Archive of April 29, 2011

Military archbishop questions need for atheist chaplaincy

Washington D.C., Apr 29, 2011 (CNA) - Several atheist, agnostic, and secular humanist organizations are pushing to establish their own U.S. military “chaplaincy” for soldiers. The head of the United States Military Archdiocese thinks the effort may be more about opposing religion than meeting non-believers' needs.

“The idea of a 'chaplaincy' for atheists seems contradictory,” U.S. Military Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio told CNA. Under present conditions, he said, “it would seem that they could meet and sponsor activities just as many other groups do on installations. Or is the issue here the desire to set up a structure in direct opposition to the chaplaincy?”

Former Army captain Jason Torpy, president of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, told the New York Times that “humanism fills the same role for atheists that Christianity does for Christians and Judaism does for Jews.” Torpy is seeking to meet with the chief of chaplains for each branch of the armed forces, to discuss the atheist chaplaincy proposal.

Another group, Military Atheists and Secular Humanists, wants the army to appoint atheist leaders to hold meetings in the facilities used by religious groups. One officer, who objected to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's September 2010 “Rock the Fort” event at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, is trying to organize his own “Rock Beyond Belief” event headlined by Richard Dawkins.

Leaders of the push for an atheist chaplaincy say that non-believers sometimes feel marginalized by the presence of religion in the armed forces. Archbishop Broglio, however, believes that the supposed taboo against atheism in the military may be more imagined than real.

“In my three years as the Archbishop for the Military Services I have failed to perceive any stigma attached to non-believers,” he stated.

“I remember well on a visit to an installation just before the celebration of Mass, a soldier approached me and said that he was not a believer and would not be staying for the service, but wanted to thank me for coming to visit,” the archbishop recalled. He said the man “could have simply left as did many others,” who were either leaving to attend a different religious service or take advantage of free time.

But the soldier felt no discomfort in voluntarily expressing his atheism to the archbishop. “The fact that he spoke to me and expressed his position certainly indicates that there was no fear in doing so.”

“Given the prohibition of proselytism in the military, it would seem unnecessary to establish a structure to promote non-belief,” he said. “If non-belief is the 'glue' that binds the proposed group together, it would seem that some other area of military life would be a better host than the chaplaincy.”

Archbishop Broglio suggested that some of the more vocal atheists may be pushing for their own chaplaincy because they oppose the role of traditional religious chaplains. He acknowledged their right to meet, but questioned “whether the chapel center is the best place or if something more neutral might be found.”

If atheists in the military ultimately do receive the same acknowledgment, resources, and privileges given to believers, the archbishop wonders what exactly they would do with them – given that atheism, in its most general form, has no settled doctrines to promote, or particular practices to encourage. 

“Would they meet to discuss their non-belief?” he wondered. “Would their activities all be oriented to sustaining or promoting the denial of the existence of God? Would there be space for varying degrees of non-belief?”

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Significant moves afoot within Roman Curia

Vatican City, Apr 29, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Amidst the color and excitement of the beatification of John Paul II, a significant changing of the curial guard could be afoot within the Vatican’s corridors of power. 

Andrea Tornielli, the Vatican Correspondent of Italian newspaper La Stampa, suggests  April 29 that the present Deputy Secretary of State, Archbishop Fernando Filoni, is about to be moved from his post. He’ll now be put in charge of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples also known as Propaganda Fide. And replacing him at the Secretary of State will be the present apostolic nuncio to Cuba, Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu.

The role of Deputy Secretary of State -- or “Sustituto” in Italian- - is crucial to the running of any papacy. He heads up first of the two sections that constitute the Secretariat of State. His role includes filling the posting of nuncios around the world, making curial appointments in Rome, as well as advising and traveling with the Pope. In effect, he is the “transmission belt of papal will,” says Tornielli. In the 20th century two occupants of the post went on to become Pope.

The new man expected to fill Archbishop Filoni’s spot  is 62-year-old Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu. Originally from Pattada on the Italian island of Sicily, he was ordained a priest in 1972.

Since 1984 he has been part of the Holy See’s diplomatic service. His work has taken him to nunciatures in Angola, New Zealand, Britain, France, the United States and presently Cuba. If Tornielli is correct, he should be in his new post within the Vatican by May.

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Biographer says JP II's legacy will take 'several hundred years' to unpack

Vatican City, Apr 29, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope John Paul II’s teachings will take centuries to fully explore and understand. That’s according to his official biographer, George Weigel.

“It’s going to be several hundred years before the Church really takes on board the breadth and depth of this man’s explication of the Gospel, and in that sense we’re going to be thinking, and arguing, about John Paul II for hundreds of years,” Weigel told the Catholic Herald on April 28.

The U.S. author devoted 15 years of his life researching his biographies “Witness to Hope” and “The End of the Beginning.” In that time he concluded that Pope John Paul was an “utterly normal human being” but one who was radically open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

“I think everything he did, as a literary man, as a philosopher, as a priest, a bishop, a statesman, a pope, grew out of his radical Christian discipleship,” he said.

“Very few of the billion Catholics in the world are going to have the range of talents that Karol Wojtyla had,” Weigel noted.

But “every baptised person has the opportunity to live a life of radical discipleship. And that’s our connection to him,” he said.

Weigel suggests that the most obvious legacy of Pope John Paul is the generation of young Catholics committed to Christian orthodoxy. “I look at my own parish in suburban Washington and see young couples raising Catholic families, who all took some form of inspiration from John Paul II. And I suspect this is replicated all over the world,” he said.

As for those who say the late Pope responded inadequately to priestly sex abuse cases that came to light late in his pontificate, Weigel said that criticism is off the mark. “The way to think about John Paul II and the priesthood is to recognise that he was a great reformer of the priesthood. The priesthood was in terrible shape in 1978 when he became pope; it was in remarkably better shape 26 years later. That’s the context,” he said.

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Catholic Charities urges help for communities ripped by tornadoes

Denver, Colo., Apr 29, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholic Charities is appealing for help for families in southern states after a series of devastating storms killed over 300 people.

Tornadoes have “ripped out entire communities” in the past few days, Catholic Charities disaster operations head Kim Burgo told CNA. “Our agencies are working very hard to provide immediate basic needs – food, water, clothing.”

Burgo explained that within the last two weeks, storms started in the midwest “and just moved across the country as we all watched it.”

“Immediately hit was of course, all of Arkansas and then moving over through Tennessee and Mississippi on to Alabama and then Georgia,” she said, “so we're looking at a number of catholic charities affected in these areas.”

Burgo said that at this point, general assessments of the damage are still taking place in some of the most recently hit regions.

“As search and rescue happens, agencies such as Catholic Charities and Red Cross and others are not really allowed into an area until search and rescue is finished,” she said, adding, however, that the organizations have started assistance in places where search and rescue has already been completed.

Burgo said that in addition to helping fulfill basic needs, Catholic Charities is working to provide counseling, temporary shelters and things such as large containers “so that when family members do go back to their residence that they're able to salvage whatever is left of their property and store it in a secure place.”

Appealing to the nation's faithful, Burgo said that “right now, monetary contributions are what's most needed.”

“We haven't been able to determine what kind of material donations are needed in that arena yet so for right now, what is needed is cash.”

Burgo noted that others have been impacted by the storms beyond the areas that have been directly hit.

“We heard reports this morning that in one area, there were three large employers whose plants were completely destroyed and so now there's about a thousand people out of work.”

The storms have had “a lot of repercussions – a person may not have not have had their home destroyed but their job may no longer be available.”

Burgo said the Catholic Charities has been able “to link up with local businesses to purchase supplies,” which “helps to keep the local economy going as many businesses were effected by this.”

“Having these cash donations,” she emphasized, “helps to provide food and helps to provide vouchers so that families can get the supplies they need.”

Burgo said that those wishing to contribute to the families impacted by the recent catastrophe should visit

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Official papal photographer recalls life with 'a living saint'

Vatican City, Apr 29, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Arturo Mari was Pope John Paul II’s personal photographer for all 27 years of his pontificate. Now, in the days before John Paul’s beatification, Mari has been recalling his life with the late pontiff.

“For me he was a man of God,” Mari tells Associated Press April 28 in an interview conducted in his apartment just yards from the Vatican. “I can guarantee you he was a living saint, because everything I could see with my eyes, hear with my ears, you cannot believe that this man could do so much.”

Many of the images that have come to define the public image of Pope John Paul’s papacy were captured by Mari; the Pope sunning himself in the mountains of Val D'Aosta, lying in a hospital bed after a 1981 assassination attempt and then meeting and forgiving the Turkish man who shot him.

For Mari there are some particular moments that typified John Paul the saint. One such occasion came in 1984 when the Pope was visiting a leprosy hospital on Sorok Island, South Korea. In a break with the official protocol, “he touched them with his hands, caressed them, kissed each one,” says Mari, “Eight hundred lepers, one by one. One by one!”

Now retired, 71-year-old Mari’s home contains many photographic memories of his time spent with the Pope. He’s particularly moved by one captured in 2005. It shows John Paul sitting in his private chapel, too sick to attend the traditional Good Friday procession at the Colosseum in person, holding a crucifix as he watched the proceedings on television,

“Look at his hands, the strength of his hands, how he grips the cross!” Mari says, “Look, they're red! He's working really hard. You can see his great suffering, it's like all his life was on that cross.”

Their final meeting came on April 2, 2005, when Mari visited John Paul in his apartment just hours before he died. The Pope, says Mari, was lying on his left side on his bed, an oxygen mask resting on the pillow, “He turned and gave me a smile, and his eyes were enormous. Beautiful! It had been years since I'd seen them like that. He turned, I fell to my knees because the moment, it was stronger than me. He took my hand, he caressed my hand. After a bit he said 'Arturo, grazie, grazie' and turned away.”

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John Paul II remains moved in front of St. Peter’s tomb

Vatican City, Apr 29, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The casket containing the mortal remains of Pope John Paul II has been exhumed ahead of his beatification this Sunday.

The brief ceremony of exhumation took place in the early hours of this morning in the grotto situated beneath the high altar of St. Peter’s Basilica.

The tomb of Pope John Paul was opened and his casket placed on a cart. The casket, however, remained unopened throughout and was covered with a large pall embroidered with gold.

Papal caskets are comprised of three components. The outside box is a wooden one, inside of that is a lead container, and the final casket--which contains the remains of the Pope--is also made of wood. Those present at the exhumation say the wooden outer layer of the casket had slightly deteriorated with age.

At 9a.m., prayers and the singing of the litany of saints were led by the cleric in charge of the basilica, Cardinal Angelo Comastri. Those joining him included Pope John Paul’s former private secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, and the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. 

Accompanied by the Swiss Guard and Vatican Gendarmerie, the coffin was then translated the short distance to the tomb of St. Peter. It will remain there until the early hours of Sunday morning when it will be transferred to the foot of the high altar in the basilica above. It is here that pilgrims will be able to pay homage to the late pontiff on Sunday and Monday.

After every pilgrim has had a chance to pray in front of the casket, the coffin will be taken to its final resting place in the chapel of St. Sebastian, which is situated next to Michelangelo’s Pieta near the basilica’s entrance.

Meanwhile, the large tombstone which has covered the late Pope’s grave for the past six years will be taken to the Polish city of Krakow where it will be placed in a new church dedicated to Blessed John Paul.

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Pope John Paul’s face dominating Eternal City

Rome, Italy, Apr 29, 2011 (CNA) -

Only two days before John Paul II's beatification, the late pontiff's face has become an inescapable part of Rome.

Roman streets, homes, buses, walls, cars and small businesses are covered with pictures, posters or ads sporting the smiling face of the Pope who – during the 27 years of his pontificate – became a “Romano di Roma” (a Roman from Rome.) 

Some of the signs placed by local authorities announce the activities related to the beatification weekend, from the massive vigil at the Circo Massimo, to several plays and exhibitions related to Pope Wojtyla across the city.

Most libraries throughout the area, including the famous Feltrinelli, have filled their windows with books related to John Paul II, from biographies, photo collections and encyclicals.

Those selling t-shirts, rosaries, booklets, medals and statues of Pope John Paul II at Piazza Navona – one of Rome's popular city squares – told CNA that sales of products related to the late Pope have increased 15 to 20 per cent in the last few days, as thousands of pilgrims from Italy and around the world pour into the city.

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Knights of Columbus leaders praise John Paul II's legacy to world's laity

Rome, Italy, Apr 29, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Head of the Knights of Columbus Carl Anderson and the fraternal organization's chaplain Bishop William E. Lori lauded John Paul II's impact on the laity throughout the world during his pontificate.

In an interview with CNA in Rome, Anderson said that lay members from every place the late pontiff visited experienced a marked difference for the better.

“His visit to Mexico – huge change in Mexico. His visit to Cuba – huge change in Cuba. I think if you reflect carefully on every country where he visited, you have this kind of a legacy,” he said at the Knight's of Columbus headquarters in Rome on April 29.

“I think that the realization is growing as to the legacy for the laity. We all understand that he went to Poland, and changed Poland,” Anderson recalled. “He changed Poland because people were with him at that time had a sense of hope, had a sense of empowerment, had a sense of solidarity, that things could change, that they could make a difference, and I think that's the impact he had in every country he went to.”

“Some countries realize it more that other countries, but for myself, I remember there in front of the U.S. Capitol listening to the Pope say 'We will stand up, when there is a crisis, and we will make a difference.'”

“And I think you can trace in many ways the strong emergence of pro-life work in the Catholic Church really from that pastoral visit of John Paul II,” he added. “Certainly the Church was active in pro-life before then but his coming made a huge difference.”

Anderson, Supreme Knight of the 1.8 million member fraternal organization, said that the task of the laity is to ensure the mission of the late Pope lives on. 

“Now what we have to do, it seems to me, is not let the pontificate of John Paul II recede into history, and just become a thing of the past,” he said. “And that's what I think is the importance of beatification, because now it carries forward John Paul II not only as Pope, but now as saint, as spiritual father, as someone who's writings continue to be important, and for whom many many more people should be looking to.”

Bishop Lori – leader of the Bridgeport, Connecticut diocese and chaplain of the Knights of Columbus – noted John Paul II's great personal love for the Knights of Columbus and its service to layman globally.

The group is the “largest lay organization in the world and very close to the heart of Pope John Paul II,” Bishop Lori said.

He noted how the late Pope “spoke of the Knights of Columbus as a strong right arm of the Church.”

“ And he spoke of the Knights this way because he was very aware of their fidelity to the teachings of the Church, he was very aware of their dedication to the family.”

“He spoke of the Knights as the strong right arm because these are the families that are promoting priestly and religious vocations, and he understood that the Knights, as their chivalrous name would indicate, step up and defend the Church whether it's bishops, priest or the Pope himself when it is appropriate to do so.”

John Paul II, Bishop Lori noted, had a deep understanding that “it's the laity who raise families, who engage in professions, who shape the culture of business, the culture of politics, the culture of the working man and woman.”

“If the gospel is going to penetrate those and other vital areas of life it's going to be because there is an evangelized and an evangelizing laity,” he emphasized.

“At the Knights of Columbus we take seriously ensuring that our members and their families are evangelized,” the bishop said. “That's certainly at the heart of John Paul II's vision and we Knights take it seriously.”

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Cardinal Kasper: John Paul II was 'a sign of Jesus Christ'

Vatican City, Apr 29, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - “He was a sign of Jesus Christ.” That’s Cardinal Walter Kasper’s seven-word summary of Pope John Paul II.

Speaking to CNA in St. Peter's Square only two days before the beatification of the late pontiff, the veteran German cleric explained why he thinks this weekend’s events are of such significance.

“The importance of this beatification is that it’s a beatification by the people – the people of God. Since the funeral we know that people have venerated him (Pope John Paul) and, indeed, the line to his tomb never was interrupted all through those years. He was a sign of Jesus Christ.”

As a leading theologian, Cardinal Kasper got to know the late pope over many years. In 1999 Pope John Paul appointed the then Bishop of Rottenburg-Stuggart to the presidency of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Two years later he elevated him to the rank of cardinal. 

“Well I had a very personal relationship with this Pope. On one side he was a very human Pope with a great sensitivity for human things. On the other side was his holiness. When you saw him pray you felt immediately that this is a man of God,” said the cardinal.

“I think he gave to the world a sign of holiness, a sign of God and of the presence of God. But he was also a man who with both feet stood within this world and gave an orientation for people in a very human way. I think this is what was liked by the people.”

Cardinal Kasper, now age 78, also feels that over his years in office Pope John Paul redefined the papacy.

“He felt himself as missioner and he opened up a new view to the papacy not only for the world but also for the Church. A papacy that is open for dialogue, yes, but also a papacy that emphasizes the fundamentals of our faith. So we had centralization on one side – a good thing – and openness to the world on the other side. These are two aspects that are very important.”

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