Vatican City, Nov 11, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI has issued a lofty and impassioned plea for everyone in the Church to rediscover the Bible and to grow in “an ever greater love of the Word of God.”
“We must never forget that all authentic and living Christian spirituality is based on the Word of God proclaimed, accepted, celebrated and meditated upon in the Church.
The Pope’s new apostolic exhortation, “Verbum Domini” (The Word of the Lord), issued Nov. 11, is a book-length response to a special 2008 Synod for Bishops on the Bible and the life of the Church.
In this document, the Pope offers a rich theological reflection on the meaning of the Word of God becoming flesh and the meaning of the Scriptures as the Word of God.
The Pope reaffirms forcefully the Church’s traditional teaching that the Bible is the revealed Word of God written by human authors inspired by the Holy Spirit. He notes that it conveys not just moral and spiritual truths but also truths about “the reality of human history.”
“The history of salvation is not mythology, but a true history,” the Pope said.
He added: “It must be remembered first and foremost that biblical revelation is deeply rooted in history.”
But the Pope declined to wade into the controversial question of how “true” Scripture is when it speaks of historical events.
Some had hoped that the Pope would pronounce on the precise meaning of the Church’s teaching that Scripture is “without error.”
Instead Pope Benedict reaffirmed the traditional teaching but called for further study of the relationship between what scholars call the divine “inspiration” of Scripture and its “inerrancy.”
“A deeper study of the process of inspiration will doubtless lead to a greater understanding of the truth contained in the sacred books,” he said.
“Certainly theological reflection has always considered inspiration and truth as two key concepts for an ecclesial hermeneutic of the sacred Scriptures,” he added.
“Nonetheless, one must acknowledge the need today for a fuller and more adequate study of these realities, in order better to respond to the need to interpret the sacred texts in accordance with their nature.”
The Pope expressed what he called his “fervent hope” that such research would continue and would “bear fruit both for biblical science and for the spiritual life of the faithful.”
The heart of “Verbum Domini” is a long and often technical discussion of “hermeneutics,” or the proper method for interpreting the sacred texts.
The Pope warned of the errors and risks of a “dualistic” and “secularized” approach, which treats the Bible as if it is only a historical or literary document.
The Bible, he said, must be studied through “serious historical research.” But students must then build on those findings to discover the spiritual meaning that God intends to communicate in the Scriptures.
He criticized “fundamentalist” or “literalist” interpretations and urged renewed appreciation for the symbolic and spiritual interpretation techniques used by the ancient Fathers of the Church.
He also urged interpreters to study how the saints read the Bible.
“The most profound interpretation of Scripture comes precisely from those who let themselves be shaped by the Word of God through listening, reading and assiduous meditation,” he said.
Everyone who seeks to interpret the Bible — from the ordinary believer to the pastor or the theologian, must remember — the Pope said: “The Bible is the Church’s book, and its essential place in the Church’s life gives rise to its genuine interpretation.”
He added: “An authentic interpretation of the Bible must always be in harmony with the faith of the Catholic Church.”
Pope Benedict also devoted a long passage on the importance of the Scriptures in the Church’s sacraments and worship.
“The liturgy is the privileged setting in which God speaks to us in the midst of our lives; he speaks today to his people, who hear and respond,” he said. “Every liturgical action is by its very nature steeped in sacred Scripture.”
From the start of his pontificate, Pope Benedict has emphasized that the right understanding of Scripture is necessary for the true understanding of Christ, salvation, and the truths of the Catholic faith.
In his homily upon assuming the chair of the Bishop of Rome in May 2005, the Pope described his mission as being “at the service of, the Word of God.”
“It is incumbent … to ensure that this Word continues to be present in its greatness and to resound in its purity, so that it is not torn to pieces by continuous changes in usage,” he said.
And the Pope has repeatedly emphasized that the Word of God is the key to the Church’s mission in a world that has grown increasingly forgetful of God.
In a letter to the world’s bishops last year, Benedict said: “Leading men and women to God, to the God who speaks in the Bible: this is the supreme and fundamental priority of the Church and of the Successor of Peter at the present time.”
These themes are all present in “Verbum Domini.”
The new document calls for “recovering the centrality of the divine Word in the Christian life.”
“Our own time,” the Pope writes, “must be increasingly marked by a new hearing of God’s Word and a new evangelization.”
In addition, Pope Benedict includes a decidedly personal section in which he proposes to teach people the practice of praying with the Bible, known as “lectio divina,” or sacred reading.
The Pope called for a renewal of prayerful, personal reading of Scripture and for Scripture to be “every more fully at the heart of every ecclesial activity.”
“The Church is built upon the Word of God; she is born from and lives by that Word,” Pope Benedict said.
“Throughout its history, the People of God has always found strength in the word of God, and today too the ecclesial community grows by hearing, celebrating and studying that Word.”
Madrid, Spain, Nov 11, 2010 (CNA) - Bishop Juan Antonio Reig Pla of Alcala de Henares, Spain emphasized that God is necessary for life, reason and beauty as he spoke during the Nov. 4 inauguration of a pro-life expo in Madrid.
The expo, titled, “You Had to be Born,” will remain open until Jan. 9. It is located in Madrid's cathedral and brings together the works of 24 artists.
“The Cathedral is like a womb where life is engendered for the entire diocese,” Bishop Reig Pla said during the inauguration. The message of this expo is that “Behind these thousand-year old stones, the Church is alive,” he added.
The Church calls the faithful to contemplate artistic beauty, which has its origin in God, the bishop continued. “Can there be beauty without God? Can there be order in reason without God? Can the human heart reach its goal and aspirations without God?
“The Church does not think so,” he stated.
Rome, Italy, Nov 11, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Apostolic Visitation of the consecrated members of the Regnum Christi movement will be completed by the end of June 2011, according to Archbishop Ricardo Blazquez of Valladolid.
The visitation of the lay movement follows the one conducted of the Legion of Christ in 2009-2010. At the conclusion of the Legion visitation in May 2010, Pope Benedict granted requests from the consecrated religious of Regnum Christi to have one of their own.
"I am here for you," Archbishop Blazquez told the consecrated members in his first letter to them this week. He expressed his "closeness and readiness" to carry out the visitation.
As the apostolic visitor, his role is "to meet people, gather information for the purpose of getting a picture of the current situation, and offer the competent authority suggestions and proposals” for resolution of those elements that must be changed.
He will answer to the papal delegate, Archbishop Velasio De Paolis, who Pope Benedict placed in charge of overseeing the renewal in the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi.
Greeting the consecrated members of Regnum Christi and giving thanks for their vocations in the Nov. 9 letter, Archbishop Blazquez described the situation as "particularly marked by suffering and trials, discernment and purification, renewal and hope.”
He also entrusted the situation to God, writing, "I pray to God the Father of mercies for you and I ask for your prayers. In the Church we are never alone; the fellowship of brothers and sisters in the faith is shown especially in difficult situations."
Archbishop Blazquez was one of five bishops who took part in the visitation of the Legion of Christ, which confirmed that the order's founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel, had lived a life "devoid of scruples and authentic religious sentiment." The news was a shock to the order.
Archbishop Blazquez said that after meeting with Archbishop De Paolis in October, and then with directors of Regnum Christi's consecrated men and women last week, he is hoping that the process of the visitation will be completed by June 30, 2011. At that point he will compile a report of his impressions and submit them to papal delegate Archbishop De Paolis.
According to the Regnum Christi movement, his work will take him to their centers in Atlanta, New York, Brazil, Venezuela and several European countries between January and June.
Archbishop Blazquez said that he is completely available to the consecrated members and invited them "to live these months as a providential time God has given you.
"It should be a period characterized especially by Christian hope, which involves prayer, reflection, penance and conversion, patience, work to reread – personally or in community – the Church documents on consecrated life," he said.
Archbishop Blazquez closed his letter by entrusting the process to the intercession of Mary.
Baghdad, Iraq, Nov 11, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Confronting one's own mortality on a daily basis can be overwhelming, but deployed servicemen take comfort and strength from prayers offered on the home front, according to Army chaplain Father Brian Kane.
Fr. Brian Kane, a priest of the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, is presently deployed for the second time in Iraq. He is Chaplain for the 67th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade and oversees four battalion unit ministry teams which serve over 1,400 soldiers across the country.
“It is humbling for me to serve such a dedicated group of men and women every day,” he told CNA in a Thursday e-mail interview. “To put on the uniform, to stand and salute when the National Anthem is being played, to fold the flag after it has been draped on the casket of a fallen soldier, these are all privileges of those who serve.”
Deployed troops share the same spiritual needs as those at home, but the unique characteristics of life in a combat zone add other stresses.
“Soldiers are faced with their own mortality each day,” he commented. Even though many are not in imminent danger, bases still receive indirect fire in rocket attacks and convoys are attacked with IEDs.
Circumstances often force soldiers to consider “where they stand in their faith and what their relationship with God looks like,” Fr. Kane said. At the same time, they are away from spouses and other family members who encourage them in religious practice. Both a shortage of priests and busy work schedules keep Catholic soldiers from Mass.
The chaplain recalled his first deployment in Iraq during the U.S. offensive, when it was “very difficult” for him to minister to service members who were wounded or killed.
“To be able to stand at the bedside of a young man who is close to his last breath and console him with the sacrament of the sick, or to lean over and hear the confession of a soldier who has lost an arm or leg is a pertinent reminder to me of why we have priests deployed in a combat zone.”
Fr. Kane also recounted his helicopter landing at a small base one Christmas Eve. He was met by two young Marines who wanted to go to Confession before Christmas Mass, but were afraid the long line already formed at the chapel would prevent them.
“I was able to hear their confessions as we walked to the chapel,” he reported, adding that he also heard all the confessions of those standing in line.
In addition to Catholic Bible studies and RCIA classes, Catholic chaplains try to help soldiers grow in their faith throughout their deployment by providing Mass and Confession when a priest is available.
Asked how those at home can support deployed service members, Fr. Kane replied:
“Our greatest help comes from the prayers of everyone at home. Knowing we are surrounded by a mantle of prayer encourages us to keep going in the face of difficulty. Prayer is very powerful.
“I have seen firsthand how a soldier's prayers as well as the prayers of others have saved them from injury or even death. When we hear from home that prayers are being offered for us it is a comfort and strength.
“Each person here knows that today could be their last,” the chaplain continued. “They know they did not have to volunteer to serve, yet they do. Our country should be proud of the men and women who make up the armed forces.”
He noted that the military is a 100 percent volunteer organization and many soldiers have deployed, despite being able to retire after 20 years of service.
“Instead they choose to go into harm’s way to serve the country they love, many deploying two and three times.”
Prayer, care packages and letters from groups at home, and e-mail and phone calls from families “remind us that we have not been forgotten,” he continued. This support “helps make each day here more worthwhile.”
Fr. Kane said his return from his first deployment was also memorable because of the support civilians showed for returning military.
“I don't think there was a dry eye on my bus when we watched people line the streets, wave flags and greet us as we got off the bus. Police cars, fire trucks and motorcycles escorted us to the place where all our families were waiting for us.
“I am stopped all the time when wearing my uniform in public by people who want to shake my hand or stop to say ‘thank you for your service’,” the priest said. “Soldiers may not know what else to say other than thanks, but those encounters are memorable and mean a lot.”
La Paz, Bolivia, Nov 11, 2010 (CNA) - Archbishop Tito Solari of Cochabamba, Bolivia has called on the country's government to inform the public about the content of a new measure on education.
The archbishop added that parents have the right to be fully informed about what their children are being taught.
The government needs to tell the public what the new law's objectives are, and how the measure will affect religion classes being taught at the schools, Archbishop Solari wrote in a message released Nov. 7.
The archbishop recalled that while the government collaborates in the education of children, parents are the ones first and foremost responsible. According to Bolivia’s constitution, he said, parents exercise this right when they choose which school their children will attend and which religion they will study.
Providence, R.I., Nov 11, 2010 (CNA) - It's no secret that Rhode Island Governor-elect Lincoln Chafee supports abortion. Still, even Chafee's supporters might wonder why his transition team features a doctor who boasted of performing secret abortions in Latin America.
“I never thought that I would be performing an abortion in a room with a picture of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, but there I was, in the middle of the Andes,” Dr. Pablo Rodriguez wrote in an essay published shortly before the 2000 presidential election.
The former medical director of Planned Parenthood, now a part of Governor-elect Chafee's transition team, packed his essay with disturbing Christian references– describing his clandestine abortion work as a “ministry” to spread the “gospel of reproductive rights.” He mused on the presence of religious imagery inside the clinic, noting that protesters outside U.S. clinics tended to display the same images.
Rodriguez also compared the American government's withdrawal of contraception funding from Latin American countries to the Biblical “Angel of Death,” and offered the possibility that the local women he was training to “stem the flow of misery” might regard themselves as performing “God's work.”
“Inside my heart,” Rodriguez wrote, “the story of the Andean cholitas (native women) spreading the gospel of reproductive rights will forever lift my spirit.”
Although Rodriguez did not disclose the name of the “Andean country” in which he performed abortions, one of CNA's Latin American experts explained that the term he used to describe the native women is a Peruvian term used only in that country. If Rodriguez's “cholita” trainees were in fact Peruvians, he could be subject to four years' imprisonment in that country.
On Nov. 8, 2010, the Providence Journal reported that Rodriguez had joined Governor-elect Lincoln Chafee's transition team, alongside members of his onetime senate staff and other “close advisers.” Chafee, a former Republican U.S. senator who ran as an Independent, won the governor's race after defeating his closest competitor, Republican candidate John Robitaille, by less than three points.
The recent Providence Journal report described Rodriguez as a “leader in the Hispanic community” and the former medical director of Planned Parenthood in Rhode Island. The introduction to his 2000 essay, which he published under his own name, also described him as holding that position.
These disclosures allowed pro-life activists to identify Chafee's new advisor as the same man who had publicly described his covert abortion work 10 years earlier.
The Associated Press additionally noted Dr. Rodriguez's employment at Rhode Island's Women and Infants Hospital, a clinic offering surgical abortions during the first nine weeks of pregnancy in its public literature. The governor-elect himself received a 90% approval rating from the abortion lobbying group NARAL during his time in the U.S. Senate.
As of publication time, the Chafee campaign did not respond to requests from CNA to clarify Rodriguez's role on the transition team or comment on his past activities.
Vatican City, Nov 11, 2010 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI "opens new and unexpected channels of communication and makes believers more aware of their mission," according to Czech Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, the Archbishop emeritus of Prague.
Cardinal Vlk told L'Osservatore Romano that the Pope’s 2009 visit to his country had made the Church stronger and more courageous. He made his remarks in Rome after attending the Pope’s Nov. 10 general audience.
The Holy Father visited the largely atheist Eastern European nation on a three-day trip last September. The Czech Republic ranked second after Estonia in a 2005 Eurobarometer study of Europe's least religious countries. Just 19 percent of Czech’s polled said they believe in God. Half of those polled, however, expressed belief in a "spirit or life force."
As he did on his recent pastoral visit to Spain, the Pope encouraged Czech’s to return to their Christian roots during his 2009 trip.
"The presence and words of Benedict XVI in the Czech Republic have made our Church, which is a minority, psychologically stronger, giving us the opportunity and the courage to sit down at the dialogue table with secularized society," Cardinal Vlk said.
Around 1,500 pilgrims from the Czech Republic accompanied the cardinal to Rome for the audience. The former Vatican ambassador to the country, Cardinal Giovanni Coppa, and government representatives, including the wife of president Vaclav Havel, were among the group.
Mexico City, Mexico, Nov 11, 2010 (CNA) - Bishop Carlos Aguiar Retes, president of the bishops' conference of Mexico, spoke of the necessity for the Church to be guaranteed religious freedom. His remarks came at the opening of the 100th plenary assembly of the bishops' conference, and in the presence of President of Mexico Felipe Calderon.
The bishop added that the Church is not asking for a special privilege, but rather for a legal framework allowing her to carry on her mission.
“The greatest threat to culture is the reduction of reality to material goods – to social, economic and political problems – cutting off the foundational … reality which is God,” the bishop said. “In order to prevent and overcome this threat, it is essential that the fundamental human right of religious freedom be guaranteed,” he stated.
“Authentic democracy, which we desire and aspire to here in Mexico, is that which guarantees fundamental human rights for all its citizens,” he continued. “The Church does not seek out nor ask for privileges. She does ask for a democratic legal framework in order to carry out sincere and positive collaboration in overcoming our social problems,” the bishop said.
Directly addressing President Calderon, Bishop Aguiar said, “The Church which you belong to” is an institution allied with the government “in the responsibility of forging a society that practices and respects fundamental human rights.”