Anchorage, Alaska, Oct 2, 2010 (CNA) - Anchorage Archbishop Roger Schwietz is urging Alaskans to celebrate “Respect Life Sunday” on Sunday, Oct. 3 – an annual, nationwide commemoration to help bring Catholic Church teaching on the value and dignity of human life to the Catholic community and public at large.
In the debates over the treatment of human life, there are “signs of hope,” Archbishop Schwietz told the Catholic Anchor. “The hearts of people are changing,” he said, “and especially young people are seeing the reality that human life does begin at conception.”
Indeed, recent national polls show increasing opposition to abortion and federally funded embryo-destructive stem cell research.
But “what’s more worrisome is the end-of-life issues,” he cautioned, as certain groups continue pushing for euthanasia and assisted suicide. In fact, Alaska’s nearest neighbors, Oregon and Washington, both have laws allowing physicians to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to end patients’ lives. And the practice of withdrawing assisted nutrition and hydration from patients who cannot feed themselves is commonplace in many areas.
In the face of the current “challenge,” Archbishop Schwietz recommended the diocese’s Catholics pray that all human lives are respected, from conception to natural death. And he added that Respect Life Sunday is a good opportunity for Catholics to “reflect on the need for us to be people who bring the truth to our society, as a people of faith.”
Begun in 1972, the Respect Life Sunday project is sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and observed in virtually all of the 195 Catholic dioceses in the U.S.
This year’s theme is, “The measure of love is to love without measure.” To encourage all to “heroic” love of the most defenseless members of the human family, the USCCB has prepared Respect Life Sunday bulletin inserts, posters, prayer intentions, a liturgy guide, preaching reflections and brochures.
Among other issues of pro-life import, the materials address end-of-life care, population control and morally permissible treatments for infertility. The brochures explain why assisted nutrition and hydration are natural means of preserving life, not a medical “treatment;” why population growth is a “driver,” not a hindrance of progress; and how infertility can be addressed in morally sound ways.
This year’s liturgy guide offers intercessions for life, a Litany for Life, a prayer, enthronement and novena to Our Lady of Guadalupe, as well as suggested preaching reflections for Respect Life Sunday and January 22, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion on demand in the United States.
Archbishop Schwietz plans to disseminate links to the bishops’ online materials to all 32 parishes of the Anchorage Archdiocese. They may be downloaded — in English or Spanish – from the Web site of the bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, at usccb.org/prolife/programs/rlp.
Printed with permission from CatholicAnchor.org
Vatican City, Oct 2, 2010 (CNA) - The Vatican's upcoming Synod for the Middle East aims to give "maximum visibility" to the situation of the Church and Christians in the region, said the synod's organizer in an interview this week. He spoke of some of the main issues up for discussion, emphasizing that trust in God's presence in the Holy Land reassures the Church that the region will not become a mere "archeological dig" for Christianity.
Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, the secretary general of the Synod of Bishops and organizer of October's Special Assembly for Middle Eastern bishops, described the background and expectations for the upcoming synod to Terrasanta.net. In an article published in its most recent newsletter, the archbishop said that the event in itself is the highlight.
Because of the "special place" the Holy Land holds for the universal Church, he explained, the two-week synod is important for everyone, not just people in the Middle East. This universality will be evident in the synod, in which, in addition to patriarchs and bishops from the Middle East, delegates from bishops' conferences that have the most active presence in the region, Orthodox Christians, Muslim and Jewish representatives will also be participating.
Three hundred people, including 150 bishops and patriarchs from Middle Eastern countries are expected to take part in the synod. Pope Benedict XVI himself will join deliberations during the morning and afternoon general congregations.
Based on his observation, the involvement and "very diligent" way Middle East Church leaders have added their contributions to shedding light on the current environment in the region, Archbishop Eterovic said that results of preparations going into the Oct. 10-24 synod are "promising."
The foundations of synod discussion are based on the answers to the Lineamenta document sent to Rome by patriarchs and bishops. This was a questionnaire meant to gain an educated, on the ground idea of the current panorama in the region. The results were published in the "Instrumentum laboris" (working document) the Holy Father consigned personally to participants in Cyprus last June which will guide the synod.
The aim of October's synod is to give "maximum visibility" to the current issues in the cradle of Christianity, explained Archbishop Eterovic in the interview with Terrasanta.net. He stressed that the "very fact that despite the unfavorable (historical) situations millions of Christians have remained in their lands" is proof of the Holy Spirit's continued strength and presence in the region.
"And," he added, "it is this trust in the Providence of God to reassure us of the fact that this area, so dear to all Chrstians, will not be reduced to an archeological dig but will always be populated by Christian 'living rocks'."
Among other themes during the sessions, he said, participants will speak in four official languages, including Arabic, about the traditional role of Christianity in the region, Arabic Christian communities as a "natural bridge" with Islam, and the importance of young people being educated in the faith. He said that this Biblical formation is also important to aiding relations with Judaism and "difficult but necessary" dialogue with Islam.
Of lasting peace in the Middle East, which is to be a major theme of the encounter, he said that a "change of heart" is needed. Specifying that the synod is of pastoral, not political nature, he said that they "will also not be able to avoid speaking of how to concretely improve the difficult situation in which Christians in many countries live."
Archbishop Eterovic himself will give journalists a comprehensive briefing on the significance of the synod next Friday in the Vatican.
Washington D.C., Oct 2, 2010 (CNA) - Announcing the agenda for its third ever United States Mission Congress, to be held in Albuquerque, New Mexico from October 28 to 31, the United States Catholic Mission Association described a need “to put our Church in a constant state of mission.” The association's director notes that the gathering is occurring at an important moment for missionary activity in the church.
“The 2010 Mission Congress comes at a time when world-wide mission is the focus of many Catholic initiatives in recent years,” Fr. Michael Montoya announced on Friday.
He cited the bishops' 2008 Synod on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church, themes of global outreach during Pope Benedict's visit to America during the same year, and the resolution made by Latin American and Caribbean bishops three years ago to launch a “continental mission” throughout their countries.
Those bishops' vision of far-ranging missionary work, described in the papally-authorized “Aparecida statement” of 2007, is a conscious inspiration to the American organizers of Mission Congress 2010. They will be hosting Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, to discuss the vision of a “continental mission” and its importance for the United States and all North America.
At least 16 U.S. bishops are reportedly attending the congress. Two of them, USCCB vice-president Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tuscon and Bishop Michael J. Warfel of Great Falls and Billings, will lead a workshop on the domestic missionary dioceses known as “Catholic Home Missions.”
Other speakers will include the Hispanic ministry expert Fr. Gary Riebe-Estrella, and Maryknoll Sisters president Sister Janice McLaughlin, who will bring to the congress nearly 40 years of experience in African countries. Participants will receive a bilingual manual containing information on American and global missionary initiatives.
Fr. Michael Montoya described the manual as “a charge to go forth and continue promoting mission and global solidarity.”
Fr. Montoya said the intention of the congress, which is held every five years, is to “invigorate mission identity and leadership in the U.S. Church,” and to showcase the diverse “faces and creativity of U.S. Catholics in mission.”
New York City, N.Y., Oct 2, 2010 (CNA) - Catholic League president Bill Donohue has criticized the New York auction house Sotheby’s for including an artwork of a crucified frog in its latest exhibit. Pope Benedict XVI previously wrote that the work “injured” religious feeling and an Italian official went on a hunger strike to protest its display in a regional museum.
The auction house is hosting an exhibition titled “Divine Comedy” containing about 80 works related to Dante Alighieri’s masterpiece. The exhibit includes artist George Condo’s “The Priest,” a 2010 depiction of a deformed animal’s face resting upon the torso of a priest. Another work is Salvador Dali’s 1962 “The Vision of Hell,” which shows pitchforks and a portrait of the Virgin Mary.
The Catholic League reports that one prominently displayed piece is Martin Kippenberger’s “Zuerst die Fuesse (Feet First). The decades-old work substitutes a crucified frog for Jesus on the Cross. The animal is holding a mug of beer and an egg.
Donohue described Condo’s work as “amateurish” and Dali’s as “representative of his usual edginess.”
“But Kippenberger's crosses the line,” he continued, claiming that Pope Benedict was angry when he learned of the work two years ago.
Donohue cites the Pope’s Aug. 7, 2008 letter to Franz Pahl, the regional official in Italy where the sculpture was on display at a museum. According to Donohue, the letter said it “injured the religious feeling of many people who see in the Cross the symbol of the love of God and of our salvation, which deserves recognition and religious devotion.”
Pahl agreed and went on a hunger strike to protest it.
“The Pope was too gentle. Kippenberger's art is degrading, insulting and grossly offensive,” the Catholic League president charged.
He said that Sotheby’s should explain why it is featuring an artwork which is an “assault on Christian sensibilities.”
The exhibit opened on Thursday and runs until October 19.
Rome, Italy, Oct 2, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican’s spokesman has invited humanity to put the death penalty in the past. Rejecting the gravest punishment of all in every one of its forms, he said that today mankind has moved beyond any necessity to kill.
During his weekly Vatican television editorial, Fr. Federico Lombardi voiced his abhorrence of all forms of the death penalty and declared himself roundly contrary to it.
Stating his position against capital punishment, he said “I don’t want it” in any country, in any of its forms, for any person or in any circumstance, “whether painful or painless ... in public or in secret.” This, he explained, is because he “seeks a greater justice.”
For the benefit of all people, he observed, “it is good to walk this street to affirm ever more ... the dignity of the person and of human life, of which it is not up to us to dispose.”
The Church, according to the Catholic Catechism, “does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.”
Citing the Pope John Paul II-based words from the same article of the Catechism, Fr. Lombardi reminded that such examples today “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.”
The spokesman added his own encouragement to take it a step further, urging, “(l)et’s make them nonexistent. It’s better.”
According to statistics from Amnesty International, executions were known to have taken place in 18 nations in 2009. Fifty-two people were executed in the U.S. alone. The organization reported that at least 714 people, not including the “likely” thousands in China, were killed worldwide by hanging, shooting, beheading, stoning, electrocution and lethal injection.
Rome, Italy, Oct 2, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Anticipating the possible announcement of a change at the helm of the U.S. government's cabinet, L'Osservatore Romano said this was President Barack Obama's first move to form a "new team" ahead of the 2012 presidential elections. In the meantime, the Vatican's semi-official paper observed, his party's prospects for the November elections are "not exactly rosy."
By the print deadline in Rome, the announcement that Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had stepped down had not yet been made. Later on Friday, however, President Obama bid farewell to Emanuel, welcoming senior adviser Pete Rouse into the position, at least for the interim.
Foreseeing this choice, the paper reported that in the selection Obama has "chosen continuity," considering that Rouse lent Obama a hand when he was elected to the Illinois state senate in 2004.
LOR said that, certainly, "the departure of Emanuel will be the occasion for Obama to seriously begin thinking of a new team in view of the presidential (elections) of 2012, given that the prospects for the midterm politics, in November, are not exactly rosy."
At least 36 U.S. Senate seats and all 435 House seats are being contested in the Nov. 2 midterm elections in which the Democratic presence, which has the majority in both houses of Congress, is expected to decrease.
Vatican City, Oct 2, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - More than 100,000 people will reportedly join the Holy Father on Sunday for celebrations in the Sicilian capital of Palermo. In the midst of recent hardships, many in the southern Italian region are looking to the Pope for words to inspire a strengthening of the social and moral fabric of the island.
The Holy Father's one-day pastoral visit to the island of Sicily will be marked by three major encounters: Mass and the Angelus in a park on the Mediterrenean Sea, a meeting with priests, religious and seminarians in the Cathedral of Palermo and a celebration with young people and families in one of the city's central squares.
Archbishop of Palermo, Paolo Romeo, told Vatican Radio on Saturday that Benedict XVI's visit will not only be a confirmation of the faith for many people but it also "aims to be a spurring moment, of taking consciousness and a greater commitment, because the needs of today's society are immense."
Sicily has been hit hard by the economic crisis, leaving many families struggling with unemployment and young people looking for a solid future, he described. There is also the incessant problem of organized crime and an increasing moral degradation that plagues the region, said the archbishop.
The director of pastoral care for culture in the Archdiocese of Palermo, Giuseppe Savagnone told Vatican Radio earlier this week that "the coming of the Pope in this moment, responds to a generic, but extremely vast and strong need to hear real, serious things that help the region to lift itself up."
Director of diocesan magazine "Condividere," Fr. Francesco Fiorino said in an editorial in the publication's most recent edition that in this context the Pope "will speak to the heart and the mind of all Sicilians.
"Obviously," Fr. Fiorino said, "he will speak to the Catholics of the island but, in line with his simple and clear style, he will not overlook an appropriate 'word' to those who expect something positive of the Successor of Peter."
This will be Benedict XVI's first time to the island as Pope. John Paul II visited five times during his pontificate, the last being in 1985.
Sicilian families have been preparing for the Pope's arrival since 2007 with an ongoing series of pastoral initiatives reaching all of the island's 18 dioceses. About 200 activities have been carried out in this time, with a specific focus on reaching out to families and young people.
The most recent initiative, a two-day conference developed to encourage the "education of hope," began on Saturday and will be closed by the Holy Father himself.
Secretary general of the Italian Bishops' Conference called the visit an "extaordinary occasion," expressing also his conviction that the papal visit lead all Sicilians to "make a commitment to reawakening a strong sense of responsibility and it will be an encouragement to look with hope and willingness to start again."