Madrid, Spain, Nov 9, 2010 (CNA) - Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela of Madrid, Spain has expressed regret that Spain has become one of the most secular countries on issues such as the defense of life, marriage and the family.
In an interview following the Pope's weekend visit to Spain, the cardinal spoke with COPE radio network on Nov. 8. The cardinal remarked that Pope Benedict offered reflections on the country during the papal trip and denounced the “revival of radical secularism.”
The cardinal added that the increase in secularism is “a bit strange at this point in time,” as it “appeared to have died out after the Second World War.”
Cardinal Rouco said that Spain is “first place in the rankings of secularism” regarding laws dealing with the “basic institutions” of society, such as marriage, the family and the right to life.
“We’re number one in that area,” the cardinal lamented.
Spain passed a law last summer liberalizing and paying for abortions until the 14th week of pregnancy, providing for limited abortions up to the 22nd week and allowing them at any time during the term in cases of "extremely grave and incurable disease."
The country has also allowed same-sex “marriage” since 2005.
Vatican City, Nov 9, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Holy Father emphasized to the bishops of Italy on Tuesday that Church leaders need to support families, if they wish to ensure morality's presence and relevance in public life.
This week the Italian Episcopal Conference is meeting for its 62nd general assembly in Assisi, Italy.
The Vatican reported on Nov. 9 that the main issue up for discussion is the Italian translation of the third typical edition of the Roman Missal.
Referencing this, the Holy Father wrote in his message to conference president Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco that “all true reformers are, in fact, obedient to the faith. They do not move arbitrarily, they do not claim any discretional jurisdiction over rites.”
“They are not masters but custodians of the treasure that was instituted by the Lord and entrusted to us. The entire Church is present in each liturgical act, and adhering to its form is a condition for the authenticity of the celebration.”
Pope Benedict then addressed the topic of science and technology in his message, saying its progress “has often been at the expense of the foundations of Christianity, in which the rich history of the European continent has its roots.”
“The moral sphere,” he said, “has been confined to the subjective field and God, when not denied outright, is in any case excluded from the public conscience.”
The Pope told the bishops that countering this tendency requires more than “a generic call to values” or an “educational program that contents itself with purely functional and fragmentary interventions … ”
“What is needed is a personal relationship of trust between active individuals ... capable of taking up positions and of putting their own personal freedom into question.”
“For this reason,” the Pope said, “your decision to remind everyone who cares about the city of man and the welfare of new generations of their education responsibilities seems particularly appropriate. This vital alliance can only start with a renewed closeness to families, recognizing and supporting their primary role in education.”
“It is in families that the face of a people is forged,” he underscored.
Concluding his message to the bishops, the Holy Father urged them “to value the liturgy as a perennial source for education in the good life of the Gospel. It introduces people to the meeting with Jesus Christ, who with words and deeds constantly edifies the Church, molding her in the profound concepts of listening, fraternity and mission.”
Madrid, Spain, Nov 9, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The hymn for World Youth Day 2011, titled “Firm in the Faith,” was released on Monday. Based on the words of St. Paul, its lyrics declare “we walk in Christ.”
The Youth Orchestra of the Community of Madrid and the Youth Choir of the Escolania de El Escorial participated in taping the Spanish-language hymn, which will be distributed starting Nov. 19. The release date coincides with the eve of the Feast of the Virgin of Almudena, the patron saint of Madrid.
The song’s seven verses, based on St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, are accompanied by a chorus which says:
“Firm in the faith, we walk in Christ,
Our Friend, Our Lord,
Glory always to Him! Glory always to Him!
We walk in Christ firm in the faith.”
Auxiliary Bishop of Madrid César Franco, general coordinator of World Youth Day (WYD), authored the lyrics. According to WYD organizers, he said the verses show “the humanity of Christ in the traditional Spanish mystical style, and aim to bring that humanity closer to the young people.”
Fr. Enrique Vázquez, a religious music composer, created the music. He said the first challenge was to invent a melody that would help pilgrims “understand, sing and pray the text.”
“(T)he verses begin with a more lyrical character which reflect the amazement, admiration, and gratefulness to the person and work of Our Lord,” he explained.
The hymn has liturgical, popular and instrumental versions. The instrumental version is intended for large choirs, while the popular version may be accompanied by a guitar.
All three versions are available for free on the official WYD website. A multilingual music video of the hymn will be distributed in the future.
The hymn is available at http://www.madrid11.com/en/press-office/downloads
Barcelona, Spain, Nov 9, 2010 (CNA) - Mayor of Barcelona, Jorge Hereu, has remarked that Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Spain was a “landmark” event in the country's history.
The Pope's Nov. 6 – 7 visit to the country included the dedication of the Church of the Holy Family in Barcelona. The Pontiff also consecrated it as a minor basilica.
According to the EFE news agency, the mayor noted the necessity of continuing work on the new basilica, which he called “one of the great universal icons of Barcelona.”
He invited all Spaniards to visit the Basilica of the Holy Family. “Up until now we have only seen the Holy Family from the outside, but now we can discover its marvelous interior,” he added.
Hereu called the Pope’s visit “a success” that proved the people of Catalonia could “organize a large international event.”
Washington D.C., Nov 9, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - At their annual fall assembly, the U.S. bishops will elect a new president, vote on a new ecumenical agreement on baptism and discuss the reform of its social justice-funding arm, which has come under fire for possibly funding pro-abortion and pro-gay groups.
The annual Fall General Assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will be held Nov. 15-18, at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel.
The bishops’ current president, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, will be stepping down having completed his three-year term.
The bishops will vote on a new president and vice president from a slate of 10 candidates.
Those up for consideration are: Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans; Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton; Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver; Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York; Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson; Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville; Bishop George Murry of Youngstown; Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien of Baltimore; Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit; and Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City.
Election of the new president requires the vote of at least 50 percent of the bishops. A conference vice president will be elected from the remaining nine candidates.
In the past, the bishops have usually opted to elect the conference vice president to succeed the outgoing president. The current vice president is Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson.
The bishops will also appoint a new treasurer-elect, a general secretary, and chairmen for six conference committees.
Also on the agenda is a discussion on the reform of the controversial Catholic Campaign for Human Development.
The campaign launched a program of “review and renewal” last month, acknowledging mistakes and pledging to uphold “Catholic principles” in all future decisions.
Critics have highlighted the campaign's history with groups promoting abortion and homosexuality. The campaign's new guidelines give priority to funding Catholic groups, while screening other recipients more rigorously.
Bishop Roger Morin, who heads the bishops’ subcommittee that oversees the campaign, acknowledged that the campaign has made mistakes in the past in funding certain groups, in a conference call with reporters Oct. 26.
Perhaps the most substantive item on the agenda is a vote on a “common agreement” that would commit the bishops to recognizing the validity of the baptisms performed in four Protestant denominations.
The proposed Common Agreement on Mutual Recognition of Baptism is the result of six years of study and dialogue between the bishops’ representatives and the Presbyterian Church-USA, the Reformed Church in America, the Christian Reformed Church, and the United Church of Christ.
“The U.S. bishops stand at an important juncture in affirming the unity that Christ has given to the baptized members of his body, a unity that is ever fragile and always in need of support from the pastors of the Church,” according to Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, chairman of the ecumenical committee.
The proposed agreement would hold that baptism is to be performed only once in a person’s lifetime, and that it be performed by an authorized minister, with flowing water and the employment of the Scriptural Trinitarian formula of “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Although other bishops’ conferences around the world have established similar mandates, this is the first of its kind in the U.S.
Also up for the bishops to consider at the November assembly is the request of the Pro-Life Activities Committee to begin drafting a brief policy statement against physician assisted suicide.
The prelates will also address the Church’s response to the earthquake in Haiti.
Other items for discussion during the Nov. assembly include the work of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage, an informational update on World Youth Day 2011 and the needs of the Archdiocese for the Military Services.
Additionally, the bishops will receive a formal introduction of Professor John H. Garvey, the new president of Catholic University of America.
Concord, N.H., Nov 9, 2010 (CNA) - Citing the toll that worldwide publicity has taken on his “marriage” and on New Hampshire Episcopalians, Gene Robinson – the first openly homosexual man to become a bishop of the Episcopal Church – announced on Nov. 6 that he will begin a two-year process of resigning from his diocese.
Robinson, 63, received approval from the Episcopal Church's General Convention to become a bishop in 2003, after the faithful and clergy of the New Hampshire diocese selected him for the position. His appointment sparked outrage among traditional Anglicans, many of whom considered it an official affront to Biblical standards of sexual conduct on the part of the Episcopal Church.
“The fact is,” he wrote in a letter to Episcopalians in his diocese, “the last seven years have taken their toll on me, my family, and you.” Robinson has two children from his marriage to a woman during the 1970s and 80s. He entered into a civil union with his current partner, Mark Andrew, in 2008.
“Death threats, and the now-worldwide controversy surrounding your election of me as Bishop, have been a constant strain,” he continued, “not just on me, but on my beloved husband, Mark … and in some ways, (upon) you.”
The controversial bishop has become one of the global Anglican communion's most prominent American representatives, a fact he noted in the letter, stating that he “(gets) to talk to probably more unchurched people than any other Bishop in The Episcopal Church,” telling them “a different story” that rejects the idea of “a judgmental God.”
“This is evangelism for me, pure and simple,” he said, noting that he intends to continue publicizing his message, “both within and beyond the diocese.”
Robinson's most prominent revisions of Christian doctrine concerned sexual issues, and were not as radical across the board as some other Episcopal leaders such as John Shelby Spong. The retired Episcopal bishop publicly rejected the possibility of Jesus' being born of a virgin or rising from the dead. Robinson stated in 2008 that critics of his ministry were “arguing about a non-essential thing.”
Nevertheless, the de facto endorsement of the bishop's lifestyle, and his own insistence that some Biblical precepts are outdated or wrong, embarrassed many traditionalists, and caused some to wonder whether Anglicanism provides adequate authority for preserving Christian doctrines.
Some opponents formed the separate Anglican Church in North America in 2009. Other traditional Anglicans have opted to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church, particularly through the provisions outlined in Pope Benedict XVI's 2009 Apostolic Constitution “Anglicanorum Coetibus.”
Two days after Robinson announced his plans to retire, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales announced that five Anglican bishops would be departing the Church of England, to seek full communion with the Catholic Church through the structures Pope Benedict XVI has established.
Robinson thanked the Episcopalians of New Hampshire for their support, and said he felt excitement for his successor: “He or she has no idea what a joy and what a privilege it will be to serve you.”
Globally, many Anglicans are also divided over the issue of women bishops, with traditionalists in the Church of England particularly concerned over their church's direction on this subject. In America, the openly lesbian woman Mary Glasspool recently became a bishop of the Episcopal Church's Los Angeles diocese.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 9, 2010 (CNA) - The president of the Argentinean bishops’ Committee on Health Care Ministry has stated that education is necessary to break the cycle of poverty.
President of the committee, Bishop Luis Stockler, released his letter on poverty to mark the National Day of the Sick in Argentina.
The bishop warned that the lack of nutrition and medical care during pregnancy and the first three years of life leads to a weakening of the immune system, delayed mental development, an increase in school drop-outs, illiteracy, unemployment and unpreparedness for marriage.
Bishop Stockler noted that this cycle, as well as infant mortality, keeps society from climbing out of the spiral of poverty. “Poverty leads to illness and illness leads to poverty. In our parishes and chapels we must realize that poor nutrition and medical care in a community is an indicator of social injustice,” he said.
The key to overcoming poverty is education, the bishop continued, “understood as loving and respectful treatment, person to person, heart to heart. If we educate parents, especially mothers, we are educating the family.” He urged Church institutions to bolster their efforts to train parents in caring for the basic needs of the family and to reach out to those in need.
“The Church can’t possibly provide all of the material resources for needy families,” he noted, “but we can raise awareness in our communities, where we all wish to strive to decisively overcome the negligence that is the cause of poverty,” the bishop concluded.
Mexico City, Mexico, Nov 9, 2010 (CNA) - Archbishop Alberto Suarez Inda of Morelia made an impassioned plea for peace in Mexico during a funeral Mass for the 18 men who were kidnapped and killed while on vacation in Acapulco.
The bodies of the 18 tourists were found in a mass grave outside Acapulco. Officials have determined that all of the victims were family members or friends on vacation.
The archbishop called for justice and urged local and federal officials to unite in “stopping crime” in the country.
“We call on our representatives and leaders to unite in bringing about justice and putting an end to this disgraceful wave of violence,” the archbishop said.
“May the unjust deaths of these brothers and sisters be the seed that enables Mexico to end so much death and bloodshed,” he added.
Violence in Mexico has led to more than 29,000 deaths in the last four years.