Rome, Italy, Mar 14, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Anyone making their way along Rome's Via della Conciliazione toward St. Peter's Basilica this Lent will be greeted by the world’s largest bronze representation of the stations of the cross.
A total of 49 statues and 11 crosses form the 14 scenes that depict Christ's condemnation to death, the carrying of the cross, his crucifixion, death and burial. The life-size figures were installed for a first-ever viewing on one side of the arrow-straight lane running from Castel Sant'Angelo to St. Peter's.
The Italian company Domus Dei, owned and managed by the Congregation of the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master, produced the representations. Before the sisters took over the company in 2007, the operation had more than 40 years of experience in Church-related design and art.
Besides bronze, they work in stained glass, mosaic and fiber glass mediums. Their projects encompass new church planning, refurbishing and restoration.
Many of the artisans in the various workshops are lay people with a specific expertise, but some sisters work in production and run the operation.
Domus Dei public relations director, Rosa Scannella, told CNA that - just as in all their work - the disciple sisters wished to “transmit their faith” through the pieces of art.
The striking stations that now line the road leading to Catholicism's most famous church took five years of work and 10 tons of bronze to complete. According to Pasquale Nava and Giuseppe Allamprese—the artists who designed the statues—the depictions are as true as possible to the Gospel accounts of the Way of the Cross.
Scannella explained that there are Ways of the Cross in existence that have larger figures, but none has ever been made so large in bronze. The larger figures that stand on the hill at the Lourdes Shrine in France, for example, are made out of iron.
The bronze figures were made for the city of Coquimbo, Chile, which will be their destination after their Lenten exhibition in Rome comes to a close on April 27. The city commissioned the works to lead up to a famous hilltop cross in a poor neighborhood in town.
Several events have been scheduled around the statues before they are sent off to Chile. On April 1, Cardinal Angelo Comastri will lead the Way of the Cross, and on Easter Sunday, April 24, a sacred music concert will be held nearby.
Although the stations were officially unveiled on March 13, Cardinal Velasio De Paolis of the prefecture for the economic affairs of the Holy See blessed the statues and the artists at a presentation several days earlier.
Cardinal De Paolis spoke about the mystery of the cross and said, "There, where we no longer understand the sense of the cross, we lose the sense of our lives," he said in a Vatican Radio report. "From the cross of the Lord, we have learned to love, we learned a very difficult, almost impossible thing: we learned to love those who suffer."
Sendai, Japan, Mar 14, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Catholic relief agency Caritas Japan has begun working to help untold numbers of people rebuild their lives, amid the devastation and continuing effects of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
Nearly 2,000 people have already been confirmed dead as of March 14, victims of the 8.9 magnitude earthquake and resulting 30 foot waves. Authorities are expecting the death toll to rise beyond 10,000.
The disaster also destabilized several nuclear power plants, one of which may have undergone a partial meltdown.
Caritas Japan is conducting a national donation campaign to provide aid to victims, particularly in the hardest-hit dioceses of Sapporo, Sendai, Saitama and Tokyo. Relief workers are still trying to establish contact with many areas where residents are lacking electricity, water, and sufficient food.
In the Diocese of Sendai, which experienced the worst damage, one priest has been confirmed dead and other clergy and faithful are still missing. Some parishes were able to celebrate Sunday Mass on March 13, but others could not. Parishes in Tokyo and Saitama are providing shelter and food, and registering volunteers to help the victims.
Because the Japanese government and army have responded quickly to the emergency, Caritas Japan is concentrating its efforts on helping individuals and families whose lives were impacted or even shattered by the earthquake and tsunami.
Bishop Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi of Niigata, president of Caritas Japan, said that many homeless and grieving individuals and families will need extensive support.
“The devastating effects of the earthquake and tsunami induced not only physical damages, but also mental ones,” he noted. “We will accompany people who lost their loved ones – people who lost everything, who may be staying at temporary shelters, and who have no one to rely on.”
Bishop Kikuchi said he was grateful to all those who were beginning to help the victims with their prayers and charitable contributions. “We are very grateful for this solidarity. We believe that aid activity is needed, but prayer is also important in such a situation.”
Bishop Martin Tetsuo Hiraga of Sendai said residents of his devastated diocese were “exhausted and disoriented,” and “not yet able to comprehend the enormity of the disaster.”
“It is difficult to say what can be done to help,” he told Fides news agency. “We still do not know how many people have died, how many have been displaced and how many are missing.”
There were just over 10,000 Catholics in Sendai before the earthquake and tsunami, and it is unknown how many will be left in the aftermath. Nevertheless, Bishop Hiraga said the survivors “will do everything possible to bring relief – to testify, at this time of suffering, to the message of Christ's love.”
“Today,” said the bishop, “this is our specific mission: to help the nation to raise its eyes to Heaven, and to keep alive the flame of hope.”
Havana, Cuba, Mar 14, 2011 (CNA) - The coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement, Oswald Paya, stated March 8 that Cubans are furious with the communist government's justification of Muammar Gaddaffi’s crackdown on the people of Libya. Paya emphasized that those in Libya “have the right to stand up and demand a better life.”
Paya told Radio Marti that Gaddaffi ordered the killing of Libyans who took to the streets to demand freedom and rights. Paya rejected the justifications for the crackdown offered by Venezuela and Iran and said the actions by the Libyan dictator must be condemned by all.
Dictatorships “are not of the left or the right, they are just dictatorships that take away the rights of the people,” he added.
The Libyan people aspire to live in a nation governed by the rule of law, democracy and freedom, Paya said.
Vatican City, Mar 14, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - With the help of Facebook and YouTube users, the Vatican hopes to create a broad audience for material on the life and teachings of the soon-to-be beatified Pope John Paul II.
The Vatican’s television center and Vatican Radio have teamed up with the Pontifical Council for Social Communications to produce two new webpages on YouTube and Facebook.
The Facebook page offers audio and video content to prepare “friends” and any other passersby for the beatification of the late-Pope on May 1, 2011.
The viewer can see videos from the Vatican's YouTube sites that recount various milestones on Pope John Paul’s path to beatification, including the Jan. 14 announcement of the upcoming ceremony in Rome.
Beatification is a step on the road to sainthood and John Paul II's “cause” was approved this year by Pope Benedict XVI after a miracle was attributed to his intercession. The miracle involved a French religious sister who was cured of Parkinson's disease after praying for his help.
One more miracle must be approved before official recognition of his sainthood and subsequent “canonization” in the Church.
The Facebook page also offers a series of year-in-review video clips—beginning with Pope John Paul II’s election to the papacy in 1978—that are gradually being uploaded to YouTube. The videos present images from papal trips and speeches to highlight the major events of the individual years.
According to a statement from the Vatican, the projects carry the seal of the Vatican and has the objective of “accompanying” the faithful on the route to the May 1 beatification. Through the intitiative, they hope to make a part of the “vast documentary patrimony” of the Vatican television and radio archives available for greater access.
Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, Vatican spokesman and director of both the radio and television centers, told Vatican Radio on March 14 that the webpages were created to put people back in contact with John Paul II through images and words.
Videos are available in five languages for the moment, including English.
Fr. Lombardi said that that they “would be happy if all those who, also from other sites and personal Facebook pages, wish to link together to share this wealth of images and sounds.”
For him, the memory of the late-Pope lives on with youth today, but social networks do even more to make his presence more easily accessible in a multimedia format.
“We must seek to emit a huge wave of positivity, of friendship, of spiritual values through the open paths of social networks,” said Fr. Lombardi. “And what could be more beautiful and powerful than the image and voice of a Pope who was so loved by all of humanity?”
He welcomed the collaboration of all people, young and old, to spread the “positive messages, the messages of hope through social networks” and new technologies.
Madrid, Spain, Mar 14, 2011 (CNA) - The president of the Institute for Family Policy in Spain, Eduardo Hertfelder, recently accused the Spanish government of working to transform society and turn it against man, human life and the family.
On March 9, Spain’s Health Ministry, headed by Leire Pajin, made $139,660 available to the homosexual community to create a public awareness campaign aimed at preventing the spread of AIDS among same-sex couples.
Hertfelder told CNA the next day that the purpose of the campaign is to promote the use of condoms.
He said the move was another confirmation that “Pajin doesn’t have the political will either to reduce AIDS or to create a truly informative sexual education campaign." Rather, he continued, Pajin "intends to support communities that are completely ideologically driven.”
Hertfelder called the plan a complete misuse of tax-payer money characteristic of Spanish President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's administration. “He promotes many things that are detrimental to the human person,” Hertfelder said.
The way to reduce the spread of AIDS is not by funding the homosexual community or promoting the use of condemns, he continued, but by empowering “those measures that are designed to reduce and prevent sexual relations (among same-sex couples) and thus promote chastity.”
In the past year, the Spanish government has liberalized the country’s abortion law and legalized same-sex unions. It has also championed the school course Education for the Citizenry, which critics say promotes secularism, gender ideology, abortion and undermines parents’ rights to educate their children according to their own moral convictions.