Washington D.C., Oct 8, 2010 (CNA) - Facebook users will have the opportunity to win a free copy of a book by Pope Benedict XVI if they become fans of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and answer a question about the Pope correctly during “Pope Culture Week.”
Each day from Monday Oct. 11 to Friday Oct. 15 the USCCB will ask its Facebook fans one question about the life and teachings of Pope Benedict. The first person to give the correct answer in a page comment will receive a free copy of “Benedict XVI: Essays and Reflections on his Papacy,” published by Sheed & Ward and the USCCB.
Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, director of media relations for the USCCB and editor of the book, said the USCCB thinks the contest is “a great opportunity to engage our Facebook fans while promoting literacy about the Pope.”
Participants must be registered users of Facebook who “like” the USCCB’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/usccb
Venice, Italy, Oct 8, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - It was with "great joy and emotion" that the Patriarch of Venice, Cardinal Angelo Scola, revealed plans for a papal visit to his archdiocese next spring. Benedict XVI will visit the cities of Venice and Aquileia from May 7-8, he announced.
During an annual pastoral meeting for priests at St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice, Cardinal Scola confirmed that the Holy Father has accepted his invitation and will take part in important pastoral initiatives in the two locations.
The visit will begin on May 7 when the Pope will spend the afternoon with those preparing for an inter-diocesan conference in Aquileia. Representatives from all of the dioceses of northeastern Italy, Slovenia, Croatia and Austria will all be there for the opening.
Later that evening Benedict XVI will travel to Venice, where he will spend the night. On May 8 the Holy Father will participate in the conclusion of the Pastoral Visit that has been going on in the patriarchate since 2004.
Speaking to the priests in the cathedral, the cardinal patriarch told them that by "preparing ourselves carefully and living this extraordinary event together we will be able to better comprehend the precious signs that the Spirit has disseminated among us along this period of grace and so open ourselves to the future full of hope."
He invited all Church members and realities in the dioceses to "mobilize themselves" to welcome the Pope. He pointed out that it has been 26 years since John Paul II visited Venice. Paul VI also visited the city 40 years ago, he said, and Pope's Pius X, John XXIII and John Paul I all served as patriarchs there in the last century.
Tel Aviv, Israel, Oct 8, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Israel’s Embassy to the Holy See has released statistics showing that the number of Christians in the State of Israel is not decreasing. The embassy says that the Israeli Christian population is increasing “more or less on par” with that of similarly situated Israeli Jews.
The figures were excerpted from the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics.
“(T)he rate of population increase amongst Israeli Christians is more or less on par with that of Israeli Jews, with whom they share socio-economic characteristics,” the embassy commented in an Oct. 8 press announcement.
In 1949, when the total population was about 1,174,000, there were about 1,014,000 Jews, 212,000 Muslims, 34,000 Christians and 15,000 Druze. In 2007 there were 5,478,000 Jews, 1,206,000 Muslims, 152,000 Christians and 120,000 Druze out of a total population of 7,244,000.
The report did not include an analysis of the percentage of Christians in the State of Israel. The provided figures show a 446 percent increase in the number of Christians, but a 540 percent increase in the number of Jews.
Discussing the Christian presence in Jerusalem from 1988 to 2008, the statistics also show an increase of Christians in Jerusalem from 14,400 to 15,400. However, in that same time period the Jewish population increased from 353,800 to 484,000 and the Muslim population from 125,200 to 255,700.
The Israeli Embassy noted variances in the overall statistics, attributing these to the mass arrival and absorption of refugees from Arab countries and Europe after Israel’s war for independence. There were also changes in the Moslem and Christian population after the Six Days War. The “most dramatic” variance occurred in the 1990s when massive immigration from the former states of the Soviet Union brought about an accelerated rise in Jews and Christians.
It attributed an increased rate of population rise in major economic areas to the influx of non-Arab Christians, mainly foreign workers and Russian immigrants.
According to the embassy, a drop in the Christian population in 1995 may be attributed to the transfer of some areas to Palestinian Authority control, citing political, social and para-military activities within the PA and “beyond the control of the State of Israel.”
The embassy also questioned church officials’ use of the term “Holy Land” when describing the implications of political conflicts. In the embassy’s view, the term “lacks any modern geographical or political definition” and so “it would be wrong to refer to the Holy Land as a general entity in which any persecution of Christians or immigration occurs.”
In 1949 Christians made up about 2.9 percent of the total Israeli population while Jews comprised 86 percent and Muslims made up 18 percent. In 2007, about 2.1 percent of the population was Christian, 75.6 percent was Jewish, and 16.6 percent was Muslim.
Brasilia, Brazil, Oct 8, 2010 (CNA) - Congressman Luiz Bassuma, who was suspended from Brazil’s Workers Party because of his pro-life stance, has criticized presidential candidate Dilma Rousseff for “changing her mind” and stating that she does not support abortion. Bassuma noted that it is well known that her party firmly supports legalizing the procedure.
Bassuma, who has since joined the Green Party, told the Diario El Estado that Rousseff’s situation will get worse “if she lies about abortion to get votes.”
Bassuma said the Workers Party cannot say that it doesn’t support abortion, because the party's leaders suspended him precisely because of his defense of the unborn.
“I served four terms for the Labor Party and one of the reasons why I was a member was because the party’s norms allowed for the right to freedom of opinion, of religion and of thought,” Bassuma continued. However, he added, later on, the party “didn’t work with me.”
Bassuma noted that his suspension went into effect after a unanimous decision by the party leadership. The party committee charged with reviewing Bassuma’s case was led by Dilma Rousseff, and the committee made it clear that the party supports legalizing abortion, “and I do not agree,” he said.
He went on to say he felt honored to be suspended for defending life. “That has been the banner of my life, my main political cause. And the Workers Party did not respect my rights.
"I think abortion is killing a life,” he said.
Vatican City, Oct 8, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Previewing the upcoming synod for the Church in the Middle East at a press conference today, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic announced that the gathering is meant to increase communion between the Eastern Catholic Churches and provide support to a community of believers plagued by violence and discrimination.
Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, announced additional information today during a briefing in the Holy See Press Office about the the planning for the synod. Extra considerations had to be taken because of the unique make-up of the Church in the Middle East.
Although only 1.6 percent of the population is Catholic within the 16 middle eastern states included in this synodal assembly, the 5.7 million Catholics in the region are made up of members of seven different traditions within the Catholic Church.
Archbishop Eterovic explained that "Apart from the Church of the Latin tradition, since earliest times, there have been six 'sui iuris' Eastern Catholic Churches, each with its own patriarch, father and head of the Church.” Those Churches are: the Coptic Church, the Syrian Church, the Greek-Melkite Church, the Maronite Church, the Chaldean Church and the Armenian Church.
He noted though that “The variety of traditions, spirituality, liturgy and disciplines is a great treasure to be conserved not only for the Eastern Catholic Churches, but for the whole Catholic Church presided over in charity by the Bishop of Rome, Universal Pastor of the Church."
Given the complex situation in the region, Vatican organizers decided to shorten the length of the synod because, as Archbishop Eterovic explained, “we do not want to keep the pastors from their flocks for too long."
Even though the synod will be brief, about 14 days, the archbishop announced that it will be "a joyous occasion to present the riches of the Eastern Catholic Churches to the entire world, especially to Christians, that they may offer greater spiritual and material support to their brothers and sisters in the Middle East, in particular those who live in difficult situations because of violence, terrorism, emigration and discrimination.”
Unlike an ordinary assembly of bishops, this synod will bring together a smaller number of participants—around 185 synod fathers as compared to the usual 250. This lower number will allow almost all of the ordinaries in attendance to meet with Pope Bendict XVI, the archbishop said.
According to Archbishop Eterovic, the Synod for the Middle East has two goals: "Reviving communion between the venerable 'sui iuris' Eastern Catholic Churches, that they may offer an authentic, joyful and attractive witness of Christian life" and "strengthening Christian identity through the Word of God and the celebration of the Sacraments.”
Vatican City, Oct 8, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Peace efforts in the Middle East, the current economy and the desire to maintain permanent dialogue between France and the Holy See were the subject of a meeting held between Pope Benedict XVI and French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the Vatican on Friday morning.
A communique from the Vatican Press Office announced on Oct. 8 that both the French president and the Pope engaged in a “cordial discussion” which touched on various topics, including the role of Christians in various countries and the task of getting a broader swath of countries involved in multilateral organizations.
The two also addressed the “ethical and social dimension” of economic problems, in the light of the Pontiff's encyclical, “Caritas in veritate.”
“Having then recalled His Holiness' apostolic trip to Lourdes and Paris in 2008, and President Sarkozy's visit to the Vatican of the preceding year, the two men reiterated their joint desire to maintain permanent dialogue at various institutional levels, and to continue constructive collaboration on matters of mutual interest,” the statement read.
President Sarkozy's visit comes on the heels of a situation brought about by tighter restrictions by the French government on camps of undocumented Roma-ethnicity peoples, some 200 of whom were expelled from the country in August. Following the incident, the Pope gave encouragement to French pilgrims in an audience shortly after the fact to "accommodate legitimate human diversities" as a critique of their policy. According to the French paper La Croix, Sarkozy also has an interest in trying to win Catholic votes ahead of elections, which are scheduled for 18 months from now.
During their meeting, the two also discussed the international political situation, including peace efforts in the Middle East. Relations between the Muslim world and France have been tense ever since
the French government instituted a country wide ban on Muslim women wearing the burqa and any other full face covering veil.
After France's National Assembly and Upper House of Parliament voted largely in favor of the ban, the country's Constitutional Council endorsed the measure on Oct. 7 – a move that eliminates any legal barrier from the ban being enforced as law.
Agence France Presse reported that although the council upheld the ban as constitutional, it included an amendment ruling the measure as ineffective in public places of worship to avoid violating the freedom of religion.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct 8, 2010 (CNA) - Bishop Jorge Luis Lona of San Luis, Argentina encouraged the faithful this week to pray the Rosary because its “repetitive rhythm of praise and supplication, like a sort of spiritual breathing,” helps one attain the gift of holiness.
“God gives us an immense aid. In order to be able to recognize and receive his gifts, he teaches us to practice praise and supplication,” the bishop said.
In this sense, “that is what the Rosary is,” as each one of its mysteries “is a repetitive rhythm of praise and supplication,” he continued. “In Mary, we praise the gift of God, God himself who gives us Jesus Christ. And through her, we pray to be able to receive him now and at the doorstep to eternity.”
“God does not need our praise and prayers. We are the ones who need them,” he continued, noting that the Marian prayer helps us understand that we are offering praise for the true good, “because of we lose that, we lose everything,” the bishop added.
“It is the gift of the simplicity of a child, who learns to recognize and attain what is good at the side of his mother who loves him and in whose love he trusts. This is the gift that God gives us each time we pray the Holy Rosary,” Bishop Lona said.
Madrid, Spain, Oct 8, 2010 (CNA) - Archbishop Juan Jose Asenjo of Seville is encouraging Catholics in Spain to pray for the pro-life cause on October 21-23. During that time, he explained, an international abortion congress will be taking place in the city.
“Some of you have asked me to do everything I can to stop it. As you can imagine, it is not in my power to stop such an event, but I do have the duty to illuminate the consciences of our faithful in regards to it,” the archbishop said.
He noted that even though abortion is legal, it is not moral. “Abortion is always immoral, an objective evil. It is not progress, but rather regression. It is an ‘abominable crime,’ as stated by the Second Vatican Council,” he said.
The archbishop encouraged Catholics to renew their commitment to pray for the defense of human life. “I suggest that priests pray for this intention at Mass and during the Rosary at their parishes during the dates of this congress.” The prelate also called for prayers before the Blessed Sacrament.
“I also make the same request to our cloistered sisters, religious communities and apostolic groups and movements,” he said.
Archbishop Asenjo recalled that “in December 2007, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution, inviting member states to institute a moratorium in the application of the death penalty. Lord willing the day will come when abortion will be outlawed and we will all recognize with shame the immense and tragic error committed in the 20th and 21st centuries by humanity.”
Brasilia, Brazil, Oct 8, 2010 (CNA) - This week, the personal secretary of Brazilian President Luiz Lula da Silva told high-ranking Church officials that if presidential candidate Dilma Rousseff continues to be called out for her stance on abortion, the country's accords with the Vatican will be reviewed.
The Italian news agency ANSA reported that the president's secretary, Gilberto Carvalho, met with members of the National Bishops' Conference of Brazil and told them that the government may carry out a review of the accords that establish aid for Catholic schools and other programs.
In recent weeks, the country's bishops have been vocal, reminding Catholics that they cannot support pro-abortion politicians.
Presidential frontrunner and Workers Party candidate Dilma Rousseff supports the legalization of abortion, believing it to be a matter of “public health.”
The run-off election will take place Oct. 31.
The current accords between Brazil and the Holy See were signed by President Lula and Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 in Brazil and were revised in 2009.
Sydney, Australia, Oct 8, 2010 (CNA) - Media outlets twisted the story of Bl. Mary MacKillop to say she was excommunicated for exposing a priest who sexually abused children, the postulator for her canonization cause is charging. He feared the misleading coverage was an attempt to undermine the Church and distract the public before Australia’s first official saint is canonized on Oct. 17.
ABC Online and Fairfax newspapers in Australia last month said that she was excommunicated from the Church in 1871 because she had exposed a Kapunda priest’s abuse of children in South Australia. The claims were based on remarks made by Fr. Paul Gardiner in a documentary made for ABC TV’s “Compass” program.
Both Fr. Gardiner and Rose Hesp, the executive producer of “Compass,” deny they made such an inference in the program, which airs on Sunday.
Fr. Gardiner, chaplain of the Mary MacKillop Penola Centre, said the claims were false. According to The Australian, he is considered Australia’s foremost authority on the history of the saint-to-be and was postulator for her canonization cause.
"Early in 1870, the scandal occurred and the Sisters of Saint Joseph reported it to Father Tenison Woods, but Mary was in Queensland and no one was worried about her," Fr. Gardiner told The Australian.
"There was a long chain of causation. Somehow or other, somebody typed it up as if to say I said Mary MacKillop was the one to report the sex abuse," he continued. "I never said it -- it's just false -- it's the ill will of people who are anxious to see something negative about the Catholic Church. There's already enough mud to throw, though."
Bl. Mary MacKillop was excommunicated in late 1871 during a dispute with a local bishop concerning the governance of her order. The excommunication was lifted in early 1872.
Denver, Colo., Oct 8, 2010 (CNA) - Acclaimed Catholic novelist Brian Gail, spoke Wednesday at the Archdiocese of Denver's John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization. Addressing the subject of “Fatherhood in a Fatherless World,” Gail examined the social concerns behind his planned trilogy of books, and urged audience members to make their lives and families beacons of light in times of moral and spiritual darkness.
Gail's talk focused on the destructive effects of the 1960s Sexual Revolution, in which preexisting conditions of social volatility – brought about in the first half of the 20th century by industrialization and war - erupted in unprecedented ways. Gail acknowledged that his generation of Baby Boomers, by taking on a contraceptive mentality toward sex, had “devalued the currency of fatherhood,” and left their descendents suspicious of God-given responsibilities.
The results of this “devaluation,” he said, were “ruinous to the body and to the soul,” causing a “cataclysmic identity crisis” for his generation and their descendents. But, Gail asserted, many Catholic bishops and priests failed to respond to this crisis, instead shrinking from presenting the fullness of Church teaching about human sexuality.
The consequences of contraception, and its unquestioning acceptance by many Catholics, figured heavily in Gail's first novel “Fatherless.”
Most strikingly, Gail expressed his opinion that the Sexual Revolution itself –to which he ascribed millions of deaths from surgical and chemical abortion - represented a mere prelude to a “biological revolution.” In that future age, Gail speculated, “man will attempt to nullify God” by destroying the lines between biology and technology, perhaps attempting to become a new “transhuman” species that fuses natural and artificial life.
In the face of such bleak prospects, Gail said that men have a special responsibility to “awaken, educate, and challenge” society, beginning with their own families and extending into the workplace and civic life. Not only priests, but also husbands, fathers, and all men have a special vocation as leaders who “facilitate man's greatest adventure,” the journey of Christian discipleship.
Authentic male leadership, Gail indicated, is not domineering, but able to focus on what is best in the lives of others. Men who find their true identity and vocation in Christ, he said, must show others how to “find themselves in him.” Through this way of spiritual fatherhood, he said, “the light of Christ in families” becomes manifest, and the Church can experience renewal for what Gail speculated was its “final conflict” with hostile forces.
CNA asked the author, a former Fortune 500 CEO, to comment on the continuing crisis of finance and debt in America and many European countries, to which he had alluded near the beginning of his talk. Gail said that the same widespread lack of love and respect that had damaged marriage and the family in those countries was now being felt in the economic sector, with employers “offshoring work and … not providing a fair and just wage.”
Asked about the positive aspects of technology that accompany the potential abuses he described, Gail was more upbeat. He observed that “new methods” of evangelism are developing alongside a “new ardor” among young people to spread the Church's message around the world.
In spite of the many dangers, Gail remarked, “it's a great time to be alive.”
Gail’s second novel, “Motherless,” will be released November 15.
Wadowice, Poland, Oct 8, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope John Paul II's hometown of Wadowice, Poland is promoting a pair of initiatives in his honor. Between a museum and an interesting memorial project planned for the city square that already bears his name, the late-Pontiff will not soon be forgotten.
Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, was born in the southern city of Wadowice on May 18, 1920. After moving to nearby Krakow for studies at the age of 18, he never again lived in his hometown but returned at every opportunity, even as Pope.
The city, which also celebrated the 90th anniversary of John Paul II's birth this year, saw the late-Pope's personal secretary Stanislaw Dziwisz and mayor Ewa Filipiak lay the cornerstone for a museum to be dedicated to his life on Tuesday, according to the AP. The stone was placed outside his former home, a two-bedroom apartment, which will be made to appear as it was during his childhood. The neighboring residences will also be used to offer exhibits telling the story of his life as part of the museum that will be opened in 2012.
According to the Polish Press Agency (PAP), there is another memorial project underway, this one involving Wadowice's John Paul II Square. The $2.5 million project to repave the square, formerly known as the "Red Army Square," will incorporate at least 90 custom-made stones carrying the names of Polish cities he visited during his pontificate and the dates he visited them.
The well over 100 countries John Paul II visited during his pontificate are also being invited to sponsor stones for the project which is scheduled to be completed in 2012.