CNA STAFF, Mar 7, 2011 (CNA) - The Catholic Church in Colombia is throwing its support behind a constitutional amendment that would protect human life from conception to natural death.
The amendment to the country's constitution must be passed twice in both the House and the Senate in order for it to be ratified.
The secretary of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, Bishop Juan Vicente Cordoba, spoke with CNA on March 3. He explained that the bishops would support lawmakers “with signatures, verbal support – through the media and with our prayers – and above all by encouraging them so that they are not alone.”
He said the amendment is “an endeavor involving many political parties and all religions, not only the Catholic Church.”
If it is passed, he noted, “the three exceptions allowing abortion will be outlawed,” as well as the morning-after pill, euthanasia and contraceptive patches.
Bishop Cordoba reminded the Constitutional Court, which legalized abortion in 2006 in cases of rape, fetal deformation and to save the life of the mother, that “73 percent of Colombians do not accept abortion,” according to recent polls. He urged the members of the court to refrain from legislating against human life.
“You must not vote or do things based only on the opinions of the eight or nine of you,” he told them. “Remember you are representing a nation that has a specific culture, beliefs, religion and values, and the majority do not want these laws against life,” he said.
Bishop Cordoba told CNA, “Signatures are currently being collected at all the parishes in Colombia. I think we will have millions of signatures collected at parishes this weekend and on Ash Wednesday.” The petitions will be delivered to lawmakers supporting the amendment in the House and Senate as evidence of the will of the Colombian people, he said.
These lawmakers “themselves asked to speak to the bishops’ conference,” to say they were “Catholics and evangelical Christians committed to Colombians in support of the country’s constitution that defends life and the family,” the bishop said.
“Right now they are working on drafting this legislative act in order to present it in a clear, objective and legal way,” he stated.
The measure is being presented “from a legal, anthropological, ethical and natural law point of view, and somewhat from the perspective of the faith. But above all, it is based on the natural law,” the bishop stated.
Madrid, Spain, Mar 7, 2011 (CNA) - Bishops from Spain recently addressed a message to young Catholics, inviting them to participate in World Youth Day 2011. The bishops said the youth celebration will be an authentic festival of faith and a chance to go on an interior pilgrimage towards Christ.
The bishops told the young people in their message that the Catholic Church has always looked to the youth “with hope and joy because you are the present, and above all, the future of society and of the Church.”
The message was released March 2 as the bishops concluded their 97th Plenary Assembly.
“We also, as your bishops, trust in you and consider you not only as recipients of the Gospel of Christ, but also as protagonists of the building of the Church and of her history,” they said.
The bishops recalled the theme of World Youth Day, “Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith.” They then encouraged young people “to fortify and build up your faith, to deepen your roots in Christ, who loves you and calls you to friendship with Him.” The bishop added that Christ invites them “to follow Him in the priesthood, the consecrated life or in marriage to make of you His witnesses.”
The Spanish bishops also referred to the upcoming May 1 beatification of John Paul II. “The Pope of young people” always invited the youth to give themselves “completely to the love of God and of man and to lead a Christian life that is free of all mediocrity and if necessary, counter cultural in our times.
“How many times he invited you to be saints! He began the passionate endeavor of World Youth Day with all of you in mind,” the bishops said.
They encouraged young people to take advantage of the week-long event to pray personally and as a community. World Youth Day will thus be an authentic festival of faith that will highlight the crucial role Christians play in today’s world as “builders of peace, promoters of justice, and advocates of more humane world according to God’s plan,” they continued.
The bishops also urged the young people of Spain to welcome their brothers and sisters from around the world and to volunteer for the event.
World Youth Day 2011 will take place Aug. 16 – 21 in Madrid, the capital of Spain.
Vatican City, Mar 7, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Following public declarations from the outgoing secretary general of Caritas that could cause serious damage to the “prestige” of the institution, the Holy See has confirmed that it is seeking a "new profile" for the international aid agency.
In January, the Vatican's Secretariat of State decided it would not allow Lesley-Anne Knight to run for a second four-year term as secretary general of the Rome-based Caritas Internationalis. Her request for a certificate of approval from the Vatican for official candidacy was declined.
The rare action was taken because “for today's new challenges we need someone else,” explained Cardinal Robert Sarah of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” on Feb. 22. A key issue at this point is to focus on the “Catholic identity” of the organization, he said.
Cor Unum supervises the activities of Caritas Internationalis as well as many other charitable activities worldwide.
The council's “second-in-command,” secretary Msgr. Giampietro Dal Toso, explained in a March 7 interview that the Caritas confederation entrusts the approval of its top decision-makers to the Holy See in its statutes.
This year, after "much reflection" between the Secretariat of State and Cor Unum, “it was considered opportune to seek another profile for the next four years,” said Msgr. Dal Toso.
“In no way was this meant to take from the work accomplished by Mrs. Knight,” he asserted.
Approval is granted by the Holy See “to provide a necessary instrument in order that those ultimately responsible for an organization may address in the most convenient way those decisions to be taken, for the good of the organization itself,” said Msgr. Dal Toso.
“The next four years envisage Caritas Internationalis engaged in important themes concerning its mission, including the revision of its statutes and internal reform,” he explained.
In an interview with the National Catholic Reporter published on March 2, Knight suggested that the Holy See was out of touch with Caritas and blasted its plan to modify practices in place in favor of a greater emphasis on evangelization.
She criticized the “minimal” level of contact from upper-level Vatican officials and that “information flow tends to be one-way”--from the Church hierarchy to Caritas. She asked, “does the Holy See actually know what Caritas is doing?”
Knight claimed a disconnect with “what it means to be in international development and humanitarian aid.” She suggested that the Vatican works too slowly for the high-speed environment and asked, “given the wide range of sensitive situations in which we work, how do we express that evangelization in a way that the Holy See is comfortable with?”
With a greater focus on evangelization, the outgoing secretary general said that some member organizations “might want to distance themselves from Caritas.”
“That could seriously damage our confederation,” she said.
Msgr. Dal Toso responded that for Caritas, “looking towards the future” should mean not being afraid of a renewal of the “various responsibilities and the approval of the new statutes through a wider consensus.”
This work, he said, means engaging in “authentic dialogue with the opportune bodies.”
“On the other hand,” he said, “her declarations on the lack of communion with the Holy See might seriously damage the prestige of Caritas Internationalis, especially among the faithful.”
In terms of Knight's method, he said, using the media to discuss questions “related to matters of the governance of Caritas Internationalis does not seem to me the best way to treat the various positions.
“This is one-way communication – not dialogue,” said Msgr. Dal Toso.
He said that channels for communication are in place to offer opinions. The physical proximity of Caritas' headquarters to the Vatican, the presence of Cor Unum representatives at the agency's meetings and the fact that the confederation's president is a cardinal provide opportunities to voice concerns, he explained.
“The channels for discussion are not lacking, nor our willingness to dialogue, as Caritas Internationalis knows very well.”
Rome, Italy, Mar 7, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The life of the Christian is a response to God's call, Pope Benedict XVI told seminarians in Rome last week.
During his annual visit to the Diocese of Rome's major seminary on March 4, the Pope taught on the Christian call to vocation, humility, community and unity from St. Paul's writings.
A “coherent life” is not just the result of Baptism, but “the fruit of the will and a persevering commitment to collaborating with the gift, with the grace received," said the Pope.
One must pay a "personal price" and commit himself to follow Christ by sharing his Passion and Cross, he explained.
"Christian life begins with a call and is itself always a response, until the end," he told the seminarians.
Christians must meditate "again and again" on the mystery that God has called each person and that he knows them and awaits their response," he said.
That God was born into the world, suffered and died for man is a lesson in humility, explained the Pope. "We must always see ourselves in the light of God, so as to appreciate how great it is to be loved by Him and, at the same time, to see our own smallness, our poverty, and thus rightly comport ourselves not as masters but as servants."
God's call is also an "ecclesial call," he said. It is a call to community, united in "a single body" by the Holy Spirit.
"We also have to bear in mind how beautiful it is to be part of a company ... having friends in heaven and on earth, experiencing the beauty of this body, being happy that the Lord has called us into a single body and given us friends all over the world," he said.
“The unity of the Church," he concluded, "is the result of harmony, of a shared commitment to act like Jesus, by virtue of his spirit. ... In order to conserve unity of spirit, it is necessary to model our own behavior on the humility, sweetness and magnanimity which Jesus bore witness to in his Passion.”
The Pope said that the Holy Spirit is essential in uniting man to God's call.
He capped off the visit by joining the seminarians for dinner. They congratulated him for his 60-year anniversary of priestly ordination to be celebrated on June 29.
Rome, Italy, Mar 7, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - March 12 will mark the debut of a new television series combining the words of Pope Benedict XVI with the Church's traditional sacred art and music.
“Sunday with Benedict XVI,” broadcast on the Italian bishops' TV 2000 network, will draw upon six years of the Pope's homilies, Angelus commentaries, and Gospel reflections, supplemented by portions of his writings and the works of the Church Fathers.
The regular Saturday evening program will incorporate selections that are based on the Mass readings for every Sunday of the liturgical year, taken from the audio and video archives of Pope Benedict's pontificate.
Fr. Timothy Verdon, an American-born priest and art historian based in Florence, will set the scene for the Pope's scriptural reflections each week.
At the beginning of each program, Fr. Verdon will showcase and discuss three masterpieces of Christian artwork that pertain to the themes and topics of the Pope's preaching and the weekly Mass readings. Fr. Verdon is a consultant to the Papal Commision for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, and has drawn inspiration from Pope Benedict's teachings on the value of sacred art.
A world-renowned conductor of Gregorian chant, Fulvio Rampi, will lead the “Cantori Gregoriani” choir in singing the traditional entrance and and communion chants for each Sunday of the year.
Rampi, a professor of Gregorian chant at the Papal Institute of Sacred Music, will also provide a commentary linking the weekly Scripture readings with the traditional Latin hymns. The members of the Cantori Gregoriani hope their participation will invite a renewed interest in Gregorian chant, in keeping with the privileged position intended for it by the Second Vatican Council.
The half-hour program will air every Saturday on TV 2000 at 5:30 p.m,, with a repeat broadcast at 10:35 p.m. Viewers outside Italy can stream the program via the station's website, http://www.tv2000.it. Although the program will currently only be broadcast in Italian, Catholic stations in other countries have expressed interest in translating the program for broadcast in their own languages.