Vatican City, Nov 19, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI will return home to his native Germany for a visit next fall.
The Pope's return will be "a sign of encouragement and confidence," said the head of the German bishops conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg im Breisgau, in a Nov. 19 statement.
The Pope accepted an offer extended by German president Christian Wulff and nation's bishops to visit the Archdioceses of Berlin and Freiburg and the Diocese of Erfurt. The trip will likely take place in September 2011, although no specific dates have been decided.
The visit is the fourth to a European nation outside of Italy on the pontiff's 2011 calendar. He will also be visiting San Marino, Croatia and Spain.
The Pope's time in Germany "will be a significant moment in the life of our country and in the life of our Church," said Archbishop Zollitsch.
His previous travels to Germany as Pope were to Cologne for World Youth Day in 2005 and a pilgrimage he made back to his roots in Bavaria in 2008.
Guatemala City, Guatemala, Nov 19, 2010 (CNA) - In a statement released Nov. 18, the executive committee of the Guatemalan bishops' conference called on the Guatemalan Congress to abolish the death penalty.
A number of politicians in the country have recently called for the application of the death penalty, arguing that it will help reduce crime and using it as political propaganda. The renewed efforts to support the death penalty come on the heels of a decision by President Alvaro Colom on Nov. 4 to veto a law passed by the Guatemalan Congress that would have restored the presidential pardon for those condemned to death.
In a statement signed by Bishop Pablo Vizcaino Prado, president of the bishops' conference, the bishops said it is almost impossible to justify the use of the death penalty as a means of protecting society from aggressors. “This is not about renouncing the legitimate defense of society from criminal aggression, but rather about resorting to unbloody means to conduct this defense. Opposition to the death penalty does not mean yes to impunity,” they said.
“The promotion of the death penalty as political propaganda is morally irresponsible” because the “desperation people are feeling about the inefficiency of the legal system is best combated by improving the judicial and penitentiary system and not by applying the death penalty, Bishop Viscaino said.
“A desire for vengeance, disguised as justice, is often behind the application of the death penalty,” he added.
Noting that violence cannot be resolved with more violence, the bishops called on the Guatemalan Congress to “make use of its constitutional powers and to decree the abolition of the death penalty.”
According to EFE news agency, there are currently 41 prisoners on death row in the country. Guatemala, Cuba and the United States are the only countries in the Americas that allow the death penalty.
Natick, Mass., Nov 19, 2010 (CNA) - The six winners of the Gerard Health Foundation’s annual Life Prizes have been announced. The awards honor leaders who uphold the sanctity of life through their work.
Raymond B. Ruddy, president of the Massachusetts-based Gerard Health Foundation, said the six winners have done some of the “most important work” of the pro-life movement and are an example to follow. The awards will be presented in a Washington, D.C. ceremony on Saturday, Jan 22, 2011, organizers say.
Awardee Dr. Alveda King is a board member of Georgia Right to Life who sees the pro-life movement as the heir to the civil rights work of her father, Rev. A.D. King, and her uncle, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She herself underwent two abortions but was deeply affected by an ultrasound of a child’s beating heart.
Ruddy praised her change of heart as “awe inspiring.”
“She is more than a contribution to pro-life efforts, she is a blessing and an encouragement. We are honored to know her as a fellow laborer for life and to present her with this award.”
King responded to the award with gratitude, saying:
“I had to look at death in abortion to appreciate the life of the unborn child, and my prayer is that Life Prizes will be a beacon to stir those across the nation to celebrate life and recognize the important battle we face to protect it.”
Kristan Hawkins, executive director of Students for Life of America, was another honoree. Since 2006, her organization has helped double the number of campus pro-life groups in the U.S. and has trained more than 5,000 student activists.
Hawkins said she was “humbled” to receive the award and praised the “trailblazers” of the pro-life movement.
Also taking one of the Life Prizes was Jeanne Head, a former obstetrics nurse, who has served as U.N. Representative for National Right to Life and the International Right to Life Federation. Ruddy praised her international work and her understanding of the “ripple effect” of abortion.
Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), said it was “a great honor” to receive one of the Life Prizes. He said he hoped it draws renewed attention to the NRLC’s work.
The final individual winner for this year, Marie Smith, is the founder and director of the U.S.-based Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues. She has also served as international director at Feminists for Life. According to Ruddy, she helped unify respect for human life at the international levels of government and religious leadership.
“The fruits of her labor have protected countless unborn children and their mothers across the globe and we are thrilled to recognize and award her accomplishments.”
The Life Prizes also awarded the Terri Schaivo Life & Hope Network, founded by the family of the severely disabled woman who died after a Florida court ordered that she be deprived of basic nutrition and hydration. The organization has assisted more than 1,000 families through providing resources, support and medical facilities for those in need.
Ruddy called the group “a godsend” to those at their “weakest, most vulnerable hour.”
The Life Prizes include $600,000 in prize money split among all honorees. They memorialize the pro-life leaders Norinne A. and Raymond E. Ruddy.
The selection committee includes Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Peggy Hartshorn of Heartbeat International; Kay Coles James of the Gloucester Institute; and Jack Willke of Life Issues Institute. The committee chose this year’s winners from 90 nominations.
Mexico City, Mexico, Nov 19, 2010 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Mexico City published an editorial in its news service on Nov. 14 calling on federal officials to come up with strategies to protect Central American immigrants who pass through the country on their way to the United States, after reports of their mistreatment have increased in recent months.
The media in Mexico has given increasing coverage to rescue operations of illegal immigrants from Central and South America. In the largest of such operations, 106 Honduran, Salvadoran and Guatemalan immigrants, including 33 children, were rescued from forced labor on a farm in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas. The discovery came despite measures taken in response to the murder of 72 illegal immigrants in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas in August.
The Archdiocese of Mexico City's news service noted that the State has the duty “to respect the human rights of foreigners and to care for their well-being,” especially amidst the growing violence in Mexico.
“How is it possible the Mexican government is not able to come up with better strategies for preventing this human drama from taking place on our southern border? Why is it that our lawmakers have not lifted a finger to address this problem that has existed for years and is getting worse?” the editorial asked.
It praised organizations, including the Church, that help immigrants who are passing through Mexico. “They are often subject to police pressure because of the work they carry out, and this is unacceptable,” the editorial stated. The archdiocese said measures must be taken to stop the exploitation and mistreatment of immigrants.
Mexican lawmakers “are the first to protest the treatment our fellow countrymen receive in the United States, and yet they do nothing to stop the mistreatment of our Central American brothers and sisters,” the editorial said.
Westminster, England, Nov 19, 2010 (CNA) - Five Anglican bishops who announced earlier this month that they are quitting the Church of England, will be the first to join a new “personal ordinariate” established by the bishops of England and Wales this coming January.
The bishops unveiled their plans for the new ordinariate, or jurisdiction, in a Nov. 19 statement.
They said that Pope Benedict XVI will formally establish the ordinariate and name a bishop to lead it in early January 2011.
Pope Benedict invited Anglicans to join the Church last year under special provisions that would enable them to retain their own forms of worship and their tradition of permitting married priests.
In their announcement, the English and Welsh bishops said the new procedures for accepting Anglican converts have been worked out over the past year in cooperation with the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Under the timetable they laid out, the three former Anglican bishops who are not retired will be ordained to serve as priests in the new ordinariate. The other two bishops, who are retired, will be ordained by Lent 2011.
“This will enable them, together with the ordinary and the other former Anglican Bishops, to assist with the preparation and reception of former Anglican clergy and their faithful into full communion with the Catholic Church during Holy Week,” the bishops said.
In addition, the statement envisions that Anglican clergy who have decided to convert will begin “a period of intense formation for ordination as Catholic priests.”
At the same time, individual Anglicans and congregations together with their pastors will be enrolled as candidates for the ordinariate.
It is likely, the bishops said, that they will be received into the Church and confirmed either during Holy Week, at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday or during the Easter Vigil.
“The period of formation for the faithful and their pastors will continue to Pentecost,” according to the statement. “Until then, these communities will be cared for sacramentally by local clergy as arranged by the diocesan bishop and the ordinary.”
Also around Pentecost, those former Anglican priests whose petitions for ordination have been accepted by the Vatican’s doctrine office will be ordained as Catholic priests.
Former Anglican Bishop John Broadhurst, one of the five who announced his resignation from the Church of England on Nov. 7, said he was “pleased” with the plans announced by the English and Welsh bishops.
The bishops said they were seeking to bring former Anglicans into “full ecclesial communion with the Catholic Church within the ordinariate.” They said they recognize “that the clergy and faithful who are on that journey of faith will bring their own spiritual treasures which will further enrich the spiritual life of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.”
While they acknowledged that there may be “practical difficulties in the months ahead,” the Catholic bishops pledged to “do all they can to ensure that there is effective and close collaboration with the ordinariate both at diocesan and parish levels.”
Vatican City, Nov 19, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - A day of reflection and prayer for about two-thirds of the world's cardinals began with strong words from the Pope Benedict XVI against the true "dictatorship" of relativism. It finished with an address from the Vatican official in charge of leading the fight against sexual abuse in the Church.
Some 150 of the world's present and future cardinals met at the Vatican Nov. 19, for a day of closed-door discussion about the future of the Church.
Many of them have descended on Rome for the Nov. 20 consistory, a ceremony in which the Pope welcomes the group's 24 newest members.
Pope Benedict used the rare opportunity to address the themes of religious freedom and the importance of the liturgy in Christian life, according to the Vatican press office.
He spoke to the cardinals of the need in the world for the freedom to follow Jesus' command to announce the Gospel.
The relationship between truth and freedom, he said, is essential but faces the great challenge of relativism — the belief that there are no absolute truths, only different opinions. While relativism might appear to be an expression of freedom, the Pope explained, it actually risks destroying it and becoming an authentic "dictatorship."
He urged cardinals remain committed to upholding the freedom to spread the Gospel truth. In addition, he urged them to remind people of the cultural achievement in such an atmosphere.
Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone warned his fellow cardinals that a process of secularization in western countries threatens to remove spiritual values from everyday life.
Cardinal Bertone also spoke of the obstacles to religious freedom in predominantly Muslim countries.
The freedom to practice Christianity in Middle Eastern nations was one of the major issues raised during two weeks of meetings in the Vatican in October. During the Synod for the Middle East, stories of restrictions and persecution were heard from bishops active in places like Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
The issue was further discussed at today's gathering of cardinals at a late-morning debate in which inter-religious dialogue, particularly with Muslims, emerged as a dominant theme.
Sensitive issues were the order of the day. In the afternoon session, one presentation was given by Cardinal-designate Angelo Amato and two by the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal William Levada.
Cardinal Levada spoke of the Church's response to the sexual abuse of minors and about the entry of ex-Anglicans into full communion with the Catholic Church through jurisdictions called ordinariates.
On sex abuse, he talked about the pending legal proceedings and spoke of the broad responsibility of bishops to protect the faithful entrusted to them. The Church must collaborate with civil authorities in investigations, and seminaries and religious orders must be more attentive to the selection and formation of candidates, he said.
Cardinal Levada pointed to the Pope’s example in leading the fight against pedophilia and underscored the imporance of an effective to commitment to the protection of minors.
The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will be circulating a letter to bishops providing better guidelines for establishing a coordinated program to deal with abuse, he said.
In the open debate that followed the presentations, cardinals again picked up the theme of sexual abuse. They suggested that bishops' conferences be encouraged to develop quick, effective, articulate and complete plans to protect minors. Those plans should also take the multiple aspects of the issue into account, they said.
The cardinals spoke of the necessary protocol for intervention, for the re-establishment of justice, for victim assistance, for prevention and formation in all countries.
According to the Vatican, the Cardinals' College also expressed its solidarity with those suffering in Iraq and Haiti and proposed a new fund-drive to assist these communities in difficulty.
Managua, Nicaragua, Nov 19, 2010 (CNA) - A border dispute between Nicaragua and Costa Rica is causing the Bishops’ Conference of Nicaragua to speak out in favor of resolving the dispute by diplomatic means, instead of resorting to violence.
The conflict began on October 21 when Costa Rica lodged a protest against Nicaragua over the crossing of the San Juan River by Nicaraguan forces and their incursion onto Calero Island, a place that is claimed by both countries.
At the conclusion of their annual meeting on Nov. 17, the bishops issued a statement voicing support for “Nicaragua’s absolute sovereignty over the San Juan River, which is indisputable and non-negotiable.” They also called for dialogue to resolve the conflict, echoing a plea made by the bishops of Costa Rica.
At the same time, they urged government officials and all Nicaraguans not to allow the dispute to distract from the serious issues the country faces. “The serious social and economic problems, the unresolved institutional crisis and the challenge of an upcoming election season demand our full attention and responsibility,” they said.
The bishops said their statements about the country’s situation do not amount to meddling in political and social affairs, but rather constitute a “service in the formation of consciences.”
They also declared 2011 to be a “Year of Prayer for Nicaragua,” saying, “the complexity of the country’s situation and the rapid pace of change in politics make this a crucial time for prayer.”
Bogotá, Colombia, Nov 19, 2010 (CNA) - The Catholic Church in Colombia is calling on the whole country to show solidarity with those who have been left homeless by the intense rainfall that has affected 80 percent of the country.
The torrential rains in Colombia have so far caused 136 deaths and have affected more than 1.3 million people. Forecasters do not expect the rain to let up any time soon.
The Bishops’ Conference of Colombia announced on Thursday it had established a relief fund to help those affected by the flooding and to provide food, clothing and housing.
Baltimore, Md., Nov 19, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Americans around the country will be flocking to see the latest Harry Potter movie this weekend, and some Catholics maintain that the series exposes children to evil influences. But Bishop Thomas Paprocki said in a recent interview that the root cause of dabbling in the occult comes from being isolated from the faith.
Bishop Paprocki spoke with CNA on Nov. 16 after a recent exorcism training that was held in Baltimore, ahead of the annual U.S. bishops' fall assembly. The Conference on the Liturgical and Pastoral Practice of Exorcism took place Nov. 12-13.
According to the Springfield, Ill. bishop, who chairs the Bishop's Committee on Canonical Affairs, the program came about after an increasing number of inquiries from priests in the U.S. The conference was attended by more than 100 bishops and priests.
In the interview, Bishop Paprocki took time to address the idea that popular books and movies aimed at children and teens, such as the boy-wizard Harry Potter series or the Twilight saga on vampires, have encouraged interest in the occult.
“We have to be careful with those kinds of topics for young people,” he said.
He pointed out that the controversial series “could be simply works of fantasy.” At the same time, he cautioned, “we have to be careful though as children are very impressionable – do they start seeing truths in those stories and do they start believing in them?”
“I think a more general hazard in our culture is the fact that people are not attached to organized religion as much as they used to be,” he said. “In fact, the word religion comes from a Latin word which means to be bound together.”
Because “religion binds us together in faith and to Jesus Christ,” he said, “when people start moving away from organized religion and churches” they may start “dabbling in their own spirituality.”
“Part of that hazard then is dabbling in the occult and may fall into something truly diabolical such as Satanic rituals.”
Given “our increasingly secular and even atheistic culture,” Bishop Paprocki said that people being distant from organized religion may be the reason for an increase in the number of inquiries about exorcisms.
Washington D.C., Nov 19, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson, New Jersey has said that the implementation of the Roman Missal, Third Edition is on schedule and that one news report of major changes is inaccurate.
While a report in the National Catholic Reporter had claimed that the Vatican had made major changes to the new missal, the bishop said that the Congregation for Divine Worship conducted a final review which uncovered “some minor questions of consistency, typographical errors and layout” but these are being addressed.
“This review has not dealt with the translation itself. The critique that has circulated has necessarily failed to take into account the final version of the text, which incorporates some corrections issued by the Congregation since the transmittal of the full text to the English-speaking Conferences of Bishops in August 2010.”
Bishop Serratelli, the outgoing chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship, said that the congregation had “faithfully but not slavishly” followed the principles of "Liturgiam Authenticam" in its treatment of the missal. "Liturgiam Authenticam" is a document published in 2001 as a follow up to the Second Vatican Council document "Sacrasanctum Concilium," which was concerned with the Christian liturgy.
The bishop said there is a final text that has received a “recognitio” approval from the Vatican.
“As the work of editing and assembling nears completion, there is assurance that the published text will be available in more than ample time for implementation in Advent 2011,” he continued.
He reported that the preparation of those involved in conducting the liturgy is underway and has proceeded with “much enthusiasm and wide acceptance” from both clergy and laity.
“It is clear at this point in time that there is an attitude of openness and readiness to receive the new text. Let us pray in this time of transition and change that the Roman Missal, Third Edition, will enable all to understand more deeply the mysteries we celebrate,” Bishop Serratelli’s comments concluded.