Archive of January 24, 2011

Pope calls for Christian presence on social networking sites

Vatican City, Jan 24, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Facebook, MySpace and Twitter should be used by Christians looking to bring "truth, proclamation and authenticity of life" to the web today, the Pope said in his message for the 45th World Day of Social Communications.

In his message released on Jan. 24, the Pope called for a greater Christian presence online in the midst of the "vast cultural transformation" caused by the digital age. New technologies, he said, are "giving birth to a new way learning and thinking, with unprecedented opportunities for establishing relationships and building fellowship."

If technologies are used with wisdom, he explained, "they can contribute to the satisfaction of the desire for meaning, truth and unity which remain the most profound aspirations of each human being."

Pope Benedict also warned about the dangers of falsifying one's online profile and creating a "parallel existence."

He instead urged people to be authentic and faithful when they share information or make "friends" online.

The "Christian way" of being present in the digital world means being "honest and open, responsible and respectful of others," he explained. It is a way of communicating that is consistent with the Gospel, supported by actions worthy of the same witness in one's daily life.

"New and more complex intellectual and spiritual horizons (and) new forms of shared awareness" are opened up by new technologies and Christians are also called to proclaim their faith in God in these spaces, the Pope said.

"Believers who bear witness to their most profound convictions greatly help prevent the internet from becoming an instrument which depersonalizes people, attempts to manipulate them emotionally or allows those who are powerful to monopolize the opinions of others," he said.

Christ's truth is not a question of online popularity, the Pope added, rather, it is "the full and authentic response to that human desire for relationship, communion and meaning which is reflected in the immense popularity of social networks."

While noting that "direct human relations" are always essential to sharing the faith, he invited Christians to"confidently and with an informed and responsible creativity, join the network of relationships which the digital era has made possible."

Having a Christian presence online is based not only on a desire to be there, but "because this network is an integral part of human life," he said.

The Pope's message was presented during a press conference at the Holy See's Press Office on Jan. 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of communications workers.

Archbishop Claudio Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, led the presentation. He announced that the Vatican hopes to have a new communications portal online by Easter.

It will provide a single multimedia site for easy access to the major media communications agencies of the Holy See, such as the press office, Vatican Radio, the Vatican Television Center, L'Osservatore Romano and Fides news.

Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, who was also among those present for the presentation, also announced that during a Feb. 10 celebration for the 80-year anniversary of the radio station, he will launch a feature called "VaticanTic" on the station's website. The tool will allow users to view the Pope's schedule.

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Italian cardinal calls for 'humanization of globalization'

New York City, N.Y., Jan 24, 2011 (CNA) - Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe of Naples, Italy recently made a five day pastoral visit to the Italian community in Brooklyn, N.Y. where he called for the “humanization of globalization.”

The cardinal spoke with Italian immigrants from Naples, as well as Italian Ambassador Cesare Maria Ragaglini and Rabbi Arthur Schneier of the Park East Synagogue in New York.

Cardinal Sepe celebrated Mass at the chapel located in the U.N. Headquarters building, together with the apostolic nuncio to the U.N., Archbishop Francis Chullikatt.

In his homily the cardinal stressed the need “to be even more united in order to globalize justice, solidarity and peace,” reported L’Osservatore Romano. “We all know that in the great family of nations there should be no brotherhood without solidarity, without struggling for the common good with the arms of justice.”

For this reason, “every effort must be made to ensure one of the fundamental freedoms, the freedom of religion,” he noted.

Cardinal Sepe also participated in a working breakfast with representatives from the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, founded by Rabbi Arthur Schneier in 1965 to defend religious freedom and human rights around the world. “We have the difficult and exhilarating task of planting the seed of peace, because justice and solidarity can only come from authentic faith,” he added.

“The world is changing because of a process of globalization that emerged as something positive and is making encounter and exchange possible,” the cardinal explained. But today it is dividing instead of uniting peoples and nations, “because economic value has been made the absolute value of globalization.” Amid this atmosphere, “our role as people of faith” becomes even more decisive. “We must humanize globalization,” he said.

The Italian cardinal noted that in these difficult times in which attacks by extremists “threaten every opportunity for an encounter between the different religions, we must work without ceasing.” He emphasized the importance of defending “people of faith who, open to others, see man always as an end and never as a means, and whose sole banner is the banner of peace, which encompasses all peoples.”

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Iraqi bishop calls for international aid in response to massacre of Christians

Rome, Italy, Jan 24, 2011 (CNA) - Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad, Iraq is calling for the international community to continue offering assistance to Christians in his country.

Bishop Warduni spoke Jan. 20 during Italy's congressional committee on foreign affairs and warned, “Christians are in great danger.”

“They are tired, they don’t know what to do or where to go. Their rights are being restricted.”

He added that Christians in the area are left unprotected from violence.

“Iraq needs a comprehensive solution,” the bishop said, urging that special help be given to “minorities, including Christians, who have done much to build Iraq.”

“Cooperation among all in order to achieve peace and security in Iraq and the Middle East” must be one of the first steps, Bishop Warduni continued. “If this were happening,” Christians would not be leaving the region.

“We call for the creation of a special international tribunal to shed light on the killings of Christian martyrs such as Archbishop Faraj Raho of Mosul (killed in 2008), and others.  We want everyone to know the truth,” Bishop Warduni said.

He urged Italian lawmakers to put pressure on the governments of countries where Christians are a minority to ensure greater protection of their rights against the actions of extremists. “The danger is that this continues to spread throughout the world. We want the U.N. to be more decisive when it comes to defending the rights of man,” he said.

He also warned against the growing Islamization of Iraq, a country where “Christians are free to worship but not to fully profess their faith.

“The time for words is over, it is now time for concrete action,” the bishop concluded.

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Japanese bishop upholds suspension for the Way in his diocese

Takamatsu, Japan, Jan 24, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Bishop Osamu Mizobe of Takamatsu, Japan has told Catholics in his diocese that since the "problem" of the Neocatechumenal Way "has become a worldwide issue," he has decided to publicly explain his decision to continue the suspension of the movement until a papal envoy reports on the matter.

A pastoral letter from Bishop Mizobe was released on Jan. 20 by the Union of Catholic Asian News. It was written in response to the "painful admonition" he had received from the Vatican that he needed to definitively decide his policy for the Way in his diocese and that inaction "would not be admissible."

The Neocatechumenal Way's activities have been an evident source of concern for the bishops of Japan recently. Last fall, they decided to suspend its activities after nearly 30 years of catechetical formation work in parishes across the nation.

“In those places touched by the Neocatechumenal Way, there has been rampant confusion, conflict, division, and chaos,” wrote the president of the Japanese bishops, Archbishop Leo Ikenaga of Osaka, in the Japanese bishops-sponsored weekly "Katorikku Shimbun" on Dec. 20.

Archbishop Joseph Mitsuaki Takami of Nagasaki and Bishop Isao Kikuchi of Niigata, Japan have both spoken to CNA about their experiences with the Way. They said that they had experienced disobedience to the local bishops, a lack of understanding of the local culture and language, and a tendency to divide small parish communities into members and non-members.

Archbishop Takami said that the group had caused "a lot of trouble" particularly in the Diocese of Takamatsu where the Way's "Redemptoris Mater" seminary had been for nearly 20 years. Bishop Mizobe closed it down between 2008-2009. The seminarians now continue their studies at another Way seminary in Rome.

Bishop Mizobe argued in his letter that Japan is not the only place in the world where the religious community has encountered hurdles. Investigations, and in some cases restrictions on activities, have been imposed on the group in parts of England, Palestine and the Philippines, he wrote. What these actions "tell us clearly is that problems with the Neocatechumenal Way are not exclusive to the Diocese of Takamatsu and the Church in Japan," he said.

With the great deal of attention on the situation in Japan and its "seriousness," Bishop Mizobe told the faithful under his care that he saw the need to "report clearly to you what has taken place and to explain to you the policy of our diocese."

People had asked him particularly for details about the Dec. 13 meeting that brought the Pope, four Japanese bishops and seven Curia officials together to express their opinions on the suspension of the Way's activities in Japan.

He described the meeting without going into details. The Japanese bishops' understanding, he said, was that individual bishops have the freedom to decide on the Way's future in their diocese and that approval of the movement in Rome "does not automatically imply that a local diocese must accept them."

They emphasized to the Pope and the Vatican officials present that possible decisions from Rome about the individual dioceses should first be discussed with them personally.

After the exchange of perspectives, "it was clear that the fact that the Bishops’ Conference of Japan made the decision to suspend the activities of the Neocatechumenal 'Way' is a big problem for the Vatican," Bishop Mizobe said.

Possibilities for a "plan of action" were discussed. They included the Pope's suggestion of a special envoy to examine the issue on the ground.

The high possibility that this delegate will travel to the Diocese of Takamatsu led the bishop to break his silence to the public about the situation, he said.

"I was waiting for the members of the Neocatechumenal Way to decide for themselves to use self-discipline in their activities. Now that this problem has become a worldwide issue, however, I cannot wait any longer," he said, referring to international media reports on the rift.

He has an "obligation" to speak to the people publicly so that they will not lack the confidence or the information to speak about their experiences to the eventual envoy, he explained. If the people do not speak up, "the result would be that the envoy would leave the diocese without a true grasp of the situation."

While not referring to any specific cases of conflict, he said, "it is not permissible for any organization or movement to use whatever power they can to stop the Bishop from taking action in his diocese.

"It is important for all of us to earnestly and seriously face the events that have occurred in our diocese for the past 20 years and are still happening," he said. He invited the Catholics of the diocese to come together for the interests of all around their bishop.

"We are standing at an important turning point in the road towards true 'Rebirth and Unity'," he told them, in reference to a three-year initiative in place to revitalize the diocese.

In the meantime, the Neocatechumenal Way's activities are to remain suspended in his diocese until the results of the Pope's envoy have been received, he said.

The bishop explained that it is not an end to dialogue but an "opportunity" for reflection for all.

"When a process goes amiss it is said that one should always return to the starting point. I believe that 'NOW' is a good time for us to return to the starting point."

He invited Way members to also join in the activities for renewal in the diocese and said that "not one person" in the diocese of approximately 5,000 Catholic faithful "can be exempted from playing a part in this process."

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Hundreds of thousands assemble against abortion in DC

Washington D.C., Jan 24, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Hundreds of thousands of people packed the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 24 to show their support for the human rights of the unborn at the annual March for Life.

This year's march marked the 38th anniversary of the  Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade.

For the first time ever, the morning rally events that preceded the March for Life took place at two locations – the Verizon Center and D.C. Armory – to accommodate larger-than-usual crowds. Growing youth participation, possibly assisted by online social media, has nearly quadrupled the size of the march during the past decade.

Fr. Mark Ivany, a priest from Bethesda, Md., told the crowd at the Verizon center on the morning of the march that they were speaking on behalf of those who would never be able to speak for themselves.

"The greatest difference between other civil rights movements and this one,” Fr. Ivany reflected solemnly, “is that most of the people affected by Roe v. Wade can't march on Washington. They can't give great speeches.”

In the afternoon, the demonstrators assembled on the Washington Mall before proceeding to the steps of the Supreme Court. Although the city of Washington, D.C. does not provide estimates of the crowd size at the yearly event, organizers predicted that up to 400,000 people would participate in this year's march.

The evening before the event, thousands gathered in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for the opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life. Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, Texas and chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, celebrated the Mass for a capacity crowd at the nation's largest Catholic church.

Cardinal DiNardo drew particular encouragement from the presence of many young people who came from across the nation to advocate for the human rights of the unborn. He described the youth as the “genuine leaders and pioneers of this March for Life,” noting that their stand against abortion showed a willingness to question the fashionable stances and received opinions of popular culture.

He recalled the words of Pope John Paul II, whose beatification he hailed as “sign of light in darkness” for those defending the rights of the unborn against violence. The late Pope, he said, “called on us to be a 'luminous conscience' for many whose conscience, on the dignity of the human person, is distorted, and thus lives in shadows.”

Catholic participation in the March for Life itself has always been strong, although the event attracts participants with various beliefs. Its focus is on the right to life as a question of justice and human rights, rather than as a matter of faith – an approach that Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York recently endorsed when he called the defense of unborn life “the premier civil rights issue of our day.”

In a statement welcoming the marchers to the nation's capital, House Speaker John Boehner (R – Ohio) expressed a similar perspective on abortion as a violation of both constitutional and moral principles. He stated that the March for Life, and similar efforts “aimed at restoring the damage of the Roe decision,” reflected the best principles of American society and “must continue.”

“Americans love life as much as we love freedom,” he said, indicating that public policy should never seek to balance the freedom of one individual against the vulnerable life of another, but must always respect both. In an authentic vision of freedom, he said, these “founding principles” – individual liberty, and the right to life – are inseparably “intertwined, and form the basis of our national character.”

No one is safe, Boehner observed, when the most vulnerable members of society lose their rights. “Without respect for life, freedom is in jeopardy.”

President Obama, however, praised the Roe v. Wade decision on its anniversary, Jan. 22, stating that he is “committed to protecting this constitutional right.” The decision held that a right to abortion was implicit in the 14th amendment, a provision originally intended to ensure that no person or group would be unjustly deprived of “life, liberty, or property” after the abolition of slavery.

The president, whose 2009 “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” allocated a total of $4.1 billion for government-funded or state-run child-care programs, nonetheless said that the Roe decision “affirms the fundamental principle” that “government should not intrude on private family matters.”

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Bishop Robert Vasa appointed coadjutor of California diocese

Santa Rosa, Calif., Jan 24, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Bishop Robert Vasa has been appointed coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Santa Rosa in California to succeed Bishop Daniel F. Walsh when he retires.

“I am happy to learn of Bishop Vasa’s assignment to the Diocese of Santa Rosa, and look forward to introducing him to our parishioners and working in partnership to lay the foundation for our diocesan future,” Bishop Walsh commented in a Jan. 24 statement.

The 73-year-old Bishop Walsh had requested the assistance of a coadjutor. He has headed the diocese since the year 2000.

Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the apostolic nuncio to the U.S., announced the appointment in Washington on Jan. 24.

Bishop Vasa, 59, has led the Diocese of Baker in Oregon since January 2000.

He was born in Lincoln, Nebraska and studied for the priesthood at St. Thomas Seminary in Denver and Holy Trinity Seminary in Dallas. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Lincoln in May 1976 and received a License in Canon Law from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1981.

In Lincoln he served as the diocese’s chancellor, judicial vicar and vicar general.

The new coadjutor bishop is a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions. He also serves on the conference’s Task Force on Health Care.

The Diocese of Santa Rosa said that Bishop Vasa will take up residence in the diocese on March 4. A Mass of Reception and Welcome will be celebrated at St. Eugene’s Cathedral in Santa Rosa on March 6 at 10:30 a.m.

Bishop Vasa will become Bishop of Santa Rosa upon the retirement of Bishop Walsh. Under church law, all bishops must submit their letter of resignation at the age of 75.

The Diocese of Santa Rosa covers 11,711 square miles. It has a population of over 909,000 inhabitants and 169,567, or 18 percent, of those people are Catholic.

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Pope urges better marriage preparation to break 'vicious cycle'

Vatican City, Jan 24, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI has called for effective pastoral action to break the “vicious circle” begun when Christian couples are allowed to marry without adequate preparation and knowledge of the sacrament’s requirements.

His comments came in a Jan. 22 address to officials and lawyers of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota at the inauguration of the judicial year.

“No one has the right to a marriage ceremony,” Pope Benedict said. He noted that the “right to marriage” in canon law refers only to the right to celebrate an authentic marriage.

The marriage bond is one of unity and indissolubility. It aims for the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of their children, he continued.

Marriage preparation intends to promote the “free celebration of a true marriage” that creates “a bond of justice and love between the spouses.”

Pope Benedict explained that the pastor’s pre-marriage examination of a couple is intended to determine whether there is any obstacle to a valid and legal celebration of the marriage. This presents a “unique pastoral opportunity” as the pastor seeks to lead the possible spouses to a “serious examination about themselves” and about their vocation to marriage.

He urged a “climate of complete sincerity” in these examinations that emphasizes that the betrothed are the ones most obliged to celebrate a valid marriage and should be the ones most interested in forming a valid union.

“With the various means available for careful preparation and verification, it is possible to develop effective pastoral activities aimed at avoiding the nullification of marriages,” the pontiff said. “Every effort must be made, insofar as possible, to break the vicious circle which often arises between automatic admission to marriage without adequate preparation or a serious examination of the requirements laid down for its celebration.”

He also criticized an opposing tendency which considers a marriage null only because it appears to have failed.

The Pope called on Church tribunals to be unequivocal about the essential aspects of marriage. Many incorrect opinions about the capacity of spouses to consent to a marriage remain, he noted.

"It is important to resist the temptation of transforming simple shortcomings the spouses may show during their married life into defects of consent,” he said.

Using technical language, he discussed the “juridical” aspect of marriage, especially the rights and duties of spouses and potential spouses under Church law.

There is a “real juridical bond” between a man and a woman in marriage, Pope Benedict explained. It is in this light that the right to marriage should be seen. This right is not a “subjective pretext,” but it presupposes that the potential spouses can and do intend to celebrate marriage properly, “in the truth of its essence, as taught by the Church.”

He concluded his remarks by stressing the importance of encouraging “profound harmony” between pastoral care and the juridical sphere of the Church.

The sacrament of Christian marriage is valid in situations where both spouses have the right intention and the ability to consent. Where those are sufficiently lacking, a marriage may be annulled and declared invalid. However, the high number of annulments has been a cause for concern among Catholics, especially in recent decades.

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