Archive of March 25, 2011

Confession teaches humility to priests and penitents, Pope says

Vatican City, Mar 25, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Confession teaches both priests and penitents to be humble and aware of God’s forgiveness, Pope Benedict XVI said March 25.

“By administering the Sacrament of Penance we can receive profound lessons of humility and faith,” he told a gathering of priests at the Vatican. “For each priest, this is a powerful call to an awareness of his own identity. Never could we hear the confessions of our brothers and sisters merely on the strength of our own humanity.”

“If they come to us it is only because we are priests, configured to Christ, the Supreme and Eternal Priest, and granted the capacity of acting in His Name and Person, so as to make present the God Who forgives, renews and transforms,” the Pope said.

His remarks addressed participants in an annual course organized by the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Vatican tribunal in charge of granting indulgences, resolving sins reserved to the Pope, and resolving matters of conscience forwarded to the Holy See.

The course concerned the “internal forum,” a technical term for the personal area of conscience and judgment in the priest-penitent relationship.

Pope Benedict told the priests that the sacrament of Penance teaches the priest about his faith and the truth and poverty of his person. It also nourishes in him an awareness of his sacramental identity.

He also pointed out that individual freedom and self-awareness are expressed “particularly clearly” in the sacrament.

"It is perhaps for this reason too that, in an age of relativism and of the consequent reduced awareness of self, the practice of this Sacrament should also have diminished.”

The pontiff then touched on the practice known as an examination of conscience, which involves a review of one’s sins and failings. This practice, he said, teaches Catholics to compare their lives with “the truth of the Gospel.”

Comparing one’s life with the Commandments, the Beatitudes and “above all” the commandment to love represents a great “school of penance,” Pope Benedict told the priests. An “integral confession” helps penitents recognize their own fragility, achieve an awareness of the need for God’s forgiveness, and achieve the belief that divine grace can transform life.

“(D)o not fail to give appropriate space to exercising the ministry of penance in the confessional. To be welcomed and heard is also a human sign of God's welcome and goodness towards His children,” he said.

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Godfather: Baby Joseph's baptism shows life's eternal destiny

St. Louis, Mo., Mar 25, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

The godfather of Baby Joseph Maraachli, whose fight for life has attracted international attention and support, says the terminally ill boy's recent baptism was a testimony to the eternal destiny of human life.

“It's a tremendous testimony to the sanctity of life,” said Jerry Horn, senior vice president of the Catholic pro-life ministry Priests For Life, who was Joseph's baptismal sponsor. “So many people worked together in concert to bring him here, for a purpose greater than we could anticipate.”

“We were doing what we could to save the life of a child – which is why we do what we do, in the pro-life movement,” Horn reflected.  “But God's plan is eternal, and it goes far beyond ours.”

The 13-month-old boy received the sacrament from a Catholic priest in St. Louis, Missouri on March 18, two days before receiving a tracheotomy on March 21.

Joseph suffers from a rare and usually fatal neurological disorder called Leigh Syndrome. With the help of the Catholic pro-life ministry Priests For Life, he was transferred to a Catholic pediatric hospital in St. Louis, Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center, on March 13.

Prior to this, the boy was a patient at a hospital in Ontario, Canada, where doctors were planning to remove his feeding and breathing tubes. The doctors' refusal of care prompted comparisons to the 2005 Terri Schiavo case, and led to an outpouring of support from pro-life advocates.

Jerry Horn discussed Joseph's baptism with CNA on March 24, shortly after Priests For Life director Fr. Frank Pavone made the news public in a March 22 media release.

Horn spoke with a sense of awe, as he described how a boy who was considered unworthy of medical treatment, was able to receive an initiation into the supernatural life of sanctifying grace.

“In so many ways, God's plan was greater than ours. The fact that he was baptized into the Church was amazingly significant.” Joseph's baptism took place around 5 p.m., meaning that it occurred on the vigil of the March 19th feast day of St. Joseph.

“No matter what happens with Baby Joseph from this point forward, he has received the sacrament of baptism,” Horn said.

Dr. Paul Byrne, a pioneering neonatologist with almost five decades of experience, took the initiative to have Baby Joseph baptized. He said the baptism was “one of the most exciting things about taking care of Baby Joseph,” and noted that the same “holds true for all sick babies” who require baptism.

Over the course of several decades, Dr. Byrne has himself baptized many infants who were in danger of death. Catholic teaching holds that anyone, not just a priest, can baptize a child in cases of necessity, as long as water and the traditional Trinitarian formula are used with the correct intention.

In this case, however, Dr. Byrne sought out a local priest. He said it was “relatively easy to strike up the conversation with Joseph's father and mother,” Moe and Sana Maraachli, to obtain their permission for the baptism.

“The father said that he himself was Muslim, but the mother is Catholic,” explained Dr. Byrne. “The father said he wanted his son to be raised in the religion of his mother.”

Barring a medical miracle, Joseph is unlikely to reach the age at which most children receive the other sacraments. Dr. Byrne said it was a “special privilege” to participate in treatment to prolong Joseph's life, “when other people were determining that he should not live any longer.”

The greater privilege, however, was in helping Baby Joseph to receive the gift of God's grace in baptism.

“When a baby is baptized, they are absolutely pure,” he said. “It's so exciting to be a part of that.”

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Arizona woman presents Pope with Guinness World Record medal

Rome, Italy, Mar 25, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI greeted 28-year-old Jessica Cox following his March 23 general audience. Cox, a pilot, earned a Guinness World Record in 2008 for being the first woman to fly an airplane using only her feet.

Cox earned the award and official medal in October 2008. She presented the medal to the Pope “to bear witness to the value of life always and everywhere, in every condition,” L’Osservatore Romano reported.

Cox was born in 1983 without arms in Arizona. Though doctors could not explain her condition, she became involved in gymnastics, dance, singing, tae kwon-do and swimming. She obtained her degree in psychology and can drive her own car without assistance.

Jessica spoke about her life and how she carries out daily tasks without arms. She uses her feet to cook, put in her contacts, send text messages and play the piano. “It’s a way of life that I hope will be contagious to young people who live in despair and have no true values,” she said.

In 2008 she obtained her license to pilot small planes after three years of training and over 89 hours of flight instruction.

One of the reasons for which she wanted to get her pilot’s license was because as a girl she was afraid to fly and she wanted to overcome her fear.

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Pope praises 'legitimate diversity' in meeting with Indian bishops

Vatican City, Mar 25, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Pope Benedict XVI voiced his appreciation of the Church's “legitimate diversity” of rites and traditions, in a March 25 meeting with the bishops of India's Syro-Malankara Catholic Church.

“The apostolic traditions which you maintain enjoy their full spiritual fruitfulness when they are lived in union with the Church universal,” the Pope told the bishops, whose church traces its lineage to the first-century mission of the Apostle Thomas.

“Like your forefathers,” he said, “you too are called, within the one household of God, to continue in firm fidelity to that which has been passed down to you.”

“All Catholic Bishops share a proper concern for faithfulness to Jesus Christ and are desirous of that unity which he willed for his disciples, while preserving their legitimate diversity.”

“The Catholic Church wishes the traditions of each particular Church or rite to remain whole and entire,” said the Pope – quoting from the Second Vatican Council's Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches, which urged Eastern Catholics not to “latinize” their liturgies and other traditions.

Although the Syro-Malankara Church's faith and customs are ancient and authentically Catholic, it was separated from the Holy See for several centuries because of disputes with Latin rite missionaries, who sought to impose their own customs on the the native clergy and faithful. Many Indian Christians of the West Syrian tradition remain separated, as members of the Syrian Orthodox Church.

The Syro-Malankara Catholic Church re-estalished communion with the Holy See in 1930, and has grown exponentially – from a single group of four people, led by the Malankara bishop Mar Ivanios, to its present membership of 500,000 – since that time. During his lifetime, Pope John Paul II described it as the fastest-growing group within the Catholic Church.

“You rightly follow in the footsteps of the Servant of God Mar Ivanios, who led your predecessors and their faithful into full communion with the Catholic Church,” Pope Benedict XVI told the assembled bishops, who had come from India to the Vatican for their traditional “ad limina” visit. Bishops within the Catholic Church make the visit to Rome for discussions with the Pope and a visit to the tomb of St. Peter every five years.

India is also the home of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, a larger group of Eastern Catholics who follow a tradition that differs from that of the Syro-Malankara branch. Both traditions have their roots in the ancient church of Antioch, in present-day Turkey.

Pope Benedict told the Syro-Malankara bishops that they should continue “to foster an affection among your priests and people for the liturgical and spiritual heritage that has come down to you, while steadfastly building upon your communion with the See of Peter.”

“Invoking the intercession of Saint Thomas the Apostle, India’s great patron,” he stated, “I assure you of my prayers, and willingly impart to you and to those entrusted to your care my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

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Archbishop condemns attack in Jerusalem

Rome, Italy, Mar 25, 2011 (CNA) - The apostolic nuncio to Israel and Cyprus responded to a March 23 terrorist attack in Jerusalem that left one dead and 40 injured.

Archbishop Antonio Franco remarked that the violence “does nothing but complicate the situation, as this is never the solution.”

The archbishop spoke with SIR news agency on March 23. “When a state of tension exists, there is always someone ready to make the situation worse by carrying acts like these that cause pain, trauma and suffering.” He added that this violence is “completely useless for resolving problems.”

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Fouad Twal, also responded to the attacks, condemning every form of “violence and terrorism.”

“We are against every kind of violence perpetrated by persons, groups and movements of any kind. We will do everything possible to help Jerusalem recover its vocation as a holy city of prayer, peace and pilgrimage,” he said.

“I think that a just and definitive peace is the only means of salvation for all, for the good of the region and its peoples,” he added.

Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Franciscan Custodian of the Holy Land, added that the attack was “an isolated act that is not part of a wider strategy.” He encouraged dialogue and called the region to “move forward without being stopped by the extremism that lacks perspective.”

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Indianapolis archbishop transferred to rehabilitation clinic

Indianapolis, Ind., Mar 25, 2011 (CNA) - Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein of Indianapolis was released from a local hospital and transferred to a rehabilitation clinic on March 24 to begin recovery after a recent stroke.

Archbishop Buechlein, 72, is expected to undergo three to four weeks of therapy at the clinic and will continue to oversee the operations of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis during his recovery, according to the archdiocesan paper The Criterion.

On March 18, the archbishop became dizzy while at home and called 911. After undergoing tests at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, doctors determined that he had suffered a mild stroke.

Archbishop Buechlein said the day-to-day operations and ministries of the archdiocese will continue as normal while he recuperates. He also said he would appreciate everyone’s prayers.

The archbishop has suffered a series of health problems over the past three years. In 2008 he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and underwent several weeks of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. He is now cancer free.

In 2009 the archbishop had shoulder replacement surgery and in 2010 he had surgery to remove a benign tumor from his stomach.

Indianapolis Auxiliary Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, who was ordained on March 2, had already begun taking over some of the archbishop’s duties, such as confirmations, Greg A. Otolski, the archdiocese’s Executive Director of Communications, told CNA on March 23. There have been no changes in Coyne’s responsibilities as a result of the archbishop’s stroke.

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New book features in-flight interviews with John Paul II

Rome, Italy, Mar 25, 2011 (CNA/Europa Press) - Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi recently announced the release of the book, “Traveling Companions, In-flight Interviews with John Paul II.”

The book, which features a selection of in-flight interviews the late Pope John Paul II gave to journalists, was released March 23 at the offices of Vatican Radio. Fr. Lombardi explained that Vatican Radio preserved recordings of the interviews given by John Paul II during the first years of his pontificate. The organization then made them available to journalist Angela Ambrogetti, author of the new book.

The book was published by Libreria Editrice Vaticana, the Vatican publishing house.

Fr. Lombardi told Europa Press that John Paul II developed the idea of in-flight interviews because “he saw the media as a possible ally in his ministry” to proclaim the Gospel, especially in countries where “freedom of expression was lacking.”

He noted that the late Pontiff, who will be beatified on May 1, wanted to convey “his message of justice, peace and so many values important to the world.” 

“He did so with great spontaneity and freedom,” the Vatican spokesman said.

John Paul II's skills as a communicator “were cultivated by his training as a young actor.” Karol Wojtyla “had a gift, an original charism and expressive zeal” that was nourished by “his pastoral experience in which he applied his skills as a communicator at the service of his ministry,” Fr. Lombardi continued.

He noted that the in-flight interviews were an effective way for the late John Paul II and now Pope Benedict to highlight the main messages of their papal journeys.

John Paul II’s former personal secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, noted in the book's introduction that “John Paul II’s relationship with the press was not easy.”  “It was a sincere and fruitful relationship” because “they had to be professional.” The Pope asked the journalists to truthfully report “what they saw in both the big cities and the most remote villages.”

The presentation of the book was attended by the organizer of papal trips for John Paul II, Cardinal Roberto Tucci, the director of Libreria Editrice Vaticana and the book’s editor, Giuseppe Costa, and Vatican analysts Gian Franco Svidercoschi and Paloma Gomez Borrero.

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Asia Bibi fasting for justice during Lent

Lahore, Pakistan, Mar 25, 2011 (CNA) - Asia Bibi, the Christian mother condemned to death under Pakistan’s strict blasphemy law, is fasting and praying “for peace and justice” during Lent and has asked the Pope and all Christians to continue to pray for her.

“I want to offer up my suffering to God to be close to Him. I want to thank all those who are praying with me, throughout the world: I feel their support. I want to say to them that I pray for them all and ask God, who is Divine Providence, to bless them,” she told Fides news agency via the Masihi Foundation.

Her husband and children are also fasting “in communion with her.”

The Masihi Foundation is providing legal and financial assistance to Bibi. Its executive director, Barkat Masih, said that Bibi is “a fragile and vulnerable person.”

“We are worried about her health and have asked prison authorities to allow a team of doctors to visit her. I would not like this prolonged fasting to affect her health and weaken her too much,” he explained.

Bibi has been in an isolation cell for two months and needs to get air and see the sun, Masih said.

“The authorities say that they cannot allow that due to security risks. But now it is also time to protect her health. We don't want her to collapse,” he said.

Qamar David, a 55-year-old Catholic man serving a life sentence for blasphemy, was found dead in jail in Karachi in mysterious circumstances. While officials blamed his death on a heart attack, his supporters said he may have been murdered by extremists.

Controversy over the blasphemy law has coincided with deadly attacks from Muslim extremists on prominent figures. The governor of Punjab Salman Taseer, a supporter of Bhatti and an opponent of the law, was murdered by one of his own guards on Jan. 4. The attacker told police he killed the governor because of his opposition to the law.

Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s federal minister for religious minorities, was murdered on March 2. He too opposed the blasphemy law and was the only Christian in Pakistan’s cabinet. Al-Qaida and the Punjab-based Pakistani Taliban Movement claimed responsibility for Bhatti’s killing.

Bibi will have spent two years in jail this coming June. She has said she fears she could be murdered in jail. Extremist groups have offered more than $5,000 for anyone who assassinates her. Bibi’s husband and children have also been declared to be targets.

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US bishops reiterate commitment to fighting clerical abuse

Washington D.C., Mar 25, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, the head of the U.S. bishops' conference, reiterated the bishops' resolve to swiftly remove priests guilty of sex abuse from active ministry.

Archbishop Dolan released a March 22 statement – just ahead of National Child Abuse Prevention Month in April – saying that the occasion provides an opportunity “to unite with all Americans in a renewed resolve to halt the scourge of sexual abuse of youth in our society.”

Archbishop Dolan also cited “recent disclosures” about the Church’s response to the clerical sexual abuse of minors as a primary reason for his statement.

Earlier this month, Cardinal Justin Rigali placed 21 Philadelphia priests on administrative leave following an investigation into a grand jury report that said there were credible abuse allegations against the clergy members, who were in active ministry.

Archbishop Dolan emphasized that the Church will continue to enforce a zero-tolerance policy, referencing the bishops' 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which was drafted in the wake of the first revelations of sex abuse by clergy.

“Over the past nine years, we have constantly reviewed the high promises and rigorous mandates of the Charter, as we continually try to make it even more effective,” he said.

“We want to learn from our mistakes and we welcome constructive criticism,” the archbishop said, adding that the U.S. bishops “remain especially firm in our commitment to remove permanently from public ministry any priest who committed such an intolerable offense.”

The conference president said that “this painful issue continues to receive our careful attention” and that “the protection of our children and young people is of highest priority.”

Archbishop Dolan also expressed his thanks to the conference's National Review Board – an initiative that works to prevent sexual abuse of minors within the Church – as well as “Catholic parents, professionals, the victim-survivor community, law enforcement officials, and our diocesan victim-assistance coordinators.”

The archbishop noted that annual outside audits by forensic experts will continue, “checking that we remain faithful to the processes in place to protect our young people, promote healing of victims survivors and restore trust.”

“In short, the progress made must continue and cannot be derailed,” he said, adding that “we want to strengthen it even more.”

“We can never stop working at it, because each child and young person must always be safe, loved and cherished in the Church.” 

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