Palermo, Italy, Oct 4, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Speaking from a historical mafia stronghold on Sunday, the Holy Father raised his voice against evil and organized crime. He invited Sicilian families to instead take courage in the joy and strength found in the "big family" of the Church, a "sign and instrument of unity, peace and true liberty."
In addition to morning Mass, the Holy Father had two encounters on Sunday afternoon during his pastoral visit to Palermo, the capital city of the Italian island of Sicily and longtime hotspot of Mafia activity. Meeting first with priests, men and women religious and seminarians for Eucharistic adoration in the cathedral, he later went on to the city's Politeama Square for a celebration with young people and families, before returning to Rome.
In the cathedral, he emphasized the importance of prayer to the fulfilment of vocations, while to the throng of 30,000 gathered in and around Politeama Square, he reinforced the value of the family in life.
Observing during the latter occasion that it is the family that sows the first seeds that form one's perceptions of the meaning of life, he said that parents are the "first collaborators of God" in transmitting life and faith to their children.
This, he said, is seen in the lives of saints, and in "an exemplary and extraordinary way" in the family of the 18-year-old Chiara Badano, who was beatified last weekend in Rome. The activities of saintly people do not often make the news, he observed, "because evil makes more noise, but they are the force and the future of Sicily!"
The Pope referred then to Psalm 1 which compares a man that observes God's laws to a tree planted near a stream that produces fruit in season. He invited the young people of the island to "be the trees that sink their roots into the 'river' of good."
Benedict XVI told them, "(d)o not be afraid to oppose evil!"
"Together," he said, "you will be like a forest that grows, maybe in silence, but capable of yielding fruit, of bringing life and of renewing your land profoundly!"
In this context, he turned to an issue that touches the heart of Sicilian society, saying to those gathered and to the greater population of the island, "(d)o not give in to the suggestions of the Mafia, which is a road of death, incompatible with the Gospel ... "
Instead, he explained, a person needs "fertile soil" in which to grow, full of the "nutritional substances" of "values, but especially love and faith, consciousness of the true face of God, the knowledge that He loves us infinitely, faithfully, patiently, to the point of giving his life for us."
Explaining that the family as a "small church" must be inserted into the family of God in the "big Church," he said that this is seen in the lives of saints, for whom "together with the family of origin, the big family of the Church is fundamental."
And, this, he concluded, is "the biggest gift we have received: being a Church, being in Christ a sign and instrument of unity, peace and true liberty. No one can take this joy from us! No one can take this strength from us.
"Take courage, dear young people and families of Sicily!" he told them. "Be saints!"
Barcelona, Spain, Oct 4, 2010 (CNA/Europa Press) -
Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach of Barcelona said last Friday that the archdiocese is expecting “nearly half a million people” to show up for Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Barcelona, where he will consecrate the “Sagrada Familia,” or Church of the Holy Family.
The prelate noted that the visit will be an expression of the Holy Father's affection for Spain. “I think the city wants to see him,” he said, adding that hundreds are expected to welcome Benedict XVI on November 6, outside the archdiocesan cathedral.
Cardinal Sistach said 30,000 chairs will be set up outside the Church of the Holy Family for the celebration and that 300 priests, as well as 1,500 volunteers, will distribute the Eucharist to the faithful. For security reasons, he explained, only 6,500 people will be allowed to inside the church.
Television screens will be set up throughout the interior of the church to help those present follow the ceremony, as the structure's 52 columns will make it difficult for many to see the main altar.
Asked about the papal motorcade route from the cardinal’s residence to the “Sagrada Familia,” Cardinal Sistach said details will likely be announced during a press conference on October 6.
Vatican City, Oct 4, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Contrary to preliminary reports from Sicily on Sunday, the crowds attending papal events in the island's capital city were "never before seen in Italy." According to an official from Holy See's Press Office who was on the ground at the event, this is just the latest occurrence in a continuous "crescendo" of "miracle" turnouts for Pope Benedict XVI.
The Holy Father visited Sicily for just 10 hours on Sunday, but according to press office figures, he was seen by nearly 300,000 people. Three major events marked the day's schedule, two of which were outdoors on a very hot, clear day.
Police figures originally put the figure at 30,000 people for the morning Mass on the seafront esplanade called the "Foro Italico." But the sub-director of the Holy See's Press Office, Fr. Ciro Benedettini, who was able to get the official estimates from local authorities, said on Monday that the figure was "around 200,000." From his vantage point at the altar, he said, there were people as far as the eye could see, and accompanying the Pope's every movement across the city there was a robust line of people to greet him as he passed.
Of these and the "at least 30,000" young people and families that showed for the afternoon encounter with the Holy Father in a city square, Fr. Benedettini said that for a pastoral visit in Italy, "they are the highest figures we have ever seen."
A "consistent crescendo" of interest follows the Pope recent trips, he said, which include the U.K., where the Pope was also seen by hundreds of thousands of people. An estimated 500,000 attendees joined the Pope for Mass at the Marian shrine in Fatima, Portugal during his visit there last May.
He also referred to the reverent silence of the crowds during events at which the Pope presides as a “miracle.” The same total silence was observed on Sunday in Sicily, just as it was at Mass in Glasgow's Bellahouston Park, at London's Hyde Park during the prayer vigil and also at Blessed Cardinal Newman's beatification Mass in Birmingham.
Not wishing to make a comparison with turnouts for celebrations during John Paul II's five visits to the island, Fr. Benedettini emphasized his positive impressions to journalists in the Vatican press office on Monday, asking, "Did you see the enthusiasm of the young people?"
Of Pope Benedict XVI, he said, "they were as happy with him and more."
Vatican City, Oct 4, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister and a man with a reputation for being a wise-guy, was admonished by L'Osservatore Romano over the weekend for yet another joke told in bad taste. His latest "zinger" offends believers and victims of the Holocaust.
Italy's La Repubblica newspaper released a video this week in which the prime minister is recorded in the street just outside his residence, where he went out to meet with supporters. Berlusconi spoke about several issues, but his utterances about a Jew who paid to be hidden in another Jew's basement to esape the concentration camps of World War II, offended Italians.
In telling a surprised third Jew about how he demanded 3,000 Euro per day to do so, the host reasons that: "one, we're Jews and, two, he has the money ... so leave me in peace." By the way, he says, "do you think we should tell him that the war is over?"
Documenting the bitter reactions around Italy to the video, the Vatican's L'Osservatore Romano (LOR) newpaper recalled one of the messages from the plenary meeting of the Italian Bishops' Conference (CEI) last week: that the political situation in the country generates a feeling of "anguish."
And, "in this context," the LOR editorial continues, "some jokes of the chief of government ... that offend indistinctly the feelings of believers and the sacred memory of the six million victims of the Shoah are all the more deplorable."
LOR seconded the sentiments of CEI president Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco who said last week that comments made in the public square must be "suitable to civility and education."
The Italian prime minister, who has a history of such jokes, recently responded to criticism of another joke in which he made fun of an opposition leader's appearance. It was actually the second time he has done so, but it was "just for laughs" he said, adding that the "bad taste and responsibility" for such comments "are, in any case, of those who publicize it."
Guadalajara, Mexico, Oct 4, 2010 (CNA) - The press office of the Archdiocese of Guadalajara, Mexico announced last week that lawyers representing Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez are preparing to respond to the two lawsuits filed against him by the mayor of Mexico City.
The press office noted that the response to the first lawsuit will be filed before Oct. 6.
Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard is suing the cardinal for comments he made charging that Ebrard and international organizations pressured the justices of the Supreme Court to make same-sex “marriage” constitutional.
Ebrard has also filed a second lawsuit against the cardinal, this time, for calling the government “dictatorial.”
An archdiocesan statement noted that lawyers will respond to the second filing once the details are released, “with absolute respect for our institutions and for the laws that govern us.” The archdiocese continued, saying that “if the lawsuit is filed, this confirms that this is a dictatorship that does not tolerate criticism.”
It then noted that the Mexico City government is showing its intolerance for criticism, “and it has nothing to do in this case with the argument that the secular state is somehow being attacked. We respect a healthy secularism, and we think it is best for our country, and it also implies respect for a citizen’s right to express an opinion without suffering discrimination, just because he is a member of the clergy."
The archdiocese also referred to the decision by the National Council for the Prevention of Discrimination to classify the comments by Cardinal Sandoval as discriminatory.
“The intention of the Archbishop of Guadalajara was in no way to promote disdain for men or women who experience same-sex attraction. The council’s interpretation was erroneous, but we respect its decision,” the press office said, adding that the council’s statements were sent to the archdiocese via e-mail and not via an official letter.
Rome, Italy, Oct 4, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - People have come from all over the world to Rome this week to examine the Church's place in the technological age. Opening the deliberations, the head of the Vatican council for communications outlined some of the themes of the congress, which include a look at the identity and mission of Catholic media.
The Pontifical Council for Social Communications (PCCS) is sponsoring the "Catholic Press Congress," which began just a few blocks from Vatican City at the St. Pius X Auditorium on Monday. Organizers said there were around 230 representatives from 85 countries present on the first day, representing the Catholic media worldwide.
Opening the four-day examination of "Catholic press in the digital age," the council's president, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, set the tone in his inaugural speech, saying that participants and organizers were there to listen to each other and to find answers to uncertainties in the field.
He emphasized that the encounter was called because there was a need to come together to analyze the theme in the current global context, which he called "strongly influenced and marked by new technologies that push towards 'multimediality'."
"It needs to be recognized," the archbishop said, " ... that we are living in an historic moment in which the secular press itself is interrogating itself on its own future" while the Catholic press is also addressing the "numerous challenges linked to its specificity."
Archbishop Celli said that in such a context all news sources should be examining their identities and missions. Pointing to the mission of the Catholic press, he said that it should be examined from “a perspective of service,” and, he added, "this will be made possible only if we ask ourselves what its role should be in society and in the Church."
He brought up such issues as the Church's response to sexual abuse committed by clergy, discrimination against Christians seen in countries with majority populations of believers, and the important role of the press within the Church.
Archbishop Celli also asked whether or not one of the main challenges to Catholic media today might be the keeping the debate on "meaning" alive and "ensuring a place for the question of the infinite" in the world.
To examine these and related themes, the morning session of the congress was dedicated to looking at challenges and opportunities to the future of the press. In the afternoon, after a video that focused on the "identity, vitality and mission" of Catholic press today, a panel of four leaders from prominent Catholic publications returned to global challenges.
The congress will continue through Thursday, when participants will meet in audience with Pope Benedict XVI.
Madrid, Spain, Oct 4, 2010 (CNA) - The organizers of World Youth Day Madrid 2011 announced this week that those wishing to make donations to defray the costs of the massive event can do so through a new website.
Through the website www.muchasgracias.info, donors can select from several ways to contribute to the World Youth Day festivities, including: liturgical vestments, transportation for those with disabilities, and financial aid for youth from impoverished countries.
Gabriel Gonzalez-Andrio, director of marketing for WYD 2011, said the idea is to motivate people to collaborate with WYD according to their means.
He explained that WYD attendees will cover two-thirds of the cost of the event, while business sponsorships and private donations will cover the remaining one-third.
“The objective is to spend as little as possible and raise as much as necessary, in addition to saving as much as possible on all expenses,” said event financial director Fernando Gimenez Barriocanal.
Those who wish to donate to WYD 2011 can visit www.muchasgracias.info
Rome, Italy, Oct 4, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The role of the Catholic press today might be one of providing a service of "counter-information," said a prominent figure in the Catholic media on Monday. Speaking of the global challenges to the Catholic media today, the director of Italy's most important Catholic newspaper, Avvenire, called for news sources to strongly bear witness to the authenticity of Christianity.
The director of the Italian bishops' Avvenire newspaper, Marco Tarquinio, made an address on the first day of the Catholic Press Congress being hosted by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. He was one of four directors from major Catholic publications to address the assembly during a session on global challenges to Catholic media.
Emphasizing to participants that "the message is everything," he said that all too often the truth of Christianity is recounted in the media only when it enters into crisis or participates in some way in the more general "crisis of the times." In this context, he noted, it is made to appear that the Christian voice enters the debate already on the defensive, engaging in a fight "destined to inevitably conclude with surrender."
Tarquinio underscored that this is not the case. He used the terminology of Benedict XVI, saying that "the destiny of Christian communities, even when they are a minority” is to be “a sign, a sign of contradiction."
The digital age, he said, calls the Catholic press to be present in a new space with a new language, without leaving the "authenticity" of the message behind.
Turning then to the struggle between information and "counter-information" today, he recalled a list of stories that received greater coverage in the Catholic media while being practically ignored by other news sources. The three that he detailed were the "illusory security" of the condom as protection against transmitting AIDS, the plague of pedophilia in all of society and the untold persecution of Christians.
Given the way that these stories are routinely neglected by the world media, he posed the question of whether "today, more than ever, with the style and depth that are proper of Catholic mass media, our role and our duty might not be that of serenely and tenaciously being 'counter-informers'.
"We cannot and we do not want to give in to the logic of the media circus," he said, adding, "(a)nd we're freer than anyone else to do it."
In this light, Tarquinio identified several story lines that the Catholic press must challenge itself to cover. One of these is the need to defend the inviolability of Pope Benedict and to communicate the words of "depth and truth" of his teaching that "the social questions have largely become anthropological question(s)," he said.
Avvenire's director finished his address by pointing to a final area that Catholic media professionals need to cover. “(A)s journalists and Catholics, but also only as lovers of humanity," Catholic media personnel should be able to “recount and bear witness to times when business and 'straw' are made of the values of life," he said. Tarquinio added that they must know how to do so amidst attacks on the role of the family that render social fabric "uncertain," where "the crucial liberty of believing and educating is under discussion and even negated" and where "the future and the common good are humiliated and threatened."
Omaha, Neb., Oct 4, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Archdiocese of Omaha announced on Oct. 4 that the leader of contemplative group the Association of the Hermit Intercessors of the Lamb was asked to resign from her position following a canonical visitation. According to the archdiocesan spokesman, the questioning of the association's members produced “alarming” findings.
On Sept. 30, Archbishop George Lucas asked for and accepted the resignation of Sr. Nadine Brown – who founded the association of lay and clerical hermits in Omaha – and appointed Fr. Gregory Baxter as trustee. The group was started by Sr. Nadine, who is a former member of the Sisters of the Cross (now the Contemplatives of the Good Shepherd) in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The archdiocese stated that the Intercessors were originally recognized by Archbishop Daniel Sheehan as a private association of the Christian faithful in 1992. Several years later in 1998, the group's juridical status changed when Archbishop Elden Curtiss recognized them as a public association of the Christian faithful.
Deacon Timothy McNeil, chancellor of the archdiocese and director of communications, explained to CNA on Monday in a phone interview that Sr. Nadine had approached the newly installed Archbishop Lucas last year in order to move the group's status to the next canonical tier.
In an effort to familiarize himself with the group before advancing Sr. Nadine's initiative, Archbishop Lucas had canon lawyer Fr. James Conn act as his delegate in conducting a canonical visitation of the Intercessors.
“We learned some things that were kind of alarming,” said Deacon McNeil, adding that the findings showed that “they were not ready to make the next step.”
“The findings were such” that if the group was going to advance to the next canonical status, he noted, “it would have to be under the leadership of another individual.”
For that reason, the deacon said, Archbishop Lucas asked Sr. Nadine to resign “and she agreed to it.”
When asked what the specifics findings of the visitation were, Deacon McNeil explained that they included “discord within the group, widespread dissatisfaction with current leadership, reservation of the Eucharist in a way that is not provided by ecclesiastical law,” poor “management of temporal goods” and an inability of group members to articulate the Intercessors' charism.
“The combination of all of these things,” he added, “resulted in the group needing a new leadership change.”
Deacon McNeil said that Archbishop Lucas has appointed Fr. Gregory Baxter – a pastor of the local St. Margaret Mary parish who has held numerous archdiocesan positions – as trustee of the group.
In a statement released by the Omaha archdiocese on Oct. 4, the archbishop said that “Father Conn’s preliminary findings, as well as Father Baxter’s appointment as trustee, will help chart a course forward for the community. I’m grateful for Father Conn’s good work, and I have full confidence in Father Baxter’s ability to guide the visitation to a successful conclusion.”