be transferred to provincial prisons closer to their families.
The July 7 press release included the information that all 52 would be freed in the next two or three months.
Reflecting on the progress, Fr. Lombardi praised the "crucial role" played by church leaders, namely the Archbishop of Havana and the bishops' conference president, Archbishop of Santiago Dionisio Garcia, in the dialogue process. He said that the archbishops' ability to negotiate with the government is linked to "the evident fact that the Catholic Church is profoundly rooted in the people and a reliable interpreter of its spirit and its expectations."
The Church, he explained, "is not a foreign reality, it does not flee in times of difficulty. It takes on suffering and hopes, with dignity and patience ... the continuous commitment to opening the road to understanding and to dialogue."
The Holy See, he added, "in its spiritual solidarity and international authority, accompanies and supports the Cuban Church.
"From John Paul II's visit to the recent visits of Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone and of Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, to the diplomatic contacts in the Vatican on the situation in Cuba, the Holy See has always shown itself to be contary to the embargo and so sympathizing with the suffering of the people and ready to support every prospect of constructive dialogue."
He recalled John Paul II's powerful words during his 1998 journey to the island, "Let Cuba open up to the world and let the world open up to Cuba!" and concluded with the observation that, "wiith patience, important progress has been made in this direction. We all hope that this path continues."
Havana, Cuba, Jul 12, 2010 (CNA) - Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Miguel Angel Moratinos, who was in Cuba in recent days, said Monday that the first 11 political prisoners to be freed will arrive in Spain on July 13 on two separate flights.
The first flight operated by Air Europa will land at 1 p.m., and the second operated by Iberia, will touch down an hour later. Both flights will depart from Havana on Monday evening.
Moratinos said the 11 prisoners will arrive in Spain accompanied by their families, all together totaling some 65 people.
Upon arrival, the freed Cubans will have to decide where they wish to live, whether in Spain or elsewhere, but “of course they will have the support and assistance of the Spanish government,” Moratinos stated.
In this sense, he explained that through entities such as the Spanish Commission for Refugee Aid and the Spanish Red Cross, logistical support will be given to the Cubans, so that they can secure a place to live. Once the political prisoners are “free citizens they shall enjoy all of their rights,” Moratinos said.
Pretoria, South Africa, Jul 12, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Interviewed by Vatican Radio on the significance of World Cup, Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier of Durban, South Africa said that the event has served greatly to build a sense of unity both within Africa and the world community. He said that the legacy of the tournament will be that it has given the people of the continent the vision that they can do things for themselves.
Cardinal Napier said that the "first" and "most important thing" the World Cup did for South Africa was that it gave Africans a sense of belonging to the world community after having been in the spotlight for the month-long tournament. Reflecting on what that means for the continent, he said it "can only be to our advantage that we recognize ourselves as being an important part of the world community."
The cardinal went on to comment that, as a result of hosting the greatest soccer tournament on the planet, "We believe in ourselves, we can see that we can do things, and we don't have to wait for others to do them for us. And I think that's going to be the most important legacy of the World Cup."
In addition to the feeling of membership on a global level, the cardinal also recognized that the tournament had "brought about a sense of solidarity with other African countries," being not only an event for South Africa, but "an event for Africa."
He asserted that the tournament "will make a bigger impression on the unity of Africa than a lot of words by politicians could have ever done."
Cardinal Napier also hoped that politicians would continue to work as hard as they did to make the tournament a success as they do on initiatives to improve health care and education in the country "when the focus of the world is not on us."
Rome, Italy, Jul 12, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Last week, Vatican Radio announced that the first Christian radio station in the Holy Land would be on air by Christmas. The local priest spearheading its creation told them that the station's aim is to be "a voice of peace, of hope, of dialogue and reconciliation" in the region.
The Vatican's radio station is lending a hand to former spokesman of the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem, Fr. Raed Abusahlia, and the last completely Christian village in Palestine, Taybeh, where he is the parish priest, to inaugurate the landmark communications outlet.
“We need a Christian voice in the Holy Land," the priest told Vatican Radio during a recent visit to their Rome headquarters. " ... Even though there are different television and radio stations in the region, we don’t have a single Christian radio station.”
Taybeh's location at over 3,000 feet above sea level provides the Christians with a distinct advantage, enabling them to potentially broadcast their signal to the entire region. Fr. Raed spoke of covering "the whole diocese which extends over Jordan, Palestine and Israel," with the target audience being " the Arabic speaking community from Amman to Gaza, Tel Aviv to Jerusalem."
Fr. Raed said that the station will strive to be “a voice of peace, of hope, of dialogue and reconciliation.
"We will be open to everybody, to the other Churches of the Holy Land. We will give space and time for all the news and celebrations of the other churches ... It will also be open to the other religions, Jews and Muslims.
"We will try to be a bridge," he explained, "because a Christian who is not a bridge is not a Christian."
The parish priest of Taybeh said he expects the radio station to go live on Dec. 24, 2010.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jul 12, 2010 (CNA) - The secretary general’s office of the Bishops’ Conference of Mexico has called on the country’s newly elected officials to not to rest “until justice, peace, equity and fulfillment of life for all Mexicans is an indisputable and palpable fact.”
In a statement the secretary general praised Mexicans for participating in the July 4 elections and making them “the greatest display of democracy in Mexico.”
Their vote lends validity to the country’s political and governmental institutions, and fosters “confidence in their structures,” the secretary said. However, he lamented the low voter turnout, and the fear and suffering that some regions of the country are experiencing.
Mexico needs the newly elected officials to take up their responsibilities as “servants of the people” and to stand out as good and generous leaders, the secretary said. “Mexico needs peace. We need a better Mexico that is rich, strong, and great,” he said, adding that any elections that are contested should be resolved by the electoral courts.
Champaign, Ill., Jul 12, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - In a letter sent Monday to the University of Illinois, the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) called for the immediate reinstatement of Dr. Kenneth Howell, a professor who was fired for explaining in a class on Catholicism that the Church teaches homosexual behavior violates natural law. If the university does not reply to the letter by July 16, the legal fund said it will advise the professor to file a lawsuit.
In his Introduction to Catholicism class this past spring, a class that he had taught regularly at the university, Dr. Howell covered the topic of homosexuality, teaching the Catholic Church's position on same-sex attractions and behavior. As part of this discussion, Dr. Howell sent an e-mail to his class contrasting how utilitarianism and natural law theory would each determine the morality of homosexual conduct.
A student complained that Dr. Howell's words were “hate speech” in an e-mail to the head of the department, Dr. Robert McKim. Howell was called into McKim's office at the end of the semester and told that he would no longer be allowed to teach for the University because his e-mail had “violate[d] university standards of inclusivity.”
Travis Barham, litigation staff counsel for the ADF Center for Academic Freedom, wrote a letter on July 12 to several officials at the University of Illinois, including the president, the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the head of the religion department.
“In relieving Dr. Howell of his teaching responsibilities, the University is firing him for teaching Catholic doctrine in a class about Catholic doctrine,” Barham said.
He noted that “the University's only reason for removing Dr. Howell is that other students, faculty, and staff disliked his speech.” However, he continued, the First Amendment “exists precisely to protect controversial ideas from being silenced” and “affords broad protection for a professor's speech in the classroom.”
In his letter, Barham noted that Dr. Howell has taught in the Department of Religion at the University of Illinois since 2001, and that he has consistently earned excellent marks on his student evaluations.
Throughout the semester, Barham underscored, Dr. Howell emphasized to his class that they did not need to agree with Catholic thought, but simply needed to understand and analyze it to succeed in the class.
In a legal analysis of the situation, Barham explained that “public university professors retain free speech and academic freedom rights in the classroom and on campus.”
Looking at legal precedent, Barham noted that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which has jurisdiction over Illinois, has stated that “the First Amendment protects the right of faculty members to engage in academic debates, pursuits, and inquiries.” Federal courts across the country have agreed with this statement, he said.
“These clearly established First Amendment principles easily encompass Dr. Howell's lectures and e-mail,” Barham stated. “In a class on Catholic thought, he explained Catholic teaching on sexual morality and answered students' questions and responded to their objections.”
“According to decades of Supreme Court precedent, the University simply cannot relieve Dr. Howell of his teaching post based on how third parties respond to his speech,” Barham said. “For decades, the Supreme Court has consistently held that university campuses are 'not enclaves immune from the sweep of the First Amendment.'”
Emphasizing the violation of the right to free speech and academic freedom, Barham called for the University to restore Dr. Howell to his previous teaching position.
“In light of these clear constitutional violations, we demand that you immediately reinstate Dr. Howell and restore to him the teaching responsibilities he has discharged so excellently for almost a decade,” Barham said in the letter. If the University does not respect Dr. Howell's First Amendment freedoms, ADF will advise the professor “to vindicate his constitutional rights in federal court.”