Vatican City, Mar 21, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The saints are “stars in the firmament of history” who show that great love “sees farther than reason alone,” Pope Benedict XVI said in a reflection on the conclusion of his Lenten spiritual exercises.
The upcoming beatification of John Paul II focused the exercises on the topic of sainthood.
“Such reflection and contemplation on the mystery of Christ, reflected in the existence of its most faithful followers, constitutes a fundamental element that I have inherited from Pope John Paul II and that I continue with full conviction and great joy,” Pope Benedict said in a letter thanking Fr. Francois-Marie Lethel, who guided the March 13-19 exercises.
The Pope said the French Carmelite priest’s discussions of sainthood matched the catechesis of his own Wednesday general audiences. These audiences intended to make the Church “better known and loved as she appears in the lives, the works, and the teachings of the saints.”
At the end of the Lenten exercises, Benedict thanked Fr. Lethel for the “safe guidance and spiritual richness” he showed.
“You have shown us the saints as stars in the firmament of history ... demonstrating that the 'small' saints are 'great' saints,” he continued. “You have shown us that the ‘scientia fidei’ (knowledge of faith) and the ‘scientia amoris’ (knowledge of love) ... complete one another, that reason and great love go together and, even more, that great love sees farther than reason alone.”
The Pope also reflected on his patron St. Joseph, whose feast day coincided with the end of the exercises. The husband of Mary was “a humble saint, a humble worker, who was considered worthy to be the Redeemer’s guardian.”
The Gospel author St. Matthew defined St. Joseph by the single word “just,” the pontiff noted. He was “immersed in God's word” and lived the Law of God not as a “yoke” but as “happiness.”
In this way he was prepared and called to know the Incarnate Word, Jesus.
“This is his mission forever, to guard the Church and our Lord,” Pope Benedict said.
Saitama, Japan, Mar 21, 2011 (CNA) - Sister Ana Alvarado, a Peruvian religious sister of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception in Japan stated that her community will continue its efforts in the country.
Sister Alvarado spoke with CNA on March 18 and described the tragic situation facing the thousands of Japanese arriving in the Diocese of Saitama, located 111 miles south of Fukushima and 43 miles from Tokyo.
The Peruvian sister, who directs Hispanic ministry in Saitama, said there is widespread fear of an explosion at the Fukushima plant, which is leading to an increase in the number of people fleeing the area. A nuclear power plant in Fukushima was damaged by the country's March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
“We have chosen to take evacuees in,” Sister Alvarado said. “There are also some people who have been affected here, but not as many as our brothers and sisters to the north. For this reason a notice has been sent to all the parishes, convents and faithful asking them to open their doors to evacuees from the Diocese of Sendai,” where shelters and evacuation centers are filled to capacity, she said.
“I have received many phone calls from Peruvians who have decided to return to Peru because of the situation.” She added that since March 17 she has “been helping a number of people process their paperwork or pick up their test results from the hospitals to take them back to Peru,” she said.
Sister Alvarado said that although the situation is very difficult, “I feel more than ever that my mission is here now, to accompany those who stay and detach myself from those who are leaving, many of whom are leaders in our parishes.
“I hope they will take the experience of faith they have had here to wherever they go,” she added.
Sister Alvarado applauded the solidarity and quick response from the Hispanic community in Saitama, where many were willing to open their homes to families from the north. The diocese is developing an action plan to assist the families who are evacuating.
“This is all we can do right now as a Church. The experience of the last two years, which began with the global economic crisis, led our parishes to open their doors and hearts to help many people who were left unemployed and homeless,” she recalled.
Sister Alvarado said the beginning of Lent this year “will remain etched in our hearts. Together with Christ we are experiencing the Way of the Cross towards Calvary, trusting that in the end resurrection with Him will come.”
The Missionaries of the Immaculate Conception have 21 members in Japan, eight living in Fukushima, where they operate a school.
“It is true that the images in the media are harsh and very sad, but hearing the people express thanks for being alive and seeing the joy on their faces when they learn a family member, neighbor or friend is alive brings tears to our eyes,” she continued.
“Japan is seen as a powerful, rich and technologically advanced country,” Sister Alvarado said, “but the heart of Japan can only be seen with the heart.”
“In every interview on television the people say ‘Gambarimasu’ (an expression of encouragement). I think that many people express their hope with this word. Of course it is painful for them to see they have lost all of their material things, but the joy of being alive is stronger,” the Peruvian sister said.
Corpus Christi, Texas, Mar 21, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Popular speaker and author Fr. John Corapi has been placed on administrative leave by superiors within his religious order following recent allegations of misconduct.
Fr. Corapi said in a March 19 statement that a 3-page letter submitted by a former, unidentified female employee was entirely “false.” The letter claimed that the priest took part in sexual encounters with several adult women and engaged in habitual drug use.
Fr. Corapi – a member of Texas-based Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity – is an internationally-known speaker and author who has appeared regularly on Catholic television and radio programs.
He gained a widespread audience with his conversion story. After a prominent career as a wealthy businessman, his life spiraled out of control due to a cocaine addiction, eventually leading to him living on the streets. He later joined the Catholic Church and was ordained a priest.
On March 18, Fr. Gerry Sheehan, Regional Priest Servant for the society, issued a statement saying that Fr. Corapi had been placed “on administrative leave from priestly ministry, in accordance to the Code of Cannon Law of the Catholic Church.”
“We have an allegation that Father Corapi has behaved in a manner unbecoming of a priest and are duty-bound to conduct an investigation in this accusation.”
Fr. Sheehan said it was “important to keep in mind that this action in no way implies Fr. Corapi is guilty of the allegation.”
“It is equally important to know that, based on the information we have received thus far,” he added, “the claim of misconduct does not involve minors and does not arise to the (level) of criminal conduct.”
The broadcast of Fr. Corapi’s homilies and teachings is also being affected by the allegation. The Eternal Word Television Network issued a statement from its CEO Michael Warsaw on March 21. He said that the “troubling situation” will result in the suspension of the priest's radio and television shows until further notice.
“As a result of this evolving story EWTN has deemed it prudent to place Fr. John's TV and Radio programs 'on leave' as well, pending the resolution of this situation,” Warsaw said.
“We take this step reluctantly and hope for a speedy resolution,” he added, saying he joins “Fr. John in asking all our family to not only pray for him but for all who may be involved.”
The 63 year-old priest said that he was informed of the accusations, which were reportedly sent to numerous bishops by the former employee, on March 9.
“On Ash Wednesday I learned that a former employee sent a three-page letter to several bishops accusing me of everything from drug addiction to multiple sexual exploits with her and several other adult women,” he said.
Fr. Corapi – who has been an outspoken critic of bishops' zero-tolerance policy in the wake of sex abuse scandals involving minors within the Church – said that from his perspective, being placed on leave was an equally reactionary move.
“There seems to no longer be the need for a complaint to be deemed 'credible' in order for Church authorities to pull the trigger on the Church’s procedure,” he said on his website.
Although he is not being accused of misconduct related to minors, Fr. Corapi added that “it seems, once again, that they now don’t have to deem the complaint to be credible or not, and it is being applied broadly to respond to all complaints.”
“I’ll certainly cooperate with the process, but personally believe that it is seriously flawed, and is tantamount to treating the priest as guilty 'just in case,' then through the process determining if he is innocent.”
“The resultant damage to the accused is immediate, irreparable, and serious, especially for someone like myself, since I am so well known,” he said.
“I am not alone in this assessment, as multiple canon lawyers and civil and criminal attorneys have stated publicly that the procedure does grave damage to the accused from the outset, regardless of rhetoric denying this, and has little regard for any form of meaningful due process,” Fr. Corapi added.
“All of the allegations in the complaint are false, and I ask you to pray for all concerned,” he said.
The Diocese of Corpus Christi, where the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity's mother house is located, said that although the case is outside its jurisdiction – given that Fr. Corapi is not a priest of the diocese – making the assumption that he is guilty of the allegations “is definitely not in order.”
“Fr. Corapi has done many great things – he should be presumed innocent of these allegations until proven otherwise,” Marty Wynd, director of communications told CNA in a March 21 phone interview.
“There's so many great priests who've done great things,” he added. “We have to be very, very careful here, and not presume any kind of guilt.”
Fr. Sheehan noted that the situation will now be “investigated internally, and unless and until information suggests otherwise it will not be referred to civil authorities.”
“In the event that we learn of any occasion where the criminal civil law may have been breached we will immediately refer the matter to civil authorities,” he added.
New York City, N.Y., Mar 21, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The city of New York will face a second legal challenge to a controversial law imposing new requirements on crisis pregnancy centers.
Attorneys from the Alliance Defense Fund filed suit against the city on March 18, representing Boro Pregnancy Counseling Center, Pregnancy Care Center of New York, and the Good Counsel maternity home.
Their lawsuit states that the centers seek to offer “free, non-medical, non-commercial assistance to women,” and claims that Bill 371-A would force them “to recite government-mandated speech, to be priced out of advertising to women in need, and to face fines, closure and jail time.”
The law requires crisis pregnancy counseling centers to make a series of 10 different disclosures in English and Spanish, in their advertizing, literature and interactions with clients. The centers will be required to indicate whether they provide abortion and contraception or makes referrals for those services, and whether or not there is a licensed medical provider on site.
If pregnancy centers fail to include these disclosures, they may face a $1,000 fine for the first day of violation and up to $2,500 for each subsequent day. A center that violates the disclosure law three times within a two-year period can be shut down by the city government and police, with consequences that could include imprisonment.
Matt Bowman, legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, said pregnancy centers were being “punished by political allies of the abortion industry,” for their work on behalf of women and children.
“Attacks on pregnancy centers are an ideologically motivated attempt to distract from the growing national scandals in the abortion industry,” said Bowman. “For years, abortionists have preyed on women and girls for profit. Now pro-abortion politicians are trying to give women fewer choices.”
“At a time when New Yorkers believe the city’s abortion ratio to be too high,” he stated, “it’s absurd to see the city work with pro-abortion groups to ensure that the public is ‘protected’ from the ‘threat’ of these compassionate, caring, nonprofit groups.”
Another group of pregnancy centers, Expectant Mother Care, is suing the city with the assistance of the American Center for Law and Justice.
Before signing the bill into law on March 18, Mayor Michael Bloomberg reportedly said he was unsure whether or not it was constitutional. Federal court decisions in January and March recently overturned similar laws forcing pregnancy centers in Maryland to make a series of disclosures.
But Bloomberg said he was signing the bill with a “clear conscience,” and that those who objected to the new law were free to challenge it in court.
Vatican City, Mar 21, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican has welcomed the European Court of Human Rights' decision to overturn a ruling that would have banned the display of crucifixes in Italian public schools.
Following the March 18 ruling,Vatican Spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi stated that the court's decision to allow the crosses to remain “has been received with satisfaction by the Holy See.”
He hailed the “historic and significant sentence” as a sign of reconciliation between the court and those who viewed its initial ruling by a lower chamber as a serious error.
“This new sentence of the Grande Chamber,” he said, “effectively contributes to re-establishing trust in the European Court of Human Rights on the part of a large number of Europeans.”
“It is thus acknowledged, at an authoritative and international juridical level, that the culture and rights of man should not be placed in contradiction with the religious foundations of European civilization, to which Christianity has made an essential contribution.”
The Vatican spokesman noted that many citizens were “convinced of the vital role played by Christian values in their history, and in the construction of European unity and its culture of rights and freedom.”
He recalled that the Italian state's appeal against the crucifix ban had received “an unprecedented degree of support from numerous other European States as well as from many non-governmental organizations.” He described the outpouring of support as “an expression of widespread feeling” among Europeans.
The new ruling overturns a lower chamber's 2009 judgment, which declared that the crosses violated students' human rights and constituted religious discrimination. The case began when an Italian mother of two non-Catholic students complained about the crosses in public schools.
In its new ruling, the court said the crucifix had not given rise to intolerance or religious indoctrination of non-Catholic students, and had not interfered with their education.
Fr. Lombardi noted that many contemporary attempts to prevent religious discrimination, actually serve to limit individual and collective religious freedom.
“In the name of religious freedom,” he observed, “there is a paradoxical tendency to limit or indeed even to deny this freedom, with the result of excluding every expression of it from public spaces.”
“Thus this very freedom itself is violated, obscuring specific and legitimate identities.”
Madrid, Spain, Mar 21, 2011 (CNA/Europa Press) - Nearly 1,000 people, including students, professors and their families, attended a March 18 Mass of Reparation at the chapel of the Complutense University in Madrid.
The massive attendance came in response to an anti-Catholic protest at the chapel. On March 10, nearly 70 students stormed the altar, shouting insults against the Catholic Church. Some were reported to be undressed from the waist up.
At the Mass of Reparation, Auxiliary Bishop Cesar Franco of Madrid defended the right to religious freedom in Spain and stressed that there is a time and a place for debate and dialogue, such as in college classrooms.
Universities are “an appropriate place” for reflection and dialogue on diverse issues, but the acts of “vandalism” which took place in the chapel were “incomprehensible” and “hurtful to religious sensibilities,” he said.
Bishop Franco noted that the small group of student activists that carried out the protest “does not represent the student body at large.” He called for prayer that such incidents would not take place again.
The Mass was “in reparation for the evil committed, through the redemptive action of Christ, who gives Himself for the forgiveness of sins,” he explained. “Our prayer, united to His, becomes an instrument of peace and unity for the world.”
Bishop Franco said he was “profoundly saddened” by the “blasphemies and attacks on the Church and her Magisterium, carried out with gestures and attitudes unworthy of the human person.” The university chapel, he noted, “is a place of worship and prayer that provides students the chance to encounter Christ in the Eucharist and Liturgy of the Church each day.”
Juan Gomez, a student from the Autonomous University of Madrid, attended the Mass to defend religious freedom. “Because of our faith we forgive them. We demand respect and freedom. We demand the power to exercise our rights in freedom.
“The most sacred thing we have is our faith and we will defend it,” he said.