New Dehli, India, Oct 7, 2010 (CNA) - A survey of Catholics in a northern India diocese reports that, despite recent attacks against their fellow believers, they see authentic Christian witness as a top priority and as key to outreach to the poor. The local bishop has also committed himself to this goal.
Bishop Ignatius Mascarenhas of the Diocese of Simla-Chandigarh commissioned the investigating survey soon after taking office last year. He discussed the findings in a recent interview with the pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
The bishop told ACN he would redouble efforts to make Christian outreach a priority through schools, preaching and service, “telling people it is Christ’s love we are sharing, and not being too afraid.”
He said Christian institutions must remember they exist “to bring Christ’s love.”
Survey respondents listed education as their second priority, voicing a particular commitment to giving more poor children places in Catholic schools. They named support for youth as their third priority.
Bishop Mascarenhas told ACN that India currently has the largest number of young people in the world and it is normal for families to have three to four children. He said the Church would focus on increasing young people’s faith and on promoting ways of Christian living in contrast to contrary messages in the media.
The fourth priority of respondents was social development, such as helping poor people become independent. The bishop said there was a special need to emphasize the rights of women and girls. They are perceived as a drain on the family, which is required to pay a dowry when the women are married.
Because of this view, women are frequently neglected and many die. However, the Church has been caring for unwanted girls in hostels run by religious sisters. The perception of girls is slowly changing but the bishop said change will take time.
The final priority named in the survey was the expansion of health care.
The bishop told ACN that Christians in India are “well known” for social development and teams have been established to implement these priorities as part of the Church’s mission.
The territory of the Diocese of Simla-Chandigarh is four times the size of Belgium. There are only about 20,000 Christians in its population of 20 million people.
Recent violence against Christians in India has moved ACN to make it a priority country. In 2009 it gave more than $4.8 million to projects to help the Church there. Its aid includes Mass stipends for priests, distribution of ACN Child’s Bibles and other religious education literature, training for seminarians and novices, building churches, and providing vehicles for clergy ministering in remote regions.
Greeley, Colo., Oct 7, 2010 (CNA) - The University of Northern Colorado pro-life student group BEARfoot for Babies is going barefoot on campus to mark its “Life Week” celebration, which includes speakers, campus displays, fundraisers and religious services. Their actions intend to show solidarity with unborn children.
BEARfoot for Babies, believed to be one of the largest pro-life campus groups in the United States, says hundreds of students are going barefoot for the week, which lasts from Oct. 3-9. The group takes its name from the University of Northern Colorado mascot, the Bears.
"It is amazing how many conversations are started when students are barefoot on campus. Our second year is going better than we anticipated, and we are thrilled to share the message of life and hope with the students at UNC Greeley,” commented Sunny Longenbaugh, development director of the Bear Catholic campus ministry.
She called the group an “incredible opportunity” for students to “stand in solidarity for babies.”
BEARfoot for Babies planned to erect 3,300 small white crosses on the lawn of the University Center to remember the more than 3,300 babies killed by abortion every day in the country.
Throughout the week the student group is hosting a Life Expo to direct students to organizations and resources for those who are seeking volunteer opportunities, counseling, and alternatives to abortion.
Scheduled speakers at the University Center are Lila Rose, founder of the investigative group Live Action; former Planned Parenthood abortion provider Carol Everett; Rebecca Kiessling, a pro-life speaker who was conceived in rape; Fr. Tad Pacholcyzk of the National Catholic Bioethics Center; and Brian Gail, author of the bestselling book “Fatherless.”
A screening of the documentary “Blood Money” is also among the week’s events, which are free and open to the public.
On Monday Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput celebrated a Mass for the event at St. Peter Catholic Church. On Friday evening the church’s pastor Fr. Rocco Porter will celebrate a healing Mass for the more than 50 million lives lost to legal abortion in the U.S. An outdoor Rosary is also among the week’s events.
"It is truly amazing to see so many college students that are passionate for the dignity of life.” Longenbaugh continued. “Hundreds of pro-life students are serving as a witness for those lives lost to abortion, simply by going barefoot.”
He added that the event is a chance to highlight the “tragedy of abortion” while also delivering “a message of hope.”
The BEARfoot for Babies event is the second since 2009. Its website is at http://www.bearfootforbabies.org.
Front Royal, Va., Oct 7, 2010 (CNA) - On Tuesday, population expert Steve Mosher condemned recent statements made by Chinese government officials praising the country's one-child policy. Mosher, who helped voice alarm over the policy when it took effect 30 years ago, decried situation as an “unmitigated social disaster.”
Commenting to China Daily on Sept. 27, National Population and Family Planning Commission leader Li Bin lauded the one-child policy, saying the country would continue to uphold it. Over the past 30 years in China, 400 million births have been prevented.
"Historical change doesn't come easily, and I, on behalf of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, extend profound gratitude to all, the people in particular, for their support of the national course," Li Bin said.
"So we will stick to the family-planning policy in the coming decades," she added.
In a statement on Oct. 5, however, Population Research Institute (PRI) president Steve Mosher called the country's one-child mandate an "unmitigated social disaster," making China the "ugly poster child of forced abortion and coerced sterilization."
Despite government officials' claims that the policy has helped China's economy and contributed to other social advances, Mosher argued that a primary goal of the mandate has been to "help maintain the muscular rigor of the one-party dictatorship that rules China."
"China is a police state, after all," Mosher continued, adding that "such a state, to remain strong, must have something to police. Economic controls have been loosened over the past 30 years, so control over other aspects of life must be tightened. The brutal one-child policy is one consequence of such a system's relentless drive for control over people's lives."
"The Chinese government," he noted, "supported by foreign population control zealots, believe that its program should be held up as a population control role model for the rest of the world.”
“In reality, it should be roundly condemned for its widespread and systematic violations of human rights, especially the rights of women.”
Mosher has been joined in his criticism of the one-child policy by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who recently appealed to President Obama to speak out in defense of the Chinese people “on this terrible anniversary,” noting “what an encouragement that would be for hundreds of millions of Chinese hearts, to suddenly feel that the leader of the free world understands and empathizes with their plight.”
Rome, Italy, Oct 7, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The four metropolitan archbishops of Ireland met this week with the apostolic visitors chosen by the Holy Father to carry out visitations in their archdioceses. After two days of meetings, the participants are "hopeful" that their work will be a means to purify and heal the Catholic Church of Ireland and "help to restore the trust and hope of the faithful there."
According to a statement from the Holy See's Press Office, the meetings took place Oct. 5-6.
The visitors and the respective archdioceses subject to visitation are Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor to Armagh; Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley, OFM., to Dublin; Archbishop Thomas Christopher Collins to Cashel and Emly; and Archbishop Terrence Thomas Prendergast, S.J., to Tuam.
The archbishops of these four jurisdictions are Cardinal Sean B. Brady for Armagh; Diarmuid Martin for Dublin; Dermot Clifford for Cashel and Emly; and Michael Neary for Tuam.
During the first day's preparatory meeting at which they were all "(m)indful of the tragic abuse of children that has taken place in Ireland," participants discussed aspects of the visitation.
As per the Holy Father's “Letter to the Catholics of Ireland,” the visit will be of a "pastoral" nature, "intended to assist the local Church on her path of renewal" and, said the Vatican press office, it "is a sign of the Holy Father’s desire, as the Successor of Peter, to offer his pastoral solicitude to the Church in Ireland."
The Vatican statement also described the contact visitors will have with members of the Irish Church, affirming that they will be giving "particular attention to victims of abuse and their families, but will also meet with and listen to a variety of people, including ecclesiastical authorities, lay faithful and those involved with the crucial work of safeguarding of children."
To begin to the second day, Irish archbishops celebrated Mass with the visitors and participating members of the Congregation for Bishops and the Holy See's Secretariat of State. All met afterward to summarize the first day's discussions and decide how to organize the visitation to each of the archdioceses.
According to the official statement, the meeting was "marked by fraternal warmth and mutual collaboration."
Following the meetings, all who took part asserted that they "are hopeful that this significant endeavor will be an instrument of purification and healing for the Church in Ireland and help to restore the trust and hope of the faithful there."
Vatican City, Oct 7, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The 66-year-old secretary of the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy was appointed today as its new prefect. Archbishop Mauro Piacenza will bring many years of inside experience to the role in which he will oversee the world's Catholic priests.
The announcement of Archbishop Mauro Piacenza as the new prefect came from the Holy See's Press Office just after noon on Thursday along with the news that the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" had also received a new president.
Archbishop Piacenza will oversee the congregation's three main responsibilities: general management of the training, formation and pastoral ministry of priests; oversight and promotion of the catechetical formation of all faithful of all states of life; and the administration of legal matters relating to care for the clergy and parishes.
Archbishop Piacenza was born in Genoa, Italy in 1944, was ordained a priest in 1969 and is a Canon Law expert. He has served as a professor of Canon Law and has also taught on the subjects of contemporary culture and the history of atheism.
Since 1990, he has served on and off in various roles within the Congregation for Clergy. His first full position within the department came in 1997 when he was named "Capo Ufficio" (office manager) and served as its sub-secretary from 2000-2003. He was then appointed president of the Pontifical Council for Cultural Patrimony.
In May of 2007, then-Bishop Piacenza returned to the Congregation for Clergy as secretary, maintaining his responsibilities as president of both the commission for cultural patrimony and the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archeology for another five months. Shortly after the appointment he was made archbishop.
Cardinal Claudio Hummes, native of Brazil and member of the Order of Friars Minor, thus resigns after nearly four years of service as the prefect of the congregation. His resignation was imminent as he had reached the retirement age of 75 for members of the Roman Curia over a year ago.
The position traditionally raises one to the rank of cardinal, so Archbishop Piacenza may be elected at the next consistory which could take place as soon as November.
Vatican City, Oct 7, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Noting the influence of media on perception of reality in an ever developing world, the Holy Father on Thursday called Catholic communications experts to base their efforts in the truth of the Word of God. The "Word," he said, continues to be the "fundamental and ... essential instrument of communication."
The Holy Father met with participants on the final day of this week's Catholic Press Congress promoted by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. The conference has examined the place of the Church in the digital age, inviting Catholic communications professionals from all over the world to the Vatican to share their experiences.
Benedict XVI spoke of two aspects concerning Catholics working in the media: the nature of the press in a globalized era marked by changing technologies and how Catholic publications should strive to remain “explicitly and substantially” faithful to Church teaching by daily committing to follow the path of truth.
"Catholic journalists must seek the truth with impassioned minds and hearts", he explained, "but also with the professionalism of competent workers equipped with adequate and efficient means.” This is more important than ever today, he said, as the idea of "image" is becoming increasingly important.
Explaining that there are positive aspects of putting increased importance on promoting "image" through new technologies, he said that it can also result in a detachment from reality, thus "giving life to a virtual world, with various consequences."
The first among these, he continued, is the "risk of indifference towards what is real," that "technologies and the progress they bring can render the true and the false interchangeable, they can lead to a confusion between real and virtual."
This can lead to a perspective of seeing the events, regardless of nature, as mere spectacle and not as occasions for reflection, he noted. In this case, the Pope said, the "search for ways for an authentic promotion of man passes then to the second plane, because the event is presented mainly to arouse emotions.
"These aspects resound as an alarm bell: they invite consideration of the danger that the virtual may distance (one) from the reality and might not stimulate the search for 'the true,' the truth."
"In this context, the Catholic press is called, in a new way, to give full expression to its potential and, day by day, to give the reasons for its indispensable mission."
Reflecting on how Christianity shares a "fundamental structure with communication: the fact that the means and the message coincide,” Pope Benedict said that this facilitates the mission of the Catholic media. "Indeed," he said, "the Son of God, the Word incarnate, is, at one and the same time, the message of salvation and the means though which salvation is achieved. This is not a mere concept but a reality accessible to everyone".
The "Word" continues to be the "fundamental and ... essential instrument of communication."
Saying that people who work in the Catholic press must "always put God at the top of their scale of values," if they do not wish to be just a 'clanging cymbal,' he told them that their task is "that of helping modern man to turn to Christ, the one Savior, and to keep the flame of hope alight in the world, so as to live worthily today and to adequately build the future.
"For this reason," he concluded, "I exhort you to constantly renew your personal choice for Christ, drawing on those spiritual resources which, though undervalued by the modern mentality, remain valuable, indeed, indispensable."
Madrid, Spain, Oct 7, 2010 (CNA) -
During his visit to Barcelona in November, Pope Benedict XVI will take a 30 minute motorcade ride from the archbishop's residence to the Church of the Holy Family along the streets of the Spanish city.
According to the Spanish daily La Razon, the Holy Father will arrive at the Barcelona airport on the afternoon of November 6 and will be met by an entourage of 10 people.
The group will then accompany him to the archbishop’s residence.
The next day, the Pope will be accompanied by Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach on a motorcade ride through downtown Barcelona to the “Sagrada Familia” or Church of the Holy Family, where he will celebrate the Mass with 1,100 concelebrants, including cardinals, archbishops, bishops, abbots and priests.
That afternoon, Benedict XVI will visit a home for children with disabilities. The king and queen of Spain will then meet the Holy Father at the airport for the departure ceremony.
Vatican City, Oct 7, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI has appointed 65-year-old Archbishop Robert Sarah as the new president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum." He steps into the shoes of the now retired Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes in leading the Holy See's department for charity and relief.
Hand-picked from his place as secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Archbishop Sarah will bring nearly a decade of experience in the Vatican to the mission of "Cor Unum"
The objectives of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" are to provide assistance in the Pope's name for humanitarian relief or to promote projects and initiatives for integral human development. The council also encourages and coordinates the initiatives of Catholic organizations worldwide.
Archbishop Sarah was ordained in 1969 in Conakry, Guinea. After his ordination, he worked as the rector of a minor seminary and as a parish priest before his election to the archbishopric of Conakry at just 34 years old. At the time he was the youngest bishop in the world.
Almost exactly nine years ago, he was appointed as secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, where he worked under Cardinal Ivan Dias.
Today Pope Benedict accepted the resignation of President-emeritus Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes of Germany who reached the age limit of 75 last year. He had served as the head of “Cor Unum” for most of the last 15 years.
Brasilia, Brazil, Oct 7, 2010 (CNA) - The director of priestly formation at the Canção Nova Community in Brazil, Father Jose Augusto Souza Moreira, reminded Catholics this week that they cannot vote for candidates who support abortion.
Dilma Rousseff, the Labor Party’s presidential candidate, is the favorite to win the country’s October 31 run-off elections. However, her backing of abortion, which she has recently tried to downplay, has led to a decline in voter support.
“I did not vote nor will I vote” for the Labor Party because “I support life,” said Fr. Souza in a recent homily.
Catholics must not vote for those who support the killing of the unborn, he said, and they must not remain silent when political parties promote abortion. Those who participate in an abortion are automatically excommunicated, he noted, adding, “It doesn’t matter how children come into this world, they have the right to life.”
The founder of the Canção Nova Community, Bishop Jonas Abib, stressed that as Brazilians go to the polls, “We must be faithful to the values of the Church.”
“Each person must vote according to his convictions and in accord with the social teachings of the Church,” he added.
Mexico City, Mexico, Oct 7, 2010 (CNA) - In a recent reflection published on the website of the Mexican Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Jose Luis Chavez Botello of Antequera-Oaxaca expressed his concerns over the increased marginalization of religion, and of the attempts to silence its voice in society.
“Authentic religion, through the life and activity of its members, offers a valuable contribution to the development of a healthy society, to the more complete recognition of the dignity of the human person, to peaceful coexistence, to social justice and to the commitment to the common good,” the archbishop wrote in his article.
The prelate noted that historically when religion is relegated to the private sphere, it leads to the destruction of society. “A look at serious and critical studies of various countries and periods is enough to see what happens when religious expression is suffocated or marginalized in social life. What was achieved? Only regression, disintegration, meaninglessness and division in society for many years.”
“Religion inspires people to improve themselves and become better neighbors and citizens. It inspires believers to reach out to those in need. It has a role to play and makes a vital and irreplaceable contribution because religion gives weight, meaning, dynamism and transcendence to all human activity, to persons and to society itself,” the archbishop said.
He also noted that religion fosters the practice of virtues such as honesty, truth, unity, charity, justice, reconciliation and forgiveness. These are values that “strengthen life and the family” and that inspire people to be “more responsible and to be committed to justice and peace - to confront conflicts in a constructive way.”
“Authentic religion is … a source of comprehensive self-improvement,” the archbishop said, recalling that the recognition of human dignity, the abolition of slavery, the care for the sick and for orphans, the creation of hospitals, schools, universities and schools of art were all inspired by the Christian faith.
Madrid, Spain, Oct 7, 2010 (CNA) - During a visit to Spain this week, the postulator of Pope John Paul II’s cause for beatification noted that the process is currently at a crucial moment as miracles attributed to the late pontiff’s intercession are being investigated.
In an interview with the newspaper La Razon, Father Slawomir Oder said the process “has not been blocked” as some media reports have indicated. “The only thing I can say is that the canonical process must continue,” he said.
“We have reached the end of the first phase which deals with his heroism and virtues, and now we must initiate the process dealing with miracles. When it is finished, the Church will be able to lay out the process for his beatification,” the priest said.
Fr. Oder was visiting Spain to promote his new book, “Why He is a Saint.” The priest has been John Paul II’s postulator since 2005 and was a personal friend of the revered Pontiff.
“There are two paths to sainthood,” the priest explained. “One is through martyrdom,” and the other – the path John Paul II followed – is through “heroism of virtues, how that person lived. There must be the conviction that the person was a man of God and that opinion must be shared by most, expressed by the voice of the people that he lived in holiness.
“From there, a study on his life is carried out and his virtues are identified: faith, hope, charity, obedience, purity, humility.”
Fr. Oder recalled that he was always impressed by the pastoral dimension of John Paul II more than by his role in the politics of his time. “He always acted like who he was: a pastor concerned for his faithful. John Paul II was able to speak to the masses as if he was personally speaking to each person listening. He had great charism and ability to communicate,” the priest said.
He also confirmed that Pope John Paul II put in writing that he would resign as Pope if he were to be physically incapable of continuing, “in an exercise of prudence and responsibility. In this way he renewed his acceptance of the will of God and his total openness to Christ and to the Church.”
However, Fr. Oder noted, John Paul II “maintained his clarity and his ability to discern until the end.”
Vatican City, Oct 7, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Remembering the historical cooperation of the Catholic Church with the Chilean government on Thursday, the Holy Father hoped for collaboration to confront current threats to the cultural identity of the nation. Affirming that this is important, especially to young people today, he said that the Church always works for the good of all people and not just believers.
Pope Benedict XVI met with the new Chilean ambassador to the Holy See, Fernando Zegers, on Thursday morning. Offering his credentials, Mr. Zegers recalled the long history of the cooperation between Church and State in the country and most recently the "irreplaceable" role of the Church in rebuilding efforts after the devastating earthquake near the city of Concepcion last February.
Accepting the new diplomat's credentials, the Pope said that he holds Chile "very close to his heart ... especially after the terrible earthquake." He assured the ambassador that he has also not forgotten the trapped miners and their families for whom he continues to "fervently" pray.
He recognized the unity of the Chilean people in the face of such difficulties and praised the Church for its efforts to help those who most need it. Noting the role of the Church in important events throughout the country's recently celebrated 200-year history and in forming the country's national identity, Benedict XVI observed that "the fruits that the Gospel has produced in this blessed land are numerous."
Citing the example of the successful peace accord between Argentina and Chile mediated by Pope John Paul II in the 1980s, he said it cannot be explained without "taking accounting of how deep the seed of the Gospel is rooted in the heart of Chileans."
"Likewise," he added, “it is important” now when the cultural identity is threatened "to promote especially among the youngest people healthy pride, a renewed appreciation and re-evaluation of their faith, their history, their culture, their traditions and their artistic wealth, and of that which constitutes the best and richest spiritual and human patrimony of Chile."
Although they are independent and autonomous, said the Pope, the Church and State "are called to develop a loyal and respectful collaboration to serve the personal and social vocations of people."
The Church, he explained, is ever searching to answer the questions of man. And, "when the Church raises her voice to the great challenges and current problems ... she does not act for a particular interest or because of principles that only can be perceived by those who profess a determined religious faith.
"Respecting the rules of democratic co-existence," he affirmed, "she does so for the good of all society and in the name of values that all people can share with their upright reason."