Lima, Peru, Apr 7, 2011 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of San Jose, Costa Rica is hoping to draw 45,000 people for a John Paul II beatification celebration.
The 11 hour event will include prayer, music and videos of the late Pope. The crowd will also be able to watch the beatification live on television screens at a local stadium.
Jeison Granados, director of Radio Fides at the Archdiocese of San Jose told CNA that the festivities will begin at 5 p.m. (local time) on April 30 and will end at 6 a.m. on May 1.
The vigil will include prayer, song and traditional dance, as well as the recitation of the rosary and videos on the life of John Paul II. Several of the homilies the late Pope gave during his visit to Costa Rica will also be displayed on the giant screens.
“We will follow the beatification Mass live from Rome at 3 a.m. local time, through a direct link with the Vatican,” Granados said.
He encouraged Costa Ricans from across the country to attend the celebration. “We are a Catholic country, and if we could fill this stadium to see celebrities like Shakira or Argentinean soccer star Lionel Messi, then we want Catholics to do the same for an event as important as this.”
After the beatification, the Apostolic Nuncio to Costa Rica, Archbishop Pierre Nguyên Van Tot will celebrate Mass at 9 a.m. Numerous civil leaders are expected to attend.
Chicago, Ill., Apr 7, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - On April 2, more than 400 friends and supporters of Pro-Life Action League founder Joe Scheidler paid tribute to his 38 years of activism at a banquet in downtown Chicago. On the streets outside, his cause continued to provoke the kinds of dramatic responses he's come to expect.
“We had a contingent of protesters outside, screaming their heads off,” Scheidler recalled. “Then a group of kids came out, who called themselves the 'Crusaders.' There were about a hundred kids with yellow balloons that said 'LIFE' on them, and they rolled out a red carpet for us.”
“It's a battle all the time. During the banquet, they were slicing the tires of people who had pro-life stickers on their cars. If it was a gay-rights group that was having a party, and somebody sliced their tires, they'd have the FBI on it. But they treat us like we deserve it.”
Scheidler told CNA that he felt “very much humbled” by the tribute banquet, sponsored by Citizens for a Pro-Life Society.
“It was very touching for me to hear everyone – they had 23 speakers, for three minutes each, just saying how they got to know me. Many of them were there to say, 'You know, Joe got us started.'”
In the early years of the pro-life movement, Scheidler's book “Closed: 99 Ways to Stop Abortion” was a foundational text. He traveled the world speaking on the ethics of abortion and outlining practical forms of activism that he had developed and tested. In the process, he inspired others to follow his lead.
“I would be watching, during my talks, and find the people who were listening most intensely,” he recalled. “I'd talk with them afterward, and suggest they go full-time in the movement. And a number of them did.”
Scheidler's own career as an activist was an unexpected calling, but one he is “absolutely convinced” he was born to fulfill.
“I spent eight years in the seminary, and four years in the monastery, wanting to be a priest,” he said. “But when I was preparing for ordination, I thought, 'Nope – this is not what I'm called to do.' And then suddenly, everything started to fall together.”
“I read the Roe v. Wade decision, in 1973, and it was an atrocity – it was a great big lie. There is no 'constitutional right' to kill children. I was working as an account executive for a public relations firm at the time, and I just had to quit and do full-time pro-life work.”
“I rented a cheap little office only a block from my house, and started from there. At that time you could go into the clinics to talk to the girls, and try to talk the doctors out of abortion. We'd pass out thousands of leaflets, and then we started making films of what we were doing.”
“Then we found out how important it was to do sidewalk counseling, because we could talk a lot of women out of abortion. And I started doing a lot of speaking – I took 185 flights one year, running around the country and over to Ireland, Italy, Mexico, just trying to spread activism.”
Scheidler took several steps that were controversial even within the pro-life movement – including a strong stand against contraception as the basis of abortion, and the public display of large and graphic photos depicting aborted babies. The “Face the Truth Tour” continues to show the reality of abortion to Illinois residents on a regular basis.
“Sometimes we get more than 100 people lining the highway with these signs, about six feet tall,” said Scheidler. “We go for 10 days straight, during the summer. And then once a month we go to the Art Institute, or the Civic Center – somewhere that people have to see what abortion is.”
“On one of our tours, we stopped 22 women from having abortions, because they see what it looks like and they don't want that to happen to their baby.”
He believes these forms of direct action and engagement are the most important part of the pro-life cause.
“It's one thing to work in the courts and the political arena – but that's going to take forever, and it's not going to stop abortion. You have to convert people. So that's my whole thing, to try and promote conversion.”
Scheidler knows from personal experience just how long political and legal battles can take. He spent 21 years in court with the National Organization for Women, fighting charges that his activism was a form of “racketeering” comparable to organized crime.
“I had to found a law firm, the Thomas More Society, to fight this thing for 21 years,” he recalled. The dispute reached the Supreme Court three times, and was resolved in Scheidler's favor in 2006. “We still have this thing called the First Amendment,” he observed, “and even the courts are very reluctant to break the First Amendment rights.”
Scheidler, who was a Naval officer before his four years as a monk, urged young activists to develop a routine of spiritual discipline in order to prepare for their own struggles.
“Number one, you pray. You have to pray all the time. I can't get through a day without Mass, the Rosary, spiritual reading, and meditation. And in between, you work harder than the devil.”
“You need meditation, and prayer, and closeness to God. Christ has to stay on your mind – you offer everything to him, and join your suffering to his.”
He also urged young people to be fearless and unashamed about their pro-life convictions. “Bring the literature with you all the time. On an elevator, at a restaurant, wherever.”
“People sitting next to me on the plane ask me what I do – I say, 'I fight abortion.' Everybody's interested. You talk to them. I always wear some symbol of being pro-life and Catholic.”
Apart from the lives he has helped to save, Scheidler says his most important achievement has been to “keep abortion on the front page,” ensuring it did not become an accepted part of life in the United States.
“Abortion has not been accepted as the law of the land, even though the Supreme Court tried to make it so,” he said. “We're going to keep stirring the pot, and abortion is going to stay on the front page. Everybody's going to know which politicians are pro-abortion and which aren't.”
“It's got to be an issue. It's the most important issue in the world – human life.”
Looking to the future, he sees signs of hope in the next generation.
“We're gaining quite a bit. Planned Parenthood's scared to death now, that they're going to lose their funding,” he noted. “We're getting the young people. There are more and more of them coming out, and a lot of good, young priests. And all across the country, we're getting good, pro-life bishops.”
At age 83, Scheidler intends to work alongside this new generation of activists as long as he can.
“While you have life left in you, you've got to use it. I can't think of a better cause than saving babies' lives.”
Irvine, Calif., Apr 7, 2011 (CNA) - Mother Assumpta Long, O.P., has invited Catholics to register for the inaugural Napa Institute conference to help participants respond to atheism, secularism, materialism and lukewarmness in the United States.
“I encourage you to register soon because this event should not be missed!” said Mother Assumpta, the superior of the Michigan-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.
The conference, titled “Catholics in the Next America,” will take place in Napa Valley at the Meritage Resort & Spa from July 28-30.
“We need to bring together serious Catholics to begin to network and discuss our faith because we continue to slip into a more secular society here in America,” explained Tim Busch, the Catholic businessman and philanthropist who helped start the Napa Institute. “As Catholics, we are challenged in our ability to influence the course of American culture.”
The Napa Institute will help Catholics meet that challenge by increasing their understanding of Catholic teaching and by helping them find their voice alongside their Catholic peers, he added.
Speakers at the event include Cardinal Roger Mahony, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento and Fr. Robert J. Spitzer, S.J., of the Magis Institute. Commentator George Weigel and Prof. Timothy Gray of the Augustine Institute will also speak at the event.
Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of Oakland will celebrate a Solemn Pontifical Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite for conference participants.
Mother Assumpta explained that attendees will be “empowered to defend their faith” through “solid teaching” from Scripture, Sacred Tradition, the lives of the saints, the Catechism, current scientific discoveries and philosophical insights.
The conference will also feature “reverent liturgical celebrations,” Eucharistic adoration and frequent chances for confession and personal prayer.
Attendees will have the opportunity for fellowship with bishops, priests, religious and “serious lay Catholics” during the various social events of the conference.
Mother Assumpta explained that each day of the conference will a have different themes: “Charity in Truth,” “Why Faith Makes Sense” and “The Cost of Discipleship.”
The third day of the conference examines the final theme. Mother Assumpta Long will present a talk on religious life and martyrdom. She will examine two aspects of the “red martyrdom” that are shared by religious life. It features both a love that wants to give everything to Jesus Christ and a decision in life which “makes absolutely no sense apart from faith in God.”
She will also discuss how these aspects of martyrdom have a broader implication for the Christian life.
More information on the conference is at available at the institute’s website www.napa-institute.org.
Lima, Peru, Apr 7, 2011 (CNA) - The leader of a Catholic ministry to homosexuals recently recalled his conversion story.
“God was leading me, through the advice of priests I spoke with, to see that a sexually active life, even with just one person of the same-sex, could not bring me happiness,” Guillermo Marquez told CNA.
Marquez, now the coordinator of Courage Latino in the Mexican state of Queretaro, initially founded a support group that questioned the Church's teachings on homosexuality. He compared his organization to the San Elredo Community in Saltillo, Mexico. Though supported by the local bishop, the San Elredo Community has come under fire for its founder's opposition to Catholic teachings and support of same-sex marriage.
Marquez eventually decided to leave his group after realizing he could not “be right with God and the Church” if he continued the live out a homosexual lifestyle.
His organization “had become just a social group,” he said. “Same-sex couples were allowed to join and while we weren’t encouraged to find new partners, we weren’t discouraged from doing so either.”
“The thorny issues about sexual morality and chastity were avoided to prevent arguments or problems between the members of the group,” he added.
“I slowly began to realize that the longer I went without having homosexual relations, the better I was feeling. I was happier and more stable. And so the life of chastity began to draw my attention and attract me.
“It has been a long – sometimes difficult – process, but I have matured spiritually and emotionally,” he said.
Marquez’s conversion led him to Courage Latino, which he joined in 2008 after attending a retreat.
“That retreat was very important for me,” he said. “Because as I was on a journey of discovering chastity, it allowed me finally to find what I was looking for. An apostolate with people who have the same goals as me, the same aspirations of believing in Christ and of believing Christ as well.”
Through Courage Latino, he realized that “the Catholic Church does not reject me or abandon me, that homosexuality is not genetic and that nobody is born homosexual.”
“We are not homosexuals or gays but men and women with same-sex attraction,” Marquez explained.
“I know both paths,” he said, “and I know that the path of the so-called gay lifestyle doesn’t make anyone happy.”
“That path is full of insecurity, fear, dissatisfaction, profound emptiness, anger, and in many cases, promiscuity, sexual addiction, pornography, drugs and alcohol, and the endless search for love through destructive and co-dependent relationships,” Marquez said.
“Courage completely condemns all unjust discrimination, abuse, offense or aggression against persons with (same-sex attraction). This must not be tolerated in any circle, much less among Christians,” he said.
“Courage Latino is faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church, but it is not limited to just living chastely. Courage wants us to be better Christians,” Marquez stated. “The goal is holiness.”
Washington D.C., Apr 7, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - As lawmakers battle over the nation's budget proposal, the U.S. bishops called for action from Catholic faithful to ensure that cuts don't unfairly target those most in need.
“Unfortunately, the voices of poor and vulnerable people are not being heard in the debate, and they are being forced to bear the brunt of the proposed cuts,” the U.S. bishops' conference said in an action alert issued this week.
Congressional leaders have sparred in recent days over the current FY 2011 spending bill, causing an impasse that could prompt a government shutdown if an agreement can't be reached by midnight on April 8.
On Wednesday, President Barack Obama placed a call to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to discuss the debate, reported the Associated Press. Rep. Boehner's office said that the House speaker told Obama he was hopeful a deal could be negotiated. The two later held a meeting on Wednesday evening.
The U.S. bishops warned that some of the proposals under discussion “include disproportionate cuts to programs that serve the poorest, most vulnerable people at home and abroad.”
“Likewise a shutdown of government services will fall most heavily on those who have the fewest resources,” they argued.
The bishops said that the vast majority of the cuts come from the non-defense, discretionary portion of the budget – about 12 percent of the total federal budget – which includes the majority of social welfare, education, and other anti-poverty funding.
Budget cuts outlined in the bishop's action alert include $2.3 billion from job training programs, $100 million from domestic emergency food and shelter, $875 million from international disaster assistance, and $800 million from international food aid.
Other cuts include $2.5 billion from affordable housing, $1 billion from community health centers and $904 million from migrants and refugees programs.
“Many proposals under discussion fail the moral criteria of Catholic teaching to protect the poor and advance the common good,” the bishops wrote.
“Poor and vulnerable people didn’t cause our budget deficit. They should not bear the greatest burdens in overcoming them. Don’t make them pay for it,” they said.
The bishops drafted an e-mail template in their action alert for Catholics to use and urged the faithful to contact their local congressmen and explain how the cuts will negatively effect parish communities.
“As the final bill is negotiated, shared sacrifice should guide spending cuts, not disproportionate cuts in programs that serve poor persons at home or abroad,” they said.
Denver, Colo., Apr 7, 2011 (CNA) - On March 25 the Church celebrated the Solemnity of the Annunciation. But for one group of consecrated laywomen, the day had additional significance. The Marian Community of Reconciliation, or the “fraternas” as they are known, were also celebrating their 20th anniversary.
Founded in Peru by Luis Fernando Figari on March 25, 1991, the fraternas are a group of laywomen who have consecrated their lives to God through obedience, celibacy and detachment from temporal goods so that they might be fully available for the apostolic work to which they are called.
According to Rossana Goñi, the superior of the community in Denver, it is that full availability that characterizes the fraternas. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., agreed as he celebrated Mass at Holy Name Parish in Englewood for the special feast day of the Annunciation, which coincides with the sisters’ anniversary.
“The real celebration today is the fiat, the ‘yes,’ of Mary, which is, in a very real way, the beginning of our salvation,” the archbishop said in his homily. He went on to include the fraternas in the full availability of Mary. “Denver is the beneficiary of the charism, the gift, that is the Marian Community of Reconciliation,” Archbishop Chaput said. “And today they renew their commitment to be fully available to the will of God.”
Their “yes” to God’s call has led the fraternas to serve in many capacities around the world, including Denver for the last 12 years. For the first several years, the Denver fraternas were the only ones in the United States. Today, the Denver community consists of five members. There are more than 170 fraternas worldwide, representing 19 dioceses.
In the Denver Archdiocese, the fraternas have responded to God’s call in various ways including working in the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, editing and contributing to the Spanish newspaper El Pueblo Católico, campus ministry on the Auraria campus, vocational direction, spiritual guidance and as teachers.
Responding to God in these ways as a fraterna is not without its obstacles.
“Personally, I think the greatest challenges are to be constantly aware and attentive with a spiritual gaze about the human person who lives in a world that is constantly changing, especially the fast pace of change,” Goñi told the Denver Catholic Register. “Evangelizing a person living in the midst of the world today requires not only a profound spiritual life to try to be in tune with God´s plan, but a realistic approach to the world so we can understand the deepest longings of the human being.”
For the fraternas, saying “yes” to God is not necessarily a task they aim to accomplish, but rather a way of life. For this reason, it is perhaps not surprising that Goñi’s goal for the next 20 years of the community is the same as the goal she has for today.
“That God may always find us living faithfully our vocation,” she said, “spreading the Good News, evangelizing constantly, giving ourselves for the salvation of many people who are searching for happiness but dying because of their loneliness and meaninglessness in life.”
Printed with permission from the Denver Catholic Register.
Rome, Italy, Apr 7, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - As thousands of refugees flee the unrest in North Africa for the more peaceful shores of Europe, the Vatican is urging Europeans to welcome them and show concern for their plight.
The small, but inhabited Italian island of Lampedusa has become a gateway to Europe for North Africans fleeing unrest. It is one of the primary entryways to Europe for Libyans, Tunisians and Eritreans, who have been arriving in hordes in recent days.
Depending on the weather, the voyage can be rife with danger. On April 5, seas swollen by high winds rocked flimsy boats with 10-foot waves, sinking one craft that carried an estimated 250 people. More than 50 people have been rescued, but many have died and 150 remain unaccounted for.
The disaster prompted a response from Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, who said that the situation has prompted concern and prayer from Pope Benedict XVI, who is “deeply troubled” by the events.
Of the more than 20,000 refugees and migrants who have made it to the coasts of the Italian island since January of this year, around 2,000 landed last week alone.
The numbers quickly overwhelmed systems designed to receive refugees, creating a documentation and processing bottleneck and bringing day-to-day life on the island to a halt. Protests by the island's residents calling for more effective government intervention earned it a visit from the nation's prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi.
Because of the huge influx, the Italian government made the decision to grant new arrivals a three-month temporary permit before facing the prospect of repatriation or applying for an extended permit.
According Church leaders in Italy and the Vatican, the rest of Europe also needs to realize what is at stake and take a greater responsibility in the process.
One Sicilian bishop told Vatican Radio on April 7 that for the dead it’s “indifference,” not rough seas, that is to blame for the difficulties of migrants and refugees.
Europe needs to think seriously about what it means for refugees to remain in the region from which they are fleeing, Archbishop Antonio Maria Veglio told Vatican Radio.
Archbishop Veglio is the president of the Vatican's Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, and is well versed in situations involving cross-border movement.
For Libyan refugees in particular, "Europe must take its responsibilities to fulfill its obligations of protecting refugees and demonstrating the true meaning of solidarity and sharing,” the archbishop said.
Some Italian regions have been adamant about not accepting refugees for economic reasons, but, according to Archbishop Veglio, the southern European nation can handle the influx. In 2010, he said, the much smaller country of the Netherlands received twice as many refugees as Italy.
There should be no question about accepting Libyans, who are now fleeing a U.N.-certified "war zone," he said. He also noted that Tunisians may deserve refugee status depending on their individual situations.
Vatican City, Apr 7, 2011 (CNA) - This year’s roster of traditional Holy Week television coverage from the Vatican will include the beatification events for Pope John Paul II, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications announced.
There will be three global broadcasts: the Way of the Cross at the Colosseum on Good Friday, April 22; the April 24 Easter Sunday Mass followed by Pope Benedict XVI’s “Urbi et Orbi” address from St. Peter’s Square; and the Holy Mass and Beatification of the Servant of God Pope John Paul II on May 1, also from St. Peter’s Square.
The Vatican will use a U.S. domestic satellite distribution system for its two worldwide broadcasts on Good Friday and Easter Sunday to allow local television networks and outlets to pick up the broadcasts with ease. The pontifical council offers its service free of charge to all broadcasters through Eurovision World Feed.
Satellite audio channels will provide television commentary in English, Spanish and French.