Madrid, Spain, Nov 12, 2010 (CNA) - In a recent message, Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach of Barcelona, Spain emphasized the importance of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Spain and called all Catholics to put the Pontiff's words into practice.
The cardinal's message will be released Sunday, Nov. 14.
The Pope’s visit was “a true gift from God,” the cardinal continued. “I think the main purpose of the apostolic visit of the Holy Father was met: to confirm us in the faith and to encourage us to revitalize our Christian identity.”
The Pope visited Spain Nov. 6 - 7.
Cardinal Sistach highlighted the special appreciation Benedict XVI has for Barcelona and thanked Catholics for the warm reception they extended to the Pope.
“During lunch at the chancery,” Cardinal Sistach continued, “the Pope said these words to me, referring to the dedication of the Church of the Holy Family, ‘it was a celebration I will never forget’.”
“We warmly welcomed the Holy Father,” he wrote. “And I wish to thank all those who collaborated in so many ways. Let us thank God, and let us be willing to continue working for him and for our society,” the cardinal concluded.
Vatican City, Nov 12, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican announced on Nov. 12 that the Apostolic Visitation of the Irish Church has begun, following the directives in Pope Benedict XVI's pastoral letter to Irish Catholics.
The visitation will follow up on concerns about the Irish hierarchy's handling of abuse cases, in addition to surveying seminaries and religious orders to discover ways to renew them.
Two government inquiries produced alarming reports in 2009, detailing sexual and other physical abuse in the Irish church, as well as Church authorities' efforts to keep the incidents secret. Irish bishops met with Pope Benedict in February after the findings came to light.
Three groups of apostolic visitors, appointed by Pope Benedict, will now survey the Irish Church, with one group visiting the four metropolitan archdioceses, another the Irish seminaries, and a third the houses of religious life.
A team of four cardinals and archbishops –Cardinals Cormac Murphy-O'Connor and Sean O'Malley, and Archbishops Thomas Collins and Terence Prendergast S.J. – will visit the four metropolitan archdioceses of Ireland to meet with clergy and archdiocesan staff as well as the lay faithful and other concerned individuals.
Their meetings will directly address the problem of sexual abuse that prompted the Pope's letter to Irish Catholics, along with charges that Irish bishops acted to conceal cases of abuse against disclosure or prosecution.
While the visitation will not assume responsibility for handling individual cases of abuse, the visiting prelates and their assistants will make themselves available to meet with victims and their families. They will also look to see how effectively the Irish Church's 2009 guidelines for child protection have been implemented, and what areas need improvement.
The Vatican guidelines recommended that the four archdioceses schedule penitential services coinciding with the dates of their visitation. The Irish bishops have already announced a campaign of prayer, fasting and charity, acknowledging the failure of many in leadership positions.
Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York will visit Irish seminaries, along with a team of priests who will interview individual seminarians.
The priesthood has suffered in Ireland not only from revelations of abuse by priests, but also from a sharp drop-off in vocations which are only gradually beginning to return. A 2008 report in the Times of London noted that 160 priests died in 2007, while only nine were ordained.
Archbishop Dolan will visit St. Patrick's College, the only major seminary in the Republic of Ireland, as well as St. Malachy's College in Belfast and three other institutions that provide theological training for priests. His interviews will focus on the vision and process of priestly formation.
Two religious sisters and two priests will visit the institutions of religious life in Ireland, also seeking a solution for the vocations crisis and answers about how sex abuse cases were handled. Like the archdiocesan visitation, the first phase of the inquiry for religious life will focus on past sexual abuse and implementation of the child protection guidelines.
Irish consecrated men and women will also be asked to reflect upon how they can best fulfill their calling as witnesses to the faith. Once known throughout the Western world, Irish monasteries now attract few vocations. In 2007, 228 nuns died, while only two made their final vows.
Fr. Federico Lombardi, head of the Vatican press office, announced that the apostolic visitors had begun arriving and taking up their work on Nov. 11, with the goal of concluding their inquiries by Easter 2011. After a study of the visitation's findings next May, the Holy See will announce further plans for the “spiritual renewal” of the Irish Church.
Madrid, Spain, Nov 12, 2010 (CNA) - The president of the Institute for Family Policy, Eduardo Hertfelder, has expressed disappointment in the state of marriage in Spain.
The pro-family leader pointed out that so far in 2010, already more than 67,000 marriages have ended in separation and the number of marriages overall has declined.
“The data on marital breakdowns confirms that the there is a marriage crisis in Spain. It demonstrates the need for our leaders to do something to prevent marital breakdowns – or at least mitigate them,” he said on Nov. 11.
Hertfelder noted that during the first half of this year, 67,365 couples separated—3,000 more than during the same period in 2009. In addition, 93.4 percent of separations ended in divorce.
“The seriousness of the situation” is that “despite the decline in the number of marriages ... the overall number of separations has not gone down, but up considerably.
“This proves the problem is getting worse,” Hertfelder said.
Rome, Italy, Nov 12, 2010 (CNA) - The president of the International Association of Exorcists, Father Giancarlo Gramolazzo, died at the age of 65 on Nov. 8, after battling a long illness. The association was founded in 1990 by world famous exorcist, Fr. Gabriele Amorth.
Auxiliary Bishop Giovanni D’Ercole of L’Aquila, Italy celebrated the funeral Mass for Fr. Gramolazzo on Nov. 11 at the parish of All Saints in Rome. Family members, friends and fellow members of the Congregation of St. Luigi Orione were also in attendance.
In 2000, Fr. Gramolazzo became president of the International Association of Exorcists. He was born in Ortonovo, Italy, and at the age of 12 he became familiar with the congregation founded by St. Luigi Orione. He was eventually ordained a priest in the order in 1973.
After recovering from a tumor at the age of 40, he worked at the Institute for Orphans in Rome-Montemario. In 1990 he was named director of a home for the elderly and those with disabilities.
“Fr. Giancarlo was an exorcist and was devoted to this difficult ministry for more than 30 years, becoming the international president of exorcists as well,” his congregation noted in a statement. “He was a man of great culture and spiritual understanding and was attentive to the needs of others.”
Rome, Italy, Nov 12, 2010 (CNA) - AIDS in Africa is more than a public health pandemic, according to Kenyan Bishop Anthony Muheria. The disease is a "deep spiritual and traumatizing wound," as he sees it, one that can only be healed through “spiritual comfort.”
The World Health Organization says that one in 20 people in Kenya are infected with AIDS or HIV.
And Bishop Muheria told CNA that the pandemic "is real." In his diocese alone there are 30,000 "HIV/AIDS orphans" being cared for by Church agencies. "I don't think anyone, not even the government has any number close to that," the bishop commented.
Bishop Muheria, 47, has been at the helm of the Diocese of Kitui since 2008. Located roughly 100 miles east of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, the diocese is home to about 1.1 million people, 200,000 of whom are Catholics in the majority Christian country.
The Kenyan people, Bishop Muheria said, are "wonderful, generous and open.” But, they also face what he described as “great challenges” — deep poverty, chronic drought, infertile land, widespread illiteracy. And always, the scourge of AIDS and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Bishop Muheria says the Church’s role in providing assistance is nothing short of "amazing." He estimated that at least half of all Kenyans suffering from the disease receive some sort of assistance from faith-based care.
Kenyan Catholic agencies work closely with CAFOD, the Catholic Overseas Development Agency sponsored by the bishops of England and Wales.
With the help of partners across the world, the diocese provides food and water, material and education assistance to the smallest victims of AIDS, those children who have lost both parents to the disease. They often live with relatives who, without the Church’s assistance, would not have the means to take the children in, he explained.
When he visited Africa in March 2009, Pope Benedict XVI described AIDS as a “scourge.” But he drew scorn from many world health officials and political leaders when he insisted that providing condoms was a false solution “lacking in soul,” that risks “worsening the problem."
Yet on the ground in Kenya, Bishop Muheria sees the wisdom of the Pope’s words.
Focusing on giving away condoms, he said, is a “cold approach,” that does not touch the “very big wound” that is being caused by the disease.
AIDS, as he describes it, effects not only the public health, but the soul and the spirit of the people.
For a child orphaned by HIV or AIDS, the "biggest wound" is his difficulty in forgiving and loving both parents, the bishops said.
He used the all-too-frequent case of a child who knows that his mother was innocent but was infected by a father who had been leading a "bad life." When both die, the bishop explained, the child must try to come to terms with the love he should have for his father and the truth that he has been orphaned because of that father’s misdeeds.
"That wound is the one that is much deeper than a lot of the other wounds that we can speak about," he said.
The Church’s AIDS ministry is concerned with far more than the spread of the disease. It also confronts each person's "deep spiritual and traumatizing wound that can largely be healed by spiritual comfort."
That’s why distributing condoms is no solution. With that approach, he said, "we are depersonalizing the issue."
"Today we are talking about an epidemic that demands sacrifices and this is what people don't want to do, make sacrifices," he said.
Bishop Muheria spoke of the quiet "heroism" of wives who stick by their infected husbands. There is even a form of heroism in an infected spouse's decision to abstain from sexual relations for the good of his or her family.
The Kenyan Church is working to respond to the poor and the sick as Jesus Christ would. "But to reach out is not just to cure,” the bishop added. “Christ didn't cure everyone. First and foremost and most important, you must reach out to the wounds of the heart. They must feel Christ touching them, and that's what the Church does and she has done that and continues to do that in Africa in an amazing way."
He said that people come to him with real problems and they cry together. This is a matter of death, suffering and forgiveness, he said, that cannot be minimized to a material questions.
"Those are very serious problems, and you have to bring them to terms, tell them, you can still be holy, even having HIV and AIDS you can still be a saint."
During his in-flight answer in 2009, the Pope said that efforts should be made to renew the person internally, giving spiritual and human strength to a just behaviors involving the body and to be present, "suffering with those who suffer."
Turning back to the 30,000 orphaned children, Bishop Muheria said, "we have to give hope, but real hope to these kids, a hope that forgives, opens up their heart to a new world. And at the same time, they're able to speak about their experience of encounter with Christ, about the cross that they have had to go through."
Denver, Colo., Nov 12, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Doctors said Joseph Nguyen was dead. His heart rate was dropping beyond recovery, and all brain activity was gone. But while they wrote his death certificate, Joseph's parents were asking an old family friend for help: a Vietnamese cardinal who is being considered for beatification.
Joseph Nguyen has since re-enrolled in seminary. He's seen his own death certificate, now stamped “VOID.” He has only two memories of the 32-day coma, which he says felt otherwise like a “great night's sleep.”
During the weeks that he hovered between life and death in 2009, Joseph says he had two encounters with Cardinal Francois-Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan.
The revered Vietnamese Cardinal died in 2002. In 2007 he received a prominent mention in Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical “Spe Salvi,” where the Holy Father cited his exemplary Christian witness during his 13 years as a political prisoner. His cause for beatification began in 2007 as well. In October 2010, the Vatican began its own inquiry into his possible sainthood.
Long before anyone thought to declare him a saint, the future cardinal was simply a priest– often celebrating private Masses in the homes of some Vietnamese faithful. Although Joseph Nguyen never met Cardinal Van Thuan during his earthly life, his father's family knew “Father Van Thuan” quite well. They thought of the priest “almost like a family member.”
That family bond deepened when Cardinal Van Thuan became Archbishop of Saigon, and subsequently a prisoner of the Communist regime.
In 1975, Joseph Nguyen's parents immigrated from Southeast Asia to the United States, where their son was later born. Joseph knew about Cardinal Van Thuan's heroic life, and appreciated his message of peace and hope. But the young seminarian never imagined he would be describing details of his own life, and near-death, to investigators for the cardinal's canonization.
It began in August 2009, during Joseph's third year in the seminary. He was assigned to hospital work, visiting and counseling the sick, as well as bringing the Eucharist to Catholic patients. Early in the fall, he caught what he thought was only a common seasonal flu. When the illness worsened, he asked for leave from the seminary to recover at home.
“I remember October 1st,” he recounted to CNA. “I had no idea why I was gasping for air.” His father drove him to the hospital, where he checked himself in. But Joseph has no memory of that event, or the emergency tracheotomy he received after losing the ability to breathe.
Later, he would hear about the day he was pronounced dead, while his parents kept hope alive and prayed fervently for Cardinal Van Thuan's intercession. He would also hear about how, on the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, while still comatose, he began violently pulling the tubes from his body, stopping only when his father placed a rosary in his hand.
He'd also learn about the second time his body seemed to be shutting down. That time, no one declared his death. They'd already seen one seemingly impossible recovery.
When Joseph awoke, after 32 days, he knew nothing about any of this. A doctor explained he had fallen ill not only with a seasonal flu, but also the H1N1 “Swine Flu,” and severe pneumonia. Friends and family later told him the details of his month in the coma.
But when he could speak again, Joseph had his own story to tell.
“During my coma, there are only two things I remember,” he said. “The only two things I remember are two visions of Cardinal Van Thuan … He appeared to me twice.”
Joseph said he not only saw, but actually met and spoke with Cardinal Van Thuan, during two vivid incidents he described as a “separation of soul and body.” Although he said he couldn't reveal the details of the ecounters, he did say that he suspected that they occurred while his doctors were observing his loss of brain activity and decline in vital signs.
“Soon after the second visit” with the cardinal, he said, “I woke up from the coma.” He had “no idea what had happened,” or why he had “all these tubes and wires” coming out of his body, particularly the tube in his neck that kept him from speaking.
Doctors thought it would be months or years before he could speak, walk, or study. But within days he was talking and breathing normally, racing his nurses around the rehabilitation room.
He also received an entirely unexpected phone call from Cardinal Van Thuan's sister in Canada, who ended up giving him one of her brother's rosaries.
Joseph returned to the seminary at the beginning of the following semester– a far cry from the two years his doctors had advised him to wait.
As others learned about Cardinal Van Thuan's possible involvement in Joseph's healing, he ended up providing information to officials working on the cardinal's cause for beatification in Rome. Apart from that contribution, though, the young seminarian just wants to move forward toward the goal of ordination. When he returned to the seminary, Joseph was assigned once again to hospital duties.
While he was reticent about some potentially miraculous aspects of his healing, Joseph spoke enthusiastically about his current hospital work. He said his coma and recovery experience have allowed him to give hope and comfort to patients.
Those patients don't need to know about his mysterious meetings with a possible saint, or his breathtaking return from death. What matters more is to see the scar on his throat, and know he understands. “It's very fulfilling to be able to walk into a room and say ... 'You don't have to feel this alone, because I've been there' – physically, there, in that hospital bed.”
Joseph recalled that his experiences in the coma instilled “the virtue of hope” in his heart, giving him a message he hopes to share with those in desperate circumstances. “That's Cardinal Van Thuan in my life,” the future priest reflected.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 12, 2010 (CNA) - The director of the pro-life organization Movimiento Fundar in Argentina has released a statement explaining why in vitro fertilization should not be legalized in the country.
Argentina's Congress is currently debating a number of measures that would legalize the procedure.
Nicolas Lafferriere, head of the organization, stated Nov. 9 that the Catholic Church “clearly points out that lawmakers cannot approve these techniques, as the transmission of human life cannot be reduced to mere technological procedures that do not uphold the dignity of each human life.”
Lafferriere noted that in vitro fertilization disconnects procreation from sexuality, such that the transmission of human life does not take place in the conjugal act, but rather through a technological one that is subjected to control mechanisms and manipulation.
The procedure results in the conception of multiple embryos, some of which are eliminated, frozen or considered unsuitable after examination. This violates a basic bio-ethical principal respecting human dignity, the expert warned.
Lafferriere pointed out that Argentina’s Constitution recognizes that human life begins at conception. “Any legislation on this issue must have this as its starting point and must adopt measures to protect the unborn, their dignity and fundamental rights.”
The application of new bio-technologies must be properly channeled so as not to be turned against man, he continued. “Only by respecting the inviolability of each human life, the dignity of the person and the uniqueness of the transmission of human life will it be possible for biotechnology to contribute to the good of the person, the family and society,” the expert said.