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Archive of April 20, 2011

Fire at Barcelona basilica destroys sacristy and damages crypt

Barcelona, Spain, Apr 20, 2011 (CNA/Europa Press) - Spanish police detained a man suspected of starting a fire at the Basilica of the Holy Family in Barcelona.

The fire destroyed the sacristy and caused major damage to the basilica’s crypt. Europa Press reported that the suspect was found hiding in the sacristy with a cigarette lighter.
 
The fire began on April 19 around 10:45 a.m. local time in the crypt. It spread to the sacristy, which was completely destroyed, including a number of paintings and all the liturgical vestments.

It took firefighters 45 minutes to contain the blaze.
 
“Seven or eight” people saw the 65-year-old man set the fire and restrained him until police arrived.

Investigators said the man denied any involvement in the incident.
 
The basilica re-opened later that day, but the crypt remained closed to due to smoke damage.
 
Around 1,700 people were evacuated from the basilica, and four basilica employees were treated for smoke inhalation.

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Indifference to God brings indifference to evil, says Pope

Vatican City, Apr 20, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - An indifference to God leads to an indifference to evil. That was the message from Pope Benedict XVI at his April 20 Wednesday Audience in St. Peter’s Square, his last before Easter.

On the eve of Holy Thursday, the Pope dwelt upon Christ’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemane when the apostles slept as Jesus suffered the torment of his impending crucifixion.

Pope Benedict said of those moments, “It’s our very sleepiness to the presence of God that renders us insensitive to evil: we don’t hear God because we don’t want to be disturbed, and so we remain indifferent to evil.” He said that such a disposition leads to “a certain callousness of the soul towards the power of evil.”

The Pope was keen to stress that Christ's rebuke to his slumbering apostles – “stay awake and keep vigil” – applies to the entire history of the Church. Jesus message, the Pope said, is a “permanent message for all time because the disciples’ sleepiness is not problem of that one moment, rather of the whole of history, ‘the sleepiness’ is ours, of those of us who do not want to see the full force of evil and do not want to enter into his Passion.”

The next three days are the most sacred in the Christian calendar. Those three days, known in Latin as the “Triduum,” observe the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ nearly 2000 years ago in Palestine. The Pope observed, “The liturgies of these days invite us to ponder the loving obedience of Christ who, having become like us in all things but sin, resisted temptation and freely surrendered himself to the Father’s will.”

The next major event on Pope Benedict’s calendar will be his “Chrism Mass” tomorrow morning in St. Peter’s Basilica. There, around 1,600 clergy from the Diocese of Rome and Roman colleges will renew their ordination promises.

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Theologians must preserve truth, Cardinal Wuerl says after backlash

Washington D.C., Apr 20, 2011 (CNA) - Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, chairman of the U.S. bishops' doctrine committee, reaffirmed the role of bishops as teachers of the faith in an April 18 statement on the work of a controversial feminist theologian. He explained that theologians must accept divine revelation, which is not open to revision.

“In continuing the mission of Christ the Teacher,” Cardinal Wuerl explained, “the bishops in union with the Pope are therefore ministers of a free and wonderful gift of God – the assurance that we adhere to the true faith.” The possession of this truth, he said, is so valuable that “the believer … would be willing to die rather than deny it.”

The cardinal's statement came in response to concerns that some members of the Catholic Theological Society of America raised in an April 8 statement defending the work of Sister Elizabeth Johnson. On March 24, the U.S. bishops' doctrine committee came out with a document stating that her book “Quest for the Living God” did not accurately present or interpret Catholic teaching in key areas.

Members of the theological society cited a 1989 document entitled “Doctrinal Responsibilities,” which suggests that bishops and theologians should resolve their differences through private discussions. But Cardinal Wuerl noted that the document, which addresses disagreements at the local level, clearly affirms the bishops' right to make doctrinal judgments.
 
“Theologians also acknowledge,” he pointed out, quoting from the text of the document, “that it is the role of bishops, as authoritative teachers in the Church, to make pastoral judgments about the soundness of theological teaching, so that the integrity of Catholic doctrine and the unity of the faith community may be preserved.”

But the cardinal also said that the disagreement between the doctrine committee and Sr. Johnson was not simply a matter of legitimate authority. He explained that both bishops and theologians are, in different ways, servants of God and his revelation to the Church.

“It is the privilege of theologians to delve more profoundly and systematically into the meaning of the faith, according to the ancient adage 'faith seeking understanding.' Since this faith is handed on by the Church through the ministry of the magisterium, the bishop and the theologian have a special relationship that can and should be mutually enriching.”

When this relationship functions well, “bishops benefit from the work of theologians, while theologians gain a deeper understanding of revelation under the guidance of the magisterium … The Church's teaching office, when grasped in the context of faith is a great assistance to the scholarly research of theologians, since its judgments are determinative of good theology.”

But the relationship between bishops and theologians can also break down, tempting theologians to disregard the boundaries set by the magisterium.

“When a theologian does not understand his or her role within the communion of the Church – the role of a servant, like that of the bishop, to the truth – he or she risks usurping the bishop's central role of leading people to salvation.”

“Isolated from the community of faith, the theologian seriously endangers the faithful by proposing 'a different gospel,' which is no longer salvific.”

Cardinal Wuerl explained that the bishops had the good of the faithful in mind, especially young people, when they decided to publish their critique of “Quest for the Living God.”

“The book in question is an already published work, not primarily directed to professional theologians for theological speculation, but rather one used as a teaching instrument of undergraduate students – many of whom are looking for grounding in their Catholic faith.”

He also acknowledged the “generally recognized catechetical deficiencies of past decades, beginning with the 1970s,” which had given rise to “a generation or more of Catholics, including young adults today, who have little solid intellectual formation in their faith.”

“It is in this context that books used in religious studies and theology courses at Catholic colleges and universities must be seen as de facto catechetical and formational texts,” Cardinal Wuerl stated.

“While many of these texts can be quite helpful in presenting the faith and teaching of the Catholic Church, there are others that cause confusion and raise doubt among students. Some texts can even be understood as offering an alternative pastoral and spiritual guidance to students, in contrast to the teaching magisterium.”

“In light of this changed academic situation, special attention must now be given as to how to address theological works that are aimed at students and yet do not meet criteria for authentic Catholic teaching.”

Cardinal Wuerl also responded to Sr. Johnson's own objections to the doctrine committee's statement. She said on March 30 that she “would have been glad to enter into conversation to clarify critical points” in her 2007 book, “but was never invited to do so.”

But the cardinal stated that the time for such discussions had already passed.

“Once a theological work is published … it is, by that very fact, open to response,” he observed. “The initiation of dialogue by an author is not only welcome but recommended, before the work is published and the bishop may be constrained to make a public appraisal of it.”

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Chicago's Polish community eager to celebrate JP II beatification

Chicago, Ill., Apr 20, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Home to over a million Polish people, Chicago is bustling with plans to participate in the global celebration of Pope John Paul II's beatification.

Concerts, Masses, processions and special services dedicated to the memory of the late Pope are among the many local events planned in the days leading up to the beatification in Rome on May 1.

“He was extremely beloved,” said Ivo Widlak, spokesman for Chicago's Paderewski Symphony Orchestra, which is slated to perform three concerts in honor of the pontiff.

“Pope John Paul II was a very musical person and he loved to sing,” Widlak told CNA in an April 18 interview. “We as the organizers of the concert wanted to make sure that we played the songs that he liked, that he knew, that he sang.”

Along with personal favorites of the Pope's, such as the songs “Black Madonna” and “Barka” –  which translates to “ship” – the symphony will play a classical repertoire including Bach, Mozart and Schubert from April 29 to May 1 at local parishes.

Although he didn't have exact numbers for the expected crowds at the upcoming concerts, Widlak said “there will be a lot of people. Everybody is overjoyed.”

“When he became Pope, the joy of the Polish people and the Polish nation was extraordinary,” Widlak said, adding that more than 1 million Poles reside in Chicago.

“When he passed away, the whole of Poland mourned and all Polish people around the world took it extremely personally –  because we knew him, we saw him, we heard him speaking to us.”

“Now,” he added, “there is a lot of joy” over John Paul II's advancement towards being recognized as a saint.

“How often do you witness somebody, who you know as a living person, going to be a saint?” he said. 

“This is something you can witness once in a lifetime.”

Diane Dunagan, the Archdiocese of Chicago’s media contact, provided CNA with a list of a dozen parishes in the area that are planning celebrations for the beatification.

Local Polish church St. Hyacinth Basilica will commemorate the life of John Paul II with six days of events.

From April 26-29, the parish will host evening Mass with a special homily of previously recorded messages of the late pontiff. Following Mass, a film of one of Pope John Paul’s pilgrimages to Poland will be shown.

On April 30, all night Eucharistic adoration will follow the evening Mass. The beatification ceremony on May 1 will be shown on a large screen and followed by a procession to the parish's John Paul II statue.

Archbishop of Chicago Cardinal Francis George is scheduled to participate in celebrations at Holy Name Cathedral on April 27, where reflections and favorite songs of John Paul II will be performed. Cardinal George will then join a group of pilgrims headed from the Chicago archdiocese to Rome for the beatification of the beloved Pope John Paul. 

“Beatification” is the second step in a three-stage process the Catholic Church has created for declaring a deceased person a saint. Beatification confers the title “Blessed.”

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Bishops encourage prayer and reflection during Holy Week

Lima, Peru, Apr 20, 2011 (CNA) - Numerous bishops in Latin America are calling on Catholics to spend Holy Week in prayer and reflection.
 
Archbishop Javier del Rio of Arequipa, Peru recalled in his message for Holy Week: “Our lives originate in the death of Christ; our healing, in his wounds; our elevation to heaven, in his descent into hell.

“Our existence as Christians is founded and built upon this certainty,” he said.
 
“God will pass on this Holy Week in order to save us. Let us be prepared. Let us deeply experience the liturgies of these days so that we can experience in the deepest part of our being that Christ has overcome death and allows us to share in his immortal life,” the archbishop continued.
 
Bishop Jorge Lozano of Gualeguaychu, Argentina exhorted Catholics to shun the distractions of ads promoting tourism and consumerism.  He said Catholics should take advantage of these “days for prayer, reflection, to see and to listen, to celebrate the faith, to renew their joy of being children of God.”
 
In the April 16 edition of his program “Keys to a Better World, “Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata, Argentina said Christ came and established a kingdom “not through the force of arms” or though the decision of democratic parliament, but rather “through the simple force of faith and love.”
 
“So it is Christians who are called, through the very exercise of their lives of faith, to begin transforming society so that it becomes the Kingdom of Christ,” he said.

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Pope to answer questions on Good Friday TV show

Vatican City, Apr 20, 2011 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI will make papal broadcasting history on April 22 when he takes part in a televised question and answer session. The pre-recorded program, entitled “In His Image – A Good Friday Special,” will be broadcast on the Italian station RAI Uno.

Out of all the queries submitted from around the world, several people have been selected to ask the Pope a question. Among them is a Muslim mother from the conflict-torn Ivory Coast in west Africa who wants to know more about Jesus as a teacher of peace. There’s also a question from seven Christian students from Baghdad, Iraq.

The RAI program website says viewers will also hear “questions from an Italian mother whose son was in a coma for many years and a young Japanese girl who wrote to ask the Pope to explain the cause of the recent earthquake in that country.”

The television special is set to begin at 2:10 p.m. Rome time, so that it is playing at 3:00 p.m., when Jesus is traditionally believed to have taken his last breath.

The host of the show, Rosario Carello, says he hopes the program will remind viewers of the significance of the day. “This sentiment has been lost,” he said, suggesting that for most television stations Good Friday has become “a day like any other for all the channels, there are even quarrels, idle gossip and things like that.”

The situation led Carello's production team to come up with the idea of reviving a previous program format where viewers could ask questions about Jesus. And who better to answer those questions, they thought, than the Pope himself.

Carello says that the idea initially seemed “crazy” but they saw “something in Pope Benedict's style that caused them to at least propose this idea to him.” And so, “We proposed it and the Pope accepted.” He describes the opportunity to see and hear Pope Benedict through the program as “extraordinary.”

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Catholic opinion divided over film ‘Habemus Papam’

Rome, Italy, Apr 20, 2011 (CNA) - A new film depicting a fictitious Pope who struggles to adjust to his new role and eventually resigns is dividing Catholic opinion in Italy.

“Habemus Papam,” which opened in cinemas across Italy this weekend, is the creation of Italian director Nanni Moretti. It stars the 85-year-old French actor Michel Piccoli as the reluctant pontiff.

A Vatican reporter for the Italian news agency AGI, Salvatore Izzo, called for a boycott of the box-office hit and Cannes Palme D'Or contender “Habemus Papam.”

Despite its controversial subject matter the Jesuit journal Civiltà Cattolica praised the film, while Vatican Radio said it was pleased to report that it featured “no irony” relating to the Pope and was not a “caricature.”

Such conciliatory talk, though, is being dismissed by the Vatican reporter Izzo. Writing in the Italian bishop’s newspaper Avvenire, he said, “You don't touch the Pope: he is the Christ's vicar, the rock upon which Jesus founded his Church.”

Izzo also condemned those Catholics who have praised the film. “Let’s not trust the Catholic critics, even if they are priests, who absolve (Moretti) with a very curious justification: 'Moretti could have been even worse'.”

“We do not need ‘Habemus Papam,’” he said, urging a boycott.

Italian journalist and Vatican-watcher Sandro Magister told AFP that there’s unlikely to be any official condemnation of the film. “It would only help the producer,” he said. “He would be very happy with a polemic that is completely without foundation.”

Meanwhile, Moretti told an interviewer for Italian RAI3 TV, “There is freedom of expression in my work. I am not commenting.” The director added, “People can boycott it after seeing it.”

“Habemus Papam” is now in the running for the prestigious Palme D'Or Prize at the Cannes Film Festival next month.

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Calif. parish pledges to rebuild after arsonist destroys church

Los Angeles, Calif., Apr 20, 2011 (CNA) - Parishioners at St. John Vianney are determined to rebuild after an April 16 arson attack destroyed their Hacienda Heights, Calif. church.

“The church is completely destroyed, I mean down to ashes and dust. The pews, organ, everything,” parish pastor Msgr. Tim Nichols told the 5 p.m. Sunday Mass. He presented remnants of the altar and tabernacle and said only a few vessels and vestments were saved.

“The church that (founding pastor) Msgr. James O’Callaghan built is gone. But we’re going to build another one, okay?” he said, causing fervent applause. “We will rise again.”

The Mass was celebrated in a parish hall on the church property that is typically used for wedding receptions and other events. More than 1,000 people attended.

Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala, who lives two blocks away from the 5,000-member church in Los Angeles County, was awakened by a neighbor pounding on his door soon after midnight on Saturday morning. From his front lawn he could see the fire’s flames shooting 150 feet into the air. He rushed to the church to join priests and parishioners watching the blaze destroy the church and the rectory.

The fire burned for almost three hours before firefighters were able to extinguish it.

“The investigators have been quite definitive to me, this was very definitely a deliberate act,” Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, told the Los Angeles Times.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Msgr. Nichols told parishioners at Mass. He noted the responsorial psalm’s despondent refrain “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” and pondered whether the disaster was “rewriting the book of Job.”

However, he rallied parishioners.

“Before there were churches, there was us, right? We’re the church, right? … We’re a community first and then we build the church buildings,” he affirmed.

He said reconstruction will take “two to three years” and “millions of dollars” because money from insurance will certainly not cover the full cost.

Alice Ameluxen, 43, grew up in the parish and her parents were among its founding parishioners.

“My happiest and saddest memories are here,” she told the LA Times. “I just feel like I lost my home.”

The fire caused an estimated $8 million to $10 million in damages. Parishioners have created a Facebook page called “Rebuild St. John Vianney Church” and a website to help draw attention to the rebuilding effort.

Present and former parishioners are using the page to share their memories and pledge support.

Various crimes have targeted Catholic churches in California in recent years. In January one or more vandals spray-painted the misspelled phrase “Kill the Cathlics” on churches in Anaheim and Irvine.

In May 2010 vandals broke into and ransacked St. Rose of Lima parish school in the city of Maywood in Los Angeles County.

Holy Rosary Church in Woodland near Sacramento has been victimized by theft and vandalism four times since 2007. St. Stanislaus Church in Modesto suffered a burglary and vandal attack which desecrated the sanctuary, knocking down and damaging four statues of the Virgin Mary.

The Facebook page and the website for rebuilding effort can be found at: http://www.facebook.com/RebuildStJohnVianneyChurch
http://www.rebuildsjv.com/Home.php

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