Vatican City, Dec 15, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - "In an instant, I saw five brilliant rays of light shine forth from his most holy wounds, and all came to my face." St. Veronica Giuliani wrote these words more than three centuries ago, describing her mystical experience of Christ.
Pope Benedict recalled these words in his general audience Dec. 15, as he continued his series of reflections on holy women and mystics in Church history. Thousands of pilgrims and faithful were on hand in the Vatican's Pope Paul VI Hall, including priest alumni from Rome's Pontifical North American College, who were celebrating 40 years of priesthood.
St. Veronica, he said, was "a courageous witness of the beauty and power of divine Love," who received the divine gift of intimate unity with Christ in his suffering and death.
Born 350 years ago this month, Veronica was a Capuchin Poor Clare sister in Citta Castello, Italy. She entered the convent when she was 17 and remaining there for 50 years.
Pope Benedict said that in her witness, Veronica was true to her name, which means, “true image.”
"She became the true image of Christ on the Cross," he said.
She placed Christ above all things in her life, as could be seen in her diary, which spans more than 22,000 pages. In her writings, she described a relationship with Christ that saw him as a divine “spouse,” to whom she sought to be more and more united in love.
She wanted to share in his life so much that she even prayed to be crucified with him. Her prayer and spirituality were focused on union with Christ, and in a special way, union with his suffering. This close relationship led to mystical experiences in which she shared in his wounds.
The Pope quoted from one vision in which Veronica described five rays of light that burst forth from a vision she had of Christ. She described the rays as "like small flames."
"In four there were nails,” the saint continued, “and in one there was a lance, as if of gold, completely on fire: and it passed through my heart, from one side to the other ... and the nails pierced my hands and feet. I felt great pain, but in the same pain I saw myself, I felt fully transformed in God.”
In addition to the wounds of Christ on the cross, known as the stigmata, she united herself willingly to Christ’s pain from his crown of thorns.
“She saw all things in the light of Christ’s love, manifested in his passion, and she united herself to his self-oblation to the Father for the salvation of souls," the Pope explained.
Throughout her life, she offered up her prayer and sufferings to God for the Pope, the clergy and for all people, including the souls in Purgatory. Sr. Veronica also had a love for the Scriptures and a devotion to the Church. She prayed often, too, for the help of Mary and the saints. "She invites us to draw daily nourishment from the Word of God so as to warm our hearts and guide our lives," said the Pope.
At the end of her life, she suffered an agonizing death. She experience this suffering as being bound tightly to the agony of Christ. During this final suffering, she said: "I have found Love. Love has let itself be seen."
Pope Benedict asked that her life and teaching be an inspiration to people today to grow in union with Christ and the Church in complete trust, to participate in Christ’s loving concern for the salvation of sinners and to "fix our gaze on Paradise, the goal of our earthly journey where we will live ... the joy of full communion with God.
New Haven, Conn., Dec 15, 2010 (CNA) - The Knights of Columbus, the largest Catholic fraternal organization, is vehemently denying accusations that they willfully covered up reports that one of their members sexually abused minors several decades ago.
On Dec. 14, the Miami law firm Mermelstein & Horowitz filed two lawsuits against the Knights national organization and its leader, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, alleging that Julian Rivera, who worked as a leader in Columbian Squires youth program in Brownsville, Texas, sexually abused two boys in the 1970s.
One victim, who identifies himself as “John Doe,” says Rivera threatened him with sexual demands at gunpoint when he was as young as 12 years old, telling him that he would kill his family if he did not comply. The abuse, which began in 1970, is reported to have continued for several years.
The second plaintiff – who released his name as Jim Dennany – claims that Rivera began showing him pornography at age 12 and began sexually abusing him from the ages of 14 to 16.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs argue in the briefs that the Knights of Columbus had knowledge of abuse claims against Rivera but concealed them and kept him in a leadership position.
Complicating matters, attorneys for John Doe claimed that he reported his abuse to the Knights of Columbus in 2009, saying that he wanted to enter a treatment program for chemical dependence caused by the trauma of the abuse. The Knights of Columbus officials allegedly agreed that they would pay for his treatment and gave him $200 for his travel expenses to the facility.
Doe said that he was given two separate pages to sign as acknowledgment for receipt of the money and that a witness notarized the pages. Doe then said he later received an eight-page settlement agreement in the mail – a document which he claimed he had never seen before – that bore his signature releasing his legal rights.
The Knights of Columbus, which has never been sued over sex abuse charges, issued a statement Dec. 14, “vigorously” denying the accusations.
“Although we have not yet been served with the lawsuits, we have obtained and reviewed copies of the complaints, and we emphatically deny the allegations that have been made,” spokesman Patrick Korten said.
On the charges involving Rivera, Korten explained that they “first became aware of allegations of sexual abuse against him only one year ago, in December 2009.”
“We acted immediately, removing him from any responsibility involving youth programs, and referring the case to Brownsville law enforcement authorities.”
Rivera terminated his membership in the Knights of Columbus in January of this year.
Korten also said that in 2003 the Knights of Columbus formalized its “Youth Protection Program” to train youth leaders about how to protect children from abuse.
He added that every member who agrees to serve as a youth leader must undergo a background check every three years.
“The safety and well-being of the youngsters involved in our Columbian Squires program and all other youth activities of the Knights of Columbus are among our highest priorities, and are at the heart of our approach to helping young Catholics become faithful and responsible citizens and future leaders of the church,” Korten said.
As of 2010, there are 27,983 Columbian Squires in 1,483 of the group's Squires Circles.
Vatican City, Dec 15, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI is finalizing his travel plans for the upcoming year — which so far include a three-day visit to his homeland and another to the African country of Benin.
The Vatican has announced that the Pope plans to visit his homeland of Germany in a state visit, Sept. 22-25. No itinerary has been finalized but officials say he will visit three cities — Berlin, Freiburg and Erhfurt.
In addition to Germany, the Pope has a trip scheduled to Croatia, June 4-5. He will head to Spain Aug. 18-21, where he will lead celebrations for World Youth Day. His visit to Benin will come near the end of the year, Nov. 18-20.
The Pope is also planning several apostolic visits inside Italy in 2011. He will visit Aquileia and Venice, May 7-8. On June 19 he will travel to Montefeltro and the Republic of San Marino. On Sept. 11 he will go to Ancona for the National Eucharistic Congress, and Oct. 9 he will travel to Lamezia Terme and Serra San Bruno.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dec 15, 2010 (CNA) - An Argentinean archbishop explained on a recent television program that the growth of the Church depends on each Catholic's commitment to the faith.
Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata, Argentina spoke Dec. 11 during his television program, Keys to a Better World.
Archbishop Aguer noted that Pope Benedict XVI has also emphasized the importance of a decisive commitment to the faith. “People – including those who were Christian and have lost their faith – can see their faith renewed.”
“This is the goal of the new evangelization,” he explained.
The archbishop pointed out that the reality of the Church is different in each country. While in the West, the “connection between the people and the Church” is eroding, countries in Asia or Africa are seeing a boom in conversions. “More than seeing this through a sociological lens, we need to see it through a theological one. The growth of the Church is a mystery!” the archbishop underscored.
Argentina’s own history has been shaped by the presence of the Catholic faith, the archbishop continued. He added that the large number of pilgrims who visit the country “remind us that there is a Catholic foundation to the Argentinean nation that can always be revived.”
For this reason, Archbishop Aguer urged the faithful to grow in fidelity and to increase “not only in number but above all in holiness.”
Rome, Italy, Dec 15, 2010 (CNA) - The papal delegate for the Legion of Christ, Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, is exhorting members of the order to embrace the will of God as their renewal process moves forward.
In a letter dated Dec. 10, Cardinal De Paolis explained that the work of revising the Legion's constitution “demands interior freedom and discernment, so that we can follow the will of God. Our own ideas are not what should prevail or what will ensure success,” he said.
This process entails “heeding the will of God, in the school of the Church, in order to correctly re-read the history of the institute and of each one’s vocation.” The cardinal said that in doing so, the “best choices” will be made “according to God’s design.”
He then thanked those who have collaborated in the Legion's renewal process and offered his gratitude to those who have worked to foster a climate of “fraternity and trust, offering forgiveness, when necessary, as children of God in imitation of their heavenly Father.”
He called the revision of the Legion’s constitution “a work of extreme importance, which requires the active participation of all, each according to his means and proper role.”
The commission charged with revising the constitution will be made up of the papal delegate and two advisers, Fr. Gianfranco Ghirlanda and Fr. Agostino Montan, who are both experts in consecrated life.
Their results will be sent to the Vatican for approval.
“The Lord will enter into us to take possession of our lives to the degree that we open the doors of our hearts to him,” he said. “Thus the Kingdom of Christ will be established in our hearts and in the life of the Legion, and thus it will truly be the Legion of Christ,” he concluded.
The religious congregation is trying to recover from revelations that its founder, Fr. Marcel Maciel, sexually abused seminarians and fathered several children. The discovery led to questions—and an apostolic visitation ordered by Pope Benedict—about whether the charism and formation process of the order were affected by the founder.
Cardinal De Paolis was appointed July 9, 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI to oversee the renewal of the religious order.
Dodge City, Kan., Dec 15, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Fr. John Brungardt, 52, will become the new bishop of Dodge City in Kansas, succeeding Bishop Ronald M. Gilmore as he retires at age 68.
The bishop-elect is a Kansas native, currently serving as chancellor of the Diocese of Wichita and the pastor of St. Mark the Evangelist parish in the town of St. Mark, Kansas. He received ordination as a priest at age 40, a significant change from his previous career as a science teacher at a Catholic high school.
In a recent interview, the bishop-elect described his rural upbringing and faith formation in a strongly Catholic family, as well as the “spiritual re-awakening” he later experienced after his mother's death in 1990.
That loss led the professional educator into a life of intensified faith, with “more devotion to the Blessed Mother and the Rosary, prayer and daily Mass” – all of which eventually led him to discuss his future plans and possible calling with local clergy.
After studying at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Ohio, Fr. Brungardt became a priest in 1998. Once ordained, he continued his long-running involvement in pro-life work, which had initially helped him to discover his vocation while still a layman. He also learned Spanish, the first language of many of the faithful he will be leading in the diocese of Dodge City.
Bishop-elect Brungardt described his new calling as an “extraordinary and overwhelming” one, but said he was “happy to serve the Lord and the Holy Father and the good people of the Diocese of Dodge City as their bishop.”
The new bishop's predecessor, Bishop Ronald M. Gilmore, received permission to retire from Pope Benedict XVI, in accordance with a provision of canon law that encourages a diocesan bishop to step down if illness or another serious reason prevents him from fulfilling his duties.
In a message announcing his retirement, Bishop Gilmore said the diocese “needed fresh eyes, fresh hands, and a fresh heart.”
Guadalajara, Mexico, Dec 15, 2010 (CNA) - Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez, Archbishop of Guadalajara, Mexico recently highlighted the importance of marriage, calling it “a service to life, to love, to humanity, but above all, a service to God,” who “created man and woman to cooperate in creation, to transmit life and to care for it.”
For this reason, he said, it is important that “families always pray, because God can do much more than any of us and He can overcome all those who wish to destroy” the family.
The cardinal spoke Dec. 11 at the 2nd Meeting of Families at the Guadalajara Convention Center.
Only prayer, education and the understanding of the mysticism of marriage on the part of spouses can counteract the attacks on the family in recent times, the cardinal said.
“If these aspects are taken into account and put into practice, the basic cell of society that is the family will be strengthened,” he added.
Auxiliary Bishop Francisco Gonzalez-Gonzalez of Guadalajara underscored that “family love is not merely a passing notion, but an intense and lasting moral force that seeks the good of man, even at the cost of personal sacrifice.”
“True love always goes hand in hand with justice, which is so necessary for there to be peace,” he said.
Washington D.C., Dec 15, 2010 (CNA) - A seventh grade religion class in Hawaii won an annual contest held by the U.S. bishops' social justice branch with a mini-documentary on the problem of homelessness in the state.
Junior high students from St. John Vianney Catholic School in Kailua, Hawaii won the 2010 Multi-Media Youth Arts Contest sponsored by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the anti-poverty initiative of the U.S. bishops.
The eight minute video titled “Family of Promise” was written, directed and shot by seventh graders, who gathered statistics and conducted interviews on the growing issue of homelessness in Hawaii.
In their submission, the group highlighted the local Hawaiian branch of the Family Promise program, which involves local churches hosting homeless families a week at a time and helping them address the factors that have contributed to their poverty.
“This video reflects the reality that homelessness really can happen to anyone,” said Ralph McCloud, director of CCHD.
“The students involved initially thought homeless people were alcoholics and drug addicts but, after interacting with homeless families, found compassion and understanding,” he added.
“They learned about the causes of homelessness and how people can combat these causes. This greatly reflects the mission of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.”
The Multi-Media Youth Arts Contest for grades 7-12 has been running since 2001, engaging youth in Catholic schools across the country to learn about and help address root causes of poverty. The 2010 theme was, “Empowering Communities, Uprooting Poverty,” and encouraged students to present their findings through visual arts, media or literature.
The honor was awarded on Dec.10 in front of 2,500 youth ministers at the National Conference on Catholic Youth Ministry in New Orleans.
The video can be found online at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEkbZfODEwc
Port au Prince, Haiti, Dec 15, 2010 (CNA) - The cholera outbreak in Haiti has caused a deteriorating situation that could cause 200,000 deaths without intervention, a Catholic priest in the country has warned.
Fr. Antonio Menegon, head of the Camillian Mission in Haiti, told Fides news agency that the situation is “dramatic” because of the violence raging in the country after the elections.
“Everything is closed and blocked,” he reported, noting the closure of ports and airports.
“Because of the violence, the United States and Canada have closed their embassies. The stores have been besieged. We cannot supply medicines or oil, everything is closed,” he said.
“Our hospital continues to welcome people sick with cholera. Some have died, others recovered. In one family … 25 have died,” Fr. Menegon reported.
He said the hospital is working with others to try to curb the emergency and has received aid from the Camillian Province in Turin.
“There are many problems and the situation is getting worse.”
Fr. Crescenzo Mazzella, who is also in Haiti, told Fides that relief workers have received medicines sent by air with the Red Cross nurses but supplies are increasingly problematic.
“Help us, here they need everything,” he urged.
Fr. Massimo, another Camillian priest in the western Tiburon Peninsula town of Jeremie, reported that there are 500 confirmed dead there but the true number is twice that. There are sick and dying even in religious houses and in public hospitals there are thousands of abandoned and infected people.
Haiti’s Public Health and Population Ministry reports that more than 2,300 have died and more than 100,000 infected with cholera. In the last three days 130 people have died, according to Fox News.
About 748 people have died in the northern province of Artibonite, where the disease was first reported. A French medical study has claimed the outbreak has its source in human waste which drained into a river from an encampment of Nepalese soldiers who are members of the U.N. Mission for Stabilization in Haiti.
Haitians have demonstrated against U.N. troops because of the accusations.