Archive of September 18, 2010

Myriads of enthusiastic Catholics join Pope for Cardinal Newman vigil

London, England, Sep 18, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - A diverse and enthusiastic crowd of tens of thousands joined Pope Benedict XVI for his final event in London. Attendees told CNA they were extremely happy to join the event to bear witness to their faith and to show their love for the Pope.

The vigil celebration of the Beatification of John Henry Newman in London's Hyde Park attracted an estimated 80,000 people, the BBC reports.

During the vigil’s Eucharistic Adoration many of the people in attendance knelt on the grass in solemn prayer while others prayed while standing.

Hundreds of people were left outside the park gates, which closed as the Pope arrived. These stayed and prayed just like those on the inside. Most could see the large video screens above the fences.
CNA spoke with members of the vigil crowd, finding that every one of them was enthusiastic for the Pope's arrival and happy to bear witness to the faith in the U.K.

Besides the great presence of English, Welsh and Scottish, there was an enormous mix of people whose origins included Hong Kong, Uganda, Malta and Chile. Their multitudes of waving flags showed their diversity.

A teenager from London named Brendan painted his face with the Vatican coat of arms, displaying the coat’s keys on each cheek. He had written the abbreviation "BXVI" on his forehead and held a sign with the words "We Love U Papa" for all to see.

Mr. and Mrs. John Holden told CNA that they had come from southwest Wales with their son Fr. Martin Holden to see the Pope. They had already seen the Holy Father earlier Saturday morning at Westminster Cathedral. John commented that the event "as you say in America, was 'awesome'."

Tim Rumpus from St. Joseph's parish in Basingstoke came to "bear witness, show that the Catholic faith is still strong in England, and basically, with all the negative press, stand up and be counted."

Attendee Lauren is in her twenties. She is originally from Cardiff, Wales, but presently lives in Battlesea, England. She said about the Pope, "it's wonderful to have him here" and recalled her father's participation in John Paul II's visit in 1982. Magdalena from Slovakia said she was there just to watch the Pope and to pray.

Richard, originally from the Philippines, but now in the U.K. for work, explained he came to the "vespers" in order to "witness the faithful, the gathering of faith of the entire world in the United Kingdom."

Barry McCarthy, from London, was there with his wife and child. He said "we're here today to celebrate our faith." He added that he would like "to welcome the Pope and just thank him for coming."

During the vigil Pope Benedict spoke of the “immense spiritual joy” Cardinal Newman’s imminent beatification has caused. He urged the crowd to listen for God’s call in their lives.

“Be open to his voice resounding in the depths of your heart: even now his heart is speaking to your heart,” he told the audience, alluding to the motto of the cardinal.

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Papal spokesman says Benedict XVI has found positive attitude among UK faithful

London, England, Sep 18, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - At a Saturday afternoon press conference Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi reflected on the progress of the papal visit. He said that Pope Benedict, as he expected, found a very positive attitude among the faithful despite the tone of pre-visit media coverage.

Meeting with international journalists in the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, the Vatican spokesman said that the Pope was "impressed" by the “richness” of the Friday evening liturgy during the ecumenical celebration at Westminster Abbey. Friday afternoon's events, he added, were a "central moment" of the trip.

During the working dinner held between Vatican and Anglican officials and members of the U.K. government on Friday evening, reported Fr. Lombardi, participants had the opportunity to talk about matters of common interest such as poverty, climate change and disarmament.

Discussions took place at round tables on these and other issues. Top members of the Vatican Secretariat of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, were present to weigh in on the "situation of the world today."

Also "familiar and friendly talks" took place between the Pope and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, his Vice Prime Minister Nick Clegg and opposition leader Harriet Harman, respectively, on Saturday morning prior to Mass, he said.

Considering Saturday’s events, he called the morning Mass the "most important" and "solemn" event for London's Catholics. Describing the meeting with youth afterwards as "rich with enthusiasm," he expected the evening prayer vigil at London's Hyde Park to be another encounter in the same vein.

Discussing how the Pope is enduring the rigorous schedule, Fr. Lombardi said that the papal party admires greatly the Pope's "calm(ness) of spirit, the profound serenity of spirit he has" as well as his discipline in keeping a regular schedule of eating, taking a walk and praying even during the trip.

Calling this schedule a "system that functions very well," Fr. Lombardi said that the Holy Father is “aware of his resources and uses them very intelligently."

At the end of the press briefing, Fr. Lombardi said that there is a great positivity to the trip which had not been expected from the tone of the media’s pre-visit coverage.

He noted that prior to the Pope’s trips to France and the Czech Republic there were also reports that people were not ready to listen to the pontiff, but then these reports failed to match reality.

“The reality is that if he comes then there are many people who are ready to listen, there are many people who are happy and so on, and there are also some who do protesting. And why not? They are free to express their mind.

“But, in general, the attitude of the society of the faithful is very positive and I think that this ... is what he was really expecting.”

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Urging youth to hear God’s call, Pope Benedict says Christians cannot continue ‘business as usual’

London, England, Sep 18, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Saturday evening in London’s Hyde Park Pope Benedict XVI presided at the vigil of prayer for the beatification of Cardinal Newman. Encouraging young people to be open to God’s call, he said that Christians can neither go on with “business as usual” nor ignore the “profound crisis of faith” in modern society.

Following a greeting by Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark, vice-president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, the Holy Father began a Liturgy of the Word.

After the Scripture readings, he spoke of the “immense spiritual joy” that the nineteenth century theologian and convert Cardinal John Henry Newman, “a great son of this nation,” will be beatified.

“How many people, in England and throughout the world, have longed for this moment!”

He also expressed his personal great joy, calling Newman an “important influence” in his own life and thought. The Pope explained that Newman’s life is an invitation to examine our own lives in light of God’s plan and to grow in communion with the Church.

Pope Benedict commented that a “powerful experience of conversion” of a religious and intellectual nature was key for the young Newman as “an immediate experience of the truth of God’s word, of the objective reality of Christian revelation as handed down in the Church.”

The Pope then praised Newman’s “fine Christian realism” which saw that faith must bear fruit in the lives and activity of believers:

“No one who looks realistically at our world today could think that Christians can afford to go on with business as usual, ignoring the profound crisis of faith which has overtaken our society, or simply trusting that the patrimony of values handed down by the Christian centuries will continue to inspire and shape the future of our society.”

He reminded the Hyde Park crowd that God has raised up saints in times of upheaval and everyone must work to imbue daily life with the Gospel.

“Each of us has a mission, each of us is called to change the world, to work for a culture of life, a culture forged by love and respect for the dignity of each human person,” he continued, granting that only Jesus knows what each person’s “definite service” is to be.

“Be open to his voice resounding in the depths of your heart: even now his heart is speaking to your heart,” he commented, alluding to the motto of Cardinal Newman.

Pope Benedict added that Christ needs families to remind the world of human love and of the beauty of family life, he needs those who will educate the young, and he needs those who will consecrate their lives to follow him in chastity, poverty, and obedience.

“And he needs priests, good and holy priests, men who are willing to lay down their lives for their sheep,” he added.

“Ask our Lord what he has in mind for you! Ask him for the generosity to say ‘yes!’ Do not be afraid to give yourself totally to Jesus. He will give you the grace you need to fulfill your

Pope Benedict noted that at the end of Newman’s life the theologian described his life’s work as a struggle against “the growing tendency to view religion as a purely private and subjective matter, a question of personal opinion.” This teaches that, although an intellectual and moral relativism threatens to undermine society, “we were created to know the truth, to find in that truth our ultimate freedom and the fulfillment of our deepest human aspirations.”

“In a word, we are meant to know Christ, who is himself ‘the way, and the truth, and
the life’,” the Holy Father explained, citing the Gospel of John.

“Newman’s life also teaches us that passion for the truth, intellectual honesty and genuine conversion are costly,” Pope Benedict continued. He explained that liberating truth cannot be kept to oneself. He then referred to the martyrs of Tyburn, whose faithful witness was “ever more powerful than the inspired words that so many of them spoke.”

“In our own time, the price to be paid for fidelity to the Gospel is no longer being hanged, drawn and quartered but it often involves being dismissed out of hand, ridiculed or parodied.”

Despite this, the Church cannot stop proclaiming Christ and the Gospel as “saving truth, the source of our ultimate happiness as individuals and as the foundation of a just and humane society.”

According to Pope Benedict, Newman also teaches that there cannot be a separation between one’s belief and the way one lives. He recognized that truth is not accepted in a purely intellectual act but is embraced in “a spiritual dynamic that penetrates to the core of our being.”

“Our every thought, word and action must be directed to the glory of God and the spread of his Kingdom,” Pope Benedict explained, saying that truth is passed on not only by formal teaching but by “the witness of lives lived in integrity, fidelity and holiness.”

The pontiff then asked the crowd to join him in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and in prayer to Jesus Christ.

“In a special way, let us thank him for the enduring witness to that truth offered by Cardinal John Henry Newman. Trusting in his prayers, let us ask the Lord to illumine our path, and the path of all British society, with the kindly light of his truth, his love and his peace.”

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Despite struggles of age, elderly are a ‘blessing for society,’ Pope declares

London, England, Sep 18, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Holy Father visited a home for the elderly in London's Vauxhall area on Saturday afternoon. In his remarks, Pope Benedict referred to the growing population of elderly in the world as "a blessing for society." He said that their care should be more a "repayment of a debt of gratitude" than a mere "act of generosity."

He met with individuals both in the institution's chapel and the theater. Lauding the Church's work in respecting and caring for the elderly, he told his audience of residents and caretakers that blessings are bestowed on those who keep the commandment to "honor your father and mother."

"God wills a proper respect for the dignity and worth, the health and well-being of the elderly and, through her charitable institutions in Britain and beyond, the Church seeks to fulfill the Lord’s command to respect life, regardless of age or circumstances," he stated.

He spoke of life as "a unique gift from conception until natural death" and said that "it is God's alone to give and to take."

These words are a strong witness in the U.K., where the legalization of euthanasia has significant support.

"One may enjoy good health in old age," continued the Pope, "but equally Christians should not be afraid to share in the suffering of Christ, if God wills that we struggle with infirmity."

He spoke of the case of the suffering of Pope John Paul II late in life, saying that "(i)t was clear to all of us that he did so in union with the sufferings of our Savior." His "cheerfulness and forbearance" in that time was a "remarkable and moving example" to all elderly.

The Pope went on to refer to himself "not only as a father, but also as a brother who knows well the joys and the struggles that come with age." He noted that long life allows the "marvelous chance to deepen our awareness of the mystery of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity."

While the physical condition can deteriorate compromised, the late years of one's life "may well be among the most spiritually fruitful years of our lives," he said. They can be years to remember loved ones in prayer and offer a lifetime of experiences to God.

"This," Benedict XVI concluded, "will surely be a great spiritual comfort and enable us to discover anew his love and goodness all the days of our life."

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Meeting with abuse victims, Pope Benedict expresses 'deep shame'

London, England, Sep 18, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Saturday at the Apostolic Nunciature in London, Pope Benedict XVI met with a group of victims of clerical sexual abuse, the Vatican’s press office has announced. There he expressed “deep sorrow and shame” over what victims and their families had suffered.

A press release from the Holy See’s Press Office said that the Pope was moved by what the victims said to him.

He prayed with the victims, that they might experience healing and reconciliation and that they be able to overcome their past and present sufferings with “serenity and hope for the future,” in the words of the press release.

Pope Benedict reportedly assured the victims that the Catholic Church is continuing to take action to protect young people and is doing everything to investigate allegations, to work with civil authorities and to bring to justice clergy and religious accused of “these egregious crimes.”

The Pope was also scheduled to address a group of professionals and volunteers dedicated to protecting children and young people in church environments.

At his Saturday morning Mass Pope Benedict based his homily on the theme of the Precious Blood of Christ. He explained that martyrs, sex abuse victims, the sick, elderly, handicapped and those who suffer mentally and spiritually all share in the suffering of Christ on the cross.

Elsewhere, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi responded to apparent media confusion about Pope Benedict XVI’s message to victims of sexual abuse during that homily. The spokesman explained that sex abuse victims differ from martyrs but both can find hope in the cross of Christ.

Meeting with international journalists in the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Hall, Fr. Lombardi answered one reporter's question about a possible connection between martyrs and abuse victims.

Questioning the reporter’s assumed link between martyrdom and suffering abuse, Fr. Lombardi said, "I don't think this is the sense of the homily. The blood of Christ and the cross is a message of hope and confidence for all people who suffer problems and have the experience of suffering."

He continued, "the problem of the victims is different obviously, but it is true that they have an experience of deep suffering. In this sense, also, the cross is a message for everyone that (suffers), also for the victims, in the hope of finding the way to reconciliation, renewal and to new life.

"But," he concluded, "I don't think there is a parallel or a derived connection between martyr and victim (of sexual abuse), this is different."

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Man made for love, Pope teaches at lively youth gathering

London, England, Sep 18, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Holy Father explained the meaning of mankind being created for love to a throng of young people on Saturday morning. To love, he said, is a decision made each day and at the source of it one can find his “true self” and vocation.

After Mass in the Westminster Cathedral, Benedict XVI stepped out the front door to greet the youth who were so vocal in greeting him upon his arrival. The crowd was equally enthusiastic to see him a second time, welcoming him with raucous applause and chants of "Benedetto" which brought a smile to his face.

British, Scottish, Welsh and Vatican flags flew over their hands and among the signs held up in support of the Pope, one read "We love our German Shepherd."

One of the string of youth representatives from U.K. dioceses accompanying him at the top of the cathedral steps along with the concelebrating cardinals and bishops addressed the Holy Father in greeting before he turned to the crowd with his own words.

Making reference to Cardinal Newman's motto of "Heart speaks unto Heart," Pope Benedict said that he wished to speak to them from his own heart and asked them to open theirs to his message.

He asked them to peer into their hearts and reflect on how much they have loved, observing, "(a)fter all, we were meant to love.

"This is what the Bible means when it says that we are made in the image and likeness of God: we were made to know the God of love, the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and to find our supreme fulfilment in that divine love that knows no beginning or end."

Noting man's vocation to "receive" love, said the Pope, "(e)very day we should thank God for the love we have already known, for the love that has made us who we are, the love that has shown us what is truly important in life."

Turning to man's disposition to "give" love, he explained that "we were made to (do so), to make it the inspiration for all we do and the most enduring thing in our lives. Sometimes this is easier than others, he conceded, but, as Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, giving this love results from a daily decision.

"Every day we have to choose to love, and this requires help, the help that comes from Christ, from prayer and from the wisdom found in his word, an from the grace which he bestows on us in the sacraments of his Church."

Highlighting his message, he said, "I ask you to look into your hearts each day to find the source of all true love." There, he added, Jesus is waiting to lead them to the discovery of their "true self" through silent prayer.

"(I)n discovering our true self," he concluded, "we discover the particular vocation which God has given us for the building up of his Church and the redemption of our world."

Returning back into the cathedral to more applause, the Holy Father blessed a mosaic brought by a representation of Welsh Catholics. He told them he was glad to meet them, despite "sadly" not being able to do so on their own soil.

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Pope deeply sorrowful for 'unspeakable crimes' against innocent victims

London, England, Sep 18, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Expressing the "shame and humiliation" of all the Church for the suffering caused by priests who abuse children, the Holy Father hoped that through Christ victims might find peace. He stressed his "deep sorrow" for the crimes committed and hoped for healing of victims, purification of the Church and a renewal of her commitment to children.

The Pope's words to victims came during the homily of Saturday morning's Votive Mass of the Precious Blood of Christ in which he spoke of the suffering of humanity united with that of Christ on the cross.

Contemplating the mystery of Christ's precious blood, Pope Benedict said that His agony on the Cross is represented by those who suffer on earth. In martyrs it is "most eloquently" represented, he said, while it is also witnessed in the suffering of those persecuted for the faith, the ill, elderly, handicapped and everyone who suffers spiritually and mentally.

"Here too," he added, "I think of the immense suffering caused by the abuse of children, especially within the Church and by her ministers."

"Above all, I express my deep sorrow to the innocent victims of these unspeakable crimes, along with my hope that the power of Christ's grace, his sacrifice of reconciliation, will bring deep healing and peace to our lives," he said.

"I also acknowledge, with you, the shame and humiliation which all of us have suffered because of these sins; and I invite you to offer it to the Lord with trust that this chastisement will contribute to the healing of the victims, the purification of the Church and the renewal of her age-old commitment to the education and care of young people."

Expressing his gratitude for those efforts underway for the responsible work to confront abuse the concluded the part of his homily in which he referred to pedophilia by asking that all "show your concern for the victims and solidarity with your priests."

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Benedict XVI: Christ's Precious Blood is source of Church's life

London, England, Sep 18, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The unity of Christ's sacrifice on the cross and his eternal priesthood is seen in Christ's Most Precious Blood, said Pope Benedict XVI at Saturday Mass. Calling it “the source of the Church's life,” he explained that the Church continues to share in Christ's Passion through the Eucharist and to be unified to Him through suffering and priestly dedication.

The Pope's homily on Saturday morning focused on the name of the cathedral where he was celebrating in London's city of Westminster, the Cathedral of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The celebration of the votive Mass of the Most Precious Blood in place of the day's regular liturgy and the red vestments worn by the concelebrants reinforced the pontiff's message.

Greeting the Holy Father after a phenomenal procession to the altar punctuated by the organ, trumpets, cymbal crashes and solemn song was Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, who pledged the fidelity of the Church to the Pope's pastorship and called him a "sign and servant of unity in the whole church."

During his homily, the Holy Father referred to the symbolism of the cathedral's massive cross showing the "crushed" Christ on a red background. He said that the mystery of the Precious Blood illustrates the unity of Christ's sacrifice on the cross and his eternal priesthood.

Jesus' blood shed on the cross, he explained, is "the source of the Church's life." And, he added, as the Church obeys His command of "do this in memory of me" until his return, through the Eucharist it "rejoic(es) in His sacramental presence and draw(s) upon the power of His saving grace for the redemption of the world."

"The Eucharistic sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ embraces in turn the mystery of our Lord's continuing passion in the members of his Mystical Body, the Church in every age."

Christ still unites himself to humanity's sufferings, needs, hopes and aspirations from the Cross, explained the Pope, and in the trials and tribulations in the life of the Church, "Christ continues ... to be in agony until the end of the world."

This aspect of the mystery is represented by martyrs who joined in His sacrifice by shedding their own blood in suffering persecution for the faith, said Benedict XVI. He added that this mystery is also present, "often hidden in the suffering of all those individual Christians who daily unite their sacrifices to those of the Lord for the sanctification of the Church and the redemption of the world."

Those particularly "united to the Eucharist," he explained, are the sick, elderly, handicapped and everyone who suffers mentally and spiritually. "Here too," said the Pope, "I think of the immense suffering caused by the abuse of children, especially within the Church and by her ministers."

Continuing his reflection by examining the eternal priesthood of the Lord, the Pope said that, "as members of his body," all Christians are called to responsibility of bringing "the reconciling power of his sacrifice" into the world.

He prayed that the example of Cardinal John Henry Newman, who will be beatified on Sunday, will inspire believers to dedicate every part of their being to Christ and to commit themselves to defending "those unchanging moral truths which ... stand at the foundation of a truly humane, just and free society."

Of the importance of the witness of lay people to perpetuating the Church's mission, he asked for prayer that Catholics might have greater consciousness of "their dignity as a priestly people, called to consecrate the world to God through lives of faith and holiness."

Inviting prayers for vocations to the priesthood so that the celebration of the sacrifice of the Eucharist might continue on earth, he asked also for the ever fuller unity of the faithful to Christ, to share in His sacrifice and to offer him "that spiritual worship which embraces every aspect of our lives and finds expression in our efforts to contribute to the coming of his Kingdom."

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Living the Christian faith today is a ‘revolutionary act,’ Archbishop Chaput writes

New York City, N.Y., Sep 18, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - In upcoming years Catholics will likely find it harder to influence the course of American culture or to live their faith “authentically,” Archbishop Charles J. Chaput has written. A social consensus which once supported Christian assumptions in the U.S. is “much weakened” to the point that there is “no more revolutionary act” than to live Christian faith with integrity, he said.
Writing in an essay titled “Catholics and the Next America” at the First Things website, the Archbishop of Denver noted a central “myth” of American Catholicism: the 1960 election of John F. Kennedy as president helped U.S. Catholics break through into the mainstream.

This is not entirely unfounded, he explained, because baptized Catholics make up the largest religious community in the U.S., serve in Congress and on the Supreme Court, while also having leading roles in the business world.

However, the direction of the country is less reassuring than these apparent signs of progress.

“Catholic statistics once seemed impressive. They filled many of us with tribal pride. But they didn’t stop a new and quite alien national landscape, a ‘next America,’ from emerging right under our noses,” the archbishop commented.

He cited reports that the number of Americans with no religious affiliation is at about 16 percent, double the percentage in 1990. One quarter of young Americans have no religious affiliation and show greater criticism towards Christianity. Catholic losses have been “masked” by Latino immigration, and less than 24 percent of Americans self-describe as Catholic even though 31 percent say they were raised Catholic.

“These facts have weight because, traditionally, religious faith has provided the basis for Americans’ moral consensus,” Archbishop Chaput explained, describing this consensus about God and man as the framework for public life.

“In the coming decades Catholics will likely find it harder, not easier, to influence the course of American culture, or even to live their faith authentically. And the big difference between the ‘next America’ and the old one will be that plenty of other committed religious believers may find themselves in the same unpleasant jam as their Catholic cousins,” he wrote.

America's Secularization

The archbishop then turned to American history, describing the “deeply Protestant” roots of the American experience, noting Gov. John Winthrop’s 1630 homily exhorting early English colonists to live Christian lives. Later, John Adams and many other American Founders were men who could blend an “earnest” Christian faith and Enlightenment ideas “without destroying either.”

Later criticisms of the Puritan colonists began to depict them as “intolerant, sexually repressed, narrow-minded witch-hunters.” Intellectual weakness and internal divisions among the American Protestant establishment, Archbishop Chaput said, allowed the secularization of American life mainly from 1870 to 1930.

“This insurgency could be ignored, or at least contained, for a long time … because America’s social consensus supported the country’s unofficial Christian assumptions, traditions and religion-friendly habits of thought and behavior,” Archbishop Chaput contended. However, law is only as strong as popular belief and the traditional consensus is “much weakened.”

“Seventy years of soft atheism trickling down in a steady catechesis from our universities, social-science ‘helping professions,’ and entertainment and news media, have eroded it,” the archbishop wrote in First Things.

In addition, modern consumer capitalism creates a citizenry of “weak, self-absorbed, needy personalities” to whom religious beliefs are depicted as private and not relevant.

“‘I shop, therefore I am’ is not a good premise for life in a democratic society like the United States,” he explained, claiming that the pastoral reality facing the Gospel today is “a human landscape shaped by advertising.”

Catholics and Secularization

The archbishop then considered the place of Catholics in this history. While Protestants had discriminated against Catholics, by 1960 mainline Protestantism had exhausted itself in the face of secularism.

“Catholics arrived on America’s center stage just as management of the theater had changed hands -- with the new owners even less friendly, but far shrewder and much more ambitious in their social and political goals, than the old ones,” Chaput wrote.

While Christian believers share unity in Jesus Christ and share with Jews a belief in the God of Israel, the gulf between belief and unbelief or disinterest is “vastly wider.”

“The world is a different place. America is a different place—and in some ways, a far more troubling one,” he commented, saying that Catholics helped make the country’s present flaws because of a desire for success, self-delusion, vanity, compromise and “our tepid faith.”

This leaves Catholics defenseless in the face of government pressures to push religious entities out of the public square, to promote same-sex “marriage,” and to undermine the family and the sanctity of human life.

“But the future is not predestined,” Archbishop Chaput said in closing his First Things essay. “We create it with our choices. And the most important choice we can make is both terribly simple and terribly hard: to actually live what the Church teaches, to win the hearts of others by our witness, and to renew the soul of our country with the courage of our own Christian faith and integrity. There is no more revolutionary act.”

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NY priest hopes to bring 'moral tradition' to new task force role

New York City, N.Y., Sep 18, 2010 (CNA) - New York priest Fr. Thomas Berg was recently appointed by Gov. David Paterson as a member of the state's Life and the Law task force. In an exclusive interview with CNA, Fr. Berg spoke of the numerous ethical challenges that New York faces as well as his intention to bring the “richness” of “moral tradition” to the debate on life issues.

Fr. Berg currently serves as president and executive director of the Westchester Institute for Ethics and the Human Person and is parochial vicar St. Denis Parish in Yonkers.

In an e-mail to CNA on Sept. 17, the priest gave insight into the significance of his new post as well as the mission of the NY Task Force on Life and the Law, which is a faction of the state's Department of Health.

“Our mandate is to develop public policy on any number of difficult moral issues confronting the state from within the healthcare and biomedical arenas and which require attentive analysis toward ethically acceptable solutions and policies,” Fr. Berg wrote.

“My role,” he added, “as is that of my colleagues, is to bring my own experience in dealing with such matters to the table and collaborate with them in rendering policy suggestions that are in accord with – as I would put it – the natural moral law, with the guidance of human reason.”

The task force was founded in 1985 with the purpose of creating public policy on issues such as the determination of death, the withdrawal and withholding of life-sustaining treatment, organ transplantation, and new technologies and practices to assist reproduction. The initiative comprises experts from several fields – such as physicians, nurses, lawyers, philosophers, bioethicists and religious leaders – and represents a wide variety of opinions on bioethical issues.

“Be what may our religious backgrounds, hopefully our aim would be to find solutions to these questions which are thoroughly reasonable, in the strong and literal sense of the word,” Fr. Berg noted.

When asked what he believes to be the more serious issues that the state is grappling with, Fr. Berg said, “I think there are a number of challenges facing New York, including a serious issue which has gone relatively unnoticed by most: the potential for the exploitation of economically challenged women for their eggs.”

“The New York Stem Cell Board gave the green light last year essentially for cash payments from State funds to women willing to submit to egg retrieval for their use in state funded embryonic stem cell research,” he explained.

“I think one of the biggest problems we face is that New York tax payers remain relatively disengaged from these moral debates, even when the policies set in place have a bearing on what happens with their tax dollars,” Fr. Berg observed.

“I hope to bring the richness of the natural law moral tradition to bear on our deliberations,” he said. “A number of Task Force members have also been my colleagues on the Stem Cell Board and I have always appreciated their collegiality and the seriousness with which, by and large, we have debated and addressed moral issues. I would expect nothing less of the Task Force.”

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Don’t put off receiving the Sacrament of the Sick, recommends priest

Wichita, Kan., Sep 18, 2010 (CNA) - Don’t wait until the anesthesiologist is ready to put the mask on you before you think about the Sacrament of the Sick, says Fr. John Hay from the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas. He urges everyone to seek an anointing before they are admitted to a hospital.

“It is a sacrament given to help us bear the suffering – the sickness that we have – to be able to unite that suffering to the suffering of Jesus Christ,” Fr. Hay said.

“And then it’s not suffering for suffering’s sake, it can actually become redemptive. We enter into the suffering of Jesus Christ – and that gives us a new power, a new strength, from the power of his grace, to help us carry our load, our cross, whatever sickness that might be.”

In addition, he said, it can be a comfort for the faithful going into surgery to have already received the sacrament.

Father Hay is the chaplain of the St. Paul Parish Newman Center at Wichita State University but his duties include a part-time chaplaincy of the Wesley Medical Center. Two of the three Catholic hospitals, Via Christi Hospital on North St. Francis and Via Christi Hospital on Harry, have full-time chaplains.

Fr. Hay makes rounds at Wesley twice a week and is on call for emergencies. Because he’s part-time there he asks that Catholics who are going to Wesley to request an anointing from their pastor before they go into surgery. “I can catch them beforehand, but it’s not always the case,” he said. “Oftentimes I’m seeing them after their surgery.”
When people see a priest walking into a room wearing a purple stole and carrying a black case, Fr. Hay said, you’ll often hear them say, “Oh, it must be bad, we had to call the priest.”

That’s not necessarily true, he said. “It doesn’t mean they’re taking their last breath, but that their sickness merits their receiving the sacrament that Jesus has given to his church.”

Jesus instituted the Sacrament of the Sick – just as he instituted the Eucharist, Fr. Hay said.

In Matthew 6:13, he added, “Jesus sent the disciples out. The disciples came back…they had laid their hands on many, they had cured the sick and anointed them with oil.”
Father Hay said the faithful need to understand that receiving the sacrament doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to be cured of their physical ailment, “but it does give them a grace and a strength – if we cooperate, just as we always have to cooperate with God’s grace – if we cooperate, then it’s a new strength to bear that sickness, that illness, whatever that might be.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says in chapter 1514 that the sacrament is not only for those who are dying but for those who are in danger of death, he said.

“Anytime we undergo a surgery and anesthesia is administered, there’s always an outside chance that something could happen,” he said. “Because there is that danger there, that certainly would warrant receiving the sacrament of the sick.”

Father Hay reminded those who are in need or who might be in need to go to their pastor for the sacrament.

“Unlike Padre Pio, who could be in two places at once,” he said, “I can’t!”

Printed with permission from the Catholic Advance, newspaper for the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas.

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