Washington D.C., Nov 30, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - As the uproar increases over WikiLeaks publishing hundreds of thousands of confidential U.S. State Department cables online, the latest reports show that 852 of the communications involve the Vatican.
U.S. leaders are decrying WikiLeaks founder, Australian Julian Assange, for incrementally publishing over 250,000 cables on his non-profit website. The cables are suspected of being leaked to Assange by 23 year-old U.S. army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, among others. Manning is currently being held at a military base in Virginia.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton blasted the move Nov. 29 as “not just an attack on America’s foreign policy interests” but an “attack on the international community.”
Documents involve U.S. correspondence with dozens of countries all over the globe, with the highest number of cables – 16,000 – involving Iraq. Not all cables have been released, given that the sheer number requires incremental publishing. However, cables involving North Korea, China and Argentina have already been shown online.
According to WikiLeaks, 852 of the documents slated to be published involve correspondence between the U.S. and the Vatican.
CNA contacted the U.S. State Department Nov. 30 for more information on the nature of the documents. Spokesperson Megan Mattson said that “as a policy we don't comment on documents that purport to contain classified information.” Mattson added that the State Department condemns “in the strongest terms the deliberate and unauthorized disclosure of classified materials by individuals and organizations” which she said “puts lives and risk and jeopardizes national security.”
Already public, however, is a 2005 document published by Italy's La Stampa which shows U.S. diplomats expressing surprise over the election of Pope Benedict XVI. According to the paper, U.S. officials said they thought a papal candidate from a developing country would be selected instead.
Although the document is not part of the 852 cache of cables, La Stampa ran an article with the document, saying that they obtained the information by filing a Freedom of Information Act.
The Vatican daily newspaper L'Osservatore Romano stressed that the release of the cables does nothing to change diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the Holy See.
Leaked correspondence does “not appear sufficient to substantially modify the relations” the U.S. has with various world governments, the paper said on Nov. 29.
The entire batch of the Vatican-related cables is expected to be published in the upcoming weeks.
Madrid, Spain, Nov 30, 2010 (CNA) - Four former Cuban political prisoners recently shared how their faith helped them survive their time in prison.
Jose Miguel Martinez, Regis Iglesias, Leonel Grave and Jesus Mustafa recently spoke to the Catholic newspaper Alfa y Omega.
“Only God can sustain you in the prisons of Cuba,” Jose Miguel Martinez explained. While Martinez had participated in both the Legion of Mary and Caritas, it was after his involvement in the Varela Project that he was imprisoned.
The Varela Project works to achieve a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba.
“Each day we agreed to pray, each one in his cell. We read the Bible and we shared reflections,” he said. Although their activities were temporarily prohibited by the prison guards, Martinez continued, “the feeling of God I had inside made me ever stronger.”
The case of Jesus Mustafa is unique. At the age of 66 he remembers the first years of the “Communist revolution.” “Before taking over, Castro said that to betray the poor was to betray Christ. But when he came to power he betrayed the poor and he betrayed Christ,” Mustafa said.
Sentenced to 25 years for his membership in the Christian Liberation Movement, Mustafa said the prison guards tried to break the will of political dissidents. “If I did not have faith, they would have won.
“They make your life miserable,” he continued, adding that if the guards don't achieve their goals, they take their aggression out of the dissidents' families.
“My grandson was expelled from school and isolated. They threw lead pellets at my wife and daughter while they slept. They tried to tear down a statue of John Paul II that I had outside the door of my home,” Mustafa revealed.
At 34, Leonel Grave is the youngest of the four. He asked to be baptized in the faith after John Paul II’s visit to Cuba in 1998. In the short time he has spent in exile from Cuba, Grave noted with sadness that the churches in Spain are emptier than those in Cuba.
“In prison I prayed more because when you are isolated you sense God is with you,” he said. “In Spain I have seen more disrespect for the Church and for God, and less people at church than in Cuba. The people are asleep and they need to awaken to God,” he added.
For his part, Regis Iglesias underscored the importance of the Varela Project as “the boldest, most concrete and structured attempt to give back to the nation the freedom and dignity that was taken away. We do not want a bloodbath but rather to give voice to the people of Cuba,” he said.
Madrid, Spain, Nov 30, 2010 (CNA/Europa Press) - Cardinal Jaime Ortega, Archbishop of Havana, Cuba, met with a group of former Cuban political prisoners living in Madrid, Spain earlier this week. He noted that the talks were “very positive.”
The cardinal told reporters that the group “is concerned about their immediate future here in Spain and about their legal status.” He said the freed prisoners also wanted to discuss the possibility of having family members in Cuba join them in Spain.
Cardinal Ortega called the Nov. 29 meeting “very positive,” adding that he felt it was necessary to personally meet with the dissidents so they would know that the negotiations for their release were part of the Church’s ongoing efforts to help all political prisoners.
“This is a humanitarian effort in the sense of charity and love of neighbor. The effort must always go on and it has continued now in this meeting with them,” he added.
The cardinal said that the remaining 11 political prisoners detained during the Black Spring of 2003 will also be released.
Although he doesn't know “when,” he said that he has been “given a clear promise that the remaining imprisoned dissidents will be released and allowed either to stay in Cuba, or as some desire, to go to the United States.”
London, England, Nov 30, 2010 (CNA) - A “breathtaking” film recording the life of Carmelite nuns at a London monastery took the grand prize at the International Festival of Cinema and Religion in Italy.
Director Michael Whyte’s documentary “No Greater Love” examines the cloistered nuns of the monastery of the Most Holy Trinity in Notting Hill. Though centered upon Holy Week, the film covers a year in the life of the monastery and its daily rhythms of Divine Office and work.
The nuns are members of the Discalced Order of Carmelites and live without television, radio or newspapers. They maintain silence throughout the day except for two periods of recreation.
The film follows a year in which one woman professes as a novice and one of the senior nuns dies. The movie is primarily observational but interviews several nuns about their life, their faith, their moments of doubt and their belief in the power of prayer.
Writer Kazuo Ishiguro has said the film “looks breathtaking, like various Dutch Masters come to life.”
The International Jury of the International Festival of Cinema and Religion called the film “beautifully crafted” and “a powerful message for those of us who inhabit fast societies that militate against the possibility of wisdom.”
“No Greater Love” was released in the U.K. on April 9, 2010 and was scheduled to be released in Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg in November. It will be released in France on Dec. 29.
The film’s website is http://www.nogreaterlove.co.uk/.
Dublin, Ireland, Nov 30, 2010 (CNA) - Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, Ireland delivered a hopeful but brutally honest homily about the state of the Irish Church on Nov. 20, addressing serious failings that he said indicated a deeper crisis of faith.
The archbishop did not shrink from speaking frankly about the scandals that have rocked the Irish Church in the wake of two 2009 reports. The Murphy Report and the Ryan Report detailed sexual and other physical abuse in the Irish Church, along with church authorities' efforts to hide the incidents. Both reports prompted a papal investigation that began Nov. 12.
Speaking to members of the Legion of Mary at a Mass marking the 30th anniversary of its founder Frank Duff's death, Archbishop Martin acknowledged that many church leaders had failed profoundly in their pastoral duties. More than this, he said, they had demonstrated “arrogance and power seeking,” acting in a way that alienated many believers and contradicted the message of the gospel.
These failures and abuses, he said, caused the Church to lose both its remaining social power and much of its credibility. The blows came at a time when many Irish Catholics were already drifting away from the Church to “live as if God did not exist,” the archbishop continued.
He also highlighted the “crisis of vocations to the priesthood,” noting that he recently presided at a Mass in memory of 20 priests who had died within the past 12 months. “A further dozen or so priests retired from active ministry during the same period,” he said. “And yet, in the past year I ordained just one new priest for the diocese (of Dublin).”
While in no way minimizing either the abuse scandals or the priest shortage, Archbishop Martin offered that there was a deeper crisis within the Irish Church, one that concerned “the very nature of faith in Jesus Christ,” and the question of Jesus' identity and mission.
He proposed that the Irish Church would only be able to address its more obvious problems, by returning to what he called “the fundamental question:” “Who is Jesus Christ?”
“We do not create our own identity for Jesus Christ,” the archbishop emphasized. Nor, he said, could the Christian message of sacrificial love be reduced to the notion of “being nice to each other.” He stated that only a rediscovery of Jesus' real call to discipleship would enable the Irish Church to find its footing– not by returning to a past state of affairs, but by returning to the unchanging truths of faith.
“In today's society, where the message of Jesus is less and less accessible,” he said, “the Church must become a place where formation in the Word of God resounds in a way that it has not done in the Irish Church for generations.” The Church, he stressed, was not a “vague moralizing agent in society,” but a supernatural institution, with a mandate that God's grace alone could achieve.
Outside interventions and structural reform, while potentially beneficial and at times necessary, could never substitute for this type of spiritual renewal, which the archbishop acknowledged would be painful.
“There are many indications that the Church in Ireland has lost its way,” he said. “Many people of various ages, no longer really know Jesus Christ.” He suggested that this living faith, for many people, may have given way to cultural expectations and outward obedience.
“Can we be happy to celebrate first communion services which put people into debt for thousands of Euro,” he asked, “while neither the children nor their parents have been led to a true understanding of the Eucharist and … the Church? Can we be satisfied when confirmation is looked on by many as a graduation out of Church life?”
“In not addressing such issues, we are not just deceiving ourselves, but we are damaging the integrity of the mystery of Jesus.”
Archbishop Martin offered no easy answers or quick fixes in the searching address. He acknowledged the persistence of deep and authentic faith among many Irish Catholics, as he observed that “many people with little education have a deeper insight into the message of Jesus Christ than learned theologians or bishops.”
Above all, he praised the example of Frank Duff, a layman who began the Legion of Mary during the troubled year of 1921, during which the Irish people faced looming civil war and crushing poverty.
“Frank Duff was a man who, in the face of a major social challenge, did something … He gathered likeminded men and women around him into a movement of spiritual renewal, prayer and Christian service.” Such movements, the archbishop indicated, would have a critical role to play in calling Irish Catholics –both the clergy and the laity– back to the essence of their faith.
Lahore, Pakistan, Nov 30, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - A Christian man in Pakistan who was sentenced to 25 years in prison for blasphemy charges was released on Nov. 27.
Munir Masih was sentenced in December 2008 for allegedly touching the Quran with “dirty hands,” reported Fides news. Masih maintained his innocence, however, claiming that accusations were made by a neighbor after an argument between their children. Masih was freed on bail on Nov. 27 by the High Court of Lahore.
Also charged with a 25 year prison sentence for blasphemy was his wife, Riqqiya Bibi. Although she remains in prison, her lawyers are hopeful that after the release of her husband, she too will be allowed to leave. The high court is scheduled to rule on her case next week.
In a recent interview, Bishop of Faisalabad Joseph Coutts stated that fundamentalism and intolerance are growing, with particular threats coming from Pakistan’s harsh anti-blasphemy laws.
On the television and radio show, “Where God Weeps,” he explained that the present blasphemy law is “very dangerous” because anyone who “speaks against or defiles the name of the holy prophet Mohamed” either indirectly or directly faces capital punishment. The law does not take into account accidents, ignorance or personal intention, he added.
The bishop noted that the law is dangerous not only for non-Muslims but even for Muslims. At present there are more people in jail in Pakistan for violating the blasphemy law than there are Christians.
“Even if you accidentally drop the Holy Koran you can be punished,” he reported.
Following Masih's release, many are hopeful for similar mercy to be shown toward Asia Bibi, the country's first woman to be sentenced to death over blasphemy charges.
Bibi, a 45-year-old mother of four, was convicted of blasphemy against the prophet Muhammad and sentenced to death by hanging in the town of Sheikhupura, near the capital city, Lahore.
Bibi has said she is being persecuted for defending her faith to Muslim co-workers who claimed that Christianity was a "false religion." She was jailed days later, brought to trial and convicted for blasphemy, a crime punishable by death in Pakistan, which is a self-professed Islamic Republic where the rights of religious minorities are sharply restricted.
The Vatican, as well as various global leaders, have condemned the charges and called for her release.
On Nov. 17, Pope Benedict XVI said Pakistan should grant Bibi “complete freedom ... as soon as possible.” He added a pointed reference to the lack of religious freedom in the country. He also expressed “great concern” for Christians there, “who are often victims of violence or discrimination.”
In the latest news, on Nov. 29 Chief Justice Khawaja Sharif of the Lahore High Court bared President Asif Ali Zardari from pardoning Bibi before the court rules on her appeal. The president had previously asserted that he would intervene with a pardon if Bibi's appeal was delayed.
Vatican City, Nov 30, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI sent a delegation to Istanbul Nov. 30 to mark celebrations of the Feast of St. Andrew, the traditional patron of the Orthodox Church.
In a message delivered to Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the Pope urged greater efforts towards unity and praised the patriarch’s “promotion of Christian values” on the world stage.
"In a world characterized by increasing interdependence and solidarity, we are called to proclaim the truth of the Gospel with renewed conviction, and to present the risen Lord as the response to the most profound spiritual questions and aspirations of the men and women of today,” the Pope said.
"In order to carry out this great enterprise," he added, "we must continue along the path towards full communion, showing that we have already united our strengths for a shared witness of the Gospel before the people of our time.”
The Pope’s message was carried by Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. He led the delegation that took part in a special liturgy presided over by Patriarch Bartholomew, at the Church of St. George at Fanar.
The Orthodox patriarch traditionally reciprocates by sending a delegation to Rome for the Church’s celebration of the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
Vatican City, Nov 30, 2010 (CNA) - The Pope prayed for the protection of life and the family at the conclusion of the Prayer Vigil for the Unborn on Nov. 27. The prayer, which was composed by Benedict XVI, asks God to bless families and to inspire society to embrace each and every life.
Below is the complete prayer translated into English by Vatican Radio:
You who faithfully visit and fulfill with your Presence
the Church and the history of men;
You who in the miraculous Sacrament of your Body and Blood
render us participants in divine Life
and allow us a foretaste of the joy of eternal Life;
We adore and bless you.
Prostrated before You, source and lover of Life,
truly present and alive among us, we beg you.
Reawaken in us respect for every unborn life,
make us capable of seeing in the fruit of the maternal womb
the miraculous work of the Creator,
open our hearts to generously welcoming every child
that comes into life.
Bless all families,
sanctify the union of spouses,
render fruitful their love.
Accompany the choices of legislative assemblies
with the light of your Spirit,
so that peoples and nations may recognize and respect
the sacred nature of life, of every human life.
Guide the work of scientists and doctors,
so that all progress contributes to the integral well-being of the person,
and no one endures suppression or injustice.
Give creative charity to administrators and economists,
so they may realize and promote sufficient conditions
so that young families can serenely embrace
the birth of new children.
Console the married couples who suffer
because they are unable to have children
and in Your goodness provide for them.
Teach us all to care for orphaned or abandoned children,
so they may experience the warmth of your Charity,
the consolation of your divine Heart.
Together with Mary, Your Mother, the great believer,
in whose womb you took on our human nature,
we wait to receive from You, our Only True Good and Savior,
the strength to love and serve life,
in anticipation of living forever in You,
in communion with the Blessed Trinity.
Vatican City, Nov 30, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican announced Pope Benedict's prayer intentions for the month of December today, calling for an increased focus on those who are sick, elderly or alone this Christmas season.
The Pope's general prayer intention for December is: “That our personal experience of suffering may be an occasion for better understanding the situation of unease and pain which is the lot of many people who are alone, sick or aged, and stir us all to give them generous help.”
His mission intention is: “That the peoples of the earth may open their doors to Christ and to His Gospel of peace, brotherhood and justice.”