Vatican City, Sep 1, 2010 (CNA) - The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity is not an entity independent from the Pope, its new president confirmed on Wednesday. Archbishop Kurt Koch spoke with L'Osservatore Romano newspaper about some of the highlights from his meetings with the Pope this past week.
Archbishop Koch told L'Osservatore Romano (LOR) on Wednesday that the meeting of the Pope's former theology students was "a concrete, lively and positive experience." He said that the participants' conclusion after examining the reform of the Second Vatican Council over the weekend was that "(l)oyalty to tradition, openness to the future: is the most correct interpretation of Vatican II, which remains the magna carta of the Church also in the third millennium."
As a result of the "interesting and rich" debate, he explained to LOR, the members were able to see "how the spiritual dimension is fundamental in every aspect of Christian life. “And this is true," said the archbishop, "from my point of view, also in the ecumenical dialogue that constitutes the field of work most directly before me."
At the end of June, Archbishop Koch received the call from Rome to move from his place as auxiliary bishop of Basel, Switzerland to lead the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
Although he shared few details of his audience with Benedict XVI on Monday morning, the archbishop did tell LOR that he and the Pope spoke about his "new ecumenical challenge because the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity is not independent (from the Pontiff) but it has a mandate from the Pope to see how dialogue may develop in the future."
Exiting the presidency of the council earlier this summer, Cardinal Walter Kasper said looked to the future of dialogue "with hope, which is not human optimism, but Christian hope. The "torch" of unity, he added, passes on to a new generation that "will surely look at the dialogues undertaken with new eyes."
Vatican City, Sep 1, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The secretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, an outspoken proponent for the rights of people "on the move," has retired. Having celebrated his 70th birthday on Saturday, Archbishop Agostino Marchetto was eligible for an "early" exit.
Archbishop Marchetto, known for his vocal critiques of world governments which "criminalize" immigrants, took advantage of the Vatican norm which allows retirement for members of the the diplomatic corps at 70 years old. Although it has not yet been announced officially, the news is public knowledge around the Vatican.
Vatican officials normally retire upon completion of their 75th year, but, as he told SIR news, the decision was made a year ago when he submitted his resignation papers anticipating last week's birthday.
He said that he felt it was a "reasonable" request considering the 20 years he spent in Africa, during which time he came down with a serious illness.
Archbishop Marchetto was the Apostolic Nuncio to Madagascar and Mauritius, then, later to Tanzania. He also carried out the same service in Belarus and worked in the Holy See's secretariat of state before becoming the secretary of the council for migrants.
Thanking the Pope for accepting his resignation, Archbishop Marchetto said he is "pleased" to be able to now devote his energies to studying the Second Vatican Council, "a subject I love and that is so important for the Church."
Vatican sources close to the archbishop told CNA that he always saw issues in black and white. Unafraid to speak out against what he saw as injustice, he approached the position in an "upright" manner and with a true attitude of service to the Church.
Lima, Peru, Sep 1, 2010 (CNA) - The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) has awarded Peru’s Minister of Health, Oscar Ugarte for his “efforts in support of reproductive health.” Several months ago, Ugarte ignored a ruling by Peru’s Constitutional Court and went forward with the distribution of the morning-after pill.
The IPPF gave Ugarte the “Medal of Honor for his Individual Contribution to Sexual and Reproductive Health.” The organization said the award “honors political and social leaders who have taken decisive measures in the defense of the recognition of sexual and reproductive health, as a human right in Latin America and the Caribbean.”
The awards ceremony took place on Saturday, August 28, at a well-known hotel in Lima.
Carlos Polo, director for Latin America of the Population Research Institute, said it was not surprising that the IPPF would award someone who supports its business. “In this case, it has awarded Ugarte for disguising one of its best weapons,” he commented.
“To say the pill does not have abortifacient effects pollutes the consciences of women and promotes the killing of children in the secrecy of misinformation,” he went on. “Nor is Ugarte’s audacity any surprise. His ignoring of a ruling by the Constitutional Court is now explained,” Polo said.
“This is the second time that the IPPF honored a Peruvian Minister of Health for openly lying about the anti-implantation mechanism of the morning-after pill. The first was Pilar Mazzetti in August of 2005.
“Curiously both awards ceremony were kept quiet. Mazetti’s was strictly private and Ugarte’s took place behind closed doors at a hotel,” Polo reported.
San Salvador, El Salvador, Sep 1, 2010 (CNA) - Archbishop of San Salvador Jose Luis Escobar Alas condemned the massacre of 72 immigrants in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas during a press conference last Sunday. After asking the governments of Mexico and El Salvador to investigate the incident and bring about justice, the prelate demanded that agreements be established to protect the undocumented.
The archbishop rejected the idea of mounting a campaign to discourage immigrants from traveling to the United States, saying they are doing so because of the lack of opportunities in their own countries.
“It’s not tourism, it’s survival.” “If the government could provide enough jobs and opportunities so that no young person would have to leave their own country, that would be great,” the archbishop said.
He called on the governments of the U.S., Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador to establish an agreement protecting the rights of the undocumented.
Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Sep 1, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Every gift from the Holy Spirit is meant for the edification of the community of believers, taught the Pope at Wednesday's general audience. Dedicating his catechesis to St. Hildegard of Bingen, Benedict XVI praised her as a model for modern women religious, and noted that she benefited the faithful by her willingness to submit her supernatural visions to the interpretation of the Church.
The Holy Father addressed an estimated 5,000 people in the main square of the town of Castel Gandolfo. According to L'Osservatore Romano, it is the first time any Pope has ever held a general audience there. Benedict XVI did so seated in the doorway of the Apostolic Palace, a little above the eye-level of the crowd.
Referring first to Venerable John Paul II's Apostolic Letter on the role of women in the life of the Church, entitled "Mulieris dignitatem," Benedict XVI noted that the letter "gives thanks for all the manifestations of the feminine 'genius' which have appeared in the course of history." The Pontiff then focused in on the figure of St. Hildegard of Bingen as one of the saintly women who stood out nearly a millennium ago.
Born into a noble German family in the year 1098, she began her studies in human and Christian formation at a Benedictine convent in the town of Bingen, took her vows to cloistered life and, 30 years after she began her formation, became a mother superior.
Carrying out this role competently, she was able to found an additional convent nearby where she spent a great part of her life, recalled the Pope. The way she exercised authority there continues to be an example for religious communities today, he said, explaining that she was able to create an atmosphere of "holy emulation in the practice of the good, so much so that ... the mother and daughters competed in respecting and serving each other."
Benedict XVI also recalled her mystic visions which she first shared with people in confidence, including her spiritual director, a fellow sister and St. Bernard of Clairvaux. "As always happens in the lives of the true mystics," said the Pope, "Hildegard also wished to submit herself to the authority of wise people to discern the origin of her visions."
St. Bernard, whom the Pope said held "maximum esteem" in the Church at the time, "calmed and encouraged" the sister about the visions, and eventually Pope Eugene III gave her the authorization to write and speak about the visions publicly.
"This," taught the Pope, “is the seal of an authentic experience of the Holy Spirit, source of every charism: the person (who is the) repository of supernatural gifts never boasts, does not flaunt them and, especially, shows total obedience to the ecclesiastical authorities.
"Every gift distributed by the Holy Spirit, in fact, is destined for the edification of the Church, and the Church, through its pastors, recognizes their authenticity."
Malibu, Calif., Sep 1, 2010 (CNA) - A Catholic priest and Ambassador Doug Kmiec are still being treated for their injuries suffered in an Aug. 25 car accident. The priest, 94, is in critical condition, while Kmiec has undergone surgery and is expected to make a full recovery.
Doctors at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center have treated Msgr. John Sheridan, the 94-year-old pastor emeritus of Our Lady of Malibu Church, for several broken ribs and are observing him for signs of infection or pneumonia, Archbishop of Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony reported.
Kmiec, 58, also underwent surgery at Ronald Reagan UCLA and should be released within a week, a Pepperdine University spokesman said according to the Malibu Times. His wife Carol has visited him daily.
A Pepperdine University law professor, Kmiec is currently serving as U.S. ambassador to Malta.
Sr. Mary Campbell, who had been a teacher and a principal at Our Lady of Malibu, died at the scene of the accident. She was 74. Her memorial Mass will take place at the church on Wednesday.
The parish is also organizing a blood drive at the church on Tuesday from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Parish manager Peggy Thomas said the three were returning from a 60th anniversary celebration at Louisville High School in Woodland Hills, California.
“We can use everyone's prayers,” she said, according to The Malibu Times.
Pepperdine President Andrew K. Benton issued a statement on the accident, saying “Our prayers go out to the family of Sister Mary Campbell, the students of Our Lady of Malibu School and the entire Our Lady of Malibu community.
“Sister Mary taught many sons and daughters of Pepperdine staff and faculty over the years and was much loved. Her devotion to her students, her strong faith and compassion will long be remembered. This tragedy has touched the Pepperdine community deeply.
“We continue to pray for the full recovery of Pastor Emeritus Monsignor John Sheridan and Professor Kmiec.”
California Highway Patrol Officer Leland Tang said Ambassador Kmiec was driving westbound on Mulholland Highway when his 2009 Hyundai Accent crashed into a drainage ditch after veering off the road.
Tang reported that the cause of Kmiec losing control of the vehicle is unknown. Authorities have said dashboard control adjustment may have been a factor in the accident.
Denver, Colo., Sep 1, 2010 (CNA) - A priest in the Archdiocese of Denver is launching an effort to increase prayers for vocations during the city's upcoming marathon next month, telling CNA that there is a “great need” for vocations and that many young men and women in society “are not responding to the call.”
The Rock ‘n’ Roll Denver Marathon, which will be held on Oct. 17, draws thousands of participants to Colorado's capital city each year, many of whom run to raise funds for specific causes. Rather than asking for financial pledges, however, Fr. Jim Crisman – director of vocations for the Denver archdiocese – is having runners ask for prayer pledges in the time leading up to the race.
Athletes who have signed up for the Run4Vocations initiative will run in the marathon as part of a relay team. They are asking the faithful to pledge prayers for an increase in vocations to Holy Orders and Consecrated Life within the archdiocese.
“There is a great need in the Archdiocese of Denver for more priests,” Fr. Crisman told CNA in an e-mail on Tuesday. “Additionally there is a great need for more men and women in Consecrated vocations.”
“Today we are witnessing a generous response by many of our young men and women to the Lord’s call to a supernatural vocation,” he wrote. “Even so, there are more who are being called and not responding to the call.”
When asked how many new students have entered the burgeoning Denver seminary, Fr. Crisman said that the “final count for the year is not yet in, but we have about 75 men in formation for the Archdiocese of Denver this year.”
“Archbishop Chaput ordained 5 men last spring and we accepted a dozen new men this fall,” he added. “Things are going well but the need keeps growing.”
Fr. Crisman said that individuals wishing to participate in the event can visit the website www.priest4christ.com.
“When they click on the 'RUN' tab at the top of the page, and choose the 'PRAYER PLEDGES' button they will be taken to a page where they can register their prayer pledges and join us in asking the Lord for an increase in vocations to Holy Orders and Consecrated Life,” he explained.
In addition, the priest noted, “the page also shows some of the runners involved and gives a short bio on each.” Fr. Crisman remarked to CNA, “we would love to have supporters at the event both cheering and praying. If anyone would like to join the growing list of runners we would welcome that as well.”
When asked what served as his inspiration for starting the Run4Vocations effort, Fr. Crisman explained that the Archdiocese of Washington has a similar program.
“A college friend of mine has run in a marathon there for years raising money for their vocations office,” he said. “Seeing the opportunity to get people more involved in supporting vocations and raising prayer support for our vocation candidates made me begin this program here in Denver.”
Pretoria, South Africa, Sep 1, 2010 (CNA) - Media restrictions proposed with the stated intention of protecting the public good are causes for “serious concerns,” the Southern African Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) has commented. Warning that the proposed law is so broad that it threatens the free press, the bishops called for its complete redrafting.
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) party has backed a bill which would punish reporters for “irresponsible and misleading reporting.” It defended the proposal as necessary to protect the national interest.
The proposed law defines “national interest” to include “all matters relating to the advancement of public good,” the Christian Science Monitor reports. It also protects the trade secrets of the state including “profits, losses or expenditures of any person.”
Exposure of such secrets is punishable by jail terms of three to five years.
“In whatever we do, there is no interest on the part of the ANC to limit the freedom that all of us enjoy, including the press,” commented ANC chief spokesman Jackson Mthembu, claiming the media reaction was out of step with “ordinary people.”
According to the Monitor, South Africa President Jacob Zuma in his weekly letter to ANC members said that the media has “put itself on the pedestal of being the guardian.”
“We therefore have the right to ask, who is guarding the guardian?”
In a Tuesday statement from the SACBC, conference spokesman Cardinal Wilfrid Napier noted “serious concerns about the wisdom and the constitutionality of the Protection of Information Bill” and also of the creation of a Media Appeals Tribunal.
Aligning itself with “numerous” civil society groups and constitutional experts, the SACBC said the bill threatens the right to receive and impart information, the right to a free press and media and the right of access to information held by the state.
“Furthermore, we believe that the Bill violates the spirit of openness and accountability that is so necessary to underpin the Constitution’s provisions on good governance, essential for a healthy democracy,” Cardinal Wilfrid explained.
Among the bishops’ concerns are that unaccountable officials may classify almost any information as secret and that the definitions of national interest and national security are “so broad” they could be used to keep secret what ought to be accessible to the public.
They also charged that there is “practically no right of appeal” because any appeal would be “processed by the very people who made the original ruling.” According to the bishops, there is already an effective media ombudsman and there is merit in strengthening media self-regulation.
“We certainly do not want government to take us back to the oppressive practices of yesteryear, against which our common struggle was launched,” the SACBC commented, alluding to press restrictions under apartheid.
Acknowledging the necessity of some restriction of information, they voiced “grave misgivings” about the bill’s implementation.
“We, therefore, strongly urge government to withdraw the bill for complete redrafting to ensure … the openness and transparency required by the Constitution,” their statement concluded.
Karin Karlekar, managing editor of the Freedom of the Press report for the New York-based think tank Freedom House, told the Christian Science Monitor that the government’s proposal is “part of a broader trend” in the country and is “very worrying.”
The think tank’s annual report has downgraded South Africa to “partly free” for reasons including increasing restrictions on media and harsher rhetoric toward journalists by high-ranking government officials.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sep 1, 2010 (CNA) - This week the president of the Argentinean Bishops’ Committee on Catholic Education, Archbishop Hector Aguer, reminded parents that they cannot renounce their responsibility for both the moral and religious education of their children. It is in the home, he emphasized, where children must learn the faith.
“The role of the family must never be slighted, and this is something in today’s culture … that we must diligently look after, because without the role of the family, education is not complete,” the archbishop said.
He also recalled that parents cannot leave the education of their children completely in the hands of the schools, adding, “It is essential that parents are involved in educational process.”
For this reason, Archbishop Aguer warned against some government educational programs that do not respect the moral, religious and philosophical convictions of families.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sep 1, 2010 (CNA) - Bishop Juan Ruben Martinez of Posadas, Argentina said the Church must conserve her identity when reaching out to non-believers, as “openness” as a Church, does not mean falling into relativism.
“To be open is to love, to dialogue, to listen, to change, to contribute, to learn and to recover, without losing one’s own identity,” the bishop said. “To be open is not to mix everything together into some sort of syncretism or mixture of good and evil, values and anti-values,” he explained.
He noted that since her beginnings, the Church has “had a missionary openness to the pagan nations and St. Paul called himself the ‘Apostle of the pagans’.” For this reason, he urged Argentineans not to confuse being “open” with being “relativistic.”
The Church is called to guard the revelations of Christ with the help of the Holy Spirit, he added. “The treasures of the Church are the poor and those left out, and in our choices, they are the guarantee that we are seeking to practice the Gospel. Nourished at the Eucharistic banquet at Mass, as the Gospel points out, we must go out as disciples and missionaries,” he added.